Thursday, 29 April 2010 18:12

Anime Conji Report 2010

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I first learned about Anime Conji back when I attended PMX with Aisu a few months ago. A San Diego anime convention was something that a few of us had been discussing in various forums, but actually putting it on ourselves seemed to me to be rather…too much like work, heh. So here was a guy passing out flyers for the first, and hopefully annual, anime convention for San Diego here at PMX. For those that are wondering, Pacific Media Expo is the convention that was started by Mike Tatsugawa after the management dispute of Anime Expo '04 and takes place in Los Angeles, California. At the time, like a complete dumbass, I took the flyer and forgot about it. It wasn't until a couple weeks before the convention that I saw a message on Facebook from Traci Hines who noted she'd be going there to put on a small concert with a few others. Smacking myself in the head, I immediately started the work I'd need in order to attend the convention. Given Anime Expo's recent issues, and likely decline, not to mention the problems we've occasionally had with some of their floor personnel over the years, another nearby convention to go to seems like something that would be best to cultivate if at all possible.

For its first year, Anime Conji was to take place at the Double Tree Hotel over in Mission Valley, in an area affectionately known as Hotel Circle. At first I figured I'd just drive back and forth, but then I saw certain late night party games of a more adult variety that mentioned alcohol; the Pirate Party to be specific. Being an ex Sailor myself, I quickly realized I was likely going to be in no shape to actually drive after this; which left me with the only other option: Get a room. This would also be useful should I find an amorous fangirl as one occasionally finds at such events. Sadly this did not occur this year, but fun and much drink was had…much drink. I'll need to take some friends next year so we can all get obliterated.

As this was its first year, they were unable to give out complimentary press badges, and I'm perfectly fine with that. They mentioned they'd hopefully be able to do this next year if they're successful this year. Since it looks like they exceeded what their goal was by a wide margin, it very much looks like this will be the case, but we'll see when it gets closer to that timeframe. They did not in any way obstruct me or others who were doing similar from filming and photographing (something I asked about on their boards) so everything was good in that regard.

I showed up a little late on the first day, due to the fact that I had acquired a new lens for my Nikon D40X which meant I also acquired a new UV protective addon for it. Problem is, the UV addon filter was rattling around in its circular metal frame…which it's not supposed to do and was already cracked on the edges. So, I stopped into Best Buy and acquired one of their cheesy Sunpak 67mm UV filters, which will more than do in a pinch, which this was. The hotel didn't have a room ready for me yet, but they were kind enough to take my luggage so I could go about my business of getting my badge and taking pics of cosplayers which you can find on this page at TFA Cosplay.

As I walked around taking pictures, I noted two general vibes about those in attendance. First, there were too many bubbles. What I mean by that is that there were groups of people walking around, sort of insulated into themselves, and not experiencing the convention in a more open way. This may well be because it was the first year for the convention, and people were too busy gauging how those running the con were going to handle it. Would it be the near crushing oppression of some, or the open air party of others? Now me, I found this convention to be extremely relaxing. To be honest, I wanted to be walking around the entire time with a beer in my hand; it was extremely laid back. Hell, even the guests of honor were walking around like normal convention attendees, some in cosplay, with no real problems at all. Hopefully this is a trend that continues.

Second, the ratio of guys to girls was…not what one would expect at a convention of this type. There were actually a helluva lot more girls that I saw running around than guys. At first one would think this was great, but remember the first problem…their shields were up, big time. I thought about going to find some weed and pumping into the air-conditioning system to loosen people up. Related to this is it seemed there was a slight prevalence of girls who preferred the company of other girls in a romantic context; which boggled my mind a bit. Then, there was one hilarious instance, with a Cammy cosplayer who had her mother chaperoning her around. Considering she was wearing a costume like that, with a body like that, in a way that they'd never allow at any other convention, she obviously knew what she looked like and what effect that would have on the resident male population, as evidenced by the photographers that crowded around her at all moments she was out. So having her mother around is slightly sadistic, but then this is business as usual for cosplayers of this caliber and for good reason honestly. Not having someone around to run interference or tell the overbearing whoever that they're acting like a jerk and to back off a bit can be a bit harrowing in places like this. When people who do that to cute girls in awesome cosplay (or even what is considered by girls to be cute guys…yes, I've seen that too) start up, it makes the whole convention no longer any fun for both the cosplayer and the people trying to take their picture. Still…that was pushing it a bit the OTHER way for a couple (yes, two) obvious reasons, and I'm not afraid to say that either. So in all, people needed to open up more to each other and the convention, and we needed some more girls actually looking for guys to make this thing really fun. The Cammy cosplayer is just an amusing side note to the lack of any goings on between the girls and the guys at this con.

The dealer's hall was fairly small, but that was to be expected. I talked with the J-List guy who was excited about getting some top quality H games for a change, such as Demonbane, which is something they've been fighting for awhile to acquire the license to. After Mangagamer managed to get the rights to the uncensored version of Shuffle (or so they claim) we finally start seeing other companies getting access to the top quality H dating sims that we've all been waiting for awhile to play (assuming you just didn't download it with a fan translation). Me personally, I'm looking forward to Demonbane, having very much enjoyed the PG-13 anime adaptation (now if only we could get Saya no Uta). Also managed to finally get a foot tall black Mokona to compliment my white Mokona from Magic Knight Rayearth.

I don't expect this to continue, but they also had a room in the hotel where one could stop in for free eats and drinks. I've never seen such a thing before, and I took advantage of it a few times after some initial reservations. Unfortunately they were also using that room for the Maid Café, so it would close down daily for this purpose. The lines to the café were far too long, so I never did get in to play with the maids in their café…maybe next year. They also had hotel rooms set up for certain dealers who looked like they'd brought a good portion of their store with them. It was an interesting setup, and I'm curious if the convention will grow enough one day to not need such things…perhaps even the ability to use the San Diego Convention Center and its huge exhibit hall.

I actually managed to go to a few panels and other events this year. First one was the "Whose Line Is It?" panel, which was a group of people who took suggestions from the audience in conjunction with a topic picked by the judges to make up situations and dialog that went to from the absurd to the surreal…and all was funny. I couldn't stay there the entire time, because they were also having the Meet the Guests panel at almost the same time, and I wanted to go and check that out. This was pretty sparsely attended, everyone else being at the aforementioned one, but it was amusing in that a couple of the VA's had beers up there on stage, which quickly cemented this as the best convention ever, if only for that alone. I also met Wendee Lee, and made a total ass of myself when I did. Having grown up listening to her, I just blanked on what to say…which is funny since I've never had that problem before. I just really wanted to say that I'd been listening to her all my life, and thank her for that. I can only hope I don't act like a complete and total dumbass if I ever meet Bettina, heh. The last panel I went to was a Vocaloid focus panel, which I have to admit it was very informative from a purely technical geek standpoint. It dealt with the technology of how it worked, the licensing involved, and the phenomena of Hatsune Miku and the other personifications that have been made of the technology and how popular it's become.

The pirate party was actually divided into two parties on separate nights. The first night was the one open to all ages, so no alcohol was being served. So, I drank lemon water and got my gold pieces swindled out of me during a rousing game of 21. Second night…the whole thing changed. It started out with the guy in front of me in line for a drink handing the man a ten and saying something like, "Well, I'm here, so I'm obviously not here to think. What can you mix me up for this?" The bartender started grabbing all sorts of random stuff and mixing the man up something that not even he had any idea what it was going to be like. After getting my rum and coke, I had to have a drink of that…and it was pretty good. However, we then found that rum and coke makes an excellent chaser for it. Hard alcohol chasing hard alcohol…after about three more beers, and a few games of Liar, I can say I was fairly toasted. Good thing I got that room, heh.

Then came the main events. They all took place in this giant gazebo thing outside next to the pool and mostly on the second day. First up were several concerts, one right after the other, which would have been impossible for me to film due to the shear amount. I do note that they had a surprise guest singer the day before in the form of Mega64. Problem is they destroyed some microphones that weren't theirs from what I gather, and were escorted off the premises. Not the way you'd want to go out, to be sure. I did manage to record Traci Hines, Stephanie Yanez, and The Black Crystals; all of whom you probably know from my other videos of AX Idol and The Battle of the Bands. The Masquerade was the only other main event I attended. It was quite short this year, but again, that's to be expected since it was the first year and didn't have the shear massive numbers that events like Anime Expo and ACEN have. Still, it was amusing, and it was chaired by…heh, well, when I get my videos up, you'll see. It's a pleasant surprise, let me assure you.

Overall, despite the slight bubble feeling from far too many of the convention attendees, this was an extremely chill convention. The Hell with the beer, I should have been walking around with a Martini or a Bloody Marry the whole time. If there was any problem with this convention is that its square footage was a little bit too small, even for its first year. Next year they're moving to a bigger hotel, so it looks to be expanding quite well for its upcoming years. Hopefully not as fast or as big as some others who have attendances so large, it actually becomes a detriment to how they do business, themselves, and the fans that make the whole thing work. Still, only time will tell if that's the way it goes. I'm quite satisfied with my experience, and look forward to attending next year with some friends and hopefully actually meeting a few new people rather than brushing up against them.


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