Sunday, September 13, 2020

Virtual Crunchyroll Expo 2020 - Matthew's Weekend Roundup


If you told me in the beginning of January after SacAnime Winter or even StocktonCon at the end of January that I wouldn't go to any more conventions this year because of something out of my control that wasn't financially-related, I would of called you crazy...and then the pandemic hit and soon every convention that I was supposed to go - SakuraCon, FanimeCon, Anime Expo, either SacAnime Summer or Crunchyroll Expo, and Kumoricon - were canceling left and right.

So as we head into the end of summer and into the fall and winter seasons with a pandemic, social unrest, and a major election on our minds, at least we can tune into Virtual Crunchyroll Expo to see everything under the Crunchyroll banner.

Rent-a-Girlfriend Q&A
As someone who is thoroughly watching Rent-a-Girlfriend and has already laid to claim the best girl of the series even before the end (Ruka Squad reporting in!), I wanted to be sure that I didn't miss this panel during Virtual Crunchryoll Expo.

At first the questions were icebreakers, such as "how did you feel when you received the role" and "how do you channel your character while acting" but then we started to get deep into each of the characters as well as Kazaya himself. One question that had my attention was about the dual roles of Chizuru's character - her "rental girlfriend" role and her "normal" role. Sora Amamiya's response was that her "rental girlfriend" role was more feminine while her "normal" role was more boyish. Another insight is that the dark and scheming side of Mami that we are seeing is more of a luxury because to her friends and Kazuya they see her happy side as she attempts to put on a facade.
I am totally looking forward to seeing how this anime ends, how Sumi is placed into the anime, if she has what is takes to beat out Ruka as best girl, and if there will be a second season.

Laid-Back Camp [Photo Credit: Yen Press via TheDeadToons]

Anime Foodies: Laid-Back Camp

Out of all the fan panels that were on display over the weekend, I was well-invested in this because a) I'm loving Laid-Back Camp and b) I'm looking for new recipes to try out - even if it's not in a camping setting.

The panelists break down what equipment you'll to bring during your camping trip, the dishes that is featured in the anime, and a full breakdown of ingredients and the steps needed to make the dish. Photos of everything you need, the in-process cooking, and the end result are on display here. One dish that I want to try eventually was Tomato Sukiyaki but all other the other ones look totally delicious.

If you want more of comprehensive breakdown of everything from this panel as well as additional recipes from anime, head on over to NoS Anime on Tumblr.


Aniplex and G-KIDS Industry Panels

The tale of two different industry panels. 

On one end, there was the Aniplex Industry Panel where most of the announcements were reruns from Anime Expo Lite, like the visual novels on Steam, Demon Slayer, Fate Unlimited Blade Works, Persona 5 The Animation (PROTIP: if you have a Funimation Now account, the dub is streaming there and you can avoid paying the $300 price tag for the physical version just to listen to the dub), expensive figures galore, Sword Art Online: Alicization - War of Underworld S2, and The Misfit of Demon King Academy. The only new stuff was a section of the host's favorites - Blend-S for Rose and SAO Alternative Gun Gale Online for Anthony - and a Q&A session with Tomori Kusunoki and Yuuko Natsuyoshi who voice Sasha and Nisha in The Misfit of Demon King Academy. Absent though was any trailer for the 2nd season of The Promised Neverland.

Meanwhile, over on G-KIDS, everything seemed new to me, like Lupin the Third: The First, which included an announcement of a dub featuring the original cast; Children of the Sea; and On-Gaku: On Sound. There was sound optimism that all of these titles would be available in American theaters in 2021. They also talked about Weathering with You, mentioning the collector's set and the fun fact that this movie is the #3 top grossing animated film in America; and Ride Your Wave, which talked about how they were able to dub the movie remotely due to COVID-19 restrictions. Masaaki Yuasa's titles also get the spotlight with Night Is Short, Walk On Girl, a 2017 film which is getting a dub; and Inu-Oh, releasing in 2021 and is being considered as his greatest achievement. Studio Ghibli ends the panel which includes an announcement of a physical release of The Wind Rises, and with this all of Ghibli has been released under the G-KIDS banner. 


MYTH & ROID were the Friday closers, but before we get to the concert there was 15 minute Q&A panel. They talk about some of their favorite anime series, like Naruto and Made in Abyss; settling the whole Rem versus Ram debate from Re:ZERO; and performing in the United States versus Japan.

For the most part, full-on talks about COVID-19 and the shelter in place orders have been absent until this panel. There are talks about homemade fruit syrup, trips overseas, and the impact on everything that has happened - both professionally and personally.

At the end they do mention that they are working on something in the fall and their appreciation of worldwide support.

 The full 7-song set includes:

  1. - The beginning -
  3. HYDRA
  4. shadowgraph

During the set there were three interlude monologues. I had major issues in volume between those monologues and the songs as I was turning up my TV to try to listen in then turn it down when a song came on. Things that I was able to catch was a potential live stream concert in the fall and a thank you for supporting them which was alluded in the Q&A. I wanted to back into the VOD to try to listen in but the concert was cut, only the Q&A was available for viewing.


Anime and Drag with Rock M. Sakura

After receiving our responses from Rock M. Sakura, I wanted to see her panel - and it did not disappoint. She came out in her Yami Yugi cosplay from Yu-Gi-Oh! for this one hour extravaganza about everything cosplay and drag.

One of the questions that we asked - the one about the lessons learned from participating in the most recent season of RuPaul's Drag Race - was mentioned which made me excited. She also gives insight on the other contestants and their love of anime as well; her inspirations for her outfits ranging from Sailor Moon and Cardcaptor Sakura to Skies of Arcadia and Guilty Gear; her artist origins which include a stint at FanimeCon around the time the blog took off; and why commissions are horrible especially at a convention. One section that I adored was about what cosplayers can learn from drag queens - "learn you words [when you perform]" and "learn to contour" - and what drag queens can learn from cosplayers - basic crafting skills like using different fabrics, playing with EVA foam & model clay, and duct tape as an essential tool. Of course, there is one thing that both can learn from those who hold a 9 to 5 job - BE ON TIME (and I know this from experience with working within the Sacramento drag scene). 

At the end of the panel she was presented with a gift from the Crunchyroll Expo staff: a cake full of glue, rhinestones, ribbons, and a crown which then the light bulb goes off about how to use all of this in future outfits. She also makes a promise to return to Crunchyroll Expo 2021. 

Minori Chihara

I was hoping for a Q&A and concert combo for Minori Chihara like MYTH & ROID set from last night but instead it was just a Q&A which was a combination of disappointment and "I'm OK with this."

She goes into the beginning of her career between voice acting and singing, taking lessons in both and going through the motions before landing her first acting role in Tenjo Tenge. The hosts go into changes in the anime fan community, changes in voicing acting over the years, if she watches the anime she performs in, and the overseas popularity of Yuki Nagato from The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. She also goes into her experiences at Anime Expo in 2007 as well as a convention in Singapore.

At the very end there was a mention of the Violet Evergarden movie which is coming out on 9/18 in Japan and hopefully sometime in 2021 in the United States. As someone who recently supplanted Violet Evergarden as their top anime of all time (replacing Eureka Seven no less), I am so looking forward to seeing this sometime soon.


Other Odds and Ends

I was able to listen into the Crunchryoll Industry Panel during my Saturday drive to enjoy my Labor Day weekend. There were mentions of Oynx Equinox, Noblesse, and the recently announced Shenmue anime (coming out probably in 2021 on both Adult Swim and Crunchyroll) which gives me hope that soon Crunchyroll would be hitting their full stride in the original anime department.

I tried to catch the Crunchyroll-Hime's Cosplay Cup during some money-making opportunities and my drive back home but I wanted to quickly shout-out the winner of the cup - Jeyke from Brazil.

Teddyloid was on Saturday night, and as I watching the first couple minutes of the set I had a moment of deja vu as I thought "why does this feel like this is a repeat from OTAQUEST back in May?" Regardless, his set was pure fire and an awesome way to cap off that day.

Overall Impressions

Thank goodness for the VODs because early on I was having buffering issues even on both LTE and WiFi and on two different streams but that was to be expected in the early going and by the time I came back to the Aniplex and G-KIDS Industry Panels the streams were perfect with no other hiccups. 

I enjoyed everything that Virtual Crunchyroll Expo offered, not only in streaming options but also all the interactive exhibits and exclusive sales during the weekend. And the best part is that I'm not locked to one location - I can go out and do what I want while still tuning in.

As we try to anticipate what will happen next for the rest of the year and into 2021, and article from The Japan Times paints a picture of the current landscape. What I'm going to focus on is what is being called '"Zoom fatigue," a growing weariness with anything online that resembles yet another conference call.' While events like OTAQUEST, Anime Expo Lite, and now Virtual Crunchyroll Expo have brought in viewership, will the average anime convention fan be looking forward to a Virtual Anime NYC, a Virtual NY Comic Con, a Virtual Kumoricon, or even maybe a Virtual SacAnime Winter 2021 or a Virtual Anime Los Angeles 2021 or even maybe a Virtual Anime Boston 2021 or a Virtual SakuraCon 2021? Or will this fatigue set in as we get more and more restless before physical conventions come back? Only time will tell, and as of right now some of us have all the time in the world but some don't.

[Cover Photo Credit: Nate]

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