Anime Expo Day Two: Ballroom, Evergarden, FLCL

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.

Violet Evergarden:

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.

FLCL:

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.

 

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21 comments

  1. All that have have read about people’s impressions of Violet Evergarden have left me quite excited … thanks for adding to the interest! Between that and Card Captor Sakura Clear Card OVA (am not quite a huge fan of the original, but a very big one to be sure) – Winter 2018 looks like it has two new series I am seriously interested in thus far, one carryover in the same boat, and two other series that have picqued my interest (I follow both mangas from this category). Not bad this far in advance! ^^

    Thanks for the reports. 🙂

  2. H

    It certainly sounds as though there is plenty of interesting shows and panels, but I’ve been disappointed in the lack of exciting licensing announcements. Except for the Silver Spoon manga finally getting picked up nothing else really caught my interest. I was hoping that someone would announce they had Showa Genroku or A Silent Voice and it hasn’t happened. I can’t understand why a show as wonderful as Showa Genroku hasn’t gotten snatched up by now. I’ve seen mention that Crunchyroll licensed the first season, yet I haven’t seen anything about a domestic release concerning it whatsoever or even if that license is for the US. I look forward to Anime Expo every year since the big announcements always seem to happen there. This is the first time I’ve felt disappointed. I’m certainly interested in seeing Welcome to the Ballroom and will give Evergreen a chance. I am truly concerned about the FLCL stuff though. Like you said, if there was ever an anime that didn’t need a sequel it is FLCL. I can’t say that I am even remotely confident it will compare to the original, yet I would love for it to succeed.

  3. There was a licensing announcement for Koe no Katachi, wasn’t there? Theatrical release in the fall?

  4. H

    From what I’ve seen (and I could be wrong) there was an announcement that a company called Eleven Arts said they are going to screen it in U.S. theaters in October. However, they did not say whether or not the film will be distributed here on disc. I rarely have the opportunity to see anime movies on the big screen since so few come to my neck of the woods so I really only care if it is licensed to be released for me to buy.

  5. H

    *Evergarden (duh ^^)

  6. Y

    The new FLCL series ripped off an original artist for one of their designs without bothering to first approach her or giving her any sort of credit. Did you know?

  7. s

    and where are you getting this information??

  8. Y

    It’s the latest post on her official tumblr page –> https://yuumei-art.tumblr.com/ The artist in question is Wenquing Yan, better known as Yuumei; the rip-off concerns a design for her original headphone brand (Axent Wear) that she launched about a year or two ago. As I was one of her followers back then, I often received updates on her progress regarding the creation and marketing of the headphone sets. She dedicated a ton of time and effort to making sure everything turned out the way it should, to the point where she even drove herself into clinical depression when she found out a close friend of hers who had been helping manufacture the headphones had put the people responsible for making them in unsafe working conditions at a potentially illegal factory. This caused a lot of delays and some legal trouble, but she pressed on in spite of what that meant for her mental health. Knowing how much trouble she went through to bring her creation to life, I found it kind of offensive to see what the FLCL team have done with it. You can read up on the details on her dA page, too.

  9. s

    yea that does seem odd; ill reserve judgment until further notice. I dont like to make assumptions until i get the full story

  10. Interesting. I’ll keep an eye on this but I too need more info before I draw any conclusions.

  11. s

    You know that’s so funny that ishikawa mentioned that one of the intents going into the production of Flcl 2 and 3 was “what if i.g and bones co-produced a show.” This is news to me but when i had first watched the trailer i had thought to myself that some of the imagery looked very “bones-esque”, particularly the shot with tat otherworldly eye staring at the girl (look at that shit and tell me your mind doesnt wander into some Eureka seven territory), which actually leads me into my next point: this flcl looks embrace a more “Sci-fi” aesthetic if that makes any sense. Granted the original flcl was already a sci-fi but it never went out of its way to appear as one. There are quite a few interesting shots (particularly how they are composed) in the trailer that just look like they would belong in a Bones original sci-fi show

    After watching the trailer, here are my hopes for 2 and 3. First, I just wanna say right of the bat that while i appreciate adult swim being so gung-ho about an anime series they clearly love, if they are really stifling creative decisions by the production team, then i really really HATE that that’s what’s happening. Anyway, my hopes for flcl 2 and 3 is that 1. it’s good (go figure right) 2. it keeps the slick music-video esque direction and presentation of its narrative like the original (that’s part of what makes flcl a unique experience from other anime). 3. I hope the visuals retain the dynamic flare of the original; i dont want it to be afraid to experiment and really get wild with visual ideas. While i would have liked if this new series kept a retro cel animation feel similar to the original, im also glad that Flcl 2 is keeping up with the times. One thing flcl was (and i dont see many talk about) was that it was sort of a visual anthology for gainax and anime in general. Flcl was everything great about anime in the 70, 80’s, and 90’s. It referenced everything it could and celebrated anime and what it was up until that point (one could say that flcl was a satire/psuedo-commentary on the state of anime and the joys to be had from it). Will Flcl 2 and 3 have that kind of insight?. It’s about 18 years since the original; How will Flcl 2 and 3 celebrate the state of anime now? how much western culture will they dip into? those are neat ideas to play around with and i hope flcl 2 and 3 excavate those ideas for some compelling and visually arresting storytelling.

    Again, getting back to the visual look of 2 and 3, i want to bring up the fact that again, it looks more distinctively sci-fi. As a result, im curious if this is actually the case and what kind of direction they plan on going with this. Will this try to be some avante garde, psychedelic sci-fi like concrete revolutio (there’s Bones again; revolutio was more of supernatural series but you know what i mean) with the psychedelic comedic trappings of the original flcl or will it still be flcl but with weird imagery that just encapsulates elements of sci-fi anime.

    Oh and before I go, about the whole thing of flcl not needing a sequel. I agree……..to an extent. What doesnt need a “sequel” is naoto’s narrative arc. Naoto’s arc was completed in the most satisfying and climatic way possible; his narrative arc is over and that is what doesn’t need to be touched. In essence, flcl was about him so i can understand why people would say that it does not need a sequel; however, Flcl left plenty of ideas it could explore hence why the manga (which is not on the level of the anime of course) tried to touch upon those ideas a bit towards its end. The sequel can explore more about what medical mechanica is along with the fraternity and why they are at odds; who’s the pirate king? what’s his relationship to haruko? what drives haruko’s agendas? etc. I like the fact that at least the staff behind 2 and 3 are smart enough to not make these sequels direct continuations from the original as well as off each other (3 is going to be a whole separate story from 2), but rather their own stories that are just linked by familiar narrative elements such as haruko and medical mechanica. That is literally the best way to handle a sequel to a show that was otherwise very self-contained and poignant. Overall, i liked what i saw. I wasnt blown away but the rush of flcl nostalgia swept me away while listening to the pillows (cant get the song out of my head dammit). Kiyotaka oshiyama handling the mechanical designs of this series is a blessing and the staff sounds like they want to do right with flcl IP. Here’s hoping the series is actually good.

  12. Here’s my devil’s advocate response to that.

    I don’t disagree that Naota’s arc was completed in a basically perfect manner. But I’d argue that it was that arc that made FLCL truly great. It was the fact that it was a totally personal story that made it exceptional. Ask Tsurumaki why Naota dressed the way he did, he’ll say it was because that was how he dressed when he was 12. The anger at adult hypocrisy, the sexual confusion, even the love for Vespas – it’s all Tsurumaki.

    What happens when you take that away? The sci-fi in FLCL is good, the artistic flair is crucial, the other characters are memorable. But I don’t think you could ever have anything that’s truly “FLCL ” without It being Naota’s story. You might get something good, but it won’t be Fooly Cooly.

  13. s

    I guess this would be my devil’s “devil’s” advocate response:

    As we’ve established, FLCL is naota but id argue its more tsuramaki and Enokido’s ambition and passion in displaying their understanding of the turmoils of adolescence through the allegorical surrealism of their creative genius. This coalesces into the character naota and the anime (and its celebration of animation, storytelling genres, and visuals) acts as a vehicle to tell this cathartic and relatable tale of adolescence. FLCL was their story and they shone it brightly through naota and the medium of anime. The essence of flcl then, is not just naota, but more of an intimate discussion between writer/director and its audience about how they felt as a 12 year olds growing up and how much perspective they have gained on their journey to adulthood now that they are older.

    Flcl 2 and 3 can be that as well (that is what they need to be if they really want to catch lightning in a bottle twice). Tsuramaki probably doesnt want to have too much creative control with flcl 2 and 3 because this is not his story to tell (that and he probably doesnt like double dipping into projects that he feels he doesnt need to, especially if that gets in the way of him tackling other things)…..and that’s fine; it shouldnt be. Now a new set of writer and director have to convey their own experiences of adolescence through flcl’s rich tapestry of gripping storytelling. This is their chance to weave a character who is just as deeply interwoven into the soul of the narrative as Naota was for the original flcl.

    Flcl 2 and 3 shouldnt be the original; why? im sure you see where im going with this but it’s because the characters to be focused on arent naota. They are they’re own people with their own worries and tribulations. We need to see how the trappings of flcl help tell the story of this new protagonist; how much creative passion do the writers and directors place into this new character and will they be fulfilling enough to embody this new sequel/s? That’s what truly matters. What do the authors of this new project want to tell us about their experiences with growing up at this point in their life? what are their perspectives now that they are old enough to reflect on these truths of life? how does the abstract, psychedelic visuals play into this period of confusion? …..that my friend, is what fooly cooly is; an embodiment of the tumultuous, confusing, perplexing, frustrating, yet ironically invigorating journey of growth. Of course this all just wishful thinking on my part and it’s what i hope the new staff intuitively understands as to what makes this series such a special gem and one of the greatest anime of all time.

  14. Just to be clear, from his own words Tsurumaki really isn’t involved at all. Maybe that is for the best, but it is what it is.

    I understand the argument you’re making. I guess my feeling is that we might get something good out of all this, but I don’t think it will be FLCL. At least not to me.

  15. s

    hehe well that’s progress; when this was all first announced you were struck with the fear of god that this would turn out to be disastrous. But it looks like you have at least warmed up to the idea of these sequels not sucking major ass; that’s significant all things considered.

    The staff info has Tsurumaki down as a supervisory role, which i assume is super mimimal hence his statement that he isnt involved in these sequels at all. If anything, I imagine his supervisory role to along the lines of:

    Staff person: Tsurumaki-san, we have this idea for this new character; what do you think?
    Tsurumaki: you’re right, the weather is nice outside today
    Staff person: thanks boss
    Tsurumaki: Yaaaaaawnnnn….oh yea….better get back to work on finishing up those eva rebuild films with Anno and Maeda-San

  16. Oh believe me, I still think this could suck. The staff list frankly doesn’t impress me. But you may as well at least hope.

    As for Tsurumaki, remember – he’s a full-time employee of Khara. He’s basically directing the last Eva movie. He was very clear that ofter I.G. came to him for his blessing (not that withholding it would likely have stopped them) he’s been a non-factor. I would be shocked if he’s even been consulted since then.

  17. s

    oh and on my statement about the original flcl having a retro cel animation feel, i want to clarify that the look of the series gives off that feel even though it was colored digitally so no cel painting

  18. M

    FLCL 2 and 3. A possible Index 3. Another food wars season.

    This is awesome and all…. but where is my Spice and Wolf 3 🙁 🙁 🙁 🙁

  19. I just want a fucking complete Rurouni Kenshin adaptation.

  20. H

    I totally agree. They teased us in an opening song and then never delivered on that one. I own the manga volumes obviously and still pine for what never was. I am hoping that with the publication of Watsuki’s two-chapter spinoff it may spark some attention back on the series that could lead to them finally completing it in anime form once and for all.

  21. R

    Aw, I’m guessing one of these overlapped with the screening for the first three episodes of the Ancient Magus’s Bride then that Crunchyroll did at 7. That was probably my pick for best premiere of AX.

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