I won’t be writing an exhaustive con report this year, just sharing a few thoughts and pictures. Actually, that’s all I do any year, so expect more of the same in this entry.
This was the first year that I attended all three days of Anime Central. And probably the most that I’ve enjoyed myself at it in quite a while. We shopped a bit and hit a few panels. Well, quite a few panels, but there’s always scheduling conflicts, so in the end it’s never as many as I’d like to go to. No, we didn’t go to the rave, the masquerade or any of the other big events, so I probably missed out on what were the highlights of the weekend for many if not most of everyone else there. We did make a half-ass attempt to get in the “Soap Bubble” rave on Saturday night, but seeing as how the line was wrapped around the back of the convention center, and we were about ready to head home anyway, we decided that it wasn’t worth it to wait for an hour or more to mosh with a bunch of drunken strangers to terrible dubstep. C’est la vie.
Once again I cosplayed but put minimal effort into my “costume” of an obscure character that was guaranteed to draw minimal attention from almost anyone. But it was still fun to do and I definitely plan on doing it again. I did not take many pictures this year, save for this charming lil Maka and a few others that I’ll share here.
These girls were great but I should have used my real camera instead of my iPod for this shot. I try not to overuse the flash but times like this in dark hallways really call for it. Oh well.
We arrived around noon on Friday, wandered around for a while, and eventually settled down at a Digimon panel (“Di-Di-Digimon,” if you’re keeping track), which I’d been looking forward to a lot and wasn’t disappointed by. A standard overview of the entire series that even my girlfriend seemed to enjoy despite having only watched Tamers. There were a lot of people there and I couldn’t help but feel like the franchise is undergoing a bit of a revival these days. Sure, Xros Wars/Fusion brought it back recently but I don’t know how much attention anyone those are really getting here in America (yet). Maybe fans are just getting nostalgic for the good old days?
After checking in to our room, visiting the exhibit hall and having dinner, we made it to “The Bad Anime Panel,” which is always one of the highlights of the convention for us. This panel grows in popularity every year, so we knew we’d have to arrive extra early for it. We failed to do so and barely managed to snag two of the last seats for it. Once again, this was a hilarious panel, plenty of amazing clips (even if they’re having to revisit titles that they’ve already covered in years past), and the audience was into it (but free of those annoying douchebags shouting comments over every clip, which has happened every other time we’ve come to this). “Producing Music From Noise” was set up very well and the host was really an expert at working with Cubase. I felt like I was still in over my head when it came to understanding what he was doing, but it was nice to watch someone using such a program, seeing as how I hope to get my hands on one someday. We caught the tail-end of Anime Hell and the first half-hour or so of Midnight Madness before calling it a night.
There were hundreds of Homestuck cosplayers on hand, or at least it felt like it. I’ll keep my thoughts about that phenomenon to myself for now, and note that it’s probably hypocritical of me to complain about the volume of non-anime cosplay (Homestuck, My Little Pony, Dr. Who, etc.) while at the same time jumping for joy (figuratively) at the sight of these two and countless others in Adventure Time cosplay.
The first proper event that we attended on Saturday was a panel called “I am Otaku and so can you!”. This was a panel about fandom in general, the history of anime fandom in America, where it may be headed, the rise of other fandoms into its sphere, etc. Two of its panelists lead a great Evangelion panel at ACEN three or four years ago and once again they put on a great presentation and lead some great discussion. I hope they keep coming back and doing this for years to come because they’re so good at what they do and seem like the nicest people. The panel was laid back, fun, interactive, and deeply informative, which is all you can ever ask from something like it.
Ed Chavez of manga publishers Vertical put on a great presentation at his panel “Seinen Up – Manly Manga.” That title may have been a little misleading, as Ed explained that “seinen” refers to a rather large genre of manga aimed at both men and women. As an anime fan who doesn’t read a lot of manga — mostly due to financial reasons — this panel made me want to get back into it. I’ve got a lot of manga here that I’ve never even read. That’s a little embarrassing to admit. Am I really too lazy to read comics? The host ran a few minutes over his time and was rudely rushed out of the room by security so that the next panelists could set up their stuff. Other than that, staff were very professional and courteous this year. Then again, that’s usually the case when you treat them with respect, too.
We also watched the AMV contest on Saturday morning and came back to the AMV room later on Saturday night in time to catch a showing of AMV Hell 3, which I’d already seen a few times but really enjoyed. This kind of thing is much more enjoyable at a con then in front of your computer at home. If only they’d shown AMV Hell 5, I could have found out firsthand if my clip in it is capable of making anyone laugh. Eh, it’s probably for the best that I don’t know.
So we left on Saturday night. I drove back on Sunday morning for one more day of fun. The first panels started at 9:00 in the morning. “MAD World II: All the Insanity” was an overview of the world of Japanese MAD videos, hosted by the guy who runs this blog, I think. All I knew about these videos beforehand is that they were Japanese and had something to do with AMVs, maybe. Turns out I’d already seen some, and they don’t have much to do with AMVs at all. There’s thousands of strange videos like these out there, and you need to know Japanese to be able to find most of them. I’ve no idea how I came across the ones I’d seen, although they’re probably familiar enough to anyone in the West who’s deep enough in anime and Internet culture. I had no idea what any of this stuff was and needed someone to explain it to me for a very long time, so yeah, this was great and I’ll definitely be coming back to it again, even if next year’s is an 18+ panel.
Sunday’s line for the exhibition hall, which opened at 10:00 (I think?) stretched through the convention center lobby, out the doors into the circle drive, outside the building along the sidewalks and all the way around the center into a loading dock for trucks. According to one attendee, at one point the line stretched 3/4 of a mile from beginning to end. It was inconvenient, for sure, but didn’t bother me much. I can also see why it could have been a bigger problem for others than it was for myself. But anyway… “Self-Conscious Cosplayer’s Guide to Being Awesome” was another panel I was looking forward to. I don’t know how to explain quite what I expected from this, but I might not have been the sort of “self-conscious cosplayer” that the hosts had in mind. The panel focused heavily on problems that female cosplayers have to deal with much more than men, much of it dealing with matters of physique and the socially illiterate to downright rude comments that people often make about cosplayers and their bodies. I thought I’d heard it all before the hosts shared how terribly they’d been treated by people both at conventions and on the Internet. I’m still trying to figure out how to feel about this behavior and what it is that people like myself can and should do about it. I’d like these kind of spaces to be more safe and friendly than they are today, where just about any kind of inconsiderate or stupid behavior, no matter how demeaning it could potentially be, is basically given a free pass. But we’ll deal with that in a future post, I assure you.
The last panel of the convention that I attended was “Digimon: From Alphamon to Omegamon.” That’s right, another Digimon panel! I’d wondered beforehand whether we really needed two panels devoted to the same franchise, even if it’s one that I’m a big fan of. This panel covered much of the same ground as Friday’s, but was still very entertaining. The host was really knowledgeable and passionate about all-things Digimon, from the manga to the television series to all of the movies and even the audio drama CDs. And so was the audience! It felt really strange, being in the company of so many other fans of this series that I’ve enjoyed solely in private for over a decade.
Everyone’s experience at an event of this scale is going to be totally unique. I’m sure some people were bored out of their minds, while the hassles and tedium of getting around were probably too much for some people to deal with. And the generally psychotic behavior of some con-goers has a tendency to rub some people the wrong way. This is the case for every anime convention, but this time around, none of it was too much for me to handle. I had a blast and sort of decided at some point to ignore all the shit that had marred the experience for me in the past. This was surprisingly easy to do, once I’d made up my mind to do it. I also let go of that anxiety that used to spring from the fact that I’m older than most of the fans around me. For whatever reason, I just didn’t care this year. Just chill out and enjoy yourself, that’s what it’s all about.