Category: Conventions

Convention Report: New York Comic Con 2011

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It’s hard to say anything about New York Comic Con that hasn’t already been said, or that isn’t a repeat from what I talked about last year’s show. The event was definitely bigger than last year and the space was far better utilized than last year with them opening up the North Hall for the autograph area. Of course, this being Comic Con, even with the large show space the crowding was horrible. Building a multi-genre show has its positives and negatives but I fear that Comic Con may have finally crossed the line into being more of swap meet with a theater showing clips from upcoming pop culture hits rather than a space to celebrate any type of fandom.

IMG_1777.jpgThe main component of New York Comic Con is undeniably the show floor. A massive space that serves as both a dealers room and a place where marketing professionals can attempting to push their new products on con-goers, a space for meeting your favorite artists and writers, or check out some fantastic indie art pieces. The show floor comes with all the spectacle that you’d expect from a geek event that takes place in one of the largest cities in the world. This is, unfortunately, a double edged sword. While the show floor is so large as to keep attendees busy for an entire weekend it is also the main place where the majority of people will be concentrated. Over all three days it was difficult to get from one end of the floor to the other. There is a constant fight against the raging mod to see anything and if you happen to be stuck behind someone who wants to take a photo the halls immediately get blocked with dozens of people fighting, not realizing that they’ve been halted by a guy with a camera phone and desire to get a third picture of Captain America. They’ll always be something to enjoy on the show floor, but be ready to fight in order to see it.

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Surprisingly, this is an improvement over last year. The anime section of the show floor experienced a massive traffic jam making that entire area impassable. This year the anime booths were spread throughout the floor, making it hard to hit all of them but it ensured that they were actually approachable. Overall, space between booths was much improved and even though the crowds were difficult to move through there were no complete jams like last year. It seems they did everything possible to increase the flow of traffic, if only they could prevent people from stopping and gawking at

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costumes.

The biggest question hovering over the convention this year was if the anime section would be improved or continue to become a shrinking piece of the convention. Well, while anime artist alley was moved from the basement to the gallery at the very top of the convention center it was still a difficult place simply to stumble upon. One needed to go up two escalators, following large signs, even to get to the area. Once there the artist alley was spacious and easy to browse and at the end of the gallery was a massive space which contained dozens of tables, some snack vendors, and the dreaded anime stage. Last year New York Anime Festival had a decent assortment of fan panels in small rooms. This year the only anime fan panels excepted were forced to perform on a stage, which forced the presenter to speak to a massive room where the majority of people were just sitting and chatting, not even caring what was happening on the stage. This worked for some of the game shows, like cosplay dating game, but I cringed through Aaron Clark’s Evangelion Deconstructed panel as he attempted to present serious analysis over the low rumble of crowd noise and the shouting of memes.

It’s clear that the anime fans and the comics fan simply don’t mesh together. New York Comic Con is evolving to become closer and closer to San Diego, a direction that I dread. Instead of eagerly waiting for fans speaking to fans and building a sense of community San Diego Comic Con is about room sitting all day to hear actors talk about films and television shows that are due to be released in the next few months. That isn’t a convention to me, the same task can be accomplished by reading an interview or checking a Hollywood news site. I go to conventions for the community, to see people I only know online and to experience fans speaking about their passion.

There are two main reason for the divide between the anime and comics fans. The first is simply age. Anime convention attendees tend to be younger and are more focused on hanging out with their friends than browsing through rows of comics looking for a rare issue. The other, and more important, reason behind why these two groups can’t seem to coexist is a difference in philosophy when it comes to the art. Comics fans come to these conventions to see footage of upcoming movies and get exclusive comics from the big publishers, they come to these conventions as consumers of media. Anime fans have developed a culture where they get most of their content for free on the internet, be it through illegal fan subs or the many legal steaming services. There is no surprising an anime fan with new titles or “exclusive” content because of the delay, even with simulcasting, it takes to licenses and release media from Japan. Anime fans don’t come to conventions to consume anime, they come to participate in the fandom, hang out with their friends, and buy additional merchandise.

The unfortunate fact about New York Comic Con, to quote Christopher MacDonald from Anime News Network at Sunday’s ANN Q&A panel: “It’s really good for the industry, it kind of sucks for us. Well, it’s good for me as a business but it’s not so good for fans.” The sheer number of people walking through the show room floor is always going to be good for the licensing companies and allows them to expose their titles to fans outside the group that normally goes to anime conventions. That being the case the way New York Comic Con was this year will probably be the way it’s going to stay, and as much as I might not like the state of the convention if this draws more fans towards the medium than it is completely justified. We’ll always have Otakon.

Panels

Anime News Network

Anime News Network panels are always fun as they allow the people fans have come to know through their writing to interact and answer questions. In New York there were some extremely well thought out questions asked to the panel, as well as the normal awkward “how can I write for ANN” questions. For a group of writers they are surprisingly adept at handling their interesting fan base.

Evangelion, Deconstructed

As always Aaron Clark put on an excellent panel going over some of the visual, cultural, and narrative references used the Neon Genesis Evangelion. Clark seems to have an endless supply of knowledge on the subject and will always surprise even the longest Evangelion fans with some tiny tidbit. The anime stage wasn’t the ideal place for his panel to be held as he was being drowned out by the low rumble of the mass of fans sitting and going about their business. He handled the situation professionally, not even letting a minor technical glitch to get in his way. If you like Evangelion his panels, and his website are highly recommended.

Makoto Shinkai

The highlight of the convention of me was getting to meet Makoto Shinkai, sit down for an interview with him, get an autograph, and watch his newest film “Children Who Chase Lost Voices from Deep Below.” I’ve been a huge fan of his for a few years and it was a great honor and opportunity. If Shinkai hadn’t been a guest at this convention this report would be a lot more negative. Read my interview with him, watch the excellent Makoto Shinkai spotlight panel with Roland Kelts, and I’ll have a review of “Children Who Chase…” up in the next few weeks.

Hiro Mashima Interview

I was able to sit down with Fairy Tail mangaka Hiro Mashima. It was an interesting talk especially since I was paired with two bloggers from South America who made the long trip to New York Comic Con!

Photos

Comic Con is a difficult place to take photos because I don’t want to be like the people I mentioned above. So I was reserved, far more reserved, than I usually am. I did get lots of very pretty photos of toys though!

My Loot

I didn’t pick up much at New York Comic Con because of the logical problem with bringing loot back on the train. But I did get a few really cool items.

This adorable Kagami figure who is looking her most Tsundere.

A wonderful Squid Girl art book complete with a flipbook printed onto the side of the pages.

Makoto Shinkai autographed copy of 5 Centimeters Per Second. Now the crown jewel of my Anime DVD collection.

 

More New York Comic Con 2011 Coverage

Convention Report: ConnectiCon 2011

Again the premiere multi-genre convention in New England has come and again it provided a ton of fantastic events for a wide variety of geekery from hard core miniature gaming to My Little Pony fandom.

This isn’t like the other Anime Conventions that I attend because, for starters, this convention isn’t just anime. ConnectiCon was started in order to fill a void of no serious convention presences in the state. The convention quickly grew from a small college con to fill the beautiful Connecticut Convention center. It has little industry presence but a fantastic community around all the aspects the convention covers. The fans come out in force and fill the board gaming areas, dress up in Doctor Who cosplay, play in the dozen Magic the Gathering tournaments over the weekend, and relax in the Manga library or anime screening room. Unfortunately with all the good culture comes some of the worst of convention culture. Free Hug signs plague the halls, people blast music in the common areas while dancing, and shouting memes could be heard. Luckily, the common areas are so large that those people are easily avoided and the convention so much that motivated con-goers won’t even be spending much time in the common areas.

Panels

The worst panel I attended at ConnectiCon was “Bang your Head! A look at Heavy Metal Music.” It was run by someone who was clearly a huge fan of Metal but I was never sure what the point of his panel was. He presented it in a 101 method which didn’t fit the title or the attendees who ranged from the confused why this panel was happening; like me; to the people who were far too into it and were head-banging an inappropriate amount. I didn’t stay long enough to see where he was going, but I do know that he thinks the bass guitar is underutilized in metal. Whatever that means.

Guest Carlos Ferro hosted this panel on his obsession with figure collecting in “Action Figure Collectors Anonymous.” The panel had a feel good vibe, you shouldn’t be ashamed of your passions if you like a property then you should just start buying toys because they are physical symbols of your passion. The panelist also gave tips for getting friends and family members addicted to figure collecting, start buying them small figures and eventually they’ll start buying them for themselves! Ultimately it was fun to see Mr. Ferro’s passion and collection but the panel boiled down to simply, “Check out my awesome collection, toys are awesome”

My Little Panel: Friendship is Magic was one of the three My Little Pony Panels at the convention. I only saw this one and, well, I presented the third one which I’ll go over later. The panel was defiantly a fan treat. The presenters were knowledgeable and went over some interesting architectural inspirations from the show and ended it with a group discussion over Celestria’s role as ruler of Equestria. A fun panel, but definitely only for Bronies.

Tengen Toppa Evangelion was presented by the same couple that did My Little Panel and it was carried out with the same expertise. Unfortunately their ideas were lost by technical problems, the laptop the were using rebooted twice in the middle of the panel, and the video they wanted to show was less effective due to lack of subtitles and the fact that ConnectiCon panel rooms, with the exception of the largest one, were stocked with 32” televisions instead of projectors a surprise to both Panelists and the ConnectiCon panel department. So while their thesis was solid and interesting, it was obscured by bad technology.

One of only two panels by the fantastic Gekknights team, who ran the panels department for ConnectiCon, “Anime Openers from Around the World” showed some classic anime openers and how they’ve been adapted for different markets. The chief fact I took from the panel: Germans love techno. Like all Geeknight’s panels Rym presented it with an infectious enthusiasm and It was neat to see the different music and different styles of openers from around the world. It served as a calming way to start Saturday at the convention; the only criticism is that when only the music changed Rym probably shouldn’t have shown the same openings completely four times in a row. Those points got a little tedious. Other than that it was a fantastic panel.

ConnectiCon featured three Doctor Who panels, two of which I was able to attend. The first, “Doctor Who – TARDIS’, Jellybabies, and you”, started off interesting but devolved into a Q&A and group discussion fairly quickly. At the end the panel turned into, “Hey how about that cliffhanger, that was pretty crazy.” I’m sure fans enjoy that panel style and the group interaction, but when I go to panels I want to learn or be entertained and there just wasn’t much substance to take in.

“Tales of the Time Lords” was presented by anime anthropologist Charles Dunbar and Geek standup comedian Uncle Yo. The panel was a detailed look at the history of Doctor Who with the in-depth analysis expected from a Charles Dunbar panel combined with the energy and enthusiasm of Uncle Yo. As always, Uncle Yo’s passion and energy was infectious but his jokes were hit and miss on the crowd. The visual gags, such as replacing Amy Pond with Haruhi Suzumiya, all got a huge reaction. The panel ended with a poorly planned debate on who is the best companion where the panelists brought up people from the audience to argue for their favorite. Uncle Yo ended the panel before all the volunteers got to speak, however, because the fireworks from nearby River Fest had begun. Audience participation is always tricky and this time it was a dud.

Friday night FAKKU presented two panels, “Visual Novels and Eroge” and “Hentai worth watching”, back to back in the largest of ConnectiCon’s panel rooms. The panelists, Jacob and Mike, approached their topic with humor even though they were expects and obviously serious about the form. They recommended five Visual Novels, both pornographic and non-pornographic, with some fairly detailed reviews for a live panel. Hentai worth Watching was the best panel of the convention. FAKKU talked the audience through a handful of absolutely ridiculous hentai titles using screenshots. The point of the panel was to show just how nonsensical hentai can become while at the same time celebrating their own passion for porn.

My Panels

 

I gave two panels at ConnectiCon, my first two panels, and they went extremely well for one reason: I worked incredibly hard on them. It’d be unfair for me to review them, as I’m a little biased and would only point out how many times I say “UM”, so enjoy the videos below!

How “Meta” destroyed the Anime Industry

Confound these Ponies: Rise of My Little Pony Fandom

Board Gaming

Over the last couple months I have been getting into some serious board gaming. That bug started back at ConnectiCon 2006 when my friends and I played our first designer board game called Rune Bound. The gaming room at ConnectiCon is the best I’ve ever seen. Pax East certainly had more individual board games than the ConnectiCon library but it has nothing over the number of different quality games.

ConnectiCon has always had a ticketing system for when you are taught a game by a ConnectiCon guest or participate in a gaming tournament but this year they allowed members who simply borrowed games to earn tickets. Anyone can earn tickets simply by hanging out in Board Gaming and enjoying some games. The tickets can be redeemed for prizes, the selection of which is as varied as the types of games available at the convention. Most Dungeons and Dragons book you’d want, dozens of other lesser known RPGs, Magic Cards, dice, and a score of high quality board games. At ConnectiCon if you spend a couple of hours playing board games with friends or strangers you could walk out with a $50 board game. That alone pays for the weekend.

Dealers Room

ConnectiCon dealer’s room is nowhere near the size of Anime Boston or New York Anime Festival but all the big east coast anime vendors show up for the small convention on top of some more general interest vendors that sell board games, RPGs, replica weapons, and more!

So, as always, here is my haul from ConnectiCon. I spent a little too much at Anime Boston so I tried to keep my spending under control.

 

Artist Alley

ConnectiCon’s artist alley is also small compared to the larger anime conventions I go to but it offers most of the large east coast artists, some interesting small artists, and a large number of Web comics creators.

Here is my haul from Artist Alley. I love the artist alley!

 

Notable Cosplay

More from ConnectiCon 2011:

Connecticon 2011 in Pictures, Part 1

Connecticon 2011 in Pictures, Part 2

Connecticon 2011 in Pictures, Part 3

Connecticon 2011 in Pictures, Part 4

Connecticon 2011 in Pictures, Part 5

ConnectiCon 2011 panel: How meta destroyed the anime industry

ConnectiCon 2011 Panel: Confound these Ponies: Rise of My Little Pony fandom

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