Director’s Notes – Pre-Production/Pilot

Note: Unlike “Final Fantasy vs Kaiju Big Battel,” this is being written at the start of what we anticipate will be a regular production cycle. As such, these thoughts reflect the origins of the project and it’s title, and may be updated slightly by the middle of the first season to prevent spoilers from the early part of the story.

Anyone who knows me knows that my life has a bizarre way of tending to occur in a circular fashion. It proves to be the stuff of frustration, hilarity, and at times, great satisfaction. With the start of “Doujinopolis” and how it’s morphed into what it is, this is most certainly a case of the latter two.

Interestingly, this story doesn’t start with when I was approached to do a weekly show for a local anime retailer. In this case, it starts back in 2006, during the period immediately following the initial promo run for “Final Fantasy vs Kaiju Big Battel”…

During that time, I’d been tinkering around with new ideas for another great crossover work. At first, in late 2005 immediately following “FFvsKBB’s” completion, I’d attempted to do a Resident Evil-oriented fan film (NOT one based off my favorite test subject for new tech, Resident Evil: Bunny), but when that fell apart in pre-production and I began the extended stint of unemployment that sidelined alot of my projects until recently, I was still grasping at thin air for ideas.

One day, when I was playing around with a newly finished Zaku Warrior model kit from “Gundam Seed Destiny”, I was hit with an idea…a grand crossover that would take place over two separate timeframes and tell a new original story while tying into all the successful anime con skits my team and I had based off most of the popular anime at the time. It was going to be centered around a city that would serve as a hub for the world of anime, a city that would have an omnipotent being not only being the arbiter of this world’s happenings, but who would be the key focus of the story. Unsurprisingly, as I developed the concept further, Haruhi Suzumiya (with Kyon as her trusty right hand man) was to be this figure.

After a long consideration process, I settled upon a name for this city which would be the name of the overarching project: “Doujinopolis”.

Conceptually speaking, it was exactly as it sounded: a city (“polis”) built upon a fan-made story (“doujin”). Admittedly, I also picked the name ’cause I thought it’d look cool on a poster, but as you can tell, my oddball thinking allowed me to make this work in a very offbeat manner.

In late 2007, when I had just started my current job, I thought I was at a point where I could tell this grand story with most of the resources I’d need…even going so far as to begin drafting a script and organizing my production team. Never mind the fact that I was also working part-time as a martial arts instructor on top of that for part of that early period, which was also a huge time-drain for my schedule. However, life had other plans for me, so after taking into account all the new expenses I was going to start paying at that point, remembering that I’d have to get a whole new rig to be able to work with my new footage, AND taking my convention going to a semi-professional level (thanks to my stint with Anime News Network and all the cosplay endeavors I’ve been on thru American Cosplay Paradise), I had to once again shelve a project.

But like I already said, life had other plans for me.

Fast forward to early August of 2009. On a whim, I decided to go grab dinner one Friday night with my friend (and future co-star) Jenni Hashimoto. Let’s just say I picked a hell of a day to go grab some food with a friend, because that was when I was first told that New York City-based anime retailer and industry friend Image Anime wanted to do a web show. Initially, I was asked to direct/edit/film the thing. When told about the original format they wanted and who else they were considering to get involved, I decided to do the Mario thing and make a few offers of my own that would give me a bit more enthusiasm for the project, while possibly making it into a more fun endeavor.

After weeks of planning and setting up the show’s format (and me once again getting plagued along the way by equipment acquisition issues ala the Canon XL-2 fiasco from FFvsKBB), we retooled the show from a simple review program with hosts in cosplay to a weekly narrative that would highlight product in a very unorthodox manner…all made possible with a little help from modern internet technology (read: Youtube’s annotations feature).

The first shoot for our Pilot episode was a simple one, oddly thrown in between my frantic preparation for the 2009 New York Anime Festival (wherein I had my first guest stint hosting and headlining the Friday Night Variety Show). Documented by John from Otakuden.com, it was just me, Jenni, a camera, and random adult merchandise.

…That totally didn’t come out right, but who cares… ^_^;

In that hour and a half span of time, we essentially went from being simply Mario and Jenni in Kyon and Haruhi costumes praying they knew what they were doing into Kyon and Haruhi bantering about product. With the footage in the can, we were ready to go for editing, which I would be frantically trying to do with two weeks before the con AND a heavy workload of other rehearsals and my day job. The con came and went (unsurprisingly, the Pilot continued my tradition of convention video causing problems and making me arrive late on a Friday), the Pilot Episode was a hit at the Variety  Show, and we were pretty much ready for business.

But then a new problem arose…what the hell were we gonna call this thing?

The day I got the e-mail asking about the show’s upload progress, I sat down and pondered it. I think it was the fact that I had been wanting to use the name for as long as I had that it presented itself so quickly as a good option. After weighing it out, I shot an e-mail to Jenni, got her approval, and christened it “Doujinopolis.” It would seem odd to name this kind of program with a name such as this, but when I thought about the plot and where we plan to take it…I’ll avoid spoiling it until the midseason of season one, but suffice it to say…it has earned it’s name. ^_~

This time around, it’s not a literal city built around fan-produced stories: It’s a story produced by a fan-circle (“doujin”) taking place in the big city (“polis”)…amusingly enough, at a conduit of Japanese popular culture that is recognized worldwide.

Circles, ladies and gentlemen…circles.

While I still hope to one day realize the original vision of “Doujinopolis” (much to Jenni’s terror, amusingly), I’m honestly much happier and much more excited to be working on this new version of the concept since it provides a very avante garde approach to serialized storytelling for the internet generation. Looking back on how my last project was developed with the traditional film industry as it’s model, and how much I’m experimenting with a new format on this project (with better tools and more knowledge at my disposal), it’ll be fun to see where we guide this project…doubly so since I had wanted to follow up “FFvsKBB” with internet-based serials and never did.

And the great thing is, as you’ll see by the middle and end of the first season…I can always revisit the old without affecting the new. ^_~

Until then, here’s to this city of dreams and the fans who will help create it while further breaking down barriers and establishing new relationships between industry and the consumers who fuel it.

Here’s to a bold new step…one fitting for the thing which purports to be the future of the digital world.

-Mario E. Bueno