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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.”
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Trina Nishimura has become more and more involved in the anime scene over the past few years, primarily working with FUNimation Entertainment. Trina was first cast in Desert Punk as the little hungry girl Namiko and has refused to leave the FUNimation property ever since. Her most notably awesome credits include: Black Cat (Tanya), Claymore (Flora and Sophia), Jyu Oh Se (Tiz), Kenichi the Mightiest Disciple (Shigure Kosaka), Speed Grapher (Yui), season one and two ofNegima!? (Lingshen Chao and Motsu),Sasami: Magical Girl Club (Ayane), Baldr Force Exe (Tsukina Sasagiri), School Rumble and Yurippe School Rumble: 2nd Semester (Akira Takano), Baccano! (Rachel), Sgt Frog (Ghost Girl), Case Closed: The Last Magician of the Century the Movie (Natasha Kosaka), Nabari no O (Juji Minami), and the ever popular Witchblade (Shiore Tsuzuki).
Matthew Mercer is a Los Angeles-based actor/voice actor known primarily for his roles in animation and video games. His extensive training in theater, improv, and life-long hardcore gaming helped prepare him for such projects and characters as Leon Kennedy in Resident Evil 6 and Resident Evil: Damnation, Kiritsugu Emiya in Fate/Zero, Gundahar in KNACK, Anarky in Batman: Arkham Origins, Alvin in Tales of Xillia, Sinbad in Magi, Kuroh Yatogami in K, Rexxar in Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft, Iron Man/Tony Stark in Iron Man: Rise of Technovore, Walter in Shin Megami Tensei IV, Rihan Nura in Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan, Tygra in Cartoon Network’s Thundercats, Chrom in Fire Emblem: Awakening, Reapmon/Beelzemon in Digimon Fusion, and many other projects you are welcome to look-up online.
A native Texan and avid anime fan, Josh Grelle has been working in voice work for almost 10 years now. After starting with ADV Films in January 2004, Josh was quickly bombarded with tons of in-booth experience on a wide range of shows, including: Wedding Peach, Steam Detectives, 009-1, and the legendary Gatchaman. He began working for FUNimation entertainment in 2006. Since then, he has starred in numerous titles; his most famous being Kenichi in Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple. Other roles include Kyohei in the Wallflower, Kouichi in Linebarrles of Iron, Yuki in Future Diary, Itsuki in Initial D, and Kuranosuke in Princess Jellyfish. More recent roles include Chow from Starship Troopers: Invasion, Nicky in Mass Effect: Paragon Lost, Kazuya Aoi in Freezing, Yuji Sakai in Shakugan no Shana, Akihisa Yoshii in Baka and Test, and Komatsu in Toriko.
Greg Ayres has spent the last eleven years working in an industry he had admired for years as a fan. With over 200 credits to his name, this fan-boy has managed to get to play a variety of characters that are almost as colorful as his hair. He was thrilled to be a part of the Toonami re-launch last summer, in the roles of Ganta Igarashi in Deadman Wonderland, and Heihachi Hayashida in Samurai 7, and even more thrill to follow that up the following summer’s thriller Another as Kouichi Sakakibara. His most recent roles include Satoru Asahina in From the New World, Kenji Nakanishi in Say I Love You, Sion in No. 6, Heisuke Toudou in Hakuoki, Tommyrod in Toriko, Arikawa in This Boy Can Fight Aliens, Tomoki Sakurai, in Heaven’s Lost Property, and Volken, in the Book of Bantorra. Some of his all-time favorite roles include Son Goku in Saiyuki, Chrono in Chrono Crusade, Kaoru Hitachiin in Ouran High School Host Club, Youhei Sunohara in Clannad, Yuki in The Wallflower, Leo in Ghost Stories, Satoshi Hiwatari in DNAngel, Kaworu Nagisa in the Director’s Cut of Neon Genesis Evangelion, and Negi Springfield in Negima. He can also be heard as Uesugi Kenshin in Sengoku Basara, Seikechi Tayama in Oh Edo Rocket, Hiro Hirono in ef: A Tale of Memories, Abe in Big Windup, Jr. in Xenosaga: The Animation, Tsujido in Speed Grapher, Roan in Ragnorok The Animation, Yamazaki in Welcome to the NHK, Gau Ban in Shadow Skill, Pope Alessandro XVIII in Trinity Blood, and a bunch of other titles he’ll probably forget to mention.
About Anime Boston:
Anime Boston is an annual three-day Japanese animation convention held in Boston, Mass. Anime Boston 2014 is scheduled for Friday, March 21 through Sunday, March 23 at the Hynes Convention Center and Sheraton Boston Hotel. More information about Anime Boston can be found at www.animeboston.com.
About New England Anime Society:
The New England Anime Society was founded in 2001. Based in Massachusetts, The New England Anime Society, Inc. is an organization dedicated to furthering public education and understanding of the Japanese language and culture through visual and written media. More information about The New England Anime Society is available at www.neanime.org.