Tuesday, 22 June 2010 17:02

Anime Central 2010 Report

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It started when I was being driven to the airport in some rent-a-shuttle you booked for a flight at early hours that should be outlawed or at least protested on a weekly basis, while feeling the effects of a cold just starting that I hoped in vain to whatever god I worshiped isn't a cold just starting make that dry scratchy feeling in the back of my throat. Bus driver was blessedly silent as I alternated between staying awake, silent religious supplication, and waiting for the drugs I took before I boarded to kick in. There's also this vague nagging suspicion that in my haste to get everything together, coupled with the pain I'm presently feeling, that I forgot something maddeningly important. Quick mental checks are not possible; haven't had anyone hit my turbo button yet by mainlining me with a Monster energy drink or even some of the finest brewed Columbian lighter fluid. What items I have high pri on my list, that which makes what I do possible at conventions; I do manage to confirm are in my possession before hitting San Diego International.

Broken, beaten, bloodied, and not even begun to fight, I enjoy finding out the new and exciting ways that the airlines are going to screw with their constituency today. Flights that are booked by one airline and operated by another; which one do you go to? If I had been able to form a coherent thought, I'd have called the airport up and had all this figured out in advance. It's 50/50/90 here in front of terminal 2, with the other 50 being at terminal 1 and the 90 being I had probably just picked the wrong one. Odds aren't in my favor, and today that bears out when I'm told to walk back over to terminal 1. Shambling with my bags, wiping my drool, and moaning I'm hoping someone gets overzealous and confuses me for a zombie that needs to be sanctioned as I make the relatively short trek outside and over to terminal 1.

Then we get to the bag check. Job requires a bit of equipment; and one bag just won't do. Two bags wind up costing around an extra $75 (one way) along with the price of the ticket, and I'm wondering if the boards of directors really need that extra yacht per. I don't know about anyone else, but I'll be damned if I've ever seen a flight not packed solid, and more than that, currently they overbook which makes about as much sense as breathing methane through a garden hose. So much for people not getting on flights during these times of artificial recessions and currency devalument. Though that may explain the horrid breakfast burrito I managed to suck down a few minutes before I had to make the long trek through the lines, with my shoes off, shambling as my pants try fall down for lack of belt, and hands up to the guys who look like jihadis on the other side of security; thinkin' they really need to do something before I fall over dead and save them the trouble. Only in America, folks. At least I'd die with pork my gullet as a final fuck you.

Mmm…bacon and sausage…

Popped some pepto tablets and downed a diet aspartame filled coke while boarding hoping something would kill me before I puked my guts out on the cute loli in front of me, I managed to get in my seat without incident. Pulled out my travel pillow and wrapped it around my neck like a noose, figuring I had a decent shot at either death or sleep during the flight. At this point, I'd have welcomed either. Next thing I know we're touching down in Chicago, and I'm wondering what the flying fuck just happened, and was that flying fuck any good, because I'd really like to remember.

Somehow managed to get the blood into my legs again before our row came up for disembarking; which should have been enough time as people don't do this fast. Turns out when you don't move for about four hours, your body tends to put your extremities into sleep mode too. No problem, one would think, but when one is operating at the level of a 386SX/25 with only 4MB of onboard DRAM, windows 3.1 ain't comin' up in anything less than ten minutes.

Managed to stumble off the plane without falling head first into the concrete below me, I took further stock and found I felt like I'd just gone one on one with Simon Furman's insanity laced portrayal of Galvatron in the UK Transformers comics. It was a marked improvement, all things considered; now all I had to do was get my luggage, and get to a shuttle to the Hyatt Regency (not the Hyatt Rosemont) in Rosemont. There I could find my sister and Moonie, get our stuff into the room, and head out to get something to nom on at Mitsuwa.

Eventually managing to do just that, we all arrived at the hotel at roughly the same time, which is either divine providence or just a convenient coincidence; I'm not sure which and not sure it's worth caring about either way. So came the collecting of luggage and heavy stuff from the vehicles and bringing it up to the room on the 6th floor. It really helps that my sister works for the hotel, so we can get our room for free. I'll need to do something nice for her later, preferably something that won't be considered a point against the code of all older brothers which says we must antagonize and bother little sisters.

Mitsuwa is an excellent place to get snacks, but also a decent place to eat all around. Got my usual, some hot miso ramen with natto gohan (fermented soybean over rice) and ate the hell out of it now that my stomach had remembered it wasn't supposed to be on the Olympics gymnastics team. My sister orders a hamburger of all things...I just can't take her anywhere nice, heheh. Found out that neither her, Moonie, or Pearl liked natto, but at least they didn't start gagging like I've seen some do when they eat it. It's really an acquired taste I'm told; only those who grow up with it, or are weird like me tend to enjoy it.

Target is a nice place to get things like allergy medication and something like Airborne for your cold. Turns out the effervescent stuff can be chewed and swallowed, though I don't think could recommend the experience, which reminds me I should really pay attention to what I actually buy next time. Also, the sister gives me water, which is just great as I know her immune system resides somewhere between void and nonexistent. Last thing she needs is whatever I'm coming down with; though that's already too late since I entered the same breathing space as her.

When we get back to the room, I find out what it is that I had forgotten: my cards, and most of the Dark Priest outfit. Saddle up, adapt, overcome, and yippee ki-yay, motherfuckers; this was already going to be a fun convention.

Waking up early proves to be required since, as has been the case for the past two years, I'll need to be at the Press HQ just to get myself registered. The everlovin' sister graciously offers to go and get coffee while I'm spitting up foul and noxious things from my lungs into the sink while downing more drugs and herbs than someone who'd attended Woodstock in the '60s. Coffee sucks, especially black coffee, but it has a unique property in that it can remove lung biscuits like a bread delivery truck, and with the Airbourne stuff in it, it's not half bad. Downing a Monster Kaos is about the last thing I'd needed to do, and I chugged that so fast, I was reminded of a few times in Bali where the beer was loose, and the women looser (though not recommended). First thing to do was to fix one of the few issues I could while I was there.

Had to get more cards. Too many cosplayers have asked for them for me not to hand them out anymore, and if one more moe goth loli looks at me with sad eyes when I don't have them, I'm going to just burn this whole fuckin' planet to ashes in shame. Granted, that would sort of defeat the whole purpose, but that's hardly the point of attempting to stave off those tear filled doe eyes of some of them…fuck, I need to go kill or hug something just thinking about it. Cards were actually somewhat easy to replace, given that there was a Kinkos at the first floor of the hotel. The clerk there was kind enough to duplicate me about 200 in the morning. Though they weren't of the quality of what I make, they'd work in an emergency, and I was thinking this qualifies, and the man went above and beyond what was required of him to get them out, so I bought him some coffee. Still had about seventy or so stuck in my grabbit pack's pocket from Anime Conji, so I was able to make do until he was done; which didn't take much more than an hour after I put my order in.

Arrived in the Press HQ after finding out that it was BEHIND the area that was pointed out on the ACEN map. I seriously doubt it would have been in the hotel's data center closet, but you never know about things like that sometimes. Vic was there along with several of his staff; I swear that guy looks worse off every year. I know I looked like death carrying a camera, but Vic looked like Robert Axelrod when appeared at the Power Rangers panel a couple years ago, IE about to fall over and die. I don't tell people what to do, and I don't make judgments on people's capabilities when they push themselves, so I won't say it may be time to take a break…I'll just throw that out there.

Regardless, he and his press staff did an outstanding job, as they have since I've been attending. One thing to note this year was the requirement that we attend two press functions. Basically press conferences, something I knew they had, but never really understood or paid attention to, with the Guests of Honor. Turns out no one was attending them for a couple of years, but given the fact that most of those who were press were probably the same as me, in that we didn't quite understand the situation, a mandatory learning experience was necessary, and admittedly not unwelcome. Checking my schedule I decided on attending the Vic Mignogna and Nabeshin panels. I kinda wanted to attend the Megatokyo panel, but there was a gathering I wanted to attend more (that didn't happen…yay scheduling) so, Vic and Nabeshin it was.

So, here's Vic's Panel in all its glory, courtesy of the young lady who was sitting right next to me, heh.

The two questions I was concerned with were if his work was impacted much when ADV and Geneon pretty much closed up shop whereas Bandai and Sentai Filmworks (ADV's successor) was basically going pure fansub leaving Funimation as the only major dubber and player in the industry and if he found it stifling to be almost typecast into one voice type in the anime industry. Since he wound up moving to Los Angeles around the time of the big shutdown of Geneon and ADV where a lot of other work was being done, he hadn't noticed much in the way of a lack of work since that's the town were a great deal of VA work is being done. As for his answer to the second question, I'm not sure I agree, but I kinda see it from a different perspective now. See, in anime, you'll note that you have guys like Crispin Freeman. The characters he plays ALWAYS sounds like Crispin Freeman. He's a good actor. But you always know it's him. Then you have guys on the other end of the spectrum like Frank Welker. He not only can play a different character, he can twist his voice into something very different for that character. Megatron does not sound like an evil Freddy Jones, for example, whereas Crispin Freeman either sounds like a deadpan snarker Crispin Freeman or a Dark Overlord Vampire Crispin Freeman. His statement was basically that they're not so much looking for someone that can twist their voice into a pretzel, but someone who can act the part with their voice only. It's sort of the equivalent to watching Al Pachino in a movie. You know it is Al Pachino, with the same looks and voice, but he's playing a different character. I can see the validity of this point of view to an extent. Even Frank Welker recycles voices occasionally for similar parts that those voices played in…occasionally. He even mentioned the differences Edward Elric and Brolli, and even I wouldn't have pegged the two to be from the same VA. Thing is, having grown up with a lot of the older guard doing voices, a lot of what I've seen of voice acting is not only the ability to act with your voice, but to be able to quite literally sound like someone and/or something completely different. There wasn't so much…type casting I guess…going on. It's like, "We need a spunky teenager! Call so and so!" So we get Edward Elric again only this time as a harem anime protagonist rather than calling some other so and so to make a different person while Vic can go off and play some supreme cosmic horror like Cthulhu. Basically I'm saying there's little mixing it up anymore…wonder if this is what Rie Kugimiya feels like being the tsundere queen of Japan. You wouldn't know the girl also does Mizore from Rozario Vampire or Alissa Bannings from Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha. Then you get absolutely terrible casting, such as Steve Blum for Duke in GI Joe: Resolute (doing his stock hero voice…which does not command like it needs to), but that's another issue.

After putting all this down in writing where I can review it, there may be a more systemic problem in the industry than simply same guy doing the same type of voice for a similar type of character. Or perhaps, more accurately, there's a different problem relating to that issue than simply a lack of flexibility on the part of the voice actors in general, which is what the main thrust of my original question was. Used to be, for the most part, everyone sounded like a different person; now it seems like every teenager, dark lord, or whatnot sounds the same because you have the same people playing the same type of character in a differing situation. Perhaps the industry as a whole needs to be as flexible as it used to be back in the day, though with the new appreciation of the voice actors we have in the here and now considering back in the day they were pretty much considered disposable commodities.

Then came the Nabeshin's press conference. Outside the door, I was listening to the staff go nuts because Nabeshin likes to slip away from his handlers and enjoy the convention which worries them to no end, heh. Hell, met the guy in an elevator later that day with his translator; we did the whole "What up, man?" thing, and that's about it for that sort of thing, given we were both trying to get somewhere. Still, the guy is friendly and personable enough to do that, which puts him high up on likeable individuals overall. Getting back to the Press Conference, unfortunately, it doesn't look like anyone uploaded any footage, if any was taken. I wasn't sure about the rules concerning filming, so I didn't bring much more than my Nikon D40x for pictures. The topics of discussion ranged from his future projects, Excel Saga, Censorship, and just plain screwing around, which is a great thing to do. My own question came was concerning the last episode of Excel Saga, the "How Far is Too Far" episode. Basically I was curious what led up to making that and what was its inspiration. His response was to the effect of that it was the result of his frustration of everything he couldn't show in the series proper, and he just let it explode there. This led into the discussion of what he'd like to do with another series that could be geared just as much to us western fans as to Japanese, and that he was actually considered the most dangerous director in anime…a badge he wears with pride. Next year I'm bringing a voice recorder at the very least in order to get more accurate coverage on the conference for this section as I was woefully unprepared this year.

Carting around forty pounds of camera gear while sucking down only half the air you can and spitting up stuff that looks yellow and green is not the sanest course of action one could embark on. May as well attempt to climb Mt. Everest with a tank of NOX. This becomes more of an issue when going to the main events, such as the Fashion Show and Masquerade. Not to mention the Soap Bubble rave, which I planned on attending. Yeah, aerobic dancing for a couple of hours on negative lung capacity and artificial energy sounds like just the thing. The drugs and supplements kept me going, breathing, and my fever down, but I knew there'd be Hell to pay for their use; I was running on luck and borrowed time, hoping the bill didn't come due 'til I got home. Ironically I knew the more energy I expended the less time I would have before that came about, but I'd need to expend that energy if I was going to do what I planned. Only thing to do is go, "Fuck it," and keep going; also keep eating and drinking which is probably what saved me in the end.

The Fashion Show is something I quite enjoy, but can't really describe in words to do it justice. As with any fashion show, it was divided into categories, in this case of Japanese fashion ranging from Lolita to Visual Kei to things I'd never seen before. Each model did the entire aisle walk that you see in more professional settings, showing off their clothing and how well they wear it. It's not really what you'd call a long event; which worked out in its favor this year since it started a little late. On the other hand, I really with the models would not emulate their Hollywood counterparts quite so much and SLOW DOWN a bit. We really want to get a good look, picture, and video so we can appreciate it better. Anime fans right? Watching and looking and appreciating is kinda what we do, heh.

The Masquerade. Yes, that deserves its own sentence. This year…wow. I'll get to the highlight in a moment as it rather eclipsed the Masquerade itself, which I'm not entirely sure is fair to the cosplayers, but at the same time, I'm not sure it could have been done in any other way. It was an enjoyable year, but I felt a sense of tiredness about the skits that wasn't there the previous two years, which translated out to be skits of a lesser quality overall, and no overarching theme or pure random who knows what the fuck we were going to get. The costumes themselves were of impressive quality and were worn very well by all the cosplayers, so in that regard, it was certainly mission accomplished.

In the middle of the Masquerade, we were treated to a kind of half time show which was a minidocumentary of Yoshiki of X Japan's accomplishments and a world premier announcement of X Japan's involvement with Lollapalloza this year in August. The press had already been invited to a private event with 'someone of great importance you don't want to miss' during the Masquerade which I turned down as it was only me that could be at the Masquerade to film. Turns out they decided on having a teleconference with the audience of the Masquerade after the documentary was over with Yoshiki instead of something private, and I think that was more appropriate. Problem was they were having trouble getting a connection, so Yoshiki went to check his side…and walked right out on stage, punking everyone at ACEN. You've never heard a scream so loud in your life. Billions of voices crying out through the Force? Ain't got nothin' on the fans of X-Japan at ACEN. I also know that he made several dozen if not hundreds of new fans there as well given there were still those don't know who X-Japan at ACEN, but they do now. He then sat there on stage and held a public Q&A session, and rightly so given what he was trying to do and what the fans would have wanted. Hell, he even came out and handed out some of the awards for the Masquerade at the end. All in all, he seemed almost surprised and humbled at the adoration he received, which I don't get given the size of his audiences at his live performances world wide. The only immediate bad thing about this was it delayed the Masquerade so much that the Soap Bubble was delayed considerably, much like it was last year. This angered me more because I knew people that were looking forward to it quite a bit, and I didn't want to see them disappointed…but that was out of pretty much everyone's hands; so I had to just deal with it.

Now for the long term bad news. The Masquerade video this year is jacked up due to the several aborted attempts to start the Yoshiki documentary but then realizing they still had a walk-on skit or two to do. I have everything of that…I think…just chopped up as I was turning my camera on and off several times. The Yoshiki press conference was allowed to be filmed, but they came by and kept us from filming at first…then told us we could film it…I have no fucking clue what I've got of that if anything useable. I know I don't have it all in any event. If any other guy that filmed is reading this, I'm willing to share my raw footage if you're willing to share yours so we can put together a decent video of the whole thing. Anyone at all who has some or all of the footage, my contact information is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (take off the nospam. portion) and I'll see if it's useable. Bluntly put, it will be some time before I get a useable product out of this mess.

Also, yes I did attend the Opening Ceremonies, and yes, I do have video of that. If I get some requests for it, I will make it available.

Cosplay this year was quite detailed, but the gatherings for lesser known series seemed a bit sparse to me. There was also a lot of really odd offerings, such as Billy Mays here. There were quite a few of exceptional cosplays as well. To name a few were Mr. and Mrs. Rabbit, Jareth, this rather tall and interesting lady who was selling LARP props at her booth, this Suigintou cosplayer who I very much wish I'd been able to…at least talk with her a little longer due to her exceptional likeness to the character as she'd probably look as a human, and yes, to the girl as well because she was both cute and seemed rather nice, and this exceptionally accurate portrayal of Dante from Dante's Inferno, and again these are only a few of the exceptional pics I managed to capture this year. I did go to the Rozen Maiden gathering(starts here and goes on for a couple of pages) who had an exceptional Kirakishou, though the outfit was so tight she had trouble moving and posing. I'd like to have talked with her longer as well, as I'm curious about how it was made and how she got into it given some of the problems she had with mimicking the pose of Kirakishou on the spider's web. Finally, if this Cammy cosplayer is reading this, you owe me a drink to start with…and you know why.

At the end of the convention, I was fading fast; I'd run out of drugs and Monster…that was pretty much it for me. I think I even drifted off during the AMV's for a few minutes at a time. I did manage to catch an AMV that was one of the funniest things I'd ever seen. It was set to Miley Cyrus' song "Party in the USA" and the anime "Summer Wars"; its name was "The Cyrus Virus". I'd link to it, but apparently what was shown wasn't quite done, so the author hasn't put in on AnimeMusicVideos.org or Youtube yet. UPDATE: Here it is!

Overall, this was a fucking great convention, despite my infected self walking around like patient zero in a game of Resident Evil. Saw some fun things; did some stuff I wasn't expecting; introduced my sister to Lucky Star; her, Moonie, and Pearl discovered X-Japan and Repo: The Genetic Opera, drank some vodka, killed some Pizza and Ramen, and took some cool pics and video. This is all I could ever want out of a convention short of collecting a cute cosplayer (oh now THAT is going to get me a few thousand more restraining orders). Basically if you want a good time, come to ACEN; it's got what you need.

Last modified on Monday, 06 February 2012 12:23

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