This year marks the 10th anniversary of the start of my attempts to record, catalog, and share the various goings on of your basic anime convention. It has since grown from a couple of events at Anime Expo to full blown semi-professional photography, a few of the old crew from the Tenchi Muyo days joining, several other conventions, and generally morphing into a full blown press racket under the banners of TFA (from Tenchi Fan Art) Cosplay and the current iteration of Dragon's Anime. I remember when I first decided to do this, back in 2001's Anime Expo, and we had just watched Kikuko Inoue, the voice of Belldandy (and several others), who had come to AX on the heels of the Oh! My Goddess animated movie, come out on stage at the Masquerade and sang "My Heart, Your Heart" for us. That is a song that, to this day, fills me with such...joyous nostalgia as I recall watching the Animeigo release of the "Oh! My goddess!" OVA's over and over again while I was in Naval Nuke School. The first title I picked up ($30 per tape per ep...fuck me...), and to this day one of my most beloved...even despite the semi-burnout I was experiencing until here recently. Back on track though; it was at that moment I realized, that I saw dozens of video cameras, but...no one was sharing anything! What just happened would be lost forever; this beautiful moment etched in our minds, but no one else would ever truly know what it was like if they weren't there. Thus, I began to, and it was really low key at first, to record events; though it didn't truly start until two years later when I found a prosumer camera that was worth my time. With the advent of better prosumer camera tech, and services like Youtube (flawed as it is) and Torrents (which replace my sparse DVD offerings) we now have the ability to deliver high quality videos of live events to anyone who wishes to watch them. Best part is, I'm not the only one in this business anymore, with the likes of American Cosplay Paradise and even just the regular attendee stepping up to show everyone how awesome the events at the various conventions are.
I suppose with that in mind, it's only fitting and somewhat auspicious that this year actually be one of the best years of Anime Expo in quite some time for pretty much all involved.
As has been the custom of the past few years, I went to AX with a crew of individuals, which I have found helps in covering more ground and generally gets everyone to places they'd like to go with a minimum of fuss. To help one understand: Dragon's Anime is not really what you'd call 'professional' in that we are not incorporated, we don't have a plan, we don't have business meetings, itineraries, pay, or any other such institution that would turn this into work instead of fun. Or, if not fun, at least something we enjoy doing. We are an association of individuals who found working under a single banner works a lot better than working alone for this and other conventions we tend to go to. With that in mind, we each have an idea of what we want to do, and do it. If a 'need to cover' event doesn't get covered because everyone wants to go to another event, then that 'need to cover' event doesn't get covered; as could have happened (fortunately didn't, and we can all thank Pio and Aldrich for their work at the Masquerade) this year with the competing events of the Masquerade and the Magic/Burlesque show. I find it works a lot better for everyone that way, so long as we all remember to share our work so we can keep doing what we do. That's pretty much the only obligation, if you want to call it that. Hell, I wonder if I can finally get the founder and owner, Platinum Dragon, to attend and cover one in his general area, heh. That being noted, this report is going to be pretty much my take on what I experienced. The others can write their reports, if they so wish, and we'll post them up for all to read.
This year I didn't do nearly as much walking around as I wound up doing the press thing far more often than I planned I would. Funny story about this, as it started on Day 1, with me hanging out in the press lounge for a minute, then everyone there getting asked to come to a last minute/surprise panel with Aya Ikeda & CARAT. I had to actually leave for a few minutes, so I don't think Ms. Ikeda stuck around either with CARAT, as, when I returned, CARAT were the only ones there. It's all good; we all wound up doing a similar surprise conference with Ms. Ikeda following this one. Well, surprise by my standards, as there weren't that many press that showed up for hers (that was the surprising part), and the press coordinators came by and asked if we wanted to attend. Of course, that answer will always be yes, though I wish I had more prep time to get a video camera ready (if it was even on me at that point). CARAT is a five girl DJ, Vocal, and Dance Idol band which appears to be relatively new, or at least, newly promoted by a label, so I don't really know much about them. Judging by the answers to several questions posed, they are a feature of the Japanese club circuit, and are known for doing shows there. One even related a story about how she was dancing and lost a shoe and nearly her balance dancing up on stage in what had to be the most embarrassing and hilarious screw up on stage to date. Overall, they were quite friendly, if seemingly slightly nervous/overwhelmed at being here judging by the fact the lion's share of the questions were fielded by only one of their members. Here, you can see a bit of the panel here from a few compatriots of ours, the Tentacle Couple. There was one little bit of this Q&A session that really irked me, and that was one of our fellow press members asked a question in what was skewed in a very feminist/politically correct way I would have to say. Badly paraphrased the question was, "How do you deal with those who say you are not a legitimate Idol Group, and how do you deal with those that don't treat you like a human being?" A perfectly legitimate question on its face, and while just reading it doesn't sound bad, the tonal quality was generally that of your average grievance monger always looking for a fight. You just FELT this lady would have never asked a guy that question. Think she had a Cosplay=/=Consent badge on her too. A better way to ask would have been, "What do you say to your detractors and your haters?" As this is something all entertainers must face. The tone should have remained inquisitive and professional. Aya Ikeda's panel skewed mostly towards her work with CARAT, and how the label chooses to pair up artists in this manner, though there were a few questions about her work on Pretty Cure. Apparently the series already had a song written, and she was chosen out of several performers to sing the opening song, which she continues to do for various other songs for the series (even has a character named after here in the series itself).
The other two press panels we attended were the Alodia press panel and the Danny Choo press panel, both of which had been planned in advance, and both of which we recorded as you can see embedded below:
The Alodia press panel went on for a while and covered a whole range of topics from how she got to where she was, where she got her nickname, materials and techniques for cosplay construction, best practices, that cute little butterfly costume she was in, as well as general modeling work and the places she'd been. Alodia speaks English as if she was born to it, which is quite interesting as usually at these things we need a translator. She is also very succinct and to the point in the answers to her questions and answers the question that was asked without much exposition. I find no problems with this, but it did leave a few points where people, who are used to those who throw in general anecdotes and stories, wound up scrambling for a few seconds to come up with other questions as this lady blew through the already prepared ones within about thirty minutes. Danny Choo's I found more interesting in an almost scientific sense. This was a man who is making little robotic dolls for sale and is attempting to turn his creation, Mirai Suenaga, into a brand similar to Hello Kitty. His insights into marketing and production, abridged though they are in this panel, are a decent introduction into how things start and are brought to fruition in the marketplace of toys and probably everywhere else. Like most, I was introduced to Danny Choo as the Tokyo Dance Trooper, and I figured that's where he started mistakenly. It gave him a bit of personal notoriety, but that was just something he was doing for fun. He was active in marketing and projects well before that; which makes sense in retrospect. I just wonder if he realizes what he's really creating the prototype for concerning the robotic dolls, but then, given some of his Facebook posts...I'm absolutely certain he knows. Oh yeah, and he'll never throw stuff into the audience at full speed again after last year's beaning a fan of his in the face with a deck of cards, heh.
Pictures this year are...well, how to describe it? You know, I think I'll just direct you to the site in question. What you're looking at is nearly ten-thousand pictures taken from myself, Doug Nelson, Pio Buenventura, and Aldrich Bautista for both general convention photos and events. One of the recommendations that has been made over the years is an area strictly for cosplay photography; possibly with some backdrops already set up and a waiting list. Someone got ahold of that idea and thought, "Surely we can do better than that." Enter, if you will, actual set pieces such as Cherry Tree's blossoming, a graveyard/crypt, a starship's insides (yes, that is Ryouko), a classroom where no work was done, the Eva cockpit initially seen at Fanime, and a bedroom which could have gotten really fun, and probably did at times. In this area were a couple of straight backdrops as well and in front was one of the cosplay organizations scheduling times for their use, setting up cosplayers with photographers (that sounds almost like a dating service) and generally keeping the chaos down as much as they could. It was a damn good idea, but I suspect if you were one of those working this area, this is what you did the entirety of the convention. It's not a bad thing, but you have to really want to be there and doing this, which does appeal to many. It's not exactly part of the convention staff proper, but it's someplace where cosplay and cosplay photography are the focus and the system, for lack of a better term. I'd even consider working a shift or two for it, if asked. Next to that area was a booth where they were selling, of all things, sewing machines where their flagship model, which could take JPG's and sew them as embroidery on fabric automatically, was going for around $4000. Apparently, they actually sold several of them. Given some of the patches they were showing it having made, such as the Attack on Titan military badge, I can believe that would be something many cosplayers would sacrifice one of their appendages for. Other highlights include this goddamn tank that Sentai Filmworks had out for their release of Girls Under Panzer. Concerning the cosplayers themselves, I have a hard time thinking of any in particular or any stories that occurred simply because they were all so damn good and damn near every one of them had a story behind it. Maybe my time at the Cosplay Deviants booth might count. I kept running into Vivika all over the convention...girl was stalking me in a most creepy manner; I swear she was. She's a lot shorter in real life than I expected too (I’m seeing that a lot, which is strange for a short guy like me). I suppose this is what can be meant by a good convention when everything you did has a fun story and meaning, and it's so hard to pick one in particular that was more fun than the others...since they were all damn fun.
Main events this year were most interesting since I hadn't planned on going to AMV's due to the reserve seating that occurred at the main events hall, and that the Masquerade and the Magic/Burlesque show were competing events. Meg, the Media Coordinator and a lady we all need to buy a very expensive dinner for, got us going to the AMV's and handed us tickets to the Magic/Burlesque show after several failed attempts by everyone to figure out what was going on with that show. Truthfully, along with the Last Comic Standing and Battle of the Bands I was about ready to fall over. Thankfully there was no AX Idol this year per se, or I really would have fallen over.
Battle of the Bands was probably my second favorite event of the convention. Every year they've had this event it's gotten better and better with people upping their game all over the place. Here, you can see it for yourself:
The bands this year were:Nerdy Luv & Lolita Dark (opening and judges bands)
Gates of Ivory
Jetpacks and Laserguns (Staff's Favorite)
Di Morte (Judge's Choice)
Driving Recklessly (with Seatbelts) (Winning Band)
I'll admit, when Jetpacks and Laserguns started up with Daft Punk's "One More Time" I figured that'd be it; these were the winners. However, in terms of raw skill, Driving Recklessly (with Seatbelts) had them beat with that fusion of styles that sounded damn good together. Overall, there wasn't a bad sounding band in there, and good live music is something I have always enjoyed. This did not disappoint in any way, and I hope they can keep this up for years to come.
Fanime's AMV Contest was plagued with problems and was kinda boring overall. I'd been a little jaded and burnt out on AMV's here recently, and that just killed it. So coming to AX, especially with the seat reservation thing, I had no real plans to attend this event, as I'd mentioned. However, I had nothing better to do at the time, and Meg did supply us with seats, so I figured, "Why not?" I'm glad I did, because while I didn't really have what you'd call a favorite this time around, I did find myself entertained by the lion's share of them. This has something that has been sorely lacking for me in this expression of the fandom for too long. Normally, about this point, I'd put up a list of AMV's and their viewing/download links, but Anime Expo has made this a very long event and would take up quite a lot of space in my already wordy article. On the other hand, I don't really need to as this list already exists on the animemusicvideos.org forums, and a simple search on animemusicvideos.org, google, or youtube will get you the video you want to check out. Take an afternoon and check them all out. Most were very well done in terms of technical skill and artistry. Actually, you know what, I take that back. "Don’t Stop Arale Now!" Go watch that one first.
Last Comic Standing was a bit of a mixed bag. There was hit, and there was miss. There was very little in-between. This year I also saw the most interesting bit of bad luck I've ever seen in my life; Hell, I'd even call it straight out unfair. They basically divided the comics into two groups. From each group you'd cheer loudest for whoever was funniest. At the end, they'd have an impromptu skit with a randomly chosen topic to talk about. The problem this year is that they put the two funniest fuckers in the same goddamn group, and Anton Torres, while one of the funniest fuckers of the contest, was not the funniest in my opinion. That would have been Pierce Brown, the man in the snappy white suit who got slightly edged out in the volume between those two (and they had to check a couple of times). This put Anton in direct competition with Gabe, who won the first group. While Anton was funnier, he just could not stay on topic for the laugh off, thus allowing Gabe to win. Gabe was funny, no doubt about that, but he wasn't the funniest in my opinion. You can check out the full contest below:
Now comes Myth: Legends of Burlesque and Magic. This one is for audiences over 18 years of age, so consider yourself warned when you go to view it:
Check the description in the video for a list of performers and where to stalk them.This event was in direct competition with the Anime Expo Masquerade. As such, I had actually planned on the possibility of everyone being at this show and the Masquerade not being covered. Or only myself here, and the rest at the Masquerade. Either way, I was going to be here covering this show for a variety of reasons, some of which I'll share and some I won't. I will say that there were a couple of performers I've been wanting to see live for awhile. Who those are and why...that I won't say. Still, for probably the best event of that whole convention, I'll say I got what I wanted out of it and a whole ton of stuff more I didn't know I'd want. For this event, I broke out my old Panasonic HDC-SD9, and with my new knowledge of how to better operate it, I managed to record this event fairly well. Not as sharp as my current primary usage camcorder, but it will serve. Our host that night was William Draven a talented magician, charismatic MC, and all around likeable dude. If he's at a show you're going to, you won't be bored. I mean shit, he beat his record at getting out of a straight jacket, had a cement block broken over him with a sledge hammer without being hurt, and got his blood sucked by a burlesque vampire (as portrayed by Mila Starfyre). Still, as good as he is, he was overshadowed by his co hostess, the insanely hot in just about every fucking way you could possibly imagine, not to mention extremely talented Vixen DeVille. This Lady (yes, capitalized for her) is English folks, and that voice...the words Audio Erotica were put together to define how she sounds. A contestant for the Ms. Universe pageant, she's quite the stunt lady with her entire glass walking trick and the spike under the cup mind reading trick. Actually, that last one was cause for one of the most fucked up funny things to happen all convention, but you'll have to watch to see it...if you're old enough. The magic portion of the show was divided up into both what most would consider 'tricks' and extreme skills such as mind reading and sword swallowing; however it often devolved into Monty Python levels of sketch comedy humor that had the audience laughing so hard the act had to slow down to let the audience get their collective breath back. The burlesque portion was...interesting...but then attractive girls dancing around with various anime/animation/fantasy/etc themes to their shows as they take most of their clothes off will always be...interesting I would think. What really impressed me was the way that the two halves of the show used each other for their acts, both in that the burlesque performers used the magicians as show costars and how the magicians did the same or were coming out mostly stripped like the burlesque performers ended up as (see: Monty Python levels). I would actually give one critique to Mila Starfyre in this situation: If you're going to play Moka, and you're going to transform into True Moka, with all those magicians around, you might want to ask one of them if they can think of a way for you to change your wig color in the middle of your act. I really liked this event, and it deserves to have its own night and not be in competition with another event...though if it wasn't, I suspect even with the price tag associated, it'd probably be crowded out. I will close by saying that yes, we did take still pictures, however, I'll need to figure out a way to put in a age check on the sub-gallery before I can release those for public viewing. Stay tuned on the main page for more info.
I really wasn't at the Masquerade, but I have watched the video shot by Pio Bueneventura with my current primary use camcorder, a Panasonic HDC-TM900, which you can watch here:
Unfortunately, due to Youtube's draconian policies surrounding copyright, forced upon them by our current self-deluded overlords, I was forced to change the opening song from a Macross Plus song to something open sourced and similar. Not quite the homage it was supposed to be for the 30th anniversary of Macross, but it will serve for now. I kinda wish I could have divided myself in two for this particular event as it was a far better Masquerade than has been seen in many a year. I can't thank Pio and Aldrich enough for covering this; Pio especially for doing what I willingly do and stand for several hours while filming an event this long. I kinda liked the filmed introduction for the cosplayer/cosplay group thing, but I will say that makes it a bit weird for anyone to film since you wind up filming a projector screen...though it's not like we've not done that often enough before. I think the topping of this year's cake was watching one of the cosplayers actually faint while she received her award.
Concerning general anecdotes, I'll start by saying this year, I had no complaints. This is due in large part to the AX's Media Director's, a cute little lady by the name of Meg, efforts. Honestly, as I said before, we owe her an expensive dinner or two at the very least. That girl was all over the place and from what I can tell, did her job fairly well and went out of her way on numerous occasions for many of us. Lounge 21 wasn't quite as frequented as it was last year from the times I stuck my head in, but then, I didn't do so very often, being as busy as I was. There was a media party on day 0 this year, which, while fine, was a bit unplanned. Glad I got to it, but I didn't stay too long except to mess with some of the staff from Sakura-con who'd come to promote their convention. We weren't nearly as drunk this time around and conversely, we didn't really need to be. We wound up doing the press thing quite a bit more than we usually do this year, so we weren't running around nearly as much despite that we were technically working most of the time. I was thwarted, yet again, in getting a Fortress Maximus from the convention's Dealer's Hall. Oh, there was a dealer that had them, but the boxes were damaged, and they were asking the full $350 for their stock. I wouldn't have paid for it even if they'd knocked some money off it, but they didn't even bother to do that. They still sold them, from what I recall. Lessee...Bravo Zulu to Pio for getting our friend Charmie Sweets into the Dealer's Hall so she could refrain from being late to work for Crunchy Roll, which she's done for the past couple of years. I still wish I could have gotten her in her Boa Hancock cosplay...eh, maybe for Sac Anime.
Anime Expo has had its ups and downs over the years. This year though was probably one of their best yet; it was so good, in fact, that Doug, who, for the longest time, was only there to hang out and work with the crew, actually found it enjoyable for its own sake. Even calling it, from his perspective, the best he's ever been to (in no small part due to the Burlesque and Magic show, I suspect, heh). I'm not sure I'd go that far, but I did go there with a plan, and that plan was not only enacted flawlessly, damn near every last supplemental check box on my list was checked. Granted, finding a cute cosplaying girl that was up for being nommed on will almost never occur due to my overly discerning nature and the expenditure of time that enterprise takes when I could be taking pictures or at an industry panel or two, but hope still persists. I've heard that Nokia Theatre is probably going to be out of the question for the foreseeable future due to the costs involved, but if they can keep up what they did here, they probably won't need it. I would recommend they find a bigger venue for the main events, however. I suppose there's really nothing to be said; I came, I saw, I recorded, I had no problems doing so, and got a whole lot more besides. I hope they can keep this up because for a while, I was actually considering dropping AX from the conventions I would go to. If this is the level of quality they're going to maintain, I see no reason to do that, however. I may not be going next year due to my High School Class' 20th, but that would only be among the very few reasons I'd consider not attending now. Overall, damn good job folks; it was a blast.