With the appearance of Takeuchi Junko-san appearing at the con, Viz pulled out all the stops for this promotional opportunity. The first hint of Viz (or Naruto) taking over was with the question by the host: “Does everyone have a headband?” With hands raised, a Naruto cosplayer ran about handing them to the masses who proceeded to place them on their heads and other body parts to show support for their Queen of seiyuus that will soon step into the room.
The panel opened with the promise of goodies and special announcements. They first announced the movie Naruto Shippudan: Bonds which will come out on download-to-own, Bluray and Dvd on Oct. 25 with the premiere on Oct. 15, the next day. The premiere was held at the SVA Theater (a ‘secret’ location since they wouldn’t mention the theater’s name…though they left it on the presentation…accidentally?) Of course, tickets needed to be bought in order to attend the screening, but fans whose questions were selected during the Q&A will be given 2 tickets.
The way the Q&A was held was ideal for a group this large and I wish more panels were done in this fashion. Those who had a question would write them on paper and they were collected at the start of the panel. Then the staff sorted out the questions. This highlights interesting questions and eliminates the time wasted on the gushing of fans that usually occur. ‘I love you, Junko!’ (Not that gushing is a bad thing, just that it takes away time when Takeuchi-san could be expounding her life experiences.)
Even with the movie tickets being that rare, the host hinted at the possibility of obtaining tickets by going to the booth and asking the staff very nicely. That’s a pretty big hint!
To promote the series and movie, Hulu streamed the subbed and dubbed versions of Naruto movies 1-3 and sub only of the first Shippuden movie until Oct. 23. On Oct. 20, the movie Bonds would also be streaming for a limited time.
Naruto boxet 9 has already been annouced to be released in Jan. 2012, but the same episodes are available to download-to-own. Bandai will be releasing the Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Impact PSP the following week…but all premiere attendees will receive a copy of the game. The first 200 people who are in the line to enter the theater will receive a special Japan-only plushie.
Other products that will be released are the trading card tins and Naruto and Sasuke figures from Toynami. Vol. 53 of the manga is available digitally now with the print available on Dec. 6. The latest character data book will be available in January which will cover up to vol. 43. “If you really want to test how smart of a shinobi you are, this is the book to get!”
Finally, the host announced the special guest with the cheers of the crowd in the background. To bring her to the stage, the host asked us to chant ‘Uzumaki’ when she said ‘Naruto’…. On the fourth call, Takeuchi Junko-san appeared speaking as Naruto, her voice almost drowned out by the screams and applause of the fans.
The Q&A opened with a clip from the Bonds movie, showing a scene of Naruto fighting…and appearing as Nine Tails.
- Q: How did you feel when you recorded that scene?
A: It’s been about 4 years since I recorded that scene so I’m afraid I don’t remember too much. *audience laughs* As most of you know, Naruto doesn’t really want to become Nine Tails, but he does in the middle of the movie. It’s become an unfortunate scene. And personally, it’s very tiring for me to do the voice for Nine Tails so it’s like ‘Oh god, come on! Do I have to?’
Q: How is recording for a movie different from recording a regular episode?
A: How long it takes. Otherwise it’s pretty much the same.
Q: We received many requests from our social media fans to act out some phrases as Naruto. I will ask a question and you answer as Naruto. What is your signature phrase?
Q: Can you order your favorite ramen at Ichiraku?
A: Old man! I want~ *messes up and audience laughs* Old man, I want miso, tonkatsu, chashu…yoroshikuna!
Q: What would you want to do on your day off?
A: *hesitates* Um…I’m kinda embarrassed about this, but I want to go on a date with Sakura.
Q: What is the best thing you learned from Kakashi-sensei?
A: Punishment of a thousand years of pain! Actually, to be more serious, you know I have to say that the best advice that I received from Kakashi-sensei is those who do not treasure their companions are the worse trash in the world. *audience applauds*
Q: What is your most powerful jutsu?
A: *audience calls out random jutsu* Wait, what did I hear? My most powerful? *shouts out the name the audience calls* But I thought it was ‘rasengan?’ Let’s go! Rasengan! I’m really pooped out!
The host announced that they’ll be answering audience questions next…but first a special video from a special voice actor: the English voice for Uzumaki Naruto, Maile Flanagan!
- Flanagan: Welcome, Junko to the US! I play Naruto here. I hope you’re having a blast! I know I am! Alright, Junko you’re going to be answering some questions for me…and everybody else. Do you identify with Naruto? And if you do, how do you identify with Naruto?
A: Mmmmmm…I think that I’m kind of very random and free spirited. And I must say that I do like ramen. Probably not as much as Naruto though.
There was a long pause as the host has technical difficultly with continuing the video. “Somebody do the Sexy Jutsu hurry!” As we waited, Takeuchi-san took some voice requests from the audience. “No, thank you, dattebayo!” “Kage Bunshin no Jutsu!” The time then turned to audience questions.
- Q: Which scene in the series influenced him the most?
A: The scene where Jiraya-sensei sinks to the bottom of the lake.
Audience: He didn’t die! He is swimming around with the toads.
Takeuchi: He is what? He is playing around with them?
Audience: He is chilling with the toads.
Takeuchi: Oh…I would hope so too
Q: Do you do any research into characters you play before taking a role?
A: Not really. Because most of the time, roles that I am very interested in or roles I already know alot about come my way. I’ve been very fortunate so I haven’t had to do alot of research. I’d like to go into it a bit more but not right now.
Q: If you could be Naruto for a day, what would you do?
A: I would you use ‘Kage Bunshin no Jutsu’ (Multiple Shadow Clone) and a bunch of us would clean my house and I’ll take trips around the world, I’ll go home to see my parents and I would keep working. *audience laughs*
Technical difficulty resolved, all attention turned back to our very own English speaking Naruto.
- Flanagan: How I identify with Naruto? Well, I can fly and most of the time, I’m in a orange jumpsuit. Okay, Junko! Here is another question for you. Was it hard for you to change the younger Naruto voice to the older Naruto voice?
A: It was very difficult because as you probably know, 2 1/2 years of story chronologically takes place between the Naruto and Naruto Shippuden storyline. But we had to record the 2 1/2 years later…the next week. And another thing, out of the many boy roles that I have voiced, this was the first time that I had to take the role of an adolescent. In order to nail it down properly, I had to study that alot. At the end, I don’t understand it. I’m still honing my craft.
Audience: You did a great job! *audience applauds*
Takeuchi: Thank you very much!
Flanagan: Was it hard for me to change my voice from the younger Naruto to the older Naruto? Mmm…not really. It took some adjusting. For an instance, I would say something like this in the younger Naruto voice, ‘I’m home everyone! Naruto Uzumaki’s back!’ And in the older voice… *repeats the same line with lower pitch* Not too hard, right? Laying it out on the line, not messing with me here…. What do you think about my performance?
A: I have to admit that I’m not very good at critiquing other collegue’s works. I like to leave it as I think her way of portraying Naruto is her way and it’s good. The way I do Naruto is the way I do Naruto. I think if we can both keep doing our best job that would be enough. *audience applauds*
Flanagan: One of my favorite things is the big huge fight between Naruto and Sasuke. We kinda revisit that alot so I feel it alot when we do flashbacks. I’m wondering…is that one of your favorite moments too?
A: Actually, I don’t like that scene. The scene where Naruto and Sasuke go separate ways is very painful for me. I have to believe that somewhere in Sasuke’s heart, the scene is etched in there as well. I believe that it is a very important scene and I feel that in the future we’re going to revisit this when they hopefully rebuild their bond once more.
Flanagan: In closing, I want to say have a great trip to New York and have a wonderful time at Comic Con, it’s going to be a blast! The fans are amazing and thank you to all the fans that watch the show. It’s amazing and most of that is due to Junko and the fans. I hear your voice all the time in my headphone so I want to leave my voice in your ears. And that’s this: *as Naruto* “Have a blast, Flanagan out!”
We return to audience questions.
- Q: How did you come up with the voice to create Naruto?
A: When I first got the script, there were exclaimation points at the end of every single sentence. So I was like, ‘God, what a loud mouth brat!’
Q: Who is your favorite villan in the series?
A: Villan?!? Mmmm…Zabuza!
Interpreter: You all know who Zabuza is? I’m glad you know the series so well.
Audience: We love you!
Q: What is your favorite type of ramen?
A: Tonkatsu is my favorite.
Interpreter: *asking the audience* Do you know what Naruto’s favorite ramen is?
Takeuchi: Naruto doesn’t like miso ramen. He likes miso tonkatsu.
Q: How often do people recognize your voice when you do your daily chores like grocery shopping? Do you have any funny stories about that?
A: I’m embarassed to say this, but I like hamburgers. I eat alot of burgers. Couple times a year, the person at the register would go, ‘Naruto?’ *audience laughs*
There was a special giveaway for Naruto cosplayers. (Headbands don’t count!) All the cosplayers came before Takeuchi-san to be judged. Takeuchi-san picked out Naruto’s mother whom she greet as ‘mama’. The prize for the winners are two rilezu, post-production cels which she will sign. (Average price for Naruto rilezu could run from $300-$500. That’s not just any giveaway prize.) One of them was a full head shot of Naruto, easily $300. Add on the value of an autograph from Naruto herself…. <.<
Takeuchi-san commented on how difficult it was to choose. To eliminate, she stated that, “As Naruto, I can’t choose someone who is an Akatsuki cosplayer. Hai, Akatsuki nashi!” All Akatsuki cosplayers sat down…except for Kabuto. “Kabuto is Akatsuki, yet isn’t Akatsuki so he can stay for now. Mmm…what do you think? You’re madara!” Shrugging his shoulders, one Kabuto cosplayer sat down. To help her decide, each cosplayer was asked to say a few words. Some amusing comments were “Because I’m your mom.” followed by, “I don’t have a wig, but I’m your dad.” The audience loved “Because I believe one day, Sasuke will come back.” and Tsunade’s “Because you finally made me believe in myself.” A Gaara cosplayer said something meaning, “You were my inspiration since I was 12 years old….” to which Takeuchi-san commented, “Wait! That’s not very Gaara-like!” “I like you more than ramen!” I believe it was a Kakashi cosplayer who said, “Naruto, obey my order!” And finally, Sasuke, “Your first friend…and bitter rival.”
Takeuchi-san was definitely amused. “I have decided! My mother and father~” *audience starts clapping to which Takeuchi-san waved her hands for silence* “Let’s meet again someday. Let’s go! Kabuto! Because I actually like evil Kabuto as well. And…Tsunade!”
And with that, the panel concluded to the cheers of the crowds. For a Naruto panel, it was fantastic. It is rare to see a company do an outpouring of prizes as these, plugging for a movie that is already going to be well received. If it was not sold out then, it was sold out after that panel. It’s definitely a gift for the fans. Also, the rare opportunity for a seiyuu, an original voice to communicate with an English voice actress. To be able to respond honestly and with humor beyond the cultures. For Takeuchi-san’s first visit, I truly believe this was definitely a memorable one.