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AX 2002: Anime Expo Opening Ceremonies

posted on by Christopher Macdonald
Everything that happened at the opening of North America's biggest Anime Convention

Opening Ceremonies

As with previous years, Anime Expo's opening ceremonies started a bit behind schedule, 45 minutes behind schedule to be exact. During the seating process the violin and cello duo "Ramen and Rice" played a number of Anime theme songs including Trigun, Slayers, Evangelion and others, but theme songs from Zelda and Rurouni Kenshin were the best received by the crowd.

The Terrace Theatre, with a seating capacity of 3100 people, quickly filled to capacity (Anime Expo is expecting over 15,000 attendees this year!). Master of Ceremonies, Stefanie Fernandez, began by introducing the SPJA's current CEO, Jennifer Pon. Jennifer spoke briefly, welcoming everyone to the convention and thanking the convention's major sponsors.

Two notable absentees from the opening ceremonies were the convention's previous Digital mascot, Max, and Mike Tatsugawa. The Mascot was scrapped this year in favor of a live action MC, but those familiar with Anime Expo tradition recognized Stefanie's voice as belonging to the anime girl mascot, Max. Mr. Tatsugawa's heightened role as Con Chair of Anime Expo New York was one of many reasons he could not attend the ceremonies.

Following Jennifer Pon's speech, Puffy AmiYumi showed up briefly, to announce their autograph session at 1pm Thursday. Stefanie then introduced Yoko Ishida, best known for her Ultra Eurobeat Para Para Max CDs. Ishida remixes popular anime theme songs into dance tracks, and "para para" dances to them. "Para para" dancing involves lots of arm movements.

As with previous years, not all the GOH's were able to make it to the convention on time for the opening ceremonies. This year Koichi Mashimo (.hack//SIGN and Noir director) and Tsukasa Hojo, creator of City Hunter, were not able to make it, but both sent rather amusing videos in their place.

In the first video, Mashimo (director of .hack//SIGN, Noir, Captain Tylor and more) showed the viewers around Bee Train studios. Many of his employees were hard at work on .hack//SIGN, so Mashimo put them on the spot, asking them to say something to the American fans. Some of his employees didn't believe that the video would actually be shown in America, while others took great lengths to be avoided. Apparently, Mashimo is quite a kidder.

As can be expected from the creator of City Hunter, Hojo's video was equally humorous. The video started with a scene of Hojo doing some "people watching" research (better known as "oggling women as they walk by"), and then progressed to the offices of Coamix, showing us a number of staged scenes with various employlyees of the company. The video finished with Hojo hopping into a cab (driven by Mr. Horie, president of Coamix) and asking to be brought to the Long Beach Convention Center.

Following the two lengthy videos, the remainder of the Guests of Honor were announced.

Hiroaki Goda, the director of the Oh! My Goddess movie, made his first appearance at Anime Expo. His credits include work as director of the Oh! My Goddess OVAs, character designer for Onegai Teacher, and animator for Bubblegum Crisis, Nadia the Secret of Blue Water, and Ranma 1/2. In what was a trend, many of the Japanese guests spoke English, when initially introducing themselves, before switching to Japanese and letting the translators take over. While challenging to understand, at times, the effort they each put forth to "bridge the language gap" is commendable.

Hidenori Matsubara, a longtime friend and co-worker of Goda's, did the character designs for the Oh! My Goddess movie. This was his second trip to Anime Expo, but he hoped to have fun.

Maria Kawamura did her famous high-pitched cackle as she walked on stage. Although her credits include characters from Aura Battler Dunbine, Sailor Moon S, Revolutionary Girl Utena, and Five Star Stories, her most famous role is that of Naga the White Serpent, from Slayers. Quite proud of her terrifying laughter, she intended to enjoy the weekend as much as possible.

Hideyuki Kurata is a man of many skills. Not only did he create the drama/action series "Read or Die", but he also wrote for many other shows, including Pretty Sammy, Battle Athletess, and fan-favorite Excel Saga. Kurata mentioned that the Nabeshin cosplayers in the audience looked better than the real "Nabeshin" (who, in real life, looks very much like his animated counterpart.)

Although short, squat, and nearly bald, Koji Masunari, director for Read or Die, Photon, Kokoro Toshokan and more, noted that the audience looked beautiful. "I think I look pretty good myself", he said, before sitting down by the other guests.

Masashi Ishihama, character designer for Read or Die and Tenamonya Voyagers also showed up on stage, but quickly retreated to the safety of the Guests of Honor.

Mamiko Noto, is a new, popular seiyuu. Kotori Monou from X TV, Yoshiko Yamada from Tenchi Muyo GXP, Rin from Inu Yasha, and Chocomon from the Digimon Adventure 02 Movie. She's also done many other roles, including parts from Galaxy Angel, Fruits Basket, Angelic Layers and more.

Nobuhiro Watsuki is by one of the best-known manga artists in Japan. The creator of Rurouni Kenshin, Watsuki received the 1987 Tezuka Award Honorable Mention, has created a new short series called "Gun Blaze West". His next series, while still a secret, could be out early next year.

Maria Kawamura then returned to the front of the stage to sing Naga's theme song from Slayers.

Akira Komiya, voice of Ryo Saeba of City Hunter, then came on stage to announce that Mr. Hojo finally arrived in America. With him, he brought a number of seiyuu students from NEEC. They proceeded to live-dub a 5-minute segment of Galaxy Angel episode 2. About 100 other students from NEEC were also in the audience.

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