This was a crazy one – nonstop running from start to finish, pretty much. And that’s even with skipping the In a Corner of the World premiere, which was shunted into a corner of the convention center in a room way too small for it, and filled up hours ahead of time.
Content-wise, Day Two was (as usual) the biggest of Anime Expo in terms of must-see premieres and previews (all of which were of course off-limits to photo and video – though that didn’t stop some people). By skipping out on the Q & A at the end of Violet Evergarden, I was able to sprint (or whatever I do that approximates that these days) over the the Marriott and catch most of the FLCL panel. We’ll get to those in a moment, but let’s begin at the beginning…
Ballroom e Youkoso:
A/X had no trouble filling the main events hall for the world premiere of the first two episodes of Ballroom e Youkoso. I knew this was a popular manga but I’m a bit surprised by how big the following seems to be here. As you know I don’t formally review preview screenings (at least you’ll only have to wait a week for a real one in this case) but of course, I do have impressions.
To be honest, my initial take after the first two eps was “Dance Haikyuu with necks”. I know you’re tired of me talking about the necks, and I will get past it – but they distract me for the moment. It’s just odd – though “posture” is a major theme of Welcome to the Ballroom, so I suspect it’s intentional.
That said, these two eps were very good – not great, maybe, but very good. It really did have a Haikyuu!! vibe for me – very genki and cheeky, loud and beautifully drawn (many of the Haikyuu!! team are working on “Ballroom” as well). I know even less about competitive dancing than I did about volleyball, but hey – none of the anime staff did either, and they did their research to try and understand it. It’s an interesting topic, and Tatara Fujita seems to be a pretty likeable and colorful lead. I enjoyed the fact that director Itamu Yoshimi (who attended A/X) intentionally cast a young and unknown seiyuu as Tatara. The supporting cast seems pretty solid, this show is getting two cours, and the manga is quite good. So with the Production I.G. juggernaut behind it it’s probably a pretty safe bet that Ballroom e Youkoso is going to be a very solid winner.
First off – how many studios would have a 100% finished premiere episode completed a full six months before its scheduled airing? There can’t be many besides Kyoto Animation, that’s for sure.
Violet Evergarden is of course the only “grand prize” winner in KyoAni’s annual self-serving awards competition of highlighting potential source material they own outright. What all that blah blah really means is a matter of debate, but I will say this – there’s no question that Violet Evergarden is a quite different sort of show than Kyoto Animation has typically produced in recent years. There are a few stock moments but for the most part the premiere is free of tropism and fanservice.
This episode didn’t receive the rapturous response from the sold-out main hall that “Ballroom” did, but it isn’t that sort of series – it’s sober, quite serious and a bit opaque. This first episode feels more like prologue than anything, but where it succeeds best is in world-building – the slightly steampunk Victorian settiing it brings to life is gorgeous and engaging. It must be said, the art and animation here is spectacular. You expect that with KyoAni to some extent, but there’s something of the “soul” that the visuals in Hyouka brought to the table in addition to the technical brilliance we’ve come to expect.
I honestly can’t say how engaged I’m going to be with Violet Evergarden’s story and characters yet – again this was really a scene-setter, and the series is reportedly episodic in any case. But atmospherics will be enough to carry it either way, if the premiere is anything to go on. It’s pretty stunning in that department.
Finally, we have Fooly Cooly. Despite my skepticism about this sequel I’d have felt terrible if I’d missed the panel (and having The Pillows play before the “Evergarden” screening didn’t help). I’m very conflicted about this whole enterprise, because I hold FLCL in such reverence and consider the first series to be effectively flawless in execution. But it’s a huge story, and one I can’t ignore by any means.
As a panel this was an odd duck, because the secrecy was tight and the folks on stage (Ishikawa-san the president of I.G., the head of I.G. America and two gents from Adult Swim) couldn’t say a hell of a lot. The main reason we were all there was to see the trailer of course. And it was fine – new Pillows music, the right overall look, a few glimpses at characters old and new (and a Vespa). Not much to go on, really. But the panelists did allow a few kernels of information out:
- Originally scheduled to premiere in Fall 2017, both FLCL 2 and 3 will air in 2018 (with a break).
- They will show in Japanese theaters as well as on TV, and simuldub in the U.S..
- Both 2 and 3 will be 6 episodes (like the original).
- The Pillows will be contributing all new material specifically written for the series.
- The most interesting moment of the panel came when Ishikawa said that the new series will play like a “what would happen if Production I.G. and Bones co-produced a show”. I don’t know precisely what that means, but it’s certainly intriguing.
- FLCL 2 and FLCL 3 will have “completely different” stories – though I don’t know exactly what that means.
- The main character of the first series at least will be a middle-school girl. No mention of Naota whatsoever (even when asked directly).
- Apparently the Adult Swim side is having a direct impact on creative decisions – for example, several times I.G. came to them asking for approval for nudity, and was denied. Naturally this is rather unsettling. There was talk about two different versions for Japanese and American TV, but the Adult Swim guys were adamant that wouldn’t happen.
- There’s apparently going to be some involvement from ex-Gainax guys in the staff, though apart from Sadamoto-sensei I don’t see any major names on the staff list yet.
All in all, I suppose I’m marginally more optimistic now than before today. The trailer looked fine, and the notion of FLCL being something different than the (meh) synopsis of 2 is a thread to cling to. If I’m honest my expectations are still pretty low – I just feel like if there was ever an anime that didn’t need a sequel, it’s FLCL. But a part of me will always hope that I’m going to be pleasantly surprised and love these sequels. FLCL simply means too much to me to be able to not give a damn.