Animazement Catalog
Sailormoon Director Kunihiko Ikuhara In Attendance!
Animazement Convention Report

Our southern correspondent (after being cooped up in the SOS-South office all winter) found themselves hypnotically drawn to Animazement, the March 10-12 (2000) anime convention held in Raleigh, North Carolina. "Sailormoon" and "Revolutionary Girl Utena" director Kunihiko Ikuhara would be in attendance as well as number of other big guns. When did Raleigh become a hotbed of anime fandom? The convention had both good and not-so-good points.


The capitol of North Carolina. Not exactly pedestrian-friendly. One of the major downers to holding a convention in this city was that, like Katsucon, your movements were limited to the hotel only. Not to mention that if you did want to venture out, the city was pretty much "closed" by 8:30pm. Road construction made it easy for a tourist to get lost or end up on the "wrong" side of town.

Opening Night

The festivities began with "Fan Appreciation Night" on Thursday. Here, all the guests (both American and Japanese) would sit at tables while fans could hang around, talk shop, give tribute, etc. with whomever they wanted. During the intros, fans would scream for their favorite guest as if it were an Aerosmith concert. The loudest response was for Yuu Watase, the creator of "Fushigi Yuugi." Cosplayers dressed for "Fushigi Yuugi" were out in force as were fans of "Utena" to cheer for its creator, Chiho Saito.

Our rep's gifts to Lisa and Rachael, featuring the Chattanooga Moccasins
Rachael Lillis & Lisa Ortiz with "swag" (the industry term for free gifts).
Fans were advised (and had to be reminded a couple of times) to limit their table visits to 10 to 15 minutes so that everyone could have a turn. We spent the evening with with two of our favorite voice actresses, Lisa Ortiz and Rachael Lillis, while presenting tribute to them for the fine job they did at Otakon in fan relations. We tried to get an interview with Mr. Ikuhara about his work on "Sailormoon" but were advised to ask him during his panel or informally in the convention halls. (Note, the latter is almost impossible as Japanese guests tend to be more private. You really can't just walk right up and say, "Hiyah Kunihiko!" Just not done.)

Chiho Saito, signing our rep's Utena DVD
Chiho Saito, the co-creator of "Revolutionary Girl Utena."
The Chiho Saito and Kunihiko Ikuhara Panel

With Chiho Saito, the creator of "Revolutionary Girl Utena" and Kunihiko Ikuhara, its supervising Director, and many "Utena" cosplayers in attendance, this panel was not going to be concerned with "Sailormoon." However, some aspects were brought to light--but it wasn't easy.

First, Murphy's Law was taking no prisoners during this session. Ms. Saito had set up while Mr. Ikuhara arrived a couple of minutes late. Before the Q&A session was to start, Kunihiko wanted to show all his loyal fans clips from the "Utena" movie. At first, the DVD disc was misplaced and then found. They popped the disc into a player which seemed to crash with every play. Even Mr. Ikuhara was getting a little miffed and was seen running back and forth between the panel table and behind the big screen trying to assist in getting the player to work. After a new DVD player was located and the footage successfully shown (the whole ordeal ate up about 25 minutes of the panel) Kunihiko and Chiho were ready for their Q&A.

Did this guy just step out of an anime or what?
Kunihiko Ikuhara contemplates Sailor Moon's western popularity.
Chiho and Kunihiko couldn't agree on answers to any of the simple questions concerning "Utena." Sometimes they would have to ask that the question be repeated after five minutes of deliberation since, by then, they had forgotten what they were arguing about.

One fan did ask if Utena's popularity in America was due to the popularity of "Sailor Moon." This got Kunihiko to dive a little into his work on "Sailormoon." He remarked that even though he's accredited for outstanding work on the property, it wasn't really one of his favorite projects as opposed to "Utena" which he considers his pride and joy.

Kunihiko Ikuhara Filmography

Assistant Director
1986Maple Town Monogatari (Maple Town Stories)
1986-1990Shin Maple Town Monogatari-Palm Town Hen (New Maple Town Stories-Palm Town Chapter)

Toushou!! Ramen-Man (Fighter General!! Ramen-Man)

Akuma-Kun (Devil-Kun)

Mo-restsu Atarou

Senior Director
August 1990Mo-restsu Atarou
1991-1992Kingyo Chuuihou (Goldfish Warning)
Assistant & Series Director
1992-1996 Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon (Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon)

Directed Episodes 6, 11, 46, 51, 60, 68, 92, 103, 110, 117, 128, 137, 150, 159, and 166 as well as the following notable sequences:

  • Usagi's second transformation
  • Sailor Moon's "Moon Princess Halation"
  • Sailor Mars' "Burning Mandala"

    Directed Sailor Moon R movie

    Became Senior Director during the production of the Black Moon chapter (Rubius and the Four Sisters).

  • 1997-PresentShoujo Kakumei Utena (Revolutionary Girl Utena)
    1999Utena the Movie: Adolescence of Utena. Originally titled Adolescence Mokushiroku (Adolescence Apocalypse).
    In addition to his Film & TV work, Ikuhara also produced a stage version of Utena with the theatrical group, Gesshoku Kageki Dan. The play was entitled "Shoujo Kakumei Utena, Makai Tensei Mokushiroku hen, Reijin Nirvana Raiga," and featured a guest star from Sera Myu performing in the part of Touga.

    Mr. Ikuhara had problems with his work on "Sailormoon" since he didn't own any serious licenses to the series. This made it harder for him to be creative beyond its established universe. Kunihiko was bored and wanted to do something else. One day, when he was in a Japanese bookstore, he came across some manga written by Chiho Saito. He was looking into creating a new series that was not entirely girl-oriented like Sailor Moon. He decided to look up Ms.Saito to have her sign on to this new project. He stopped by her house without permission (a big no-no in Japan) and introduced himself, his project and his idea. The two formed the studio known as "Be-Papas" and layed out the framework for the Utena universe. Ms. Saito would write and illustrate the manga according to her interpretation of the story while Mr. Ikuhara would direct the anime in accordance with his interpretation of the story. Both included similar storylines that are universal to the overall story of the "Utena" universe but both had different "subplots" so to speak. As most anyone will tell you this is not uncommon when comparing manga versus anime with any story.

    When a deal was secured for "Utena," Mr. Ikuhara resigned from "Sailormoon" and took his staff with him. Kunihiko explained that he doesn't feel ill about being associated with "Sailormoon" but that he prefers to be remembered for "Utena" more than anything else.

    Whoa, Kia Asamiya does Shoujo!

    Collector Yui?
    No, It's Corrector Yui!

    She (Yui, of course) goes into her dad's computer to fix whatever is wrong with the system! Yui's a corrector--not a collector! But we expect to start seeing it romanized incorrectly. (It's one of those crazy anime which may never see the light of day in the western world!)

    Kia Asamiya Panel

    Probably one of the few manga artists to have multiple hit serials published in the United States (Rumiko Takahashi has slightly more), Kia Asamiya is considered a manga legend. His work includes, "Steam Detectives," "Silent Mobius," "Dark Angel" and "Martian Successor Nadesico."

    Spanning several genres has made his manga enjoyable to a wide following. Kia focuses less on Japanese readers and more on the genres themselves (thus explaining his international appeal). He said that "Dark Angel" was "medieval-based" and that "Silent Mobius" was based on "Blade Runner." Mr. Asamiya revealed that he is a huge fan of American cartoons and artists. His favorite being "Batman" (which you'll find references to in his work).

    Kia said that he writes for adults and mid to late teens but that he also likes to do serials for younger audiences as well. This was one of his motivations behind "Steam Detectives," in which the main character is a boy detective with a cute 16 year old nurse for a sidekick. His latest project has him doing, of all things, a magical girl series called "Corrector Yui" which currently airs on NHK. Its target audience is girls, ages 6-10.

    Mr. Asamiya said that he has a lot of control over how his stories are done in animated form. If he doesn't like the final product, he'll ask the studio to redo it. One of his most amusing stories was when artists were trying to figure out how to animate "Nadesico" while keeping the flavor of the manga. Kia's best explanation of the "Nadesico" universe to them was this, "It's basically the cast of Urusei Yatsura aboard the Battleship Yamato fighting in Gundam suits."

    Urusei Yatsura
    Urusei Yatsura
    PLUS Space Battleship Yamato
    Space Battleship Yamato
    PLUS Mobile Suit Gundam Wing
    Mobile Suit Gundam Wing
    EQUALS Mobile Battleship Nadesico
    Mobile Battleship Nadesico

    American Voice Actors: Part deux!

    One of the main highlights for dubbie lovers was the legendary meet the voices behind your favorite anime characters. Besides the return of Lisa Ortiz, Rachael Lillis and Amy Howard (Nova in "Star Blazers-Yamato"), new comers included Brett Weaver (Carrot Glace in "Sorceror Hunters") and Pamela Weidner (Skuld in "Oh! My Goddess" and Princess Shina in "Shinesman").

    The fun started before the panel even began when Brett told the audience that when he was checking in the hotel he looked through the list of guests and saw his name and title as, "Brett Weaver: Voice Actress." So throughout the convention he consistently introduced himself by saying "Hi, I'm Brett Weaver, I'm a famous voice actress." This native Texan is probably the most active and flamboyant Voice Artist (V/A) currently working in the industry. His advice for all future V/As is:

    1. Take an oath of poverty and
    2. Be prepared to develop some really thick skin when directors tell you what they really think of your work.

    The latest Negaverse plot?
    Rachael Lillis, the voice of Utena, and her cosplay counterparts.

    (The members of SOS that work in television would have to agree as they have been on both sides of the microphone.)

    As usual, many of the performers shared some of their exploits in the business. One interesting story was when some of the V/As on the panel went to dinner with the Japanese Voice Artist, Akira Kamiya (Professor Tomoe from "Sailormoon-S" and Saeba Ryo from "City Hunter"). Brett said, "We were telling Akira all the different accents and how someone talking from New York sounds different than someone talking from Texas. Well, through the help of his translator he explained how Japanese speakers have different accents."

    Lisa, "We think they (Japanese people in general) sound the same but they don't."

    Brett, "He then does one dialogue of speech and then does another dialogue (in a different accent) and it's like Wow! That doesn't sound anything like you were doing earlier!"

    The panel ended with Pamela Weidner reminding everyone that if they want to try their luck at voice acting themselves that the company she works for (Coastal Carolina Studios) was holding a workshop at Animazement. Guess what we went to next?


    Surprisingly, where Animazement did fall short was on that old stalwart, Cosplaying.

    There were a lot of new rules which didn't exist last year; some skits were prejudged to be too long; others had received censor; and a number were deemed not "family-friendly" enough. Some Cosplayers refused to take part in the show and decided, wisely in our opinion, to sit this one out. We can't think of any sight more appropriate than the very best cosplayers sitting in the audience and not taking part on-stage. (Perhaps some guerilla theater might be considered in such a situation?) We ourselves, ended up boycotting this event and opted for dinner at the famous Sushi Blues restaurant in North Raleigh.

    Cosplayers built the anime convention industry and they shouldn't allow anyone to take it away from them. Perhaps this is the time to remind organizers that anime conventions are neither family-friendly nor pornographic/satanic events. Yes, there should be consistent enforcement concerning appropriate behavior but nothing which broaches a reasonable, creative interpretation of any anime.

    Voice Acting Workshop

    Coastal Carolina Studios director & CEO Scott Hale, his lovely wife Billie and Ms. Weidner held a workshop where fans got to play voice actor for a day. Coastal Carolina brought with them a digital drive with which they recorded dialogue. Using a digital process allows all sorts of tweaking to make lines fit lip movement. Voice actors need only to get a few good takes which approximate the lip movement and the rest can be done by a dialogue editor. And although they didn't demonstrate editing at the convention, it's possible for individual words to be spaced further apart, cut closer together, dropped completely and/or replaced by completely different takes.

    Although many participants stuck to their written lines, a few did a little tweaking of their own. A lot of raw talent and creativity was on display. "Voogie's Angels," the anime that got to be the victim will never be thought of in the same way again.

    Autograph Sessions

    With the heavyweight Japanese guests at Animazement, it was understandable that the lines were stretched out as far as the eye could see. In spite of this, both the guests and the staff acted like professionals. There were two sessions (one on Friday and the other on Saturday), each for 2 hours, with all of the guests and with no strings attached! There were no quotas, no raffles, no special tickets. There was only one restriction: Fans could get only one autograph from each guest. Fans were allowed to take pictures with the guests and to give them fanart.

    Animazement is following a decidedly Eastern United States emerging trend in anime conventions. As with Otakon and Anime Weekend Atlanta, guests were definitely hands on. (Such phenomena are in scarce supply on the West coast.) Animazement, in particular, has risen above all expectations in "fan to artist/actor" relations.

    In Closing

    Loot in the Dealers' Room!
    Overall, Animazement has its good points. But it is sad when needless censorship (which we deal with on a day to day basis) intervenes into one of our favorite pastimes (see Sidebar). But aside from that, Animazement now has a reputation for bringing in those hard-to-find guests that fans dream of meeting someday. So if you're looking for a convention where you can meet some of your favorite manga artists, voice actors & anime professionals and not have to fool around with any of the red tape associated with some of the bigger events, then Animazement is your ticket.

    Animazement Cosplay Coordinator Responds To Our Report

    On May 16, 2000 we received the following rebuttal to the report above.

    Hi there. My name is Phil Lee and I'm the cosplay coordinator for Animazement. I was looking through some of the post-con reports and noticed that your group was unhappy with the way cosplay was handled, citing that some skits were pre-judged to be too long, and that there was censorship of skits that were not deemed "family-friendly" enough.

    This year the decision was made to reduce skit length to 90 seconds. This was applied as a general standard to all skits in order to try to prevent cosplay from going over it's scheduled time. I recieved feedback on this from several local cosplayers, including our own Amy and Carolina (cosplay enthusiasts extrordinaire), who agreed that this was a fair time limit. Unfortunatly, I was not able to advertise this as widely as I would have liked before the con and a few groups showed up prepared to deliver a longer skit, which I was not able to allow. Most of the groups I mentioned this to were able to rework their skits to fit the time limit. Now that we've established a 90 second time limit (which I plan on advertising more extensively next year), hopefully this will not be a problem again.

    There was only one person that I know of who was disqualified from entering. He was using an audio tape for his sketch which was a set 2:00 minutes. I encouraged him to work with his sketch to try to bring it down closer to the 90 second mark. He also explained that his sketch used the word "bitch" in it twice. I told him that would be a bit much for our audience which does feature quite a few small children (including several which took place in cosplay themselves), with family in tow. Unfortunatly, he became discouraged and decided not to enter, though I had hoped he would have decided to create a new sketch or simply display his costume if he was unable to re-work his existing skit tape. This is the only case that I can think of where someone was unable to compete, and this was mostly due to the time limit.

    I didn't want your group to get the idea that I was in the habit of tossing cosplayers out on their ears left and right due to the nature of their skits, or that the decision to limit skits to 90 seconds was made arbitrarily. I do my best to work with cosplayers to make sure that they are able to perform. And, the 90 second time limit worked quite well for even large groups, allowing cosplay to end exactly on time at 11pm.

    Please let me know if you have any questions or comments. I hope to see you back at Animazement next year!


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