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Anime Expo World Premieres Are Awesome, but at What Cost?

Even among the myriad of events set to run at this year’s Anime Expo in Los Angeles, there certainly seems to be a lot of anime set to receive ‘world premieres’ this year. While this definitely isn’t a new thing, it does reflect the growing importance of the event in the anime world – even if this might come at the expense of domestic, Japanese fans.

The first Anime Expo world premiere that got my attention was the announcement that Dr. STONE would be airing its first episode during the event, at a panel with producer Shusuke Katagiri and Weekly Shonen Jump editor Hiroyuki Honda in attendance.

I’ve been very excited about the Dr. STONE anime ever since discovering the original manga, and it seems that western distributors such as Crunchyroll are pretty excited about it too. Still, the fact that the Weekly Shonen Jump editor himself will be coming to the event for the world premiere should key you into just how much Shueisha value the event as a method to promote their anime.

Another exciting Anime Expo world premiere announcement was that of the Mewtwo Strikes Back EVOLUTION movie, which is a remake of the first Pokémon movie in full 3DCG. Directors Kunihiko Yuyama and Motonori Sakakibara, alongside seiyuu Rica Matsumoto (who voices protagonist Ash), will also be in attendance during the premiere.

Perhaps it’s no surprise that the directors of a Pokémon film view a western world premiere as important, given how popular the franchise – and especially the first movie – is over here. But even so, allowing fans that do not speak your native language to see your film a full eight days before your domestic fans? That’s some prioritization indeed.

The final Anime Expo world premiere announcement that I’d like to discuss is that of In/Spectre. This anime is based on a light novel series by Kyo Shirodaira and manga currently running in Monthly Shonen Magazine. Much like Dr. STONE, it’s also being co-produced by Crunchyroll.

Unfortunately, neither the original author nor the editor of Kodansha’s Monthly Shonen Magazine will be present, but that doesn’t mean the event won’t have any special guests. Rather, Mamoru Miyano will be attendance at the event, due to his role as Kuro Sakuragawa in the anime.

It’d be an understatement to say that Mamoru Miyano is a big deal – he’s practically seiyuu royalty, having cultivated a career of iconic roles alongside idol activities. Getting him to appear at an Anime Expo world premiere event couldn’t have been cheap, I can promise you that much, but it seems as though the minds behind the In/Spectre anime see the event as a worthy investment in terms of marketing and promotion.

These three Anime Expo world premiere events each, in their own way, show how important the four-day Los Angeles fan celebration has become. For professionals, it’s no longer just another convention – it’s become the way to promote anime as a product, so much so that they’re even willing to premiere anime abroad, subtitled, before it even gets shown in its own native language.

For western fans, this is great. I certainly wouldn’t want to give this world premiere trend up now that we’ve got it, especially with how great last year’s Anime Expo turned out to be with such events as the SSSS.Gridman world premiere.

But for Japanese fans, anime studios risk alienating them. Prioritizing your own national and linguistic product for release in foreign markets is one thing, but on a more basic level, Japanese fans are increasingly no longer the first ones to see the latest anime. That’s certainly not going to sit right with dedicated fans.

Furthermore, such stacked events as Anime Expo simply don’t have an equivalent in Japan in terms of programming and premieres – AnimeJapan certainly has its fair share of game shows and seiyuu events, but it’s not exactly the same. World premieres also wouldn’t really fit in with the doujinshi focus of the bi-annual Comiket.

Only time will tell if any backlash arises from the Anime Expo world premiere events, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it did. In the meantime though, I suppose we can just enjoy the preferential treatment — it’s not like I’m complaining anyway.

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