Con Report: Another Anime Convention 2014

Hey all, I’d usually start this post off with me saying why I haven’t made a post in forever.  I’m lazy.  Plus Arleigh forgot to remind me when I’m at home.  Plus again, I have been working my ass off for the most part this year.  But, I figure I started to feel bad about not posting much considering how much Arleigh is paying me.  And then I realized that I’m not being paid anything, so I stopped feeling so bad.

Now, with that out of the way, let’s talk about my adventures at Another Anime Convention in Manchester, New Hampshire during the weekend of October 17-19.  Arleigh and I have attended 5 conventions together, 3 Anime Bostons and 2 Anime Expos in LA.  But there’s still many conventions that I attend solo, even though it’s incredibly expensive.  So, whenever I can, I try and go with someone like Arleigh.  However, small local conventions are just not something that I’d call him out from the wrong coast out to the right coast, especially since both of us are pretty much exclusively interested in Japanese guests.  Small, local conventions on the east coast are not going to get any Japanese guests ever. Anime Boston barely gets any, and they bring in well over 20,000 people.  Another Anime Convention is lucky to get 4,000 people.  But you know what?  The location works so well for that.  The convention is held in the convention center of the Manchester Radisson and even though the attendance is only between 3000 and 4000, it makes it feel every bit as busy as Anime Boston.  Not anywhere near Anime Expo or Otakon, but that’s not a bad thing, because both those conventions are stupidly crowded.

This particular convention has a lot going for it.  For one thing, even though I said it’s nowhere near an AB, since it’s a much smaller venue, it certainly feels every bit as big.  At no time will it take you longer than 10 minutes to get from one end of the convention center to the other, but that’s something that can only be truly appreciated with a smaller convention like this.

So what does this convention have going for it anyways?  Well, let’s say for a moment that you’re a fan of English dubs.  If you want to meet certain dub actors, then this is the place to do it without a doubt.  If English dub actors were my thing, I’d have been able to get several autographs no problem.  Now, even thought it’s a smaller convention, it still would normally be as tough to get an autograph as any convention.  However, AAC does something that I would encourage other larger conventions to do.  And to an extent Anime Expo does this as well.  What I’m talking about is that for an extra upcharge, one can essentially buy extra perks.  Basically for $50 extra, you get a free t-shirt, unlimited line skips (yes, any line, at any time, every time any and every day.  But there are maybe 3 events total over the course of the weekend that that would actually be an issue for), front of line access to guest autographs.  Basically, the perks are there to lord it over the cheap ass normals.  Did I do such?  Oh hell yeah.  If I saw a huge line for a panel, even if I didn’t give half a shit about the panel, I jumped the line just because I could, and I knew I was taking a closer seat away from some skinflint.

Now, Arleigh and I typically go to panels hosted by the Japanese guests and/or panels done by industry, such as your Funimations, Sentai Filmworks, Aniplex of America, or Viz Media.  With none of those industry members present at a small convention like this, I had to go into it with a much different mindset.  And you know what?  I still managed to have a ton of fun and still couldn’t see everything I wanted to.  What I did was take part in things that are in even the giant conventions, but we just never had time for.  For example, I actually went and watched the entire AMV contest, including voting on my favorites.  Because I am always ready to pass the buck, I long ago gave Arleigh the list of AMV winners, so instead of me posting them all, I’d hate to take away future AMV of the Day posts.  Buck officially passed.

One thing I can’t very well pass off to anyone else is the very fundamental thing of cosplay.  I’ll admit, I went into this thinking that the cosplay would be mediocre at best.  I grossly underestimated the dedication of anime fans.  Possibly due to the fact that there were less people around and so those that were there really stepped up their game, there was a big percentage of high class cosplay.  Alright, admittedly there were the predictables like Kill la Kill, and Attack on Titan, which has now become the new Bleach and Naruto, but if there’s quality, then repeatablity doesn’t much matter.  So, for right now, I’d like to regale you with pictures I took during my trip there.  Admittedly, I don’t always know what I took a picture of, but if I don’t know there’s two reasons why I took the picture.  Either the costume is cool looking, or the model is very hot. I’d say it’s up to you to decide, but screw that, I’ll tell you what I thought.

DSC00110First off, we have a Little Mac cosplay.  This is near and dear to me because I have previously cosplayed as King Hippo.  Obviously King Hippo is a million times better, but hey, Little Mac is still pretty cool.

DSC00111Pretty decent Zach (seriously, the proper contraction of Zachary is Zack.  Enough with this lazy bullcrap) Galaphanakis.  Frankly, I’ve never seen any of the movies, but even I can recognize somewhat famous movie scenes.

DSC00112No idea what this is.  Looks pretty elaborate though, so I reward people that take the effort to make a decent costume even if they obviously can’t pull it off.

DSC00113My hotel room faced out to the courtyard.  As I was up in my room taking a break, I happened to see this Sailor Pluto take a seat. I immediately headed out to try and catch her.  Again, due to it being a small convention, the elevators weren’t crazy busy, so I was able to get out there and get her picture.  If she doesn’t look crazy hot, then that’s due to my poor photography skills and not her own natural hotness.

DSC00114The first of a few Kill la Kill cosplay photos.

DSC00115May Chang from Full Metal Alchemist.  The charm point is the panda in her hair.  I love when people take the time to bring out the small details like that.

DSC00116More KlK cosplay.  Is this the last?  Probably not.  I mean, it was only the hottest anime property in the last year, so obviously no one would ever want to cosplay as it.

DSC00117Again, I dunno, probably some video game.  If it’s familiar to you, then sure, you know the game.  Either way, she’s pretty nice to look at, no?

DSC00118Another that I’m not really certain of, but she’s showing her panties for everyone to see.  Do you honestly expect someone with the username of pantsukudasai (panties please) to not immediately see this and need to take a picture?  My picture does not do her justice.  Very hot.  If you’re her and you’re reading this, color me surprised.  What are the odds?  You’re also some anonymous pervert on the internet who likes looking at attractive women in cosplay.

DSC00119Like I said before, one of the most overdone cosplay in recent times is Attack on Titan.  So if you want to stand out to me, the best way to do it isn’t to be one of a million Potato Girls, nor one of three million Levis, or the same number of Mikasas.  No, if you want to stand out, be like this one and be a half eaten Marco.  Brilliant!

DSC00120No doubt this will be done often in the next several conventions, but SAO II (Gun Gale Online) Kirito was a novelty at the time, so I was surprised to see anyone with this costume already.

DSC00121From Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai, I can’t resist a Rika.

DSC00122Another rare male cosplayer.  Most Sir Crocodile cosplayers don’t bother with the cigar.  If you don’t go with the cigar, then what the hell is the point?  Seriously, to anyone that’s considering it, at the very least buy a cheap cigar.  Oh no, you’ll have to spend a day with tobacco on your lip.  You’re not gonna get cancer from one goddamn day.  Stop being a cop out bitch.  Go with realism.

DSC00123Generally I don’t take pictures of non anime properties, but I’ve always had a soft spot for Batman and Catwoman.

DSC00124The girls here spent the entire weekend making chalk art.  All in all, I can’t help but be impressed.

DSC00125 DSC00126Frozen is pretty much the most popular movie in America and the rest of the world.  It’s the top selling BD in Japan as well.  It’s a shame that there wasn’t snow on the ground, but on the other hand if it was that kind of cold out I probably wouldn’t have gotten these pictures in the courtyard.

DSC00127Again, keeping it all very topical, we have a cosplay of Luffy, or Lucy.  Honestly, I don’t think people truly appreciate what cosplayers like this do.  Most people aren’t reading the manga as it comes out, so the fact that someone gets a current arc cosplay made up is pretty impressive.

DSC00128Not the greatest of any one of the Honnouji Academy group, it’s just not often that you see them all grouped together.

DSC00129Again, I usually don’t pay any mind to non anime cosplay, but here we have Bob Ross. If you don’t know who Bob Ross is, then you are a grade A moron.  Perhaps it’s not nice to insult the readership, but come on, anyone that’s at least been in college should know who the hell Bob Ross is.

DSC00130Pretty good looking Mami.  Know what would have made her look better?  No head.  Ooops, spoilers.

DSC00131My goddamn unicorn! If that doesn’t make sense, then please hear my story.  First off, a unicorn refers to something that if you don’t have pics, it didn’t happen.  The backstory to all this goes as such.  I saw this girl while I was having breakfast, heading down to an area where there is only on way to go.  I didn’t sweat it, because I figured small convention, only one access point, I should easily find her and get her picture.  After eating, during which she definitely did not come back that way, I headed down there to find her.  I got distracted because I saw the barrel of that gun and figured I had her, but it turned out I was chasing down a Seras Victoria cosplayer.  Then later in the day, as I was on the second floor waiting for a panel to open, I saw her walk by on the first floor.  I rushed down to the first floor, heading to the direction that she was walking.  Amazingly, I could not find her.  Again, this is a small convention, with a basically small floor area.  Finally, I saw her while I was on the same floor as her and got this picture.  FYI, she’s Sinon from Sword Art Online II.  Again, it’s a fairly new show, so I’m amazed that there is a great quality cosplay as this so soon.  Plus, I’m very impressed that she didn’t go running to security when I told her that I had been hunting her down all day.  Yes, I used those exact terms.  Thank you Sinon for not getting me arrested.  Also, I never saw her again the rest of the day, so I’m glad I was able to get a picture of this unicorn and turn her into reality.

DSC00132Not the greatest I’ve ever seen, but it’s been so long since I’ve seen any Rinoa cosplay that it’s almost fresh again.

DSC00133Finishing off the day, and the weekend, we have Shiro from No Game, No Life.  This same girl was busy doing a professional shoot earlier in the day.  I suppose I could have just shot a picture, but that’s not how I roll.  Believe it or not, a guy whose username is begging to see panties does have morals.  Luckily for me, I saw her later on in the day.  During the photoshoot, she was wearing a crown.  I think I got the better picture with her wearing panties on her head, which is actually canon in the show.

(To note, every picture taken here was done with the full permission of the person whose picture was being taken.  If for whatever reason you have changed your mind and do not like the way your picture has been taken, contact me and I will take it down, no complaints or questions asked.)

So, with all that said and done, more has been said than done.  But really, while I wouldn’t say break the bank and fly across country to attend, if you find yourself in the Northeast and hear that Another Anime Convention is gonna be going on that weekend, by all means fish out the $50, plus whatever your hotel costs, and you’ll find yourself having a great time!

Anime You Should Be Watching: Bakemonogatari

Honestly, I try to keep this column a surprise to Arleigh.  I hate when the owner of this site knows exactly what I’m going to post.  However, with the recent announcement from Aniplex USA that they will be releasing this title on BluRay, I can’t very well ignore this awesome title any longer.

The problem with this title is, it’s very hard to talk about without spoiling things.  Every girl here has a very important story to tell.  The overarching story here is how our protagonist, Koyomi Araragi, interacts with the various girls in the series.  The thing is, every girl has her own problem that he must solve.  Since I hate spoilers as much as the next guy or girl I’ll refrain from going too in depth to what everyone has to overcome.  The best parts would have to be Mayoi Hachikuji and Suruga Kanbaru.  Luckily for all, the BluRay of this series will be available later on this year from Aniplex America.  Really, nothing else could do this series justice than a BluRay release, so I cannot help but be thrilled for this.  What I can say about this is that you need to be prepared to do a lot of reading.  People say that this is a very wordy title, and while I don’t necessarily agree with them in the fact that they think the dialog comes fast and furious, I do agree that the dialog is the most important aspect of the show.  There is a lot of Japanese puns and wordplay involved, and this title is not for the newly initiated to the anime scene.  Those that are used to reading subtitles won’t have too much trouble keeping up, but this is certainly not a title one can passively watch and expect to fully understand.

The thing to keep in mind is that if this show seems strange, by anime standards, it probably has a lot to do with the director.  It’s directed by Akiyuki Shinbo, who also directed the very unconventional Puella Magi Madoka Magica, and his influence is easily seen in both.  There’s not a lot of action in Bakemonogatari but the visual imagery is classic Shinbo.  He makes full use of a lot of surreal backgrounds during long conversations, so instead of letting things get stale with long stretches of just the characters standing around talking, which as I said before they do a lot, he’ll at least have the background flashing by and changing often during those times.  On one hand, it’s certainly a cost saving measure since they didn’t have to animate the characters, but more importantly it makes it seem like something is actually happening, even when it’s really not.  In a visual medium like anime, nothing bores people more than just staring at the same thing for long periods of time, so this helps keep any feelings of boredom from setting in.  For a show without a lot of action, to be able to keep it from feeling dull is where you need a talented director, and Shinbo truly shines in this case.

So what worked with this anime?  Well, it has attractive and interesting characters.  Each story draws you in and makes you want to see what happens next.  While you assume that each girl will have her problem solved, this is a Shinbo show, so there are no guarantees that the problem will be solved, or even if it is that it won’t create further problems.  And that’s part of the fun of this series, expecting the unexpected.

What didn’t work?  Well, if you want lots of action and explosions in your anime, you’ll find little to none of that here.  This is a very character driven show, so if you find you dislike or don’t care about some or even all of the characters, then you won’t find much here of value.

All in all this was a pleasant surprise to me when I watched it.  The light novels it was based on have been very popular, but since I don’t follow the light novel scene very closely, this was unexpectedly good.  If you want an anime that draws you in and keeps you hooked with a compelling story, then look no further than Bakemonogatari.

Best anime of 2011

With the year rapidly coming to a close, and the apocalypse soon to be upon us, I thought it would be a good time to make my pick for the one anime of the year that if you watch no other, you should at least watch this.

There were many worthy candidates this year.  From top notch dramas like Ano Hi Mita no Namae o Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai (or AnoHana for short) to very solid slice of life shows like Hanasaku Iroha and Usagi Drop, comedies like the second season of Ika Musume, and Working!!, to more thoughtful fare like Fate/Zero, all these and more could and deserve to be delved into more in depth.  Perhaps I’ll manage to do that at some point.  But as good as these and other shows this year were, there is one title that stands out from the crowd.  I speak of a little show called Puella Magi Madoka Magica.

This is a difficult show to talk about without spoiling things, so I’ll try and be careful to avoid dropping any huge bombs about the show, but a few things do need to be brought up.  First off, don’t let the images fool you.  This show takes the cutsey magical girl genre, and drags it through the darkness, permanently staining it.  It starts off very standard, where you have our titular heroine, Madoka, saving the traditional mascot character Kyubey from harm.  From there, she’s and her friend Sayaka are introduced to another Magi, Mami, and then another character, Homura, shows up and plays the role of chief rival/antagonist.  All sounds like every other magical girl show you’ve seen, or heard about, yes?  Well, you get a feel for what this show is really like with the events in episode 3.  It’s something that should definitely be experienced firsthand to get the best impact out of it.  I had it spoiled for me prior, because people are jerks like that, but even knowing what was going to happen didn’t make it any less shocking, so I can only imagine how people who saw it for the first time without any inkling of what was going to happen felt.

After that episode, things continue to follow along a very tragic storyline, and you can pretty much feel the sorrow that everyone experiences.  In a lot of cases, when anime has these tragic storylines, the emotions can feel cheap and manipulative.  But with this, even though they of course WANT you to feel that way, you end up feeling that way without it seeming like you were forced into it.  When each of the girls find out the truth behind what they’re doing, you get a range of believable emotions, from sadness, to anger, to despair.  This isn’t the typical reaction where a plucky young girl tries her best with a never say die attitude and prevails against all odds.  Things don’t go as the heroine wishes, and in fact the show seems destined to end with the complete opposite of a happy ending.  Even the ending itself is debatable as to how happy of an ending it really was.  And I think that’s a refreshing change of pace.  Madoka ends in a way where you could take it as being a happy type ending, or you could view it from another person’s perspective as having lost something important.  There does remain a tiny glimmer of hope, but it’s one that could easily be extinguished.

While the story written by Gen Urobuchi is the real meat and potatoes, the art and animation is certainly worthy of calling this the best anime of 2011.  The character designs were done by Ume Aoki, who has a very distinctive style as seen in her previous works such as Hidamari Sketch.  They’re typically characterized by wide faces and large eyes, even by the standards of anime, which lends a nice contrast to the seriousness of the show.  People in the know also were a bit more prepared for the direction the show took, since it was directed by Akiyuki Shinbo, who has some amount of note for taking shows in different directions and using a lot of surreal imagery.  And that is very evident in scenes where the girls are fighting against the witches.  The backgrounds look as though they’re walking through a Dali painting.  It’s a very effective blending of animation and CGI.  Plus the fluidity of the animation in the battle scenes shows that no corners were cut in any aspect of production.  The musical score is also done by well known composer Yuki Kajiura, whose tracks set the perfect mood for each scene.

While there is no one universal title that everyone everywhere will point to and say “This is a masterpiece!” Puella Magi Madoka Magica is definitely a title that people shouldn’t just write off as yet another tired old magical girl show and should give it a fair chance.  Tastes are always subjective, but this is one that you’d be doing yourself a disservice if you missed seeing it.