RECAP: Crunchyroll Expo Australia Debuts With Anime World Premieres, Special Guests and… Attack on Titan Trampoline Jumping?
Panels, cosplay, concerts, premieres, and something about dipping a TimTam into a jar of Vegemite
Tony: On the weekend of September 17-18, 2022, the city of Melbourne was flooded with familiar faces from some of anime’s greatest hits as Crunchyroll Expo Australia kicked off in style with its very first edition.
Howdy, all! I’m Tony, a regional writer for Crunchyroll down here in Australia who’s eerily reminiscent of a real-life version of Milluki Zoldyck from Hunter x Hunter. To be honest, I’m still buzzing after the expo. There was so, so much to see and do. I only wish I had mastered the Shadow Clone Jutsu so I could catch it all!
…I already made that joke the morning of the event and I acknowledge it still isn’t any funnier now than when I first said it. Arguably less, in fact.
Liam: Well, I would've had a much easier time touching base in the morning if you'd told me to find the guy who looks like Milluki. It's a good thing I took the initiative with "Bespectacled ginger with a ponytail. You can't miss me." I'm Liam, and if we're talking anime lookalikes, I guess that makes me Ameri's dad from Welcome to Demon School! Iruma-kun…?
(Photo by Liam Dempsey)
Anywho, the hustle and bustle actually started on the Friday before the event for me at the Australian premiere of One Piece Film Red. Boy were the fans as ready as I was for a full weekend of anime hype. When I strolled up the escalators in Melbourne Central to lend a hand to the setup crew — or be their natural red-headed mascot — there was already an Uta cosplayer waiting outside before the event was due to start! Wasn't long before the cosplayer was proceeded by our very own uniform (in both meanings of the word) queue to see a queen.
6:00 pm rolled around and the crowd shuffled into the theater lobby. Some chose to carry on their journey through the Grand Line while others took full advantage of the "red" carpet photo area and the film's stars before filing into the theater.
(Photo by Liam Dempsey)
I think the last full theatrical anime experience I had would've been Promare at Crunchyroll Expo's predecessor, Madman Anime Festival, in 2019, which doesn't really count after I, uh… dozed off halfway through 'cause I was completely knackered. But there was no head-hanging, only head-banging from the get-go here as the screening kicked off with a special animated concert from Uta herself. I wish I'd put money on my prior bet that there would be some light stick wavers in the audience because there were a dozen!
As for the film itself… well, I won't spoil it for you since there's still a bit of time until the general release. All I'll say is that the story and animation waver between powerful and sensitive in perfect pitch with Ado's resonant singing, complemented by lots of surprising nuggets of gold that kept the audience raving for the full two hours.
Tony: Premieres certainly were a defining part of the event. The crowd for the Australian premiere of Mob Psycho 100 III was absolutely packed. The hype was tangible from start to finish. Attendees were able to enjoy not one but two tremendous episodes of the English-subtitled version featuring the Japanese cast, and after what we saw, we know that we’ll be in for a real treat this season. Mob is such a charming, relatable protagonist capable of incredible feats yet more preoccupied with the mundane realities of day-to-day life. There’s never a dull day in the exorcism business, and as usual, Reigen leapt from the screen with pure charisma and wisdom. There’s also a particular yokai hunter who I’m very excited for everyone to meet this season.
If that wasn’t already brilliant enough, we got to see the world premiere for I’m the Villainous, So I’m Taming the Final Boss. That’s right, the world premiere. The whole planet. Literally all of this big blue thing we’re sitting on right now. As soon as the opening dropped I was hooked. It is destined to become one of the staples of my music rotation; I will almost certainly have it on repeat for hours on end. The art style is gorgeous, the crows are hilarious, and I kindly request five Fenrir cubs for my amusement. This fantasy romance story is sure to be another hit.
The spooky season will definitely be a busy one. I’ve already got my Halloween costume planned: someone who likes to watch lots of anime. In fact, I’m wearing it right now!
Liam: Just when I was trying to cut down on seasonals and get through my monstrous backlog fall 2022 comes out swinging.
Thankfully I got to have my own headstart on not just one, but the first four episodes of Kaina of the Great Snow Sea, an immersive sci-fi adventure coming out next year. I also got to check out the first two episodes of a fluffy underdog fantasy tale called Beast Tamer. The former proved to be quite the popular lunch spot as people settled into its fascinating world of humanity living with and against nature. As for the latter, I loooooove anime characters who make a show of using abilities labeled "mundane" in interesting ways, so the Beast Tamer premiere was a real treat.
Still, it was hard to overcome the psychologically and stylistically intense first episode of BLUELOCK, which was featured prominently alongside this year's Aoashi and Shoot! Goal to the Future. I couldn't help being amused about the sheer contrast with Aoashi though since one's about becoming a defensive team player while the other is all "score, score, score, your life depends on it." Just goes to show how many stories there are yet to be told in the genre — even for the same sport!
(Photo by Liam Dempsey)
Tony: There were activities and booths aplenty at Crunchyroll Expo, including the grand Aniplex booth to celebrate Sword Art Online's 10th anniversary. It took us on a detailed journey through all of the arcs that have made this anime so cherished, complete with gorgeous imagery and descriptions. Seeing it all there, before my very eyes, was actually an emotional moment.
And for those moments when we needed a reset, Artihabara provided a quiet space for aspiring otaku to hone their skills alongside a cozy corner to curl up with a good manga. I say aspiring otaku, yet I assure you that’s merely for readability. These illustrations were breathtaking. Perhaps master otaku would have been a more apt description.
Liam: I can't wholly speak for American cons since I've yet to attend one. However, if what I personally heard from fashionable Crunchyroll host, Tim Liu, is true, then we've got something special in Australia with our immersive exhibits and activities.
No need to win a game of dodgeball, ace your exams, or save a boy from drowning in a hospital pool, you could earn a Stella star by following a booklet of clues and finding the three stamps hanging from Forger family cutouts positioned around the expo floor. Attendees were seriously on a mission with this interactive SPY x FAMILY mission 'cause the line to turn in their findings snaked across the floor by the end of Saturday! For the more physically inclined there was the Attack on Titan trampoline area (that apparently originated in France) which had new trainees sailing up and down in ODM gear.
(Photo by Liam Dempsey)
For a different kind of adrenaline rush, there was a sized-up wooden chair straight out of the opening scene of JUJUTSU KAISEN for fans to hop their tired butts onto and fantasize about being restrained and interrogated by Gojo-sensei.
Tony: We should all be so lucky!
Gojo himself was on-hand for the JUJUTSU KAISEN panel with the English voice actor, Kaiji Tang. With him were Anne Yatco (English voice actress for Nobara) and Adam McArthur (English voice actor for Yuji). The conversation ran the gamut of topics from platypus anatomy to who could best master the Australian accent. Adam won that accent contest, though Kaiji feels as though this was a controversial decision.
okay so here at #CRXAUS they had us do an australian accent contest and they said @ninjamac won but i respectfully disagree my accent was grounded and cinematic and well rehearsed i can't believe this was stolen from me like this i'm crushed and i think we deserve a redo because— Kaiji Von Tang (@KaijiTang) September 17, 2022
The panel provided insight into the process of voiceover for JUJUTSU KAISEN and for other mediums. Adam made a great point that anime dubbing is akin to acting in a box; channeling all of the emotion that you would with any other performance while also having to match the movement of the animation. For any hopeful voice actors out there, it was encouraging to learn that the path to success is not necessarily a linear one. Anne has a B.S. in biomedical engineering, having even worked full-time as a forensic scientist, and Adam’s early work was as an enthusiastic student in back-to-school commercials.
The biggest revelation: Kaiji loves Melbourne coffee and he swore that Pepsi and chocolate milk makes for a delicious combination. Further investigation is required.
(Photo by Liam Dempsey)
Liam: Oh man, you should've seen the "Anne Yatco, Adam McArthur, and Kaiji Tang try Aussie fare" panel on Sunday morning. Anyone who knows me will testify to my appetite for weird consumables and combos but even I, as a full-blooded Aussie, was taken aback by Kaiji's insistence on dipping a TimTam in a jar of Vegemite. And no joke, he had to be talked out of putting it into his cup of Milo as well. Anne was into the Vegemite a normal amount, but Adam made a face I can only describe as a perfect impression of Asirpa from Golden Kamuy.
Now I can't forget two other key guests who also brought the Fun-der Down Under. First, there's Ricco Fajardo, the English voice of Mirio in My Hero Academia and Taiju in Dr. STONE. Then there's Lisa Ortiz, the English voice of Burnin' in My Hero Academia and Lina Inverse in The Slayers. Their banter lit up the "Superheroes and Sidekicks" panel as they answered related questions with some… interesting takes, I'll say. I got a delightful reaction about My Hero Academia from my fanboy partner when I messaged him the news that Fajardo thinks Overhaul was right (as long as you set aside his treatment of Eri, of course).
OK, OK, it was really just that one that was controversial — unless you think Mewtwo was in the wrong. The rest were cool insights into their personalities, like, if they could be any sidekick Fajardo would be Na'Vi from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time while Ortiz would be Veldora from That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime. This speaks to what I really love about English dub guests. There's almost no wall between them and the fans. I have to say the same about John Swasey as well, who went the extra mile by doing a father-daughter panel with Olivia Swasey over a video call despite the timezone difference!
Tony: It all makes it feel so alive in a way. This neat connection between themselves and the fans is really special. Next time Fajardo’s back in Australia we’ll have to hear his “Hey! Listen!” impression to see if he lands the part!
I didn’t spot any pesky fairies roaming about, but I saw pretty much everything else thanks to the many, many cosplayers. I’m simultaneously impressed and low-key jealous of how talented people are. So much color, so much hard work! Even those who didn’t get a chance to show off their cosplay skills this time had plenty of activities to enjoy, starting off with a wig battle royale between Knite, Vye, and Kirilee Cosplay. Forty minutes to cut, crimp, and style silver locks into something spectacular!
(Photo by Tony Cocking)
I have no idea how they were able to come up with such great concepts so fast let alone pull them off successfully. If it were me I would have just put the wig aside and said that I styled the look to baldness. Then I’d cry a little bit.
To close out the Sunday was a full house for the Crunchyroll-Hime’s Cosplay Cup and Ninja’s Cosplay Dojo where the finest cosplayers in Australia dazzled in outfits that defied belief. Not only were their creations impressive, but it was a joy to see how much fun they were having out there on stage. I’ve got to give a special shoutout to KittyNyaan as Lady Tohru, who just so desperately wanted someone, anyone, to try a bite of her dragon tail handbag.
AvocadoJosie (Azula) was awarded the Champion in Making title, while Cora Berry (Sailor Moon, based on Hannah Alexander’s design) landed Runner-Up. It was Vera Chimera's Edelgard who took home the crown. Seriously, it was as if the Edrestian Emperor herself had emerged from the Nintendo Switch screen to claim victory.
As a devout Blue Lions stan that stung a little bit.
Liam: Aye, it takes even more legwork in the leadup to a con for those cosplayers and artists than it does on the day itself, and I say that as someone who wracked up nearly 25,000 steps on Saturday alone. Before Nick gets on my case for all work and no play, a solid chunk of those steps was spent at my own leisure getting lost in the Arts District's nearly 200 booths, which were adorned with all manner of incredible creations. And I mean lost. I took several laps to really take everything in. Between that and the standard exhibitor booths sporting everything from trendy apparel to a stacked armory of swords, it was the familiar haven for picking up new gear that I'd sorely missed.
Tony: I learned a lot about the thought process behind cosplay thanks to the "Breaking into Cosplay in Australia" panel with Knite, Vye, and Kirilee Cosplay. There is so much that goes into it and so many life hacks you pick up along the way. Shorthand tips: smaller, specialty stores will often sell better quality fabric at a lower price, and even unexpected supply sources like Facebook Marketplace can pay off. Remember that these costumes are a long-term commitment, testing both your resolve as an artisan and your love for the character, so it’s best to start small while you’re consolidating skills. Ask lots of questions from those who have done it before.
But above all else, don’t be afraid to make mistakes — do it for yourself and have fun!
Cosplay rookies like me need not worry, however, as "Lumin’s Workshop" was nearby to give us a hands-on demonstration of how to construct various projects including key blades, ninja headbands, and, my personal favorite, cat ears! Nyaa!! Sometimes, looking at the final product can seem daunting, but this was so wonderfully accessible with thorough and easy-to-digest instructions. Breaking it down step-by-step, even down to details such as how to hold blades safely and effectively, made it feel attainable.
It brought a touching sense of community. I am now best neko waifu.
Liam: Aha, well, while you got to feel that sense of community in the careful quiet of prop making, I got to feel it in the ground-shaking roar of ASCA's live performance that had fans flocking to the front with a sea of light sticks. She performed a number of anime hits, my personal favorites being "Howling" from The Irregular at Magic High School: Visitor Arc and "Resister" from Sword Art Online Alicization, plus some originals.
Gotta say though, we were lucky that there was still a house to bring down after Mori Calliope and Hakos Baelz performed "New Genesis / Shinjidai" and "Renai Circulation" earlier that day at the hololive English panel. This was the most popular event of the weekend. The line to get in stretched the entire width of the expo hall so I had to chill by the side of the stage to leave as much floor space as possible. Even though they were phoning into the expo, they certainly didn't phone in the expo. The reaper and the rat bantered away with individual attendees even as they were filing in, and then proceeded to play a fun game where the crowd had to shout for who fit a prompt better: who is most likely to get away with murder, who was more likely to jump off a moving train, etc.
(Photo by Liam Dempsey)
Tony: We had similar mischief courtesy of PRISM Project’s Luto and Sara, made complete with a cameo by Jinn — who may or may not be lurking in a toilet at any given moment.
Yuzu Stage was popping with idol performances throughout the day and the crowd really got into it, too. It was such an upbeat vibe, and again, more on-stage choreography than I could ever hope to master. I can’t wait to do it all again. The panels, the screenings, the cosplay… the suspicious use of Vegemite!
Liam: Honestly, after three years of being away from cons and working in isolation, I was just happy to be among passionate fans again and to finally meet my peers. It was both a rebirth and a fresh beginning, and I can't wait to see what the event brings next year (hopefully some more Japanese guests, after the recent news). See ya there!