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Anime Expo 2011
Good Smile & Nitroplus Focus Panel

by Carlo Santos,

Guest of Honor Danny Choo moderated the Anime Expo 2011 panel for figure manufacturer Good Smile Company and game studio Nitroplus. Choo introduced Good Smile Company's Takanori Aki and Nitroplus's Takaki Digitarou Kosaka to wild applause, then briefly spoke with them about their impressions of this year's Anime Expo as compared to other covnentions.

Both guests were than asked about how they got into their current line of work. Aki said that Good Smile originally started as an unsuccessful seiyuu talent agency, and later moved into the figure world because of Aki's connections with Max Factory. This resulted in a partnership that has transformed Good Smile into the business it is today. He also noted that one of his first jobs was working in the sales department of Konami, where he learned the importance of customer-oriented thinking and creating works that fans will enjoy.

Kosaka got his start 30 years ago as a Macross doujinshi creator, which got him invited to work with Macross mecha designer Kazutaka Miyataka. Kosaka then moved on to a job with Newtype magazine, and after some time in the anime magazine business, he went into games with companies like Banpresto and Namco. From this industry experience, Kosaka created game studio Nitroplus (pronounced "NEE-tro-plus"). As an enthusiast for all types of media, though, Kosaka's ultimate goal was to create an anime series, which he achieved with series such as Madoka Magica and Steins;Gate.

Aki then spoke about the Black Rock Shooter franchise, based on a single illustration by huke that has since blossomed into a hit song and music video, a 2010 OVA, and this coming August, a PSP game. Aki treated the audience to a slideshow displaying some exclusive art and packaging as well as a 90-second opening animation video for the game.

Following that, Kosaka discussed Nitroplus's first work, the PC game Phantom of Inferno. The game was originally developed on the PC platform due to lower production costs, but then could not be ported to PlayStation because of the content. Kosaka also ran into other issues with not being familiar with the business and sales end, but still sold 15,000 copies of the game. However, Kosaka and Nitroplus have grown since, even gaining the support of US distributors such as JAST USA, who localize games such as Demonbane.

The discussion then turned toward recent hit anime Madoka Magica, which was produced by Aniplex over the course of two and a half years. Kosaka, who was story supervisor for the series, explained that was surprised to see the explosive populairty of the series, given Nitroplus's reputation for niche titles.

Kosaka also brought up sci-fi thriller Steins;Gate, a collaboration between Nitroplus and 5pb. (who had previously worked together on another thriller game and anime, Chaos;HEAd). The character designer for Steins;Gate is none other than huke, who also worked on Black Rock Shooter. Kosaka was also pleasantly surprised to learn (as he had not previously known) that the Steins;Gate anime was streaming subtitled on Crunchyroll.

Aki then introduced his project involving a Nendoroid-themed PSP game, where super-deformed versions of popular characters (just like the Nendoroid line of figures) will battle each other. The game will bring together familiar names like Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, Haruhi Suzumiya and Black Rock Shooter, and is comparable to the Super Robot Wars series of games.

Aki also mentioned Good Smile's charity efforts such as the special-edition "Support Miku" Nendoroid, the sales of which will go to benefit Japan earthquake relief. 1,000 yen of each figure's 3,000 yen sale price will go toward the charity fund, and Aki stated that about 75 million yen (~US $930,000) has already been raised for the charity effort. He also said that a cheerleader-themed Black Rock Shooter charity figure, along with other peripheral merchandise, is in the works. Even Good Smile Company's own mascot, Gumako, is getting her own charity figure, which recently went on pre-order.

Kosaka then introduced Nitroplus mascot Super Soniko, an ample-figured girl whose image is used to promote the company's live music events. Fans can look forward to an upcoming text-adventure game starring Soniko, which even features a cameo by Danny Choo's own character creation, Mirai.

The panel ended with both guests sharing some exciting news. Aki said that, after seeing the number of YouTube comments in English for the Black Rock Shooter game previews, Good Smile is also planning an English version of the Black Rock Shooter game. Kosaka mentioned that after the end of Steins;Gate, Nitroplus and Aniplex will be producing a Fate/Zero anime (based Type-Moon's Fate franchise) this coming October.

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