Tokyo Anime Fair 2009 Blowout
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by Zac Bertschy,

Each year at Tokyo Big Sight in Odaiba, hundreds of anime companies gather, erecting massive booths to promote their latest TV series, movies, ambitious OVA projects, and countless merchandise lines. 2009 saw a mildly scaled-down affair thanks to a weakened economy in both Japan and the US, but nevertheless, the Big Sight exhibit hall radiated with giant flashy exhibitions from the industry's players both big and small.

We took our camera around the show floor to capture as much of the spectacle as we could; naturally we couldn't fit every single booth in, but we did manage to grab a sizable chunk of the experience for those of you who found yourselves sitting the festivities out in the States.

As a reminder, many of the shows discussed here will be covered extensively in our big upcoming Spring 2009 Preview, debuting in early April. Enjoy!


ANIPLEX

New Shows On Display:

Fullmetal Alchemist 2 (airs 04-05) – Essentially a “do over”, this new FMA series will follow the manga closely; the show has no set number of episodes and is expected to run as long as the manga, which has yet to end.

Valkyria Chronicles (airs 04-04) – A military action-drama based on the PS3 strategy RPG of the same name.

Guin Saga (airs 04-05) – A high fantasy adventure story about a warrior named Guin who wears a leopard mask and has no memory whatsoever of his previous life. He defends the people of the “Middle Country” when demons attack.

Impressions:

Aniplex had easily one of the largest booths, packed to the gills with new shows and new merchandise. In addition to their new series, ongoing favorites like Naruto, Bleach, Kuroshitsuji and others were on display. The giant, imposing “Doors of Truth”, complete with an illuminated floor, was easily one of the most impressive showpieces in the hall. While they didn't seem to have a lot of new Fullmetal Alchemist footage to show (odd considering the remake airs in around 2 weeks), it was pretty clear the show was one of the hottest and most talked about properties at the event.

Also on display (not only at Aniplex but a handful of other booths) was Guin Saga, a sort of Lord of the Rings-meets-Romance of the 3 Kingdoms –meets-Tekken fantasy combat action series. The footage they had was fairly dark and serious; think Berserk, but with less blood and more leopard heads.

Valkyria Chronicles, which is based on the PS3 game (which is available in America now and got pretty decent reviews), didn't have a whole lot of footage to show, but it should please fans of the game.


GAINAX

New Shows On Display:

Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagaan: The Movie (In Japanese Theaters April 25th)

Impressions:

Although they didn't really have anything to show aside from the upcoming Gurren Lagann movie, Gainax certainly took up plenty of TAF real estate. And endlessly looping trailer reel with footage from the film, an advertisement for the Gurren Lagann DVD box and a music video featuring fan favorite Yoko in a variety of revealing costumes ran on the booth's myriad screens. An army of cardboard cutouts of the show's cast and a multitude of glass cases stocked with Gurren Lagann merchandise were also available, as well as a performer in full Gurren Lagann cosplay and a handful of Yoko booth babes.

The Gurren Lagann movie promises to be a pretty loose retelling of the anime series, with some new scenes, new fights and new characters involved. The representative we spoke to said that folks unfamiliar with the series would be able to enjoy the movie, and fans should appreciate the new stuff. Naturally we asked about Evangelion 2.0, the new movie scheduled for release this June, but they were, of course, tight-lipped (although oddly a full – and really awesome - trailer for EVA 2.0 was running nonstop over at the Starchild booth).


TMS

New Shows On Display:

Saint Seiya – The Lost Canvas OVA (first episode due 06-09)

Impressions:

TMS had a pretty big booth, one chock full of Anpanman merchandise, gashapon machines and displays. A third of their booth was a gothic-style setup to promote the new Saint Seiya OVA series, the first chapter of which is called The Lost Canvas (the series is presently scheduled to run for 13 episodes). They had some character designs up, some screengrabs, a chrome figurine and a trailer running that didn't seem to reveal much plot but focused (obviously) on the combat.

One corner of the booth was dedicated to TMS's Lupin III projects; the upcoming Lupin III vs. Detective Conan movie, being promoted all over the place, was present, as well as a new mobile online initiative with wallpapers, clips, games and ringtones. Also present was an ad for an upcoming Lupin III theme park ride, called Trap of the Labyrinth, which will open in Tokyo Dome City.


BUSHIROAD

New Shows On Display:

None, this is a trading card game company.

Impressions:

Bushiroad told us they had the biggest booth on the show floor, which isn't hard to believe. In addition to several big areas for fans to play card game tournaments in, they also had a handful of storefronts, huge walls plastered with art, and a surprisingly large indoor maze (which we got lost in several times).

Bushiroad specializes in licensed trading card games; they have games covering properties ranging from Nanoha to Fate Stay/Night to Persona 3 to Disgaea. Interestingly, they also have a Shonen Sunday vs. Shonen Magazine, which pits characters like Ranma and Golgo 13 against each other. While there wasn't much here for the non-gamer, it's clear Bushiroad knows their audience.


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