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Otakon 2009

by Evan Miller,

Panelist: Masao Maruyama

The Madhouse panel got off to a late start as company founder Maruyama took the stage about 8 minutes late to show the audience the latest group of trailers from the popular studio. The first was for the mecha series Rideback, which features a collaborative effort with a CG team to develop the technical designs. Maruyama admitted that it is rare for Madhouse to do a mecha anime, but it has been a good challenge. Plus, in Maruyama's words, "the main character is a cute, appealing girl." He also mentioned that the singer for this series, MELL, is at the convention as well and invited people to see her concert this evening.

The second trailer screened was for the second series of Fighting Spirit (Hajime no Ippo). The series has a new director, Jun Shishido, who also worked on The Story of Saiunkoku. Maruyama called the series a "fresh look" for the storyline, and also mentioned that the director of the previous Fighting Spirit series is currently working on a Fighting Spirit movie. The third trailer was for the series Sōten Kōro, which is currently airing in a late night time slot on NTV in Japan. The series is based on the Chinese historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Maruyama admitted that the "historical drama" look is popular in Japan now, but that he wanted to take the genre in a different direction by selecting a non-Japanese setting.

The next two trailers focused on two titles that Madhouse is certain will be quite successful for the studio. The first of these trailers was for the second season of Chi's Sweet Home. Much like the popular first season, it will run in an early morning time slot and is expected to draw a large female audience. The next trailer was for Mamoru Hosoda's highly anticipated second film, Summer Wars. "The film should be pretty popular, since the pre-sales for the tickets are very high," said Maruyama. The film opens in early August in Japanese theatres, and since Hosoda's last film was the critically acclaimed The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, expectations are high. Although the story focuses on a boy and girl pairing at its center, Maruyama argues that the eighty family members that Hosoda insisted on having in the film could also count as
"main characters." The film, which took three years to finish, tells the story of a rural family that goes to "war" against strange forces from the internet. Maruyama quipped that after taking three years to finish this project, Hosoda was asked to promise that the next film will have just two main characters and take two years to make instead of three.

Finally, a set of three trailers for theatrical full-length anime were screened. The first was for the forthcoming Rin Taro CG animated film Yona Yona Penguin, which will be the first full CG film from Madhouse. Maruyama mentioned that the film will be different from American CG animation, and should have a more "Japanese" flavor. The story focuses on a girl in a penguin costume that is trying to help an angel that has fallen to Earth get back into heaven. The next film introduced was Mai-mai Shinko, which tells the story of two kids living in rural Japan many years ago. Ironically, the family-oriented film is directed by Sunao Katabuchi, who previously worked on the action anime Black Lagoon. The last trailer was for the futuristic drama film Redline, which is directed by Takeshi Koike (The Animatrix) and took six years to finish. These films, along with Summer Wars, make up the four movies that Madhouse is releasing in the coming year. Maruyama mentioned that the studio will have one film coming out in each season (Summer Wars in August, Maimai Shinko in the Fall, Yona Yona Penguin around Christmas, and Redline in the Spring), so he's hoping that they will all find an audience when they are released.

Finally, Maruyama screened the trailer for the new Trigun movie, which was also shown at Anime Expo two weeks ago. Maruyama admitted that the trailer is for American audiences only, in keeping with where the series has been most successful. The success of certain projects was also a recurring theme in the panel's Q&A session. When one attendee asked if Madhouse was planning on producing more of Shigurui or Tenjo Tenge, Maruyama admitted that he would like to produce more, but that the shows did not well enough in the Japanese market to warrant a new series.

Also during the Q&A, Maruyama was asked about the status of Satoshi Kon's next film. While he admitted that he couldn't provide too many details, he did say that Kon is finishing up storyboards and key animation for the project, and that things are moving according to schedule.

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