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Watase Yuu’s Trip to Anime Expo ‘98

Translated by Tetris no Miko from volume 8 of Ayashi no Ceres

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’98 ANIME EXPO in L.A. Diary
"I heard that anime is also very popular in America!"

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On July 2nd, 1998, I, Watase Yuu, was on a plane headed for Los Angeles, America. This was because I was invited to attend Anime Expo for the 3rd, 4th, and 5th. (However, I didn’t know much about the convention before I left Japan). I flew on JAL [*a Japanese airline -TnM] on business class! I was so grateful!

Arrow 1: Kanso Nattoh [*Fermented soybeans -TnM]
Arrow 2: Each seat had its own TV. You could also play video games on them. I tried out "ggg" and "Sonic the Hedgehog"

Frame 2

If you didn’t know already, L.A. is HOT! (And if you also didn’t know already, there’s also a frighteningly large time-difference…!!) We arrived at the Anaheim Hilton Hotel inside Disneyland. It looked as though the convention was being held inside the convention center… And there were also other guests of honor!!

Watase: It’s "Trigun"
*pat, pat*
Arrow: I also got an autograph that I showed to my assistants.

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And so, the first day had an eye-popping turnout of 4500~5000 people!!! They were all, of course, ANIME FANS! (Most of them adults). And they were all wearing badges! And the badges they were wearing all had my Fushigi Yuugi drawings on them. That really surprised me. Most of them were Miaka, but some of them had Tamahome or Hotohori or Yui. Also, on the way to my room, I saw an ad posted on the bulletin board that used a picture of Tamahome and Miaka from the OVA. It must have been a fan club or something….Oh, I was in the same hotel as the fans. [*actually, that was probably the ad to go watch the OVAs in someone’s hotel room ^^; -TnM]

Watase: This’s embarrassing me…
Arrow: This must be their name.

Frame 4

I was a bit worried at first that I wouldn’t get much of a response in comparison to the other guests of honor, but when "Fushigi Yuugi" was mentioned during the opening ceremonies…
Fans: WAAAAH!!! *whistle, whistle*
Americans are so outspoken

Frame 5

Just as I was feeling relieved over the last incident, for some reason, I was chosen to draw the eye into the daruma [*a doll with one eye where if the other eye is added, a wish will come true -TnM]

Arrow: This became the daruma’s eye.
Arrow: Like that?
Watase: Any requests?
Fans: Make it a shoujo manga eye!

Outside the frames

For your information, at that time, Fushigi Yuugi had not been released in the United States, but I heard something about someone having bought the LD’s and, feeling a sense of duty (?), copied it and distributed it to tons of people.

Label: Overwhelmed.
Watase: The manga will be released in America starting in September and the anime starting in October, though…

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Frame 1

Since we had some time until the evening activities, my interpreter, Akiko (thanks for all your help!!) and my assistant and I went to Disneyland. It wasn’t that much different from the Disneyland in Japan, but what I really liked was the Indiana Jones ride. It was lots of fun getting on all those violent rides….but not so much fun with my jet-lag *sweatdrop*

Arrow: shakes up and down, side to side.
Watase: Aaaaah!!
A gigantic boulder is coming my way!!
Arrow: Indiana Jones
Watase: Eeeeek!
It’s slower than a roller coaster, but more intense than Star Tours.

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And then, starting at 6:30 was my interaction time with the fans. They set up round tables and had the guests sit at the same tables as the fans. We could have never done anything friendly like this in Japan. Every ten minutes or so, the fans would change places. The questions I was asked were similar to the ones I was asked by my Japanese fans. But I was impressed by the diversity of my fans. There were LOTS of men in their thirties and forties. And also, American anime fans are very CHEERFUL. When I asked them all why they liked Fushigi Yuugi, their answers made me happy.

Arrow: My interpreter, Akiko.
Fan: I cried when the characters died.
Fan: I watched the entire video series over the weekend and was deeply moved.
Fan: How did you ever come up with the idea for the story?
Fan: Are there differences between the anime and manga?

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And just when I thought all I was going to be asked about was Fushigi Yuugi…
Fan: I actually prefer Ayashi no Ceres. Will it ever be animated?
I couldn’t believe it; they were also aware of Ayashi no Ceres!!

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Even the three flashy girls who cosplayed as the three goddesses and won…

Urd-chick: What’s the C-Project?
Belldandy-chick: I hope it’s animated.
Skuld-chick: I think Ayashi no Ceres is very deep.
Watase: You guys read it?… it’s in Japanese, you know.

Frame 5

An African-American man also had some comments.

Arrow: And his Japanese was very good.
Fan: Sensei, I have a question. Even though Miaka is 15 years old, I think she behaved rather irresponsibly. But Aya is very pulled-together. What are your feelings on this?
(I forgot how his face looked)
…But Miaka was just a child… *sweatdrops*

Outside the Frame

Japanese girls can relate to shoujo manga heroines who are a bit ditzy and immature, but since girls in America are more mature and practical, I wonder what they think about Miaka *sweatdrop* (They might think she’s a total idiot, or something.) [*I know I do for one ^_- -TnM] … I also heard that in the eyes of an American, a 20-year old Japanese woman looks and acts like a child [*This is true… ^^; -TnM] So I guess we young ones must strive to improve so we won’t be looked down upon in foreign countries… I guess I’ll need to improve, too *laugh* (But then again, the anime Miaka and the manga Miaka are different.)

Watase: Sometimes I’m ashamed to be Japanese. But I mustn’t swallow my pride!

And then, the next day!! On to the Panel Discussion!!

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Frame 1

This event was similar to the one the night earlier, only much bigger. Some of the fans were in cosplay, and some very funny questions were asked, and I had a great time.
"Is the reason Tasuki doesn’t like women because he’s GAY?" *laugh* or "Why is Miaka such a bad cook?" or "Who’s your favorite character?". When I answered "Nakago", the crowd cheered. Some people even gave me the thumbs-up. Apparently, Nakago has many American fans When I was asked who my favorite character out of all the male characters I ever drew was, before I had a chance to answer, the same person who asked the question added "is it Tooya?" *laugh*

Arrow: The discussion suddenly turned yaoi.
Crowd: Yeah!! Yaaaay!
Watase: I heard there was a Tasuki x Nuriko one, but I want to read a Tasuki x Tamahome.
Arrow: What in the world was I saying…
But the truth was I really wanted to see a Nakago x Tamahome fic…but I couldn’t say that.

This event took about 2 hours.

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Then after that, those who won a raffle got my autograph. (about 20% of the audience). 4 of those chosen got illustrations as well. Everyone else had me autograph cells, manga, art books, or posters that they had bought at the convention. One of those who got my autograph was a male Amiboshi-fan who had three cells of Tasuki from episode 20 and was yelling proudly "they’re real! They’re real!!" *sweatdrop* And on top of that, each cell was worth about $100! He must be a hard-core fan.

There were some people dressed as Sailor Mars, and Rei and Kaworu from Eva.
Fan: Arigatogozaimashita
Arrow: Many of my fans were nice and tried to speak Japanese to me.
Watase: Thank you.
However, I was so zonked from jet-lag that I mis-autographed some of them.

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I forgot to mention this earlier, but on the first day of the convention, I was interviewed by a TV station. It will supposedly be aired in August, so I won’t be able to see it, but it was a pretty deep discussion….the man who interviewed me seemed very surprised at some of my answers. It seems as though Americans think that anime is for "adults". Mainly because anime has big-breasted females and guns, and violence, and nudity…but I guess Japan doesn’t realize this.

Watase: But in Japan, anime is still considered something for "children"…

[*This is actually true. A teen or an adult who likes anime in Japan is just as much of a geek as a teen or adult who likes cartoons in America. Despite what many people think, anime really is made for children. Granted, there is some anime (usually aired on cable or late at night) that is not meant for younger children, and of course, hentai-anime, but generally speaking, anime is for children ^-^ -TnM]

Outside the Frame

I was also asked about difficulties I have had being a working-woman in Japan. I was kind of confused by this question as I thought women and men were equal in America, but I was told that a woman with the same qualifications as a man is still paid less sometimes, or that men get the better jobs. When I answered "It doesn’t matter that I’m a woman or a man. I love what I do, and that’s all that matters." the man said "That’s a perfect answer".

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The second night of the convention was the moment everyone had been waiting for: the masquerade competition!! For about 2 hours, several costumed competitors performed on the stage!!! When I took a glance toward the judges, I found someone in there dressed as Duo from "Gundam W"!! (I haven’t seen much of the show, but I still recognized him). Several costumers (of Slayers and whatnot) had costumes that showed a lot of skin! There was even an evil-Tamahome! And then, in the grand finale was Soi and Tomo! Their title was "Crazy People" *laugh*

[*In case you don’t know, I am the very "Soi" she talks about in this section ^__^. My friend was the "Tomo" -TnM]

Arrow to Soi: She really has the same body-type as the Soi in the manga (Her legs are so long!). She’s an American, no mistaking it.
They’re both girls, by the way.
Arrow to Tomo: She even has a shin! She also has Tomo’s long, red nails.
There was also a Tasuki, Miaka, Nuriko, and a Tamahome (I took pictures with all of them *musical notes)

Outside the Frame

This is out of order again, but after the autographing session, I was interviewed by a magazine. There were lots of anime magazines from all over the world there! I found out that there are also fans of Fushigi Yuugi in Europe. One of the German attendees was dressed in traditional Japanese clothes.

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On the third day at 10:00 am, I had a panel discussion with an American author and another guest of honor. However, I wasn’t doing too well because of my jet-lag. (I had a lot of trouble eating the American food, too).This has nothing to do with anything, but all the other guests of honor were really nice people.

Watase: Eaters of Japanese food have delicate stomachs. Please give me Japanese food…

[*Watase also complains about this in her later freetalks for other conventions. Perhaps a good gift for Watase if you meet her at a convention is some Japanese food ^-^ -TnM]

Outside the Frame

And then, yet another autographing session. This time, Miaka, Nuriko, and Kenshin were in line.

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After that, I had a little break, and was asked to do an autograph for the auction. (Even though I had given autographs to individuals before). I drew a color picture of the characters that seemed most popular: Nakago, Tamahome, and Miaka. I also signed a Chichiri cell and an art book. Lots of other anime goods were being auctioned as well.

The profits from the auction were to help cancer or something.
Arrow: In color

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And then the time came for my color illustration to be auctioned. I thought it would go right away, but the bidding kept going higher and higher until it was sold for $3200!! A woman bought it. I even went up on the stage and personally handed her the drawing. I was very impressed.

Also, something that had a market price of $1.40 was sold at…$4480!! Even though in Japan, that item would have been given away as a free present in a magazine!

With that money, an American can live for three months…eek.

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And then, came the Closing Ceremonies. I drew the second eye on the daruma

At the end, I was also given a trophy. Apparently, there was a "best OVA" award and the attendees had voted the Fushigi Yuugi OVA as the best OVA. Even though it hasn’t been released in America yet *laugh*
Seems like I’m doing Studio Pierrot lots of good.

Outside the Frame

And then, despite my fatigue and lack of sleep (jet-lag), I headed for the airport. But when I took the hundred or so pictures with my fans, I was smiling all the time.

But once I got to the wonderful San Francisco (**Japanese Food!!**) , I was revived!!
Arrow: It’s a really nice place!

Thanks to the staff of Anime Expo and Viz Communications.

Phew, I’m tired.

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And also At the Meet the Guests reception, I met the members of the Fushigi Yuugi Mailing List and was given an album. And inside that album was a list of all the various fanclubs on the internet. I’ll list them all here:

I think there were about 7 or 8 people there.
Arrow: They all wore badges they made of characters they like.

Arrow pointing to the Tooya fan club link: Is Tooya considered a hottie in America?

Those of you who have computers might want to give these links a try.

Arrow to Anime Extra: Also, the Fushigi Yuugi manga is scheduled to run in this magazine starting in the autumn of '98. I wonder if you could find it if you went to America… If it makes it into tankoubon form, this will be Fushigi Yuugi’s 6th country. But another language in question now is Italian.

Arrow to the next page: This is interesting, so I’ll show you the ones from other countries, too.

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Arrows to the Chinese manga: Since it’s Chinese, the covers are very flashy. I really like the title, too.
Arrow pointing to the Korean manga: It’s bigger than the Japanese version. They censor out all the blood and nudity, though.
Arrow to the French manga: They use different covers and the layout is very cute!! It almost looks like a fairy tale book. If I ever go to France, I’d like to buy it!
Arrow: Since it’s in French, would "Wo Ai Ni" become "Je t’eme"?
Arrow to the Thai manga: This is a little bigger, too. The pictures are also flipped. I was a bit confused when I saw the cover, but someone else draws the illustrations.
Arrow: So this is supposed to say "Fushigi Yuugi"?
Arrow to Hong Kong Ayashi no Ceres manga: The background is very eye-catching! The design is great, too! But Aya is named "Ayako" *sweatdrop*
Arrow to Taiwan Ayashi no Ceres: The title is similar to Fushigi Yuugi.

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