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Otakon 2011
Sunrise Industry Panel

by Brian Hanson,

The panel began as vaunted anime producer and Sunrise's General Manager of Overseas Development, Masayuki Ozaki, welcomed the audience to Sunrise's first industry panel at Otakon, joined by Robert Napton, director of Bandai Entertainment USA. Ozaki discussed Sunrise's history and their 17-year-long partnership with Bandai Entertainment. "We, Sunrise, have made over 300 titles over 35 years. And over 70 percent of those titles are original, not based on novels or comics. This is our charictaristic peculiarity. Of course Sunrise is famous for Gundam. But there are a lot of titles...like Code Geass, Cowboy Bebop, or InuYasha," he said.

An 18-minute promotional video for the Gundam universe was then screened, which covered the entire 32-year history of the Gundam series, noting how its roots in strong characters in real situations has tremendously shaped the entire genre of mecha anime. Afterwards, Ozaki debuted several new, never-before-seen (in English) trailers for Sunrise's 2011 lineup, including Tiger & Bunny, Sacred Seven, Phi-Brain - Kami no Puzzle, Horizon on the Middle of Nowhere, and ended with a colorful preview of the upcoming Gundam AGE.

After the trailers, the floor was opened for an audience Q&A.

Can you tell us anything about the new Code Geass spin-off series?

Ozaki: I knew that question was coming. The uh, next season of Code Geass is behind schedule. They're working hard. We're looking forward to releasing it next year. And it will take place in the same world as Lelouch except with different characters. And, the stage is set in Europe, so we'll see a lot of European countries. The new directer is Kazuki Akane, the director of Escaflowne.

Do you have plans to release any of your older titles on Blu Ray, such as Cowboy Bebop?

Ozaki: We certainly want to release all of the popular Sunrise titles on Blu Ray, but the schedule is DVD first. Thank you very much.

-With the success of Tiger & Bunny, with its non-traditional main characters, is Sunrise more keen on taking risks on projects like this?

Ozaki: It's been a great asset to Sunrise that Tiger & Bunny has been so successful. For one thing, Tiger & Bunny is an original story, and this will certainly continue on to other projects. And, we certainly are open to looking in to new business schemes for our other projects, so it certainly has ramifications for the future.

Gundam Wing was remastered in Japan recently, are there any plans for a release in the US?

Ozaki: The Gundam Wing remasters will be released in the US, but the date is TBD (to be determined).

Robert Napton: We always work really closely with Sunrise to make sure these titles get released. This year, we brought Turn A out, finally, and First Gundam is back, so. Slowly but surely we're getting there.

Last year I saw the giant Gundam statue in Odaiba, Japan. Any plans to bring it here to the US?

Ozaki: I was wondering if anyone would ask that. Actually we have had a lot of offers from all over the world, in Asia and Europe and the US, but... that's TBD. In the future, I hope to bring the Gundam all over the world.

I heard a rumor about an anime adaptation of Gundam Origins, a manga re-telling of the original Mobile Suit Gundam. Are there any further details?

Ozaki: "So far, it is definite that Gundam Origins will be animated. But uh, we have not decided the format for the release, whether it will be a TV series or OAV series, movie, or internet stream. But we should be able to make a more solid announcement soon."

Are there any further plans for the My-HiME or My-Otome series? Or perhaps a Blu Ray release of the older series?

Ozaki: Both My-HiME and My-Otome are based on 'solid world views.' and um, they are set up so that it is possible to come out with more stories and continuations and sequels in the same world, and it's something that we would certainly like to do. And as for Blu Ray releases of these titles, it's the same answer, we would like to put them out, it's on the list, and it certainly is our hope.

Aside from anime titles which you can't shed more light on, are there any plans on bringing older Gundam manga titles and novels to the US?

Ozaki: We do get fan requests for titles such as this, but currently they are not in the plans yet. But the more requests we receive, the better the prospects they have of being considered for release, so we hope for your continued requests.

Bright Noah is rumored to have a cameo in Gundam Unicorn episode 4. Can you comment on this, considering that voice actor Hirotaka Suzuoki has passed away?

Ozaki: Just as you mentioned, Mr. Suzuki is no longer with us, but we have an alternate cast member for Bright Noah, but we cannot announce it yet.

There is a rumor that a new Gundam Seed film was in development, but that the project has since stalled. Can you share any news about this?

Ozaki: It's true we announced 2 years ago that there would be a movie of Gundam Seed. However there's been a change of circumstances and the project is currently on hiatus. So currently we can't commit to speaking of when the movie will be released.

Will there be any Tiger & Bunny merchandise in North America?

Ozaki: We do have plans. Currently in Japan they are rushing to manufacture Tiger & Bunny merchandise, so we don't have enough to satisfy just the Japanese market. And there are several lines of production going on the US to merchandise Tiger & Bunny, so we're rushing to deliver on that."

I was really looking forward to watching Sacred Seven, but the simulcast streams are region locked in Europe. Any plans on making Sacred Seven available to European countries?

Ozaki: Currently Sacred Seven is viewable in European countries outside of Japan. And um, it's pretty much official that Bandai Entertainment will be handling the North American release of Sacred Seven. But we haven't commited to a set schedule for a North American release.

Have there been considerations to revise or revisit older, pre-Gundam series?

Ozaki: The basic philosophy at Sunrise is to be creating new titles as original stories. But if there is fan demand for a remake or if a particular director or producer pitches an idea to revisit an old title, those are the elements that could make Sunrise consider a remake.

Has Sunrise thought about streaming ZZ Gundam?

Robert Napton: I literally answer that question almost every day of my life. We're doing the older Gundam series one by one. This year we've got Turn A and a boxed set of the original series, which I hear about almost as much.

Ozaki: I knew that question was coming too! Unfortunately we have no plans right now on ZZ, either streaming or DVD.

I was wondering how the closing of ADV and Geneon has affected how either Bandai or Sunrise do business.

Ozaki: Both ADV and Geneon were companies that had Japanese financing, so they were both competitors and colleagues to Sunrise. Ideally, we could've been competing and prospering together in both North America and Europe. The fact that both ADV and Geneon are gone is a low blow to both Bandai and Sunrise.

It seems like Gundam AGE is specifically targeting a younger audience, while Gundam Unicorn is more geared to the older fans. Is this intentional? Also, have you also considered doing streams of older franchises from Sunrise that might not be popular enough to sell, but be worth putting online, like Yuusha shows?

Ozaki: Just as you said, Gundam AGE is targeted to a wider age of viewers, both older fans and younger fans. Plans outside of Japan certainly do have younger potential fans in mind, plans for streaming and other means are certainly in the works. For the answer to your 2nd question, it's not only the yuusha series but older Sunrise titles, we do have a very effective means of distribution called streaming, so we would like to release in that format as a plan, and bring back a younger audience to these older titles.

Any plans for new episodes of Sgt. Frog?

Ozaki: Sgt. Frog and I go way back. I've been working with him for the past 7 years. So I am very fond of Sgt. Frog. The tv broadcast has ended in Japan, but within me I've only considered a short recess [of the series]. So I definitely want to find a new partner or a new scheme to bring back new works of Sgt. Frog to the screen.

Recently I heard about a movie called Colorful, and found it pretty moving and interesting. Any plans to do something similar? And when can we see that movie in America?

Ozaki: Colorful also was a bold challenge for us to undertake. There are no giant robots in Colorful, and no action scenes. More of a work that's in line with young adult literature. But Colorful has certainly gained nontraditional fans, fans who aren't traditionally fans of Sunrise titles, and Colorful has won many awards at overseas events, and this is something that is a very good future prospect for Sunrise to carry on with.

What does the future look like for Gintama? Is the second movie hinted at the most recent episode just a joke?

Ozaki: I personally produced the first Gintama feature, so like Sgt. Frog it's something I'm personally very fond of. I certanily want to be the producer for a 2nd Gintama feature as well, if it happens.

With no time left, Ozaki and Napton thanked the crowd for their passion and involvement for all of Sunrise's catalog of titles.

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