What’s Up: Aniplex Online Fest 2021

What Pairs Well with Summer? Anime Conventions!

With the anime convention season in full swing, I can’t help but reminisce about the thrill of seeing like-minded fans dressing up in cosplay and the energetic, hustle and bustle of crowds hanging out in the Art Dealer’s Alley. I miss singing karaoke at the Cosplay Café area, cheering on performing Japanese guests on stage and trying to correctly guess anime titles upon listening to fifteen second long audio clips. Despite how it’s only been two years since I last attended an anime convention, it definitely feels longer than that. It’s the reason why longing is the best word to describe what I was feeling when I watched Aniplex Online Fest 2021 (a.k.a its second edition) on my laptop.

Let’s Dive into Aniplex Online Fest 2021

Looking at the anime event’s schedule the day before it went live, I was blown away by the lineup of musical guests performing: REoNa, SawanoHiroyuki [nZk], DJ Kazu, ClariS, Aimer and LISA. While DJ Kazu live set mashed several anisongs from Oreimo, AnoHana, Bakemonogatari, Your Lie in April, The Irregular at Magic High School, Blue Exorcist to name a few anime series, the other guest musicians sung two anime themes songs each. Each guest performance hyped me up with powerful vocals and amazing stage presence. I honestly cannot wait until I can travel internationally so I can see all these acts in person in the future. 

Anime presentations in the event like the Tracing the 10-year History of Puella Magi Madoka Magica, the Fate Grand Order Anime Project and the Sword Art Online the Movie -Progressive- Aria of a Starless Night programs looked at the franchise’s anime and history as a whole and interviewed individuals who worked on these titles in some form about their impressions of SAO’s storyline and cast of characters.

The Puella Magi Madoka Magica 10th Anniversary program stood out to me because among the panelists, anime critic Ryota Fujitsu was invited to discuss and analyze the Madoka franchise from an academic standpoint. 

For example, Fujitsu commented on how the inclusion of the term “mahou shoujo” (magical girl) in the title of the series was a clever setup for the audience. When we look back at the history of the mahou shoujo genre, the 1960s introduced magical girl anime for young girls and rarely had the term used in the show title since there wasn’t any need to do so. By the 1990s, the term was used a lot more by several anime series that used the mahou shoujo theme as a parody. The term in the show title signaled that the anime were created for hardcore fans. Putting the term in Madoka’s title attracted its viewership but surprised everyone because it created a gap between preconceptions for the mahou shoujo genre and the actual show, especially when everyone saw the third episode of Madoka Magica

A short moment toward the end of the Fate Grand Order Anime Project that made me squeal in joy was the announcement of a Lord El Melloi II’s Case Files OVA in production. Daisuke Namikawa couldn’t say much on what this special episode will be about since he hadn’t started recording his lines for this new project.

One thing that was not added onto the schedule was Saki Takahashi‘s live digital drawing and short Q & A segment. She is a Japanese animator who was responsible for drawing this year’s Aniplex Online Fest‘s main visual. I thought it was a smart idea to split her portion of the show into two parts and mix in DJ Kazu’s set in the middle, allowing time for Takahashi to focus on her piece. I appreciate how the event included real-time content because seeing pre-recorded videos back to back without any other spontaneous moments than the hosts’ interactions with one another makes the whole experience seem boring. If there is a chance for Aniplex Online Fest to return in a similar form in the future, the company could have fans submit questions for guests via social media as a fun way to spice things up.

Aniplex Online Fest is a free anime event streamed on Youtube. It is a one day six hour long live stream that aired on Saturday, July 3rd, 2021 at 6 PM UTC-7. In 2020, its first edition welcomed a global audience of 800,000 viewers. Sally Amaki and Maxwell Powers returned to host this event. I applaud them for fluidly switching between English and Japanese to communicate with Japanese and International viewers; it isn’t easy, especially when blending small talk and scripted content together to keep an audience entertained. The theme of this year’s edition was “Dive into the World of Anime.” The event featured several musical performances, sneak peek anime merchandise, and various presentations discussing current and new Aniplex titles. Feel free to watch the anime event here.

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