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Otakon 2011
Bandai Entertainment After Dark

by Gia Manry,

Marketing director Robert Napton spent the first 15 minutes of the Bandai After Dark panel handing out Gurren Lagann backpack and other swag to the attendees to great enthusiasm. Those who didn't get a backpack will get to grab from a box of small Ghost in the Shell figures.

Finally opening up the content of the panel came Marketing Coordinator Anthony Foronda introducing Marketing and Production Consultant Loy Fruel, Producer Taku Otsuka, President Ken Iyadomi, and Marketing Director Bob Napton. Napton served as the master of ceremonies, joking that it was the first time he had run the "Bandai After Dark" panel with no alcohol in his system because he was on the Sunrise panel immediately preceding Bandai's.

Napton plugged Bandai's online store, and then told the attendees to look under their chair, as one chair had a coupon under it. However, it turned out that the coupon had not been planted, so instead the audience played Rock Paper Scissors against Foronda...but entirely too many people kept beating him, so Napton finally gave the $50 coupon to an audience member with pink hair who had caught his eye.

Gundam Unicorn episode four will be released on December 2, 2011, while The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya is set for a September 20 release. Napton invited voice actress Stephanie Sheh (Mikuru) and Cristina Vee (who portrays Haruhi in the "American" SOS Brigade ads) to the stage. However, a "panel crasher" then appeared: Johnny Yong Bosch, the voice of Itsuki Koizumi. Sheh and Bosch spoke briefly about recording the film; Napton joked that Crispin Freeman (the voice of Kyon) was in the recording studio for seven years. Sheh recounted that Freeman was astonished by how much dialogue he had in the film; she called the movie "the Kyon show, with the Kyon-Inner-Monologue show on top."

Sheh teased that her favorite part is towards the end of the movie, but that she can't reveal it. She also provided the audience with a "Mikuru Beam!" quote from the series, while Bosch mimicked her instead of providing a Koizumi quote. Napton then asked Bosch to sing in character, in a fashion he had improvised while recording, but Bosch balked due to his lack of a guitar, although an audience member sent up an ukulele (which belongs to translator Takayuki Karahashi). Bosch proclaimed that he didn't know how to play the ukulele but gave it an honest effort, singing a song about Koizumi being an esper and having the ability to hear the audience's "dirty thoughts," to the audience's general amusement. He then strummed further and Vee improvised another song.

Bosch then departed the panel, prompting a video in preparation for the next special guest: Hiroaki Yura, who served as recording supervisor for The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya's soundtrack (and is also the founder of Australia's Eminence Orchestra, which performs video game music. Next the audience was treated to four scenes from the film featuring music by Yura, although they were warned that one of the clips would feature a significant spoiler for those who hadn't yet seen the film.

Yura told the audience that if they thought that the film was actually about Haruhi's disappearance, they were wrong; his personal feeling is that it's a love story between Yuki and Kyon. The next clip featured a scene between the two. Yura joked that he was glad that the clips were in un-subtitled Japanese so that the audience didn't really know what was going on. He then noted that a lot of the scenes don't have music because the director wanted the songs to emphasize the most important scenes, which feature very emotional music.

Bob next announced that Yura would play the film's song "Yasashii Boukyaku" on his violin for the audience, who gave him a standing ovation when the song was done.

After a few questions for Yura, he left the stage and Sheh introduced her "band-mates" from the television anime K-ON!: Cassandra Lee Morris (Ritsu), Shelby Lindley (Mugi), and Karrie Shirou (who stood in for the character of Azusa for the panel performance, but who Sheh confirmed with ANN plays Azusa's Friend and additional voices in the series); Cristina Vee, who plays Mio, was already on the stage. The girls led a slowed sing-along with the audience, performing the Japanese lyric to "Fuwa Fuwa Time," a song from the series. Sheh then jokingly chastised the audience for pronouncing "dream time" like Americans rather than Japanese people ("do-rii-mu ta-i-mu), then performed the number for the audience, who mostly elected not to sing along that time. Next they picked a fan from the audience, who performed the number with the girls singing backup vocals. The fan was very enthusiastic and knew the song well, and was awarded a K-ON! stand-up banner. Volume 3 of K-ON! is set for September 13 and will include "My Love is a Stapler" performed by "our band," presumably referring to the English-language performers.

Moving along, Napton played the trailer for Sacred Seven, a currently-airing anime in Japan which is also being simulcasted in North America on Hulu, and for Otakon guest Makoto Shinkai's 5 Centimeters Per Second.

Upcoming releases include Tales of the Abyss volume one (October), Mobile Suit Gundam Anime Legends edition, parts one and two (September 13), Mobile Suit Gundam 00 the Movie -Awakening of the Trailblazer- (out now), Star Driver (TBA for physical release; streaming starting August 17 on several outlets), and Akira (no details given), and Tekken: Blood Vengeance. Vee, who plays Alisa in the CG film, was recalled to the stage to talk about the project. Vee revealed that her character, Alisa, is actually a robot sent on a mission.

The panel ended with a blooper reel from the Haruhi movie.

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