Trying to keep this to the point, because a good chunk of what I want to write about will be written in a different post: the making of the offkai. Also, this post is taking me 2+ weeks to wrap up? Most of it I had written just a day or two after, but it took a long time to put the finishing touches on it.
Anime North is, as those who have been there would know, a largely local affair. It serves the local kids (and a very Asian mix at that) and usual pop media types as their annual costume or hangout party. There are the usual programming in the panel rooms of the hotel. There are the unusual programming like those taiko drummers that come every year, the pro wrestling and acrobat cosplayers doing those things while in costume. I mean, while in line for Asapon’s autograph on day two I had to witness an entire tournament. Shishi-o versus Elmo? Guile versus Superman? OK.
Asapon and the North American Producer community is why I headed up North this past Memorial Day weekend, instead down south where Hidaka and Inoue put on a mini live (OMG Sakutai). Anime North itself runs its own circuit of events for producers. This year there are still 3 panels and 3 sign-kai for most guests; Nakamura Chie had only two but because she had a tighter schedule.
Getting into the city on Thursday, we already met up with a big, 30+ group for dinner. I returned to the hotel I stayed at last year. We think we have found one restaurant that can reliably host a party of 20+, which is super handy.
Friday morning was pretty easy. We caught up on sleep and lined up in the far end parking lot, doing calls and hanging out in a giant circle. What’s missing is booze and blankets to sit on. My room’s crew also seemed to make first contact with the new Japanese Ps that were doing it as the Asapon expedition. Thanks, Redrop shirts.
I ventured into the opening ceremony, which started a good 15 minutes late. I bailed at half past the hour, which meant the opening ceremony was barely getting started before I left. This probably meant Asapon only showed up much later there, and thus much later to her first autograph session right after. Unfortunately it also means I was part of a little stampede of people trying to enter the con… Bailing out early on the opening session was the right move, despite missing Asapon there.
The Friday autograph session was a bit of a mess–she only managed to go through 40 or so people, at 1 item and 1 photo at a time. This means a lot of people got left out, including a number of Japanese guys. Things were remedied on Saturday and Sunday, and Asapon even gave us a bonus hi-5 for being in line Saturday, as if trying to make up for Friday. I had a front-line view of the Friday mess, but this is not the place to describe the scene?
The weather was great all three days at the con, so Asapon sported some nice summer wear. I guess it’s that time of the year in Japan. A group of Japanese Ps that visited Anime North last year returned, and this year they were suited up, adding some more spice to the P mafia that made up Saturday’s con turnout. I counted at least 30 suites during the day… I’m glad the weather was just cool enough to not make me feel like a sweaty mess with the suit on.
What made this year’s Anime North different than the last is better organization. Haramii fans were in abundance, and North Americans were not organized as much as we were this year. We also took best practices and lessons learned from last year and applied it to this year. We had to wrangle a large group all the time this year, too, which makes it a little difficult at times, and at times we just have to tell people to fend for themselves. It’s not the best way to do things but there were no other choices. Maybe we should do small groups too next time?
This marks another anime con that I skipped out on the dealer’s room completely. Did not even set foot in it in the most literal sense. For spending, mostly, I bought food, I bought drinks, I bought gasoline, and Nabatame Hitomi’s hand bag. It feels so trite, but it’s all I did really, besides hanging out with Ps (in line, at the con, at the panels, at meals, at the offkai, in the hotel room). And the aforementioned split to the opening ceremony.
I did took a video of the closing ceremony when Asapon got on stage.
The closing ceremony also featured this year’s idol contest winner, who sang the Tommy February song, Papermoon, for Soul Eater. We used red penlights. There is a footage of the opening ceremony too, and you can see both Asapon and Nabacchi there.
For my first “real” con experience of the year, this con is quite unlike any other. Like Otakon Vegas, the con was a focus point to bring events and guests, but my friends and I ran our own programming. In retrospect this made a lot of sense: if the main attraction of going to a con is to hang out while following programming, would it make more sense to do your own programming when the con doesn’t quite deliver?
— 【平均的】sky Ｐ (@xxskyxx_3s) May 24, 2015
Anyway, Asapon. If you have been following her as a personality you would know what you’re getting. What is truly something I have came to appreciate is that not only can Asapon be herself and with just the right amount of uninhibition, all of that was possible thanks to the Guest Relations folks at the con. Whatever package and relationships that was formed and maintained over the year between the con and its seiyuu guests, it turned out pretty good. Asapon probably isn’t the most affable seiyuu I’ve ran across over the years, but Asapon was definitely glowing the most. Maybe she’s just excited to be in Canada, since she’s never traveled out west before. Maybe it’s the people or the country or whatever. But when it comes down to it, Asapon was one of the most welcoming and playful personalities from Japan that I’ve seen state-side. And she’s not even shown her final form!
Nabatame, also, is a very nice and kind lady and I’m glad to be able to meet someone who’s up there in terms of seiyuu otaku power rankings, even if that was once upon a time. I bought her bag because someone has to rep her (and CAD is so cheap! Go USD), and her Kazusa performance still lingers in the mind to this date.
Her Q&A was a little rough because her interpreter is not that good. More like he just doesn’t have a good vocabulary to draw from, and general inexperience.
I want to drop a note on the charity auction. As far as anime cons go, Anime North’s is fairly shark-free. The merchandises for sale are also all pretty lukewarm on average. ANorth isn’t associated with a non-profit organization so your donation isn’t even tax deductible. That didn’t seem to stop the people that were there, but at the same time a 200 CAD bid seems to scared half the people.
Asapon donated two sets for the auction. One set is her existing iPhone 5/5S case, an Asapon coaster (autographed), and a poster. The other set is the same coaster and poster, and a personalized souvenir from the CN Tower. The souvenir is a key chain engraved with a picture of Asapon, which was taken at the tower. That fetched just 700 CAD. The iPhone set was 400.
Nabatame donated just a set–the aforementioned hand bag–which contains a White Album 2 towel, her copy of the Himemiya Milan single, and a Precure Pure crane figure. It’s quite neat of a package, as it all fits in this pretty small hand bag. The cloth pattern seems to match someone who would be carrying around a bag while wearing a yukata. I had to bid with fellow seiota on it and it’s a small price I have to pay for a slice of seiyuu ballerness. She deserves more than 250 CAD, at least I thought.
At any rate, I think it was a fun way to waste money, but at least you know it’ll get donated for a good cause…and maybe help Anime North reduce any tax burdens, LOL.
I had a great time at Anime North because of the people I hung out with, which is like many others in my disposition. The difference is that it’s the con that brought the guest in, in such a way, that made these people come from all over. That’s what a proper con should do in my mind. When people just use it as an, ahem, offkai, it sort of is perverting the exercise. Not that there’s anything wrong with cons with that as a focus, but it ceases to be playing the same game in a way as cons that do have a legit guest relations operation.
I mean, it’s not like I look down at cons that do this. They’re all good for one thing: an excuse to party.
PPS. Some pictures.
Not pictured: three tweets from Asapon at her panel, and one more from Nabatame in her blog. There were a handful of IM@S cosplayers too.
PPS. Food talk. Besides going to Zets twice (and people snobbing on its poutine, which to be fair, is not authentic) and both was delicious, the new thing we did this time is going to a liquor store. I found cases of this but only picked up a few for in-room partying.
What is it? Best described as a juice chuhai. If you are familiar with Strong Zero, this is basically a beer and grapefruit version with less alcohol. And it’s delicious.
Zets spread for Friday night was pretty diverse. T-bone? I’m not sure. The gyro is solid but I won’t get it again. Going to stick to the trademark stuff. The picture below was like 1/6th of what we ordered, so there was tons of food.
Not pictured is dinner on Saturday, which consists of Chop’s smoked ribeye. I don’t know what to make of it but it is definitely flavorful. It feels very much unlike a steak though, despite how it operates similarly, so I’m not sure I’ll go for it again. Maybe it’s just mine was overcooked?