Tea with Yamaga

A quiet and relaxing interlude.

So one of the nice things about Fanime is being able to see YAMAGA Hiroyuki, GAINAX's president. He's been coming for so many years now is that he actually feels pretty comfortable with his American fans, and so he's willing to put up with us in a more intimate setting than is usual for an American con.

In this case, that took the form of the "Yamaga tea party", a small event attended by about 30 lucky fans, plus Yamaga himself.

Start with the invitation -- it's posh. Stiff card, nicely printed, classy design. And there aren't very many of the things. Exclusivity. Not insanely exclusive -- they let us in, after all, but it reminds you that this is something special.

The room is a decent-sized hotel meeting room, with three round tables, each seating about ten people. Yamaga himself presides, bustling about dressed in hakama and haori -- the sort of clothing that they use in anime to show someone's both traditional and a master of their craft. Lights are low, and we chat a bit while Yamaga makes and serves tea for everyone.

And then there's a video -- in this case, a Gainax live-action rarity called "Negiman." Full-bore tokusatsu craziness about a battle between a giant green onion monster and a castle that transforms into a robot. It's. . . splendid. Or at least, imposingly ridiculous. (Don't take my word for it -- visit their website.)

We wrapped up with a lengthly Q&A session, which I probably should have taken more notes on. It's not about information, when we go to these things. It's really just the experience of seeing these brilliant people at the top of their field in a new setting. As such, the bits that stand out are the ones where Yamaga did something funny, or where he seemed to think a bit.

For example, at one point there was a question about the german convention that he went to, and Yamaga waxed nostalgic for a bit. He also mentioned that the german fans were really shy, and did a little pantomime of someone standing next to a wall, hiding behind a curtain. (And then they'd mob him, as soon as one got brave enough to step forward.)

Or a bit on gundam -- he was talking about how the producer wanted to get out from under Tomino's shadow, so the staff for Gundam 0080 brought together random people who said, as Yamaga said, that they'd do something completely different. (And they did.)

And ever since then, Yamaga comments, he's set aside projects for young staffers to burn money on.

There was a bit of interesting news -- Yamaga mentioned that they were working on a tea ceremony anime, and he hoped that next time he'd have promotional products from that to show off and make tea with.

But really, it was just a great little event. This is the sort of event that Fanime trades in -- small-scale moments where otaku can get together. And if we happen to be visiting with one of the towering figures of our industry, so much the better.

—jeff