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Another year, another Anime Central… is this really the fifth time I’ve gone? Sheesh.

Whoa, hold on… is that really how I wanted to begin this entry? Sure, the line to register on Friday was a pain to endure (4 hours, 40 minutes, causing me to miss the very panel that made me want to go on Friday in the first place), and the puerile Internet-inspired shenanigans that somehow pass for normal behavior continued unabated for yet another year, but damn. It’s ACEN! Stop griping and enjoy yourself for once!

This is the first year that I’ve gone to more than one anime convention, so fresh off of our trip to Sakura-Con, the usually-exciting experience of setting foot into ACEN felt a bit tempered this time around. And I couldn’t shake the feeling that, in general, attendees at ACEN seemed a little less enthusiastic about being at the con than their counterparts at Sakura-Con. What do I mean by this? I just feel like Sakura-Con drew more people who were passionate about anime, while ACEN brings out the folks who’re more into Internet culture or raving with glowsticks and flashing hair extensions. Or am I just projecting based on a few bad apples? Maybe my expectations are too high, approaching the weekend like some kind of sacred pilgrimage and celebration of fantasy instead of the hedonistic indulgence in folly and LOLs that everyone else accepts it as.

Anyway, Friday was kind of a wash, leaving me a little too exhausted from standing in line to really get a lot out of the remains of the day. I spent a good deal of time just walking around and taking pictures of cosplayers, hence the (relative) abundance of photos in this post. I wanted to be social, but upon reflection, I think I kind of blew the three or four mini-conversations I had with other attendees, just sort of assuming that people wanted to be on their way, and not milking the opportunities for all they were worth. People do come to these things to meet other fans, right? Actually meeting other young adults who like, say, Digimon, isn’t something that’s gonna happen anytime soon this year outside of this weekend. Really kicking myself for not realizing that it was okay to geek out even more than I already was. I talked to a few really nice people, but I should have gone out of my way to milk those interactions for all they were worth. Maybe next year!

Big revelation: I think I could enjoy this con pretty well without even buying a badge. Taking pictures of cosplayers is pretty fun. The big secret that I only just figured out? They like it when you ask for photos! Also, though you do need a badge to get into the artists’ alley, the same rules apply. For God’s sake, talk to the artists behind the booths. Even if you’re not going to buy anything, just be friendly and stop avoiding eye contact with them like they’re going to pounce on you if you so much as pause during your slow walk past their goods. And finally, if you’re going to cosplay as I did for the first time this weekend, look at it as a conversation-starter, not something to act bashful or defensive about. Literally a third of the attendees were wearing some kind of costume. If you’ve gone so far as to try to join in the fun, at least show a little enthusiasm about it.

So yeah, cosplaying was fun, even though my character‘s outfit required very little real effort to put together. Only a few people recognized me enough to stop and ask me about it, but I’m not sure I really wanted a lot of attention anyway. It was just enjoyable to be taking part in what was essentially a giant costume party, and to finally get over the self-consciousness that always made me scoff at the idea of ever cosplaying in the first place. I was hoping to run into more Digimon cosplayers, but sadly, the only two I encountered were Mimi (beautiful) and Guilmon (the same one from Anime North?), and the scheduled Digimon cosplay meet-up never quite materialized. Oh well. If I can make it to ACEN 2012, I definitely plan on doing it again.

Panels… kind of suck when you’re in a room full of 200 people who feel compelled to shout out every thought that crosses their mind, as seemed to be the case in nearly every panel I went to on Saturday. That said, they’re still an essential part of the convention experience for me. We had to wait 20 minutes to get a seat at the bad anime panel, which was just as hilarious as last year’s. Hopefully organizers will book it in an even larger room next year. “Cowboys in Giant Robots: America in Anime” was also pretty entertaining. The “Revolution of Evangelion” panel relied too heavily on questions from the audience, which were often unintelligible or off-topic, turning what could have been a pretty informative and insightful hour-plus presentation into a shouting match. Maybe I was just too annoyed by the people sitting in front of us, who literally talked though the entire panel before finally walking out after 45 minutes. I’ve no idea why they even showed up in the first place.

I could complain more about attendee behavior, but if I’m going to be truly honest, this year marked an improvement. There was little to no garbage-tossing in the registration line, fewer yaoi paddles in sight than ever before, no one attempting to start Rick Astley conga lines or other such attention-whoring nonsense. I mean, there was still no shortage of people who were apparently raised by wolves, but seriously, if you want to glomp random strangers, beg for free hugs on the sidewalk, or headbang and chairdance to a “Caramelldansen” AMV for three minutes straight, who am I to judge? I’m the one dressed up as a 12 year-old boy, after all, and no one was looking at me funny.

Other thoughts: the AMV contest, once a big draw during its several year-run in one of the larger rooms at the Hyatt (usually to a packed audience), continues its decline as it played to a smaller, half-full room at the Doubletree. Only a handful of videos earned halfhearted applause from the unengaged audience. What happened? Compare this scene to the massive AMV room at Sakura-Con, where hundreds (thousands?) of fans willingly watched AMV after AMV, cheered for their favorites and politely clapped for all others, and even stuck around to vote afterwards. At least the Iron Editor event seemed to recapture the spark that once made it so fun.

Overall, not a perfect convention (if such a thing is possible) but another enjoyable weekend, one that’ll probably tempt us back again next year.

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Brent’s recent post on Otaku, No Video reminds me how infrequently I ever bother to describe or critique the actual art of anime. For all the time I spend here blathering on and on about such a visual medium as anime, I almost never (if ever?) talk about how it looks, why it is or isn’t appealing to the eyes, or what the artists behind it are actually doing when they somehow bring a script to a storyboard to an actual animated final product. Since almost everything I know about the animation process I learned from Animation Runner Kuromi and Paranoia Agent, maybe I feel unqualified to dig into their work, instead sticking to discussing such conceptual topics as story, characters, themes… ideas that can be treated with more subjectivity than the straightforward appearance of a single frame or series of frames. I’ll leave that to the bloggers who complain about characters being “off model,” whatever that means. Honestly, I’ve tried to watch for this kind of thing myself and I just don’t have the eye to spot it.

I guess I can add visuals to the list of subjects that I rarely touch when it comes to art (or media) in general, which already includes plot (something I hate to endlessly rehash beyond a certain point) and sound (concerning music, how can one describe such slippery ideas as melody, rhythm, timbre and such, which provoke such strong emotions but defy easy linguistic pigeonholing). Where does that leave a blogger like me? Relying on the good old “reader response” (er, viewer or listener response, if you prefer) makes for more unique reading, in my opinion, but is it really what blog readers are looking for? Does it come across as a narcissistic or uninsightful view of a work?

But I digress. Even when I love the look of a series, I find it very hard to string together the right words to explain why, or to at least describe it to a somewhat accurate degree. I’ve noticed myself praising series for being “colorful,” whatever that means. I guess I just know it when I see it! And until I take a few more art classes, that’s probably as good as it’s going to get around here.

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