Category Archives: Los Angeles

Anime Expo – SPINOFF CONVENTION COMING THIS NOVEMBER

During the closing ceremonies, the SJPA thanked all attendees for coming to Anime Expo 2022 and introduced the very first ‘anime expo ontario’ in California.

Introduced as “anime expo” (all lower case letters), a smaller-scale spinoff convention that will allow fans an additional opportunity to celebrate Japanese pop culture this November in Ontario, California.

Smaller-Scale “anime expo” Focused on Exhibit Hall and Artist Alley to
be Hosted at Ontario Convention Center November 12-13, 2022

The event, which will be focused primarily on the exhibit hall and artist alley experience, will take place November 12-13, 2022 at the Ontario Convention Center; ticket sales will be announced in the upcoming months.

“Seeing our Anime Expo family once per year simply isn’t enough, which is why we’re incredibly excited to bring the brand-new ‘anime expo’ event to Ontario, California,[. . .]Anime Expo 2022 was a success, and we look forward to carrying that positive momentum into this smaller-scale show that provides a unique, more intimate opportunity for fans of Japanese pop culture to come together a second time this year.”

– Ray Chiang, CEO of SPJA

The first in-person Anime Expo since 2019 welcomed fans back to the Los Angeles Convention Center with over 1,000 hours of programming, including Japanese musical guests SG5 and Travis Japan, renowned DJs Steve Aoki and TeddyLoid, and Guests of Honor including Studio MAPPA CEO Manabu Otsuka and JUJUTSU KAISEN Script Writer Hiroshi Seko, as well as Ranking of Kings Director Yosuke Hatta and Animation Producer Maiko Okada of WIT Studio; Mika Akitaka, the creator of Anime Expo’s iconic mascot, MAX, also joined in the festivities in honor of the event’s 31st year.

Anime Expo will once again return in-person to the Los Angeles Convention Center next year from July 1-4. Ticket sales for Anime Expo 2023 will be announced in fall 2022. Ray added,

“After three long years away from the Los Angeles Convention Center, it was incredibly important to all of us at SPJA that our community be welcomed home with a truly unforgettable convention experience and, thanks to all the participants–including exhibitors (small and big alike), artists, industry and sponsors–and the incredibly hard work and dedication shown by each and every volunteer and staff member, we’re proud to say that this year’s show not only met, but exceeded our expectations. We can’t wait to show you what we have in store for next year!”

– Ray Chiang, CEO of SPJA
Los Angeles Convention Center two days before day zero

Anime Expo celebrated its 31st annual convention by returning to the Los Angeles Convention Center live and in-person, bringing together fans and industry professionals for the largest celebration of Japanese pop culture in North America. Hosted by The Society for the Promotion of Japanese Animation (SPJA), the sold-out four-day convention saw attendees from over 70 countries descend upon the city of Los Angeles to generate an estimated positive economic impact of over $100 Million for local hotels and businesses. Anime Expo fans that were unable to attend Anime Expo 2022 also had the opportunity to catch a glimpse of AX virtually through Anime Expo Lite through Twitch and YouTube.

For more updates on anime expo Ontario, visit the official Anime Expo website.

Ronin-Expo 2022 REturns & REscheduled!

For those following the anime convention scene in Los Angeles, CA; Ronin Expo announced earlier this year that had to postpone its June event until further notice due to changes in the venue’s service policies. Recently they announced that Ronin Expo has found a new venue within the Little Tokyo district.

Artist Ally at Ronin Expo 2018

Since 2017 Ronin-Expo is an Anime and Asian culture convention targeting both new and veteran convention-goers. The convention is designed to feel like an festival featuring artists, exhibitors, live performances, and guests of honors and special in-door panels. Past featured guests include voice actors, Sarah William, Reuben Langdon and Japanese anime director, Hiroshi Nagahama.

The event is now scheduled for August 13th, 2022 at its new home at The Terasaki Budokan Center in the Little Tokyo District, tickets are still available for purchase here. Special guests include voice actors, Mela Lee & Richard Epcar with performances by Origami Flagship, Ryujin Taiko & Burai.

Follow RONIN EXPO for more updates and announcements on updating panels, events and guests!

Review | Ryoma! The Prince of Tennis – Decide

Ryoma! The Prince of Tennis <Decide> will premiere in the U.S. tomorrow, May 12th, in theatres as part of the first-ever AX Cinema Nights, a collaboration between Anime Expo, Eleven Arts, and Iconic events.

It’s important to note that there are two versions of the film, Decide and Glory; this review will cover Decide; there is no release date set for “Glory” as of the release of this review.

Debuting as the first CG film in the series, it serves as a bridge between the original manga series’ timeline and its sequel, which saw Ryoma leaving Japan for America for the US Open and then appearing at the All-Japan Junior Training Camp in Japan.

The film follows Ryoma Echizen, inspired by his tennis champion father Nanjirō Echizen, is determined to take his game to the next level and train in the US. But in the middle of an intense tennis battle to save his classmate Sakuno from “dangerous” villains, they somehow find themselves transported to the past, just as Ryoma’s father is about to face his final championship match at the US Open – when he was mysteriously forced to retire. Takeshi Konomi, The Prince of Tennis creator, oversaw the film’s production and wrote some of the music and lyrics for the featured songs.

Yes, this film has a few sporadic musical numbers (perhaps inspired from Musical: The Prince of Tennis) combined with its CG animation style making it feel like a Disney film or an episode of Miraculous Ladybug. Still, as sporadic musical numbers go, they are entertaining to watch. This film also makes for a great kid-friendly film and is perfect for introducing your kids to anime and The Prince of Tennis series. Although the film pays homage to the series’ comedic genre, it exaggerates, making the featured slap-stick comedy dull to older audiences. Like the original series, there is still tennis action on the court, mainly focusing on using tennis as a form of distraction; the real tennis action comes towards the end of the film with Nanjirō Echizen facing off an American character.

Throughout the film, there are major plot holes; for example, there is no explanation for the time travel nor an explanation as to why a particular character is seen in a wheelchair at the beginning but is completely fine throughout the film. These are only a few questions that seem to be unanswered; however, as mentioned above, this is only one version of the film; therefore, it’s safe to assume that any plot holes or questions may be answered in “Glory.” 

Overall, the film lives up to The Prince of Tennis legacy; it’s a unique take on The Prince of Tennis series and its characters and a concrete bridge between the US Open and U-17 Training camp gap. It’s a fun-packed, family-friendly film that will capture both old and new fans.

Experience the newest addition to The Prince of Tennis series and purchase your tickets HERE.

Anime Expo Announced the First ever ‘AX Cinema Nights’ with the screening of ‘RYOMA! THE PRINCE OF TENNIS’

Anime Expo & Iconic events have partnered up to bring anime fans the first ever AX cinema Nights featuring a new full-length anime film adventure, RYOMA! THE PRINCE OF TENNIS!

What is AX Cinema Nights?

AX Anime Expo Cinema Nights is an in-person movie event series celebrating the best new and classic anime films by bringing them to theaters across North America. Leveraging the brand power of Anime Expo, the largest Japanese culture event in North America, AX Cinema Nights will bring passionate fans together for immersive and unforgettable community experiences. Beginning with the newest addition to The Prince of Tennis franchise.

“Over the course of Anime Expo’s 31-year history, one of the greatest lessons we’ve learned is that anime has an incredible gift for bringing people together. [. . .] That’s why we’re so thrilled to team up with Iconic Events and Eleven Arts to kick off AX Anime Expo Cinema Nights with Ryoma! The Prince of Tennis and create even more opportunities for anime fans nationwide to grow their communities and share their love of the artform with friends both new and old.”

– Ray Chiang, CEO of Society for the Promotion of Japanese Animation (SPJA).

RYOMA! THE PRINCE OF TENNIS is a new feature film about tennis prodigy Ryoma Echizen and is based on the acclaimed manga series, The Prince of Tennis, and its sequel, The New Prince of Tennis, written and illustrated by renowned manga author, Takeshi Konomi.  This will be the franchise’s first ever CG film and features an all-new story that takes place between the original manga series’ timeline and its sequel. Creator Takeshi Konomi personally supervised the film’s production and wrote the music and lyrics for all the featured songs.

Eleven Arts is very excited to be a part of this partnership with Iconic Events Releasing and Anime Expo’s AX Cinema Nights to bring forth a new theatrical experience for anime fans to enjoy [. .. ] We are honored to kickstart this experience with Ryoma! The Prince of Tennis , a title from such an iconic franchise.

-Ko Mori, CEO and President of Eleven Arts

Inspired by his tennis champion father, Ryoma is determined to take his game to the next level and train in the US. But in the middle of an intense tennis battle to save his classmate Sakuno from dangerous villains, they somehow find themselves transported to the past, just as Ryoma’s father is about to face his final championship match at the US Open – when he was mysteriously forced to retire. The innovative 3D digital animation brings the magnificent and colorful world of The Prince of Tennis to life on the big screen in this captivating film.

Cover of Prince of Tennis manga Volume 1 as released by Shueisha on January 7, 2000 in Japan. Cover by Takeshi Konomi

Over 60 million copies of The Prince of Tennis manga have been sold since the series debuted in 1999 in Shueisha’s Weekly Shōnen Jump magazine. The sequel rekindled the series in 2009 in Shueisha’s Jump Square magazine. Over the past 20+ years, the blockbuster franchise has spawned a hit anime series, animated feature films, live action films, stage plays, radio shows, music collaborations, and video games.

Ryoma! The Prince of Tennis is a quintessential and beloved property among anime and manga fans. We are excited to join with Anime Expo and Eleven Arts to present this exciting film to American audiences as part of AX Cinema Nights, and to expand our anime theatrical programming and continue the collaboration with Anime Expo.

-steve Bunnell, CEO of Iconic Events Releasing.

Screenings will take place beginning May 12 at theaters nationwide. On-sale dates and theaters will be announced shortly.

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KAZHA | Hard Rock Band Making Headlines at Anime Cons

Anime Los Angeles has been bringing top hit musical guests such Stephanie Yanez, Raj Ramayya, and Lolita Dark in 2019 followed by, Japanese electronic dance music duo FEMM in 2020. This year’s musical guest was KAZAH!

​Kazha is a rock band founded by Japanese singer-songwriter Kazuha Oda and guitarist Hideki Matsushige in 2009. Since the release of their first album, Overture (2010) they’ve been touring around the U.S. making headlines in U.S. Anime Conventions such as Nan Desu Kan and Anime Los Angeles.

Guitarist Hideki Matsushige & singer-songwriter Kazuha Oda

Kazha has also shared the stage with national artists such as George Lynch, Tracii Guns, LA Guns, Y&T, Tantric, and Trapt. Moving their base of operations to Memphis, TN in 2015, they’ve been featured on local broadcasts such as WREG News Channel 3, Channel 24, and WMC Action News 5.

We had the honor of interviewing lead vocalist, Kazuha Oda, and hearing her story behind the formation of KAZHA!

BELLE | Should You Watch It?

Mamoru Hosoda at Animation Is Film Festival 2021

Known for his emotionally touching and visually captivating films, such as Wolf Children, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, and Summer Wars, award-winning film director Mamoru Hosoda is back with his ninth film, BELLE.

Now playing in theaters, Belle is a modern adaptation of Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont’s Beauty and the Beast and could be considered a spiritual sequel to Hosoda’s 2009 film, Summer Wars, as it also deals with a virtual world.

Synopsis

The film starts with Suzu Naito (Voiced by Kylie McNeill), a shy 17-year old high school student living with her father (Voiced by Ben Lepley). She lives haunted by the memory of her mother’s death at a young age. Since then, Suzu has been living in her shadow, having almost no close connections and no self confidence. At least, until one day, with the help of her one close friend Hiroka Betsuyaku (Voiced by Jessica DiCicco), she discovers the online virtual world of ‘U‘ where over 5 billion users log on daily. When Suzu logs in for the first time, U automatically creates a beautiful, freckled, pink-haired avatar based on her biometrics, and she nicknames herself “Bell” (鈴 = Suzu is Japanese for Bell).

Suzu logging into U for the first time. Bimetic readers in her ear.

Enjoying her newfound life in anonymity; Suzu, using her voice and overcoming her trauma, develops Bell into a world-famous singer among U. Rapidly gaining popularity, Suzu holds events and concerts as Bell in U, and fans come to dub her as ‘Belle‘ (French for “Beautiful”) However, during one of Belle’s online concerts, she is interrupted by an avatar named only as “The Dragon” (Voiced by Paul Castro Jr).

“The Dragon” avater appears for the first time, during BELLE’s concert.

Intrigued, Suzu & Hiro embark on a journey to discover the person behind The Dragon. Along the way, Suzu realizes the real power of being anonymous online and the many reasons why people like her escape to U from their own lives. 

What type of story is BELLE?

The film seems to be confused about what type of story it wants to tell; whether it is an action-adventure story, as Suzu begins to discover the virtual world of U as Bell, or a romantic story, as the plot depicts the ‘forbidden’ nature in the relationship between Bell and The Dragon and Suzu’s determination to help The Dragon. One thing is for sure, the film is a musical feature. Unlike a Disney film, where characters spontaneously spring into a musical number often without warning, the film does a great job in coordinating the music with the imagery that’s on screen.

“Lend Me Your Voice”

The film touches on several sensitive topics and themes, such as overcoming personal trauma. The film successfully portrays one’s desire to escape real situations for a glamorous, anonymous lifestyle; a secret, secondary life where real-life issues are nonexistent. Additionally, many viewers find themselves connected to the main character as the film dives into the psychological impact of dealing with a personal loss and its effects on a person’s daily life. 

The Music

The music in this film is captivating and leaves the viewers in astonishment, undoubtedly worthy of a 14-minute standing ovation. Kaho Nakumora (Suzu/Belle in Japanese) and Kylie McNeill’s vocal performances are phenomenal and are presented with a profusion of emotional appeal. Kylie’s vocals perfectly embody Kaho’s performance as BELLE and, with Ludvig Forssell’s creative songwriting skills alongside Mamoru Hosoda and actress Kaho Nakumora, make exquisite lyrics. 

BELLE sings “Gale of Songs” as she enters U for the first time.

“Should I Watch it?”

Though the film may contain some unnecessary subplots, it makes up for its visual presentation and musical and vocal performances. The film portrays Suzu with relatable qualities that speak to the viewer, whether you have experienced personal loss or not. If the above mentioned is not convincing enough to watch BELLE in theaters, consider that this film was worthy of a 14-minute standing ovation during the 2021 Cannes Film Festival.

Perhaps cast members, Kylie Mcneill and Paul Castro Jr can convince you through our exclusive interviews. Watch as Kylie & Paul share behind the scene stories and their experiences working on BELLE.

Interview With Kylie McNeill

Interview With Paul Castro Jr

We also included a brief Interview with Mamoru Hosoda we conducted during the 2021 Animation Is Film Festival in Hollywood, CA.

Interview With Paimon – Anime Los Angeles 2022

Join us as we explore Corina Boettger’s voice over career and journey voicing Paimon in the hit mobile game, Genshin Impact!

This marks our first, in-person interview, since Febraruy 2020. Corina has other character roles such as, Tatsumaki (One Punch Man), Naoko (Dino Girl Gauko) and Mizuki (AI: The Somnium Files). In September 2020, she became known for providing the voice of Pimon in Genshin Impact.

~GIVEAWAY~

Enter for your chnace to win an autographed Paimon wall scroll and acrylic standee signed by Corina Boettger. For more details, watch our interview above!

Watch BELLE In Theaters!

Watch BELLE the newest movie by award-winning filmmaker, Mamoru Hosoda (Mirai, Wolf Children, Summer Wars, and more), comes a fantastical, heartfelt story of growing up in the age of social media.

Suzu is a shy, everyday high school student living in a rural village. For years, she has only been a shadow of herself. But when she enters “U”, a massive virtual world, she escapes into her online persona as Belle, a gorgeous and globally-beloved singer. One day, her concert is interrupted by a monstrous creature chased by vigilantes. As their hunt escalates, Suzu embarks on an emotional and epic quest to uncover the identity of this mysterious “beast” and to discover her true self in a world where you can be anyone.

Subtitled Trailer

English Dub Trailer

The Cast

You can watch Belle in theaters and IMAX in both Japanese and English starting January 14, 2022, get your ticket now!

Patrick Imbert’s ‘The Summit of The Gods’ premieres at Animation is Film Festival 2021

The newest adaptation of Jiro Taniguchi’s manga, The summit of Gods had a special screening at the Animation is Film Festival 2021 in Hollywood on October 22nd. initially announced in 2015, the film went through different creative hands before it made its way to award-winning, French animator, Patrick Imbert in 2020.

The Summit of the Gods revolves around two hikers, Makoto Fukamachi, a young Japanese reporter, and a mysterious mountain climber named Habu Joji. Fukamachi believes, Habu is in possession of George Mallory’s camera.

George Mallory is a mountain climber who, along with Andrew Irvine, attempted to climb Mount Everest in 1924 and were never seen again. The camera might reveal if Mallory and his companion really were the first to climb Everest. 27 years later, Fukamachi and Habu find themselves, cooperating to climb to the peak of Mount Everest.

Imbert is known for his work in Ernest et Célestine, April and the Extraordinary World, and his award-winning film, The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales.

Patrick Imbert at Animation is Film Festival 2021

Using 2D animation and produced by Folivari and Mélusine Productions, Patrick Imbert’s The Summit of The Gods has been praised for his realistic animation of the iconic Mount Everest.

The film is based on the manga of the same, written and illustrated by Jiro Taniguchi, itself is an adaptation of Baku Yumemakura’s 1998 novel of the same name. Yumemakura’s work has had various adaptations, including a live-action version, starring Junichi Okada, which was released on March 12, 2016. The live-action version was directed by Hideyuki Hirayama (known for, School Ghost Stories).

During the Animation is Film Festival 2021, we had the opportunity to speak with film director Patrick Imbert:

Netflix will air the film in theaters in the United States starting on November 24, 2021, and will start streaming the film on November 30, 2021.

Mamoru Hosoda’s BELLE At Animation Is Film Fest 2021

For the first time, outside Japan, Mamoru Hosoda’s newest film BELLE had a chance to capture western audiences’ hearts during the Animation is Film Festival 2021 in Hollywood!

In 1999, Mamoru Hosoda began his journey with Dejimon Adobenchā (Digimon Adventure) as his first anime directorial debut; since then, Hosoda has developed this craft and quickly became one of Japan’s most predominant figures in Japanese animation. In 2011, Hosoda founded his own animation studio, Studio Chizu.

Photo by AIF | John Salangsang

Hosoda developed his own unique and highly influential animation style, which can be seen and felt throughout his work. His works are heartfelt, beautifully animated films and convey a sympathetic aesthetic element, often relatable. In 2019, his adventure fantasy comedy film, MIRAI, was nominated for an Oscar for Best Animated Feature Film. His most recent film, BELLE, premiered at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival, receiving a 14-minute standing ovation.

Mamoru Hosoda at Animation is Film Festival 2021 in Hollywood, CA

In BELLE, Hosoda visually transforms the internet, as the popular virtual world known as ‘U’. In a plot where characters face personal turmoil, isolation, a sense of belongingness, and the need to pretend to be someone else, Hosoda effectively exploits the ability to remain anonymous online and how anonymity can have its benefits and disadvantages on its users.

We had the opportunity to briefly speak with Hosoda during the Animation is Film Festival 2021 regarding his newest work and his thoughts on MIRAI’s Oscar nomination:

*The video below may contain SPOILERS* After the screening, Hosoda addressed the audience members and answered fan questions:

The film pays homage to Beauty and The Beast (specifically Disney’s version) and is composed of tantalizing visual animation with extraordinary, captivating music tracks. In addition, Hosoda mentioned working with veteran Disney animator Jin Kim as Belle’s lead character designer earlier this year. (Below are some of Kim’s BELLE concept Sketches).

One of many scenes in which the ‘ Beauty and The Beast‘ elements can be seen
Jin Kim (김상진)

Kim has worked for Disney since 1995 and is credited in over 30 Disney titles including, Zootpia, Wreck-It Ralph, Frozen, and his most recent work Raya and the Last Dragon. Adding to Kim’s involvement, Studio Chizu also teamed up with Irish animation studio Cartoon Salon to produce the background art for the popular virtual world, ‘U’.

Get ready to dive into the beautiful world of U and watch BELLE this spring! Gkids is set to release BELLE in theaters on January 14th, 2022. For more information, visit GKids.com.