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Anime Expo 2011 Day 2

Anime Expo 2011 Day 2

Saturday was Gundam Day! I knew I was going to be there late so I didn’t even get to AX until about 1pm. I spent the first few hours hanging around the Bluefin booth and walking the exhibit hall with a group of Those Gundam Guys that ranged at times from 3 to 10 people. I was kind of disappointed by what was on sale in the rest of the hall. There really wasn’t anybody else to compete with Bluefin in terms of a mostly Gunpla or Gunpla and figures vendor. I saw very few mecha-related items like Revoltech figures and just about nothing related to Macross anywhere (I have to look elsewhere since Bluefin doesn’t distribute Macross merchandise, thanks again, Robotech). The good news was that the display case for the contestants had really filled out, and the Unicorn was still getting a lot of attention. Now that I mention it, I’ll post up my Unicorn pics here:

The work we did on the Unicorn is patterned on the Katoki version, and all of its dozens of decals:

And I HAD to put an Easter Egg:

Oh, and I remembered to get pics of the other new products, The GM III is half super cool and half retro-dorky. I think the extra equipment would look pretty awesome on a GM Ka or Custom, or maybe just swap out the head and give it a more modern paintjob:

There was the Green RG Zaku:

And the Master Gundam and its trusty steed:

I forgot the picture of the Shinig Gundam but for completeness here’s the MG Delta Plus (it was posed better later inteh Con, but I forgot to get a pic):

After the general disappointment of the rest of the exhibit hall I headed off alone for the Bandai Entertainment Panel (the few people I was with at the time went to go see Escaflowne). There was no line, oh, no, wait, the line is outside and it’s MASSIVE. Fortunately Petree Hall sits a lot of people and again I ran into some people in the line and then some more people inside and we filled in some seats around them and ended up about ten rows back.

There were some technical difficulties which caused about a 20-minute delay. One guy from the audience (yes, ONE guy out of HUNDREDS of people) just couldn’t contain himself and tried to insert himself into the situation despite the Bandai and AX people that were already on it. They sent him away, but he came back. And I know he wasn’t some staffer because, well, he’s one of Those Gundam Guys…

The Bandai panel was basically Bandai’s chance to plug everything they either had just put out or were about to put out. They showed a lot of trailers and that was fine with me. With the delay it only ran about 40 minutes and I enjoyed either watching trailers for stuff I hadn’t seen or cheering for the trailers of the stuff I had seen and liked.

Then the panel segwayed into the first official Bandai Gundam panel in the USA, so that was pretty cool (it’s also the main reason I was there). They started off with a Gundam video montage and the big news was that Bandai will FINALLY release the Original Gundam series in the Anime Legends lineup. It will come out this September and come with Japanese and English audio, so WOO! Bandai also announced that they will bring Turn A Gundam to the US, that was unexpected, but I say bring it on!

Bandai also introduced Gundam AGE and that they will bring it to the US very soon after its release in Japan this Fall. They were also very frank about this series being aimed at what they called the “younger brother”, like ages 7-14.

The one other bit of news that came from the Q&A session was that Bandai/Sunrise do officially plan to animate Gundam Origin (I think they even said they’re beginning to work on it), but they aren’t sure if it will be a series or OVA.

And then came Q&A and the third person in the questions line was that one Gundam Guy again (the AV guy from the beginning of the panel). So almost the first question Bandai and Sunrise get at their first official American Gundam panel is basically, this:

“When are you guys going to stop making series just for the sake of selling merchandise and make one with a better plot and characters?”

Wow.

Of course coming from that guy, the question was a lot less succinct, it was more like, “Hi, uh, rawr, rawr rawr … Do you think rawr rawr rawr… I mean rawrawrawrawrawrawrawr? Or maybe I should say rawr rawr rawr rawr rawr rawr.. and so… rawrawrawrawrawrawrawr, rawr. Rawr rawrawrawrawrawrawrawrawr rawr?”

I guess to be fair you hear complaints like that about Bandai just being in it to sell Gunpla on the forums and blogs, but is this really what you want to hit these guys with the first time they come to your con? Do you really need to insult them to their face because you wish their heroes were better so you could like the model of their mobile suit more?

So the translator takes a few uncomfortable minutes to translate this messy insulting question. People in the audience are kind of murmuring and the guy, maybe sensing what he’s stepped in, adds, “I mean, I know you guys are in business and all, but rawrawrawr…”

So then there’s some more translating and then the panel member basically says, “Gundam is a diverse universe where we target different audiences but we always try to make good characters and good stories. We know not everybody liked SEED”

Anime News Network said this about it:
“A press member complained that he felt some shows were more geared towards merchandising interests than strong stories, and asked how Sunrise maintains a balance between the two. After a lot of discussion amongst the panelists (and, separately, the audience), Sasaki responded that the universe is diverse, so there are a lot of different target audiences. Gundam Seed was made for a younger audience, for example, so a lot of Universal Century fans have not come to accept the show yet.”

So what do you expect Bandai to say? “You are right, oh gravelly-throated American, we will make Gundam series from now on with a lot more character development and a lot less mobile suits. And we will still make models of those mobile suits, and we will give them away for FREE! Thank you for showing us the error of our ways.”

I really felt the urge to apologize to Kojima-san and the Bandai Hobby contingent afterwards. I saw the guy on Sunday and Monday and both times he brought it up and was doing spin control, asking if I had written my post about it yet. I talked to him about it, basically saying that I know people feel that way, but to ask that question was kind of rude, and especially tactless at Bandai/Sunrise’s first ever official US Gundam panel.

Once the awkwardness was over, it was straight to the 00 Movie, Awakening of the Trailblazer. We ran back into Clem, Brandon, Angel and my Brother-In-Laws and I think we had the whole Gundam Guys contingent in attendance. The movie started late since the Bandai panels had run late (and they gave you the impression that the disc was being carried around like the nuclear football) so several of us made the dash back to our cars to get our kits to work on during Clem’s Gundam Model panel.

I hadn’t seen Awakening of the Trailblazer yet and had no idea what to expect, other than some really ugly Gundams (the Braves were nice and there were some pretty sweet-looking GN-X variants flying around, but those new Gundams are fugly IMHO) and a fight against aliens, a first in the Gundam world. The movie starts off REALLY cheesy and then it’s kind of shocking when they show all the Gundam pilots and they’re, um diverse. But then you realize that’s because it’s really a movie within a movie, and the cheese is intentional.

So I’m not going to do any spoilers other than to say that the enemy was completely faceless so that wasn’t very interesting and the ending… oh, the ending. It was 100% WTF??? It’s pretty Char’s Counterattack, you know, giant sparkly rainbow, except worse than a rainbow. There’s kind of an epilogue that saves it a little but the general impression was, “Whaaaa?” Sometimes those are really good endings but this movie didn’t have the emotional weight to make the WTF ending seem profound, so it just came off a little silly.

I felt like the Gundams had become so powerful that they were all super beam-spammers (except for the QAN(T) which pretty much shows up late as a plot device). I don’t normally make this kind of complaint, but I was disappointed that the Gundams had lost their Sniper/Heavy/High Mobility/Melee specialties. I guess as the technology advanced, the Gundams became multi-role mobile suits.

But the movie had its moments and it’s always more fun to watch a movie like this in a crowd where people can cheer for the good stuff and laugh at the cheesy stuff. Watching anime in a big crowd is always one of my favorite parts of AX.

After the movie, with a lot of tanks on empty, people then head to Clem’s panel. I think all the tired in the room made the crowd a little dead. I know I tried to make some smartass cracks but I think they just came out grouchy. Clem managed to plug our upcoming Southern California Gundam Model Competition several times, as well as the Robot4Less store, which came pretty naturally since he’s like, “I use this product to do this thing.” And someone in the crowd asks, “Where can you get that?” And for a change instead of, “You have to order it from Japan.” He can say “You go to this store off the 91 in Fullerton called Robot4Less.” See, I just did it myself.

Clem’s panel ended and I hung out a bit and answered a few questions and gave out a couple of cards then we said our goodbyes and I left with my brothers-in-law.

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