Sunday, 22 June 2014 00:55

Fanime 2014 Report

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So here we are, eight years since the first time I've been to Fanime, and six, I believe, that I've worked with them as a member of the press for Dragon's Anime and TFA Cosplay. Some things have changed and some have remained the same. The location, for one, has remained constant, though the use of that location, as well as the construction of the location itself has altered over time. Most of the main events have remained constant, though in the cases of the Music Fest, have widened considerably in scope. Stage Zero remains one of those basically ongoing events that one can just stop in the middle of their traversals through Fanime and take in, but the presentations have been getting more and more formalized with Singing, Maid Para Para Dancing, and the like in addition to the game shows and whatnot that have been there staple of the location. Opening Ceremonies has grown from Stage Zero to encompassing the entire entrance to the convention center, and sometimes even outside depending on what sort of things they will have going on. All in all, it's still a convention by the fans, for the fans, but it is growing, and while the location is growing with it, I've noted in my last few reports that I'm curious as to when true saturation point there in down town San Jose will occur, and what that will mean for the convention. Still, that's just idle speculation at present; it's time to get to the main event.

This year we decided not to get our badges on Day 0, and instead got them on Day 1, when we were going to arrive at our Hotel. This year, due to the growth of Fanime, we wound up at the San Jose Airport Garden Hotel located around the airport area and a few miles from the convention center. Originally there were supposed to be buses to that Hotel, but that was nixed somewhere along the line (which we didn't find out until after we got there) and we'd need to walk a block or so to the Fairmount. It wasn't as optimal as I'd like, but we made it work, though it added on to our travel time considerably. If anything, I'd wish that Fanime would update their schedules with changes like that when they know they're going to happen, as I'm fairly sure their bus schedules remained unchanged, with the hotel we were at still mentioned, all through the event. People kinda need to know things like this, after all.

Getting to the convention center, we found after the initial picture taking, and pro reg, we had about five minutes to hit the AMV Contest; which myself, Mayhem, and Pio did. I'd seen a number of these before, but before I get to that, here's the list:

Experimental/Trailer
A Piece of Toast - BakaOppai
Attack on Pacific Rim- A. Perkins
Meaty Cheesy Starish - D. Ramon
Utopia Online- milkmandan & chuser
Juno - MinetChan
Down the Hole - WarlikeSwans
Alchemy Zone - BecauseI'mBored1
Throwback - drewaconclusion
Hououin Kyouma the Science Guy - A. Zalar
Disconnect Destiny - VivifxAMV
Cosmic Love - Nekokitkat
Drama
Time - D. Ostrowski
Hot Commodity - GuntherAMVs
Shine a Light - xDieguitoAMV
Bow-WOW! - Warlike Swans & Warlike Cygnet
Undisciplined Heart - daynnz
Drop of Hope - BakaOppai
A Way - BasharoftheAges
The Optimists - Rider4Z
Make Your Own Tomorrow - Compbros
Pas De Deux - ai_love_gaara
Time Falls Away - AdventLostKaichou
Come Closer - Nicolio1313
Dare You to Dream - MinetChan
Action
Downfall Absolution - diegao94
Phonix - KeiichiFace
Future Sight - James Blond
Control the Redline - N. Neidenbach
How it Feels to Chew 5 Gum - PieandBeer and Amaterasu
BooM - xDieguitoAMV
Final Spark - Xophilarus and Shin
Inhumanity - BecauseI'mBored1
Valor - MycathatesyouAMV
Comedy
YTMND AMV: Fad Entertainment System - drewaconclusion
Girls in Da Hood - Reggiesmalls
They Don't Call Them the Super Peace BUSTERS For Nothing! - KeiichiFace
This AMV Was (Not) Entered into Drama - Sephiroth
AMV(&humor) - BasharoftheAges
Shingeki Truth - E. Thompson
Anime 101 - VivifxAMV
Super and I Know it - SOGESNAKE
Pre-show
Killing the Kill - Flame-X
Deceiving Angels - HiikariAMV
Bad Dog - TritioAFB
It's Free Real Estate - Chest Hair
Iwatobi Weather Service - Nekokitkat
Ethereal Horizon - Justin Phillip Yin
Pamplemousse - PieandBeer

Bonus Theme Award (Celebration & Beach Party): Throwback by drewaconclusion
Judges' Awards:
Drama 3rd Place: Hot Commodity by GuntherAMVs
Drama 2nd Place: The Optimists by Rider4Z
Drama 1st Place: Make Your Own Tomorrow by CompBros

Action 2nd Place (TIE): Valor by MyCatHatesYouAMV
Action 2nd Place (TIE): Final Spark by Xophilarus and Shin
Action 1st Place: Inhumanity by BecauseI'mBored1

Experimental 3rd Place: Meaty Cheesy Starish by Dianna Ramon
Experimental 2nd: Cosmic Love by Nekokitkat
Experimental 1st: A Piece of Toast by BakaOppai

Comedy 3rd Place: YTMND AMV: Fad Entertainment System by Drewaconclusion
Comedy 2nd Place: Anime 101 by VivifxAMV
Comedy 1st Place: AMV(&humor) by BasharoftheAges
Judges Best in Show: Cosmic Love by NekoKitKat
Audience Awards:
Drama 3rd: Make Your Own Tomorrow by Compbros
Drama 2nd: A Way by BasharoftheAges
Drama 1st: Time Falls Away by AdventLostKaichou

Action 2nd (TIE!): Final Spark by Xophilarus & Shin
Action 2nd (TIE!): Control the Redline by Nic Neidenbach
Action 1st: Inhumanity by BecauseI'mBored

Experimental 3rd: Attack on Pacific Rim by Annika Perkins
Experimental 2nd: A Piece of Toast by BakaOppai
Experimental 1st: Cosmic Love by Nekokitkat

Comedy 3rd: AMV(&humor) by BasharoftheAges
Comedy 2nd: YTMND AMV: Fad Entertainment System by drewaconclusion
Comedy 1st: Anime 101 by VivifxAMV
Audience Best in Show: Anime 101 by VivifxAMV

Comedy is the usual winner and go to for entertainment at these events, but sadly, this year, was somewhat lacking. It was more humorous than actually funny, and a few of them I found were not as funny the second time around. This is especially true of AMV(&humor), which while it had me laughing so hard I couldn't see straight the first time, the second time I barely cracked a grin. Ones like that are truly one time only events, kinda like "A Total Waste of 6 Minutes and 35 Seconds". On the other hand, the usually weakest category, Drama, was the strongest category this year. Granted, I had seen a couple of them before, but they did not fail to evoke the same emotions in me a second time. "A Way" is a Madoka AMV, and though I had seen it Anime Conji, it once again left me feeling like I wanted to slit my wrists, as it evoked the hopelessness of that world and made you feel it quite personally. Fortunately right after was "The Optimists" which is a One Piece AMV, and was so uplifting and fun that it immediately managed to counter the despair the previous one left in us all. Honestly though, I had to give it to "Time Falls Away" for both the subject and the song which will leave your heart in shreds if you still have one. The Action category would have been the one to watch this year if Drama wasn't so strong. Mind you, in that one, I would just recommend putting it on a playlist, and running your entire cardio routine through it, because it will pump you up without stop. Then we get to Experimental, which is one of those categories where they kinda put everything that doesn't quite fit a single category, is the artist trying to do something other than fitting music to anime, or is atmospheric/transcendent with both music and anime. Though in this case, I would say that most of these could have been sent to another category and fit there just fine. Even so, this one is worth watching too, and the one I gave my best of show vote to, which was the "Cosmic Love" set to images of the manga of Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle. That particular AMV actually fit my definition of experimental while telling a coherent story...and using a song I rather enjoy. It worked on all levels I could discern, and in my not so humble opinion, deserved a bit more than it got. Still, the ones that did win were fairly deserving; even the Comedy section of which most of have swept that category at other cons.

After leaving we then proceeded to do what we do best, and take cosplay pictures, which as of this writing only Doug Nelson's and myself are in residence at TFA Cosplay, but I expect I'll get Aldrich's and Pio's soon enough (oh, and if you get hit by the age verification check, after you've accepted, just click back and you'll be in the appropriate gallery). I will say this, if you want to be a professional photographer, or at the very least, want to know how your camera works in all the environments it can work in with lighting conditions ranging from awesome to apocalyptic, attend a convention like Fanime after reading up a bit on the theory; you'll get all the practice you'll ever need. That is to say, that this was, as is usual for this convention, a great year for picture taking, and while most of the pictures have a bit of a story behind them, here's some of the highlights. Remember what I said about things Fanime did right this year? Well, this is the registration line...a far cry from the 8+ hour wait that many had last year. This poor young lady innocently walked up to a photographer's gathering (that one courtesy of Cosplay Photographers) while we were waiting for the Cosplay Photographers'...well, photographer...to come by and take a picture of our gathering. She survived and seemed to be having fun, but I swear we kept here their for a good half hour while everyone got a shot, heh. This one because I'm absolutely smitten with that mischeivous grin she has. And if you like Monster High, this Lagoona Blue is almost otherworldly. And this one you should know why...heheheh. A most famous cosplay of the Witchblade by Jacqueline Goehner I include not just for the beauty of it, but also because it got her cosplay page banned off of Facebook for a time. I'm not entirely sure of the character here, but in terms of technical skill and composition, this may be the best picture I took at this convention. The story behind this one of Phoenix from Marvel Comics was that she nearly started crying because she could hardly recognize herself having stated that she'd lost a considerable amount of weight; you looked good young lady and your cosplay was spot on, don't doubt that for a moment. Almost didn't get this picture of Charmie and Wind of the Stars as Sailor Uranus and Neptune respectively, but am very glad Pio got me over there to do so. Concerning things that Fanime did wrong, check this out. See that? That is the closing time. They closed the Dealer's Hall that day at 1900 hours. And finally this one just because this is the first, and only, time I've seen an Unbreakable Machine Doll cosplay. I could go on and on as there were just so many, but needless to say there's more to see in that gallery...much much more.

A couple of events we wound up at that I'd wish I'd planned better and brought a video camera to would have been the Comedy Show and the Cosplay Bikini contest. I recall last year saying I was going to film it, but for some reason this year I just...well, I'll be blunt. Wasn't really feeling up to going for some reason. Still, Aldrich and Pio convinced me to go, and Doug and I managed to get there after the first act. I'd seen many of these guys before, and it was good seeing them again. Some new material, some old material, some weird material, but it was fun, it really was. I'll try to get there with that camera next year, but we'll see. Then came the Cosplay Bikini Contest. Oh lord, that one I'm really kicking myself for. Regardless, you can find the gallery here at TFA Cosplay and one of the two reasons I finally just bit the bullet and instituted some sort of age check, no matter how suboptimal it is, (the other being the Anime Expo Burlesque show of last year). This one really needed a full motion video recording of it as it turned into a very odd and naughty near strip show with some audience participation; of course it was only and 18 and up event. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that though I enjoyed the Princess Peach's show the most, including the service we got there at her receiving her winning award, I'm thinking a semi professional stripper/pole dancer might be an unfair advantage in this, but I will say that we all won watching that performance.

The Masquerade this year was far FAR better produced than last year. Last year was...shit, there's no sugar coating it, a near fiasco. Not a full blown fiasco, because everyone powered through it, despite the complete abandonment of the audience at the end, but we did get through it. This year...was far better in just about every conceivable way, and was back to what an event like this should be. The MC, whose name I will find out one of these days, was far better prepared for it this year in both what he was doing and the confidence he was doing it with...even being able to put down a few hecklers with relative ease. The event itself went off with only the usual minor technical difficulties (briefly missed audio cues, that sort of thing) and was fairly fun throughout. I found the placement of what would normally be the halftime show in the middle of the event a little odd, I'll admit. This consisted of the Martial Arts Group that has been performing at Fanime for many years; this year's theme being Attack on Titan, and was the high quality of performance we've all come to expect from them. Next was the Karaoke winner, Madam Ducky, who sang the song from Kill La Kill, "Blumenkranz" in its native German and in an extraordinarily beautiful way. It was already a lovely, if completely underused song, in the series, but it was an honor to hear this talented girl sing it in the way it deserved to be sung. Continuing on, once the performances were done, they remembered how the entire audience bailed last year, and engaged them with a little game of Simon Says with some members of the audience. That's pretty much all one needs to do; some anime, some AMV's, a guy stalling with some jokes...something. And it helps this year's Fanime was back to where it needed to be with its quality which kept the audience interested. Backstage was a little bit odd, however. As is usual, Doug prefers to go backstage and take pictures of the contestants there, but we've both been noticing there's been a bit of a...decline...in that by various conventions; even going so far as to eliminate it entirely in the case of AX due to there just being no room to do it. It's fortunate we got there fairly early and conversed with the Director, whereby we set up a place in the hallway that was actually far better than the usual place inside the masquerade contestant's lounge where there's really not much room and terrible lighting. Since originally the very idea had been eliminated this year at Fanime, it was a good thing we could come up with this, and should be far better for everyone in the future. On the other hand, there were only two or three other photographers who joined Doug this year for the Fanime backstage. I don't know if it was just lack of knowledge of a new crop of photographers, a few years frustration culminating in whatever was up last year, or what...but this year's journalist turn out was dismal. On a slightly more hilarious note, I was actually told by one of the union dudes that I wasn't allowed to film. At least until I corrected him by showing him I was press. Even so, this event was open and free for all to film and take photos of...if anything, next year they really need to have a sit down with the theatre staff and remind them of what events that is allowed and what events those are not allowed. At the very least with a reminder at the beginning of the event.

Bus schedules aside, I'm guessing a lot of Fanime's problems disappeared when the convention center and hotels finished their construction which has plagued the place for the last couple years. I'll miss the fountains, but the water waste must have been horrendous. In a season of drought, such extravagance cannot be justified. Still, that little alcove sculpture thing is a good enough place to take pictures. However, there is now only one area of trees to take pictures in, and most of the photographers who set up equipment flocked there. It's actually the best place to take good photos, especially with natural lighting, which I like to do (and don't get to do enough of anymore). With the loss of the one, it gets a little crowded over at the one remaining. Still, we made it work. Only other problem is one of the cosplay gathering areas between the Hilton and the Convention Center requires a somewhat round about way to get to it since all the doors to it were either blocked or alarmed, and that needs to be addressed sometime in the future. What is nice is that the Dealer's Hall has been expanded a bit, with more than enough room for everyone to get around. Hell, they even had one of those inflatable bouncing houses for our amusement, though I think they should have doubled the time allowed for the price asked. What I didn't see were any of the food booths that were there last year, and that rather depressed me since I wanted the Kona Coffee and whatnot I liked to drink from those tables/booths. I know they do a fairly decent business, so I'm a little curious as to them not showing up. A huge disappointment was the Swap Meet. They held it in the theatre that the Masquerade is typically held in, which is nowhere NEAR enough room, as evidenced by the lines into it. The used to have them in the same places as the gaming or even some of the hotel meeting rooms which are a lot better use of space for this sort of event. Still, with the completion of construction there was an entire area indoors for attendee registration which would prevent most people from falling out in the heat. Also there was a new area for the Artist's Alley which even included a little lounge area in back. I know that the guys running that room were frustrated beyond belief due to people just resting on the walls or in other strange places which is classified as a fire hazard when they could have just as easily moved a few feet to the back of the room and pulled up a piece of floor there.

All in all, I have to say that Fanime has cleaned up its act from the past couple years it's been kinda letting itself go. Again, the timing of when construction began to when it ended correlates, so I'm really wondering just how much of Fanime's problems stemmed from that. I also note the Steam Punk event which went on in the Fairmount by enthusiasts of that genre and was tied directly in to Fanime itself for the second or third year in a row. I think next year, if we manage to go, I may take a few hours to investigate this one as there were more than a few attendees to it, and seems to be growing all the time. I suspect that event may wind up splitting off from Fanime in a few years to be their own event if they do continue such growth, but we'll see. It wasn't all good to be sure, but these were easily worked around problems, and those that weren't quite as easy to work around were the usual new check box that one adds to the checklist next year. Admittedly it would be nice if those leaving would stick around to give turn over to their replacements, but in the real world, this almost never happens which requires relearning lessons. Still, it wasn't so bad that it became an Anime Expo 2007 or forced the convention to shut down...far from it really. Like I've noted before, Fanime's almost back to where it was when I first started going. I can only hope their improvement continues...even past the high quality of previous years into new areas of development we've not seen yet. I look forward to finding out if that's even possible and what form it will take.

Last modified on Sunday, 22 June 2014 01:28

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