Saturday, 11 May 2013 12:36

Anime Conji 2013

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Ah, Anime Conji...good times. Anime Conji is currently the only purely anime convention here in San Diego and this was its fourth year running. This was also the third year at the Town and Country Hotel and the second for using its convention center; the first year being spent at the Double Tree hotel, and crowded that poor place out. So far, the Town and Country has provided plenty of room for the convention and its attendees; in fact this year I would go so far as to say it was almost too much room.

Yeah, I actually said that. I should beat myself to death for even suggesting that after being in a pressure cooker like Anime Expo, Anime L.A., and Sac Anime (though at least Sac has moved on to the Sacramento Convention Center, which I have yet to attend).

Still, the observation is valid. The entire convention was spread out over a good portion of the entire hotel area, which you can see here on their website. This necessitated a lot of wandering around, for which, I was actually kinda thankful for. Most conventions, while you do walk around a lot, you're often stuck in a really confined area (like the first year here at the Town and Country). Here and now, one gets outside a lot. Hell, one of the 'viewing rooms' for anime was at one of the pools, outdoors where you could swim and watch or just hang out, outside, and watch anime. First time I'd actually sat down to watch K-on...no, I'm not picking up that one. Even more surprising is where they managed to get the dealer's hall this year: The Grand Exhibit Hall. For a smaller convention, that was a massive place to put everyone, and it was an odd sensation, almost to the point of agoraphobia, to actually have more than enough room to walk around and check things out. While this depends on attendance and convention center rental price, I certainly hope they can keep this up. In fact, one of the best parts of this convention is the Fashion Valley Mall right behind the hotel, where one can bail and get some food or just get a change of scenery from the convention if you so desire it.

As has become the norm for me, I was accepted as Press. It should be noted that this was the first year that SPJA was running the show after taking over operations from the San Diego Speculative Fiction Society, Inc, and I'm curious if that's what caused it to take so long in order to process press requests. No one got approval until the night before the convention was slated to start, and while not really a problem for me, actually being in San Diego, I expect others who were coming from elsewhere were pulling their hair out in pure frustration. I also witnessed first-hand how a few press folks, though they were in the system in one place, did not have things like badges printed out or were not written down elsewhere...basically, this was a bit of a cluster. They compensated fairly well, but truthfully, I'm pretty sure that's not the way a system like that is supposed to work. Also of note was that I don't believe I ever once met anyone from their press department. In the professional checkin area, they didn't even really have any idea where I could go to do this, or even who to ask. Sensing I was getting the, "I don't know...please go away...I'm just a working monkey with no internal working knowledge," vibe from a couple of those there, I found my way to Convention Operations over on the other side of the hotel. Still didn't find anyone from press there, but I did manage to drop off all footage and pictures from the previous year for their archives...I hope the press corps got it.

Still, I can't fault really fault them for overall treatment of the press. In a lot of conventions, typically, press is either mostly ignored (which is often the best you're going to get) or worse, treated as a hostile entity to be corralled and stomped on at every opportunity. In either case, most of the general staff have no real idea what to do with us. I'm curious as to the latter because I'm pretty sure that most press aren't like me, and even I'm not what you'd call actively hostile. Still, it seems like we are sort of a nuisance that are to be put up with in most cases, so it's really a surprise when we're given some sort of positive consideration. Case in point, last year's Anime Expo. That press party at the 21 and over lounge was like nothing I'd ever seen before except at Club 2 the Maxx (now called AM^2, run by Chase Wang, one of the most awesome people alive). After years of neglect, fighting, and/or abuse, I was looking over my shoulder waiting for knife to descend, but it never did. Anime Conji, however, has the most incredible press lounge I think I've seen. Energy drinks, cases of Capri Sun (Fruit Punch!), snacks and a place to sit down for a while and watch the Maids at the Maid Cafe do their thing. I never have gotten around to going to the Anime Conji Maid Cafe...I'll need to make some time to do that in the future. Those poor girls manning that place were there practically all convention though, and took such joy out of me showing them the pictures I'd taken through that time. If anything, I'd say they really needed some more people to take some of the hours these girls were on so they could walk around and enjoy the convention they were helping to put on.

Continuing with the theme of wide open spaces, the convention claims there were 'record numbers' in attendance, but what those numbers are and how they relate to previous years, I can't really say just yet since I can't find any concrete numbers anywhere. I will say the lines were kept short from what I saw and were fairly well managed when they were for main events and popular panels. In that, I can only breathe another sigh of relief; truly having a massive relief valve for those pressure cookers we call conventions makes a far more enjoyable experience all around. Overall, though it appeared there were some massive underlying problems, they compensated pretty damn well for them, and made the convention a fun time regardless. Like I noted before, not being all crammed together likely helped out tremendously in that regard. It also helped that there was only one wedding and a small gathering of people on the second night to jockey for space with the convention itself, so there were no large conflicts with other events...which also helped getting parking.

The only panel I managed to get to was the "Ask a Pony" panel, which was generally a bunch of cosplayers acting as humanized versions of their favorite ponies from My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic in a bit of Q&A/LARPing. This tested their improv skills in ways I doubt any of them were truly expecting. Truthfully, props go to the Pinkie Pie and Rarity presenters for their absolutely stellar, and in the case of Pinkie Pie, occasionally creepy acting skills. She giggled real scary about cupcakes. Invited people to come and help her bake them. With a giggle. And as for Rarity? My God, girl...could you have been more accurate? I thought I was listening to Rarity herself when you answered questions. Almost wanted to kidnap you just to hear you whine. Admittedly, there were a number of dicks in the audience, but the panel presenters had a pretty good handle on how to deal with their type, and managed to make it an enjoyable bit of fun for everyone. Now me, there's only so much silliness I could take, so I had to bail about two-thirds of the way in. Still managed to get some decent pictures later.

On the subject of cosplayers, this was a pretty good year for quality cosplay. It was also a pretty odd year in that several well-known cosplayers managed to converge on this place. Highlights include this individual for his cosplay as an Ikari Warrior and Thunderfoot...wish I could have gotten his Akuma too. There was this damn good Captain America from the first movie, an oufit I liked a lot better than the one in the Avengers. This cosplayer who I seem to recall I've been trying to get a picture of this cosplay of his for a while. Charmie Sweets cosplaying Lightning, who managed to drop by while visiting with her sister, whom you see next to her as Serah; both from Final Fantasy 13. This one is of particular note, because, if you scroll down on page 3, you'll find a few more pics of their cosplay which I shot because a few of the originals didn't turn out as I'd liked. These were also special requests of Charmie, and I was more than happy to fulfill them; which I'll do for almost all cosplayers if they ask. Precious Cosplay stopped by in her cosplay from a character from the game Valkyria Chronicles as I recall...I could be wrong on that one. Ran into a Kuro Usagi from "Problem Children are Coming From Another World" who was all levels of accurate and thus, adorable. Likely my favorite group at this convention, these guys are from Fire Emblem. Of special mention is the Tharja cosplayer in terms of accuracy, which I'm sure delighted Drakstern to no end since he had his main character marry the character she's coplaying as, heh. Then there was the Mao, whom was also scary accurate...and our Masquerade coordinator. I'm very glad I managed to snap these photos at the end of the show, though I note the lighting or the place made her a bit shiny no matter what I did. Finally, we have Vampy in her Venom symbiot cosplay. Nice girl, but she's awfully tiny in real life; I did not expect that. I can honestly say this is only a sample of the great cosplay that was in play this year, and I invite all to check out the full gallery.

The AMV's were of surprising high quality for a smaller convention, but then, I've noticed that this has been the case all the years Anime Conji has run the contest that I've attended. But you need not take my word for it, check them out for yourself (interspersed with my anecdotes if I have any for that AMV):

DRAMA

7 Days - by drewaconclusion

This one is creepy fucking shit, heh.

Illusion - by Kimberly
Tell Me A Journey - by ProjectBarcodeError

A Katanagatari AMV set to Florence and the Machine's "Cosmic Love." Stylistically it's nearlly identical to the AMV "Mahou Shoujo Requium", but is fairly decent even so. Still, it has been done, so keep that in mind.

Ghost of a Rose - by tipsd9video

This was my personal favorite of the show and winner of the Drama category.

Hall of Fame - by Drabaz
Skull and CrossShield - by Yumfoo

I found this particular one to be an AMV that may follow the letter of the law, but not the spirit. It's a soundtrack replacement piece for the final raid/fight of the anime for Sword Art Online's first major storyline. It fits, but isn't what I'd quite call an AMV per se.

Rideback Girl - by Jump Cut Productions

Very artsy.

Tough Love - by l33tmeatwad

This one is a cross polination situation and probably would have worked better in comedy.


ACTION

Bankrupt! - by ProjectBarcodeError
Shoot Me! - by BecauseImBored1

This one reminds me that I need to watch Black Lagoon sometime.

Running on the Ragged Edge 2 - by macchinainterna

While this one is fun, I don't think Van Halen's "Panama" is quite fast enough for the Red Line movie

But Tonight - by Leland Lacey
Overcoming Me - by Hagaren Viper

Probably my favorite of the Action category, and likely for good reason, since this individual also made the "Soul Eater" AMV of Marilyn Manson's "This is Halloween."

Rise Up - by Pikapwn

While good, I didn't think it was as good as the Overcoming Me AMV previously mentioned. It was an FMA AMV, however, and had the fangirl vote.

Turning the Tables - by Bryan Ngo

This one does not appear to be online yet.

Blackout Shooter - by l33tmeatwad

I really liked this one. It was actually a tossup between this one and the Overcoming Me one for which one I liked out of this category the best.


COMEDY

Evangelion 0.01 - Shinji is (Not) the Boss - by l33tmeatwad

There are people going to Hell for this one. Good to know what company I'll be in, heh, heh, heh.

Nothing on TV Anyway - by Cumberpunch Studio

Unfortunately not online, even though it was the best of its category and the best of show. Truthfully, this one was almost unfair. While the rest were humorous, this one had people crying they were laughing so hard. Set in the style of AMV Hell, it takes the concept a few more steps beyond. Fun story about this one too: The creator was this girl here who obviously already had a unique sense of humor. Thing is, she had no idea this was coming, which was doubly fun since she also put her cosplay in the Masquerade...where everything was announced. Some epic trolling right there.

This Wasn't in the Dub - by SatoshiSakura

My God this one was wrong.

Ai Mentos - by GloryQuestor
Rated M for MMMMM - by ProjectBarcodeError

Speaking of wrong, this one took wrong to places that only the series it used could go.

Zombie Baby - by Zanzaben

This one fell pretty flat with me.

Dinosaurs and Lollipops - by Kireblue

Man, Kimura-sensei never gets a break.


UPBEAT

I Choose Hippopotas - by Kireblue

Really? Were you trying to kill us with diabetes?

BFB - by Jump Cut Productions

Another bit of cross polination; this one was probably better off in Drama or maybe Comedy.

Rock What You Got - by JudgeHolden

My eyes were bleeding and I wished only to end all life in the universe after watching this.

Till Then - by GuntherAMVs

This was probably my favorite of the category, and enough agreed so that it won said category. It also won Coordinator's Choice, and it's certainly deserving of that. Given the song that was used, various rights holders bar it from youtube, so I found this copy on Nico Nico Douga that shows the video as it is meant to be shown.

15 Minute Phone Call - by Leland Lacey

Overall, like I said, some pretty nifty stuff, even if the one was the very antithesis of existence. I do note that a few of these AMVs are older and from more obscure stuff. I'm curious if they just didn't make the cut in larger anime cons in some cases, because I do not remember seeing them at the likes of Anime Expo or Fanime. If so, it's good to see these AMVs getting some exposure, because they were pretty damn good for the most part.

The Masquerade at conventions this small are typically not very long, and honestly, as I get older, I find myself more and more inclined to enjoying the shorter ones, because the longer ones are often more like a goddamn endurance run. I'm not as young as I used to be, and even back then, while entertaining, standing (or worse, sitting) in the same position for four or more hours at a time barely moving was not the most comfortable activity in the world. It's at times like this I realize there's going to come a point where I just can't do it anymore. Hopefully that day is still a ways off, and better, was not this day.

I wouldn't really call this Masquerade ‘noteable' in any real sense short of costume technical skill. Most were little more than walkons, but there were a few skits, both dramatic and/or humorous. I think the highlight of the event was likely the half time show, which consisted of Raj Ramayya coming out on stage and singing several of his songs for us which included songs from Wolf's Rain and Cowboy Bebop. The man's a natural performer, running a little game where he handed out a CD and some Ramen to people who answered his questions correctly (or answered them in a way he found entertaining, heh) and even coming up with a song for us on the fly. Three words were chosen from those being shouted by the audience: James Bond, Curry, and...of all things...testicles. A far funnier song sprang forth than I think anyone could have imagined, even him, and all were entertained. Unfortunately, at the time of this writing, the DragonsAnimeMovies Youtube channel is still in lockdown due to a Sony having a hissy fit over Traci Hines covering a song they own the rights to back in Anime Expo's Idol competition 2008. Hopefully in the next couple months, this will be lifted and you'll be able to view the contest in its entirety there at will. In the meantime, we are currently seeding a torrent for it, but we only do that for about three weeks, so get it now while you still can.

There was also the Fashion Show that was shown on the final day, rather early in the morning, which the M.C., one Tadao Tomomatsu in a suit and purple loli dress, was absolutely merciless about. There was some pretty good stuff there, including stuff from Cyril Lumboy and Harajuku Hearts. Cyril Lumboy, if you've never seen her, is this itty bitty little Japanese Lady who is so cute I want to put her in my display case with the rest of my figurines. Typically she runs around in a sweet loli dress, but this convention she was running around in Mirai Trunks cosplay...which I unfortunately could never seem to catch her to get her picture in. Still, if you can, get the video for it, or wait until we can get it on Youtube, you'll see it then.

About the only thing I picked up in the Dealer's Hall the final day (when I usually do my shopping) was a hard copy of the Shuffle hentai game, which for the longest time has been download only at Manga Gamer. I did notice, however, that a lot of larger ticket items walked out of there. Specifically, a lot of these sorts of figurines (that poor bastard carried that thing around the whole day so it wouldn't possibly get heat or sun damaged in his vehicle) which people drop two and three bills for. There is also that picture of Maridah running around with a unicorn balloon (it was the one from Team Fortress 2's "Meet the Pyro") smiling and looking like a little girl with a brand new toy...which I guess she kinda was, heh. Never did get a pic of her; she was doing a shoot in her iconic Sabre cosplay with Cyril Lumboy about the time I was getting ready to bail.

And I suppose that's where I'll wrap it up. Anime Conji was honestly just a good fun time this year. What problems there seemed to be also seemed to be mostly kept from the attendees, so props to the staff for that. Well, aside from the issue with The Brainage Guy's dancing panel which was FUBAR from the get go and canceled shortly into it. I figured he was going to quit the convention right there, and from what I gather, he'd had pretty good reason to. Still, I didn't hear about or see much more than that and the initial screw ups in professional registration. The main events went off without a hitch that I could determine which again, means any that did occur were handled. For every panel and event, and the convention itself, there was more than enough space for everyone to move and breathe which is a great relief for both attendee and staff. What more can be said? It was a nice mellow time, which can often be better than the insane highs and abysmal lows much larger and more intensive conventions are often capable of. If you ever find yourself in San Diego during Anime Conji, drop on by. You'll be glad you did.

Last modified on Saturday, 11 May 2013 13:20

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