Photos from AnimeJapan 2016: Finale

by Mike Toole,

Okay, so here's how Anime Japan was laid out – you'd enter the facility behind the cool sign above, go downstairs, and then dash across across two huge halls (hall ‘A’ and hall ‘J,’ natch) of Tokyo Big Sight to see everything. But the crazy thing is, that's only a small portion of Big Sight. Right across the hall, there was a big motorcycle show.

Here's the keynote speaker – I caught him with my long lens camera. Heh heh. See, I'd had visions of heading up into the main structure, but that's not how it works. The actual building is mostly for executive stuff, meetings, and smaller events. But that's fine, because halls 3 and 4 still had plenty of anime goodness in store. Let's jump right in!

First of all, look at these balloons. When I go to the carnival, I'm gonna have the balloon guy make me what's her face from Monogatari. (I think it's Shinobu, but I'm not really up to speed on my ‘gatari goodness.)

Oh Mr. Producer from [email protected], you look like shit. Get some sleep, dude!

Hey, it's Saber! Turns out her one weakness, the way to vanquish her and take the holy grail for yourself, is to just jab her with a needle.

I'm pretty sure this is Takahiro Sakurai, who is a real person. (Actually, I think Mr Sakurai was at Anime Japan. Did someone remember to give this balloon to him?)

First up in the hall itself: Cospa! Cospa have dominated the field of high-quality replica items and licensed costumes for something like two decades. Sure, you can get cheaper and simpler (and probably bootleg) costumes of popular characters from Alibaba, but Cospa means quality.

But Cospa isn't just about costumes – they have lines of fashion and casual wear as well. This shot is from before their store opened, because otherwise I wouldn't have been able to see anything – it was mobbed all weekend!

Now here's undoubtedly the most interesting exhibit of the show to a boring, fortyish goofball like me – a series of collaborations between high-end luxury goods makers and anime brands. First off is this high-quality Mr. Osomatsu handkerchief, just 3,500 yen. I think the Osomatsu brothers were present for at least eight booths, possibly ten. Osomatsu-mania is real!


You know, nothing spells out ‘the king of heroes’ like a really nice pen. Even Gilgamesh understands that it's mightier than the sword!

Here's an [email protected] dress by the fashion designers at SuperGroupies. More on them soon!

This Toyota can go three times as fast as a regular Toyota. Actually, seeing this in red just really makes me want one in green.

Someone else can drive for Zeonic Toyota as the Red Comet. I just want the stock model driven by Char's squadmates, Slender, Denim, and Jean.

This is a Black Butler Roomba. I'm not kidding, it's based on Sharp's “Cocorobo” vacuum cleaner.

Black Butler Roomba. If you say it softly, it's almost like praying!

These life-sized Eren and Levi maquettes were… kinda short, actually. I'm always amazed by how small some anime characters are when you model them to 1/1 scale. Also, I'm pretty sure they look better than the ones at Universal Studios Japan.

Love Live! Lanterns!

Love Live! Lanterns!!

Love Live! Lanterns!!! Did you know that Love Live! is over? Actually, this is one thing that kinda shocked me about Anime Japan – with the first generation of Love Live! madness coming to a close this week with the final μ’s concert, you'd think that the related merchandise would be making way for Love Live! Sunshine!!. Not so – a good half-dozen booths, from Bushiroad to Cospa to Banpresto, all had Love Live! goodies, but no Sunshine. Maybe that'll change once there's some serious promotion behind the new show and singing team.

Across from the lanterns, mobile game company Cygames were hyping the only thing that matters – Rage of Bahamut. Hey man, as long as they feature Hamsa the king of the ducks on the key visuals, I'm good. Every anime needs a nagging, gregarious duck wearing a crown.

Remember when I mentioned SuperGroupies earlier? They make anime-themed fashion items. Items like this sexy lingerie. It took me a while to put it together, but eventually I did.

Yeah, these are bra and panty sets based on the Madoka Magica girls. People were flipping out and taking tons of photos, so I figure there's some demand for these. Now, where's my Mazinger Z lingerie?!

Avex's booth was dominated by performances and hosted events. I sneaked this one of the big monitor, just to give you a sense of what it was like. Multiple times, people lined up in front of this screen for taped musical bits, singing and waving their glowsticks along. Man, anime nerds are weird.

Oh thank god, finally they're making more Gurren La—oh right, it's the pachinko machine. I'm glad that the people behind the show are getting a payday, but I hate how these things generate hype, only to produce a product that isn't all that interesting or accessible.

At least the Yoko model was doin’ it right!

This was also part of the Fields booth. I had no idea what was going on, beyond the fact that this was obviously a happy maid girl avatar version of a mobile phone service like Siri.

What it meant that fans were lining up to ask it questions, which it inevitably responded to with a chirpy, affirmative “Wakarimasen!” (“I don't understand.”) Just like regular ol’ Cortana!

Here's a big banner for Active Raid.

And around the corner, both an ad for Berserk (with snappy postcards!) and… what's that? Could it be new Majestic Prince anime?!

Nope, just a pachinko machine. Even the model looks a little crestfallen.

The booth was impressive overall, though. Actually, I caught that model between poses, I'm sure she perked right up.

Damn right she did!! Now, who wants a clear file?!

YTV's booth was hyping their power hour of the brand-new Phoenix Wright anime and the never-will-end-ever Detective Conan anime. These two masters of criminal psychology are clearly inviting fans from around the world to pull their fingers!

Here's something really cool: a wire sculpture. Get on one end, and it's Conan Edogawa. But on the other, the very same wires transform…

…into Phoenix Wright!

The interior of the booth featured storyboards and other materials from the new Phoenix Wright anime.

Then it was on to Studio Cheese. I mean, Studio Chizu.

Here's a replica of director Mamoru Hosoda's desk. Apparently he dropped by and did some live painting, an amazing event that was mentioned nowhere I could find in the schedule. Guess it was one of those spontaneous things!

The Chizu booth was ringed with production drawings from The Boy and The Beast.

Next to that was Anime Japan's production materials gallery. This art was printed directly to the backdrop and didn't photograph that well, so I stuck with the other half of the exhibit – the WALL OF ANIME, featuring every single show currently airing, soon to be airing, and in production. Take a gander.

Man, that is a LOT of anime! Tons and tons of it!! On one hand, I'm happy to be living in an age when there's so much color and variety. On the other, I wish there were a couple of extra days in the week so I had more time to watch all the damn shows. Just being at Anime Japan has put me behind the 8-ball on practically everything!

Bones and Production I.G shared a booth footprint.

Bones had some of the stuff they've been working on, plus production art.

Meanwhile, hey, it's the Japanese poster form Garm Wars, Mamoru Oshii's latest weird live-action SF film. Why isn't Lance Henriksen on the cover?!

Next, Card Captor Sakura got its own booth, because it's an anniversary year for the franchise. I'm very happy that CCS is now a “forever” anime that old fans remember well and new fans discover constantly. You'll notice the little Kero-chan doll, which is designed to cling to your arm.

Next to Sakura is yet another My Hero Academia exhibition, this one for the card game. This series absolutely won the ground game for Anime Japan, and seems likely to be a great hit on TV this spring if they get it right.

Now see here, Ms Deviluke – I'm sure you're very excited to get married, but you need to have an entire wedding dress to do it.

The Toypla folks had some giant-sized figures to show off, including characters from To-Loveru, Drifters, and more.

Then, there was the Shogakukan booth, and Lum!

This 1/1-scale Lum statue is really cute, but it doesn't really look like Lum, does it?

More goods were on display next to Lum. Man, I want to try the Urusei Yatsura noodles! And the Urusei Yatsura blu-rays.

Almost 20 years later, the Pokémon train chugs along.

Ash and Pikachu are ageless wonders. They will never, ever grow up and get real jobs.

Obviously, toys from the latest Pokémon iteration were on hand.

The rest of the Sho-Pro booth had yet another Detective Conan movie ad, and a standee for the latest Doraemon movie.

Next was something really cool – a small section of colleges that teach animation-related art classes. This exhibit was anchored by the Nihon Kogakuin College, a unit of the Tokyo Institute of Technology.

It featured a LOT of artwork from students, including free artbooks and DVDs for attendees that showcased their work.

I talked to a lot of people this week that trash talked some of the “anime schools” in Japan that purport to train new animators – people who know what they're talking about, when it comes to animation. But it seems like Nihon Kogakuin are turning out some serious talent.

Takara Tomy's big showcase was for their new program, Kamiwaza Wanda.

Remember what I said about little toys that cling to your arm? Here's even more of them!

Next door was the Yu-Gi-Oh! booth, featuring this giant fella.

It's impressive how Yu-Gi-Oh!, which always seemed to me like the most blatant of product commercials, still sticks around and inspires fervent devotion among its fans, even after fifteen-plus years.

Maybe some of the older fans just like collecting the figures.

NBC Universal's booth was a sight to see.

First, here's a bike from the upcoming girls-on-motorcycles anime Bakuon!!.

Bakuon!! is yet another new show with a lot of presence at Anime Japan, appearing at multiple booths.

Sword's. The only blade known to man

And this new series wins the award for most awkward title. (It's based on a light novel, obviously.) I don't think it has an official title yet, but it's basically You Mean My Online Wife is a Girl in Real Life?! Pretty sure it's gonna be popular, as it already seems to have that ‘exasperated hero with several bubbly ladyfriends’ formula down pat.

I'm Arslan, and this is my Heroic Legend.

It was really good of Arslan to take time off from the campaign and stop by – he's had a tough time in the primaries lately, but I'm sure he'll still be president in November.

Here's a neat little figurine of Daryun, Arslan's top general.

What the hell is that, some sort of marshmallow cat

Nope, it's an exhibit piece for the popular Is the order a rabbit?, which is the previous holder of the most awkward anime title award.

Across the aisle from NBC Universal, there was a much more modest booth for Gamba, the CG remake of Osamu Dezaki's classic Gamba anime TV series.

They're trying their best, but to me this movie looks a little too Shrek-y. These characters are right on the edge of pulling a Dreamworks Smirk.

Alright, it's the Lumica people! These were the other glowstick providers at Anime Japan. We bought some of their stuff, because they had official Anime Japan glowsticks! I'm gonna take mine to the Gogol Bordello concert this weekend. I'm sure it'll go over great!

Oh boy, what anime is this? Er, it's actually a set of mascot characters created for the Minakami Hot Springs. These folks want to turn their Sengoku-shi girls into something bigger, but it hasn't happened yet.

Here's an exhibit for Sunao Katabuchi's new film, In This Corner of the World.

Kadokawa had a little theatre hyping all of the shows they have a hand in, which is a lot!

Of course, I just headed around the side of the booth to take pictures of The Five Star Stories artwork. I love Mamoru Nagano's work, even if his characters are impossibly skinny.

Check out the standee parade! Obviously, the most important one is Ninja Slayer.

I'm intrigued by Kumamiko, or Girl Meets Bear. Any anime with a big, friendly bear can't be bad.

Here's another big light novel to anime project: Four Rhythm Across the Blue.

Monster Strike had  a booth of its own…

…and mascots to boot!

Then there was one of the big booths by that most Japanese of companies, Warner Bros.

Batman v Superman is my favorite anime.

The single biggest piece of Warner Bros.’ booth was for the new Jojo's series, Diamond is Unbreakable. The artwork was cool…

…but the statue of Josuke is even cooler.

Hey there, do you pose here often?!

This is the face of a man who just realized he left his phone charger at home, and he's gonna be stuck here all day.

Terra Formars is back, baby, with both a new TV series and a live-action film-- even if the manga is kinda incoherent.

I was just happy to see the standee of Komachi, man. At age 42, he's probably the only character on the entire show floor older than myself!

The rest of the booth looked cool, too—a real spectacle.

Across the aisle, there was this gal from the new anime Hundred.

Man, her proportions are… impressive, I'll give you that.

And kinda absurd. Is she hiding basketballs under there?!

Oh boy, Nitroplus! I love Steins;Gate and Super Sonico, I wonder what cool exhibits they're… actually, they were just on hand to sell things, nothing more. I got a Super Sonico keychain from one of the Super Sonico booth attendants.

Goodsmile and Nitroplus were really pushing Thunderbolt Fantasy, an amazing looking puppet series.

Seriously, check out the PV. This thing, which boasts a writing credit courtesy of Gen Urobuchi, looks surprisingly good.

And look at these puppets. Seriously, puppets!! Just like Sesame Street!

Alright, to hell with that. Let's look at some toys.

Remember what I said about the Love Live! girls sticking around?

Yep, they sure are.

I really like this Dagashi Kashi figure – probably my favorite of the show.

Oh boy, it's that girls with guitars project again!

Wait a minute, those aren't ESP guitars. Is this… a different girls with guitars thing?!

Here's a booth by Miyazaki Prefecture, leveraging the power of Osomatsumania to bring in tourists. Yes folks, anime tourism is real.

Some booths, like Anime x Sweets, sold tasty cakes and other junk food imprinted with the images of your favorite characters.

The Dentsu booth was one of many to have an exhibit for All Out!!, the new rugby anime. I still say these dudes are way too skinny to be playing rugby.

To their left, hey, it's a Daryun cosplayer from Arslan! This is yet another deal where multiple booths had the same stuff. To an extent, I understand why it happens, but I wish there was a way to centralize this stuff. As the days wore on, I started to feel like I was seeing the same characters and artwork over and over again, even as I wandered from booth to booth.

Yeah, see, there's Kamiwaza Wanda again!

I just kinda bumped into the Future Card Buddyfight mascots. Man, when are these dudes gonna stop fighting and just be buddies?!

Once again, My Hero Academia reared its head, with a booth sponsored directly by Shonen Jump, and featuring artwork from the series.

Toei were hyping Sailor Moon Crystal

…and Saint Seiya! Check out this Gold Cloth.

Not to mention the new One Piece movie, Gold. Gold, gold, gold.

Out in front of the Toei pavilion, mascots were a-posin’.

I like how official fuzzy mascots have to wear these sashes to indicate that they're official characters, rather than fan costumers. It makes them seem like important officials, like mayors or ambassadors.

This is my favorite photo of the entire show. Monkey's telling this lady a secret!!

For some reason, the NTV booth just had this giant Dragon Quest slime.

Here's one of the only Gundam-branded pieces of the show I saw at all, which amazed me. Gundam's such a big deal, but as a brand it was fairly unobtrusive.

Okay, maybe not that unobtrusive! Bandai/Bamco's booth was neat, with theatrical-size posters and three huge, blended screens showing trailers from their new hotness.

This is also the final stop if you got one of those Macross Frontier stamp sheets – they'd give you the last scavenger hunt stamp and award you a special clear folder, with a naked lady on it. I'm already planning to use it to store this year's tax documents.

I snapped a couple of photos of this cosplayer at the Bamco booth. Only later did it occur to me that she might not have been part of the exhibit. Anyone know for sure?

TMS were on hand, with the new D. Gray Man and… yep, that Detective Conan movie. Again.

They also had All Out!! again.

Okay, at least this guy's legs are built like tree trunks. That's accurate!

TMS also had a big Bakuon!! key visual… again.

And Anpanman, agai—wait, actually, this was the first time I'd seen Anpanman all weekend. Good for TMS!

Next was Ultra Super Pictures, a booth that was really mainly useful to illustrate that USP are a conglomerate with several studios and satellite companies underneath them. They have their own block of shows, though!

Like Ninja Slayer. And that new Berserk cartoon.

And Space Patrol Luluko!

There were a bunch of ending cards from their block available for fans’ perusal.

One of the final and best booths was Good Smile. Look at this huge stack of nendoroids!

The company's ubiquitous figures was featured heavily, both as exhibits and as the booth's souvenir – a book chronicling every single nendoroid release up to the present day!

Good Smile was also hyping that Thunderbolt Fantasy puppet series.

And once more, I reiterate: Matsu-mania is real! My sole complant: no Totoko! Where's Totoko?!

To wrap things up, I headed outside to the cosplay area to take photos. But I only snapped a couple, because of the following.

Usually, the costume events I go to – like the Nipponbashi Festa, and any old US con – are just a free-for-all when it comes to cosplay photography. You get whatever you can, whenever you can get it. Here, prospective photographers would line up in front of each cosplayer or group and wait their turn for a little one-on-one time.

And that's not all. Instead of snapping a few pics, these camera nerds set up flashes, bounce boards, and other accessories, and take dozens or hundreds of shots. Then, they socialize a bit with the costumers. It makes the whole process take a really long time, so I bailed fast.

Sayonara, Anime Japan! Until next year, Deadpool and Ninja Slayer will sing your death haiku!

Now it's time for the show after the show. I went to Akihabara!

And it was everything you've heard it was.

Huge anime, manga, and game stores, weird electronic shops, maid cafes – it's all there. Honestly, I didn't see a lot worth reporting on.

But here's the thing – my wife Prairie went to Kanda, the shrine close by to Akihabara.

Why? Because of Love Live!, is why.

The Kanda shrine is where Love Live!'s Nozomi Tojo works as a miko, and it plays a central role as the group's rehearsal space. The real-life shrine has embraced this, and welcomes visitors with exclusive Love Live! merchandise for sale.

One funny wrinkle of the trip: as Prairie was queueing for her goods, a full wedding service was happening, while the shrine was open.

So you had this amazing tableau of folks lining up for anime goods, a nicely-appointed wedding party, and random worshippers wandering in and out, tossing change at the altar and ringing the bell.

It was a unique experience, and it beats the crap out of just going to Akihabara.

Afterwards, we did hanami, because we're huge dorks and we're just hitting prime cherry blossom season.

I've had some business at a couple of anime studios to round out the week – hopefully you'll be hearing about these visits here on ANN soon.

As for final Anime Japan thoughts? It was remarkable, a senses-shattering preview of current and new anime going out all over the world. Anime Japan struck me as an increasingly global event, with attendees from every continent, presentations in multiple languages, and something to appeal to fans from all walks of life.

The thing is, it's still just an exposition, a big tradeshow. You'll be blown away by your first time, but unless you're either in the hunt for new character merchandise or you crave the experience of getting firsthand anime info before everyone else, one visit might be all you need. Granted, I missed out on a lot of content – the pre-airing episode viewings, the interviews with creators and performers, and some other aspects of the show.

What keeps Anime Japan special even in spite of its aggressively commercial nature is the fact you gotta go to Japan to get to it. That turns what might be a typical big convention trip into a real adventure, and one that I look forward to repeating. Until then, it's back to work!


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