by Mikhail Koulikov,
Bandai Entertainment split their Otakon 2008 appearance into two sections. The first of these, on Saturday morning, was devoted largely to an overview of Bandai's current projects. Ken Iyadomi, Robert Napton, and Loy Fruel, the coordinator of Bandai's Honneamise premium label (the former Bandai Visual USA) were the presenters. They opened the hour with a string of trailers for Code Geass, Rocket Girls, the Gundam Seed: Destiny movies, and the theatrical Girl Who Leapt Through Time film. In addition to the DVD releases, Code Geass is currently airing on the Adult Swim cable block. Its second season will also be shown on Adult Swim, immediately after the conclusion of the first twenty-six episodes. The cable broadcast of Rocket Girls is being handled by ImaginAsian TV.
Through the fall months, Bandai is also set to bring out the classic 1980's Silent Möbius motion picture, in a standard $29.98 edition and a $39.98 steel book collector's version packaged with a soundtrack CD. Two more movies, Sword of the Stranger and Ghost in the Shell: Innocence, are coming to both standard DVD and Blu-Ray. Innocence, the specific release date for which has not been set yet, will feature an entirely new English dub.
Currently, the major project Bandai is working on is the 52-episode Combat Butler Hayate. Bandai's book publishing division is also ramping up, with the Lucky Star manga, Girl Who Leapt Through Time, and the three separate Code Geass series, as well as Code Geass and Eureka 7 light novels.
Several hours later, in the evening of Otakon's Saturday, many of Bandai's staffers came together for the Bandai Entertainment Surprise panel. Iyadomi again ran the panel, joined by Toshifumi Yoshida and Robert Napton. There was no time wasted a trailer for Bandai's sole Otakon 2008 license announcement was shown to the audience. Supplementing their release of the .hack//SIGN anime series and its various sequels and spin-offs, Bandai Entertainment has acquired the North American distribution rights to the .hack//G.U. Trilogy CG-animated film.
While most of this hour was taken up by give-aways and trivia questions, the panelists also revealed several interesting tidbits about some upcoming Bandai shows. When the Combat Butler Hayate series was released on DVD in Japan, there were two audio tracks included. One bleeped out all of the show's many specific references to specific other anime; the other left all of them intact. Since Bandai is planning to dub Hayate into English, the question of how to handle the two audio tracks is still open. Based on the response from the panel audience, fans' preference is to recreate the Japanese audio and have two vocal tracks that would give viewers the option of either listening to references or having those edited out. Incidentally, although no specific date for Hayate's release has been set, it is expected to launch sometime in 2009.
At this point, a special guest, voice actor Yuri Lowenthal, joined the panel. One of the shows he is currently working on for Bandai is Gainax's Gurren Lagann, and he used the opportunity to show off the box that the dual-language release of the futuristic robot series will come in. The special edition box will contain two DVDs with the first nine episodes of the show. The top of the box will swing open along one of the narrower sides, forming a robot mouth. Among the extras included with the box will be a replica of the core drill that Simon uses to start Gurren Lagann's titular robot. As Bandai announced earlier in the year, Gurren Lagann's bilingual release is on track for the first months of the next year.
As the panel proceeded with more give-aways of t-shirts and DVDs, Bandai sprung yet another surprise from their sleeve, and the five members of anime megaband JAM Project, Otakon's guests whose main concert was the previous night, stepped out onto the stage. The next five minutes made it clear why before the panel started, all photography and video recording was forbidden, as Bandai staffers gave away a Lucky Star school uniform t-shirt to every audience member, and then had the several hundred anime fans in the room join JAM Project in a standing-room-only recreation of the Lucky Star opening song's dance.
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