Taken from here.
School's starting now for me, so bye!
Late last year and early this year saw several of the titles that you were working on come out to positive reaction and reviews across many places. We’ll touch on those titles later, but what do you think will be the strongest of the titles that you have set for the end of the year that you’re working on?
Now, I definitely can’t speak for all the titles FUNimation is releasing as a whole, but for titles I’m working on that have a DVD release this year, definitely Eden of the East and Hetalia Axis Powers. Both are vastly different, to say the least, and that’s what makes them so exciting. Eden, especially, is a great breath of fresh air in the genre and a real harbinger of things to come in the world of Anime if works like this are supported. From the moment I saw the first episode I fell in love and knew I wanted more than anything to be able to work on it. For anyone even remotely interested in anime as an art form, Eden of the East is a must own series.
Hetalia, I somewhat see is to anime now what Avenue Q was to Broadway when it first hit the scene. It’s a lot of fun, can be crass and perhaps a bit uncomfortable at times, so it’s good if you can laugh at yourself. Much like Avenue Q, it’s certainly not for everyone. Both the Japanese and English language versions have quite a charm to them and the series is definitely popular for a reason. Also, the bite-sized episodes offer a nice change of pace.
Though it is an early next year release on DVD, the big one to watch for is Summer Wars. Mamoru Hosoda is truly a master at weaving a completely engrossing story and this film is going to become a classic. We’re working on the theatrical campaign now, so if it comes to your area go see it with someone, even if they aren’t into anime. This isn’t just a great anime movie, Summer Wars is just a wonderful film and suitable for all ages. Just recently I had a chance to hear some of the English dub and it honestly gave me goose bumps!
Hetalia has certainly gained the most exposure and groundswell from a casual fan perspective since it’s one that’s definitely easily accessible and available in such bite-sized episodes. How has it been seeing this throughout the convention season, with the costumes, the word of mouth and the general enthusiasm for it?
Hetalia has been nothing short of a phenomenon in anime fandom and something I feel so excited to be a part of. The core fan base for this particular series has been especially passionate and very well organized as a community (Livejournal community, Twitter and otherwise). I love how they care so deeply for their favorite shows and are not afraid to share their opinions and ask constructive questions. When I was assigned the series, I knew it was something many fans care for deeply and would be a huge responsibility.
As a longtime anime fan even before my role as a brand manager, it would break my heart to see series I cared for not get the attention I felt they deserved. Keeping that feeling in mind, I vowed to do whatever I could with the resources given, no matter how hard I’d have to work to make it happen. I take that vow very seriously for all the shows given to me to work on.
As for this convention season, the response has been absolutely electric, culminating in the big events at Otakon and the Hetalia fan cards campaign. One of the happiest memories for me at Otakon with all the voice cast and cosplay helpers was seeing the autograph sessions before and after the premiere. The first autograph session was mostly ladies, but after the showing, a LOT of guys were there saying they really enjoyed the series as well. That’s one of the great things about anime conventions- fans will take chances on new things and aren’t afraid to be open minded. It’s beautiful.
The fan card campaign has had an overwhelming response, to say the very least. My office was filled with piles of cards sorted by type and, yes, I read through each and every one. The care and detail put into these makes me so very happy and proud to be an anime fan. It proved very difficult to pick winners because I (and all of Team Hetalia) have so many personal favorites. We’ve had cards come in from as far away as Hungary and New Zealand and so many of them are true works of art. One of the cards even featured an intricate, hand woven tapestry!
FUNimation ran what I thought was a fun way of introducing the voice cast for the show since Hetalia makes it so easy to work with each character. How did that roll-out get decided, such as which countries/characters got their own video introduction and how did the actors like that?
Thank you! With Hetalia having such a big online fan base (the series did start as a webcomic and net anime, after all) I knew I wanted to do something with the FUNimation blog and YouTube and have it lead into one of the big summer conventions (Otakon) since the release date was in September. After deciding the direction I wanted to go, I ran the ideas by Lance Heiskell, FUNimation’s Marketing Director, and worked with both Justin Rojas and Adam Sheehan to help make the blog posts and videos happen. A series of videos and what was essentially a nine day blog takeover takes a lot of work and planning, to say the least, and this crazy experiment would involve a lot of extra time and care to make sure it was just right.
It was very important to me on this release to involve the creative team in the rollout and showcase all the cool stuff they do for our releases. I can’t say enough how awesome and hard working these guys are! This is how Hetalia World Buffet was born. I wanted to announce the main 8 countries with clips of the dub and, for a few of them, take out members of the creative team to lunch and talk a bit with them about what it was like to work on such a project. The whole thing was pretty guerilla and Adam and I worked over the weekends and evenings editing the videos. The initial video and Epilogue were filmed in my office after I made the crayon images with stickers, paper and a set of Hetalia cards I had from my personal collection. Lance was especially awesome for supporting me in doing such crazy stuff!
For the actors, from talking to everyone at Otakon, it seems like they got a kick out of it, getting a special day to focus on their character. To the actors I’d see around the office beforehand, I’d let them know when their day was coming and be excited right along with them. J. Michael Tatum and I shared a lot of squee-ing over his being on Bastille Day. The best part was watching the fan reaction to each of the voices and seeing the excitement. That made all the work so completely worthwhile. The whole thing was like a big online party.
With the first two seasons of Hetalia set for release this year and the announcement of the next two seasons on tap plus the movie, how do you plan to carry the enthusiasm between both of them with however much time there is between releases?
The great thing about Hetalia is it’s a comedy based on history, so the material is pretty much endless. Hetalia World Series will have streaming starting September 13th, too. Though the feverish pace on promotions will surely slow down a bit after the initial releases, you better believe we’re still going to keep goodness going throughout World Series and the Hetalia feature length movie, Paint it, White. I have some fun stuff planned, so you’ll have to stay tuned! All that said, we are currently running a Hetalia themed survey on the FUNimation Update blog, so if you like the series and there is something you’d love to see, take the survey and tell us. We love all the honest feedback.