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Anime Expo 2012
Tiger & Bunny Panel

by Brian Hanson,

The panel began as Joshua Lopez from Viz Media and a co-producer of the English version of Tiger & Bunny, introduced Sunrise producer Masayuki Ozaki and dub producer and Studiopolis owner Jamie Simone, and then introduced much of the principal cast - Yuri Lowenthal, voice of Barnaby Brooks Jr., Tara Platt, voice of Agnes Joubert, John Eric Bentley as Fire Emblem, Patrick Seitz as Sky High, Travis Willingham as Rock Bison, and Laura Bailey as Dragon Kid.

Not in attendance was Wally Wingert, voice of Kotetsu Kaburagi; however, he sent along his regards to the fans with a pre-recorded video from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, celebrating his grandmother's 100th birthday. "We've been having a lot of fun doing this, it's truly a great show," he said.

They played a clip of the cold opening from the first episode. While questions were being collected from the audience, Jamie Simone briefly explained the process of creating the dub for Tiger & Bunny. "First we started with a fantastic show from Japan," he said, "which is always the most important part of any English dub. And then we put together the best possible cast we could. And we did! We got everyone we wanted in the show. And it was a pretty easy process - the folks at Sunrise and Viz were all on the same page on what we wanted to do regarding the characters. And we pretty much stayed right in line with what the Japanese cast did. We didn't make many changes in the adaptation, so the scripts were pretty easy - no changing of the story or the characterization. And once we get that down on the page, everybody gives it a look and gives it their approval, then we're ready to go into the studio. Then we take that script and throw it out the window, and we really let the actors help out with that case. There's a lotta ad libbing going on. We take the framework of the script and let the actors do their thing - the show has a lotta energy and a lotta action, and everybody here on this panel has a say in how their character is portrayed. It's a great way to work, and you'll see, deep into the series, how wonderful the cast is. Since it's a buddy show and Yuri and Wally play off each other, and the actors only work one at a time - if Yuri comes in first and Wally (as Wild Tiger) does something different, we can call Yuri back and play off that. We like to let Yuri and Wally work off each other, and we open it up to the actors to give their interpretation on the characters. Then we move into the mix - the Japanese music and sound effects are so cool that we left everything the way it was. Little tweaks with levels and mixes, then we get notes, tweak again with those notes, we call Yuri back several times for pickups, and call it a day. We're 14 or 15 episodes into the series right now. It keeps getting better and better. And I'm so happy to see you all here."

Masayuki Ozaki then wanted to ask a few questions to the actors in attendance. "Do you have any similarities with your characters? And was it easy to get into character?"

Yuri Lowenthal: "Oh, we are EXACTLY like our characters. One of the things I love about Barnaby is that... okay, yeah, he's filled with darkness, but he tries to hide it. I always think those are more interesting characters."

Tara Platt: "One of the things I love about Agnes is that she's so controlling, which is so very true to me in my life. And so I definitely relate to her on that level, and like Yuri said, I think there's definitely something within each of the actors that are cast that can be exploited for the characters. In a good way."

John Eric Bentley:

"I love spandex. (laughter) I get to play, y'know. This is an awesome character. Fire Emblem is the bomb diggity. He gets to shoot fire out of his hands. He's a fun character. I have a very dear friend from when I was growin' up, whom I modeled my tonality and voice after."

Patrick Seitz: "I love Sky High. I watched the subtitled episodes when the auditions came up. I think I'm like Sky High to a certain extent. he's very earnest and idealistic and sometimes he doesn't pick up on certain details. Like me!"

Travis Willingham: "I love that Rock Bison likes to drink."

Laura Bailey: "I'm really really tough, so, I'm just like Dragon Kid. But I dunno. She's a bit of a tomboy, and doesn't spend a lot of time socializing. I don't think I'm very similar in that regard. I kinda like to hang. But I am really really tough though, so there is that."

Ozaki addressed the dub crew again. "This is the first time I'm meeting everybody on the English cast. But I did hear their voices all the time. I was part of the casting process. But when I met them I was really surprised because all the voice over characteristics are very similar to the characters they play. So, if you were to become a NEXT, what kind of abilities would you like to have, and how would you put them to use?"

Yuri Lowenthal: "I think I would like the power to teleport. So I could've teleported past the the X Games this morning. I had to walk 5 miles out of the way to get to the convention center!"

Tara Platt: "I would like the power to be in two places at the same time. I'd be twice as effective!"

John Eric Bentley: If I were a NEXT, I would love the power to heal. 'Cause the world is in a bad place right now, and I know a whole lotta folks who just need healin' and hope."

Patrick Seitz: "Now I feel like a jerk for my answer! I, uh, I would help *all* the puppies in the world! But seriously, I wish I could, like, understand and read and speak every language. I haven't gotten to the part where I actually help people with that, but it would be so cool to be able to do that."

Travis Willingham: "I'd love to have the power of invulnerability, but for more than 5 minutes. Then I'd go on the 80 foot ramps they've out out here (for the X Games) and just fly off and pretend I was hurt. 'I'M OKAY!'"

Laura Bailey: "I dunno. I would like the ability to alter people's emotions. If people were fighting you could make them calm and stuff. 'I dunno why I was gonna rob this bank! I just love everybody so much!!'"

The tables were turned as the actors then had a chance to ask their own questions for Masayuki Ozaki.

Laura Bailey: "In addition to Dragon Kid, I've been voicing Bad Luck Girl. Who is she? What is her story?"

Masayuki Ozaki: "First! I'd like to insist, that we, or at least me, I recognizer her not as Bad Luck Girl, but rather Good Luck Girl!. She was saved by Sky High, and she's really lucky because she gets to see all these heroes really up close. It came out of just the staff playing around with the anime. That's how she was born. So I wish that she would be a character that everyone would care about and think about and enjoy. Personally I'd like to do a story where we could watch the entire Tiger & Bunny story through the eyes of Bad Luck Girl."

Patrick Seitz: "With any creative process, especially with a series like this, where you start from versus where you end up might be a lot different from what you first planned. Were there any ideas that changed, or any characters or ideas that didn't fit by the end and had to be scrapped?"

Masayuki Ozaki: "I can talk on that topic for many, many hours. It would go on forever. I'll focus on one point: When we were thinking about Kotetsu, about his setting, about what kind of character to make him for 2 or 3 years. He's like a businessman hero, who works for Apollon Media. Before, we were planning to have him be the president of a small company, who works for himself, almost like a salaryman. Or we had an idea of having him as a free agent hero, a lone wolf, who was not represented by any companies. At the end of the story, you'll notice that all of the heroes don't die. But there was a time when one character among the heroes could've died. So we were working on it, like, 'who's gonna die? who's gonna die?' such as Rock Bison. But I'm glad that all the heroes survived."

Tara Platt: "Dealing with all the sponsorships, just curious, on the show if you've had any interesting requests by the sponsors for your show. Maybe they'd want you to have a love story or they'd want bigger screen time, anything like that."

Masayuki Ozaki: "To make a long story short, there was actually nothing from the sponsor like that. I'm sure Tara had a different answer in mind. Actually when we went to the sponsors and asked them to be in the show, when we did a presentation, we had all the synopses for 25 episodes done. So we even had details on which heroes had how much screen time, so they already knew. So it's not like Gyu-kaku said, "how come Rock Bison doesn't get more screen time?"

Travis Willingham: "For making a show this fun, do you have a favorite part or story about developing the show?"

Masayuki Ozaki: "Difficult question. Including me, the director, and everyone, we all worked together, so obviously we're attached to every scene, so that's a difficult question indeed. But personally it's really easy to get into the feelings of Kotetsu, the main character, because after all I am a businessman myself who works for a company, so I share share Kotetsu's sadness of working for somebody. But the best part about releasing Tiger & Bunny are moments like now, when I get to meet the English cast and meet the fans here at this panel."

Yuri Lowenthal: "I've noticed with my character, Barnaby, and American superheroes, it seems like there were similarities to American heroes. Same with all the heroes on this show. But they are also still very Japanese. Were you inspired at all by any American comic book heroes, a way to join Japanese sensibilities and American comic book sensibilities?"

Masayuki Ozaki: "That is a really good question. I'm happy you asked it, because after all I do love American comic superheroes, and I like american buddy movies. And I used to watch japanese HERO TV shows when I was a kid. Not only me, but the director also loves American comics and superheroes. Tiger & Bunny shows our love for all the shows we watched as a kid, American comic shows and Japanese hero shows. Really happy you asked that question."

As Viz's crew, specially dressed in "HERO TV" uniforms from the series, collected the audience questions, Joshua Lopez reminded the audience that Tiger & Bunny's English dub will be available soon on Viz's new venture, Neon Alley. They also presented a series of slides and images of merchandise that is available in the Dealer's Room - action figures, Figmas, t-shirts.

Then, Masayuki Ozaki had an announcement, that a Tiger & Bunny stage show would be presented in Japan starting this August. "We're in the process of making the costumes of the other heroes," he said. "It's an original story... it fits between episodes 14 and 15."

As the audience questions were finalized, they were distributed to each of the actors.

Laura Bailey read the first card. "'Do you pretend to be your character outside of your character?' Yes," she said, "I do pretend to be my character outside of my character. Usually when I'm standing in front of a mirror. Getting ready. I strike poses. That's the truth."

Travis Willingham: "I walk into Dave & Busters with a fur jacket, with my hair slicked back like a mullet."

Patrick Seitz: "I thank people over and over again. And I fly!"

John Eric Bentley: "For me? *laughs* It depends on when I'm hanging out with Jamie. We take trips to Santa Monica boulevard."

Tara Platt: "I tell people what to do all the time."

Yuri Lowenthal: "I have a blond wig at home."

Masayuki Ozaki: "I make fried rice."

Patrick Seitz read the next card. "To Fire Emblem - how is it acting as a character who is so... well, fiery?"

John Eric Bentley: "Like I said, when we're in the booth, we have so much fun! I get to play around, you know! He's very, um... flamboyant, but I get to play! I guess it's just... I don't know how to answer it any other way. I got the coolest suit! And I got the ride, man. It's fun. he's fun!"

John then immediately read the next question. "What was the funniest scene that took multiple takes, because you couldn't stop laughing?" he continued, "Mine was, one of the girls was in my car, and I had to say, 'let's get 'em, girls.'"

Yuri Lowenthal: "Any scene with Dave Wittenberg laying down Doc Saito. They play it for us and we get it all out of our system early on. We just laugh and laugh and laugh, get it out of our system, so we can get actual work done."

Masayuki Ozaki: "That happened in Japan too!"

Yuri reads the next card. "What will the movie be like?" he asked Ozaki.

Masayuki Ozaki: "We're making both movies at the same time. The first movie will come out in September in Japan. It takes place where Kotetsu and Barnaby meet, the first part of the series, so story-wise, it's before episode 1 starts, then up to before episode 3 starts. Two-thirds of the movies is brand new animation, and there's new scenes that are included in the movie, so it's not like a re-airing of the TV series. And we also have a new NEXT, designed by the original character designer Masakazu Katsura. Not much I can say about the 2nd movie right now, but I'm sure it'll be a story that every one of you will want to watch."

The last card was read by Jamie Simone. "Ozaki-san, is there a sequel in store? Additional episodes in store? Please-say-yes please-say-yes!!"

Masayuki Ozaki: "We hear about your expectations and how much you love Tiger & Bunny in the US, so, Sunrise is after all an animation studio, we have to make new products, and personally I know that we have to answer to what the fans want. So if you can first watch the movies, then we can talk about it later. I have personal things I'd like to do with the series, so please forgive me for that answer for now."

Yuri Lowenthal: "What'll help getting more series like this one is... paying for the shows. That always helps. That's the only way they can fund these shows anymore."

As is customary for these panels, a raffle was held for the fans, and a lucky few wound up with action figures signed by Ozaki-san. Everyone thanked the audience and plugged the autograph session later in the day.

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