Aniplex USA Madoka Premiere
(Editor's Note: This is primarily from a first-hand account by a wiki contributor. If there are people who attended that have anything new to contribute, please feel free to note it here or on the discussion page, including links to photos from the event.)
On July 29, 2011, Aniplex USA showed the premiere of Madoka Magica for the first time in the U.S. , at the Otakon 2011 anime and manga convention hosted in Baltimore, Maryland . The first three episodes were shown with subs, followed by a Q&A session with Madoka's executive producer Atsuhiro Iwakami. On Saturday, Iwakami will have an autograph sessions with fans and a panel later on in the day.
Observations of the Madoka Premiere Episodes
- The fans filled most of the room, estimating at least 200 attendees. Of those, several dozen attendees raised their hands at the question as to whether this premiere was the first time they'd seen Madoka.
- Atsuhiro Iwakami was introduced and he said he was glad to be there. One thing noteworthy is he said in his intro was that he'd never seen Madoka on a big screen like that before, not even in Japan.
- The difference in big screen was immediate to the audience, whether it was with gasps at Madoka henshin scene in the OP to cheers at Mami's fights with witches.
- The episode shown were from the Blu-Ray, with never before seen subtitles. Subtitles had the following features:
- Use of Mr. and Miss rather than Japanese honorifics
- In the dialogue, "magical girl" rather than mahou shoujo or puella magi is used
- In some cases, translation differed from a literal interpretation in the Japanese to American concepts/slang to convey an equivalent message
- Subtitles could be lengthy and sometimes shown on screen too briefly to be read completely
- The audience was positive and enthusiastic in response to key moments whether it was cheering, applauding or laughing.
Summary of Observations of the Iwakami Q&A
- When asked a question about Yuki Kajiura and whether her work on Madoka influenced his decision to use her for Fate/Zero, Iwakami mentioned with this is the second time working with Kajiura. The first time had been on Kara no Kyokai, the Garden of Sinners. He mentioned that asking her to compose for Madoka was something Urobuchi specifically requested.
- Iwakami described his role with Madoka was to bring the team together (Shinbo for directing, Ume for character design, Urobuchi for script) and that the creative effort of the team working at 100% capabilities, plus the efforts of the production staff, musical talent and seiyuu made the success. He felt that he was blessed to have such a great staff and cast to work with on the anime.
- When asked about the importance of Madoka's family, with a mention on the role reversal of Madoka's parents, Iwakami replied that Madoka's mother was a very important character and would be past what was shown in the three episodes. He stated that it was important to Urobuchi that in Madoka's background that her family was a strong support and her mother was a strong character.
- A fan asked what it felt like to produce the best anime ever. Iwakami's simple reply, "Thank you."
- He validated a guest question that Urobuchi's deception before episode 3 was part of a concerted effort to make the anime surprising to viewers.
- Iwakami mentioned that he gave Urobuchi directions that the script should be dark, have surprises and some deaths.
- When asked about whether he expected Madoka's success in Japan and overseas, he said that with an original anime script there is no guarantee of success. But there was a very good staff working on it and the reason for the success is the work speaking for itself.
- When asked what was his favorite character, he answered that this question vexes him because he knows he's expected to say he likes them all. But truthfully, his favorite is Madoka Kaname.
- When a fan asked whether the other characters would have a similar character profile like Madoka's 100 Q & A, he answered that they would be added to the official Madoka website.
- A fan asked about the witch barriers and noted the similarity of striking visuals to other works like Bakemonogatari. Iwakami replied that Inu Curry, who had worked on Bakemonogatari, was responsible for the witches. He said originally in the script there were suppose to be tentacle monsters like in The Mist but Inu Curry made some changes and they became the witch barrier mazes you see in the anime.
- When asked about seiyuu response to how dark the anime was, he said they were surprised but also had fun. He also complimented them on their talent and said they were part of the success of Madoka.
- A fan asked if he would take a contract with Kyubey and if so what wish. Iwakami answered that he would know not to make a contract with Kyubey. And that in reality, he is living his dream in making anime, so he does not need to make a wish.
- The question was asked if Madoka will be dubbed. Aniplex answered yes.
- A fan asked about the differences in Mami's room from broadcast to BD and whether there was a reason behind it. Iwakami said the series director, Yukihiro Miyamoto, asked for production enhancements, e.g. added details. This included more in the background in Mami's room.
- He also mentioned that Inu Curry was also the person who came up with the idea of Mami's teacup for the fight and that there are other details like that which were added by Inu Curry.
- When asked whether the ending was changed because of the earthquake, he said no, that was the original ending.
- Verified that the mix of Urobuchi serious and dark story with Ume "sugary sweet" designs was intentionally done.
- He stated that the language heard in the music was a made up language by Kajiura, "Kajiuraese" and not real.
- He verified production staff was very surprised when overseas fans cracked the runes. He said even obsessive Japanese fans had not gone that far. He also said the runes were original art which Inu Curry came up with.
- When asked about the witches powers, he said they are based on what their powers were like as magical girls.
- The last question addressed a scene in the final episode where various historical magical girls are shown. The attendee wanted to know the identity of a character who appears with pink hair and dress in a castle. Iwakami was unsure without seeing the scene but said that all the historical characters featured should be recognizable to American fans except possibly the Japanese Queen Himiko. 
- Concluded session thanking everyone for being able to share the experience of seeing the first three episodes. (Ironic audience laughter to this)
On Saturday, July 30, 2011, Iwakami participated in a panel and short autograph session with fans.
Introduction and Aniplex Questions to Iwakami
It first started with introductions and questions by Aniplex to Iwakami. This was the third convention in the US he’s attended. When asked about how Otakon was different, he said that it felt rushed because he had to fly in Thursday to attend it on Friday and had to fly out to Japan again in the morning.
Next, there was an video of clips from Iwakami’s anime. They were shown in the following order:
- Hidamari Sketch
- Bakemonogatari (loud applause and cheers)
- Cencoroll (some applause and cheers)
- Kara no Kyokai - Garden of Sinners
- Oreimo (some applause and cheers)
- Madoka (loudest applause and cheers)
- North American premiere of the trailer for Fate/Zero (loud applause afterwards).
Iwakami was asked about his thoughts on his titles. He responded that all the titles are important but he is most fond of Garden of Sinners because it was his first success. That success gave him the staff and freedom to do what interests him. He also stated that he found it interesting how the audience reacted to each one of the titles. He expressed interest in learning more about American fans and wanted to bring that back to Japan for inspiration.
Aniplex mentioned a new project in the fall, Animebunko. Iwakami explained it is going to be a video series collaboration with ufotable, who had also worked on Garden of Sinners. He thought the project would be good for the experimental genre.
Aniplex asked him how American fans at Otakon were different from Japanese fans. He talked about the cosplayers at Otakon, how they had more variety and longer memories. Japanese cosplayers he said were more trendy, moving rapidly on what’s popular. But, fan lover for anime is universal. He then showed an example of this by displaying a gift he received from a fan yesterday: a well-crafted, hand-made Kyubey plushie.
Next was a few questions from a line of fans. Because of time, only a few were asked and answered.
A Pretty Cure fan wanted to know what inspired Madoka. He was interested because Madoka was different and expanded what it meant to be a magical girl. Iwakami’s reply was that Madoka was his first original anime. He had always wanted to do either a giant robot or magical girl story. The reason is he felt they were particularly suited to coming to life in anime and he wanted to apply the story to it. He was impressed with Urobuchi’s ability to bring characters and their dialogue to life, and thought he would be perfect for Madoka.
When asked how he decides what gets chosen for production, Iwakami’s responded that his criteria was that it needs to be entertaining and interesting. He said that you get a feel for it [e.g. what is interesting and entertaining to audience] and make your choice.
A fan asked what was his favorite mahou shoujo and inspiration. Iwakami said he was partial to Minky Momo as that what was he saw as a child in elementary school. He also watched the first Gundam series religiously. He stated that he did not incorporate his experiences with Madoka.
Iwakami also mentioned that he enjoyed watching the audience response to each episode of Madoka as it aired.
He was then asked what it was like working with Shinbo creatively and what it was like drinking with him. The audience laughed at this question. Iwakami seemed amused and said that Shinbo loves his alcohol. After pretty much every production meeting, Shinbo wanted to go out eating [dinner] and drinking. Iwakami said that Shinbo is not good with crowds which is why he doesn’t attend events or do interviews. So Shinbo has an air of mystery but really he is a nice guy. Iwakami further described Shinbo as a tough director, who likes things done to his standards and says no to compromises. So each show he produces has the “Shinbo flavor.” Iwakami also said that Shinbo has a producer-like mentality and that he’s learned some things from Shinbo on that.
A fan asked if CardCaptor Sakura was an inspiration for Madoka due to some similarities he'd seen. Iwakami replied that there was nothing intentional. He saw CardCaptor Sakura as a classic in the genre and Madoka as something different. If there were similarities, it would be superficial things like visual effects. He stated that no other mahou shoujo was intentionally used to be similar [e.g. inspiration for] Madoka.
He was also asked about a fan on his thoughts about the fact that Madoka overseas fans had viewed the anime illegally. Iwakami responded that he understands that happens because not everyone has the means to view the anime. He said that he knew overseas fans were seeing episodes before some in Japan did, e.g. those in Tokyo who saw the episode aired a day later. He finds the capabilities of the internet fascinating but also needs the need to protect titles. So what he sees as guidance for both the industry and fans is something new he’s doing with Fate/Zero. For Fate/Zero, a North American distribution will be available as soon as each episode airs.
The last fan question had to do with Garden of Sinners and why the format was so unique. Iwakami responded that it was because he wanted to be faithful to the format of the novel. Since it had seven chapters of varying length, it did not fit the anime or two-hour movie format.
Aniplex stated that fans were welcome to ask their questions at the Aniplex official facebook. They will then send the questions to Iwakami for responses.
Iwakami Q&A to Fans
Iwakami then had a few questions for the fans at the panel.
- He asked how many had seen all the episodes to Madoka. Iwakami appeared a little surprised when he saw almost everyone in the audience raise their hands. One fan in the second row apologized during the awkward silence.
- Next he asked if anyone disliked Hitomi. Only a few raised their hands .
- How many disliked Kyubey. Some more raised their hands, but a minority of fans.
- He asked who had seen Garden of Sinners. Only a few raised their hands.
- He asked who had seen Oreimo. The majority of fans raised their hands.
Iwakami then concluded by saying that there will be a special North American release dubbed for Madoka, with special packaging that even Japanese fans would want. Lots of applause greeted that statement.
Next was a raffle to the audience who had received tickets from Madoka cosplayers at the start of the panel. The prizes were:
- “Make a contract with me and become a magical girl” Kyubey t-shirt (winning fan seemed disappointed but only because he would not win the sketch, not because he disliked Kyubey)
- Mami t-shirt
- BD Volumes 1-4, each to separate fans (Junko cosplayer won volume 2 and someone from Aniplex greeted her with, “You’re Madoka’s mom!”)
- Kyubey pillow
- Iwakami sketch he did for Otakon (seeing the big audience reaction of disappointment when the winner was announced an Aniplex representative joked, “Watch yourself when you go out [of the room]”, which changed the audience’s response to laughter)
Final Message and Autograph Signing
Iwakami concluded the panel by saying that it has not even been a year since Madoka started airing and yet there is so much love for it from fans. He said he was happy to come here [to the Otakon] and see this. He asked fans to please keep supporting them in their efforts.
For the autograph signing, almost everyone stayed. Because there were so many in a limited time period, everyone was asked to have their one official item ready, that there would not be personalized signatures or conversation, in order to get everyone to have one signed item.
Fan Discussion Panel
On Sunday, July 31st, fans conducted an hour-long discussion panel, "The Fine Print on the Contract: The Themes, Philosophies, and Birth of a Legacy in Puella Magi Madoka Magica" The panel was recorded in a three part video: Part 1 Part 2 Part 3
Posted from the official Aniplex Madoka facebook
Examples of Madoka Cosplay. Atsuhiro Iwakami is featured in several of these photos, wearing a black jacket.
- ANN on the Madoka premiere viewing Q&A
- Crunchyroll on Atsuhiro Iwakami panel
- Madoka cosplay pics at ACParadise
- Video of a Madoka cosplay shoot
- Otakon Day 1 of wishes made on the Madoka Magica Wish Board
- Otakon Day 2 of wishes made on the Madoka Magica Wish Board
- Otakon Day 3 of wishes made on the Madoka Magica Wish Board