EDITORIAL: Anime North 2018

Reported by NCZ on Monday, May 28th 2018
EDITORIAL: Anime North 2018

Anime North is the biggest anime convention in the great country of Canada, and as a native Torontonian and representative of BTVA, I took it upon myself to head on down and cover the event as press this weekend.

Anime North just gets bigger and bigger. What impresses me more than anything is just how on top of things cosplayers are. Darling in the Franxx only started airing this January, and already I saw multiple people with gorgeous and insanely show-accurate Zero Two costumes. Other cosplayers showed up in groups, representing the casts of Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Nier: Automata, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and Show by Rock. Perhaps the most creative cosplayer I saw was a Sailor Moon wearing the mask of Nigel Thornberry. And while it wasn't cosplay, perhaps the most incredible creative work on display at the event was a whole gaggle of lifesized Pokemon statues, including Lapras, Jolteon, Rapidash, Trapinch, and the legendary Rayquaza! For photos of the event, check out the link to our Facebook album here.

This year AN attracted a good deal of voice acting guests. Notable was Japanese VA and singer Junko Iwao, who actually performed a full-on concert to a full crowd of screaming fans. I managed to attend a panel held by Yuri on Ice voice actors Jerry Jewell, Micah Solusod, and J. Michael Tatum. Although voice actor Josh Grelle unfortunately cancelled his appearance, Anime North miraculously managed to book Dameon Clarke at the eleventh hour, a surprise that was much appreciated (and probably welcome to him, being a Mississauga native!). Here are the highlights from the trio's panel.

 (NOTE: All answers are paraphrased)

  • If you had to play any other actor's characters, who would you be?

  • J. Michael Tatum says he would be Lilia Baranovskaya (Caitlin Glass), because he knew a non-Russian instructor just like her. Jerry would choose Christov, but he thinks Chris Sabat did a good job. Micah? Makkachin.

  • What would they like to see happen in a season 2? Micah jokes that they will add his OCs, but later confirms there is a movie but doesn't know much beyond that.

  • After being asked who is the best Yuri, Micah says it's Plisetsky because he won. The fan then objected by claiming he only did that so the other Yuri wouldn't leave. To a round of applause, Micah replied,  "Excuse me, but who is running this panel?"

  • Jerry Jewell slightly prefers Yuri Katsuki, but wouldn't mind hanging out with either of them.

  • When asked if the series helped spark an interest in actual real-world sports, most of them grimaced a bit (facetiously), but Micah gave a very nice answer about how Yuri on Ice has seemingly had such a large impact on the image of ice skating in Japan and worldwide, to the point that it was acknowledged in the olympics. As much as he loves Free, this is an accomplishment that he feels is more unique to Yuri on Ice. He feels that a large part of the show's appeal is that it presents characters who are human, relateable. They go through issues that many people face, such as impostor syndrome, the feeling of having a breakdown or losing all hope. It's a strong story, and that is why it is universally appealing. J. Michael Tatum simply adds, "...Yeah."

  • When will Yuri win a gold medal?

  • JMT: All of them, if it was up to me.

  • Jerry: Well, it IS a condom brand in the US...

  • JMT: ...is that not what we were talking about?

  • A fan asks about how they managed the wide variety of accents in the show. JMT reflects on his experience growing up as a child. As someone who used to stutter, he found that he was able to overcome his difficulty speaking by copying how others spoke, which gave him a knack for mimicry. Watching a lot of PBS gave him an ear for British accents in particular. He notes that he considers it best to perform with an accent you're comfortable with, so you don't lose track of the acting.

  • Jerry says he is thankful that Youtube makes it easy to look up tutorials, a resource he didn't always have. Micah mentions that he used to watch videos on how to speak the Russian language, and studied the vowel sounds and lack of plosives. He hopes his studying paid off to a point where people like it. (For what it's worth, I thought he sounds great!)

  • A fan asks Jerry if his role as Russia helped him voice Viktor. He mentions he thinks that's how he was cast. Funimation holds meetings regarding how actors get cast in each role, they discuss availability, logistics, etc. and all the voice/casting directors attend them. Sonny Strait then came up to Jerry at the end of the meeting and asked if he could do a Russian accent. It turns out Chris Bevins was right there and he said, "oh, he literally played Russia in Hetalia." Sonny was surprised and that was the last Jerry heard of it until a while later when he found out he got the role.

  • The voice actors are asked if they will be in the YOI movie. Who would they want to voice their characters if not? Most of them are hesitant about the possibility of being replaced should Funimation not end up with the license, but Micah says, "At every convention people tell me I sound like Johnny Yong Bosch, and I've actually voicematched him before, so I want him to voice me so he knows what it feels like for a change."

  • Favourite lines?

  • Jerry: The lines on Viktor's hips.

  • JMT: I don't remember the exact words, but Michele's internal monologue when he realizes he has to split from his sister strike me as extremely poignant and a meaningful culmination of his arc in the story, so it is the one that most sticks out to me.

  • Micah: My favourite scene that sticks out to me is when the characters are eating together, the kids start crying, and Yuri Plisetsky says "WHY DO WE HAVE TO EAT TOGETHER?" It's a small moment, but it makes me laugh and sticks out a lot in my mind.

  • Favourite songs to skate to in the show?

  • Micah: Still Alive, because it is so sweet.

  • JMT: Despacito.

  • Micah: Especially the dubstep remix.

  • Pair your Yuri character with any of your other characters and give them a song to skate to?

  • J. Michael Tatum: Michele should skate with Komui (D. Grayman). They can talk about their sisters to Yakety Sax.

  • Jerry: Viktor and Russia to The Scorpion.

  • Micah: Soul and Plisetsky can bicker about how similar they sound. Viva Namida from Space Dandy.

  • What dormant series that still have ongoing manga would you love to come back to? For example, Baccano or Spice and Wolf.

  • JMT: Spice and Wolf. I joke that Brina is my work wife because we work together a lot and often as close characters, but Spice and Wolf is our favourite. My best friend Jamie Marchi wrote and directed it, and we always talk about it together on our nights out because we love the show, there's so much more material to adapt, and we would love to work on that. One-off characters like Michele are fun, but it's still nice to grow with characters over the years, coming back to them 2 years later and finding you have grown with them in the interim. For me and Brina, it's Spice and Wolf.

  • Jerry: I'd love to do Baccano so he can find new ways of killing people.

  • Micah: Both of these shows were before my time, so I'd like to be in them!

  • Jerry: It was before your comet landed on Earth.

  • What would you do if you were voicing your characters as women for a day?

  • JMT: Take home my paycheque and don't look in the mirror.

  • No, if your characters were women.

  • JMT: Oh. Take home my paycheque AND look in the mirror!

  • A fan first asked for a favour, if Micah could say "Yuri, I love you" as Victor. He obliged and the crowd cheered. The question was what is your favourite aspect of each character?

  • JMT: The journey of learning to let go. I was extremely happy with how deep MIchele's story arc was consideering his relatively short role in the storyline.

  • Micah: Fashion and talent.

  • Jerry: He is funny, but still a wise older figure who seamlessly blends maturity and immaturity.

Micah had to leave after this, but Tatum and Jewell hosted a panel right afterward called "Extemporaneus Blabbering", in which they (tongue-in-cheek) teach the art of the conversation - using volunteers from the audience as their new friends. They talked about matters like the importance of using questions, gleaning questions that can be asked off of the other person's answers to questions, and when to strike using your limited knowledge of a subject in order to elicit an ecstatic response from your partner. They were jovial, they were jokey, but a lot of their advice was legitimate. For something I was not expecting at all, it was a fascinating experience.

They ended it with a quick AMA as well where the two of them talked about the hardest life lessons and sacrifices they have made as voice actors. A lot of it was highly personal, intimate, and sobering, to the point I'm not sure if I can or should share all of the notes I took of it. But to sum things up simply, Tatum felt the biggest thing he had to learn was how to accept that sometimes good things, including relationships, especially the romantic, must come to an end, and it's not a bad thing. Sometimes you are just two people who signed up for different things than where your lives eventually led, and although it may be heartbreaking, learning to let go is a necessary phase of your growth as a person.

They also talked about being recognized in public. Jerry says it rarely happens, but he recognizes that as much of a superstar he felt like at his first convention, it is key for him to remember that outside of such an atmosphere, most people don't know who he is or will treat him any differently, and that is something that keeps him grounded and humble. He's actually rather thankful for it in many ways.

Overall, I had a fun time at Anime North. The voice actors were all extremely pleasant and jovial, and I am really looking forward to next year's event, which will be held on May 24th through the 26th!


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