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Sakura Con 2010
Day 1

by Crystalyn Hodgkins,

Overheard at the convention:
"We totally need to start wearing diapers." - a cosplayer in a very complicated outfit walking towards a restroom

Day 1

Sakura-Con's opening ceremonies were well handled. They had lots of performances, including some incredibly cute dancing children in kimono holding cherry blossoms, a taiko drumming performance, and a Wushu demonstration (Yes, Wushu is technically Chinese, but these folks were really talented, so I think everyone let it slide). Voice actor Ryo Hirokawa (Vegeta in Dragon Ball Z) asked to come up on stage and give a message to the audience. He speaks very good English, and he wanted to thank the people of Seattle. Seattle, he said, is a place that is special for him as he once hosted an exchange student from there who helped to teach him English. The ceremonies ended with a public wedding proposal between two staff members, which elicited lots of screaming and "Awww"s. Dazzle Vision and High and Mighty Color, two of the musical guests at the convention, also came on stage to give a message to the audience. That's Dazzle Vision on the right. See the cute female lead singer? Well, when she starts signing, cute isn't exactly the word to describe her anymore. This is a good thing though. You'll have to read the Day 2 report to understand why.

Team Dream Catchers Performance: One Piece Luffy's Playful Show

Right after the opening ceremonies was a show that was titled "Team Dream Catchers Performance: One Piece Luffy's Playful Show." Team Dream Catchers, run by voice actress Run Sasaki, is a voice acting, narration and translation group in the Seattle area. The group performed a few skits, which were unfortunately marred by some technical problems. But later on members of the group dressed up as characters from K-ON! and put on a cute performance. Also during the show, Mayumi Tanaka's son, Kousuke, dressed as Zoro, came out and demonstrated some very talented juggling skills. Tanaka, dressed as Luffy of course, later came out and juggled with him. Tanaka, Katsuhiro Nanba, and Sasaki did a live voice acting performance for the audience, to clips from both Castle in the Sky and One Piece. Tanaka, dressed in a red cocktail dress, also sang the theme song to Sakura Taisen. Then, cosplaying as Luffy again in his black suit from One Piece Film Strong World, led the entire cast in a rendition of the theme song for One Piece, "We Are." The entire show, technical hangups aside, was hilarious and entertaining. Tanaka is a huge ball of fun, contagious energy. See the image gallery below for more pictures from the event. I also had the chance to interview Tanaka, and the interview will be available on the site soon.

Noizi Ito Q&A Part I

Included in the plethora of Japanese guests was the fan favorite Noizi Ito, the character designer for The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya and Shakugan no Shana. Some interesting tid bits from the Q&A: Ito didn't really start drawing until middle school, and she doesn't think she's talented enough to create plots on her own, preferring to take other people's worlds and bring them to life. She also loves to draw hair in pencil, and she doesn't think her family knows about her work in designing characters for erogames. Actually, many of the questions asked were about her work in erogames, to the point where the translator eventually had to ask the attendees to stop asking those questions, and to ask questions about general character design instead. It was at this point that one fanboy stood up and said that he didn't know Japanese, but learned what he was about to just to say it to Ito-sama. He then said, in his halting Japanese, that his name was Godzilla, and would she please marry him.

I was going to provide some snarky commentary here but I think this particular event speaks for itself. Fanboys: always willing to throw dignity to the wind. Stay classy guys. The con report for Day 3 includes some more Q&A with Ito from her press conference, with more insight, so jump to Day 3 if you want read more.

Trigun: Badlands Rumble World Premiere

Sakura-Con didn't screw around with this world premiere, which was held three weeks before its premiere in Japan. Everyone had to check in all bags, jackets and electronics before being able to just line up for the event. Once everyone finally took their seats and were given a strict warning that if anyone was caught with a camera or recording equipment that they would be banned from the con for life, we were told that the movie would be in Japanese only, with no subtitles, and in SD. Which, admittedly, was a disappointment for many attendees.

The Q&A with director Satoshi Nishimura and character designer Takahiro Yoshimatsu was held first. In the Q&A, Nishimura revealed that the movie was created partly due to the voices of the American fans clamoring and making their voices heard about wanting more animated Trigun. Yoshimatsu said that the characters this time around are more reminiscent of Yasuhiro Nightow's manga style. As for animating the Trigun Maximum manga, Nishimura said that the louder fans are, the more they make themselves heard, and the more likely such a thing would actually happen. So start creating online petitions, Facebook pages and LiveJournal communities now folks. They heard you once, maybe they'll hear you again. When asked if the movie was going to have an official American release, Nishimura said that they were in serious negotiations with a few companies, and it will most certainly be coming to America (at which point the Funimation reps sat in front of me chuckled. Take that as you will).

The movie itself takes place between episodes 9 and 12 of the original TV series. All the regulars are in the movie - Vash, Wolfwood, Milly and Meryl - although Milly and Meryl are admittedly given backseat roles. While the specifics of the plot were lost on me without subtitles, Trigun humor transcends language, and watching the movie was like seeing an old friend again. It was nostalgic, and the audience lapped it up. The familiar hi-jinks of Vash, the interplay between the characters, the guitar music, it was all there without trying too hard. There is, however, certainly nothing groundbreaking in this movie. Like the Cowboy Bebop movie, it plays as an extended episode. When I interviewed Nishimura, he said one of his fears was that fans who had never seen the TV series might not enjoy the movie. Those fears are unnecessary, as the movie introduces two main characters not featured in the TV series, who are responsible for moving the plot along. While new fans may not understand the specific backgrounds between the four recurring Trigun characters, the relationships are developed enough that the past isn't necessary. The movie isn't meant to be anything but pure enjoyment, and in that goal it certainly succeeds. And if there are American anime fans who haven't yet seen Trigun, the movie will hopefully be a good introduction, but, make no mistake, there is certainly enough in this movie to make long-time fans of the series satisfied.

My interview with Satoshi Nishimura will be available on ANN shortly. In it, he gives a lot of insight into the creation of the movie, so please keep a lookout for it!

Censorship in Manga with Jason Thompson

Sakura-Con admittedly did not have a lot of industry-run panels, but former Shonen Jump editor and Manga the Complete Guide and King of RPGs author Jason Thompson hosted a few panels throughout the weekend. Friday night he hosted a "Censorship in Manga" panel, which, ironically, had to be censored due to Sakura-Con's regulations. In the panel, Thompson described a few examples of instances where manga was forced from both library and school shelves. He also gave a brief history of American comics, beginning with the crackdown on comics that began in the 1950s, which gave a good backdrop for his discussion on manga being censored for English-language releases today. Thompson gave some examples of manga being censored in Japan, and then presented side-by-side pictorial examples of English-language manga censorship, from editing out cigarettes and drugs to guns and religious references. He brought up a lot of instances of censorship that most fans probably do not know about (like changing references to American celebrities) , and the reasons behind them. He ended the panel with a quick overview of the Christopher Handley case and the recently-proposed ban in Tokyo regarding depictions of characters who look underage in manga.

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