We took a look at some of the panels last time around, but now we’re getting to the BIG ones! The panels hosted by two of the current giants of anime here in the United States which are FUNimation and Aniplex! No point in dawdling! Let’s get started!!
FUNumation Industry Panel
I’m not sure what I was expecting from this sort of corporate event, but it ended up being an advertising bonanza with them showcasing their recent releases, what they plan to release for the upcoming season and the streaming services they are currently offering. Right now, you can gain access to FUNimation’s entire back catalog of shows in one of two ways. With a Sub Pass, you can watch any anime that FUNimation has rights to the subtitled version of as well as their subtitled Simulcasts. With the All-Access Pass though, you can access that as well as all their dubbed anime, as well as a couple of extras not available for the Sub Pass.
After the trip, I got a 14 day trial to the services to see how it works and overall, I’d say it’s competent. There are some nagging issues with the site and the player itself which I hope will one day get resolved, but it definitely gives you access to the content it promises. First of all, the streaming services are embedded into FUNimation’s primary website, so you’re constantly seeing advertisements and links to their other pages while the streaming services is only taking up about two thirds of the screen.
On top of that, searching can be a bit of a chore. There is no predictive text, so if you type in a couple of letters it won’t start populating results as you type. Once you do hit the search button though, you also learn that they separate movies and television shows into two separate areas of the streaming site, as well as an episode specific search.
I don’t know why they can’t have a single search for franchises and then once you click on it, it will let you pick between the movies and TV shows and this is particularly baffling once you get into the service and they have a very convenient playlist button that does exactly that.
The streaming itself is fine. You have the usual options you’d expect and they’re separated into two separate bars. Playback options floating a little above the bottom of the screen, and some other features located below it.
You can switch between dub and sub with the click of a button, but the stream has to rebuffer when doing so. You can also change the quality (not all will have 1080 options) and add it to your favorites and/or queue. As far as I can tell, favoriting just let’s other people see what shows you like and your queue functions the same as Netflix’s queue. After a while, I stopped bothering with that in Netflix, but with the search interface being somewhat clunky here, it might be worth using for the FUNimation service. There are a couple issues with the interface however. Trying to jump to a specific part in the stream is a bit cumbersome because when you hover over the progress bar, it doesn’t provide a time or a preview of what you will be jumping too. It also doesn’t seem to have any keyboard shortcuts (except for escape for closing full screen) so you’ll have to click on the video to pause it instead of using the space bar. Lastly, it’s incredibly obnoxious to me that despite paying for the services, they still feel the need to watermark every stream so that you get a nice FUNimaiton logo in the bottom right corner of the screen at all times. I know this is the kind of thing that will drive me crazy and I wish that paying for the service would be enough to let me get rid of it.
One of the big bonuses to this service though is its ability to let you stream on several other devices. I tried it out on a PS4, and the interface is MUCH better there than on the website. It still doesn’t have predictive text (uses the PS4’s built in text entry system) but the results are laid out very nicely and even have details about each episode. Navigating the stream itself is a bit of a chore, but then that’s usually the case when using a controller instead of a mouse or a remote. Oh, and a big bonus? NO WATERMARK!!!
While the interface and streaming itself is a bit underwhelming, it’s impossible to argue with what you end up getting for your subscription price. You get access to their entire dub and sub catalog for a pretty good price and the streaming capabilities on the console are much better if you have the option to use that instead of the website. It’s not groundbreaking or perfectly designed, but it’s good enough.
After that, they began to showcase some of the fifteen series that they’ve licensed and dubbed for release this season. While I’ll get to talking about them individually (at least the ones that I can recall), there was on running thread that kept bothering me throughout the presentation. They are fighting hard and heavy for ONE demographic and they ain’t about to take their eyes off the prize. Teenage boys. Now that’s not to say the shows won’t appeal to female audiences or older fans, but the amount of fan service, gore, and continue pushing of the word UNCENSORED screams of pandering to an audience that wants polished and respectable content that validates worldview and tastes without challenging them on any level. None of these shows look half assed or even poorly written, but they’re also uncomplicated, cliché, and feeding into base desires of sex and violence. That’s not to say that displays of intimacy and brutality are in and of themselves low brow, but very little of what I saw here was challenging or thoughtful. Anyway…
Hyperdimension Neptunia: The Animation
I don’t recall the story being all that great in that game and was basically just an excuse to tell jokes about the video game industry. It can work when it’s filling in the spaces between the gameplay, but I’m not filled with confidence that the joke can sustain twelve episodes. The trailer doesn’t make it clear how closely it will follow the game (or if it expects you to have played it before watching the series) but one thing it DOES make clear is that it will be FANSERVICE-A-RIFIC!!!! Like the game, some of the character can transform between loli jail bait and buxom goddesses (with accompanying transformation sequence of course) and cleavage is constantly on display. It’s supposed to be an action/comedy series, but the comedy on display in the trailer is very underwhelming. Lot of gaming jokes and randomly placed computer lingo, the girls have dirty mouths, and I’m pretty sure all the villains will end up being perverts. For fans of the game though, it’s worth pointing out that they got the entire cast of the game to dub the series as well, so that’s a huge bonus for fans of the game who want to check this out. While I’m not crazy about what I saw, I think it might be worth checking out if cheesecake battle shows are your cup of tea (or I guess Mountain Dew in this case).
The trailer they showed her had very little content or insight into what this series is actually about, instead focusing on the style and tone. From what I can tell, a high school girl who has some sort of connection to Oda Nobunaga has inherited his fighting spirit or something and therefore uses an impossibly huge gun thingy (think of Machine Girl only less subtle) to fight… bad guys I guess? Like I said, the trailer lacks anything resembling story (the main character doesn’t even get a name beyond Nobunagun) so there’s no telling where this series will go. Oh wait, I can probably take a good guess because it’s obviously a Kill La Kill knockoff (which itself was a Go Nagi rip-off). I wouldn’t mind its blatant rehashing of Kill La Kill’s overall style and tone if they bothered to give us something to distinguish this series from its inspiration at any point in the trailer. There’s definitely a market for Kill La Kill type content, but it’ll have an uphill battle for relevance in a couple of years if that is all it can offer. Also, while there’s no fan service in the trailer, I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that something this hyper-stylized won’t be able to resist putting it in.
This one actually kind of pisses me off. It reminds me of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumia (strike one against this because that series is awful) and its humor alternates between over the top bullying and fetishization. At least the trailer gives a decent idea of what the series will be about as it follows the misadventures of a video game development club that’s trying to finish a space shooter that involves porn for some reason. Like Haruhi though, they get their way by bulling others and yelling a bunch. Hell, the first thing we see is a guy tied to a chair with a bag over his head and being forced to join the club under threat of tasing. Why should I give a shit what this club does now that I know they’re selfish sociopaths who are willing to hurt people? On top of that is the usual boob jokes, scary girl jokes and over the top absurdity. This will probably appeal to you if you liked the sillier episodes of Haruhi, but I’ll just skip this one.
Ping Pong: The Animation
This right here is the big ol’ exception to FUNimation’s current lineup. If you’ve seen the Adventure time episode directed by Masaaki Yuasa (Food Chain), you’ll recognize the unique art style here and while I think it worked better on the simplistic character designs in that show rather than in this which uses more realistic and detailed design, there’s no denying that it has a unique and appealing look. Aeon Flux is a pretty good reference point, though it has that sort of real world frankness that Satoshi Kon used in his works. Speaking of Kon, it seems to be Paranoia Agent lite, in that it seems to hone in on the main character’s psychological hang ups as well as a broader story about hero worship. At least it’s not another series about big boobied babes either saving the world from creepers, or the same babes acting like jerks. If there’s one thing negative I have to say (and this is by no means a substantial complaint), it’s that it doesn’t seem to have any prominent female characters and is very much a story about young men and boys. That’s fine! A story isn’t automatically bad because of that, but it’s kind of depressing that so far the ONLY shows with female characters are softcore wank material for straight teenage dudes. It might not be my kind of show (the animation looks a bit too squiggly for my taste) but it definitely looks interesting.
I’m not too familiar with the 009 series but this looks a bit too dour to be a part of that. I do recall it having darker moments (I think the female cyborg in particular had a pretty tragic backstory), but it at least had a sense of fun and adventure. This looks like they’re trying to turn the franchise into Ghost in the Shell or something which is fine I guess, but the trailer doesn’t make it look all that interesting. A movie about robots and it’s mostly about terrorist plots and police investigations instead of punching things!? Also, they’re using CG for the movie which can sometimes look good (Space Captain Harlock for example), but the animation here is just stiff and uninteresting. The character designs have also changed to be less cartoony but that just kind of belies the problem here, doesn’t it? Why be fun when you can be SUPER SERIOUS!! Looks like a snooze to me, but then I’m not that much of a fan of the original, so maybe this is the direction it should be taking at this point. At least there’s no fan service!!
Space Dandy: Season 2
Oh HELL yeah! I’ve yet check this series out, but this trailer has convinced me this may be the greatest series of all time!! From the looks of it, it appears to be a series about Bruce Campbell or Travis Touchdown finding a space ship and bumming around the galaxy looking for… I don’t know, a good time? The visuals are very colorful and they even employ some different styles here and there to give the animation some variety. The gags seem to rely on visual absurdity, but I’m hoping that’s just what they decided to put into the trailer and that the show itself will have some solid jokes and sharp satire. I am TOTALLY putting this on my must see list and can only hope it lives up to what they showed in the trailer!!
Selector Infected WIXOSS
CARD GAMES WITH GRIMDARK!! So I’m getting a bit of a Freezing vibe off of this series. Maybe not in the fan-service area, but in that all the main characters are females who horribly abuse each other. The trailer didn’t really give much away about the story and focused more on the tone which was UTTER BLEAKNESS!! How exactly do you have a series about a card game where everyone is sad all the time!? We make fun of Yu-Gi-Oh for being so grandiose, but that was at least fun and adventurous. This though? I’m not sure what the hell the story is about but I’m guessing at least half the girls here will be dead by the end of the series. I’m really not a fan of pointlessly dark anime like Deaman Wonderland, and while I don’t think this will be as ABSURDLY dark, it does seem to be pointlessly so. Still, the trailer doesn’t give away many details so I could easily be misjudging this. I’ll probably end up skipping this one but if I hear good things then I might give it a shot.
One Piece: Season 7, Voyage 3
I don’t know what to tell ya. It’s One Piece. You’re either going to watch it because you’ve watched all six season prior to this one, or you don’t give a shit. Hell, even if you’re interested, there’s no way you’re gonna start at episode 410. This is just for those who want to know when they’re gonna release the latest batch of episodes. If there’s anything to note, I guess it’s that it seems to be VERY Luffy centric in that the other members of his crew don’t show up in the trailer. That could just be the way they decided to cut the trailer though, so I don’t know if this is supposed to be all about him on the island of pirate babes or whatever. I do like the show and watched it quite a bit during the 4Kids years, but there’s no way I can invest in a 400+ series unless it’s called The Simpsons, and even that isn’t what it used to be. I’d be impressed if the quality is still up to snuff this far into the series, but there’s no way I’m gonna invest that much time into it. Give me a solid four season story and I’m there! Let me know when that happens…
Ghost in the Shell: Arise – Borders 3 & 4
Oh goody! ANOTHER series that I’m out of the loop in. Ghost in the Shell is one of those series that I recognize as being really good and have even watched a few episodes of, that still doesn’t interest me very much. You know what else is on that list? Cowboy Bebop. Never clicked for me, though it was good from what I saw. The GITS Arise series though? I have no clue. From what I can tell, these are prequel movies and FUNimation is releasing the third and fourth ones soon which is what this trailer is advertising. If I can say one thing genuinely positive, it’s that Ghost in the Shell (and presumably the arise series as well) is actually mature without being the Market Branded Mature that so many of the other FUNimation shows I’ve talked about have been labeled. There’s some dark subject matter here that’s taken seriously, and while I’m sure there will be a bit of fan service and some decent gore, it doesn’t overwhelm everything and looks to be organic to the story. If Ghost in the Shell is your bag, then I’m guessing this will be too.
Seriously, it’s every freaking year we have to be reminded that NO ONE KNOWS WHAT MADE BATTLE ROYALE ANY GOOD!!! Let’s throw a bunch of kids in a situation where they have to fucking murder each other!! People like to see that, right? Well apparently so considering how often this crap gets released. This one is based on the Vita game from the creators of Corpse Party, and while it had some controversy in regards to a transgender person, it did get pretty good reviews. So why am I loath to despise this just from the trailer? Pro tip for anyone wanting to rip off Battle Royale. The horror in that is from the system that WE (i.e. humanity) created to force these kids to kill each other. When you put in supernatural or alien or whatever elements in this to separate the “machine” as it were from humanity, you miss the point entirely. At that point, you’re just reveling in the utter depravity and callousness that we can be forced to be put in. I don’t like seeing that because it’s almost always a one sided argument saying that being a shit bag will get you ahead, as all the good character die horribly save for maybe one (the main character). From the trailer, it also seems to be actively encouraging the ENJOYMENT of these despicable acts, what with the groovy guitar soundtrack and grindhouse aesthetic. Yeah… no. I have zero interest in this and will avoid it like the plague.
Black Lagoon: Collector’s Edition
Okay, this isn’t actually a new series and they didn’t show us a trailer for this or anything. What it is is the latest release of the Black Lagoon series, now with both seasons AND the OVA in one set with a couple of bonuses which include a “collectable” ammo tin chipboard box, a sixty page full-clor art book, a lighter, and dog tags. Now this is currently available for pre-order at $79.99. To put that in contrast with their previous releases, you can get both the two season blu ray set and the OVA blu ray set for about $50 total. Essentially, you’re paying another $30 for the art book, the tin, a lighter, and some dog tags. If that’s worth it to you, then by all means. I just never got into the whole collector’s market enough to pay for extra chachkies, especially when the blu rays were released pretty recently and are at a good price.
It’s been about a week since I was there so my memory is a bit fuzzy, but I could have sworn they had a different trailer there and that it was dubbed. I couldn’t find anything like that on FUNimation’s YouTube page, so it’s possible I was mistaken. Either way, what makes this unique from the other anime they showed at the panel is that this one is being partially created by FUNimation instead of just being license, dubbed, and distributed in the US. They didn’t make it clear in the panel exactly what role they have in the creation of this series and I can’t find much information online either other than they are part of the “production committee”, whatever the hell that means. I didn’t get much out the trailer other than it appears to be a superhero/magic girl show only with Sci-Fi elements instead of magic. It actually looks pretty good from what I can recall (and the trailer I could find) so hopefully this will be a success and lead to more collaborations between US and Japanese companies. I’m still curious what role FUNimation had in this, but since it’s an adaptation of a manga it’s unlikely they had much CREATIVE input. In the future though, maybe they will be able to inject a bit of American flair into other shows they get involved with which would at least be an interesting to see play out for something OTHER than adaptations of American franchises (Gotham Knight, Halo Legends, Animatrix, Supernatural anime, etc). Keep an eye for this one when it finally gets released.
After what appears to have been several delays for redubbing (or just a VERY long localization period), FUNimation is finally going to release the third Evangelion reboot movie (or whatever it is) in February of 2016. I gotta say that while I was a HUGE fan of this series when I was fourteen (I even have the Platinum Collection DVDs), I soured on this one pretty hard. The series is just overwrought, completely confusing, and pretentious as hell. I haven’t seen the reboot movies so I have no idea if those were any good (or if this will be any good) but from what I can tell from the trailer it seems to be a completely different story. Hell, it’s different enough to the point that it feels more like a completely different series that just so happened to have some of the same characters. The SUPER SERIOUS tone is still there from the series, but now it looks like they are in space? I don’t know. For closure I MIGHT just have to watch these damn things once it’s all said and done, but for now I don’t plan on seeing them.
That’s about it as far as series they discussed at the panel. I’m pretty sure there are a few I forgot about, but FUNimation’s site and YouTube page should fill in any gaps I have here. The last thing they discussed before ending the presentation was their slate of theatrical releases following the success of Resurrection F. Now despite it being one of the top grossing anime films in US box office history, they still don’t seem confident enough for a wide release, so most of these are going to be limited run only, but I’m glad to see that they’re willing to put more in theaters for an audience that had very rarely had the opportunity to see such films in theaters, unless of course they were Studio Ghibli films. The films include Psycho Pass which I know nothing about, The Boy and the Beast which is from the director of Wolf Children, and a Ghost in the Shell movie that I think is supposed to bridge the Arise series to the primary one. You can see my above comments if you want to know what I thought about the trailer for this film, but there is one thing I wanted to point out. Is it just me, or does the music in this trailer sound like a remix of the JonTron theme? It’s not a PERFECT match, but throughout the two minutes I kept hearing some of the same riffs and I found that HILLARIOUS. And on that note, I think we’re done with the FUNimation presentation. If nothing else, it got me interested enough to start a FUNimation subscription and I plan to check out at least a couple of the shows mentioned here on their service, particularly Space Dandy cause that looks freaking AWESOME!! If nothing else, it was INFINITELY better than the GOD DAMN ANIPLEX PANEL!!!
Aniplex Industry Panel
All they did was show one episode of an anime and then gave away some stuff. That’s it. No look at what’s being released in the coming months, no discussion of a streaming service of their own or who their partnering with, no nothing. Also, that anime they showed an episode of sucks.
Predictable, overwrought, and cheap in its emotional manipulation. The earth is apparently surrounded by space ships that are controlled by humans who went to Mars in the seventies. Since then, the Martians got SUPER full of themselves and started to subjugate the humans because of course they did. Then they’re wide-eyed idealistic princess goes to Earth on a good will publicity trip, gets assassinated by people *cough* Martian Aristocrats looking to start shit between them and the Earth *cough* and then the Martians start to attack Earth. Are there scenes where the Martian douche bags start monologuing about how they’re better than Earthlings because reasons and that the two shouldn’t intermix because NAZI ALLEGORIES AREN’T OVERPLAYED!? You bet they do!! You wanna bet that they clumsily use nuclear attack imagery to get their point across without using real effort? ABSOLUTELY!! Good GOD I can’t image something like this falling any flatter for me. The writing is absolutely weak and filled with clichés we’ve seen a million times, and while the animation is competent, it doesn’t do anything all that interesting. The nuclear imagery is frightening, but in a cheap way because the series has done NOTHING to earn that. It’s SO obvious with everything it does that I couldn’t get invested in it for a second and was begging for it to end ten minutes in. The FUNimation panel had its share of stinkers, but at least they brought enough trailers in so that everyone could find at least SOMETHING they liked!! This was just awful and I don’t recommend it if you’ve seen even ONE anime that clumsily handles issues of classism.
That’s it! What more can I tell you? The presenters barely had any energy and spent the second half of the panel just giving away shit. The best part was when they took ten minutes to do a panel wide Janken tournament to see who would get one of the prizes! THAT’S WHAT I CAME TO AN INDUSTRY PANEL TO SEE!!
So there we go! We got one decent industry panel and one god awful one. Sure they were both just marketing showcases to sell you shit, but comparing them back to back I at least appreciate the effort that they went through for the FUNimation one which did give out some legitimately interesting information about their streaming services and some of the upcoming series.
There’s one more recap of our trip to NekoCon, and that’s gonna be Swag Review and Grab Bag Unboxing which you can check out here!!