Wednesday, 20 June 2012 20:39

AM^2 2012 Report

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AM^2 (pronounced A M Squared), short for Animation, Manga, and Music is a smaller southern California convention currently located in the Anaheim convention center right across from Disneyland that occurred this year from June 15th through June 17th. Given that Anime Expo has abandoned the place (most likely due to their inflexibility concerning scheduling the AX con at any other time than the 4th of July weekend) this is now the perfect spot for several smaller anime and other fandom conventions, such as AM^2.

AM^2 started its life as Club2theMax back in 2010, which was a one day only event that competed directly with Anime Expo over at Club Nokia which had several guests of honor such as X Japan shooting a music video and Erina Mano, a former member of Morning Musume promoting her new movie Kai-Ki: Tales of Terror from Tokyo. This was rather fun since if you didn't like the party at AX, or just wanted a slightly different party, you could attend this one. Continuing on the following year, this convention was renamed to its current title of AM^2 and went on at the same time as AX. For that, myself and Mayhem attended one day to see what it was about, including attending the concerts of Kanon Wakeshima and part of Kanon x Kanon, which was rather fun, but extremely tiring due to the competing responsibilities of being at Anime Expo as well. This year, it was scheduled a couple weeks before Anime Expo, which is a good thing, and I (as well, I suspect, were many others who were hitting both conventions last year) was able to attend the full time and cover the full event. The only down side was that I was the only one from our group able to attend, thus making the situation a little bit harder due to being the only person around able to carry equipment and make events. The hits just kept on coming when I found out that the hotel I booked was about a mile away; a trip I wound up making several times a day with about thirty pounds of camera gear strapped to me, so I certainly got my exercise if nothing else can be said. Currently, AM^2 supports the idea of a free attendee, so if you just want to show up, you can, but if you want to see something, you're at the back of the bus as opposed to those who pay their money to get a passport. Also, some concert events are passport only, which is to be expected since these are artists from Japan and elsewhere, and while they usually come for a lot less than actual concerts, they are typically paid to be at conventions and are subject to Music Label rules. Still, if you want to just come, hang out, attend some panels, and buy some stuff at the Dealer's Hall...you're welcome to do so for no fee, which is good if you're have budgetary constraints which most of us are under now.

As is usual, I required new gear. In particular, I found that being the only person from the group present, I couldn't use someone else's laptop to transfer files off my video camera. This forced me to do what I'd been meaning to do for years and go and acquire a laptop. Original plan was to acquire a bare bones laptop and build the damn thing myself, but as you can see from the link, once I buy the barebones device and all the associated gear to make it work, I'd have paid a great deal more than just buying one prebuilt with Windows 7 already on it. Microshaft certainly subsidizes the living shit out of the laptop market, but that's okay…I can slick that f'n thing and have a spare Windows 7 Home license. I'm okay with that. Which is what I did when I went to Best Buy and found that the HP Pavillion dv6-6c35dx would suit my initial needs and even the ones I had planned as a possibility, such as the ability to join together the video files and to even transcode them if needs be. After throwing the most recent version of Linux Mint, initial tests indicate that it can do it almost as fast as my desktop, which I find amuses me greatly; though it does run a little hot while doing so which will require that I get a cooling pad of some sort for it. This will prove useful if the wireless of your average hotel actually gets more like broadband and less like dial up so that when I modify and transcode files, I can upload them almost the same day and have them available to the convention and general public.

As is usual one of my primary interests is taking pictures of cosplayers. I'm finding that as my handling of this camera improves so too do my pictures, almost to the point where I've always wanted them to be: sharp, detailed images of which I can actually discern things like skin texture without any blurring or distortion. Still, it's very sensitive to light changes, so I wind up running in a white balance of AUTO more than I ever have when using the D7000. Using the Olympus presents its own set of handling issues, mostly dealing with the fact that it's kinda 'noisy' even at low ISO settings and tends to oversaturate the picture when using the flash even with a slow sync. Most probably don't care about my technical woes, however, and want to see some of the highlights of the convention, and I'll get right to that. The plumbers Mario are Italian, so the next cliché dealing with them is to turn them into mafia, which is what these two do hilariously well…almost like that machinima I watched awhile back. The Lolita presence was quite prevalent this year due to the Putumayo and Sixh. being guests of honor and the likes of Angelic Pretty and even those guys who sell Yaoi gear being around. The first four pictures on this page, for example, show the girls from Harajuku Hearts who were working with Putumayo showing off their cute dresses and selling much in the way dresses and accessories. This year, we had Equestria LA in residence promoting the first brony convention here on the west coast, and even had their own brony lounge where you could relax and play a few MLP:FIM themed games, color pictures, and watch PMV's and episodes of MLP. I note this only because there were a lot of weird pony related things occurring at this convention as they have in several others…such as Pinkie Pie and Derpy showing up to screw with the horror games or Twilight Sparkle hugging the Goddamn Batman. You know, the usual craziness when the ponies are involved. Speaking of crazy, horror, and the Goddamn Batman, check out the Joker and Ivy; in terms of shear horror these girls had it nailed. When I was referring to absolutely clear and sharp photos, this girl's cosplay is one of the clearest and sharpest (you should see it full size), I just wish I knew from what series she was from. About this time you realize where you are and how crazy it's going to get. This cute vampire's picture really demonstrates not just the clarity and sharpness I wanted, but also the kind of detail I want when I take pictures; at full size there is no noticeable noise and everything is still that well defined. I'll need to post this on Danny Choo's wall, heh. I've been getting a little more experimental in my picture taking as you can see of this picture of Kasumi from Dead or Alive while trying to give her pose a more dynamic feel to it. If you're wondering, this and the next few pictures are of the line to get into the Tara Strong (voice of Twilight Sparkle) panel…needless to say, I didn't go, as much as I wanted to. These guys came in full martial arts regalia, and I wound up taking their pic, not only with my camera, but also with their full frame Canon sporting a 33mm Sigma prime lens…had to back way the fuck up on that one. The Japanese band Kazha dropped by (yes, you can see a pic of their lead singer before if you were trolling the pics and paying attention, heh) and I was rather stunned at how good they were. Their music reminded me a great deal of the band Human Drama with its guitar and singing style; a band I will never be able to see live. I was introduced to Human Drama's music by a fellow sailor onboard the USS Boxer back when I was in the Navy and quite enjoyed it. Fogey, wherever you are, you were an annoying son of a bitch, but I hope you're doing whatever it is you really want to be doing after getting out of the Navy. Met a couple of girls in their black and white ball outfits while they were leaving the Pirate Rum Party in annoyance at there being no rum. You might recognize the one on the left from the Black Butler cosplay skit she took part in at AX 2011. Honestly, every pic I took was of something notable or awesome, and I could sit here and talk forever about it, but since none of us has forever, I should probably continue on.

Admittedly, I feel as if I had worked this convention pretty hard, and not just because of the miles and miles of road I walked per day. I wound up recording several events, of which, when I can, I'll be updating this article to include. The first event was Opening Ceremonies which I went to shortly after I signed in on the first day and received my badge.
In terms of Opening Ceremonies, I think ACEN still has everyone beat down, since they run theirs like a rock concert, but truthfully, the Opening Ceremonies of these events are pretty much just there to say that this is who's here and we're about to start, so stay safe and have fun. This is good enough for me honestly, being a guy who prefers to get to the point, so in terms of job being done, this one got that job done. Later that day I attended and recorded the Putumayo Fashion Show.
Putumayo is a Japanese Gothic and Lolita brand that tends to specialize in using pretty much everything in their gothic and lolita clothing, thus being given the distinction of being a 'punk lolita' brand. Though as we saw in the models as they came down the catwalk in their Putumayo clothing, this wasn't just random chaos in what we saw, there was a definite method to the madness, and it was likely something my sister would appreciate more than me to be honest, though I did like what I saw. Also, I owe them a DVD of their fashion show. The following day I was fortunate enough to attend Andrea Libman's Guest of Honor panel.
The AM^2 staff were right, and I do need to chill a bit, since they fucked with me mercilessly about recording it. I gotta remember not every convention is out to be a kill joy and not everyone tends to handle things like Anime Expo. I'm way too ready to bolt when people start talking about no recording, and I should REALLY ask for clarification at the very least. I'm just a little bit gunshy (Ha! New Pony Name!) after nearly a decade of dealing with AX staff. I should probably avoid Otakon then; I hear they're completely fucked over there. Back on topic, Andrea Libman is one of the cutest and sweetest voice actresses I now know of. I had a distinct urge to just hug the stuffing out of her, which it seems like would annoy her to no end as, throughout the panel, she noted her voice made her sound like a little girl and tended to disadvantage her in real life. Like when answering the phone, they'd ask to talk to her mother all the time, heh. Being the voice of Pinky Pie and Fluttershy, I was very curious how she handled those two as in terms of personality you can't find two dissimilar people (or ponies in this case) as those two. At first she had a little trouble and would occasionally have to go back and record their lines separately if they were having a conversation, but now she can switch between them with almost no effort. Another thing that stuck in my mind was when she described something I suspect many voice actors have to deal with, in that, they cannot get attached to the characters as deeply as they'd like. Doing so many, and having to move on when the series is done…if they got as attached as many of the fans do, for example, they'd go completely insane when it was time to say goodbye over and over again as they must. In my collection of soundroom anecdotes, she was also the first to answer my general question concerning the worst thing that's happened in the soundroom in a more…general way. Which tended to flow very well from a previous question about the best thing she'd ever experienced in the soundroom was…she really couldn't answer it in terms of a specific incident. I find it fascinating to see how each person in the voice actor community deals with their roles, their characters, and their time in the booth performing or trying out for their various characters. And if it wasn't for the internet, they'd never know how much they were actually followed and loved for bringing them to life for us, which even now, tends to surprise them.

And for fuck's sake people, QUIT ASKING THEM ABOUT FANFICTION!!! I mean really, dude? You asked her about "Cupcakes"? That'd be like me asking Sherry Lynn if she'd read "Kanashii no Imi". And really, what sort of validation are you trying to get about asking VA's if they'd read any fanfiction they voice characters for? It's not like they write for the show or will likely be influenced in any way by a fan interpretation of their character's life and times in post apocalyptia, for one example. And if you are trying to influence it, then my advice is to take some lessons and see about finding a way to write for cartoons full time. Maybe one day you too will be able to write for a My Little Pony series.

I wanted to attend the Tara Strong Panel as well, but that didn't go over so well. Mostly due to the fact the line looked like something out of Anime Expo and the room could barely hold 150 people. There was no way in Hell I was getting in, since press were put in the same line as the passport holders who would have filled the room up well before I got in. It was actually the first time I heard that sentiment uttered as much as I did while walking around that area that they were other fun things they could be doing than waiting in line, much as they may have wanted to see Tara Strong. Ah well, them's the breaks. And so, it was off to the Masquerade as the next event.
While it was a main event, one thing I note about smaller conventions is that their Masquerades are much smaller and shorter than the larger conventions. This is not a bad thing in and of itself as you don't wind up killing yourself at these things after having killed yourself walking around for hours before. It becomes another thing to do rather than the thing you do that day…if that made any sense. Still, I suspect as AM^2 continues to grow, these Masquerades will get bigger and more elaborate. This is how most of them start out and tend to stay that way for a few years while they continue to get bigger and reach critical mass. As small as it was, it was easier to pinpoint my favorite skits, which were the Legend of Zelda one where the cosplayers actually played their own music on their instruments, and the My Little Pony Villains who sang, danced, and got Discorded, heheh. On the final day, I wound up attending Yukie Dong 's concert at the live performance stage in the main hall where the dealer's, the artists, gaming, brony lounge, and the summer festival were going on.
The girl can sing very well, and I've wanted to record her for the past few years. Finally this opportunity popped up. I'm kind of embarrassed to say that I did not catch which booth she was hanging out at after her concert, and so could not go by and get a CD. I'll see if I can get one later. Still, it was a fun show, but a shy as fuckall audience. Get up there and dance with her when she asks; I can't I'm tethered to my camera...literally, the camera's power cable and battery are in my pocket!

This was a pretty fun little convention, and I'll be most interested to see where it winds up in a few years, if we're all not fighting for our lives after a global economic crash. The staff are nice, the leadership is pretty accessible, no real smoke, mirrors, or BS like I see at some of the larger conventions…Hell, the events are fun, the guests of honor are fun, the main hall was a ton of fun…and shit, most of it is free if you just want to hang out, what more do you want? Not sure how long that AM^2 can keep doing the free thing to be honest, but while it can, I suspect it will. There seemed to be enough people there that were buying passports to enable their entry into the premium events that I figure AM^2 has awhile to go yet before lack of fundage conflicts with the amount of people they're expecting, at least for right now. So if you can, head on over and check it out. It's a fun way to spend a weekend. Though I will admit, it kinda sucked that the Pirate Rum Party had no Rum, but for those of us with that sort of requirement, the hotel bar was open. Just don't order a rum and coke because they can't mix drinks for shit down there.

Last modified on Wednesday, 20 June 2012 21:06

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