Returning to Chicago for Acen is a no-brainer this year. Not just for Pequod’s or some good Italian beef, but for Tadokoro Azusa, Tanaka Rie, Kubo Yurika, and Ichinose Kana. I mean, dang, any con that makes me list Ichinose Kana as the 4th largest headline-getter seiyuu guest is doing something spicy.
The main character voice from the hot Mobile Suit Gundam Witch from Mercury TV anime is a relatively newbie on the scene. I saw her being hand picked in a lot of situations ever since Darling in the Franxx, and she does have a very nice natural voice tone, I would even say Ichinose is one to pay attention to if you’re a seiyuu observer. I would jokingly (and in a good way) compare her voice to an alternate-universe Itou Miku. Turns out, this weekend I got to see more sides to her than the few radio or streams I’ve caught with her on them. Oh, Ichinose also seems to pair with Suwa Ayaka, which is another reason how I took note of her.
Ichinose and Kubo are at Acen because Sekai Project, for some reason, brought them to Acen in conjunction with Acen. I happened to know a bit more about this collaboration (why are my friends like this) but in short they’re here to promote A Light in the Dark, which is an indie Taiwanese visual novel that’s getting a Japanese dub to go with its console releases in Japan earlier in April. The international releases are going to be Steam only but because the no-dub version of the game came out some time ago (in fact I bought it when it came out on Steam in 2018 after SP published it), this all feels a bit off to me. Well, who am I to look at a gift horse (gift deer?) in the mouth. I mean, we sure looked.
The OG Love Live M?se member and her Gwitch companion had a combined panel to showcase the game, with some seiyuu variety stuff. I don’t think I’ve seen Taka since covid, but he was interpreting for Shikaco and Sujay was interpreting for Ichikana while Chris was running the show. That is definitely something special. Aside from that panel to showcase the SP game, each guest had their own panel. I sort of live blogged the Ichinose one on Twitter. The Shikaco one was, in a word, cringe, but it was also not that bad, with Lisle at the helm of it. It’s so not-that-bad that cringe is probably not the best word, in that I don’t want anyone who asked those questions or shared their life story about how Love Live did whatever to feel bad about it. I just had hoped those interactions would come across better. Like, can people write down what they want to ask and say it once to see what that sounds like when spoken to a room of 300 people? Anyways, I’ve been to my share of seiyuu panels at cons and this is definitely below the bar that I typically came to expect. It’s likely not the worst but it’s up there. Despite that, I think it was still a relatively good time. When Shikaco says that you asked a dumb question or made fun of your shirt when you claim to be top otaku, the fans were getting stuff that money can’t buy.
Along those lines were the interaction with Tadokoro Azusa, and to a degree also Tanaka Rie. I had this silly back story with Tanaka at NYAF 2008 so I’ll just link it here. I was finally able to give her flowers (and a couple more things) and get an autograph. It was what it was. I probably could have gone to her 2nd panel but hers always go back to back with Koro’s and I didn’t want to do the Hyatt-con center shuffle on Saturday–it’s already too many. To the degree that the music side programming was a bit of a dud at Acen, there was just not enough time for both the seiyuu program track, and all the other stuff. Let me just take this detour and mentioned that I didn’t see KPP at all, and Moe Shop only at the opening ceremony (MO SHOP lmao). He did his set before KPP’s show on Friday but also closed out Synergy, both I missed. I guess I could have gone to Synergy but instead I slept for 2 hours to wake up for Bocchi the Rock stream at 4am local time. A younger version of me probably would have done both. Oh, yeah, Taku was there too, but you know the deal.
For Koroazu, I decided to go that extra mile and be extra with the binder and the shikishi for notes. The crowd obliged, but I think there wasn’t a good moment–or at least I didn’t plan for a moment–to prep all this in advance. Maybe I should have focused on this and not worry about the other stuff so much. The lack of prep means all the data entry (onto shikishi) had to be done on Saturday morning. Due to Acen shooting itself in the foot, a lot of the attendees were late to the panel (who and why block entry to the upstairs panel areas between 9:20 to 9:55am?). Anyways, we nonetheless did a lot of the work in advance so it turned out all right I think.
Sujay also went the extra mile for Koro by putting on a “fan panel” where we went through some scripted programs. One of them, which is what we collectively agreed to be the most interesting, is a game in which Sujay picked some slangs in English for Koro to guess what they mean. I don’t know if Koro is the most derp out of the Millions (many are quite up there) but we got some nice vibes with her saying words like weebs or teaching her what no cap means. Of course it meant immediate application of these terms to the great delight of all.
Koro’s other panel is just a normal Q&A panel which was, well, SOP for the most part. What I like about it was the level of honest present. Japanese guests are definitely more honest/straightforward at these things. I can at least discern this from Shikaco and Koro. Of course we also got this moment below where someone gave Koro a printed poster of this screenshot (in tweet below) and we signed it. I don’t know how or why, but it worked. It’s a gag present…probably not great if it was the only thing.
I love it when we put the “fan” in the fan convention, and even more when it works out. On that note, I was involved also in helping coordinating comms for the flower stand for A Light in the Dark, between Acen, SP, and the Love Livers community that wanted to do it. Mostly this was done in advance, with the LL folks doing their usual things. Results here. The day of, I helped run the flower in with SP and got some exercise in the morning. I helped put together a little set of gifts for Tanaka Rie and split the cost with some friends who also appreciate her. So between all those things, I had a lot of extra-curricular activities that actually got in the way of trying for more CQC time or autographs for some guests.
Still I was able to attend the autograph sessions of the Spy x Family team, the Vanguard team, and the Vinland Saga team. Got a little something from these top animators, which seems only appropriate at an anime con. I wasn’t able to do anything Tabata because it seemed really competitive and just didn’t mesh with the other stuff. Ah well.
What else? I purchased the Acen 2023 Vinland Saga hoodie. It’s kind of a weird sell–like, who would want to buy this unless they are into Vinland? It’s not even a T-shirt, but a thin hoodie. It’s also kind of expensive. I hope Acen sold enough of them. I got a Boomslank phone cover. Was good to see the creative bros after so long.
It’s also generally good to see many of the usual US con people I know this year. Last year was still kind of spotty with many not opting back to cons, but nature is healing I suppose. On that note, masking in general at Acen 2023 was a paltry 10-15% give or take. It’s still higher than Chicago in general, which is trending closer to 1-5%. And just as much, someone I know got COVID at Acen, just like last year (although in this case it wasn’t clear if it happened before the con or at con).
With the calendar almost at the half way point in 2023 I am not sure if the new normal allows cons to be in revenge mode, but some are definitely coming back alive. Maybe it is time to resurrect the eventing sticky post. I think in some ways regardless of cons, I am definitely flying enough to keep my UA Gold status, if not more. Granted a lot of it is for non-event reasons, it’s not even June and I am already tired from all the traveling in 2023.
PS. Food-wise, we went to an Italian Beef place for dinner one day, which is probably the most adventurous outing we had this year. It was great. Pequod’s for delivery is admittedly very mid, I guess we’ll skip that next time and go back to Gino’s East for delivery.