Press Release: Production I.G.’s Nekomataya, Composer Hiroki Kikuta, and Singer/Songwriter Shihori to Collaborate on Otakon Opening Animation
Baltimore, MD (June 24, 2010) – Otakon 2010 will open with an original animated short, produced by Production I.G., as well as an original theme song, composed by Hiroki Kikuta. Once again featuring Otakon’s mascots, Hiroko-chan and Hiroshi-kun, this year’s project will showcase the convention’s focus on music.
This will be the fourth original animation commissioned for Otakon, and the third to be produced by a major Japanese animation studio. Two previous animated shorts were produced by Madhouse, while a third was produced by an Otakon staffer using computer-generated graphics.
Award-winning Production I.G. — known for its work on the Ghost in the Shell series, FLCL, xxxHolic, Blood: The Last Vampire, and other high-quality projects — has assigned director Nekomataya to the project. Nekomataya has served as a storyboard artist, character designer, animator, or director on such successful shows as Wolf’s Rain, Fullmetal Alchemist, Chobits, Eureka Seven, Blood: The Last Vampire, and the new Heroman television series.
The opening song, “Shackles of Night”, was written by Hiroki Kikuta specifically for this project. Kikuta is best known as the composer for the video games Secret of Mana and Koudelka. A self-taught musician, Kikuta spent seven years working at Square alongside the likes of Nobuo Uematsu and Hitoshi Sakimoto. He has also worked as a manga artist, sound designer, and video game designer. The lyrics were written by Sarah Alainn, the vocalist on the hit new video game Xenoblade, which debuted at #1 in Japan earlier this month. The music is supervised by Eminence Symphony Orchestra’s founder, Hiroaki Yura. In 2007, Eminence (in the form of a string quartet) performed to a packed house at Otakon.
“Yura-san and Eminence have been very busy in the three years since their visit to Otakon, but we’ve stayed in touch,” says Jeff Kleist, Otakon Musical Guest Liaison, who will act as music producer for the animation. “We were glad to find an opportunity to work together again.”
Performing the theme will be singer/songwriter Shihori, part of the classical pop unit “Shihori and Asuka”. A talented composer and lyricist, she’s has written several songs and sung backup for Nana Mizuki, and collaborated with Yoko Kanno on the song “Universal Bunny” for the Macross Frontier movie.
“With a musical theme this year, it felt like the right time to attempt a music video” says returning animation producer Jim Vowles, who also heads up Guest, Industry, and Press Relations for Otakon. “But of course that doesn’t work if you don’t have music. I asked Jeff to suggest possible sources for that music, and he happened to be chatting online with Yura-san. A week later, we had the rough cut of the music for the animators to work with.”
Otakon’s mascots, older sister Hiroko-chan and (slightly) younger brother Hiroshi-kun, have represented the convention in three prior animated shorts, as well as more than a decade’s worth of program guides, t- shirts, and other merchandise.
About Production I.G.:
The I and the G started as the joint collaboration of visionary production manager Mitsuhisa Ishikawa and popular character designer Takayuki Goto, the company was established on December 15, 1987 as I.G Tatsunoko, a name bearing the initials of its founders as well as the renowned studio they were from. The new company met with success and in 1993 its founders renamed it Production I.G. Since then, the studio has enjoyed yearly growth in sales and size.
Production I.G has produced a number of acclaimed feature films, OVA (original video animation), TV shows, and videogames. For their storytelling and quality of animation, Ghost in the Shell (1995, directed by Mamoru Oshii, N. 1 in US Billboard Top Video Sales Chart 1996), Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade (1999, directed by Hiroyuki Okiura, Jury’s Special Prize at Fantasporto 1999), and Blood: The Last Vampire (2000, directed by Hiroyuki Kitakubo), have earned critical accolades in Japan and all around the world. Innocence, directed by Mamoru Oshii in 2004, has been the first Japanese animation feature ever to compete for the Palme d’Or at the Festival de Cannes.
Production I.G visionary world is said to have deeply influenced many famous Hollywood creators, and this has eventually brought to the collaboration with Quentin Tarantino for the animation sequence in his world hit, Kill Bill: Vol. 1. Finding early international success in animating with such titles as Patlabor and Ghost in the Shell, Production I.G quickly decided to broaden exposure to international markets, and in March 1997 launched a Los Angeles-based overseas subsidiary. One of the greatest achievements of this active international policy is the TV series IGPX (2005, directed by Mitsuru Hongo), co-developed and co- produced with Cartoon Network, the first collaboration between a US cable network and a Japanese production house.
Already amongst the new wave of Japanese animation, which is now an established market steadily gaining fame with western audiences, Production I.G aspires to continue driving this growth and to bring high-quality animations to the world.
Otakon 2010 will be held July 30 – August 1 at the Baltimore Convention Center in Baltimore, Maryland.
ABOUT OTAKON AND OTAKORP, INC.: Now entering its seventeenth year, Otakon is an annual celebration of Japanese and East Asian popular culture, and also one of the largest gatherings of fans in the United States. Otakon celebrates popular culture as a gateway to deeper understanding of Asian culture, and has grown along with the enthusiasm for anime, manga, video games, and music from the Far East. Since 1999, Otakon has been held in Baltimore, Maryland; currently, Otakon is one of Baltimore’s few large, city-wide events, drawing over 25,000 individual members for three days each year (for a paid attendance of over 70,000 “turnstile” attendees). Otakon is a membership-based convention sponsored by Otakorp, Inc., a Pennsylvania-based, 501(c)3 educational non-profit whose mission is to promote the appreciation of Asian culture, primarily through its media and entertainment. Otakorp, Inc. is directed by an all-volunteer, unpaid staff – we are run by fans, for fans.