Thursday, 09 June 2011 15:49

Fanime 2011 Report

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Fanime…Fanime…Fanime…. Tsk, tsk, tsk, people, I warned you guys last year about what would happen with lack of planning and communications. With a jump to the above 20,000 attendees mark, you're now looking at a volatile combination that's primed to explode even worse than the massive screw up of this year. And though massive, it was only in the REALLY annoying to slightly detrimental category, and not a supreme fuck up like say, Anime Expo 2007.

The problem dealt with a Day 1 Cosplay policy that was implemented apparently within minutes of my compatriot, Mayhem walking through the door of Con Ops to turn in a camera he found outside to Lost and Found. Let no good deed go unpunished they say. I'll just glance over it, since I know Mayhem is dying to rant about it. Basically the costume policy change you see there in red? That was implemented on the website well after they told Mayhem about policy and made him look like an idiot because he didn't check the website (which of course, he did…it wasn't there at the time). He was wearing ACU's that had the BDU print; to the untrained eye, that'd make him look like some sort of military presence. I'll let him go into the fine details of why that's screwed up, but you'll note there's also a massive overextension of power that Fanime takes with the phrase "ANY costume that could be misunderstood as threatening in the current political climate". That could be misconstrued to be ANYTHING, and one has only to look at the behavior of humanity to know that they WILL misconstrue it…especially giving that power arbitrarily to the Rovers in that instance with no oversite (and single point of failure). The military policy has questionable justification at best, and caused most people who were wearing such outfits, when they were caught (since the policy was not in place before Day 1), to change into blue jeans. Again, though, I'll let Mayhem rant about that when he gets me his article.

This actually seems to be a problem with conventions in general. Once they pass a certain threshold of people, about 10,000 or so, things…change. At this point they become noticed by the industry as more than just gatherings of people. Things like copyright and IP become the buzzwords of the day. Because you can do more, and because you want to do more, you have to deal with ownership issues in the greater industry. Money, in other words; which means you have to balance the requirements of the fans with the requirements of the companies that provide them their case of addiction (heh). Fanime has held on for a long time without too many problems in that regard; being held as the convention by the fans for the fans, and being very careful to be very plain about what they do, who they do it for, and who they invite as being fan friendly. Even they are not immune to this however, and I think they are reaching their tipping point with the extremely strange things that happend this convention. I hope this was just a once off thing, and next year it will be business as usual, but in the end, they need to at least consider a venue change, because they're running out of space, and that many people crammed together is just one more gallon of gas on the pyre that was sparkin' pretty bad this year.

But that's most of the bad stuff this year out of the way. Now for the good stuff.

Day Zero was an interesting time on a personal level due to the fact that Mayhem's daughter was to be staff this year and we were going to pick up Cap'n Moonie from the San Jose airport for her first year at Fanime. I was looking forward to this, because we had regaled her with tales of H night for years, and I was going to enjoy her reaction when we took her there. Getting to the San Jose airport was a bit of a fun time, since you could only get to it from one side of the highway necessitating a U-turn on a cross street and a bit of fancy driving. Then there was parking, which there was nothing of, which turned out to be less of a problem than we thought since we'd actually entered the parking structure and basically exited without actually parking. They were nice enough not to charge us any money for this, and we just picked up Moonie on the curb. Getting Mayhem's daughter into her hotel was even more fun since her room captain hadn't come in, practically stranding her out in the hotel's lobby until we got her to con ops to get that straightened out. Fortunately Press check in didn't happen 'til 17:00, so we had some time to eat and deal with these minor problems as they cropped up. Even despite these issues we were not rushing or in crisis mode at any time through the whole thing, so I'd consider that successful.

At least we didn't have to deal with bat country. Fucking bats….

Main events this year was another one of those things that was messed up, dealing with both the expanding size of Fanime, and thus the venue feeling the squeeze, and other events out of their control. The Black and White Ball was scheduled at the same time as the Masquerade, and they made no bones about it; this was to force people to choose one or the other because they did not have room for everybody at these events. It also did not help that the Black and White Ball was forced to use a much smaller venue this year due to a wedding that had been scheduled two years prior for the dance hall we required for our convention size. It may have been they'd not have scheduled it in this manner if they'd gotten this ballroom, but we'll never and likely they'll never know. Regardless, this made things interesting since I was all prepped to record the masquerade, but wished to cover the Black and White Ball as well. With Mayhem going behind the curtain to take pictures of the Masquerade attendees there, it thus became necessary to recruit some outside help. Enter Pio Buenaventura, a long time friend and fellow convention goer. Also tends to take a lot of spontaneous video at conventions, and archive a bit more from others, which you can find here on his youtube page. Without Pio the Masquerade would have never been recorded this year, and I thank him profusely for helping us out of a tight spot there. The Black and White Ball was a big hit this year, and you can find pics of it starting here and continuing to the very end. I took these using my Olympus E-PL1, which I found does not do as well as I'd like in low light level situations with moving targets. They are superior pictures to a point and click, but I'll need more practice in its use. Regardless, check them out. You can even see pics of the adorable Moonie in her blue dress and me in my Master cosplay with my hated enemy, The Doctor. You may even find pics of yourself if you were in attendance.

The AMV's this year were of stunning quality all around. Problem is, with that being the situation it's hard to pick just one or two that stood out. It was also the longest AMV contest I'd ever been to, lasting about three hours, which may be why they had it two days in a row to allow everyone time to go to it. My only criticism in these cases was that there was a far greater amount of cross pollination of the categories than I'd seen before in any other AMV contest. I'm thinking they may need to adopt a less exacting numbers policy on their categories. Instead of "There will be this many," doing, "There will be between this many and this many." This should allow them more freedom to have more in one category than the others as required by the types of submissions. The list of AMV's this year can be found on this thread of the forums and the winners on this thread. Set aside some time and check them all out, you won't be disappointed.

I'd like to talk about the FLOW concert. I really would. Problem is that press had to be vetted by their Label, and I somehow missed that requirement on the website. The Press Coordinator is trying to get that sort of requirement changed, but I don't believe that's going to happen. We all know how cut throat the music industry is, and if they could charge us for just thinking of a song they own, they would.

Actually wound up watching some extremely strange things this time around. Though I suppose anything would be strange given the fact I've not really sat down and watched much anime at conventions in recent years. I'll start with H night. I really can't remember most of what I watched. Much of it wasn't exactly boring, but it was forgettable. The three I can remember was The Invisible Stud, which takes place in the same universe as Cosplay Sex Machine and is licensed for distribution over here by Kitty Media, The Erotic Adventures of Tom Thumb, also distributed by Kitty Media, and some other anime, whose name no one wants to give up. The Invisible Stud was basically about a guy who runs into that dimensional hopper from Cosplay Sex Machine and picks up his invisibility potion. You can imagine what happens next. The Erotic Adventures of Tom Thumb is...weird in the extreme. It's about a guy who shrinks and then...expands, I mean his whole body in this case. The final one is basically about a tutor who winds up boffing his students, their mothers (who are still married and are sisters), and an aunt of theirs since they're all related. You'll be screaming for mercy at the ending, and if someone knows what that one is called, fill me in. Never did get to the Hentai AMV's due to the fact the room filled up faster than…actually, I won't complete that particular metaphor. Anyway, we wound up at Midnight Madness which was actually a bunch of fake trailers set to scenes of various anime. It was promised there'd be more than that, and if you were still awake, a surprise at the end, but given it was around 0200 in the am, we were a little bit too drunk and too tired to try that. Also managed to watch the Star Craft 2 cutscenes on the big screen which almost made me want to try that RTS. Saw AMV Hell 1, 2, and part of 3. Unfortunately, AMV Hell 0 was likely shown at the Hentai AMV's, so I was not able to see it this year. Hell, I even sat down and watched a good lot of Evangelion Re:Death Re:Dux, which is something I'd been promising myself to do for a very very long time now.

Some of the other live action shows I went to was the rave, of which you can find pictures of it here and continues on 'til page 39. With my increased skill with a camera, I find that I'm having a great deal of success with pictures in total darkness. Also, if I play around with it, I get unusual effects with the glow sticks and ambient light, as you can see with some of the other pics. The zombie attack started on Saturday night and…I really don't know who won, the Zombies or the Umbrella Corp defenders. Still, you can find several pics starting here and continuing on to page 41. We managed to get into the Halko Momoi concert, which took place on the same dance floor as the rave. Momoi is quite adorable, and a fun entertainer all around. A fairly talented singer, and the songs she sings are both fun and energetic. Quite personable as well, and has no problems with video or pictures, though one should always exercise the utmost professionalism in situations such as this. You'll note on the pictures that were taken (which continue on to page 56) that no flash was involved, which is why they're not nearly as good as they could have been. I put them all up there, as I figured she and her fans would get a kick out of them even at such a degraded quality of images due to lack of light (my camera is really not designed for this sort of shot), but I got a few decent ones regardless. Stage Zero had some fairly decent performances too, and while I get the idea behind Stage Zero, I find its execution to be nothing short of insanity. It's right in the middle of the main walkway, which means anyone who's walking by will see what's going on. Which is fine, normally, but when you have performances like a cute girl dressing up as Hatsune Miki and performing vocaloid songs or the Maid Café Extravaganza, whose pictures start here and continue to page 30 (and yes, the girl with the pink wig is Halko Momoi), actually getting in to get good shots, press or not, is not going to happen. I'm fortunate I invested in the Nikkor 18-105mm (27.5-160mm for a 35mm equivalent focal length) telephoto VR lens, though I wonder now if I shouldn't have sprung for the 18mm to 200mm version. Still, even with ISO jacked up as high as I dare, shutter speed as slow as I dare, f-stop as low as I can make it at that magnification, I can only get photos of a certain quality with my camera, as the flash will not help me at that range. So every so often, I'll get some motion blur. It's a nifty effect in most cases, so I kept the photos, and with some creative post processing, I can eliminate a lot of the noise that crops up when taking shots like this.

On the subject of pictures…by all the gods, this year was pure insanity. I've never taken so many pictures at any convention. There was so much to do and so much to see, and the quality…the quality of this year's cosplay was outstanding all around. I've also been working on picture taking techniques which has increased the quality of the pictures taken in ways I'm very proud of. You can find the pictures of this year's Fanime here on TFA Cosplay (though I've linked enough by now you probably already knew that, heh), though I have quite a few highlights I'd love to share. From a pure technical standpoint, I'm quite proud of this one, due to the fact the trolley there was actually in motion; it's colors and details of both the subject and the background being very bright and sharp. You'll note the pictures taken in the dealer's hall and artist's alleys, such as this one, are actually natively white balanced and typically do not use the flash. This is a little harder than one might think and requires a few test shots to get right at first, which I got real good at while traversing the con; though I really need to remember that those green tinted windows in the hallways tend to change the white balance outside those rooms. In terms of just plain imaginative and cute, I quite enjoyed this girl's rendition of a Jelly Fish, though getting this picture was quite hard due to the fact the guy she was with was monopolizing her almost exclusively. Outside pictures I've gotten a lot better at, and a few I really enjoyed, such as this one of Booster Gold. However, I'm running up against the limits of the technology of this camera, and I think it may be time to upgrade. Of course, the fundamentalists showed up again this year (there's a few other pics here and there), though in far less numbers. We really should have planned this better with jokes about the rapture; though I really don't think these fundamentalists understand that most of us would welcome Hell if we had to share Heaven's floor space with them. Had some fun with the Cosplay Deviants which you can find here, here, and here continuing on to this pic on this page. Man I look evil in this pic. In terms of cosplay gatherings, I managed to get to a few, like the Fighting Games one which continues to page 8 and the these two whose pics go on for the next two iamges . You'll note most of the pics in the gathering are of one cosplayer in particular, Emma Lorien, who was kind enough to demonstrate several of her poses in full motion. I did not have my video camera with me, and I did not have the equipment to take still pics of an in motion subject in the manner we all wanted, but I gave good accounting of it. I enjoyed the experience greatly, and I look forward to next time should it occur. As far as the truly exceptional pics go, there was this man's armor, that he created with a 3D printer and his skill with a 3D imaging program, which is something I'm going to look into. There was this Elvira cosplayer who fit the character she was portraying almost a little too much, heh. On page 58 through 59 you'll find a couple of exceptional cosplayers of Rapunzel and Faye Valentine respectively. However, my all time favorite picture of the entire convention is this one of Madoka Kaname and Homura Akemi from Puella Magi Madoka Magica. It was just…perfect, and from the view count, it seems many agree.

There were a few fuck ups this time around, which I detailed above. Also some scheduling conflicts that required some creative ingenuity and Pio doing me a favor in order to cover everything, but we persevered. Overall though, it was a good convention, though I have to say, it's only going to get harder for them from here on out. They really need to look into a larger venue, because this is about as much as this convention center can handle, and the problems they are experiencing are just going to get worse unless they can spread people out a lot more. Also a bit more examination into applicable laws and a bit more backbone in dealing with the authorities would help, but then too many now adays are brain washed into believing the law enforcement officials are something more than human and have the right to do whatever they want or order you to do what they wish. None of which is the case. However, at the same time, respect goes both ways, and most policemen try to be policemen, who are just trying to keep the peace, which I've not really observed any problems with either way in this regard. This year a ball was seriously dropped, and it cost a friend of mine a great deal of his enjoyment. It was a ball that did not need to be dropped on any of the attendees, and certainly not how they did it. Given the overall fun history I've had at this convention, and after further reflection now that it's over for the year, I believe I'm willing to give it another shot. We all screw up sometimes, and sometimes we screw up royally. There are people at the convention working on the situation and they were quite apologetic to Mayhem, and hopefully all the other attendees they blindsided, so I'm cautiously optimistic this situation will be resolved for the next time. Outside of that, with everything else, we adapted and overcame, and had fun, which is something Fanime did a good job of providing, though again it's running up against some hard barriers it's going to have to make some decisions concerning them, and they cannot or should not be made by people who are afraid of conflict with those who claim to be the powers that be. So, let's see what next year is going to be like; I'm rather interested to see if they too can adapt and overcome.

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