Monday, 18 August 2008 17:12

Fanime Report 2008

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Fanime 2008 was, overall, a pretty enjoyable and oddly restfull experience. I’d go so far as to say even low key. It doesn’t share the same tireless energy as ACEN, the frenzied pace of Anime Expo, or the overwhelming (even disorientating) abundance of Comic Con, but it has its share of things to do; all of which are fun. However, Fanime always has this tone of being extremely laid back, or as Gensao put it, “It’s a three day con spread over four days.” This is true, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing. One doesn’t NEED to be going from place to place at mach speeds of over 9000 all the goddamn time. Sometimes it’s best to sit around and chill with a few thousand people and meander around from place to place in no particular rush. Only thing that would have made it better is if they had a bar right outside of the dealer’s hall and registration or served beer at the Maid Café. Hey, that’s an idea: a Maid wet bar. No, not wet nurse, wet bar! Sheesh, bunch of pervs out there, I swear. Wait, I’m the only one writing here. FUCK!

Day 0

I started off this convention with my new camera battery and attachment, but forgetting my tripod. This was a problem, but not anything unrecoverable; all we had to do was hit up Best Buy and acquire one. As before, I was heading up to Fanime with Mayhem, and this was the tentative plan after we got into the hotel and got our registration taken care of. Like ACEN, I had acquired a press pass for the first time, this year, and had plans to put it to good use at several events…only one of which I managed to actually film to my chagrin. We were unfortunately unable to pick up Anyaku again this year, due to the fact he had just finished moving, but perhaps next year all things depending.

Like the year before, we had made reservations at the Ramada just behind the convention center. It’s honestly a whole helluva lot cheaper than the convention hotels, it’s barely a block away (if that), it doesn’t charge for parking, has free wifi, and, unlike Anime Expo, Fanime doesn’t have partnered hotels that allow for special privileges if you reserve a room with them…they don’t need such deals. This was all very necessary as this would be the first time either of us had gone for the full time, and lodging is always very expensive at these events.

We checked in about 1600 or so, and immediately set out to take care of registration. Day 0 is always the day to take care of last minute stuff, such as picking up snacking supplies or whatnot. I’d brought a long a bunch of MREs, as I did with ACEN, but it turned out that this year we wound up planning our meals a lot better, so they were unneeded for the most part. It also helps that Mayhem had a Garmin as well. In any event, the line for Fanime wasn’t so bad at this point. Still, there was a certain type of prereg that they weren’t processing at that point, which was what Mayhem’s registration happened to be. Mind you, we didn’t find out about that ‘til we were half way through this line. Word to the wise: A White Board with a big fucking message on it would have done wonders. Rather than wait until the following day, we set about to find out if I could add Mayhem to my retinue as a member of the press. Honestly, given the fact I tend to use Mayhem as a gopher and a carry monkey when he’s around, it’s really accurate (he’s gonna kill me when he reads this, heheheh). I had been informed I wouldn’t be able to do make a new addition after a certain point, but they went ahead and allowed him in regardless. I suspect it may have had to do with the fact he’s also a Mason, but who knows? It was pretty damn cool of the press coordinator to do that, and we were just glad to get it taken care of.

Oh, here’s the first pic of the convention. Cute, eh? A lot of cuteness and surprising stuff this convention as far as cosplay went.

There’s almost nothing going on this con on Day 0. We walked down the convention center to scope the place out; see if there was anything new or worth noting. Finding it to be the same as last year, we headed back and hightailed it to the nearest Best Buy. We found it in the middle of a downtown area, on the corner of a highrise and part of some strangely put together shopping center. There was a parking structure right next to it, which we found was completely full, and had people circling all over just to get in a spot. Given we were driving in a truck, and these tiered parking lots are typically spaced out to allow for maximum vehicle stuffage with minimum space, we figured even if we could find a spot, that getting both in and out would not be to our advantage. Wound up parking across the street in front of a couple of drug stores (a Safeway and a Long’s Drugs in the same complex right next to each other…very odd). The plan then became to pick up the tripod, get snacks at the drug stores, find some place to eat, then plan for the following day with the schedules.

This Best Buy was pretty compact, but it was also two stories. We shopped around for a few minutes, checking out the usual stuff one does when one is a computer and gaming geek in a place like this before we moved on to the primary reason we were here. They had several, but I wound up picking up a slight upgrade to my own tripod, which in this case was a Sunpak 7500TM. The difference between this one and the tripod I forgot is that this one has the capability of becoming a monopod if I slide out the center stabilizer. It’s not really something I’ve ever needed before, but it may prove useful in the future. I’ll likely give my old tripod to my sister.

For dinner, we eventually settled on Denney’s, and thanks to the Garmin, we could find our way to one. It’s funny to note that there really aren’t that many in San Jose; though you’d think it’d be packed with them given it’s a college town. The closest one to the convention center is several miles down 1st street, which is everything but walkable. Food choices around the convention center range from expensive to expensive with only the Quiznos and the Johnny Rocket’s being relatively cheap unless you want to do some serious walking. We actually did that one day, but more on that later.

The next day was going to be…interesting…we found out. The finalized schedule had not been printed out and included in the registration packet. This necessitated our breaking out the laptop, checking it out online, and hoping that what we were seeing was going to be the finalized version in case something was going on that we had to be there for. I also note, that these days we have to coordinate the events with cosplay gatherings we like to go to as well, most of which are scheduled on the cosplay.com forums. Any last minute rescheduling was going to have to be done at the convention center itself, on that nice little board where the daily gatherings are listed, and so…yeah. We’d be going in hoping we knew what was happening, but expecting not to be honest. It was going to be a fun first couple hours, to be sure.

Day 1

Day 1 started with a quick trip to 7-11 to stock up on the munchies we didn’t get at the drug store the previous night. Interesting to note that the nearest such store is several blocks away, which required we get up somewhat earlier than either of us would have liked and drive over to it. The only one closer is a privately owned corner store, and really wasn’t all that good (but at least they had pain killers and beer).

I say again, Fanime is a very relaxed sort of convention. We finally arrive there about 11:00 or so, and we just have people hanging out, in no rush to get anywhere, and the usual cosplayers hanging out in the front of the fountains, getting pics taken and the like. Hell, Opening Ceremonies wasn’t even until 15:00, so pretty much people were just hanging out, going to some panels, watching some anime, and/or waiting for the dealer’s hall to open. Gensao and crew were going to arrive a little bit later, so we passed our time doing what we liked doing, and taking pictures of cool cosplayers. There was a little more imagination this year to go along with the technical detail that’s the usual standard when judging weather a costume is good or not. Take this pic of Suigintou and a portrayal of Rozen which I found to be a most accurate rendition given current information about the man. Accurate as in characterization…I know he’s a blonde German guy wearing a white shirt, heh. There was also some fun to be had here and there. Which is not to say that there wasn’t some good technical work, such as this Love Hina cosplay group. However, this one also proved that you don’t need to be overly complex ALL the time to have a good cosplay. Which is not to say that complexity is a bad thing either. Of course, then you had things like this young woman who really REALLY made me want to start crying. And you know why.

I also noted some interesting trends this year that I hadn’t in previous years. I suspect they were always there, but I was never really alert to them until I noticed one in particular. The Shuugo Chara cosplayers were all over the place at all the conventions I went to (except for Comic Con…wasn’t really paying any attention there). Though not in force, like the Final Fantasy characters always are, they were noticeable; which is a lot like how the Chobits cosplayers were a few years ago. Also, there was always this undercurrent of characters I had no idea about, but had seen and taken pictures of for awhile. The Touhou fandom, which I’ve since been somewhat educated on (due to the efforts of Drak and my stumbling upon the very disturbing Yukkuri) I had no clue about. I believe, for example this cute cosplayer here is probably a Touhou cosplayer (and if someone knows otherwise, please tell me) given the overall design of her outfit and the fact her booth seemed to be selling a lot of stuff related to them. I just can’t seem to find the actual character she’s cosplaying, heh. Still, I’ve seen these characters for years, but it wasn’t until just a little while ago that I found out who they were and where they came from. This just goes to show how much is really out there, and how much has always been out there…that even if you’ve been in it for decades, there’s still stuff to learn about and lots of stuff that have been missed.

Artist’s alley opened before the Dealer’s Hall did, so many people crowded in there to check out the artists and their wares. Personally, I think this is a great idea as it gives the artist’s there more exposure and people more stuff to do. Honestly, if the artist’s were amendable, I’d let them open Artist’s Alley around 09:00 and let people hang out in there until the Dealer’s Hall opens at…I believe it was noon or 13:00 this year. Then again that may be more than they could handle, heh. In any event, we found our way into the Dealer’s Hall shortly after it opened, and checked out the usual stuff and earmarked stuff for picking up towards the end of con, when prices come down. I was personally looking to get another Sky Lynx for my growing collection of G1 Transformers as well as the usual stuff on my extended list, like a Masterpiece Convoy with Trailer for a decent price and a Black Mokona Modoki (which I acquired a couple weeks ago, heh). We hung out in there until Opening Ceremonies.

Opening Ceremonies is an event I should have just brought my camcorder to and recorded it gorilla style without a tripod. It was unlike any opening I’d seen (pics continue on until the next page). The main speaking event was at Stage Zero, which is located right in the middle of the upstairs main thoroughfare, but the Japanese drummer group was located downstairs, which meant everyone was sprawled all over the first two tiers of the main section of the convention center. Fanime is also extremely unconventional in this regard, and I say good on them. It was very informal and comparatively brief, though it did have a few surprises…or should I say one BIG surprise. One of the guys from Gainax came out on stage and said he really liked coming, but he regretted he was the only guy who could come out the previous year. So, this year…he brought the whole company (top three pics). I don’t know how they kept that one under wraps, but the cheers were deafening. I hope they all had a blast here.

We had met up with Gensao a little while before and made plans for dinner. ‘Til then we did some wandering here and there as there weren’t any events or panels either myself or Mayhem wanted to go to. During our travels I wound up running into another girl whom I’ve seen cosplaying Suiseiseki the past couple years. If I see her again, I’ve got to at least ask what her name is, though if I’m beginning to recognize people year after year, I know they are…which means they’re probably ready to take an axe to my spine, heh. So, I do apologize girls, yes, I’m the creepy little guy hanging around the Rozen Maiden gatherings/cosplayers taking pictures as I’m a big fan of the series; I’m trying my best not to be too incredibly weird about it, but if I ever get out of line, feel free to tell me to take a hike, and I’ll do so forthwith.

In fact, that goes for any cosplayer who recognizes me and doesn’t want me to take their picture. I won’t do it if you don’t want me to. You can tell me to take a walk, and I won’t even feel bad about it if you do. You can even tell me never to take a picture of or talk to you again; though if you’re in a group, I can’t promise not to, and I’m really bad with faces sometimes, so you may have to remind me if you’re in costume. I’m there to have fun and appreciate the fine work I see (and I’ll admit, I like looking at cute girls, heh) and if no one else is having fun, then what’s the point?

Dinner was an interesting adventure at a Japanese restaurant whose name I regrettably forget, but it was in that little set of expensive restaurants next to the convention center. The format was that plates of food would come out and we’d each take a portion of it. It was all good food, though a bit pricy, but that’s okay sometimes. We damn near went through that entire menu before we were done. Gensao even got me drinking some mixed drink, which Mayhem referred to as the girliest drink he ever saw. It probably was, but damn, it was good.

One of the events that is an absolute blast to go to is Hentai Night, which are mass viewings of the hardest of the hardcore H anime (the hardcore H Yaoi anime room is next door…I’m scared to go in, but rather intrigued by the state of the girls who come out). This doesn’t actually start until midnight, however, so it’s up to us to keep entertained until then. Fanime slows down later in the evening when most of the panels are done and the Artist’s Alley and Dealer’s Hall close down. Still, there are things to do and cosplayers about to take pictures of.

Since this was the first time I’d been to the entire con, I was in for a treat. On the first night, inside the video gaming room, which is this huge area, they allowed people to set up a Flea Market. I’m not sure of the exact rules governing it, but what it really looked like was just people bringing their stuff in, setting up shop wherever they happened to see space, and selling it. All sorts of rare, out of production, and one of a kind stuff was on sale as regular fans tried to make a buck or two off of stuff they didn’t need or want anymore. I was just looking for a complete copy of the Valkyrie Profile for PS1 in relatively good condition myself. Mayhem said he found one, but it was going for about $80…and thinking about it, I figured I’d better save my money for later or I’d probably not be able to get Sky Lynx.

Eventually midnight rolled around, and we had all lined up for the Hentai Rooms. Guys and girls both…we knew why we were there, and the naughtiness abounded. I often wonder what the conception rate among the congoers who frequent these rooms is afterwards. That might be something to look into one of the days, but regardless, the entertainment isn’t really to be found in what is shown on the screen, which is typically pretty awful, but in the reactions of the audience, which are hilarious…Jesus Christ appeared amongst us again just to bless the event, Hallelujah!

First up was “Sailor and the Seven Balls.” No, I’m not going to link that, go look it up yourselves. And no, not because I have some sort of moral problem with it (c’mon, it’s me…you guys should know better, heh), but because it was really THAT BAD. I don’t mean like “Dark Love” was last year, I mean the animation…if you could call it that, was little more than photoshoped fanart warped back and forth in some twisted parody of motion, and the voice acting was something so lacking in talent that analogies fail me. Still, the audience was rolling around laughing, and truly, there was a lot to laugh at considering just how horribly produced this garbage was. The hand checks turned out to be more like the wave at times…to this day I still wonder what they would do if they found anything. I don’t recall the name of the second H anime we saw but it was about a mother and a son going to work for some guy in what looked to be about the 1800’s European farmland areas…and the guy they were working for had three daughters. You can imagine how that went. Not as funny as the previous one, and I was getting a little loopy, so I bailed. I would have liked to have stayed and gotten to know one of the girls walking out of the Yaoi room looking a little…flushed…but at that point I’d have been no good to any of them, heh. I really should think about that next time.

Had to get some sleep though. The next day was Saturday, and that was going to be a doozy, since the Masquerade and the Gothic Lolita event were going to be on and I couldn’t be falling asleep at the camera.

Day 2

I occasionally feel like Raoul Duke in 'Fear and Loathing in Los Vegas' when I wake up in the morning at these conventions. Paranoia. Pain. Hallucinations. And those damn bats all over the fuckin' place. Still, gotta get up. Gotta go to work. Gotta do the job. Can't stop or the bats will get you. Java Monster keeps them at bay for awhile, but only for awhile. Why do I like doing this again? Oh, that's right.

This day was quite simply one of the best I'd ever had at a convention. When I think about the good times I've had at these events, this day pops up instantly at the top, to be followed, suitably enough, the day I watched the 2007 Transformers movie at AX the previous year. When I got to the convention center I was…beyond pleasantly surprised. After what I took part in, I could have packed up, gone home, and not thought my time or money wasted in the least. There are two things I have a massive interest in: Lolita fashions and Transformers. One would think these two ideas to be mutually exclusive. I find that I was sorely mistaken on that account.

First thing I did when I saw them was call up Mayhem and tell him to get his ass out here, as he'd want to see this to. These girls had created outfits that were basically EGLified Transformers. They were beautiful. They were awesome. They were more than meets the eye. I actually stayed with these girls for quite some time (the pics continue on until page 16), as did many who were out there taking pics. Remember what I said about imagination? I'd never even thought along these lines, and I've no words to describe my amazement. I was actually wearing my rare felt Decepticon T-shirt and there was no way I could avoid getting a picture with them. I scared them a bit when I started talking like Megatron…I've got to stop doing that, heh.

The idea for Transformers Lolita group came from Optimus Prime. I actually met this girl again at AX as she was getting her picture taken in another costume. Regrettably I couldn't stay around and chat as others wanted to take her pic, but maybe if she sees me again at another con, as there are many questions I'd love to ask her about it.

They were all great, but two in particular were truly outstanding. Soundwave is one of my favorite Transformers, and she gleefully stated he was one of hers too, which is why she chose him. I really wanted to take her home and…collect her or something. Put her in my display case with the rest of my Transformers; taking her out and playing with her from time to time, I dunno. As she reads this and probably looks for the nearest lawyer to help her file a restraining order, I'll begin describing the other one: Prowl. Now, Prowl admitted she was kinda roped into this, but thought it cool so she went with it. I couldn't place her at first, as she looked very much the faery princess with an Autobot symbol, so I had to ask. Her response was something like, "Police car, I think?" To my ETERNAL shame, I actually said, "Barricade?" then thought, "No, wait…that's a Decepticon. Streetwise?" She shook her head saying it didn't sound right. Then it hit me, "Prowl?" Yeah, that was it. Prowl, along with Ironhide and Ratchet, were my first three Transformers (the 1986 movie is extremely ironic in that context) and I have to say, roped in or not, she did the character justice.

I talked with Megatron a bit. I was curious about the lack of a fusion cannon, since that's one of his most notable features. She said they didn't have time to get everything together for Fanime, but the expected to have things like that completed for Anime Expo. Basically she was supposed to have a duffel bag for her fusion cannon. She also noted that there were supposed to be more of them, specifically a complete set of Constructicons. In this case we only had two of them: Scrapper, who I'm certain I've seen somewhere before, and Devastator. Since we did have an Optimus Prime and a Megatron, I took this opportunity to get them to reenact a scene from the '86 movie; I'm sure most of you recognize it. Truly that pic has to be one favorites; heh, the one playing Optimus Prime knew it very well it seems since she was grabbing her sides without any input from anyone around her.

Last, but not least, is Bumblebee. I think it might have been better for the colors on this one to have been reversed, but I'm not going to complain too much, as she is quite recognizable. I met her at AX too, and asked her where the rest of her crew was. She said she was the only one who had brought her outfit, so I'm a little curious what happened. Hopefully we'll see more of them next year. I've actually thought about putting together a Galvatron outfit with these girls and the guy who did Skywarp's inspiration…I'm just wondering how I'd do his electron laser.

Eventually I had to leave, and they looked like they were getting tired as well. I'm pretty sure we were all out there for about an hour, and a few of them had booths to run in Artist's Alley. It may not seem like it, but standing still for long periods at a time can be quite tiring for both the cosplayer and the photographer. Everyone should know their limits, which is why there are countdowns that occur in photoshoot gatherings.

The only events I had planned for the day were the Gothic Lolita fashion show, the Rozen Maiden gathering, and the Fanime Masquerade. Given that these events weren't going to happen for a few hours, that left us some time to hang around, take pics, stick our heads into the anime viewing rooms…that sort of thing. Which is what we did.

During this time, I discovered another of those yearly trends, in this case Maids seemed to be all over the place. This may have had something to do with the Maid Café that was being run in the upstairs of the convention center, but I'll talk more about that when I get to my visit to the café.

I also owe this girl an apology. I've photographed her as Shinku for the past couple years, but I failed to recognize her in another outfit from Code Geass, and couldn't believe it was her. So, I'm really really sorry about that; I'll try to pay more attention in the future, heh.

And so it was back to wandering around. As before, I managed to get a pic of the lovely Pegasus Maiden in her Judy Shakbari Hagstrom cosplay. Funny story about this one. Mayhem and I were just walking around, and there she was lookin' pretty zoned out with her head down at her booth. So I walk up and say, "Hi." No response. "What's up?" No response. So I launch into full voice (something I don't often do as I'm told it tends to scare people, heh), "Excuse me!" Girl jumped about three feet into the air. All I wanted was a picture, heheh, didn't mean to do that. Ah well, what can you do? I admire Pegasus Maiden, I really do. It's not often you see someone who has a dream like she does and pursues it so damn well, one can't help but marvel. Hope her boyfriend knows what he's got and makes it a point to keep up, heh. The only real problem is, every time I talk to her and well, anyone like that, is I quickly go into the, "Oh shit, I've got nothing to talk about! How can I hold a conversation? Fuck! What do I say next?" which sometimes leads into awkward moments of silence which leads to those weird uncomfortable moments…and then an awkward, "See ya later!" You should have seen me around Peter Cullen; though he was so disarming and friendly we were quickly talking about some of the stuff I brought him to sign. It's something I've got to work on.

Walking around further, I came across the first Kirakishou cosplayer I'd ever seen. For those of you that read the last volume of manga, such as that was, you probably recognize this pose, heh. She was looking forward to the Rozen Maiden gathering, and devouring the little Hina Ichigo that was running around. She seemed rather enamoured of the idea of devouring people, which I found rather amusing and somewhat comforting; it's good to be reminded we're all slightly crazy out there, heheheh. One of the pictures I took of her did afford me the opportunity to try out some artistic editing, since I was loath to toss it as I would normally with blurry pictures. In this case, I just went with it, and it came out pretty well, I thought, though I'm interested in other opinions as well.

Fast approaching was the Gothic Lolita Fashion Show. I had a number of problems with this, though all problems were eventually unfounded. First, the Rozen Maiden gathering was right after, and I didn't want to miss even a moment of that. Potentially I could miss the entire thing due to the fact this is a live event, and could run over time...if I started recording it with my camera, I would be committed to being there for the duration. The second problem was, the camcorder was back at the hotel room...it would take at least 10 minutes to get there and back, and a few more to set up and break down. Given the schedule I was working with, this was not in my best interests. Mayhem offered to go get it for me, but I considered it, and figured that I'd rather not break him again this year, and it really wasn't worth all that. I'd simply take pics of them this year, and bail to the gathering. Perhaps next year, I'd be able to record it.

Well, all of it turned out to be moot. This is the only black eye that Fanime gets this year in my book. They were to hold the event on Stage Zero, which proved to be the worst mistake they could have possibly made. Here are some pics (they continue for two more pics) of the crowd around the damn thing. You could not see through it. They made no allowances for Press. That thing was packed tighter than sardines...no movement at all. No, they fucked this one up royally...they had no idea what they were doing here, and it showed. They made every single mistake one COULD make for this event. Given this is the first time such an event has taken place, I expected some growing pains, but this...yeah, they blew it completely. I'm fairly certain, given Fanime's track record, this was simply a matter of doing something that they were not aware had THIS kind of popularity...it'll be fixed the next time around. Even so, damn...that's a lot of cool stuff that was likely lost...I hope someone managed to get some good pictures out of it.

This left me far better off for the gathering I wanted to attend, but left me with little to do but make my way outside, taking pics along the way. This resulted in me actually attending the Final Fantasy X and X-2 gathering (goes on to page 22). As this gathering ended, I noted the Rozen Maiden gathering appeared to be late...or canceled, I wasn't sure which. Still, I managed to find other gatherings, such as this one with the faeries; the pics continue on to page 24. These girls had a professional photographer with them, and I can see why. They went all out for this one, as well as choosing a wooded location to give the nature spirit impression that faeries tend to represent. They were beautiful, and I'm very glad that I had the chance to capture them on film...so to speak, heh.

Amusingly enough, a bunch of Christian fundamentalists decided now would be a good time to tell all us anime fans how sinful we were, and that we were going to burn in Hell. I find it ironic these people claim to speak for Christ, but espouse the kind of hatred and intolerance he never would. I was talking with some damn goodRayearth cosplayers when this was occuring, and we had a good laugh about it. Even funnier was the Jesus Christ cosplayer who go up on their little dais, and helped make fun of them...at least until the cops came by to break the whole thing up.

The Maiden cosplayers had been waiting for awhile to see if anyone else would show up (given that there were quite a number of Rozen Maiden cosplayers running around), but since no one else was coming, they decided to just go with who they had. It was a small, but really enthusiastic group of girls this time around (continues on to page 27). Everyone had fun, and there were several photographers who showed up to take pics; I honesly hope that this isn't a taste of things to come, because Rozen Maiden really is one of those rare stories in any genre that tend to stick out and show people what a good story can be. I still expect the Kirakishou cosplayer put me on a restraining order, but it was such a great portrayal, I couldn't help but take all the pictures I did, heh...and it may well have been the last time I'd get a chance, if indeed, this was the last year I see this cosplay gathering.

Wasn't much to do at this point, but find something to eat and get everything together for the Masquerade. I honestly don't recall what we wound up eating; it was something quick this time around. It had to be, as Mayhem and I were Press, and we needed to be in there shortly before everyone to set up the recording equipment. This event is one of the most time intensive at any convention. Any way you look at it, be prepared to drop about four hours non stop at it. So, if you're recording, there's a bit of mental and physical discipline that goes along with it...you can't just get up and go to the bathroom in the middle. That means you eat light all day, and stop drinking about two hours before you start...only drinking water before that and only a sip here and sip there after that two hour mark. Finally, you go to the bathroom right before, if you need to or not. For me, these conventions and this event in particular are one of the biggest reasons I work out. Walking around for hours with about thirty pounds of camera gear may not seem like a lot...until you do it, and then you have to endure long stretches of time without really eating or drinking...a high tolerance for pain and physical endurance become a necessity.

Mayhem and I managed to get inside and start setting up before the regular attendees started filing in. I swear, the press department of Fanime isn't really designed for the modern member of the press to come in and set up cameras to take pictures and record live video considering how close to the stage they had us and how little room they gave us. We managed to find seats and make due, but all in all, it wasn't the most optimal of situations one could be in...and that seems to be the norm for every convention I went to. At least Fanime and ACEN tried though...Anime Expo...well, I'll get to that when I write that report. Suffice it to say, the press worked more in spite of Anime Expo rather than because of good planning of their press department.

This was a far better Masquerade than previous years. One of the biggest pluses was that I was able to get the entire thing without any technical difficulties; which is now a torrent hosted by Nyaa Torrents. If there aren't any seeders drop by our message boards and let us know. This year seemed to be the year for song and dance...damn near every single skit involved some sort of song and dance routine. This was entertaining and fun, but there towards the end, I do believe they burnt us right out...the audience had been kept at a high for so long, we were crashing really hard, despite the valiant attempts of those in the Masquerade to keep us going. At least it wasn't blatantly the year of Yaoi like it was for ACEN; I swear the poor guy beside me was mentally injured having no idea what he was getting into at all (which is kinda entertaining in and of itself).

As the Masquerade slowly filtered out, everyone gathered across the street for the usual session of taking pics (starts with that last picture and continues to the last page) of those that took part in the Masquerade skits. Everyone out there was truly exceptional. Especially the Marvel vs Capcom group which I managed to get pics of Bison, Spiderman (though I got him and Venom previously, heh), and Morrigan whom they were rightly concerned about, heh. Almost like the Naga cosplayer in the Slayers cosplay group her friends didn't leave her out of their sights, and for pretty decent reasons. There's a legitimate concern they'd get slightly mobbed given how good looking they happen to be natively, and just how utterly stunning they are in those costumes. That's not counting those who make the awkward attempts at hitting on them or worse. It's not as bad as I might be making it sound, in fact, odds are such a cosplayer will never run into the kind of guy (or girl) who gets brave enough to do what I'm describing. There are a few though, which is why it's typically a good idea to have a friend on hand to curtail that...also a friend who's smart enough to discern when such actions are welcome, as they sometimes are.

Pretty much the only thing left to possibly do was heading up into the Hentai room. I was close on to dropping like a fly, but I figured I could handle one or two showings. This turned out not to be the case since they wound up being pretty late in starting. So, at about 00:30 with no showing in sight, I called the line quits and headed back to the Hotel room to crash. I was later told that the line started moving five minutes after I left...that happens so often I can't even feel angry or disappointed about it anymore, heh.

Day 3

Another reason I had to crash last night was to get up relatively early. Reason being was that the DOAX gathering was being held at the Hilton's pool at 10:00. One might not think getting there at that time to be problematic, but given the late nights and constant activity, getting up at even 09:00 and being ready in time is rather painful.

Pain or not, missing this is not something we had on the agenda. I mean, how often do you get opportunities like this? Cosplayers frolicking in the pool in swimsuits. Could be dangerous. Could be fun. Could I manage to get through it being a professional and not getting slapped? All would be decided once we got there.

On our way up, we ran into some of the Maiden cosplayers we'd seen the previous days in the elevator. I know they recognized me, but we all kept quiet and tried not to…

Actually let me segue off for a moment. Situations like this tend to bug me tremendously. I try not to come off as too weird at these shows. I've seen the behavior and it sickens me. I'm not talking the dangerous stuff that I mentioned in the previous day, but the overzealous, "Oh my god! You're cosplaying my favorite character! Can I touch you? Can we hang out? Here, let me tell you my life's story! I'm going to hang on your coat tails now and follow you around, and be ultra annoying, making sure no one else can get near you!" Yeah, you know what I'm talking about there. It's a well known fact I'm a Rozen Maiden fan(atic), and I have a weakness for those cosplaying their characters. But I'm deathly afraid of being THAT guy I just mentioned. I hate him…you have no idea how much I despise THAT guy. I think it was because a long time ago, back when I was a kid (a very young kid), I was that guy, but unlike most who engage in that behavior who can think only of themselves, I saw what it did to people. And I hated it, so I quit. Every time I see it I just marvel at their lack of perception…can't they see they're only trying to make themselves happy? Do they really think the other person will be happy catering only to their whims and desires? So anyway, I do what I can not to come off as THAT guy. However, in situations like this, I can barely make myself utter a "Hey, what's up?" if that. This seems to me to be pretty discourteous too; I mean, it's not like I don't know who they are and they don't know who I am; a simple, "Hey, what's shakin'?" would seem to be in order. Only thing is, I don't want to be overly familiar, as I'm deathly afraid of making them fidget to the point of being uncomfortable and thus, not having a good time (and not willing to tolerate my presence long enough to get their picture taken…yes, I have a healthy self interest here, heh). However, I don't want to come off as rude either in the sense that, "Sheesh, he just took some pics of me in my cute costume! You'd think he'd be polite enough to say 'hi' when he passes by! What am I? Just a cipher for this character?" It's something else I've obviously got to work on.

So, we were sitting there, in the elevator, everyone being very quiet, trying not to look at each other; though it seemed to me, in retrospect, they might have been having the same dilemma I was, which is encouraging. And we finally get to the pool…which one required a key to get into since it was through the gym. No one was out there. It was about ten minutes or so past the time it was supposed to start, so we were wondering if it'd been canceled, moved, times changed…what have you. We proceeded to the elevator and wound up running into one of the more well known photographers on the west coast who we figured knew where he was going, but he wound up just as confused as us. We talked with him on the elevator ride down, confirming that this was indeed the place; so something had to be up. It actually wasn't until much later that we found out the location had indeed been moved, but apparently not updated on the cosplay gathering list online, and it had only been hastily scratched out and changed on ONE of the cosplay gathering list boards. I wonder how many attendees and photographers missed this one. However, if you're curious there was at least one photographer and a few DOAX girls there. It may have been just as well, I think I would have only been able to take a few pictures before I would have had to leave; my tears would have drowned the world.

Basic order of the day now was to photograph the Lolita picnic, attend the AMVs, possibly attend the Sailor Moon gathering, and later to attend the panel on 3D animation and the one on animation in general. Seemed like a fairly full day, but there would be enough time to meander around and even take the time for decent meals. None of that would start for awhile, so we wound up attending the xxxHolic and Tsubasa gathering (starts on page 1 and is interspersed with others for the next page or so) and the various other cosplayers who were Caramelldansen.

Lunch/Breakfast was Quiznos as I recall, and was to be a rather fast thing since I was waiting for the Lolita picnic to start. I honestly don't know what they do to their food, but for some reason whatever's in Quizno's tends to leave my stomach a little queezy. Perhaps I should tell them to just hand me the damn thing raw as I suspect cooking it is what does it. Getting back we did wait for a bit, but as this is a laid back con, it started a bit late, which means it was either wait for the full gathering or…go to the AMVs. A tough choice, but I knew that at Anime Expo I was not going to be able to hit up the AMVs as I had already committed myself to the Battle of the Bands. It was either watch the ones at this convention or just write it off for this year.

The AMVs this year weren't super stellar, but they weren't bad. You can find a complete list here on the Fanime forums. Personally I found the "Romeo x Juliet" set to "Hey Juliet" by LMNT to be the most memorable in the Drama category. Action was a sordid affair with stuff that should have belonged in a horror category if we had one, heh. There really wasn't one that stood out as 'action' so to speak, though there were a couple in Experimental that could have worked. On the topic of Experimental, Danny Osmond's "I'll Make A Man Out Of You" for "Tengan Toppa Gurren Lagann" could have been put in Comedy or Action and fit in quite well. So in that respect, I guess, Experimental was probably the best place for it. Then came a very atmospheric and artistic piece set to Jerry Goldsmith's "Soarin" which included various scenes of anime depicting the joy of flight. It was also made by that god among men, Brad DeMoss, so it's at least worth taking time out for a once over, heh. Then came Comedy…hoo boy that one had something for everyone this year. My personal favorite was the "Ouran High School Host Club" one set to a song from the "Moulin Rouge" Soundtrack called "Spectacular, Spectacular." I know others liked Avril Levigne's "Girlfriend" set to "The Melancholy of Harhuhi Suzamiya." That one wasn't all that memorable to me as I recall watching a similar one on youtube that worked better in my not so humble opinion, but it was still amusing. I find both amusing since "Too Loud" was the one picked by both the people and the judges to be the the best in Comedy.

As we all filed out of the theatre, I was hoping that we'd catch the last of the Lolita picnic, but unfortunately we completely missed it. Which is okay…I caught the one at Anime Expo. However, I did see a Windows XP-tan which is a first; I mean, I've seen Windows 2000, but never XP before. I still need to look up what Vista looks like. In any event what I did manage to catch was the Sailor Moon gathering (continues to page 6). This one was notable for the two itty bitty girls that were hanging out with the older cosplayers…one of which was even a chibi-Saturn. Yes, I somehow managed to keep myself from screaming "MOE!" and hugging her to death. Admittedly they were quite overwhelmed, and I honestly wish the rest of the cosplayers and photographers had a been a bit more understanding (or at least paying a little more attention)…like during the group shot when half of us were screaming that the little ones weren't in the shot, and everyone needed to wait a fucking second so we could get them in! Man, that torqued me off, 'cause they really wanted to be in it too, but they obviously weren't sure if they should be…that overwhelmed thing again.

Let me segue off on another tangent. With little ones running around, one should always be a LITTLE more careful you don't run them over, and recall they're going to often be less sure of themselves. Also that they often need a little more time to get ready because they're not that sure of themselves (and are often just not that coordinated yet, heh). This is especially true in group shots. Often you have to go, "Yes, you can come in…come on, yup, sit right there in the front so everyone can see you. Yup, right there. It's okay if you don't want to…alright." Everyone should take a few extra seconds for this, and always ALWAYS be mindful of your surroundings.

We wandered around a bit, and it was getting to be that time where we were going to go out and eat again. Before we did that though, Doug and I stopped at the Maid Café. Last year was a complete and total nightmare cluster fuck as far as that went. However, this year was a rather pleasant experience. You can check out these two pics for us and the Maids, heh. And yes, I know about the "V" sign I was doing wrong…heh. At this point I was operating under serious burn out, and I still had one more day to go. In any event we talked with our maid for awhile, who was very nice, sitting with us and chatting with us. They actually had to go to a class before hand that lasted a couple of days in order to do this. She had the occasional bit of time to check out the rest of the convention, but mostly it was the experience of working at a maid café that she was truly getting there. We told her a bit about last year's abortive experience (I heard a few people got into a bit of trouble over that) to which she was rightly hoping that it was a lot better this time around. Yes indeed, my lady, it was far better over all, and I enjoyed every moment.

We met up with Gensao and gang who were dead set on finding this hot wings place to eat at. He had the GPS, a device I must get since it saved our asses so much this time around, and we eventually found it. We all wound up getting wings and such of varying intensities of pain. I found I wasn't satisfied with just normal pain and I picked out the hottest fucking wings they had. I ordered about ten of the damn things so I could share the pain, too, heh…because I knew there was no way they weren't going to want to try this out. I mean, honestly, you have to know…you just HAVE to.

Impressions on the wings. First one? Not too bad. Not too good either, but not too bad. As for the second…well…that's when I started to feel it. And it wasn't so much in my mouth, which is usual for such things, but in my stomach. Third one I couldn't actually taste anymore and I do believe I actually caused myself physical injury by eating it. Fortunately I had some fries and some jalapeno poppers as well, so I wasn't relegated to just the wings. Everyone else enjoyed their bit of pain as well, and we all had a great time drinking that pitcher of beer and what not, even if Doug was the one who drank more than half of it, heh.

I was going to pay for this sooner or later, I realized. Couple hours later it turned out to be sooner, but ehh…I don’t think you want to hear about that. Getting back to the con, I managed to catch the last half of the 3D panel I was looking forward to. It wasn't really nitty gritty into bump and texture mapping and such, but talked a bit about the tools you could have and what could be done, when he demonstrated a very amateur 3D project he was working on based on Project A-ko. There was also the notation that the tools for making fan based projects were becoming more and more available to make individual projects a reality, and that if we wanted recognition in these cons and elsewhere, we were going to have to start doing them in far greater numbers and force them to be recognized. An example of this problem of the lack of recognition of even the idea of it was the initial rejection of Suberunker's "The Wedding Rings" from the AMV category in '07 due to it being far too…imaginative (and I wish I was making that up, heh). After that, it was up to the panel for general animation concepts.

What can I say about this one? The very basic concept of animation is simple. It's a bouncing ball…probably the simplest action one could think of. The entire focus of this panel was breaking down this action into its separate components and analyzing them in detail. Doug bailed almost immediately due to boredom, but I was rather intrigued. Watching animation, I've always noted it was the tiny details that you don't see consciously (unless you're looking for them) but you will notice if they're not there that tend to make or break animation. It's why a lot of fan made CGI looks fake and hard to watch…they don't take the time to fill in the little details (or often times don't even know what they are). Interspersed through the lecture were industry anecdotes and stories, like the one about Gainax. Apparently during one the of the Gainax QAs awhile back, someone asked the one of their higher ups how one gets a job at Gainax. The answer was, that he really REALLY didn't want a job there. You'd have to be crazy to work at Gainax. He then proceeded to explain the work conditions which amounted to little more than enforced servitude in cubicles the size of your shoulder length in width. When you get higher up in experience/company ranking…they give you shelves. Personally, I think I'd stick with amateur stuff…you can make your own hours, work in your underwear, and do it in your own home.

Things were beginning to wind down, and you could feel it. People were emerging from wherever they had themselves stashed for the convention and were wandering the con, poking their heads into panel rooms, hitting up the arcade, and the like. We were no different in that regard, though we did stop off to drop our camera gear off. I swear, after a few days of carting that stuff around, having it off is a relief. Still, it was the final H night, and I was all up for that. I really should have stuck around and talked to a few of those girls coming out of the yaoi and even the hetero hentai room. Some of them looked rather…flushed. However, there is one thing I did notice is that many girls were…attached this year. It was worse at Anime Expo; still last thing I needed was a fight, though I expect that wouldn't have been a problem in this situation.

I need to take a notebook to these things so I can record their titles. I actually managed to sit through two of them…might have been three, I’m not sure if that first one counts as two exactly. The topic of the night seemed to be incest fantasies, and the first one was about a high school student who goes on an errand for his mother to his aunt’s and winds up catching her with vibrator…you can imagine what she was doing, I expect. Also, you can probably predict what happened next. Anyway, his mother winds up walking in, and well…you get the idea. There also seemed to be this subplot (yes, I know, an actual subplot in a porn anime) about one of his friends who runs a fast food place and winds up coercing a couple of girls who work there into sex…to which the original main character comes in at the end and joins in. I think that actually encompassed two episodes, but when you’re half in and half out (heh) time seems to move strangely (heheh). Next one was about a…okay, there’s no way to get around this one, this boy is in Jr. High. He brings a board game home and winds up playing it with his mother; the game advertises itself as bringing families closer together. Problem is, it’s a little like Jumanji in that it starts making them do things…you can imagine what. It had a second half that involved his older tsundere sister (cute girl, blonde, hair done up like Shinku from Rozen maiden) with a brother complex (which led to massive amounts of laughing by the audience). This one involved a very graphic devirginization, which I think caused louder cheers from the girls in the audience then the guys. I’m wasn’t sure what to think about that, even as I laughed evilly, and I’m still not too sure…though I think I can classify that as eccentrically cool.

Day 4

Final day. Not much really going on and you could feel both a strange relief and a strange regret in the air. All good things must come to an end, and though it was fun…there’s no way anyone could keep up this ‘high’ forever. That’s what makes it so much fun though; because it’s fleeting…because it’s momentary. It’s treasured all the more because of it, and anticipated all the more next year.

I actually cosplayed The Dark Priest for a couple hours, but even as cool as the weather was there, that thing was hot, so it didn’t last long. I might do that again next year the first day and get that over with, heh.

This was also the day I was to spend some money, and spend it I did. First thing I did was commission a piece of artwork of what was supposed to be the War Within version of Megatron sitting on his throne looking badass with Suigintou sitting on his right shoulder looking darkly cute. I got this commission from David Wong of Brick by Brick Design; which you can see some samples of his work if you click that link. He was the same guy who took about a year to finish my last commission. I liked the work, but it was a year later before I received the piece. I figured I'd give him another shot, since he does do decent work and will honestly draw anything…yes, even that. I received the piece at Anime Expo…which was the original G1 Megatron with Suigintou on his left shoulder; and it took him until the very last day to color. Strictly speaking, I did like it, but it wasn't what I asked for, and honestly, I don't believe I'll be using his services in the future.

The next thing I picked up was another Sky Lynx, which had been marked down on the last day of convention. This one is pretty cool since it was here and gone back in the 80's when it was first released and was never released in Japan until the May/June timeframe of this year. He looks pretty in my display case too, heh.

That pretty much tapped me for money, so we pretty much had only one more thing to do. That was to go see Studio Sokodei's subtitled production of the Cowboy Bebop game "The Song Remains the Same". It was pretty decent the way all the cinematics and some game play was cut together to form a movie. Likely questionably legal, but then, I doubt this game will ever come here; so who's going to be able to scream profit loss and actually maintain a straight face? Fanime is about the only convention cool enough to show fansubs anymore, and will probably remain so until the Japanese producers get their act together with digital distribution and world wide release schedules.

That was pretty much it. Doug and I said our goodbye's to Gensao and others and set off back to his place so I could rest up for the journey back to San Diego the following day.

Fanime has always been a fun convention to go to, and I'm very glad I managed to spend the entire time there this year. It had its problems, but overall, nothing that won't likely be fixed next year, and certainly no deal breakers like Anime Expo pulled in 2007. I did almost everything I wanted to do and then some besides; truly there's nothing more I could ask for. Except maybe a fan based dating service, but I wonder how successful that would really be…and more…who would volunteer the running of it? The mind boggles at the potential for mishap, heh.


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