This year marked my first trek down to Baltimore for Otakon, and evidently it was worth it. Though I didn’t apply for a press pass since it was my first time at the con and I didn’t want to stress out over planning coverage on my own, I managed to make it to a few of the industry panels. If Anime Expo 2012 was Fate/Zero Con, it’s tempting to refer to Otakon as Madoka Magica Con since two of the biggest guests were Urobuchi Gen and Nonaka Ai. Aniplex continued to push the Madoka and Fate/Zero BDs, tempting us with an exclusive poster that I caved and bought with volume one. At any rate, since stream-of-consciousness convention reports are a dime a dozen, I’m going to hone in on the main events and hopefully provide a good summary of what happened.
Urobuchi Gen Revealed
Though he no doubt showed his face at his Sakuracon panels, the famed writer built up suspense by walking on stage at the Q&A hiding his face behind a zipped cardigan. He looks pretty normal, to be honest, but photography wasn’t allowed so I assume he’s shy.
At any rate, questions focused mainly on his latest anime hits rather than his visual novels. One Type-Moon fan asked about Urobuchi’s experience working with Kinoko Nasu, to which he replied that he was actually living near to Nasu when he was writing Fate/Zero. Apparently they collaborated closely, although he neglected to give details. He also talked about Madoka’s connection with (and inspiration by) the anime Le Portrait de Petit Cossette, an OVA by SHAFT staffed by both Madoka director Akiyuki Shinbo and composer Kajiura Yuki. He requested to work with Kajiura after hearing her work in Cossette. He also encountered the animation team Gekidan Inu Curry while discussing Cossette – the group that went on to design the witches’ labyrinths in Madoka Magica and create their (untold) backstories. On the topic of the sequel, Urobuchi remained tight-lipped, saying only that it is based on the idea that Madoka may not be able to handle the responsibility of the burden she took on at the end of the TV series.
There were few questions about Urobuchi’s work at Nitroplus, but he did talk about the differences between writing for games and anime. As many a visual novel fan has lamented, eroge writers are sometimes paid by word count, and they are encouraged to write longer stories and fill in as many details as possible to match the games’ high price point. In contrast, screenwriting is inherently minimalistic, and Urobuchi said that it was the opposite of what he was used to. However, he said that he prefers the minimalistic style of anime writing and that he has been receiving job offers since the success of his previous works, so a new project is on the horizon. He also commented briefly on his teenage fascination with the Lovecraft mythos, which was later seen in some of his games like Saya’s Song.
On another note, Urobuchi Gen’s favourite Fate/Zero servant is Gilgamesh, but he wouldn’t want to summon him because he’s too unreliable. I don’t blame him.
I Forgot to Take Notes on Nonaka Ai but She’s an Interesting Person
It’s not often that you get to say that about a guest. Truth be told, I had my phone out during the Q&A but most of the questions were either too broad or too specific and I ended up forgetting to jot down the one or two unique ones. Still, most of the panel consisted of amusing questions from fans (the line looped around a couple of times), and people actually had fun. I don’t know much about Nonaka‘s career aside from the fact that I love Fuuko, but I got a good sense of her personality by the end of the panel (or idol personality, if you want to be cynical). She spoke a few lines from her shows and she seems to be an unreasonably cheerful person altogether. It was doubly nice that she and her manager(s) allowed photography at both the panel and Aniplex’s autograph signing. Oh, and she smiles a lot.
One thing I do remember is that she said she wouldn’t make a contract with Kyubey because she’s a cautious person. Looks like both she and Urobuchi know their characters a bit too well…
Hirano Aya; or, I Still I Still I Love You
Remember that song? 2006 was a while ago, come to think of it.
The concert was a blast, albeit a short one, and it was a great way to end the con. I’m not familiar with her newer work but Hirano has the kind of energy and enthusiasm you’d want out of a live concert. I’ll be honest, though – I care less about her as a singer than about the fact that she’s Haruhi, damn it! Of course she sang the Haruhi songs near the end, and of course it was beautiful. A girl sitting a few seats down from me literally sprang out of her seat at the words “God Knows”. Hearing Bouken Desho Desho live was probably the most fulfilling moment of my con-hopping life thus far, excluding internet meetups, but this isn’t the place to wax poetic about Haruhi. Suffice it to say, the audience was thrilled and the encore was perfectly-timed. There were a few mishaps with the autograph line but most people got what they wanted despite the chaos. Altogether, there aren’t many better ways to guarantee that attendees will leave a convention with a smile on their faces than to schedule the main concert as the climax.
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That’s about it, though of course there were dealer’s room shopping sprees and interesting panels scattered in between. I managed to spread the teachings of Tanto Cuore to a few friends too. At any rate, check out the con if you get the chance. The registration lines are surprisingly painless and the programming is jam-packed despite the lower industry presence. Just be sure to buy water while you’re there because Baltimore is hot in the summer.