Boston is a good city in which to be a geek. Annually it hosts several well established conventions including Vericon, Arisia, PAX East, and Boston Comic Con. Last weekend Anime Boston hit town bringing with it thousands of attendees, most of whom wore cosplay. Founded by the New England Anime Society in 2003 with a focus on Japanese animation and comics, the convention still welcomes fans of many genres and media who are interested.
This year’s big feature was the highly anticipated US debut of the English dub of Attack on Titan. A popular manga which was adapted last year into an animated series, Attack on Titan imagines a world where the entire human race hides away in a giant walled city to protect themselves from monstrous Titans that have devoured anyone caught outside. After one hundred years of peace, lead character Eren Yeager, his adoptive sister Mikasa Ackerman, and their friend Armin Arlert find themselves pulled into the Survey Corps to battle the new breed of Titans that have breached the walls and avenge their fallen families.
In the weeks leading up to Anime Boston the production company FUNimation gradually announced the English language cast for the dubbed version. Included were 2014 guests Patrick Seitz as Keith, Kyle Hebert at Mitabi, Mike McFarland as Jean (in addition to being the voice over director), Josh Grelle as Armin, Matthew Mercer as Levi, and Trina Nishimura as Mikasa. The only role unannounced leading up to the convention was that of Eren, the main character, which led to a great deal of speculation that it would be given to actor Greg Ayres, who was another guest of the show. However, at the premiere Sr. Manager of Social Strategy and Development for FUNimation Justin Rojas began with a specially recorded video message. Actor Bryce Papenbrook appeared on screen to announce that he would perform the role of Eren and expressed his regrets that he could not appear in person.
The crowd was raucous and excited as they were given the first public screening of the first three episodes of Attack on Titan. The fans sang along to the theme song and cheered loudly for the first appearance of literally every major character. One thing anime fans have in spades is enthusiasm. An encore presentation with two more episodes was screened on Sunday. The full series will release on June 3rd 2014.
Following the screening was a Q&A with cast members Mike McFarland, Josh Grelle, Matthew Mercer, and Trina Nishimura. They all expressed a keen interest in the project, though Mercer seemed intimidated by one fan saying he is now a sex symbol. His signing line earlier that day would certainly reinforce his popularity as hundreds of fans queued up though only one hundred were guaranteed to get their posters and DVDs signed. Grelle said it was exciting to see an anime taking a chance and deviating from the old trope of “harem shows with magic” which have dominated the industry. He also said the music drew him in as well.
McFarland and Mercer were both unacquainted with Attack on Titan prior to being cast but each said they binged on the entire series in one viewing because they were so drawn into the story and characters. McFarland warned that it’s a gritty show but SO dark that some characters won’t make it. When asked about casting, McFarland said that many key roles went to Los Angeles talent, as opposed to FUNimation stalwarts, because of amount of work that went into each session and that he actively wanted to bring in new people as much as possible. The actors were pushed hard to make sure the performances were the very best.
Nishimura had an admiration for her role as Mikasa, a character who is as strong or even stronger those around her. “The stereotype of the anime chick is changing,” she said to applause, “It’s not pantie shots and flying and sparkles.”