SDCC: The Cute, the Funny, and the SPOILER

Ichigo Kurosaki, Rukia, Chad-uh, Kon bear, Inoue, Quincy, and all the Soul Reapers. How can anyone not like Bleach, one of Viz Media’s most popular manga and anime? (Note: the plush version of crabby Ichigo and the equally cranky Kon in the photo. I want.)

This was my first real “fan panel” at San Diego. The kind where every sentence bears the gravity of an Announcement, and fans scream appropriately. And everyone comes in costume.

This was Bleach creator Tite Kubo’s first visit to America and his first trip outside of Japan. “For this I obtained my passport,” he said. Wow.

I’ve had my passport since I was really little, and I haven’t really gone anywhere.

The panel opened up with exclusive footage (“never before seen on the planet”) of Tite Kubo’s private studio where he draws and colors Bleach.

No need to describe every detail, but I will say this: has anyone seen the DVD extras on Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away? Where Mr. Miyazaki and his animators work late into the night, and Miyazaki gets up to, like, chop scallions and katsu to make ramen for everyone in the studio? It had something of that homey intimate feeling.

And oh my lord, his CD collection.

Snippets from the Panel:

Moderator: “So, why is the kitchen so clean?”
[whisper of translation]
Kubo: “It’s very clean because we don’t cook.”

Moderator: “When did you realize you had such a large fan base in the U.S.?”
Kubo: “Ah!” [in Japanese]
[whisper of translation]
Kubo: “That was yesterday.”

And then, when all was going well, one of those classic spoiler moments happened. The horror.

Audience question: “Will you do a back story for _____?”
[whisper of translation]
Kubo: “I will draw.”

Kubo: “I knew after writing the first chapter that ____ was a Soul Reaper.”

It wasn’t quite a Darth-Vader-is-my-father-moment, but it was still a little heart-stopping.

Anyway, something funny to end this heartbreak:

The Kon bear is one of the most beloved characters in Bleach. When asked how he came up with it, Kubo included this little story in his explanation (mind you, Kon looks a little…busted. He’s not the cutest plushie on the shelf):

At some sort of carnival, Kubo saw a little boy and his dad. The boy wanted this stuffed animal, but his dad thought it too expensive. So his dad bought him a cheaper—and really, uglier—stuffed animal. The boy cried, because it was so ugly, and threw it away.

That was the inspiration for Kon.

BTW, the Kon bear backpack sold out at Comic Con. So there you go.

And as Kubo told his story, the (person dressed up as a six-foot tall) Kon bear in the back of the panel room hung his head in sadness. The crowd howled. It was a Comic Con moment.


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