There are a few big things I want to note but also some small details here and here. So the result is more aimless rambling from a sleep-deprived mind. Business as usual.
The Big Picture
This is my first true con of the year. Anime Boston’s new date this year did have some impact in the sense that it deprived Animazement some more dealers and a weaker dealer room presence. It also made it impossible for me to go to AB. AZ itself is possibly the same size as last year, I can’t really get a good grasp, but I didn’t think it got bigger. I think this year is generally feeling slightly less…good? Which is all to say, a down Animazement is still better than most cons out there.
Cosplay trending has been pretty even handed. Vocaloid is still strong, and so are the usual meme-tastic things kids like to dress up as, mixed in there with all those video game cosplays. I spotted a bunch of Shingeki no Kyojin cosplayers, which is nice. I was told that there were iM@S cosplayers but I sure didn’t see any! In the end no one franchise’s cosplay really stood out for me, which is good. I suppose given the guest list, there were a few more Dragon Ball cosplays this year than usual.
And yes, this year Animazement became Dragon Ball Con, and it is really just a ton of voice actors who played in various Dragon Ball shows. There were no production guests at all. I don’t know about you, but when a copy of Over 9000 gets autographed by a bunch of them, it means something? Or the fact the money went to Tohoku and Oklahoma relief? It won’t be the first time a charity auction had a meme in it. Anyway, when Masako Nozawa shows up, I’m not sure what I should do, you know? Besides to line up and see a household voice…? I’m sure tons of people know who Goku is, but way fewer knows her name. And that is okay. Just like how I don’t know who voices Bart Simpson off the top of my head. Or Goku, for what it’s worth.
Guests (and panels)
I attended 4 panels, which probably will get at least one write-up. We’ll see how everything goes with transcribing. These were all guest focus panels.
The first panel I went to featured Nakatani and Maruyama talking about producing anime. It ran late because people were delayed getting into Raleigh I think. It was also cut short because they had to do stuff afterwards. Nakatani is this big guy (especially next to Maruyama) and Maruyama literally called him “daioh” in which we immediately made fun of Momomtato. Anyway. It’s actually kind of interesting to hear about production from people who worked on long-running household anime, being Nakatani’s main deal. He and Megumi Han had a pair-up panel to do HxH, one that I probably could’ve gone… My loss. I suppose if it had said Chihayafuru instead of HxH I would have, but in retrospect what is the difference?
I want to clarify one thing that Maruyama said about Koike and how Redline was a failure. He did say that on the books, when you spend so much time and money on the movie and it flops, it is a failure. But of course to him it was more about giving Koike a special experience to develop as a director. The firing comment was semi-sarcastic about Maruyama himself, not Koike. Because obviously in this case it’s the producer that gets the blame, and he left Madhouse partly because of this. I kind of followed it up in the third panel I went to, which is more just about Mappa.
Right after that was Nagahama’s panel. As expected, maybe half of the questions were about Aku no Hana, and the same questions that he has already answered in various places on the internet. The other half has to do with his other works, or more about directing and selection. The good thing about Flower of Evil questions is that we spent half the time watching episode 7 raw, so it wasn’t much of a spoiler. Come to think of it we could’ve shown the CR version… At any rate, somehow my Flower of Evil question was remarked as something nobody has asked Nagahama, which is about the end card and why is Oshimi’s hair moving. The idea was that because the show was all in rotoscope, he wanted the end card to be done in flash, as to resemble “normal” anime. Unfortunately nobody in the studio can really work with flash, so he ended up doing this hair animation traditionally, and he did the whole thing himself, which is kind of neat. And kind of weird, as per his words.
The third panel I attended was Mikimoto’s panel on Saturday and it was pretty much what you expect–lots of questions on Macross, a few Orguss and Gunbuster questions, and the usual general questions about inspiration and influences. Actually the surprise was all these Ecole du Ciel questions, which is not really a surprise given the overlap. Mikimoto went into his time when he was getting into the industry at Studio Nue. Pretty insightful stuff.
The last panel I attended was MAPPA’s panel. As usual there’s always that one guy who asks questions about Redline. Don’t be that guy? Actually come to think of it I think Katabuchi’s Mai Mai Miracle probably should share its fair burden of blame, LOL. At any rate, Maruyama went through a bit of his own history and talked about how it was in the early days of Mushi Pro, working with Tezuka and highlighting the real “power of anime” which is cheap and fast animation for mass consumption. He also basically pointed out it was only because Tezuka was thinking up ways to make things cheap and fast that anime was possible, asking animators to do things that were impossible in order to get the result he wanted. It’s good that Maruyama kind of painted it both ways and used his run for Madhouse since its funding as a way to highlight what Mappa is going to do. Which, according to him, would be nice if it can go for another 30 years before running out of money.
Just to bring up the point I made earlier, the question I asked specifically was what are some improvements in producing anime that he’s seen over the years. He did point out that more frequently today is how individuals are making the anime, not companies. The translation wasn’t super clear on this but I asked on follow up if he means it by copyright or in terms of who is creating the show. Seems like the producer’s role, in the end, is to take care of business for the creator types, and that has slowly improved. I like how he namedropped Toshio Suzuki LOL. Hopefully the next generation of producers can do a better job of taking care of things.
I had limited exposure to the other guests. At the opening ceremony I took a bunch of pictures. Nagahama wore an Ironman t-shirt add-on. Nozawa looks positively like my maternal grandmother (who passed away a few years back), but more in shape. Keiko Han and Megumi Han are definitely mother-child. Nakatani comes across jolly and serious at the same time. Nakao and Furukawa are classy as usual. I didn’t get to go to any programming with Toshi, Tsunoda and Kotabe, which is too bad as well. Sho Asano played a couple sets that I happen to overhear in the room next door, but also a piece during the opening ceremony.
We saw all the US guests at the opening ceremony too. Including the costumer who worked for Cirque du Soleil. I have Kyle Herbert’s Mii on my DS. OK.
At a con with Yuko Minaguchi I didn’t tag any DS running Love Plus! What a shame. I didn’t really go to any panel she was in either, although it seems that Maruyama invited her down here because she was living in New York right now anyways, and it’s like a Yawara reunion? I have no idea. I thanked her as per previous post. Although at times she seems a little out of it, as far as soaking up that convention state of mind. The Hans are great at it, as a point of comparison. She certainly remember her big roles–in American terms, that’s Sailor Saturn. I got an Akiko-san autograph and one for Love Plus. Pretty happy.
The rest of the con
I already mentioned a bit about cosplay, but I ended up taking some dedicated chunk of time to photograph a bunch for Jtor, which you can just look at them here and here. I really like how I can just upload all of them to Google, and download them as post-processed, web-friendly and resized images (all in a zip file). For Jtor collaborating even, it can be easy to share photos this way.
I got to talk to the Boomslank guys. Three brothers doing business! This is kind of refreshing, not only because the artwork is so good. They’re going to be at AX, so hopefully we’ll have more to talk about then. At the con I chatted briefly with one of them to go over some questions and stuff he could do and I could do, but I think depending on how much they’re “in” for, they could go pretty far. I think they should’ve sent me their new shirts for review, because they’re pretty awesome. At the same time I don’t know how much I can really help them, since what they are is more like a small business more than anything in my immediate wheelhouse. Rather, it’s in my other…wheelhouse.
There’s an event called VocaNight Raleigh, in June. It was kind of amusing because the person who designed the event t-shirt knows my con buddy and I know the guy who runs the event? It’s a weird circle of internet people colliding as we ended up splitting a hotel room. But for what it’s worth, if you are in the area, give that facebook page a check.
There’s a game room slant to this con. The people I hang out with all game a lot, I guess, so I spent a disproportionate amount of time in there. There aren’t also a lot of things to do after dinner at this con, so I ended up just playing a lot of Taiko no Tatsujin. The Bemani Invasion folks were there with their Taiko 10 and 13 cabinets and I was having a lot of fun relieving stress. It’s fun. The first day I played the game, I played it enough to clear Go My Way on hard, and if I had just a couple more times with Kiramekirari I can probably do it too. Alas the lines on Saturday were pretty serious so we made a quick retreat.
I spent some time watching people playing Project Diva F on a projector too, and finally played Technika 3 arcade. Good times.
Food & Others
I took another “vacation” approach to this trip, complete with good eats and a game of baseball between the New York Yankees and the Baltimore Orioles. I was hoping for a close game as the two teams split two of a three-game set two days prior. The rubber match that I watched was kind of lacking in terms of fireworks, unless you count the Yankee’s mounting injuries fun to watch.
Asking someone living in the northeast US about food in Raleigh, invariably BBQ meats will come up as a topic. And oddly enough I’ve never hit up a nice BBQ joint until this trip. The Pit was pretty okay, but it’s nothing super special. I had a “combo” entree with brisket, BBQ chicken and chopped BBQ pork. Their chopped BBQ pork is excellent, with the vinegar-based dressing. Which, from I was told, is the “eastern” style? Wikipedia, help? It’s not usual to find non-tomato-based BBQ sauce in the US, since it is quite sharp and the vinegar really takes over. But it works out in the case of the chopped BBQ pork. That said, the brisket was great.
Poole’s again this year featured a really expensive Belgium beer that tasted like flavor explosion in your mouth. The mac and cheese is still tops. Their menu this time around still resembles largely like last time I was there, except no more burger. I got the short ribs this time, which tasted like beef stew in the mouth. With the beer, it’s like double explosions. Say what you will about American microbrews, there are still a lot of good stuff available.
If you count the appetizer we shared, which is this crab dip on top of fresh avocado, that’s like triple explosions.
Desserts at Poole’s this year is a little bit of a downer, although I think the same sweet-and-salty combos are still “in.” I opted for a very light option in a Bavarian cream/shortcake combo. It definitely is different, but nothing else was particularly outstanding, and not all that noteworthy.
On Saturday we tried a new place, called J. Betski’s. It’s a German pub and grill, and it’s by far the most posh of such a thing that I’ve been in. It had memorial day specials for a few German beers, but one of them was really hoppy and reminded me how
humanitycraft beers are in decline. The price was right, though, and I also had this white beer that was really to my liking, becoming perhaps my favorite part of the meal. That and this fruity ice cream I had to go with the strudel for dessert. I also shared half of their somewhat-famous chocolate torte, which plays again with the salty-sweet thing (it’s embedded with bacon bits and sea salt) to some success.
For entree I had a schnitzel. It’s nothing to write home about besides that it is done right. The appetizer plate we shared had fois gras bratwurst which was overkilling it I thought. It also had these really artisan-y perogies which runs against my feeling about perogies as a home-cooking kind of staple East European food. Even if it tasted really darn good. Probably because it was also kinda expensive. The final verdict for J. Betski’s is that it’s a fine eatery, but missing that Michelin-quality that Poole has, if Poole was actually rated. If I was local I wouldn’t mind going again, but I am not.
A lot of the stuff I got from the charity auction. I did not expect to bring home a Sunao Katabuchi autograph, but I did. Maybe Yoko Kanno can help with that. Thanks Maruyama-san!
Seriously, Mikimoto-san, thanks for all the fish. I hope vast amount of pretty-girl design inspirations come to you no matter how old you get. (…don’t ask)
I should take this opportunity to apologize, too, to Nagahama-san, for making you late to the opening ceremony! Okay, I guess this is my first time at least, and hopefully my last.
Lastly, missing in the loot shot is a poster from Aku no Hana, promoting the single. It was donated by Nagahama , and for the auction he drew a little Aku no Hana flower thing to go with his autograph. In fact for all his Aku no Hana autographs he did a little flower. You can also see it the sketch I got from him, wrapping around Oshimi-sensei. It’s also on the single that I got from the charity auction. After drawing all that, someone finally made that joke which now adorns this blog post.
The Kitchen Sink
Best noodles: Instant Yakisoba (powered by hotel coffee machine)
Name tag: Dry pulled pork
Best nickname: Nakatani Daioh
Most often referenced Star Trek movie of the weekend: Star Trek II
The best worst driver license plate I saw on the trip: “A GUN”
Favorite Cosplay: Drunk Rikka tied with Sailor Moon, fro ver.