This year my first anime con was literally the very first weekend of the year, down in the sunny Phoenix ‘burb of Mesa. This was the 10th Taiyou Con and very much like usual it was a low-key affair with a few guests that drew a small crowd, albeit some guests of great interest to me. Taiyou Con remained a small con, by most con standards, and that is to say I was able to take advantage of the size and laid-back nature of it all.
Somehow, Miyake Marie (Marietti) and Matsuzaki Rei (Reichama) came as a combo of sorts, from Pro-fit and Mausu, respectively. Each of them had their solo panels, an autograph session, and on Saturday they had a combined panel and combined autograph session. I mean, I guess this is because the con is run by a P, and I mean guess.
The rest of the con guests round out with two Japanese illustrators (courtesy of Sekai Project) Yukie and AmetoYuki; ProZD (who had to cancel half way into Friday due to a family emergency), and some VAs and cosers I don’t know. It all seems quite suitable for a con this size, other than somehow the seiyuu guests. Fact is far most cons of this type don’t get seiyuu guests, if even JP guests.
Originally I was going to write up a recap for 2019 (and finish my recap of 2018), but I just didn’t get around to it in late December due to work and other unexpected things taking up time and attention. This January, I’ll try to work on them.
The plan was also, instead of a list or list of lists, I was going to write in bigger strokes some of the trends and the big picture view of some stuff; thus.
For starters, we are right in the thick of the next wave of original content localization, with more free-to-play mobile games being ported to English than ever. FGO being a top-10 gross revenue game in 2019 is a big deal, one which doesn’t even seem odd as Japan has always been a powerhouse when it comes to video game/electronic entertainment. But for those of us who followed this franchise from the start, it is a surprise that no one could have really seen 20 years ago.
The meaning behind it is that unlike manga and light novels, we are doing an 180–these incredibly (comparatively) effort and cost-intensive properties can have their showdown across the Pacific because they also make a truck load of money. Not even One Piece or (and?) Naruto can make a billion US bucks in a year (and yet they are still gated heavily by their publishers…oh well). Let along random B-grade light novels. Or any print books for that matter.
On the other hand, it’s easy to translate books and manga–that’s why escalation is so rampant. And it’s relatively easy to localize anime and the non-online kind of game content. As an IM@S fan I know all too well the problem when Bandai Namco is your game’s publisher, judge and executioner all in one, and that multinational beast is going to face some challenges in this ever-evolving landscape where there’s a lot of money to be had only if they could agilely maneuver to fight for a piece of the biggest pie in all of electronic entertainment. So Money is only motivation–the rest is incredibly difficult work (in some cases).
How that trickles down to the nuances of why someone loves some anime character is harder to see, and that’s where we introspect with our 20/20 glasses on, looking into what has happened to gleam some insight to produce, hopefully, good foresight.
Eventing culture is both being normalized and regurgitated overseas. The best example I can give is the flower stand thing. Like, why do people do it at cons? Does TGS have flower stands? I guess for the event? It is kind of weird to do it for the guests of the event… But as per the usual case with weeaboo culture, this is basically the morpheus strip where the West take whatever pieces of the culture they want from the East and repurposes it for their own, usually out of context (or only in the context of Reddit, Youtubers, and random blogs). It is what it is on some level, and it’s mostly fine as long as it’s only kids blowing disposable income to stan some Asian celeb, and remain mostly fun and games.
And that’s just flower stands. I think there are other examples, but let’s keep it under control and make sure it doesn’t cost pain or suffering, or even minor irritation, folks.
Thanks to largely Bushiroad pushing their more niche, event-tie-in content into English, we also see more of it via their guests appearances and Chara Expo USA. It is still a different story regarding localizing concerts, but live viewings seems to be taking off.
If we think of anime and games (and as I write this sitting in a hotel at Arizona, attending TaiyouCon, pro baseball) as what connects the West and the East, the long terms growth of anime films (both the snobby kind and the TV anime excuse kind) necessitates the same distribution overseas. The growth of anime movies for struggling theaters out in North America is a bright sign. I just think how the Konosuba film did in 2019, and of course, Promare, covers that spectrum quite nicely. It is also still a shame that Americans won’t get to see Shinkai’s new film until 2020 but the rest of the world have already put Weathering With You to bed now. I think that’s just because it is a stupid business reason but it is still unfortunate.
Speaking of the Konosuba film, some anime con better bring Takahashi Rie to America in 2020. Isn’t it amazing that so many theaters in North America screened that little pre-movie intro interview?
From the con front, I think we are well in ripe territory for competent, for-profit entities to provide actually good anime con experiences to adult fans in the anime side of things. In my view, the biggest barrier so far is actually that profit-seeking motive trying to outthink execution with galaxy-brain approaches. It is much sensible to copy what already works and just focus on how to execute better. And I don’t mean just con runners, but also service providers for cons. I think we still have a long ways to go when many cons aren’t even done picking the lowest hanging fruits. As attendees become more sophisticated and well-off there will be more headroom for growth.
In this decade, I hope, there ought be more scalable way to make sure that basics like line management and registration are not messed up for any con. We were already there for the most part in the 2010s, and even more so as fan con management services provide more layers of services such as RFID badges and badge mailing. We really shouldn’t have ticketing server screw-ups, even for high-demand weeb concerts (and better ways to handle those as well other than just an online rush). There are just not too many events with that many attendees.
This is also on top of existing developments. For example the cruise cons, the resort hotel cons, and that fans are doing their own hanger-on events on top of cons. Wota Peace Party is one such thing, and I wish there are easier ways for enterprising fans to plug into a con and cons to help those fans leverage these experiences so they can run their own “panels” so to speak. There are no reasons to be strangers, you and I. It’s about time for the Room Party to grow up, and maybe that could happen in the next 10 years.
As for con programming, I also think it is high time we actually import Asian best practices. I want more engaging guest panels based on their entertainment skill strengths. If Aniplex is going to fly Yuki Aoi to NYC, it would be a damn crying shame to not have her perv in front of your attendees. That’s what all the fans know her for! I mean why else did you spend all that money? What for? There are other examples like this. I know it can be hard to actually think about the content of the panel from the perspective of putting up a show–most industry style panels are closer to marketing to exec decks than actual fun stuff, but there is no excuse to put on $10000s of HR into an offsite location and just have them read off a spreadsheet. It is a poor use of money, time and effort. I’m glad at least some folks get this, but please put some of that money into use to bring us enjoyable context that properly flex the guests charm points. You want to make fans, you want them to be engaged, so it’s time to go all the way. Don’t fly 1000s of miles to meet us and only stumble on your last step.
Also related to this but coming from the other side of the world, maybe the next 10 years is when Japan-hosted otaku experiences will actually take off. Or I hope. The Love Live concert tours (and the upcoming Numazu tour) is something that Japan has really tried to do with wide ranges of outcomes. More often than not it doesn’t work, but guided tours are an easy way to bridge the gap, given if the fandom is old enough and reach critical mass of eventers. The work I’ve been involved in the past 10 years with showing some Producers the ropes probably helped, but the only horn worth tooting is the greater Bushiroad-Brand fandom that brought in the folks through their work with both the mothership and their fellow fans. Eventers all across the English-speaking world also helped to cobble together enough information to funnel folks far and wide into Japan, paving the way for more to follow. I think it’s rewarding to see the little drops of participation all of you contributed bearing some long-term results. And this just goes back to why some folks are so hung up on flower stands LOL.
The final stop of the 6th Live Tour for THE IDOLM@STER MILLION LIVE was in good ol’ Saitama Super Arena, in September. Unlike Million 3rd, this whole tour dragged on from April into late September. It crossed from Spring to Summer and ended on the second day of Autumn. That is a really long stretch.
I was only able to go to the Fukuoka stop in June prior to SSA. But that made a big difference. I guess it’s fair to assume even if people did not go to all the stops, many have live viewed at least some of them, if not all. It’s a big commitment to go to SSA for the live, in terms both of obtaining the tickets through one of the lotteries or by other means, and the effort of doing so. Producers across the country attended the biggest stop of them all, even if many traveled less as I did. It is still quite the effort to travel from the edges of Japan. I remember seeing tweets of the guy from Okinawa, trying to bribe tickets with local delicacies.
My crusty, jaded mentality aside, I thought 6th SSA was a lot of fun. Like what I tweeted for day 2, it left me with this sweet aftertaste as Tokugawa Matsuri in the form of Suwa Ayaka came up from the elevated stage and ended this illumination festival.
Day one and day two both followed the format where each subunit came out and do a part of their Angel/Princess/Fairy stop sets, with the collab/guest songs thrown in there and mixed with covers. During the 3 non-Kanto stops, each unit had more time to themselves, and the last 1/3 of the live each day was dedicated to covers and solos. So for SSA, they cut basically almost all the solos. For new content, we got the TB songs and some new covers.
Overall I thought this was fine, purely in terms of going to a live and looking for the songs we like. But this format does not flow very well, since we know what is coming, and the units have to do their key songs. Like, you knew EScape had to do LOST because of the way the song fits their group concept. Or that baller mix of Art Needs Heart Beats has to go with Jelly Pop Beans. It was more a toss up for, say, Charlotte Charlotte and D/Zeal and their covers (which both were new for SSA). But it also felt like day one’s groups were kind of a bore as a result.
In some sense, the overall limp malaise-y feel I get from SSA has to do with the way the approached the tour. It felt less like a live tour, and more like just 4 different shows, for some reason, that had to take place inorganically and in far reaches of Japan, so they had to get the tokyoites to move out by holding back the 4th one until the end. During 3rd it was almost the opposite–you didn’t get to go to the remote one because it was hard to get in those smaller venues; the small venues also made the lives a bit more intimate and different than the big shows Millions do. Tokyo types who want to camp out for the Makuhari stop are free to do so, that one felt fine because you knew it was its own thing, and not a summary like 6th SSA. Maybe that’s why it took me months to finish this recap, lol.
In terms of practical things on the ground, I was able to squeeze in a Kayafesh event on Saturday. That’s basically a really bad costpa sake festival with seiyuu content. I liked it because I can be a lush at times and it’s my first sake fest in Japan. Plus, you can’t go wrong drinking with seiyuu. I also stayed one extra day to enjoy Takagi Miyu’s birthday event, as things turned out to be. It was nice to stay that extra day and hang out with some local friends. Rest of the time, it was business as usual.
As of the latest update, the splash screen for Theater Days changed over to a new quintet, so maybe this post is apropos. For this flower project, we utilized the same shop we did for 5th’s flower stand, and it was a bit more on the cuff with Miri helping out big time. Funding-wise, we basically broke even like last time, but we needed a bit more of a push since the suggested donation is lower this time around, and everything cost more. No pin badges… Again, I cannot thank y’all enough.
It’s a weird feeling, thinking about the live again. In a way the hype was way less than 5th, but the live itself was way better than 5th. I liked how the tap dancers, at least, came back for a nice encore performance from Sendai. It does make me want to look forward to both that and the SSA version, which is a slightly bigger presentation. There are other touches that was nice for 6th. The streams of small videos promoting the live, the goods, and now the blurays, is appreciated but not too sure if it added much. Well, they did a good job promoting that costume book at least?
I mean, they could just say it smells good and I’m sure it will sell oodles.
This year, Anime NYC brought in some mad luxury guests. Kugimiya Rie probably is the headliner, after Lantis Festival 2019’s lineup of JAM Project, True, ZAQ and Guilty Kiss. In the middle there’s old man Tomino being weirder than ever, as well as the director and writer behind Code Geass the movie and Yukana. There are also fresh youngins like Itou Miku, shilling Bang Dream and Fragtime. There was a surprise visit from Tanezaki Atsumi. Ise Mariya came to the States again–I’m going to go to the same con she traveled out of Japan for this year all three time at this rate–but I missed her panel. Yuki Aoi and Okubo Rumi rounds out the industry heavy fire power with their Fate/GO promo. And that’s just the most notable ones. I got a signkai with Science Saru’s Eunyoung Choi, which was nice! The mangaka/writer duo for Dr. Stone was hard at work, location scouting the USS Enterprise earlier in the weekend. I didn’t even see TAa (well, I guess I saw that group in the hallway), or people like Vofan or Poppy. Poppy. LOL. And this is not even all the JP production or artists at the con. There were way too many guests. I’m just glad a lot of them don’t have a lot of engagement or are outside my interests.
To me this is the first half of the recipe of happiness. The other half is competently executing the “con” part. The pre-con communication, the online sales, the right autograph process, the right ticketing process, the at-con line management, et cetera. And for the most party ANYC 2019 did okay. Other than the Lantis Fest line craziness I think everything was good, but that did sour my experience.
The funny thing was by Sunday I barely had anything to do at the con. Outside of Kugyuu programming, there were not much going on. This is great! Please program your top tier seiyuu guests outside the other ones. Granted I still missed on all the Yukana programming, but that was more my fault than the con’s. The concert only was one day this year, which helped also make time for the crazy pile of programs going on saturday.
Not having to get up early and go to the con was a nice bonus. I still end up getting up pretty early all 3 days, but at least I was at the con unlike prior years, and two of the 3 days I commuted from home, not from my friend’s place which is much closer to the city.
Yes, overall, ANYC 2019 was great. It leveraged the vacuum of NYC anime con-ness and blew up big. It was run by folks who knew what they were doing, and by people who had enough vision and capability to host a large con 46k strong. I’m glad this is my local con.