Monday, May 23, 2011

The Connection Between Sailor Moon and Arnold Schwarzennegger, Anyone?

Since there has been a lot of gloom around the Sailor Moon fandom lately, I decided to have a little fun and see if any of the fans had noticed that there is a connection to Sailor Moon amongst the fallout of the recent scandal involving the "Terminated" Arnold Schwarzennegger. Yes, we all know now he kept his love child a secret for 13 years, but our connection has nothing to do with any of his legitimate or illegitimate family. I gave the fans a few hints via our Facebook page:

1. Staff on English dub of Sailor Moon
2+3. Has something to do with Arnold's other announcement made during the fallout of this week's scandal. Nothing to do with the kid or the maid.
4. (Because I am feeling nice). This staff member has a tag on Moon Chase. Said staff member was written about within the last year (as of this date).

Lots of you tried to search for Arnold's name on our blog and turned up nothing! I was actually a little surprised that no one got this. Without further delay, here is your answer.

Andy Heyward

Who is Andy Heyward? Before his current venture of A Squared Entertainment, he was the former CEO and founder of DiC Entertainment. DiC Entertainment was the production company responsible for the first two seasons. Andy Heyward also served as Executive Producer for Sailor Moon. How does this all connect, you ask? Easy.

This is how I came to know about it. I just happened to have CNN on when the news broke that Arnold was putting a halt to his acting career, but then I got distracted by a phone call from a friend. I had missed the news, so I went to CNN's site to read the rest of the story. To my surprise, I read the name "A Squared", and a lightbulb went off in my head. Oh yeah, thats' Andy Heyward's new production company devoted to making cheezy and tacky cartoons based on prominent celebrities. For those of you that haven't seen trailer for The Governator, here's your link. Aren't you glad this is being shelved? We sure are. And here's hoping it never gets taken off that shelf again because if we were kids, we wouldn't have watched this crap. And is it us or does Arnie look a little too square/boxy? Would you have watched this toon as a kid?

Hope this brought a smile to your faces - and if you want me to share more random obscure connections to Sailor Moon as I encounter them, let me know and I shall post!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Sakura Con 2011: Kotono Mitsuishi - A Pretty Sailor's Journey from the Moon to NERV

Although the panel title and description emphasized Kotono's work in Sailor Moon as well as Evangelion, Kotono reminded panel attendees that they were not limited to only asking questions about those series. She was happy to answer questions about any of her work.

I missed the very beginning of this panel, since I had to retrieve the camera I was using just beforehand (it was accidentally packed too early!). I'm including details about the bulk of the panel here, but if there's anything someone else recalls that I missed, feel free to add that in the comments.

Regarding her role as Excel, Kotono was asked how she was able to maintain her voice and what her methods were for playing that role, as the character mostly screams and screeches. Kotono began her answer by saying that maybe she was lucky, but her voice stayed with her the whole time. For that role, she developed a screaming voice that was uniquely her own. When she received the script, she was excited to see what dialogue she would have. In that series, Kotono said that there were many lines and lots of things to say while a character's mouth was open. She said the technique to get through the lines appropriately was to speak fast and not breathe!

Next, Kotono was asked how it felt to have voiced the role model of Sailor Moon, who inspires confidence. Kotono said that this was her first role as a main character in a television series. Because of that, she focused on doing her best and working her hardest. She also received lots of help from more experienced cast members, such as Tohru Furuya (Tuxedo Mask). Once the show started airing and she heard good things from viewers, she became more confident. Before she'd heard the opinions of the viewers, she didn't realize that Sailor Moon would be a role model.

When asked if the characters she's voiced have become a part of her, Kotono confirmed that she has been influenced by the characters she's played. She also said that she didn't realize that she had certain qualities until voicing certain characters, that they brought out new parts of herself. She said it was like she had seeds inside her that grew once she experienced those roles.

At this point, a fan requested that Kotono give the audience a sampling of some of her voice roles. These included Misato, Ebichu, and Boa Hancock, among others. Since Kotono has voiced a wide range of characters, the fan who asked for the sample also asked about voicing the part of an old lady. Kotono said she hasn't done that yet, but thinks she'll eventually have to!

In Gundam SEED, Kotono played two very different characters: Murrue Ramius (the captain of the Archangel) and Haro. A fan was curious how it would work for scenes where two characters she was playing would be in the same scene. Kotono said that in Japan, when they record anime, everyone in the cast is in the studio at the same time. Each person steps up to the microphone when it's time for their lines. If one person voices multiple characters in the same scene, they step up first as one character and then step up again as the next character.

Recording with an entire cast does allow for ad-libbing and unplanned lines to happen more naturally. Sometimes these lines may even make it to the final anime production. As actors, they try to fill holes in a role, which is what leads to unplanned lines.

Regarding the affect of technology on the job of a voice actor, Kotono said that there are both positives and negatives about advancements in technology. Microphones are better now and can even pick up a quiet voice. There are some drawbacks to this, as a quiet voice could potentially be used for a loud character. Kotono also thinks that actors used to be more careful about delivering their lines, but with computers things can be fixed more easily. This can mean less pressure on the actor. Kotono also said that voice actors are now expected to voice their roles more quickly.

As a side note, Kotono mentioned that there was a time when anime voice acting was done live, so if there were any embarrassing errors those would still be broadcast. Now the atmosphere is more relaxed. A story Kotono heard about a live recording was that one of the actors was absentmindedly playing with a microphone stand while he waited for his turn to speak. He got his finger stuck, so he couldn't step up to the microphone when it was time for him to say his lines. Thus, his character said nothing for the entire episode!

When it came to revisiting the character of Misato, for the Evangelion relaunch, Kotono said that it does feel like there's a bit of a difference in her approach to the character because there has been years between the the last time she had the role and the more recent voice acting. She was surprised and a little angry at first when she was asked to come back because she thought she was finished with the character because [spoiler alert!] Misato had died at the end of the series [/spoiler]. After calming down, she decided to take the role on again and keep the new performance as close to her old approach as possible. She did want to do well with the new performance, but she said she has made some unconscious changes in the way she delivered some lines – which the director pointed out. For example, he would say things like "Misato said this line more cute before. Why is she so dark/rude now?" Kotono joked that this seemed a little mean, but she was laughing about it so it's pretty clear she didn't think it was that bad!

As a student, Kotono recalled that even then she wanted to be in the spotlight and perform. She thinks this was part of her motivation to become an actor. She was in the Broadcast Club in elementary school, which was a group of students who made the announcements at school and acted out folk tales at lunch (the latter she found a lot of fun and it influenced her to become a seiyuu).

Visiting Sakura Con was Kotono's first time in Seattle and she said it felt like she made lots of new friends! She said she will take that positive feeling back with her to Japan. At the end of the panel, Kotono asked the audience to squeeze together for a couple of photos which she has since shared on her blog. I've shared those in this post too, and you might be able to spot me in the pink shirt near the front, on the left side of the photo above this paragraph.

That's all I have in my notes for Kotono's panel, I hope you have enjoyed these recaps! If there was something else at the panel that I missed that you would like to add, please leave a comment.

If you want to read Kotono's blog posts about Sakura Con they are here (arrival in Seattle), here (about autograph signing and the first panel), here (about the performance with the Dreamcatchers, where Kotono sang "Moonlight Densetsu"), here (the one with the photos), here (includes an English message about the charity auction), and here (includes the quiz questions).

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Sakura Con 2011: Tiffany Grant Interview

This interview was recorded on video by Nico Nico, who have recently launched their U.S. site. If anyone has found the video, please let us know and we will add the link!

To start things off, Nico Nico asked Tiffany to record a message to anime fans in Japan. Tiffany said that she send warm wishes and prayers. She also wants to send love to all anime fans, as it allows her to continue doing the work she loves.

The last time Tiffany was at Sakura Con was in 2000. She said it seemed like the 2011 convention was twenty times larger, so it's a huge difference from before. She also said she was very impressed with how well run and well organized Sakura Con is.

When it comes to cosplay, Tiffany is always excited to see fans cosplaying the characters she's played, especially Asuka from Evangelion. Fans can also see pictures of Tiffany cosplaying some of her own characters in the photos on her website.

Tiffany said that her most "famous" line would have to be "what are you – stupid?" from Evangelion. Fans can hear voice samples on Tiffany's website here. She really liked that Asuka is a multi-faceted character and commented that the studio atmosphere is different for more serious scenes.

When preparing for a new role, Tiffany said she clears her mind and tries to start fresh for each role. She also listens to the Japanese performance to see how things were done, before recording in English. Her performance is informed by the original video as well as the director's input. She also noted that she often goes with her gut instinct of what feels right for the scene.

Tiffany has a background in theatre, even from the time she was a little girl. She has now been voice acting for over seventeen years. One of the reasons she got her first voice acting job is that she was an actor, so she got called to the audition. She was new to anime at the time.

She always had an interest in voicing, particularly mimicking voices and accents. Even as a child she made the connection that actors played the voices of cartoon characters. She wasn't originally sure how to get involved in voice acting, but when that first audition for a voice role came up; she went for it. Tiffany said she has been able to do a huge variety of characters because she does voice acting for anime. She loves her job and especially likes playing critters who make silly sounds.

Tiffany said that she finds voice acting is a very broad style of acting that is dramatic and requires projecting, which is similar to theatre acting. However, if being physical in a voice acting role, an actor needs to be conscious of the microphone placement.

Does Tiffany watch anime for fun? Sometimes she does. She said that she enjoys Miyazaki films and also really liked watching Fullmetal Alchemist. When watching anime, she doesn't tend to think that she'd rather play a character that has already been done, she just tries to enjoy watching it.

As a big Hello Kitty fan, Tiffany is always wearing something with Hello Kitty on it. At the interview, she was wearing a ring, watch, and had a bracelet charm that were all Hello Kitty related. Aside from Hello Kitty accessories, she was also wearing little Asuka earrings!

The manga series Gunsmith Cats: Burst! – which was the sequel to Gunsmith Cats – ended its run in North America last year, with the final volume being published in April 2010. Tiffany said that she hasn't read any of the manga volumes (of either Gunsmith Cats series, but she heard about how popular they were and that the series was a longer one. Tiffany played Becky Farrah in the OAV series of Gunsmith Cats and said she would love to play the role of Becky again if there were more episodes were made. She also said she found that character was the most like herself. On her website she even says that the voice of Becky is very close to her natural voice and she includes a clip of the "no pizza, no Chinese" line in her vocal samples.

Here's a fun fact for Moon Chase readers: Tiffany played the same character as Kotono Mitsuishi in Blue Seed. The character was Kome Sawaguchi. Tiffany said she was excited to be able to meet Kotono at Sakura Con too!

In closing, here's a little information about a charity effort that Tiffany participates in: Voices For is a group of pros, mainly in the voice acting industry, that makes albums for charity. Tiffany has contributed to both albums which are currently available. More details about the charity effort are on the Voices For site.

Image credits: photo from, image of Becky from

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Sakura Con 2011: Bandai Industry Panel

Bandai representatives reminded attendees that their online store is available at – this store includes exclusives before they go to other vendors.

This panel also experienced some unfortunate technical difficulties, but this time there was video and partial sound. I had to leave part way through to go to an interview (to be posted tomorrow!), but I heard that convention staff was able to fix the issue before the end of the panel. The details at the end of this post I found via the Bandai online store.


Released April 26th, but also available at the convention.

Girl Who Leapt Through Space
This 26 episode series from Sunrise was released April 26th and was also available ahead of schedule at the convention.

Girl Who Leapt Through Time
Two disc set includes the movie on Blu-ray and extras on DVD. Released April 26th, but also available at the convention.

Tales of the Abyss
This 26 episode series from Sunrise is based on the Namco Bandai game. The first volume includes episodes 1-7. Limited edition release includes a copy of Asch the Bloody manga volume one, regular edition (without manga) also available. Release date: June 7th.

Gundam 00 Movie: Awakening of the Trailblazer
This hybrid release is coming July 5th to DVD and Blu-ray. The movie is the final chapter of the Gundam 00 saga.

Gundam Unicorn
DVD volume one will be released June 7th, is currently available for pre-order, and will contain two episodes. The packaging features a reversible cover. This title is already available on Blu-ray, with volume three currently available in Bandai's online store and in the Amazon Marketplace.

Mobile Suit Gundam
The original 42 episode series, to be available in a two part Anime Legends hybrid release. Coming this summer.

Turn A Gundam
50 episode series, new to North America. To be released in late summer as a subtitle only release.

Also in the Bandai Online Store:
  • Baccano! Blu-ray limited edition boxset, available May 17th. Currently available for pre-order.
  • Durarara DVD part 3 available spring 2011, available for pre-order online.
  • K-ON! volume 2 on Blu-ray and DVD June 14th, currently available for pre-order.
  • Girl Who Leapt Through Space volume 2 available June 7th, currently available for pre-order.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Sakura Con 2011: Aniplex of America Industry Panel

To start off, Aniplex representatives gave an introduction about their company, for fans unfamiliar with them. Aniplex licenses various anime to U.S. companies and is a subsidiary of Sony Music. Aniplex titles are available to buy direct from Right Stuf and Bandai Entertainment online. Aniplex also recently began distributing titles via Play Station Network (which is currently down after being hacked recently).

Streaming of Aniplex titles is available online on their YouTube channel, Crunchyroll, Hulu, and Anime News Network. Streaming content includes the latest trailers and special content such as interviews and bloopers. Aniplex tries to bring as many shows as possible that they produce to the U.S., in association with other companies.


Gurren Lagann Movies - Childhood's End and Lights in the Sky are Stars. Two disc DVD edition now available.

Read Or Die complete boxset now available. This title has been upconverted to high-def video, includes the original dub voice track, has new subtitles, and is virtually identical to the Japanese boxset, except that the booklets are in English.

Durarara parts one and two are currently available, with part three scheduled to release on May 31st. Part three is currently available for pre-order.

Baccano will be released on May 17th in a limited edition, Blu-ray boxset.

Blue Exorcist started to be simulcast online beginning on April 20th. The online broadcasts are three days after the Japanese television airing. This 25 episode series is based on the manga by Kazue Kato, which is available through Viz (volume one is now available).

Regarding limited release items, Aniplex representatives indicated that they will keep an eye on fan opinion to see if there is a demand for increased availability. As for distribution, they are also looking to expand to the Amazon Marketplace to reach more customers.

Photo credits: images belong to Aniplex

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Sakura Con 2011: Kotono Mitsuishi Q&A

This was Kotono's first panel of the convention, and her most popular. She was aided by a translator, but seemed to understand parts of the questions fans asked in English. At the beginning of the panel, Kotono mentioned that Sailor Moon was her first role in a series and she focused on doing her best.

Regarding Ebichu: The Housekeeping Hamster, Kotono said that she had been a big fan of the manga series and found it really funny. The anime series had the same director as Neon Genesis Evangelion. When Kotono heard about the anime being made, she told the director that she really wanted the role and promised to even do the embarrassing lines with a straight face.

Regarding the more "mature" role of Misato, Kotono acknowledged that most of her previous roles had been pretty and cute girls. This encouraged her to want to do a more mature role. She also found that voicing a more mature role helped her grow. Compared to other strong females in Evangelion, Kotono found that her role was different from the others. When she first voiced Misato, the age of the character was very close to her own age, so she based some of her performance on her own feelings and how she thought she would feel in the situations Misato was presented with – which meant approaching the role differently. At first she had focused on technicalities, but Kotono affirms that feelings are key to a good performance.

Before acting in One Piece, she was unfamiliar with the series. However, when Kotono found out she got the role, she read over 40 volumes of the manga and became a fan of the series herself. The scenes she liked most in One Piece were the ones where her character was involved, especially when Boa Hancock would be looking down on others.

Regardless of the character she's playing, when deciding how to approach a new role, she doesn't focus on how she thinks the character would react. She tries to start with a blank slate for every character.

Regarding working on Revolutionary Girl Utena, which shared some of the same production staff as Sailor Moon, including writer and director Kunihiko Ikuhara. Kotono thinks that one of the reasons she was cast as Juri was that the director wanted her to play a different kind of character.

When Kotono's daughter was little, they watched the Sailor Moon series together multiple times. Kotono said that she thought the series was really amazing and likened watching each episode with opening a treasure box.

There were many scenes that Kotono liked in Sailor Moon. She said she especially liked the Sailor Moon R Movie. Another of her favourite scenes was in the TV series when (spoiler alert!) Saturn dies and Sailor Moon jumps in the whirlpool to try to save Saturn.

When asked what it was like to say goodbye to Sailor Moon, Kotono said that since the show ran for five seasons, she worked on it for five years. At the end of each season, they would wait and wonder if it would be renewed. Kotono said that she always wanted to do her best with her performance, so she had no regrets. Kotono also said that voicing Usagi changed her and affected her life, particularly by giving her more self-confidence.

What about other manga series that Kotono likes? She said there are many manga series she'd like to see developed into anime series as well. One series that sticks out as something she would like to be in if there were an anime made is 20th Century Boys (although there is already a live-action movie).

What kind of advice does Kotono have for aspiring voice actors? She said that there are lots of people trying to get into voice acting in Japan. But, Kotono said that she believes everyone should chase after their dreams and not give up. If you want to become a voice actor in Japan, Kotono said it is best to study acting first, but knowing how to speak English as well as Japanese can be an advantage.

At this point of the panel, Kotono hosted a short quiz show, to see how well the audience knew her roles. Each person who correctly answered a quiz question first received a gift bag from Kotono. Here are the questions and answers for fans interested in what was included:

  1. What is the name of Misato's penguin? (Pen Pen)
  2. What is the name of the ship she captains in Gundam SEED? (The Archangel)
  3. Which Pokemon did she play? (Metamon, a.k.a. Ditto in English)
  4. What is the name of the devil's fruit that Boa Hancock ate? (The Mero Mero fruit, a.k.a. the Love Love fruit) Kotono liked the English name for this fruit a lot! She said she'd like to try a fruit with that name!
  5. What is the pendant Misato always wears? (A cross that she received from her father)
  6. The dog in Excel Saga, Menchi, is what to Excel? (the emergency food supply)
  7. What was Doraemon's original colour? (yellow)
  8. What kind of flower appears when Sailor Moon is in a pinch? (a rose)
  9. What does Misato say at the end of the episode previews? (Service, service!)
  10. When Kotono does Japanese dubs, which of the following actresses has she dubbed? Cameron Diaz, Penelope Cruz, or Natalie Portman. (trick question: all of the above)
After the quiz show, there was still time for a few more questions!

A fan asked if Kotono had ever seen a Sailor Moon musical, and Kotono said that she had. She also confessed that she got caught up in the excitement of it just like the rest of the audience. She has also seen PGSM and enjoyed watching it. She noted that Luna's voice is the same in PGSM as well as the anime. She thought the actors in the show put in great effort to do a good job. She also felt that the actress who played Usagi was very good at physically showing the clumsiness of the character.

If she couldn't play the role of Sailor Moon, Kotono said that she would have also liked to play Sailor Neptune because she's older and more experienced. This was a hard question for her to answer! She also said that although she doesn't have a favourite character in the series, Sailor Moon was very close to her heart.

After re-watching Sailor Moon, Kotono said that she doesn't feel that Sailor Moon should have done anything differently. When she played the character, she voiced straight from the heart.

As for Kotono's desire to become a voice actor, she recalled that being in an elementary school broadcast club was part of her original motivation.

Photo credit: source is

There will be coverage of the second panel featuring Kotono later. We hope readers have enjoyed this first part, which covered her Saturday Q&A panel.

Moon Chase Mother’s Day Special: Thanks Again, Naoko!

Today is Mother’s Day, and to our readers who are mothers, and the mothers of our readers, the staff wishes you a very Happy Mother’s Day! We also can’t forget about Sailor Moon’s “mother” (and mother of two herself), Naoko Takeuchi. Naoko, we also wish you a very Happy Mother’s Day, and will wait as long as it takes for a complete release of the Sailor Moon anime. For those of you in Japan, once again the orange Sailor Moon Carnations are in high demand for Mother's Day despite a decrease in their supply! You can spot them in this photo from the Chunichi Shimbun in the back, being packed by a florist.

On this Mother’s Day, we have a couple short Naoko updates to share. One is that last week, Sailor Moon Channel was updated to feature character profiles of all the Senshi (except for the Starlights), as well as a story page. The art on these pages is all from the manga. If there is enough demand from the fans, we may translate these pages beginning later this week (though we will always translate anything she posts on her front page, news, and photo sections).

The second update is that there was a small mention of Naoko Takeuchi in the Shenzhen Daily about a month ago. The article is a reaction to the Earthquake and how at the time it was unknown if many mangaka had survived (as well as rumors of their perish). It then took a happier tone and spoke of how anime in China is as popular as Chinese, South Korean, American, and Taiwanese dramas. The author also writes that anime is second-to-none compared to animation from the rest of the world. There is some mention of Naoko’s husband, Yoshihiro Togashi and the new animated adaptation of Level E, and his ongoing manga series Hunter x Hunter. His work will continue and never be forgotten. We’ll spare you of the descriptions of the other two paragraphs which are gossipy in tone, and lash out at him for taking the fans for granted. Naoko Takeuchi is named by this author as the greatest contributor to girls’ manga (which began in 1963), and was the mangaka who opened the door for Chinese girls to love anime featuring girl superheroes and romance (despite her limited repertoire of work). At first, girls 8-16 years old would be the only ones reading these comics, but slowly men and women now appreciate them. The author even goes on to say that the girls’ anime industry in Japan is the most widely used class!

Fans can check out our most recent translations of Naoko’s updates here, here, and here.

Breaking News: New Sailor Moon Merchandise Licenses:

Via Sailor Moon World Italy (and some fans’ messages, thanks!), some new companies involved in merchandising have acquired licenses for Sailor Moon. These include two companies with US branches and one for France; Topps (Germany, Italy and America), Namco Bandai Games America, and Giochi Preziozi France. It is probably safe to infer that Topps will be releasing sticker books (and possibly cards), Giochi Preziozi France will release some (if not all) of the toys made in Italy, and NBGA is likely going to bring La Luna Splende to North America eventually. But, nothing is confirmed, and everyone should have waited for a press release. We have been advised from the companies to play it safe and wait for official word before posting anything like this, but given the criticism and heat we have had to face from some fans, we’re addressing it now as safely as we possibly can. We’ve featured a large photo below filled with cropped screenshots from Kazachok’s Web Guide.

What remains to be known (especially in France and North America), is if this is a sign that the release of the anime is imminent in either of these regions. There are a few other regions in the world that don’t have Sailor Moon either (Russia and Ukraine, to start). In a Japanese press release announcing the return of Sailor Moon to North America, Kodansha made note of how especially in North America, that without the release of the anime and other merchandise, that the manga may not experience the same “big boom” of the past*. We can’t speculate on the progress being made on the anime, due to certain statements made in the last 2 months from companies and representatives all around. We have to wonder if these new merchandising deals are some kind of a placeholder in between that will ultimately aid the anime when the time is right for it to return, while also tiding the release of the manga. Usually, the pattern in Sailor Moon licensing news has been anime first, merchandise and manga second. What do you think, Moonies?

*We had read this the day it was posted but didn’t post anything about it on Moon Chase because you fans were in such a happy mood and we didn’t want to damper the situation! Instead, we all discussed it amongst ourselves for a while and once again, wondered why Sailor Moon was having such a turbulent resurgence.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Sakura Con 2011: Christopher Bevins Interview

This interview was conducted with representatives from a couple of other sources, so some of the answers go beyond Moon Chase staff's prepared questions. We hope readers find this interview interesting, particularly since Christopher Bevins gave insight about the job of directing versus acting; which resulted in an interview with a different focus.

I opened the questions by mentioning he had been ADR director for Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad which previously aired on Much Music in Canada. He also played Beck the dog in that series (which readers may recall from my previous coverage of the Pet Sounds panel). He noted that Canadian fans often mention that Beck aired on Much, and I let him know that Much Music is unfortunately no longer airing anime. He was a little sorry to hear that.

Since music and singing were a significant part of the Beck series, I asked Bevins if that posed any unique challenges for him as a director. He confirmed that it was very difficult and he needed both an assistant director (Taliesin Jaffe) and a music director (Mike McFarland) to make things work. Mike McFarland also adapted the song lyrics for the show. Bevins only directed a couple of the songs himself, which were meant to be more raw sounding performances.

For some background on Christopher Bevins; he was born in L.A., but moved away when he was about six or seven. He lived in Orange County when he was young. Coming to Sakura Con meant a trip back to Seattle after twenty years of being away. He mentioned that he was happy to find that some of his favourite places were still around.

Christopher Bevins first discovered a knack for voice acting by experimenting with accents. He said he's always been told that he has a great voice. In fact, when he used to work for Bank of America, in a smaller branch, he would do the live announcements in the deli next door and people would be surprised that it was his voice and not a recorded performance!

Bevins also noted that he loves cartoons and is a big comic book fan. He had known about anime before working at Funimation, but he wasn't a huge fan. While working at a comic shop, he would air random anime, partly to interest customers in checking out new titles. He watched Star Blazers and Robotech as a child, but he was primarily a fan of American cartoons. although he watched pretty much whatever was on, he did say he liked G.I. Joe a lot and collected items from that franchise. Regarding his comic book collection, he said he has 20 long and 20 short boxes full of comics. This is over 5000 issues! Aside from working on anime, he would really love to be able to make superhero cartoons, particularly Marvel or DC properties. He also loves the current Avengers cartoon. He also noted that in comics, he has a love/hate relationship with Fantastic 4. When he likes the stories, he reads them but when he doesn't he stops buying for a while.

In high school, Bevins wanted to become a movie director, and his fall back was supposed to be teaching at the high school level. Eventually he realized that teaching wasn't right for him because he doesn't generally like starting work that early every day and he thought he wouldn't enjoy being around teenagers all the time. At this point, he took a break before studying more about recording. After this, he became involved with Funimation.

Bevins admit that he has been very lucky in his career and is very appreciative of the good things that have happened to him. Two of the series he previously wanted most to work on were Burst Angel and Samurai 7. He was fortunate enough to work on both.

Beck and Speed Grapher were among his favourite titles to work on, but also the most challenging. Beck was challenging because of the music, as outlined above; Speed Grapher was challenging because it was so different for Funimation at the time. It was the first title that included swearing, for starters.

For fans a little unfamiliar with some of the behind the scenes roles in creating anime, here are some descriptions Christopher Bevins provided of some of the jobs he's had behind the scenes:

  • Line Producer: this person hires the director and is responsible for turning in the dub. This includes making sure everything is included and completed on time. (this is not a job that Christopher Bevins does anymore, but he has in the past)
  • ADR Director: does the casting with the producer and otherwise is similar to a film director in guiding actors' performances.
  • Script Adapter: This is not a translating job. The Script Adapter will receive translations and video content to write the script. The script needs to match mouth movements and timing, convey character personalities, and account for things such as accents as needed (accents may add sounds, so this has to be written in the script).

Regarding video game acting, Christopher Bevins noted that fighting games can be very challenging to voice. The Dhalsim voice in Street Fighter was interesting for him to perform because of where the voice sits in his register. He described it as throaty and airy, which was actually easy on his vocal chords. Some actors when voicing fighting games will have to act out the screaming parts until their voice is shred and then take a break to recover their voice before continuing recording. Bevins also said that he is doing more video game voice acting now, so we can expect to hear an announcement in the future. He has not yet played Street Fighter on a Nintendo 3DS, but he has heard that the 3D effect is pretty neat to see.

Bevins voiced a few random characters in Case Closed (as Akiyoshi in ep 3; Concierge in ep 25; Henry Nelbit in ep 56; Moreese Cortezini in ep 66) prior to directing the Case Closed: The Last Wizard of the Century movie in addition to voicing the character Ray Segue in that film. The series had a trial run on YTV in Canada, in addition to airing on Cartoon Network and Funimation Channel in the US. He noted that pretty much everyone at Funimation was involved with Case Closed at some point, and it was a series he really enjoyed. The movies were something that Funimation acquired a couple years after the series. Bevins did ask if he could do one of the movies, as it had been a while since working on the TV series and he wanted to work on it again. Since the movie didn't need to be generalized for a mass market audience, Bevins made the decision to change specific locations back to Japan. He noted that during the series, sometimes changing locations to be very general would have a ripple effect where the puzzles had to be modified too.

The kind of series that Christopher Bevins finds the most creatively satisfying to work on are something he hasn't done before, something that presents a challenge. He recently completed his first comedy, Heaven's Lost Property. Although he was used to working on titles that had comedic portions, this was different for him as it was comedic all the time. He also just got a show that he requested to direct, but it has lots of unique challenges so it will be hard.

When preparing actors for auditions, Bevins said that he gives them a basic description of the show, an idea of how the character speaks, and a basic description that gives them an idea of how to perform the character. Sometimes he will try to encourage the actors to challenge themselves and may point out a few roles that he'd like them to either consider or avoid during the audition process.

Bevins admit he has pretty much cast himself as something, even if just a short role, in everything he has directed. Often this is simply done to keep the schedule moving, but it is also so that he can continue to keep up his acting skills while he is primarily directing. He also noted that he enjoys being casted by other directors as well, but this doesn't tend to happen very often because of scheduling conflicts.

Christopher Bevins has directed quite a few series targeted at a female audience, including RIN – Daughters of Mnemosyne, Burst Angel, Romeo x Juliet, Corpse Princess (Shikabane Hime), and El Cazador de la Bruja. Although he did say that there are some differences in how to approach directing a series for girls, and it was a little different for him at first; he primarily focuses on the believability of the characters within the story, and less on "would a girl actually say that?" He also said that he somewhat has a preference for directing series that feature more female characters. One of the series he previously directed was very much a "dude series" as he described it, so the studio would sometimes smell like sweaty guys. But it was refreshing when a female actress would come in and the place would smell pretty again!

We hope readers enjoyed this interview with Christopher Bevins. If you'd like to see more interviews of behind the scenes personalities in future convention coverage, please let us know!

Photo credits: photo of Christopher Bevins taken by Emily at Sakura Con 2011; Heaven's Lost Property promo image from; Street Fighter 4 image is a screen shot from the game, original source unconfirmed

Friday, May 06, 2011

Sakura Con 2011: Sailor Moon - 15 Years and Counting (Panel Recap)

For those who couldn't make it to the panel at Sakura Con, here's how it went...

When I entered the room, it was almost packed! It remained pretty full until the open question and answer period, where the crowd tapered off during the last half hour. This room was larger than the one used for last year's Sailor Moon panel, with almost double the capacity (it could hold about 95 people). The length of the panel was also increased compared to last year, to one and a half hours. Although I didn't mention it at the time, this panel was a last-minute addition because another panel was cancelled. I can't thank the panels coordinator at Sakura Con enough for giving me the opportunity to run a panel on behalf of Moon Chase.

I was still cosplaying Princess Jupiter (anime style), as I decided to cosplay all day Friday. Seeing so many Sailor Moon fans made me rather nervous about leading the panel by myself, so I started with some facts and introductions from my notes.

Two Versions of Jupiter #1
(That's me on the left!)
The panel description from the program was:
Sailor Moon first hit North American TV in late 1995 and it's clear that fans here still want more. Join the discussion of the franchise, the revival, and the latest news about Sailor Moon. Presented by Moon Chase.
I began the panel by introducing myself and providing a little information about Moon Chase, for those unfamiliar with it. Next I briefly discussed Operation Moonrise, and announced the next (and final) phase for that.

Following the introduction, I talked about Kotono Mitsuishi's appearance on Animax's Creators show (screen grab from the show above). I thought fans would find some of this information interesting and it might give them more ideas for questions at her Q&A panel the next day. She also had a second Q&A on Sunday, but the Saturday session was more popular.

Next up was a brief discussion of the details about the manga re-release, including the highest figures from Moon Chase's manga survey results. In addition to what was reported in the press release, I shared some details that were more recently announced: all colour pages will be included, no stickers, Japanese names and cultural references will be left intact, and it will stay true to Takeuchi's original storytelling vision (so there won't be any "cousins"). I also mentioned that the manga has a release date announced for Germany. Later, a fan asked what the cover art would look like and I said that I suspect it will be the same as the covers from the Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon manga, which were available in Japanese from various dealers at the convention.

Then I moved on to a discussion of the revival and a listing of many of the countries seeing Sailor Moon again or even for the first time. At points during this, I didn't specify all of the countries (most specifically for Africa and the Plus Licens territories) to keep things simple. I did have a list of everything though, in case anyone wanted more specific details.

Here's the info about the revival, from my notes:
  • In Albania, they only got seasons 1, R, and SuperS. Seasons 1 and R were heavily edited, and SuperS was uncensored. This time, they are still not getting the S season or Sailor Stars. It's aired on a premium TV network, Bang Bang (a children's channel).
  • Hong Kong saw Sailor Moon return in August 2010 on teen network TVB J2.
  • In Brazil, the anime has returned with broadcasts starting from the S season. Fans have understandably not been very happy about this, as it's not the beginning of the series. Both Brazil and Mexico will be seeing the series available on DVD in the future (no release dates confirmed yet).
  • Malaysia saw Sailor Moon return in March 2011 on NTV, starting with season R. They seem to be using the old version, not remastered, with the opening song and dialogue based on Indonesian.
  • Portugal also saw Sailor Moon return in March 2011, to the children's Pay TV channel Canal Panda. Their broadcast license is for all 200 episodes. Also, various Portuguese speaking countries in Africa will get to see Sailor Moon later this year (Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, São Tomé and Príncipe, and the Republic of Cape Verde).
  • Plus Licens will be distributing Sailor Moon in all of their Nordic, Central European, and Eastern European territories (includes: Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, Czech and Slovakian Republics, Hungary, Bulgaria, Serbia, Montenegro, Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Albania and FYR Macedonia). They will be handling television, merchandise, and DVD rights for all 200 episodes.
  • France, Germany, and Scandinavia will see Sailor Moon again soon (if not already), as it was set to return during the winter/spring TV season in 2011.
  • There is a new Hebrew dub (there was no dub previously) in Israel, which started airing on Children's Channel on January 23, 2011.
Last up before moving on to the more casual part of the panel, I briefly discussed what we recently learned about redubbing from SOS Brazil. Behind the scenes we are looking for more details and confirmation about this, but it was definitely something we thought should be mentioned at the panel so that more fans are aware of public statements such as what we found on SOS Brazil.

Next, I asked the audience if they would like to hear about the new video game, La Luna Splende, from Italy. After a resounding "yes!" I went through Sailordees's very negative review of the game. Part way through, someone in the audience joked that they weren't sure they wanted to hear any more about it! But I continued since most fans were interested in hearing the whole story, although the game sounded pretty laughable. There was also short discussion of the previous game, Another Story, that was very well-received by fans although never officially released in the US or Canada.

After asking the audience if they were interested in hearing about what some of the English dub voice actors are up to now, I went through the bulk of my recently posted updates about them (part 1 and to a lesser extent part 2). Some fans were surprised to hear that the English dub was recorded in Toronto, so I also mentioned that Stephanie Beard a.k.a. "Sugar" was previously a PJ (similar to VJ) on YTV's "The Zone" (an after school programming block) and a DJ on a Toronto radio station (KISS 92.5). While she was a DJ, she even sang a song called the "The Real Suga Baybee" (it was a parody of Eminem's "The Real Slim Shady"). I recalled that when people asked her about singing, at the time she made the song, she said that she could carry a tune but didn't really consider herself a singer.

Here's a quick video of Stephanie talking about her Suga Baybee song:

A fair amount of the panel was dedicated to an open question and answer period, where I received questions such as "who is your favourite senshi?" (I said Sailor Moon and mentioned my "Brave Dame" essay that I shared recently on Moon Chase) and even "who is your favourite villain?" (I thought Queen Beryl was interesting, but she was technically a subordinate although she didn't act like it most of the time. I chose Ann as my favourite, for the way she changes personalities with such ease).

There were some questions asked that I didn't have reference for at the time (sorry about that! It can be hard to predict in advance what questions will be asked). I took notes at the panel to consult with Sailordees afterward and do more research if needed. A couple of questions will be added to our upcoming survey, so I won't repeat those here.

Here are the other questions that were unanswered or only partially answered at the panel:
  • There was no Blu-ray release in Japan (one of the audience members recalled this). Moon Chase staff will continue checking to see if there is a Blu-ray release and will let the fans know if one becomes available (the region coding for Blu-ray is the same in Japan as the US and Canada).
  • Regarding Brazil and Italy receiving the Sailor Stars season, Sailordees has confirmed both did receive it. Someone in the audience at the panel was also able to confirm that it was Italy who presented the Starlights as "twins" (an interesting choice to get around the gender bending, I think) as well as noting that Italy did receive the Stars season.
  • "Sailor Moon World" was not actually a new series, but simply a rebranding effort a few years ago.
Regarding fan efforts to bring Sailor Moon back, congoers were interested to hear if there are more efforts creating added interest in the series or helping it to return. Aside from Operation Moonrise, we have noticed an increase in fansubs and fandubs, which can certainly create more buzz amongst fans.

One audience member mentioned Sailor Moon Abridged as being a very well done fandub. This fandub is actually a parody of the English language Sailor Moon dub, which surprisingly keeps a fair amount of the dub story intact while also hilariously mocking some of the cuts, changes, and character personalities (they even managed to further exaggerate some character traits!). There is some swearing in it and some controversial subject matter (e.g. discussion of eating disorders), so consider yourself warned.

Other things I shared at the panel included a small amount of survey results from Operation Moonrise phase 4 (which was about Sailor Stars) and phase 5 (which was about censorship, if fans liked the anime and manga being different, TV timeslots and what fans would be willing to pay for an anime channel, general actor preference, as well as if fans would like to purchase the old dub even if a redub was made). I mostly shared these during times when it was quiet and I was waiting for more questions.

There was also a brief discussion of the mythology behind Sailor Moon, but unfortunately I didn't have my notes with me on that subject as it would have been too long to print this time. For those interested though, you can read more about mythology that influenced Sailor Moon in the mythology FAQ section on my Sailor Moon Snipits fansite. I have since condensed some of the reference material for this for printing, so next time I am a panelist on a Sailor Moon panel, I will be sure to bring that along! Also, the Encyclopedia Mythica is a fantastic resource about mythology in general.

It seemed that quite a few people enjoyed the panel and I handed out some business cards at the end. One attendee even took my picture since I was cosplaying. I also received a message recently on Flickr from a Sailor Mercury cosplayer who said that she and her friends found the panel very interesting and informative! There was a somewhat negative review on ANN as well, but even they seemed to like the details about the revival and especially enjoyed the review of La Luna Splende. So there was something for all kinds of fans to enjoy at the panel :)

Anything you'd like to see Moon Chase staff add to future panels, please let us know!

Photo credits: image of Kotono is a screen grab from Animax's Creators show; Mythology FAQ screen grab from Sailor Moon Snipits; photo including me (Emily) taken at Sakura Con 2011

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Sakura Con 2011: Funimation Industry Panel

Hosted by Funimation representatives Joshua Morris and Joel Rodriguez, this panel was the usual fare for Funimation's industry panels at conventions: announcements of new releases and answering a variety of questions from convention attendees.

The first question asked was if Funimation is still for sale. The panel hosts announced that Funimation has recently been purchased by an investment group led by CEO Gen Fukunaga (the link directs to a press release, for those interested in more details).

When it comes to jobs at Funimation (yes, they were asked about this), the representatives indicated that Funimation is always hiring. Openings are regularly posted to major job sites such as Monster and LinkedIn. Those interested in applying can also e-mail their résumés to Funimation. Please keep in mind that local applicants are given a higher priority.

Regarding Japanese credits not included on a DVD or Blu-ray release, this is directly related to the materials received for video release. Materials received for the theatrical release of properties (e.g. Evangelion) may differ, but Funimation can only include items on the video release based on what the license for video release covers and the materials received specifically for that release.

Canadians will be happy to know that videos are once again available for viewing in Canada. US visitors will have the video source re-directed from Hulu.

Readers may also be happy to know that the Trigun video release used the old Geneon dub track, it was not redone. However, representatives did mention that in cases where they redo or revisit a series (such as with Slayers), they do try to bring back as much of the old cast as possible.

Shin Chan season 3, part 1 is available for pre-order. Release date is July 26th.

The Treasure Hunter is coming to DVD in fall 2011. This live-action film stars Jay Chou, who also played Kato in The Green Hornet. The international trailer is available here. (ignore the dates on that trailer)

Fairy Tail will have a fall 2011 release date. The ADR Director is Tyler Walker and the protagonist, Natsu, will be played by Todd Haberkorn. An exclusive wallpaper is available on the Funimation site and a trailer for Fairy Tail is available on Crunchyroll.

Regarding Funimation's Relief for Japan efforts, various items are available for auction in their ongoing fundraising campaign. All money collected in these efforts will go directly to organizations involved with the relief efforts in Japan. For those interested, the money is also tax deductible. A new set of auctions is planned for the beginning of May. So far, they have raised $11,300.

Photo credits: Shin Chan DVD cover from, Fairy Tail promo image from, Treasure Hunter promo image from

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Behind the Scenes at Funimation DVD Production

This panel featured Christopher Bevins and Clarine Harp from Funimation as the hosts. Clarine is Funimation's Director of DVD and Blu-ray Production, so she had a lot of information to share on the subject.

When describing quality control, Clarine started by saying that it sounds glamorous to have a job watching anime all day, but quality control is actually very tedious work. During quality control, all programming on a disc has to be checked (this includes testing every menu item), ensuring there are no audio or video problems (Clarine said they almost have to watch an episode without blinking), and checking on subtitling placement.

The selection process of titles for Blu-ray depends on the specifics of the license and the quality of the show. Clarine mentioned that sometimes titles are initially only licensed for television and DVD and they may have to go back to negotiate for Blu-ray rights as well. Blu-ray does seem to be a technology that Funimation is paying close attention to, as they plan to continue releasing more titles on Blu-ray. Clarine mentioned that they have noticed anime fans are early adopters of technology, and that Blu-ray was popular practically from the beginning.

The production process for anime starts with translation. The next stage is in the production department, where a script adaptation is developed for an English language dub. This is where directors and script writers look at the original materials (video and translation) to make decisions regarding the script and plan how to make the characters unique and engaging. Then subtitling is added. The final step before DVD/Blu-ray production is doing some research on the show to determine what was offered in the original video release in Japan, what was the tone and intent of the creator, decisions about whether or not commentaries will be made, and any other features they may consider. They are currently interested in adding more special features to releases on physical media, to make them more collectible. Clarine noted that she likes collecting physical releases herself, and extras add to the collectibility of releases.

When questioned about the look of subtitles, Clarine said that Funimation generally opts for white text with a black outline and try to only switch to yellow text if it is otherwise difficult to read. The intent with subtitles is to make them non-intrusive, but they also need to primarily use standardized fonts for an expanded character selection. Special characters with accents and uncommon symbols may not be available in all fonts, so that can limit choices.

It was stressed that Funimation always releases uncut DVD and Blu-ray discs. Sometimes content may be censored by Funimation for streaming based on appropriateness, and television broadcasters may censor more than what Funimation would censor for streaming – but this is done by the television broadcaster, not Funimation.

For fans interested in how long it takes for an anime to go from being licensed to being on the shelf, Clarine and Chris said it tends to take about 9 months on average. A shorter series can be released in as little as six months, but this isn't as common. Scripts usually take one to two weeks per episode to develop. Recording dubs is generally done in batches of six episodes, and this can take one to one and a half months on average if the episodes are dialogue heavy.

This panel was a very informative look behind the scenes at how Funimation produces DVDs and Blu-ray discs. I found it pretty interesting to hear about how long it takes to complete different parts of the process and it was nice to hear that key people involved with the video production at Funimation are thinking about how collectible releases will be, from a fan's mindset.

Photo credits: Clarine's photo from, Chris's photo taken by Emily

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Our Facebook Page has Returned

Dear Fans:

We have reinstated our facebook page - however all future posts must abide by a new set of rules (so please read them). We have enacted these rules for the safety of our users, as well as for the livelihood of our reader community. As always, our forums will always remain protected, and fans are more than welcome to join them as well.

Sakura Con 2011: Pet Sounds - Voicing Creatures, Monsters, and More

This amusing panel was hosted by Christopher Bevins and Chris Cason and included quite a few demonstrations of strange sounds throughout. I'm focusing mostly on Christopher Bevins here, as there is an upcoming interview with him that I will be sharing later as part of my Sakura Con coverage.

Both panelists agreed that everyone has tricks they use in order to enable their voice to hold more difficult sounds for a longer time frame. Bevins said that the Mc Donald's orange Hi-C helped when doing lots of screaming for Aquarion. Cason mentioned that green tea was good for drying the throat out a little. Cold water was mentioned to be good for soothing a throat after screaming.

Bevins mentioned that when he was the ADR Director for Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad, he played the dog Beck and his co-director, Taliesin Jaffe, decided to play another dog in the series, Keith, who had rougher sounds. That was probably rougher on Taliesin's throat too!

Bevins also mentioned that he finds physicality can help a performance. Some voice actors are known to move around a lot in the booth, but if it's a smaller booth sometimes they have to be more creative. Bevins noted that for one role, he actually held onto a bar overhead and leaned toward the mic to help him feel like he was always tense and ready to pounce while acting.

Both panelists remarked that they also do sound effects at times, but for anime the sound effects track is usually provided with the Japanese version. Quite a few times during the panel, Cason would make the sound of a clown's nose being honked. He also recalled a story he heard about The Exorcist and how a man from South America was brought up to do sound effects for the film. One of the techniques he used was bending an old, leather wallet to get the sound that was used when the girl's head turned all the way around.

When it comes to directing, they both mentioned that directors have a tendency to say strange things or use made up words while directing. For Bevins, this includes asking for a performance to be more "sexadelic" (sexier and trippier).

In regards to returning to previous roles, it was mentioned that it can be difficult to get back into a character that was played before. However, Bevins also said that does enjoy doing voice roles for other directors, even if the role is very challenging.

This was a fun panel that had the audience laughing throughout and the panelists making progressively older references to pop culture (which made the audience laugh even more and jokingly say "how old are you?"). Cason joked he was in his 80's compared to the modern fan, since he usually makes reference to things pre 1990's.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Sakura Con 2011: Opening Ceremonies

First thing on Friday morning, I picked up my press badge, with at least two staff members in the press/industry office recognizing my costume (I was cosplaying Princess Jupiter, anime style). Both of them said they were fans of Sailor Moon, and one of them was a big fan of Kotono Mitsuishi in both Sailor Moon and Evangelion. After this cheerful start to the day, I was off to the events!

(my badge is to the left, it features last year's winning entry for the mascot contest)

The first event of the convention I attended was the opening ceremonies. As it started late due to technical issues, the crowd enthusiastically cheered the mic check when things were up and running.

The event started with an announcement that ANCEA joined Seattle's Japan relief and the representative said over $146,000 was raised from their website, with most referral visits originating from Sakura Con's website. The organization also received assistance from key volunteers who work as Sakura Con staff (note: Sakura Con is fan-run). At this time, it was announced that various exhibitors as well as guests would be donating funds to the Red Cross, often using proceeds from the sale of specific items. Attendees could also make a paper crane in one of the craft rooms, and a dollar would be donated per finished crane.

Things soon became more exciting with a demonstration by the Seattle Wushuu Center! This demonstration of wushu (which looks like a mix of gymnastics, dance, and martial arts) was performed by six individuals and impressed the crowd.

Next up was the Consul General of Japan, in costume! He joked that his (admittedly heavy) historic costume was "what he would have worn to work 400 years ago." Congoers could have a chance to try on his armor during the convention, with more details at his booth in the exhibitors' hall. In his closing statements, he asked the crowd to be ambassadors for Japan and try to encourage correct pronunciation of words such as "samurai" and "karaoke." He finished by having the crowd loudly shout "Ganbare Nippon!"

Following the Consul General of Japan was the Evergreen Glee Club performance of various anime songs. Their website indicates that they started with Uchusenkan Yamato and Tetsuwan Atomu (songs I'm not particularly familiar with). Next, I almost immediately recognized "Stroll" (or "Hey, Let's Go") from My Neighbour Totoro. The song that followed also sounded like it was from a Studio Ghibli film, but I couldn't identify it at the time.

In the middle of the opening ceremonies, the MC briefly went over rules and announcements. This seemed like particularly good timing, since the crowd had grown from the very beginning. This lead to the introductory video that featured footage of last year's events and photos of this year's guests (the latter resulted in cheers from the crowd as fan favourites were displayed). The video closed with the words: "Let's do our best, Japan" in Japanese and English.

To conclude, the MC listed the wide variety of guests that attendees would enjoy seeing over the course of the convention. The crowd was buzzing with excitement for the events to come, a great start to the weekend!

(photo at right belongs to SailorRhapsody. I'm the cosplayer on the left)

Stay tuned for lots more coverage of Sakura Con!
Still to come: industry panels, guest interviews and FAQs, guest panels, a recap of the Sailor Moon panel I hosted on behalf of Moon Chase, and more.