AnimeJapan 2017 Blowout

by Jacob Chapman & Matt Hodgkins,

The first day of Anime Japan at the iconic Tokyo Big Sight building in Odaiba was hectic, with two sprawling exhibition halls of anime-related vendors and producers offering untold amounts of exclusives and displays of both upcoming projects and fan favorite classics. Even the long leadup of moving walkways and curving high-ceiling halls to the main event was spattered with banners advertising a ton of new material.

Of course, things got a lot more crowded on the main event floor, as press and attendees both beelined to their favorite booths for a look at the themed cosplay, elaborate displays, and whatever limited goodies you could get your hands on. We were so tied up taking as many pictures as possible before the crowds swarmed in that my commentary may be brief, but there's plenty of great pictures of the biggest standouts at this overwhelming show below.

It may not look so intimidating from the photos we took before it was open to the public, but this Is the Order a Rabbit? (GochiUsa) cafe was absolutely exploding with attendees for most of the day. They had a pretty robust menu of character goods to choose from, GochiUsa is a sizable hit with otaku in Japan right now, and the booth was situated in the dead center of the main exhibition hall, so it was a perfect storm of hype for a hefty number of attendees.

As usual, Aniplex boasted one of the most expansive booths at the event, hosting not only tons of production artwork from their long history of anime series, but plenty of purchasable items along with the elaborate props photographed below. I've noticed that Aniplex tends to emphasize Black Butler pretty heavily when it comes to these displays, even when there isn't necessarily new material coming out like that "Book of the Atlantic" movie this year. (On that note, there was a heavy focus on Sword Art Online as well!) Franchise success aside, Black Butler definitely lends itself to some impressive costume reproductions and fun merchandise like the teacup-perching Sebastians.

The most unexpected star of the show today was probably GitS Realize Project's surprisingly smart Tachikomas, attached to the Production I.G. booth. Along with a gaggle of prototypes for the soon-to-be-released toys themselves, which reacted to passing guests with "Ohayo gozaimasu!" among other phrases, there was also a life-size version of the adorable robot rolling around on a big stage, who took commands from a handler. She guided him back and forth on his tether and spun his little pincers. It was extremely cute and attracted quite a crowd throughout the day.

There was plenty of Godzilla love on the show floor as well, for both the upcoming anime project and the smash live-action hit, Shin Godzilla. I don't know much about the anime version yet, but I think it's safe to say that it takes place in the future, given those replica props on display.

In light of next year's new Cardcaptor Sakura series, NHK BS Premium will be re-airing a large chunk of the original show, because no revival would be complete without commemorating the past. That was definitely the theme of this booth, which featured a jaw-dropping assortment of deluxe items from the CLAMP hit's history, along with some perky guardian Kero beasties, of course.

Perhaps the most heavily advertised property at the show today was Fate/Grand Order, which had expansive displays at every booth associated with the project, from the mobile developer to anime producers to upcoming character goods being promoted. Regardless, one Fate display definitely stood out among the rest; you could try a VR version of Grand Order if you were willing to wait in line at the giant cyberlab for it. At least you didn't have to go all the way to the moon like in the show!

Garo might not have much new in the works just yet (aside from a new pachinko machine promotion), but its booth made a grand statement with an enormous and downright intimidating golden warrior on horseback. There were also designer shoes and a few of these aforementioned pachinko machines around back, which had roaring animatronic mask components that clamped their teeth down over the screen and writhed at pivotal moments. Spooky!

GochiUsa wasn't the only franchise with a character goods cafe at Anime Japan, but I think Natsume Yuujinchou's "Nyanko-sensei Cafe" was just a teaser for a different location elsewhere. Regardless, I can see why Japan adores Nyanko-sensei himself after finally seeing the show for myself right before season five aired. There'll definitely be no shortage of Nyanko plushies and toys heading into season six this season!

Good Smile always has the fans covered when it comes to quality figures at a reasonable price (I can't get enough of Nendoroids personally), and they definitely proved they were on top of their game at AJ by previewing a Serval figure right away! Because it was such a surprise hit, Kemono Friends merchandise is pretty thin on the ground right now, so it was a treat to see some companies like Good Smile striking while the iron was hot with such super-cute new toys. Of course, there was a lot more than Serval to show off, so we have a heap of pictures from their booth if you want to see all the new Figmas that may be in your future.

Nitroplus not only made an unexpected announcement of more Thunderbolt Fantasy (beyond the already-announced season two), there was even a surprise appearance by Gen Urobuchi to hype up the puppet power even more! You can also see how tall those puppets are in person for scale; they're pretty big!

The Ancient Magus's Bride had one of the most gorgeous displays in the exhibition hall, with a towering library set where Elias waited to greet his visitors. (Actually, two Eliases! It must be magic! Along with the statue pictured, there was also a patient cosplayer whose mask seemed very heavy to wear.) With all this buildup (not just the display, but the two specials that have already aired and simulcasted on Crunchyroll), I can't wait to see what the full TV series is like this fall!

BONES has had more modest displays at Anime Japan depending on the year, but they really went all out in 2017, with a celebration of their many works past and present. Their booth was coated with production art from across their varied history, largely themed around "duels" and "rivalries" in celebration of Sword of the Stranger's 10th anniversary. Since I love Wolf's Rain so much, I was especially happy with their giant "animals of BONES animation" mural!

Comix Wave had a modest but potent presence on the show floor, probably attracting guests with the familiar lure of Radwimps's music long before they could see the rest of the booth. Of course, your name. dominated the displays with both detailed storyboards and interactive crafts, but Makoto Shinkai's previous works were also well-represented around the corners of the booth.

Attack on Titan's corner of the floor was visible all the way from the opposite corner of the building, thanks to Eren's colossal height - even when crouching! It was a pretty minimalist display, dominated by cosplayers and props rather than artwork or sale items, but the message was clear: Titan is finally coming back after four long years of waiting!

At long last, this season's new Astro Boy prequel had an unexpectedly grandiose presence on the show floor, with autographed cutouts of the iconic doctor-dads in their younger days, along with tons of other props and free goods like a proto-Astro-Boy paper mask. I have no idea what kind of story is going to be told in "Atom the Beginning", but I must admit that I'm pretty curious now.

That's far from everything that Anime Japan had to offer, and we'll have lots more content to share with you over the weekend, but for now I'll leave you with one of the most adorably strange parts of the show this year. While gigantic character balloons are no stranger to Tokyo Big Sight around this time of year, I definitely wasn't expecting these more modest handmade balloon-animal-characters to be lurking in the spaces between booths. Because they're each at least four feet of inflated rubber, you can often smell them before you spot them, but stinky-ness aside, these oddities were one of my favorite parts of the exhibition this year.

Stay tuned, because we'll have a full photo gallery up soon with tons more pictures from all the smaller booths at the event (and the big ones we missed in this writeup). What are you most looking forward to from the next year of anime? Let us know what's got you hyped in the forums!

Big thanks to our photographer Matt Hodgkins for his assistance with this piece.

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