Anime Expo has been able to attract some of the top people in the anime industry as Guests of Honor; this year was certainly no exception. The following luminaries participated in events and programming at this year's convention.

Yasuhiro Imagawa: While some of Mr. Imagawa's series have been love-'em-or-hate-'em shows like MOBILE FIGHTER G GUNDAM or THE VIOLINIST OF HAMELN, one series is always synonymous with his name: GIANT ROBO. During his second appearance at Anime Expo, Mr. Imagawa was kind enough to let eager GR fans know that, indeed, the latest and final episode of GIANT ROBO, number seven, had been completed and will be released in 1998.

Mr. Imagawa (center) enjoying his time with fans of Giant Robo
Akira Kamiya: Mr. Kamiya, an illustrious and talented voice actor, made his first U.S. appearance at AX '97. At Opening Ceremonies, he launched into a soundbyte smorgasbord of many of his famous anime roles, including Mendo Shutaro (URUSEI YATSURA), Ryo Saeba (CITY HUNTER) and Kinniku Man (KINNIKU MAN). Thoroughly enjoying himself at the convention, Mr. Kamiya seemed to thoroughly enjoy interacting with the fans; he even made an appearance at Saturday night's Karaoke event, singing several songs, including his new single, "Taiyo no Namida."

Mr. Kamiya (left) at the Guest Reception Dinner
Hiroaki Sato: Mr. Sato is the creator and director for the series KEY: THE METAL IDOL, one of the sleeper hits of recent years. Mr. Sato related his experiences about working in the industry to the fans and gave the attendees a glimpse at what it is like to work on creating and producing anime.

Mr. Sato (left)
Chiyako Shibahara: Ms. Shibahara's first trip to the United States was to attend this year's Anime Expo. A voice actress and singer, Ms. Shibahara talked about what it was like to play the role of Miho in KEY: THE METAL IDOL and life as a popular singer in Japan. She also performed a mini-concert during Saturday night's Masquerade.

Ms. Shibahara's live performance of songs from Key the Metal Idol at AX97.
Miho Shimogasa: Having served as a key animator for several SAILOR MOON series (SAILOR MOON, SAILOR MOON R, SAILOR MOON SUPERS), Ms. Shimogasa worked up to animation director for SAILOR MOON SUPERS, SAILOR MOON: SAILOR STARS: and the SAILOR MOON Movie: AMI'S FIRST LOVE Recently, she served as both character designer and animation director for the newest version of Go Nagai's CUTEY HONEY, CUTEY HONEY F. During her appearance at Anime Expo, Ms. Shimogasa did many SAILOR MOON sketches for her fans and told them stories about working on the various SAILOR MOON series.

Ms. Shimogasa
Haruka Takachiho: An accomplished science fiction novelist and member of Studio Nue, Mr. Takachiho is best known to anime fans as the creator of CRUSHER JOE and THE DIRTY PAIR. Mr. Takachiho made his first appearance at Anime Expo this year, and was able to talk with his American fans face-to-face. Many fans have come to enjoy Mr. Takachiho's works thorough translations provided by the Microsoft Network (MSN).

Mr. Takachiho (left) at his guest panel.
Akihiko Yamashita: Mr. Yamashita comes to AX'97 having completed his role as character designer and animation director for the GIANT ROBO series. In fact, at Opening Ceremonies, it was Mr. Yamashita who announced that the last, eagerly-awaited episode of GIANT ROBO had indeed been finished.

Mr. Yamashita at Opening Ceremonies
Kazuo Yamazaki: Having served as director of several very popular anime titles, including MAISON IKKOKU, PLEASE SAVE MY EARTH, and FIVE STAR STORIES, Mr. Yamazaki was able to relate the details of his eventful career to fans, including his arduous climb to the position of director he now holds, as well as how he almost quit the anime industry entirely.

Mr. Yamazaki (right)
Chisa Yokoyama: Ms. Yokoyama returned to the United States to appear at this year's Anime Expo (Her first trip was last fall to film her "Live in L.A." concert video.) Best known for her role as Sasami in the various TENCHI MUYO series, she has also done many other roles, such as Chun-Li from STREET FIGHTER II V and Sana from KODOMO NO OMOCHA. Chisa delighted her fans by appearing at her autograph session dressed as Pretty Sami. She also won the hearts (and attention) of attendees at the meet the guests reception.

Ms. Yokoyama at her autograph session.
Noboteru Yuuki: Renowned animation director for several popular titles like RECORD OF LODOSS WAR, GUNNM, FIVE STAR STORIES and KUJAKU-OH 2, Mr. Yuuki was pleased to attend Anime Expo '97. With him also came a 35mm print of the X movie, which was premiered in the United States at Anime Expo. Mr. Yuuki did color sketches for a few lucky fans, and when he wasn't in a panel, he could often be seen roaming the halls of the hotel in the evening. At Sunday's Celebrity Charity Auction, two sketches donated by Mr. Yuuki went for record sums: $2,000 for a sketch of Deedlit and $2,250 for a sketch of Nekoi Yuzuriha and Inuki. After the auction, Mr. Yuuki said that he felt like a "scam artist" with the exorbitant prices that fans were willing to pay for his work.

Mr. Yuuki
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