This year there really wasn't much preparation involved in terms of getting equipment. I'd already picked up a couple of Corsair 32GB UHS-1 Class 10 SD cards as upgrades to the cards I'd been using in my cameras since my Nikon D40x days back in 2006 or so. I'd say the only thing I did wind up getting was the ProMaster HD tripod head for my Manfrotto MK294 tripod. You've probably seen those particular tripods if you've been to Costco, though I don't believe they are being offered at the time of this writing; however, they may restock, so who knows what the future holds? It's a fairly sturdy tripod and comes with its own padded case and the generic 3-way pan head which is good for still shots but is absolutely shit when it comes to panning smoothly for video. I'd actually been planning on getting another head for my tripod, but couldn't find one I liked until I wound up at Idaho Camera in Boise, Idaho of all places the week prior to AX while attending my 20 year high school reunion. It requires some tweaking, but I'll be damned if that thing doesn't pan smoothly and stop on a dime when you finally get it set.
So, of course, what is one of the primary things we do here? Pictures! Before I get to that, I'd like to indulge a possibly ugly aspect of my personality with a rant about tablet and cell phone cameras...and quite possibly some DSLR usage. Folks, it is a factual statement that a photographer can usually take a decent picture with just about any camera you hand them; however, if you give them a choice, they'll go for their SLR or equivalent every chance they can get. Why? Because you can get far better fidelity in sharpness, lighting, and color...not to mention the capability of RAW photography at insanely high pixel rates which can allow one to do all sorts of fun stuff in editing software that you're just not going to get with the compressed JPG's of that itty bitty sensor in your phone or tablet. It has its place, but using that primarily to take pictures of cosplayers en masse kinda defeats the purpose. I'm not saying buy a fucking Leica M-9 (I actually saw one dude that had one of those this year...he wouldn't tell me how much he wound up spending on that thing), but if you're going to want to take photos, at the very least, get a quality point and shoot. Which leads me into the next part of this rant; the entry level DSLR's you get at Walmart, Target, Sears, and the like. I've got no problems with these devices; they're decent cameras. Hell, for my backup and walk around camera, I use an Olympus EPL-1 4/3rds mirrorless (gotta upgrade that soon). However, getting one and just running around in auto mode does not a photographer make you. You can do that with the slim line point and shoots and get photos of equal quality and save yourself some money. The overall point I'm getting at is, at the very least, if you're going to do this, you don't have to get out a fucking light meter and program every picture just so, but gain a basic understanding of things like ISO, f-stops, White balance, exposure settings on your flash, and get some equipment that you can use to take those awesome photos that this knowledge will afford you. Otherwise...why are you even doing this? It's rather lazy and kinda defeats the purpose of cosplay photography when you're trying to get the best picture you can for both yourself and the cosplayer. And on that note, show the cosplayer the photo you just took! I swear, I was ready to pistol whip every single person with a camera there if I heard one more time, "Oh wow! I never get to see these!"
Oh right, pictures. I've been noting that over the years that my output has been increasing as my practiced skills increase, and I figure that's a good thing. I try to make every photo count, and I'm getting better and better at this; as there is always room for improvement. Now I'm not trying to say that doing the shotgun method (something you could never do economically with film) is any less valid, especially with the advent of enormous amounts of digital storage, but I find that parsing through twenty shots to find the right one is rather annoying. If you click here you can go directly to the gallery on TFA Cosplay and check out all of them (please read the message on the verification notice). Here you can see an example of what my Olympus can do; though I'm unfamiliar with the character. It helps I got a very small external flash for it, which in no way diminishes its portability. Here's a nice little shot of the line for registration this year. Took me a bit to get up there as they had most of the stairs blocked off for some unfathomable reason; more on that later. Still, this is only a fraction of how long the line really was. It went on for a couple of blocks...I'm told they were getting close to the area where our hotel was, which was at the very least a half hour walk away. Getting back to the pictures here's a nice one of the Magical Devil Girl and Dekimori from Chuunibyou twirling her hair that I'm pretty proud of. Here we have the crowd waiting for the dealer's hall to open, which while bad they had at least taken precautions to keep from getting to the point of pure saturation that previous years have had...there was at least enough room for people to move and make an orderly escape (though not very quick) should fire break out. Make up effects are getting more elaborate, as seen here on this Venom cosplayer. Armor is getting more and more elaborate too, as we see here with the Berserk Armor. Sometimes you get everything you want just right, as we see with Athena from Saint Seiya. Then there's just straight accuracy in all its forms as we see here with King from Tekken...seriously not just the costume but the overall body sculpting this man had, which is an insane amount of work and diet, that went into the look made it look like the character had just lept off the video game screen. I was very afraid that Tinkerbell's wings would do strange things to the camera, but they came out pretty well. Here's a photo of the photographers of the Kill La Kill cosplay gathering. That's right, just the photographers as there was no way in Hell that anyone could get in edgewise to get a shot. Gurren Laggan vs Kill La Kill; Round one, FIGHT! This Ultimecia from Final Fantasy VIII even has the clawed feet. And speaking of overall accuracy, this Non Non from Kill La Kill in her Nudist Beach tactical gear had it down. Ladies and Gentlemen...most of your magicians from Myth: Legends of Burlseque and Magic. And while we're at it, Uncle Wolverine Wants You. I have a lot of respect for those that take the time to do this level of body paint. There's all sorts of things they have to watch out for and supress in order to get that look. The big themes this year were Sailor Moon and Kill La Kill for obvious reasons, and I'm taking bets on that fight. These are just some of the highlights; check them all out, you won't be disappointed.
The AMV contest this year was entertaining, though not so much as last year. What was good was that there weren't nearly as many convention circuit entries which meant a lot of stuff I hadn't seen before. Here's the list of this year's entries:
AX 2014 AMV Contest Intro - YouTube - AMV.org
Action/Adventure:Control the Redline - KagatoAMV [Studio Hybrid] - (Control - VNV Nation - Redline) - YouTube
Fighting Dreamers 2 - kenshinorax - (Omoide wa Okkusenman - Jam Project - Dragon Ball Z) - YouTube - AMV.org
Vampiric Vixen - BecauseImBored1 - (Psycho Ball and Chain - the Creepshow - Hellsing Ultimate) - YouTube - AMV.org
Mahjong Banquet - Magicflier [Illuminated Studios] - (Senbonzakura - Yuko Suzuhana ft. Wagakki Band - Saki) - YouTube - AMV.org
Lifeline - Hagaren Viper - (I'm Alive - Shinedown - Persona 4) - YouTube - AMV.org
Fionn's Curse - irriadin [PixelBlended Studios] - (Verja Urit An Bitus - Eluveitie - Fate/Zero) - YouTube - AMV.org
Winner: Control the Redline
Drama/Theatric:On the Run - Draqua - (I Wish I Knew Natalie Portman [On the Run] - k-os - Michiko & Hatchin) - YouTube - AMV.org
The Fighting Ippo - Compbros - (The Fighter - Gym Class Heroes - Haijime no Ippo) - YouTube - AMV.org
The Monster in Me - Rider4Z [Otaku Lounge Productions] - (Monster - Imagine Dragons - Attack on Titan) - YouTube - AMV.org
Cosmic Love - Nekokitkat - (Cosmic Love - Florence and the Machine - Tusbasa Reservoir Chonicle's Manga) - YouTube
Face Your Fears - BakaOppai - (Machine Gun [Amon Tobin Remix] - Noisia - Various) - YouTube - AMV.org
Dare You to Dream - MinetChan - (Dare You to Move - Switchfoot - Studio Ghibli Collection) - AMV.org
Winner: Face Your Fears
Fun:Snowball Genocide - Kisanzi - (Royal Taste [Jim Waterman Remix] - Montee & Junky Sound - Various) - YouTube - AMV.org
Angel Without a Cause - Rider4Z [Otaku Lounge Productions] - (She's a Rebel - Green Day - Panty & Stocking) - YouTube - AMV.org
With a Capital T - "LC"_Lapen - (Trouble - Neon Jungle - Kill la Kill) - YouTube - AMV.org
Hououin Kyouma the Science Guy - BAD ASTERICK - (Bill Nye [Remix] - DJ Abunai - Steins;Gate) - YouTube - AMV.org
The Optimists - Rider4Z [Otaku Lounge Productions] - (Pompeii - Bastille - One Piece) - YouTube - AMV.org
Winner: Snowball Genocide
Romance/Sentiment:Still Alive - ShodanKid - (Still Alive - Lisa Miskovsky - Sword Art Online) - YouTube - AMV.org
Young and Beautiful - Ellipselris - (Young and Beautiful - Lana Del Rey - Garden of Words) - YouTube - AMV.org
Crazy Little Thing - MinetChan - (Crazy Little Thing Called Love - Queen - Various) - YouTube - AMV.org
Stay With Me - KyuuYuKi - (Stay - Hurts - Shinsekai Yori) - YouTube - AMV.org
Undisciplined Heart - daynnz - (Hang You Up - Yellowcard - 5 Centimeters Per Second) - YouTube
Time Falls Away - AdventLostKaichou [Advent Lost Studios] - (Little Wonders - Rob Thomas - Tokyo Magnitude 8.0) - YouTube
Winner: Time Falls Away
Upbeat/Dance:Pamplemousse - PieandBeer - (Nine in the Afternoon - Panic! at the Disco - Kyousougiga) - YouTube - AMV.org
Nostalgia - Maturbo - (Warm Thoughts - Flame - Various) - YouTube - AMV.org
G6 - Bambi - (Like a G6 - Far East Movement ft. The Cataracs - Various) - YouTube
Under Control - SasukeChanx - (Under Control - Calvin Harris & Alessa - Various) - YouTube - AMV.org
A Piece of Toast - BakaOppai - (Pizza Rolls (Mashup) - sssShawnnn - Various) - YouTube - AMV.org
Winner: A Piece of Toast
Comedy/Humor:Iwatobi Weather Service - Nekokitkat - (Raining Men - The Weather Girls - Iwatobi Swim Club, Attack on Titan) - YouTube
Animu Stew - BlackOppai - (Various Audio - Various Anime) - YouTube - AMV.org
Good Clean Fun - Haunter103 [CornDog VidVids] - (Do the Duck - Sesame Street - Various)
Free Willies - Amaterasu - (No Homo - the Lonely Island - Various) - YouTube - AMV.org
Anime 101 - VivifxAMV - (Good Feeling [Instrumental] - FloRida & - Various) - YouTube - AMV.org
AMV(&humor) - BasharOfTheAges - (Total Eclipse of the Heart - Wolf Children) - YouTube - AMV.org
Winner: Animu Stew
Block One (After Action/Adventure)Tickets - Otaku Lounge Productions - (Tickets Sprint Commercial - Fullmetal Alchemist & Ouran Highschool Host Club) - YouTube
Totes McGotes - Otaku Lounge Productions - (Totes McGotes Sprint Commercial - Fullmetal Alchemist & Ouran Highschool Host Club) - YouTube
Sword of the Ronin - SVProductions - (Ronin 47 Trailer - Sword of the Stranger) - YouTube
Block Two (After Drama/Theatric)GMFC Giganto - Mr. Pilkington - (GMFC Giganto - You Don't Know Jack - Girls und Panzer) - YouTube - AMV.org
Dead Space Cowboy - NoisyNinjas [Mad Rush Studios] - (Dead Space Trailer - Cowboy Bebop)
Block Three (After Fun)PandaTelus Commercial - nicki_013 - (Telus Commercial - Shirokuma Cafe) - YouTube - AMV.org
Special Eyes - WarlikeSwans - (1-800-Contacts Commercial - Code Geas) - YouTube
The Butterfly Effect - MycathatesyouAMV [Chaotic Bad Raptor] - (The Butterfly Effect - Steins;Gate) - YouTube - AMV.org
Block Four (After Romance/Sentimental)Edge of Walpurgis - Tsu - (Edge of Tomorrow Trailer - Madoka Magica) - YouTube - AMV.org
Kyubey's Eye Repair - Tsu - (Call to Adventure - Kevin MacLeod - Various)
Block Five (After Upbeat/Dance)Going Out Tonight - Otaku Lounge Productions - (Going Out Tonight Sprint Commercial - Fullmetal Alchemist & Ouran Highschool Host Club) - YouTube
Friend Request - Otaku Lounge Productions - (Friend Request Sprint Commercial - Fullmetal Alchemist & Ouran Highschool Host Club) - YouTube
Juno - MinetChan - (Juno trailer - Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions, Clannad, Clannad After Story) - YouTube - AMV.org
Best Commercial: Special Eyes
Best Trailer: Dead Space Cowboy
Best in Show: Tie between "A Piece of Toast" & "Animu Stew"
Comedy, historically the most popular category, was not the strongest showing in my opinion, though I was a really sick fuck and laughed at 'Iwatobi Weather Service' like a goddamn psycho killer. The Action category wasn't as strong as it was at Fanime, but it was pretty good regardles; I highly recommend 'Control the Redline' in that one. Drama was good, but I admit to having seen most of them before so I was a little bit conflicted on this one on what to give what. 'Cosmic Love' still probably was the best of the bunch for me, but 'The Fighting Ippo' was damn good too. I wouldn't have given it the category winner 'Face Your Fears', but I will admit to seeing why others liked it. Fun was hands down, 'Snowball Genocide' and you'll have to watch it to see why. For Romance...I had to give it to 'Stay With Me' even though I absolutely despise the genre for the most part. 'Time Falls Away' I'd seen at Fanime and like before, that one hurt...bad...to watch. I'd almost say that using the animes 'Tokyo Magnitude 8.0' and 'Wolf Children' should be banned in these categories for being far too easy to use to tear your broken bleeding heart out and jackhammering it into oblivion. Upbeat was a category I didn't have any real favorites; the winner 'A Piece of Toast' is worth watching to be sure. Honestly, if you wanted Comedy, you were better served with the all the trailers that they played between the categories. That stuff was funnier by a fair margin than what was shown in the aforementioned category.
For first time running an event like the Masquerade, those that ran it did a remarkable job, all things considered. Now, granted there were the usual hiccups; mistimed audio cues and such, and there were the coplay intros that were fucked up. It's painfully obvious that they had simply done a batch encode of the ones that they went out and filmed rather than the ones that the cosplayer themselves provided as those particular ones were all about 15 seconds. Some human oversight would be good there or better planning when interviewing said cosplayers with some human oversight so they're not cutoff mid sentence during their intro. There was also the lift malfunction at the beginning with the huge Gundam Mech cosplay that I'm guessing was too heavy for it to get up to a point where they could unlock the gate; I'm not sure there was a way to anticipate that, because...well, how often has anyone actually seen that happen with some of the other stuff that's been lifted up on the stage in the past? The dude was a good sport, and even won best of show (it really was a damn fine cosplay). Youtube's copyright protection mechanism only silenced it in certain countries, but if you're in the States, I'll include it here so you can watch it. On a side note, I hope the lady whose Nikon failed (the mirror placement failed so that it sprang up and covered the sensor) managed to get it serviced. One reason you always have a backup.
In only its second year as what can be described as a Main Event we have Myth: Legends of Burlesque and Magic. Produced and Co-Hosted by William Draven and Hosted by Vixen DeVille, it has quite possibly trounced every other main event for just the shear level of entertainment and fun one can expect with your clothes on. Well, scratch that, I think the audience kept their clothes on...I think; it was quite dark. I had stopped by the Yard House to have a couple before heading on in to record the show, so I was feeling pretty good. William Draven is a stand-up guy, even if he did greet me with an Irish accent and put himself to the backlight so this tipsy dude couldn't see him very well, heh. I tried to set up next to the sound stage, but the technical crew noted that the press 'booth' was two rows over to their left, and said the magic words 'Fire Marshall' to make us go there. It was an oblique angle, but not too much for me. Even so, I'm very curious if indeed it was the Fire Marshall or one of them as I've never had this problem before. I'll need to talk with the press department on that as those taking pictures need a more central location. On the other hand, I need to learn how to connect to their break out box as well.
Yes, this event is so good it gets more than the standard single paragraph. The event itself was structured to be performances of Burlesque and Magic acts (though not always alternating), with...I think a bit of crossover in the case of Vixen DeVille who combines both, but that lady is so damn talented it's a wonder she doesn't have her own private minion army. I'm sure she could have by the end of any of her performances, especially this one. The show opened up with William's bull-whip breaking the pencil in his hand trick. I've seen this before, but damn if that doesn't get me every time. Still, I found it quite amusing the the audience member he pulled up on stage may not have learned what really happened up there until much later. After which we are then introduced or in some cases reintroduced to our hostess, Vixen DeVille. The Lady is a consummate performer and exudes a charisma that had the audience practically begging at her feet. Begging for what is a question best left to philosophers, because I'm not even sure they quite knew, only that that they wanted more...and more she gave us. First up was the burlesque act of Olivia Bella Fontane as Princess Leia. I'm not going to lie; what she did there was something that taps deep into the heart of every fanboy there. We have all seen Princess Leia dance with that shear raw animal abandon in and out of outfit, whatever outfit that may have been, in our deepest imaginings, and here she gave that to us and more...so much more. I can think only the Baroness or Evil Lynn would have had similar impact. Jeff Favor was the first magic act of the night, and for those of us who were there last year, it should be noted he wound up stripping then to, but not this year. No, they said he couldn't do that this year...poor bastard was all broken up about it too. That and what a recent lay whispered to him mid coitus, but that aside, his page in a book trick still boggles the mind on how he does that. Mia Morte graced us with her burlesque act next, and I'm still giggling that she actually DID that. Burlesque to Captain Rogers and 'America: Fuck Yeah!' Yeah, we're at Anime Expo where we DO shit like that on July 4th, hehehehe. Next up was Naathan Phan, The Magic Asian Man. Speaking of ridiculously talented, this guy fits that description in ways I'd have never thought possible. I say this as during his entire card trick set, he sat there and sang Opera, and by that I don't mean he just sang some opera songs, I mean he SANG OPERA...and ended it on a very patriotic note with red, white, and blue glitter! Though perhaps it was a bad idea to bring out the bunnies, because the moe 'daww' from the audience was almost more than I could take. Rynie Das Wreckless was the next burlesque performer to honor us with her presence and her exhibition of Black Cat of Spiderman fame. I...admit, I had trouble filming this one. She was...distracting. I think I got most of it, but not nearly as well as I'd have liked. The only thing I'd recommend is that in the future she make sure the red lights were brighter, as that dimness plays havoc on cameras.
I will take this moment, and this paragraph to note that it was after Rynie Das Wreckless' set, that Vixen DeVille shared with us a revelation that may well wind up shaking the long term fans' notions to their very foundations. You all know The Chair? The convention Chair that was first recognized at the Masquerade in 1999? Apparently his name is actually Steve. Vixen DeVille told all of us this, and then later noted to me the poor dear had never been asked his name until she did. Yes, Steve the Convention Chair. At the very least it was somewhat made up to him with all the ladies that wound up dancing over him and on him that night of July 4, 2014. Fifteen years probably to the day.
Then Nova Snape came out as Yuuno from Future Diaries. If anyone knows the story of Future Diaries and who Yuuno is, then you know how both thrilling and scary this performance likely was for those of us in attendance, heh. Surprisingly we had yet another burlesque act after this one, this time by, even more surprising, a guy going by the name of Dr. Lust. This is something I'm very sure that many ladies (and a few guys) were quite thrilled with, and in his Green Arrow cosplay, he acquitted himself quite well I'll admit. It was after Dr. Lust's performance that Vixen DeVille revealed one of her many talents in both burlesque and magic: The Broken Glass walk. Only, she doesn't just walk on it, she kinda lays down and swims in it on mostly bare skin. This is always a site to see; though I'm guessing we'll never see her do her hidden spike under a cup trick again here at AX since the last guy she did that with forgot where the spike was. It's a mind reading trick so he can't be doing that you understand, heh. I do wonder, that the song 'Walking on Broken Glass' is a very apt soundtrack, but is there not others that would fit just as well? Ah well, it works, and once William Draven came out and got the glass all swept up, he demonstrated for us his escape from a chained up straight jacket feat. And just for an extra added bit of challenge, he had to do it before the audience member who chained him up could drink an entire Gatorade. I had to review the footage a couple of times, but if said audience member had not added any flourishes to his chugging, he'd have beaten William, hands down. As it was, William won by a bare fraction of a margin...it was all damn quick. I then found myself most intrigued that Mia Morte came out for another burlesque performance, this time she was a zombie girl with a makeup and prosthetic false face that...let's just say I'm guessing every guy there felt very conflicted after this one was over, and I'd be willing to be that was her intention. Next up was the Carnie, Aye Jay. His show was far more interesting from a historic standpoint as he described how carnivals worked, and some of the terminology we use even today like, 'easy mark' while showing us several of the tricks they'd use to wow the audience. Poor dude thought he was being punked when he had about three of his audience volunteers draw Steve the Convention Chair for his behavioral casing demonstration. For our next burlesque act, we were treated to something most unique by Belle-Esque: A burlesque belly dancing fusion of which I can say I don't quite think I've ever seen the like of before. I liked it, but not seen quite that before. Now the next magic set I'm not entirely sure I can quite classify. Dyno-Staats, The Shocker, and Bizzaro all had separate acts, but they intertwined each of their tricks to tell a Monty Python-esque sort of story that you'd have seen on their original Monty Python's Flying Circus show. It was magic and it was skit comedy and it was a helluva good time. Surprising me again for the final burlesque performance of the night Rynie Das Wreckless also came out for another performance as Spock from Star Trek. Somehow, through Leonard Nimoy's song "Highly Illogical", she communicated his obvious frustration with the human race by stripping and throwing her clothing on the ground. All of it. I suppose that's another use for a tribble. Anyway, for our final magic act, William Draven came up on stage and laid on a bed of spikes. Then people came and stood on him. Then The Shocker came out, dropped a cement brick on him and smashed it with a sledge. All while he somehow kept himself from being impaled on the spikes. Fuckin' A, I think that was probably the best way that one could end a show like that...with one Helluva bang.
Other reviewers have noted that the burlesque performances were, in many ways, a celebration of the female form. And that may well be true; though I would note their descriptions as incomplete, as we had a bit of the male form in there as well. However, I saw something else that was very much unique to a venue like Anime Expo. Many of the burlesque performers were also cosplayers, good ones at that. Here in that place, at that time, they could indulge their geekiest of impulses combined with their talent at burlesque, in a kind of Masquerade Contest, without the contest, of course, in front of people that could appreciate it. They'd certainly never be able to get to do something like that at the Masquerade itself or in public, but here they could cut loose a bit and tell those stories with those performances and wow everyone with it as they wished to. I think I saw a bit of that in the magicians as well. While in most places what they were doing would often be treated as comedy, and even here it was, there was also that underlying current of being able to indulge themselves in the nerdiest way they could because these were the people that would truly understand and appreciate that nuance. It was a damn good show, guys. I hope I'll be able to be there next year for more of the same. However, while we wait, why not just watch the whole thing now?
As a member of the press I'm afforded certain, opportunities shall we say? I'm not sure that's the right word, as what we do, while pleasant enough, also carries a further reaching responsibility. There's an aspect of business to it rather than simply the social contract of being respectful and having fun that most are about at these conventions. As such we're expected to carry ourselves to a certain level of decorum and professionalism so no one gets embarrassed in the 'make amends by cutting your finger off' sense. This does not mean lying, but there are certain behaviors and protocols one must follow. This is a two way street; however, which theoretically is supposed to keep things civil, pleasant and fun for everyone. It doesn't always work out; I mean, we're human...we get up in each other's shit all the time either accidentally or deliberately. It happens; and at the end of the day, it's nothing worth getting violent over as it's just an anime convention. I only note this because one of those opportunities is that the guests of honor hold press junkets that allow us to ask questions without a huge crowd of people around. I've taken to filming these Q&A sessions so everyone can know what went on in them, and perhaps get information they didn't always have. I do not go to the ones where recording is not allowed as I see little point in such a situation in today's day and age. I mean, are we trying to inform the fans or are we wanking our own chains here? That's the perspective I'm going on when I note that one of the press junkets was with Ryoka Yuzuki and Ami Koshimizu the voice actresses of Satsuki and Ryuuko respectively from Kill La Kill. The night prior to this panel occurring my tire's inner-tube decided to rotate without my tire popping out the stem and deflating my tire. This took about an hour and a half with my friends the Seeto brothers, whom I cannot thank enough, to get the spare on, and by that time it was nearly 0230 hours; and I was beyond dead tired. There was no way I was going to get up early enough to get to this panel, and maybe not even the Sailor Moon Voice Actresses press panel that was to occur right after. Already that day was looking shot to Hell. So I get up the next day and try to get to a gas station to fill my spare up as it hadn't been touched for years. Yeah, that worked out when I had to wait for a couple of ladies who couldn't speak a word of English to puzzle out how to fill up their tires first. I managed to make it to the convention center an hour later, and by that time they had closed the doors on the Sailor Moon Voice Actress reunion press panel. However, I did find out that they'd rescheduled the Ryuuko and Satsuki VA panel to later in the day, which helped tremendously. When that time came, we had all reviewed what was allowed and what was not, all subject to change at the whim of the guest, but that usually only happened under extreme circumstances...that two way street I was referring to. You don't say something is allowed and then renege unless there's extenuating circumstances. In this case, photos without flash, audio, and video recording were to be allowed. I had my gear set up, and so did a couple of others. Hell, one lady had a whole professional news microphone set up all ready to go; this was going to be fun. The room coordinator then sticks their head in, apologizes, and tells us they're not allowing any photos or video, and that audio was allowed, but you could not publish it...only transcribe it. This effectively reduced the room to 1930's tech, and since very few of us were prepared for that, barely anyone had a tablet or a pencil and piece of paper. Bluntly put, there was no reason for us to be there. Me and about five other guys packed our stuff up and left to the very confused looks from the VA's as they walked in. I don't know the circumstances. I've heard a couple theories, but that's all they are. All I know for certain is that I was unprepared for a contingency that I had already dismissed in my mind as absurd, but was still vaguely possible. So I don't know what happened in there or what we could have learned and passed on...I have no idea. I do know that reducing us to 1930's level reporting will get you that level; and I'm not sure what you're going to hear about that, if anything at all.
On a more positive note, I was in a position to record Danny Choo again this year, and this year, he had the production model of his Smart Doll with him. We were afforded the opportunity to ask him about its production, its sales numbers, its future both near term and even eventual sci fi futures as a kind of semi-sentient AI companion, and even a few ideas beyond that. But why settle for a summary when you can see the whole thing now? You may need to turn your speakers up a bit; I did what I could, but it may not be quite enough.
What I do enjoy most about talking with Danny Choo is how creative the man is and how far reaching his vision has become, not the least of which is his enthusiasm for it and so much of it he's willing to share and kinda take us a long for the ride if we so choose. He's not really afraid of talking about the possibility of his creations being used for nefarious purposes and seems rather regretful that there will always be those who would turn such advancement to screwed up ends. While he seemed averse to the idea of his creations eventually gaining full human height and becoming humanoid androids, I figure his technology will be combined with the technology already in the works to make such a being. Everybody there knows what comes next, however, in order to make them true companions (in the oldest definition of the word) to...I suspect it'll be for men mostly due to biological and sociological realities. No one asked the question; I'm not sure we're quite ready to broach the subject yet. Maybe when we see the first robotic one we will be.
For the final event I went to, I went to the replay: Symphony of Heroes concert. I went as an attendee, not as a member of the press. I was just there to enjoy the music. The format of this was the hero's journey; the music they were performing from various games and whatnot was structured to tell an overarching story which played out on the movie screens to either side of the orchestra. It fortunately had an intermission in the middle and they had bathrooms sectioned off for our use, so it was actually a very nice experience though you could not leave and reenter the concert. I really don't understand that restriction, but there it was. Still it was a good time, and worth the money I paid. Funny story about that; I paid for all the events figuring we'd need the extra tickets since not everyone was going to be able to get complimentary ones for press. Then everyone bailed and I was stuck having paid for tickets. I went ahead and used them all.
There's a lot this convention did right, but there were some rough points. The convention center staff seemed to be rather ill trained this year. I mean, day one I had one of the convention center staff blocking people from going down a flight of stairs but not from coming up. His answer when I asked him about that? "They can still use the elevator." I noted it was a fire hazard and the man's soul just exited his shell and I was then talking to a empty vessel. There was bag check at the door which was nothing more than theatre as they weren't really checking anything of consequence...not that they could with the shear volume of people we're talking about. Worse, it was easily bypassible if you knew where to go, not that either way would have been a deterrent for bad guys. The Dealer's Hall was great again this year, but towards the end of the day the Convention Staff that made sure you were part of the convention abandoned ship (I was later told this was part of the AX plan...not sure if this is true or not), and anyone could walk in...which turned the already crowded place into a Comic Con levels of impassibility. On that note, I tried to go through the Artist's Alley, but towards the back the people were so thick there was no possibility of anyone getting back there no matter who you were. I wouldn't have cared if Peter Cullen or Frank Welker themselves were back there, I was not going to thrust myself into that mess...though I am curious what was back there that would cause such a ruckus. And now let's talk about lines. On Day 0 the computer systems were overloaded and crashed for about three hours. When you've already got about a three to four hour wait in line, that turns a necessary evil into pure HELL, as they found out at Fanime last year. I don't believe too many got to opening ceremonies and I know no one from press managed to get in and cover it...we were stuck waiting too. I'll file that under shit happens, but then I looked outside and started getting phone calls from those in that line...they were backed up nearly a half a mile away from the convention center. The line was that fucking long and did not let up until the final day. At least towards the end of Day 1 I think it was they got these mobile tent covers on metal poles over the line to keep people from suffering from severe sun exposure. Then I read up later what had happened, an and you can too right here. They were caught with an unprecedented increase in attendance, and are now getting into Comic Con levels of people coming through. Bluntly put they had no idea and were not equiped to handle this, but at least they're being proactive with the situation and like Fanime, will have that issue taken care of by next year...we hope.
For some random anecdotes, I headed into the gaming room with all of the cosplay photoshoot sets. They had several more this year...far more than I recall. I could barely get any use out of them as, like the Kill La Kill photoshoot, there were just too many people using them, in a much smaller area of space than outside. I did what I could, but I wound up taking more photos around the sets than in them. Heading over to the back of the area I found the sewing company (whose card I've again misplaced) that was there last year having expanded their original demonstration area setup to include actual cosplay repair to help sell their products. All I can say is that's good on them; there's no better way to sell a sewing machine than to have it do something for the cosplayers right then and there, and from what I gather, they sold quite a few...though I can't recall if they sold any of their $4000 dollar models or not. At least parking wasn't the nearly insane rates it was last year, and there was even covered parking at LA Live that was cheaper and just as close if you knew how to go back and forth; sometimes it was better to go around than through, for example. I really missed hanging out with people this time around, and I didn't think I would as much as I did. While sometimes when I was with them I wanted to go off by myself, I find being completely without them was disconcerting. I also tended to rely on them more when I'm carting equipment around and to remind me when events were happening; such as the Midnight Shinigami concert I missed.
Still, overall, I had fun, even picked up 'Aestheica of a Rogue Hero' and 'Nyarko' from the dealer's hall; they sold out of all the Madoka and Sword Art Online Blu Rays which were my first choice, heh. It was a good time; despite its flaws and all the stuff that occured I'd have to put into the 'Shit Happens' category. There were some serious issues with lines, but it looks like they're on their way to fixing them. Hopefully next year it'll be like Fanime this year where the wait was only about forty-five minutes. Hopefully I'll be able to hit it up, but we'll see. There's some tentative plans to hit up Dragon-con; which pretty much kills every other convention for the year due to the time and money cost. That may happen next year; we're not entirely sure. There's also the real life situations of a few of our members that are rapidly changing. We knew we couldn't do it like we did forever, and who knows maybe our time is coming to a close. We'll see, but I hope not. I like these events, and I like working these events. I get to do cool shit with cool people with cool gear. What's not to love about them? Regardless, here's to next year; whatever it holds.