Convention Report: Anime Boston 2011

I returned to the Hynes Convention Center for Anime Boston 2011, the largest anime convention in New England and second largest on the East Coast. More than any Anime convention I’ve been to Anime Boston pushes both high quality panels; many of them academic in theme; a large industry presence, constant concerts running throughout the night, and a united fandom who have gathered to celebrate Japanese animation. The convention comes with an energy, a rush, that makes it seem like the fandom isn’t so small, that anime in America isn’t obscure, and; most importantly; that as a fan you are not alone.

Infamously, the young fandom at Anime Boston is rambunctious. There wasn’t an end to people running through halls shouting their “Marco polo” and “butt scratcher” games and the youthful air was enough to make one feel old, maybe too old for the event. However, Anime Boston had programing for everyone whether you wanted to ask your favorite voice actor a question, wanted to get some in depth discussions on Japanese culture, or simply wanted to be entertained by a lineup of concerts and humorous panels. There was something at Anime Boston for everyone.

Mari Iijima Concert

Mari Iijima, famous for playing Lynn Minmei in Macross, put on a wonderful concert Friday evening. She plays a soft, piano style Japanese Pop and spoke candidly with the audience, which is rare for a Japanese pop star. I hope all JPop singers age as well as Iijima, she had a confidence and honesty that younger stars hide in favor of their bubbly, friendly personas. When Iijima spoke to the audience it felt like she was speaking from her heart, a feeling I do not get from other Japanese Pop starts I’ve seen live.

The highlight was when she performed the fantastic song “Do you remember Love” from the Macross film of the same name. While I’ve never seen Macross (shame!) the song is famous among Japanese pop culture fans, or should be. It is a beautiful song and it was preformed beautifully. I could tell that Iijima enjoys playing that song as much as the fans love hearing it.

Spike Spencer

 

 

I was able to get an autographic from and sat down to a press only Q&A panel with Spike Spencer, famous for portraying Shinji Ikari from Neon Genesis Evangelion. He has pretty much the opposite personality from Shinji, he was full of energy, confidence, and arrogance that made him enjoyable to watch and be around.

I got an old reproduction cell signed, and defaced, by him along with the insert poster from the End of Evangelion DVD. It was crazy seeing someone who has played a character that had a profound impact on my life and have him be so different from my expectations.

Panels

Anime Boston is known for their high quality anime related panels. I was able to get a good sampling of panels ranging from the serious academic discussions to the fun fan panels featuring roleplaying and cosplay.

Charles Dunbar, who has been a guest on the podcast,  did a whole block of fantastic academic panels only two of which I was able to see. The first was a look at the work of the master himself in a panel called, Castles, Forests, and Bath Houses: The world of Hayao Miyazaki. The panel was heavily based on Miyazaki’s autobiography explaining some of the inspiration and thought processes that Miyazaki was going through when he made his films. Hearing the films described in context of where Miyazaki the man was mentally when the films were created was an emotional experience for any serious fan of the master. Miyazaki has Charles to thank for selling copies of Miyazaki’s autobiography Starting Point: 1979 – 1996. I find myself desperate for more detail on what Charles only hinted at in the panel.

The second of Charles’ panels I saw was his Shinigami panel “Dead like us” which examines the history of the Shinigami in Japanese pop culture and religion, and the relationship the Japanese have with death. Again, Charles does a great job of breaking down the elements that make up the various Shinigami characters, defining them, and showing how they manifest themselves in various Anime and Manga. He is working on turning the panel into a series of posts on his blog, Studyofanime.com, so if you’re unable to see the panel live I suggest you check it out.

The Dark Side of Pokemon was a fun fan run panel where the participant’s role played as gym leaders and various characters from the Pokemon games as they lectured about the subtle, creepy aspects of the Pokemon franchise. There were some obvious things, like the music from Lavender Town, but others that aren’t so disturbing at first glance like several questionable pokedex entire. I caught the panel on video for any Pokemon fans that didn’t make it into the room.

Gundam in a Skirt presented by Will Kusleika was a look at the similarities between Robot and Magical Girl shows from themes to the format. The comparisons were fascinating, especially when he showed two nearly identical transformation sequences one from a robot show and one from a Magical Girl show. I wasn’t able to stay for the entire panel but it seemed like a great time for fans of vintage anime.

The one unfortunate panel I sat through was From Fanboy to Industry Pro with voice actor J. Michael Tatum. Tatum came with no prepared material, opting to take questions from the audience. Few of the questions were on topic, the majority of them being about his acting roles and his personal experience as an actor. The one good piece of advice I came out of the panel with was, “Bring your passion to whatever project or job you have.” Meaning that it would be ideal if we all could get a job in a field we’re passionate about, but realistically we should try to bring our passion to our jobs. Find an area in your job that excites you and use that energy to help you succeed. Otherwise it was a bit of a waste. Most of the voice actor non-Q&A panels end up similar; the actors tend to agree to panels without really thinking them through.

Of course the Funimation panel was a Funimation panel. They played a few trailers and got me excited about Excel Saga, but otherwise didn’t have much new to bring to the table. Aria of the Scarlet Ammo was announced as a simulcast but nothing else of note. I have some video of the Q&A here.

Dealer’s Room

There was nothing new or surprising in the dealer’s room, all of the standard merchandise with a few figures showing up for some newer series. Working!! And Angel Beats! figures were welcome surprises but the vast majority of merchandise was still K-On! and Haruhi. Nothing has really penetrated the fandom to displace those two giants yet. There is also an increase in some classic figures, I saw a newly issued Lum on display and some dolls from Lupin the Third. I don’t know how well they sell in the US but it’s comforting to see some of the older series come back.

Judging from the two days I was at the convention I didn’t see many items moving. For the most part the dealers I visited first thing on Friday didn’t look much different before they closed on Saturday. The one exception is that a dealer had the Wagnaria!! Premium edition and sold out of it when I returned to buy it. NISA has also officially sold out, according to Rightstuf who’ll receive one more shipment. It’s surprising to see such a standard, although quality, slapstick show gains such popularity. I didn’t many of those Wagnaria!! figures moving so I’m not sure exactly how popular the show is among the general anime fan.

Here is what I walked away from the Dealer’s Room with:

Artist Alley

The artist alley didn’t look too different this year from last year. Like the dealer’s room nothing has really changed from previous years and other conventions. There was a lot more Doctor Who art than I’ve ever seen before, and that is a welcome change and a good sign of the increasing popularity of the Doctor. There were only a few My Little Pony art prints, to my disappointment, and one artist had pony themed bags for sale! I think by next year My Little Pony will be ubiquitous across all vendors at the Artist Alley, at least I hope so.

Here is what I walked away from the Artist Alley with:

Cosplay

The one big trend I saw in Cosplay was tons of Pokemon, but that isn’t surprising considering the new games have just been released. The Hetalia cosplay craze has seemed to die down; I maybe saw one or two groups of them. Of course, Naruto cosplayers are still out in full force.

Here are the highlights from the photos I took over the weekend:

 

 

More from Anime Boston 2011

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