Wednesday, 13 June 2007 23:25

Fanime 2007...the year of Anime Hell

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Ah, Fanime 2007. This year, the plan was to attend the convention for a full two days. Fortunately this year I had everything prepared well in advance, requiring only the purchase of a couple of 80/120 minute tapes for the video taping of the Masquerade. Having done this two weeks earlier, I had absolutely no problems in leaving for Ceres to spend a day with Mayhem before heading up to the convention. We watched Pirates that night…f’n great movie, I thought.

However, as is usual when convention season starts encroaching, I check out up and coming technologies in cameras and camcorders; hoping that I can retire my Panasonic PV-DV953 and possibly get something better than my Panasonic DMC-FZ30S 8.2MP digital camera. This year, I discovered something I’d long been waiting for, but it is still only in the first generation stages: The Panasonic HDC-SD1 AVCHD camcorder. This particular camcorder uses a new type of SD card called the Secure Digital High Capacity (SDHC) card, which natively supports sizes greater than 2GB up to 32GB. This explains my problem concerning my 4GB SD card within my digital camera; it’s a nonstandard card. SD cards are only supposed to be 2GB natively; which explains their FAT16 file system. The new cards are a lot faster and are formatted FAT32, though I’m uncertain why they capped the size at 32GB. There was the very fact it used SD cards rather than tapes that drew my interest. As anyone who has recorded video knows, the native MPEG-2 codec allows recording of about 11 to 12 GB per hour at standard definition. This is a High Def recorder, so the amount of size per hour would increase considerably. Consequently, the use of an SD card…or any current media really, would be foolish. That’s when I discovered that this was also an AVCHD camcorder. AVCHD is a new recording format by Sony (yes, yes, I know) and Panasonic that replaces the aging MPEG-2 codec with the H.264 codec, which many of us have seen being used in fansubs. This new codec allows 40 minutes of recording at the camera’s highest quality setting of 13mbps hf cbr per every 4GBs of space. You’d need the 32 GB card, the highest the AVCHD offers (and something that’s not out yet), in order to continuously record over 240 minutes of video constantly at this setting. Also, the highest HD setting this camera can record at is only 1080i. While this probably won’t be noticeable for a long time yet, the tech head in me seethes that it can only record interlaced 1080 rather than progressive 1080 (1080p). There have also been reports that the in camera processor cannot keep up with the amount of data flying at it, so for moving shots we get artifacts at the higher resolution settings, which kinda reminds me of what happens at higher ISO settings coupled with greater than 6MP settings on cameras with smaller CCD/CMOS chips. The point of this long winded spiel, is that though there’s this really cool toy I can use to record conventions with, it’s still first generation with a lot of improvement needed for me to consider replacing my current solution, no matter how badly I want to…and believe me, I REALLY want to find something better.

As far as my camera goes, I’ll only say that my next purchase with be a Digital SLR. Unless they can get the noise down during the higher iso and mega pixel settings, I won’t be getting another high megapixel digital camera. I expect that’ll probably happen after I upgrade my camcorder, heh.

The day we were to leave for the convention we wound up leaving an hour later than we probably should have. One of these fucking days we’ll leave on time. The plan was to pick up Anyaku, get there, grab our tickets, maybe hang around a bit, then hit the Music Videos. Needless to say we didn’t get there in enough time to see the music videos…not that I personally had any plans to see them that day. They were going to be showing them all the days of the convention, so there was really no NEED for me to see them the same day I got there…not that we could have anyway. When we got there, the line for convention passes was surreal. It was f’n huge! Not quite as bad as Anime Expo’s lines, but I was getting AX flashbacks just looking at that thing. Pre reg line was far shorter. Gensao had also given me a call and told me to be outside by the fountain in about a half hour after we get got there, and I was extremely worried.

That bloody genius Mayhem, however, realized we had along with us a senior citizen who had trouble standing for long periods of time and himself, a diabetic. Rule number #113 of going to places with huge fucking lines: Bring along with you a disabled person! You always get up in front. This leads to a mental note to preregister online next year. Being one of the guys in perfect health, I won’t always be able to rely on this sort of thing.

We got our badges, hung around for a bit, then headed outside to where Gensao said to be at the appointed time. On our way I managed to snag an adorable picture of this little girl cosplaying Hina Ichigo from Rozen Maiden. I admit to having to restrain myself from hugging her senseless, she having activated every ‘hug the moe’ impulse I had. Outside, I quickly found out why I was told to be by the fountain.

Gensao knew I was a big fan of the Rozen Maiden series, and there was a growing gathering of Rozen Maiden cosplayers assembling for the eventual group photoshoot. I’ll have to figure out something nice to do for Gensao later. At the time I was also in my Dark Priest outfit and managed to snag a few photos with the Rozen Maiden cosplayers. This year I had upgraded my costume with a better belt, and I think it turned out pretty well. The only thing that spoiled what was a very fun photoshoot was a group of afro haired 4channers who walked up behind the lovely Suiseseki cosplayer and started going, “Desu, desu, desu, desu,” like a bunch of first graders. While I enjoy the the ‘desu’ fan convention as much as the next guy, that was just fucking infantile. Times like this, it’s probably a good thing I don’t have command of Darkseid’s omega beams…there’d probably have been a few scorch marks where dumbasses used to be. As it was, I had to restrain myself from doing something that would have gotten the lot of us kicked out of the convention. Ah well, it didn’t sour the experience very much, but even so, that was uncalled for.

Then it was off to take more pictures. I really wasn’t that interested in any of the panels that were going on, and only mildly interested in the dealer’s hall; however, cosplay is one of the things I’m quite interested in, and it’s all over the place at conventions. It’s a lot of fun seeing the work of the people who make the costumes, and how the characters might actually look in real life in certain cases. I’m not going to lie, damn near everyone who cosplays has a certain degree of vanity about themselves and thus, enjoys the attention they get and the pictures that are taken of them. This is fine, I enjoy taking their pictures and they are very much deserving of praise for their costumes. Honestly, they’re as much a work of art as they are anything else, and it shows with the love and attention that they pay to the costumes and to themselves as they portray the characters they themselves enjoyed watching or reading about.

As a side note for all cosplayers, however, learn about lighting. Good lighting can make a difference between a crappy picture of yourself and a kick ass picture of yourself. Specifically, avoid backlighting, unless you’re going for a particular effect. It tends to wash out the photo (over expose it), so pay attention to your surroundings. Usually the cameraman will note this, but if they’re pressed for space, time, or simply inexperienced they might not; so it’ll be up to you if they don’t mention it. Also, don’t be afraid to ask to see the photo; only a dick (or a person whose camera has no display) will rebuff your request. I almost always offer to let the cosplayer see the photo after I’m done. I’ve actually had them ask me to take the photo over again because it didn’t look good enough to them. Don’t be afraid to say that either…everyone wants a great photo, so don’t be afraid to take an active part in its creation. That goes double for those who are actually taking the photo. Don’t be a dick and not take the photo again or not let cosplayers see their pictures if they request it.

We found that when getting to the top level of the convention that you were in serious danger of being molested. Upstairs were girls and guys offering, glomps, hugs, and kisses. I personally was hugged and glomped several times. I only kissed one girl on the cheek (the beard tickles, I’m told, heh). Anyaku didn’t get away from it either, not that he really wanted to, heheheheh.

One major problem about the downtown San Jose convention center area is that there are few food places around there that don’t cost your left testicle to dine at. When we first got there, we went to a Quiznos, and for supper, we went to the Chinese place. Outside of the Johnny Rocket’s…that’s all there really is there that won’t bankrupt you. And God help you if you want something at 2:00 am, but that’s another story. Another problem is the complete lack of anything resembling a 7-11. This became readily apparent when we were hanging out in the karaoke room waiting for Anime Hell to start and we decided we really needed some pain killers. No one had seen a quickie mart anywhere in the area, so we were kind of at a loss. To the rescue came Gensao, and his new phone with GPS capabilities. It pointed us to one that was actually within walking distance. With something resembling directions, Mayhem and I went searching for it. We actually wound up in the ghetto for awhile before finally finding it. This wouldn’t have normally been that worrying, but I had my camera with me…yeah, we were kinda wondering how that was going to turn out. Fortunately nothing happened, and we purchased some drinks of the alcoholic variety and some advil before returning to the convention center.

I had since ditched my Dark Priest costume and was walking around in normal street clothes. Sometime after we did all this, we went to the Funigirls panel. I mostly wanted to attend because I had no concept of what this could possibly be. Turns out it was geared toward the female fans of Funimation’s licensed anime, and none of use had girlfriends. We were then told to stay and we could keep some of the unattached girls company…after which they got up and left. Personally I think that was just coincidence, but the timing was impeccable. We stayed for one ep of Gunslinger Girl and headed back over to watch Anime Hell.

Anime Hell…how do I describe this? Basically it was a Robot Chicken like assortment of various shorts, some anime themed, some not. It was equal parts “What the Fuck?!” and trying very very hard not to black out from laughing so hard. I personally, laughed so hard at the likes of “Bring Me the Head of Charlie Brown” and “Dr. Tran” that I was quite literally crying. My gut hurt so bad, I had trouble standing up after it was all done. Pretty much everyone else was in a similar condition, but we had to leave…the adult video section was coming up. And yes, you’re goddamn right we went to that.

We had to get out and line up for the H anime so they could check IDs. This is actually something that protects everyone involved so some stupid kid doesn’t get in to see that and ruins it for everyone. Still, when the girl checked Anyaku’s ID, that look on her face was priceless. You gotta remember, Anyaku is quite obviously an older gentleman, so carding him didn’t make much sense, but I guess they really have to do that. What was really funny was that the Yaoi anime showing was going on right next to the H anime showing, and that was filled with girls. Needless to say, this had the potential for some interesting times.

I honestly can’t remember what the H anime that was shown was called. This is probably a good thing. The reason for this is simple: you know La Blue Girl? Demon Beast Invasion? Urotsukidouji? Those. Were. For. PUSSIES! This one broke my brain. I can’t even tell you how messed up that is. As Anyaku said, “The one thing I’m pretty sure I didn’t spring in there was wood.”

But enough about that. You’ve not seen comedy until you’ve walked into a room of perverted fanboys watching an H anime that breaks all bounds of indecency…even the ones you had no idea existed. As a startling counterpoint to what was on the screen, the entire situation of all of us watching was ludicrous in the extreme. The cheering at…certain points…was like someone making a touchdown at the Superbowl, but far more fucked up and hilarious considering what we were watching. Also, there was the hand check after those scenes involved everyone holding their hands in the air and a guy walking around with a black light. Lord only knows what he would have done had he actually FOUND anything.

Still, two eps of that, and the effect was beginning to wear off. It was about 1:00 am, I had a headache, my brain was in the middle of a halt error, and I was hungry as shit. In retrospect, I should have walked over to the candy machine, got a snickers, popped an advil, and hung out. You see, there were girls walking out of the Yaoi room too, which made for an interesting scenario, as several were obviously very turned on. Right next to the H room.

I would like to take this opportunity to define cockblock. Cockblock occurs when you hang around your friends in situations such as this and prevent them from hooking up. This happens just because you INSIST on hanging around them like fucking glue, and not due to your usual nerdiness which is normally the cause of cockblock. If you find yourself doing that, throw yourself off the balcony immediately. I expect girls have their equivalent as well. When in such a situation, do not, I repeat, DO NOT hang around with your friend so closely as to prevent the opposite sex (or the same sex if that’s their thing) from approaching your friend. This is just wrong in every way imaginable. In fact, if you see one of your friends doing this to another friend, stop them. Friends don’t let friends cockblock.

We took Anyaku back to the hotel room, while I debated with myself concerning going back after Mayhem pointed out the obvious concerning the Yaoi room. I had seen it, but it didn’t register until then. Still, I really wasn’t up to it, no pun intended, after all that, and I was hungry as shit. So, we loaded up in the truck and found out…there wasn’t Jack in the area. We wound up getting on the highway after about a half hour of searching, and going to an area Mayhem did know…where we actually DID find Jack. One lonely little Jack in the Box in the middle of a main street open 24 hours. The food was absolutely terrible, but it did fill the void. As a recommendation to going to Fanime, get some meal replacement bars. They’re tasteless, but in situations like this, they’ll save your life.

We headed back to the hotel room, located in the Ramada Inn right out in back of the Convention Center, and crashed for about eight hours.

Mental note: When waking up, one should probably eat breakfast even if it makes you sick, especially if there won’t be enough time to eat before a big event. Case in point, the Anime Music Videos.

In my defense, I had no IDEA that the AMVs would fill up to the point where they would actually turn people away, especially on the second to last day, and they’d been showing the full thing for the past two days. I had simply planned on grabbing something at the hotel and walking in about the time they started. What I should have done was go eat breakfast with Mayhem, and waited in line if I’d wanted to see them.

This leads into another bit of advice about conventions, however. Do not, under any circumstances base what you’re going to do on what your friends are going to do if you really really REALLY want to go to an event. If you want to see an event, plan on seeing it like you were the only one going; and if your friends happen to show up, the more the merrier. This is very important if you have a friend, such as myself, who has other things he likes doing and is not as interested as he probably should be if he wants to go see them. If you think your friend would like to come, that’s what cell phones are for while waiting in line. You call your friend, then call him a dumbass, then tell him if he wants to see this shit, he needs to get in line, like…oh, now. If he doesn’t come at that point, then too bad for him.

So no, we didn’t get to see the AMVs this year. I’m told they were sort of mediocre, but it would still have been fun to go. In any event we ate some shitty hotel food and headed over to the dealer’s hall where I actually spent about $100 in an obscenely short amount of time on the Haruhi Suzumiya box, a cute Sabre figure from “Fate - Hollow Ataraxia,” and a panda hat for Gensao, since he seems to have retired the Ryo-ohki hat he’s been wearing for about seven years.

At about this point, Anyaku was needing to sit down for awhile, so we headed over to the fansubbed anime room. Fanime is the coolest goddamn convention ever, not only for showing off the wall productions, like “Evangelion: Redeath Redux” and “Anime Hell,” but it also was showing whole seasons of fansubbed anime at once. We settled in for awhile to watch a couple of eps of Tsubasa, season 2.

We found out after this, that Anyaku just wasn’t going to be able to make it to and through the cosplay. In retrospect we should have just gotten the hotel room for two nights vice one, but it’s past, and something to keep in mind later. Mayhem got his truck over to the convention center, and took Anyaku home. It was good seeing you, buddy, and I’m glad we could get you over there. We’ll mail your jacket back to you when we get the chance.

I wandered the convention alone, taking random pics, getting hugged by random girls (and a couple of guys), and found myself in artist’s alley. Here I found the adorable and insanely talented Pegasus Maiden, selling her own line of clothing she’s dubbed Apple Sugar, and helping out a number of girls with her products. You might recall her from last year’s pics I took where she cosplayed Barasuisho from Rozen Maiden. There’s a bit of a story here. When I first displayed the pics I took last year, several members of the chat channel #TenchiFF on Aniverse looked at her and actually wondered if she was real. Given her sylph like appearance in those pictures we were honestly wondering if she might not have been something conjured up by the collective imagination of the convention goers. My ex-fiancée, Literary Eagle, an enthusiast of the EGL fashion herself, put that to rest when she found and directed us to Pegasus Maiden’s site. It’s not often that one gets to meet an individual with such talent, not to mention one who has a dream and the courage to follow it, so it tends to stick with you when you do meet such a person. I chatted with her briefly and took a picture. She’s quite friendly and amiable, and rather helpful with those who were interested in her wares. Now I better quit talking about her, in case she reads this, starts thinking I’m a stalker, and takes out a restraining order or her boyfriend comes to kill me, heheheheheh.

I was called by Gensao shortly after this to go and attend the Anime Hell panel. This basically entailed the creators of Anime Hell just showcasing several items that didn’t make the cut into this year’s Anime Hell. Not for lack of quality to be sure, there was a lot of great stuff that didn’t make it. I couldn’t imagine what it must have been like for them to decide what went and what stayed. Just goes to show there’s a lot of fucked up things out there in TV land, and when they put them together just so…heh, instantly something memorable was created. I can’t wait for next year’s installment.

I really should have gotten some of those meal replacement bars. I had about an hour after the Anime Hell panel to wander the convention before we had to line up for the masquerade. Mayhem still hadn’t shown up, and he had all my camera gear. Fortunately he got back in time, and we caught up with Gensao and co already in line, who were going for burritos. I managed to get a couple of pretty good pics here, including this amazing one of Hazuki from Tsukuyomi. I’d like to have had a better one, but as I said, for some reason, the shadows seemed to wrap around her, despite her dress being all white. Fanime really has its act together when it comes to the masquerade, because once it was time for the line to start moving, it MOVED, and when it was time for the masquerade to start, it started. I barely managed to get my camera gear up and running, and only had time for a couple of quick bites of the burrito before hand.

Like last year, the filming of the Fanime Masquerade was less than perfect. For starters, my tripod…a flimsy, but extremely compact thing, lost one of its feet…a death sentence for the poor thing. Still, it held up fairly well through is final shoot. The MC was kick ass, and kept the audience entertained and put in their place the entire time, heheheh. This year they had several talented skits, such as the Ouran one. I would like to beat these guys senseless for this particular skit, because that song got stuck in my head, and I wound up humming it at work that Tuesday…which earned me some ridicule when they realized just what I was humming and called me on it.

Actually, filming went real well for the most part, until about the second half when I had to change tapes, and that’s when it started to go to Hell. First, I had to change tapes, which means, I lost some footage, and that irks me. Second, the guy in front of me, despite knowing I was there, kept reaching over his girlfriend’s shoulder. His hands went closer and closer to my camera every single time, which meant, it was only a matter of time before he hit the tripod…which he finally did. I never did completely recover from that. Third, when the skits finally stopped, people decided, mostly only in my row (of course) to go to the bathroom and had to walk right in front of me to do so…which meant a lot of moving it around. I swear, I need to get a press badge for these events. Still, this will likely be the last time I film Fanime. There’s really no need anymore; they’re making every single skit of every single cosplay available on Youtube. Honestly, that sort of availability was one of the biggest reasons I started recording these events. Since this is occurring, my work is done. There is no need at all for me to continue…unless I get a press badge; then I could get a far better video than I normally could.

Once the masquerade was done, it was time to head outside and take some pictures. I especially liked the Lodoss Wars, Deedlit, Parn, and Ashram’s outfits. It turns out their outfits weren’t plastic or metal, but a form of foam. I’m very interested to find out how they did that. The foam is light weight and looks solid, but is still squishy like foam, and durable enough for inspection (though certainly not durable enough for abuse). I got a picture of the Pretear girls, who looked damn fine in the various Pretear outfits from the anime…of, yes, Pretear. One of the more humorous of the skits at this convention was the one done by girls dressed up as Angels from Angelic Layer. They all looked the parts they were playing, and their costumes were top notch. I wanted to get a picture of the Ouran Host Club group, but they were AWOL, so I moved on to the huge One Piece group as well as a few of the others.

Like all good things, however, it was time to end it. Mayhem and I bid Gensao and the rest goodbye, and started back home. We took a side trip through the convention center (getting lost once before we got there…hey, it was late!) to snag some drinks; where I managed to take a final picture of Jessica from Dragon Quest (Warrior) 8. She had a plush Slime Knight that I really wanted, and she said she got from the dealer’s hall. It’s too bad we were leaving, I’d have grabbed one, but Anime Expo is coming up, so I’ll have another chance. Hopefully I can get one of those and possibly a black Mokona Modoki.

This was a fun convention. Certainly a lot more laid back and less regimented than Anime Expo; I’m definitely going for the entire four days if I can swing the time. There was only one thing that soured the entire experience, and that was the Maid Café.

Let me explain. This year Fanime had a Maid Café, which was a café that was serviced by cute girls in maid outfits, much like the costume and maid cafés in Japan. Coming up to it, we found it had a rather large line into it, which did not bode well. The first big problem was it was extremely SMALL. They shoved it into a corner with what appeared to be only a few tables and people working there like it was an afterthought. The second, was the biggest, and probably most damning issue, was what happened when we tried to take a couple of pictures. I realized there was no way in Hell we were going to get in there to check it out. So I figured I’d take a couple of pictures outside of it, and write up a little blurb in this report about it later. Uh uh, we were outright blocked from taking pictures. The Fanime staff member told us that was not allowed unless we were press or actually inside the café taking part in it. To which I actually had to reply, What the fuck? There was no reason, no reason at all for that. I expect that sort of draconian power mongering at Anime Expo. We weren’t hurting anyone, infringing on anyone’s copyright, getting in anyone’s way, or being, in the least, an inconvenience. There was no reason for this, none at all. I mean, I could imagine a sign that said, “No flash photography,” cause THAT could distracting, but anything else was just plain dumb. If they think I was going to frequent that thing in any way shape or form after that performance, they could go fuck themselves. I won’t take part in something that allows for such behavior.

Outside of that one small problem, and my seeming lack of luck in getting a good video of the Masquerade, this convention was golden. I got to hang out with friends, go to panels, watch anime, buy expensive stuff, and go to a fun Masquerade. It doesn’t get any better than this; plain flat out doesn’t get any better. Well, maybe if I had a cute girl with me, but I figure the odds of that are up there with the sun spontaneously turning into a blue quasar, so let’s keep this in the realms of reality…it truly does not get any better. Hopefully by next year, I’ll have a better video camera with better credentials so I can get a better video, but if not, I’ll just simply relax and enjoy the show next year. I look forward to it.


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