Chillin’ at Otakon 2010

Otakon’s been over for how many weeks? Two? Three? Four? Five? SIX?! I dunno, I haven’t been keeping count, nor do I have any concept of time. But what I do know is that this con has been over for a while, and a bunch of other cool cats already have their reports up. You should know how things run over here at Mistakes of Youth by now, so this punctuality shouldn’t be surprising.

I missed Otakon in 2009 due to being in another country while it was going on, and upon hearing reports of how fun that one was, I was actually pretty excited to get back to Otakon this year. And it wasn’t bad! Really chilled out. There were a few panels I wanted to go to–mostly run by friends and acquaintances–and between them was plenty of time to peruse the dealers’ rooms and socialize. Autograph lines were no problem, and I got to see a cool movie!

Moving into bloody details, let’s talk con organization. Reading back through my previous Otakon reports (while crying tears of blood) I noticed I didn’t mention con organization. I’m not sure if that means the con was run well or poorly in previous years, but I certainly noticed how well organized Otakon was this time around. Everything moved smoothly, and the staff members I spoke to were all friendly and very helpful. There was only one slight snafu regarding the autograph session for the Space Show staff, as it changed rooms without some people realizing, including the staff. I did manage to figure things out, and aside from that everything went swimmingly. Good on them!

This was my first time approaching Otakon as a panel con. While it didn’t really feel like what I assume a panel con feels like, what panels and events happened when determined how I spent my time, whereas previous years whatever I felt like doing at the moment determined how I spent my time, with exceptions made for big events. Organizing my time by panels was mostly due to the fact that I knew–in one way or another–people running a decent amount of panels at this con, so I made a point to see as many as I could. Friday was probably the most panel-full day, which was a little tiring considering my zombie-like state, but it wasn’t bad. Things kicked off bright and early with SDS and Sub’s mahjong panel at 9:30 AM. These guys were worried that their panel wouldn’t attract much of a crowd due to the early time slot, but they managed to fill the room with a bunch of congoers eager to learn the ins-and-outs of the game. I have a basic understanding of Japanese mahjong, but there were a good amount of things I wasn’t sure about, so their panel helped to fill in a lot of blanks and clear up misunderstandings. Sub and SDS are good friends in real life, so they had great chemistry on stage, and explained the material in a humorous and informative manner.

After that there was a bulk of industry panels. I dropped by the Vertical panel for nefarious purposes (purposes too nefarious to mention in public) and to shoot questions at Ed Chavez, one of the coolest cats in the manga industry. Following that, in the same room, was the Madhouse panel, where Maruyama Masao (an Otakon favorite) and his Japanese interpreter screened some trailers and dropped some info on some new projects. The most interesting part of the panel was the interpreter unwittingly breaking out random F-Bombs and the like during what is ostensibly an all-ages panel, even if everyone there was clearly over the age of 18. Since that panel wasn’t too hot, my crew and I took off early. I caught a bit of the opening ceremonies–enough to see some guy from Home Made Kazoku go “OTAKON, ICHIBAN!”–and left when English voice talent and yet-to-be-caught sex offender Vic Mignogna showed up shamelessly copying the good man from Home Made Kazoku. Upon leaving the opening ceremonies early (missing out on what was allegedly a not-very-good opening animation) I went to get my stuff signed by the staff of Welcome to the Space Show, that stuff being Kamichu DVD 1, the faux wood portion of the Kamichu boxset (later damaged in transport, but not the side with the signatures), the ROD OVA DVD, a Space Show flyer acquired at the signing, and I even got a sketch from the Space Show character designer. Despite the aforementioned trouble trying to find the place, the autograph session went well.

After some fucking around, our intrepid group found ourselves at the Aniplex panel at 4:30 PM. News was dropped through two very fobbish voices and a charmingly ugly Power Point presentation. I appreciate what Aniplex is trying to do, but they should probably work on getting some English speakers on board, and some better designers if they want to look professional. After that, in the same room, was OGT’s moe panel. I don’t want to give these guys anymore grief than they’ve already gotten, but they really should have dumbed down their panel for the layman. I’m a dumb guy, and a lot of their fancy scholarly words went straight over my head. It was OGT’s first panel though, so it can’t be helped.

Between 7 PM and 10 PM were a couple of panels I wanted to go to, both run by people I know–Aaron Clark’s annual Evangelion panel, and TheGreatSG’s J-rock music video panel–but I was too con-fatigued to attend, and needed some grub. So I went with a buddy of mine to the tail-end of some kind of anime blogger dinner, with luminaries such as the AWO, Mike Toole, the Reverse Thieves and the Ninja Consultants in attendance. Upon refueling, we took off towards Toole’s panel on Japanese cults who at one point or another used anime to promote themselves. Mr. Toole described the material on display as a “slow-burn of crazy.” It wasn’t stuff that really jumped out at you screaming crazy stuff, but the fact that it existed at all made one stop and consider the state of the world in which we live. As fun as that was, I took off half-way in to catch SDS and Viga’s panel on Genshiken’s Ogiue. I’d like to say I enjoyed it–the panel itself was great, displaying a great deal of analysis and thought put into the subject matter of Ogiue as a character, and fandom in general–but there was a terribly irritating man in the front row, who for some reason thought that the panel was also his, and interjected at every moment that he could. He was a Touhou fan, natch. It ended up running pretty short, giving way to a 30 minute Q&A, which I popped in and out of while in search for snack. By the end of the panel, my search was in vain. However, Erin of the Ninja Consultants offered me an apple, and for that I am eternally grateful.

I closed off the night by going to Gerald’s (of AWO fame) History of Hentai panel. I couldn’t stay for all of it, as it went well over time, but I caught the bulk of it, and it was quite interesting. Gerald went all the way back to old erotic Shunga prints, and worked his way through the 20th century, highlighting the various movements in Japanese 2D erotica, bringing up titles I had never even heard of before, and showing clips from things I was only familiar with by name. The panel was extremely well researched, and Gerald is a great presenter.

Saturday opened up with the premier of Welcome to the Space Show at 11:30 AM. (I would have hit up Alex Leavitt’s Noitamina bright and early, but I was way too conked out to make it, though I hear it was quite good.) I already dropped my $0.02 on Space Show over here, so I don’t have much to say regarding that. It’s a great film, but has some serious flaws. About an hour later we popped over to the Space Show Panel, which was a Q&A with Masunari Kou, Ishihama Masashi and Ochikoshi Tomonori. I remember the panel being quite informative, but I don’t remember much else beyond the answer to my own question since my memory is so terrible. I sure hope someone transcribed that! It was at this panel that I managed to see Taka (the ukulele-wielding translator, sadly without his ukulele this year) translate for the first time in a while. Between having missed out on Otakon last year, not having seen Taka interpret in years, and having learned a good amount of Japanese over the past 2 years, I was taken by how professional and spot on Taka’s translation work was. I had gotten used to second-rate con interpreters, but Taka truly is the real deal. He translates everyone’s questions–complete with all the nuances–perfectly, and on the fly. He then delivers a perfect English translation of the answer back, missing nothing. After that I had wanted to go to the AWO’s 10 Anime You’ve Never Heard of But Must See panel, but it was filled up 15 minutes before it began! I would not have known this had I not run into Mike Toole in the hallway walking back after being turned away from the panel himself. Things being as they were, I opted to fuck around for a good while until my panel 9 PM.

This was my first time at Otakon as a panelist, running the same panel I ran at Anime Boston–The Life and Times of Akiyuki Shinbo. Before the panel started, I came across a Senjougahara cosplayer in the hall and asked for her photograph. After getting her picture, I told¬† her about my panel. Seems she was already planning on going! That gave me a bit of confidence, as I was convinced my friends would be the only people in attendance, much like last time. In the 20 minutes before the panel, I had invited you–the lovely readership–for something of a meet and greet. Something I imagined happening in an empty panel room, considering there were 30 minutes of scheduled dead time between the previous panel and my own. To my surprise, the previous panel was still going on, but for a good reason–the actual panelists never showed up, and after 20 minutes of waiting, members of the audience came up and took the mic themselves. A friend of mine was amongst the few that took to the stage. With a promise that this impromptu panel would end momentarily, I went outside to see if any readers were there. I took a few by surprise, and someone from the IRC channel came up and said hi. What’s interesting is that none of these people were the same people who came to the meet up back 2008. I suppose the comic really has changed a lot, and I myself have gone through a lot of personal changes (reflected embarrassingly in the archives of this very blog) so it’s natural that a lot of previous readers would drop off. I wish I could have stayed to chat a bit more with the readers I met, but given the nature of the situation, I had to prioritize setting up the panel and making sure everything was in working order.

Thankfully, there were no technical issues like there were at Anime Boston, and the panel went off without a hitch. Looking back at my Anime Boston panel, I realized my biggest flaw–I didn’t have much to say. In my previous panel I spent so much time collecting clips and screencaps that I didn’t adequately prepare what I wanted to say about all of them. This time, having collected more or less all of my materials, I focused on delivering solid ideas to go along with the visuals, as well as made an effort to drop as many facts as I could about each show I talked about. I also tweaked the Power Point so the visuals were easier to see (the big screen in the panel room helped me out a lot on that front, too.) The panel garnered far more people than I thought. I was in the smallest room–said to hold 160 or so–and by my estimate I filled about half the room, so I was pretty damn proud of myself. After the panel had finished, friends of mine who saw my previous show at Anime Boston remarked that this time around was a lot better. People seeing it for the first time came up to me and said it was great, and later on I found some good responses on Twitter. The one criticism I got was that I spoke to fast, which is something I’ll have to work on for future presentations. I unfortunately forgot to record the panel, even though I meant to do so. Sadly, I will most likely not give the panel again. Not because I don’t want to, but simply because I probably won’t have a chance to. Besides, I could barely fit all of my content within one hour. Shinbo’s going to make more shows next year, and that means more things to add to the presentation. It’ll be 2 hours at this rate! So if you were there, I really hope you enjoyed it.

I want to give something of a shout-out to the staff member in charge of my room. He was a real champion, and was really willing to help out. Dude gave me a great lead in, and even offered me a drink of water. I forgot to touch it during the panel, though!

Sunday was pretty easy, with only one panel worth going to–the anime producers and directors panel, which was basically composed all of the Japanese production side people who were invited to the con. Despite being held in one of the bigger rooms, not many people attended (big surprise) so we all decided to gather around in a circle for an intimate question and answer session. The panel was nice and chilled out–it was really cool sitting amongst anime production people like equals, and it’s something I hope to do more often in the future. Once again, I remember it being quite informative, but I only remember the answers to my own questions. I saw people transcribing this one, so hopefully there’s a report up somewhere that I can read to refresh me. And once again, it was amazing seeing Taka at work. This time I saw him taking notes, and I was in awe at how he could remember every single detail of everyone’s question just by noting down a few words. The man is a genius.

Between all of these events and panels, the rest of my time at the con was primarily spent in the dealers’ room. And you know, it’s not like the dealers’ room is that great–it’s the same shit year after year, at the same inflated prices. I mostly hung around the Vertical Inc booth (for nefarious purposes) and the Hen Da Ne booth (for more nefarious purposes) and bought things at both. Kinokuniya was having a crazy sale on music, so I picked up the second Hayate no Gotoku S1 OST for what I’d pay for it in Mandarake to round off my collection. Other than that, the dealers’ room was just a good place to shoot the shit with people and to kill time.

Speaking of shooting the shit with people, I did a lot of that! I mainly rolled with omokrew, as I was staying in his hotel room. Omokrew seems to be composed of the ever joyous Moyism, gentle giant TheBigN, internet super star Momotato, 24/7 drunk Link, and the mysterious Alex D. They’re all cool cats, so we had a rad time. Also staying in the omoroom was a friend of mine from the MIT Anime Club, Jen, and we saw each other often throughout the convention. There were a number of run-ins with the ever cautious, recently turned internet-news-ticker kransom, and it’s always a good time with him, watching old David Violence videos in an empty hotel room. I had no idea Daryl Surat was once young! Speaking of Surat, I bumped into the AWO here and there, and we exchanged words. I ran into one of the Reverse Thieves whilst in route to somewhere or another, and ate out with Sub, Patz, Evan, and kransom late one night. Sadly, I spoke with SDS far too little throughout the con.

Words were also exchanged with Vertical Inc’s marketing director Ed Chavez, but those words were far too nefarious to be repeated here.

After coming back from Japan, I don’t really like buying things at cons anymore, but I got a few things, along with some nice freebies. Photographs follow:

Things Paid For

  • Bakemonogatari doujinshi.
  • Peepo Choo volume 1 (signed by Felipe Smith!)

Things Not Paid For

  • BADGES? WE DON’T NEED NO STINKIN’ BADGES. I guess I paid for one of them, though.
  • Gurren Lagann patch, received at Aniplex panel.
  • Colony Drop flier, given to me by Sub.
  • Manga Gamer promo CD, acquired at the Manga Gamer booth.
  • Chi’s Sweet Home bookmark.
  • Signatures on various DVDs and fliers.
  • A sketch.
  • A mysterious dakimakura cover…

Some things I forgot to include in the last picture:

Things Paid For

  • Hayate no Gotoku OST 2.

Things Not Paid For

  • Pen^2 plushie, received from Jen. She won the game show, and this was one of her prizes. She didn’t especially want it, so I asked if I could have it.

“But wait!?” you ask. “What of that mysterious dakimakura cover?!”

Well, if you have to ask…

Jen gave this to me on behalf of her and all of my friends in Boston as a farewell gift. I am nothing more than touched. I can’t wait to read a book next to Char gettin’ all saucy!

All in all Otakon was a great time. Really chilled out, and just a good ol’ time with some great people. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to make it next year,¬† but I’m sure we’ll all meet again, SOME SUNNY DAY~!

Other Otakon 2010 stuff: