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All the Announcements from Anime Expo 2024
BLUE BOX and that "Waku Waku" Feeling

by Earl Gertwagen,

ANN's coverage of Anime Expo 2024 sponsored by Yen Press and Ize Press!


The Platinum Ballroom at the JW Marriott had another packed audience for the Blue Box panel. Soothing music, blue lighting, and soft shapes swirling on the walls set a calm, cool tone for the panel.

As the MC got the panel going, the enthusiastic crowd welcomed two special guests: Shōya Chiba, the voice of Taiki, and Akari Kitō, the voice of Hina.

They started the questions light, asking Chiba-san and Kito-san if they were enjoying AX and their time in Los Angeles.

Both voice artists expressed surprise at the size of the crowd, and at Anime Expo in general, but were grateful that so many had shown up to a panel for Blue Box. Kito-san gave a shot at a greeting in English but stumbled partway through. The crowd found it endearing, though, and applauded supportively.

"I thought I'd memorized my English perfectly but I flubbed it so I'm frustrated with myself right now," Kito-san said. She laughed it off, but her vulnerability was charming.

The conversation shifted to talking about the voice talents' roles and descriptions of their characters. Chiba-san described his character Taiki as a very straightforward, focused, and determined high schooler passionate about badminton. “I feel like he represents a lot of the feelings of a Japanese high schooler. Especially the way he embodies that "waku waku" feeling of excitement and nervousness toward girls.”

Chiba-san laments that typical male high school students aren't so straightforward, but rather quite roundabout in conveying their feelings. Since Taiki's not like that, he's curious how he'll be received by audiences.

“When I first read the original work, I thought 'Wait, that's me! He's just like me!'”, Chiba-san says. He says he resonated with Taiki, so it felt easy to approach.

Kito-san describes her character Hina as a very bright and energetic girl. She has this friendship with Taiki where they poke fun at each other but they're good friends. She works hard and is a prominent member of the gymnastics team.

Hina likes to joke around and have goofy conversations with Taiki but she also takes gymnastics seriously. “I try to keep those two aspects of her in mind when playing her,” Kato-san says, emphasizing that Hina's tone will be very different depending on her circumstances.

After Chiba-san and Kato-san have a chance to discuss their characters, a video message from Reina Ueda, who voices Chinatsu, is shared on the big screen. She's bubbly and enthusiastic. Even without being physically present, she could whip up the crowd.

"Chinatsu is a 2nd-year student on the high school basketball team. She's skilled, popular, and well-known enough to be interviewed by sports magazines." Ueda-san says she's a difficult character to pin down. You never quite know what she's thinking. "She is bright, cheerful, and always puts others before herself."

After the video message ends, Chiba-san cheekily says Ueda-san came off like Captain America – "Or maybe Iron Man?" – with how she got the crowd going. "I have to work hard to do better than she did!"

Chiba-san expands a bit on Chinatsu. "I feel like she's the heroine of Blue Box. You see her and she's pretty and has a good personality, but Taiki sees her weaknesses. He sees her working so hard and getting frustrated. Those are the parts Taiki connects with and appreciates and looks up to.”

The host then introduces another guest: Shū Murakoshi (村越周氏), the editor of the Blue Box manga.

"I'm aware there's a Bleach panel and a My Hero Academia panel going on, but you all came to the Blue Box panel instead. Thank you so much for that."

The questions dive right into some of the core choices of the show, like how Miura-sensei, the manga's creator, chose the topic for Blue Box. Murakoshi-san explains that the core of the story was always romantic but the original premise had the main female love interest as part of the photography club. They realized early on that that would make it a bit of a one-way relationship, and decided it wasn't quite as easy to root for from the audience's perspective. They wanted the characters to have mutual respect, so they shifted to sports instead.

Another benefit of the shift was that often in Japan you'll have people from different sports practicing in the same auditorium space, so when thinking about the setting, that was a good way to have these characters interact.

The three main characters participate in different sports. Taiki plays badminton, Hina is a gymnast, and Chinatsu plays basketball. Asked whether Miura-sensei chose those sports for a reason, Murakoshi-san shared that the biggest reason for Taiki playing badminton is because Miura-sensei himself was on the badminton team in high school. "Taiki was originally on the volleyball team, but he's a character that battles his inner self a lot, so we thought it'd be better for him to be in an individual sport instead of a team sport."

Murakoshi-san unabashedly shares that Chinatsu being in the basketball club was because he and Miura-sensei thought female basketball players in Japanese high schools were really cute and cool, so that was the choice behind that. "They work hard, and their work ethic is great." Sure, it's also because they're cute.

"For Hina, we decided she'd be a gymnast. There's a work called Touch that's well known in Japan, and the heroine in that is also in gymnastics so we thought that would be fitting."

As the panel was wrapping up, Murakoshi-san chimed in to share that just before entering the panel he received a text from Miura-sensei that he read to everyone in the room: "It's 3 AM over here, but I'm very happy that all of you so far away in a different time zone love Blue Box. Let's enjoy the anime together!"

The host laments that time is running out, and the crowd lets out a sad "ehhhhhhh", like you might hear Japanese fans exclaim. Kato-san seemed moved.

"When everyone said 'ehhhhhhh' I was surprised, and I was like 'Wow they even do that here in America?' Knowing that anime is loved this deeply here in America so far away from Japan makes me immensely happy."

I think the Blue Box anime is wonderful so I hope you check it out and share it with your friends.

Chiba-san has the final parting words.

"It's wonderful to see that the love for Blue Box transcends country borders. It's got the excitement of a shonen series, and the sensitivity of a non-shonen series, so I'm sure it'll be the best series ever. Since so many of you are already fans, I know it'll be an explosive hit, so please be sure to watch it and tell your friends."

Showing that he can keep up with the latest slang, he then adds:

"No cap!"

...and the crowd absolutely loves it.

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