Attack on Titan, Hell’s Paradise Studio MAPPA at Anime Expo

Anime production studio MAPPA hosted two panels at Anime Expo this year, both sponsored by Crunchyroll. The first panel featured studio CEO Manabu Ohtsuka and executive director and rights management director Makoto Kimura, who answered questions. The second panel included Campfire Cooking in Another World with My Absurd Skill director Kiyoshi Matsuda and Hell’s Paradise director Kaori Makita, expanding the guest list. While the highlight of these panels was a new preview for the Attack on Titan Final Season THE FINAL CHAPTERS Part 2, they also covered upcoming original projects from the studio and provided rare insights into the production of some of their most high-profile anime of this season.

The Attack on Titan Finale Part 2 preview was brief but showcased scenes from the main cast’s fight against Eren in his Founding Titan form. It appears that the anime’s conclusion will remain unchanged and generally follow the divisive closing events of the manga. Mikasa’s final words in the trailer, “I’ll see you again, Eren,” mirror her dialogue at the climax of the manga’s final battle. The special is scheduled for release in the Fall of this year.

Other upcoming projects discussed in these panels include the original series Bucchigiri?!, directed by Hiroko Utsumi, and the original film Alice to Therese no Maboroshi Kōjō, directed by Mari Okada. Bucchigiri?! is described as a “story of delinquents meets Arabian Nights,” as explained by panel host and Managing Editor of Crunchyroll News, Kyle Cardine. Fans of Hiroko Utsumi’s other series, such as Free!, Sk8 the Infinity, and Banana Fish, will be delighted to know that this anime will be a new entry in the emerging “hot guys doing hot things” genre. Bucchigiri?! is set to be released on Crunchyroll in January 2024.

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Maboroshi’s trailer was far more somber than the Bucchigiri?! preview, and the film is described as an “apocalyptic love story.” It appears to draw on themes related to the global Covid-19 pandemic and the corresponding quarantine. The story revolves around a small town whose residents are unable to leave or even “change” after a mysterious explosion in a local factory. Japanese singer-songwriter Miyuki Nakajima performs the film’s main theme, marking her first contribution to anime production. The film is set to be released in two months, with Kimura stating, “The film truly represents the world and what we’re living in right now,” and Ohtsuka adding, “We [MAPPA] are going to work hard to get it out there for you all.”

During director Kiyoshi Matsuda’s time on stage for Campfire Cooking in Another World with My Absurd Skill, insights into the anime’s unique production were shared. All of the cooking scenes in the anime are based on recordings of professional cooks preparing the featured meals in a studio. Through rotoscoping, this footage is translated into the anime and contributes to the mouth-watering depiction of food in the show. Matsuda emphasizes that this process is not a shortcut, as considerations must be made for how the cooking translates to an outdoor environment. In particular, Matsuda mentions that scenes involving “cooking in the evening proved particularly challenging but rewarding,” due to the darker color palette of a nighttime scene making it harder for the food to stand out.

Kaori Makita, director of Hell’s Paradise, expressed relief after the first season and her excitement at being able to attend the Anime Expo before starting work on the already confirmed second season. In the process of adapting the popular manga into an anime, Makita described how her production team gave special consideration to depicting “Gabimaru’s struggle” in his fight against Zhu Jin in episode nine. She also emphasized that the fact that the “Gods” appearing in the series aren’t divine is what drew her and her team to the manga.

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It’s worth noting that the second MAPPA panel, held on July 2nd, had fewer attendees compared to the first panel, which took place on July 1st. Scheduling conflicts and overlapping panels certainly played a role, but the Southern California Hotel Workers Union initiated a strike on July 2nd. Since this panel was held outside the Los Angeles Convention Center and in the nearby J.W. Marriott hotel, striking workers obstructed access to the building and encouraged Anime Expo attendees to boycott any events held at the hotel in solidarity. This call to action appeared to have some impact, as there was a significant amount of available seating in the panel hall on the second day, in contrast to the nearly full-capacity attendance before the strike.

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