Thoughts on Anime Panels in 2017

Home from Anime Boston and breathing a sigh of relief that my panels went off mostly successfully I found myself reflecting on why I do panels at Anime conventions. There are a few emotions that I had over the weekend that I’m struggling to compress before moving forward.

I enjoy doing panels but doing the same panels over and over again does start to lower the satisfaction of giving it. This was the second time doing my “When Hentai Goes Bad” panel and I presented it to a packed room of about 500 people. It was thrilling, but even though the room was bigger I didn’t get the same feeling I did when I did it the first time. My heavily modified “When Moe goes Bad” turned out to be my most satisfying panel to give because I just put a lot of work into it right before this convention.

That’s probably most of the problem. The heavy amount of work I put into “When Hentai Goes Bad” before I ran it the first time last summer probably made giving it all the more satisfying. My preparation for giving it last weekend at Anime Boston was cutting some clips and running through the notes. So ultimately I think I will always find giving new panels, or completely reworking panels, to be the most satisfying part of the work: Releasing something I worked hard on to a live audience. But at the same time I wonder how I can get that satisfaction more often. I’ve considering making more YouTube videos, going back to writing regularly, and getting out and taking more photos as key creative outlets. But I don’t do any of them enough. I want to chase the high I feel when giving a brand new panel. I just need to create more things more often.

I will continue to give panels at conventions because of the creative satisfaction it gives me to create a presentation and then immediately get a live reaction. But I need to think of new ways to channel that desire and to create more often. After all, just doing two or three conventions a year is far from enough.

Some advice I can offer to new panelists or people wanting to start:

Nothing is Ever Perfect 

What prevents me from blogging a lot is that I keep going over a piece that I’ve written until I’m satisfied. This forces me into a kind of paralysis and delays posting completed works for weeks at a time.

This isn’t limited to writing either. I find myself doing it with videos and photos that I finish editing, then let sit without doing anything with because something in me wants to keep working on it. I’ve forced myself to post things more often and to quiet that voice, but sometimes it’s overwhelming.

The thing about panels is that there is a hard deadline: The day of the event. And the act of presenting the panel is an act of creation in the moment. Once a sentence leave your mouth, it’s delivered to the audience and can never be taken back and re-edited. As a creator it’s a refreshing exercise.

That doesn’t prevent me from analyzing the situation afterwards which can still create anxiety. But the creative piece is done.

Panels require constant revision

Some of the panels I have in my roster I have given six or more times now. At this point those panels are starting to feel dated and in need or retirement or a complete refreshment. When lecturing with older panels I always wonder what the audience thinks if a piece of information is out of date or if I’m talking about a show that’s now a few years old.

Having stepped back form anime in the last few years I struggle with that feeling that I’m an outsider at times at anime conventions, surrounded by shows I’ve never even heard of. Talking about shows for five years ago to a room full of people who definitely spend more of their free time on anime than  I do now is a problem.

So I’ve come to the point that I have this roster of panels that I feel like need a lot of work before I can present them again. My panel “When Moe Goes Bad” did get a pretty big revision before Anime Boston but still contains references to shows that modern anime convention audiences will think are old.

I know a few years might not seem like a long time. But anime culture has a fast turn over. So the 80% of people going to Anime Boston 2017 will be completely different by Anime Boston 2021 and so will their taste.

Educate AND Entertain 

This is one I struggle with the most. Even my Hentai Panel has a history component to it, and I know that a few people waiting to see boobs walked out during that part. The secret is to make the educational part exciting, try to tie the information that you want to impart as closely as possible with the thing people actually came to see.

So one major revision to my Hentai panel, for example, is going to be opening with the clips quicker, then going into history afterwards before following up with more clips. I still want the audience to leave with learning something, but I think I need to show something that will keep them around sooner rather than having the lecture part completely up front.

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