Anime Expo has officially come to a close for 2014, and I am still taking a rest from the fun weekend I had. And with a much needed rest from the time I was there (and the 3000+ words I wrote for its Manga/Anime Studies Symposium), I compiled a list of 10 things (in no particular order) that highlighted my experience. Click these links for Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 of the Manga/Anime Studies Symposium review.
1. Sentai Noticed Me!
This is Sentai Filmworks‘ second year of sponsoring events at Anime Expo, so as one might guess, their industry panel got a little more hype than the others’ at the con. Seeing that I earned a premier pass from a certain volunteer grand prize raffle last year, I was not only able to get a front row seat for this event, but I was also given this box of snacks too! I did have more than just the fruit snacks in my left hand, but I scarfed the other contents down before taking this picture! Sentai Filmworks announced their newest licensed titles as well as their latest box collections for the summer and fall of this year. They also gave away the biggest grand prize they have ever given: a Blu-Ray copy of every title they release from July 2014 to June 2015. While I did NOT win this prize because my luck just isn’t that strong, I did manage to get a swag bag from answering a trivia question about Captain Earth, one of their latest licensed pickups. Inside the bag was a collection of Highschool of the Dead paraphernalia, plus a DVD copy of From the New World season 1, a collection I have been meaning to buy. That makes me happy, and at last, Sentai noticed me!
2. Capping Attendance
While projecting a fair amount of growth this year, the Society for the Promotion of Japanese Animation (SPJA) who run Anime Expo estimated attendance to be at 85,000. However, according to the members at the SPJA board meeting on Day 4 (Jul 6), that cap had to be lowered after a visit from the fire marshal on Day 2 (Jul 4). From what I understand, registration had closed for good at that point, halting any at-con attendees from getting into the convention. The attendance then was already above 80,000. SPJA is currently sorting their options for next year’s Anime Expo, seeing that growth had superseded their generous expectations; but hey, that’s still a lot of people! Anime Expo is the largest anime-related convention in North America, and its popularity is only getting bigger. In my opinion though, I have come to a point in my con experience to enjoy contributing to the event rather than attending it for myself. Don’t get me wrong, I like going to premiers, checking out panels, and getting free stuff as much as the next guy or girl; but lately it seems these activities favor a much larger main stream. Consider me for being on Staff next year.
3. Short Peace… in America!
Of the many premiers I could have gone to at Anime Expo, I managed to find a way to get into the world premier for the English dub of Short Peace. Short Peace is a series of animated shorts, including the Oscar-nominated short Possessions, which are made by 4 different directors, inspired by Katsuhiro Otomo’s Memories. And if you are familiar with Otomo’s work, you will know that this selection is not for the faint of heart! But of course, I wasn’t there necessarily to watch the film, as I can do that on my own time; I came to observe how other fans would react to it. While I don’t want to give away too many spoilers, there is a scene in the short Gambo where a group of samurai enter the film. When this happened, a few guys decided to shout “Murica!” followed by some uneasy laughter from the audience. Maybe this scene reminded us that it was the Fourth of July when we saw it. Maybe it was because we were reminded of something the American military might have done. Whatever the case is, I will be reviewing Short Peace in the future, as I managed to buy an early released exclusive copy of the DVD. So I’ll be doing that as soon as I watch the movie(s) both in English and Japanese… and when I’m not in a geek-induced environment on the Fourth of July.
4. A Small, but Proud Cosplay Gathering
When I said in another post that I had to leave one of the Manga/Anime Studies Symposiums early, it was because I had to beeline over to this seemingly ragtag group of a cosplay gathering. This year, I was the host of the 2013-2014 Anime Cosplay Gathering, because my Facebook friend and fellow AX attendee asked me to do it while he was attending something else; and I wasn’t about to be the jerk who says “no.” The purpose of this gathering was to assemble cosplays from the “lesser-known” anime that came out since last year’s Anime Expo; and seeing that I watched too many titles than even I can’t keep track of, hosting this was certainly up my alley. As one might imagine though, this gathering was very much smaller than other gatherings, as well as very low-key. In essence, this gathering represents a very niche set of fans who follow the Japanese trends and cosplaying from those series, regardless of its popularity in the States. But of course, since those details aren’t explicitly shared in our title, I wasn’t about to turn away cosplayers from the more popular things, because who’s to say they were popular in the first place? There may have been only 7 people representing shows like Free!, Beyond the Boundary, Hozuki no Reitetsu, Love Live School Idol Project, and of course, Arpeggio of Blue Steel (that’s me, second to the right), but I had a good time; and I’m sure some of the others did too. And if perchance any of these shows whose characters were represented ever find their way into the US mainstream, we cosplayed them before it was cool!
5. Vic Mignogna
I have to be honest and say I’m not a huge fan of Vic Mignogna; however, I do appreciate the work he does for the industry, as well as what he does for fans at these conventions. Vic Mignogna is a voice actor and rock star for English dubs of anime; and the fans love him. One of my friends couldn’t make it to AX this year, so she asked me to get his autograph on one of her fan arts for characters he had voiced; and I was happy to oblige. As you can probably imagine, I had mixed feelings being in this line. I was excited, but maybe not as excited as the crowd of predominantly girls around me. With their shaky knees, high-pitched squeals, and the aura of anxiety surrounding me, I tried my best to act as excited as they were, but to no avail. That seemed to change once I got close enough to shake Vic’s hand. I can see the appeal that Vic Mignogna’s fans have for him now. He’s energetic, he’s not afraid of doing a favor for a fan, and for what it’s worth, he’s quite knowledgeable of the characters he has portrayed. When I handed him my friend’s fan art, he instantly recognized one of the two characters as Kougaiji from Gensou Maden Saiyuki, one of his lesser-known roles.
As a result, I was happy to get a chance to meet Vic Mignogna; because all of those things he does is just too cool!
Also, you can find my friend’s work at Deviant Art.
6. The Professors Summit
This year for AX 2014, I decided to cosplay what is to be the first photographic reference for Professor Ginkgo, the fan fiction character I created in Professor Ginkgo Chronicles. This was supposed to be an attempt for me to get into the mind of Prof. Ginkgo and complete Oda Twin Chronicles (still on hiatus), but I also used it as an opportunity to showcase the first book, as well as attend the Pokemon Cosplay Gathering. After the gathering of over a hundred cosplay fans and photographers, one of the Prof. Oaks decided to have a cosplay gathering “after party,” where we gathered around the classroom setting of the cosplay scenery section of the Entertainment Hall, “teaching” trainers, NPCs, and their pokemon alike (that’s also me on the far left, in case you couldn’t guess). While I couldn’t take a lot of pictures of me here, one of the Prof. Oaks is on Screw Attack, and might put a few photos from AX on that website. In the meantime, I might have caught a second wind to write some more. Hopefully this time, I’ll finish the ‘fic.
7. Oh My God[dess]!
Whether you call it Oh My Goddess!, Ah! My Goddess, Aa! Megami-sama, or “that series with the angels and the motorcycles,” this year marks the 20th anniversary of Dark Horse Comics‘ longest running manga series, and the longest running manga publication in the US. And with manga artist Kosuke Fujishima’s retirement from this series, it’s high time they made some big announcements for the series. The panel featured an editor and a type-setter who had worked a long time on the series, as they illustrated the history and process of publishing Oh My Goddess! to the States. The image of the first cover of the series in 1994 shown above was one of many parts of their presentation, showing the past, present, and future of this classic. They also featured the cover for the upcoming vol. 46 in English: the first time Keiichi Morisato was featured on it since vol. 8; and in a much grander scale, too!
But more importantly, the audience got a chance to Skype with the longtime translator for the series, Dana Lewis, thanking her for the fine work she has done to produce this manga. If the gods and goddesses from Fujishima’s series did exist, Dana Lewis is probably one of them! Well done, Dark Horse!
8. My Classmate Totoro
My friend, who for the purposes of privacy I will call G (because he’s so “G”), is a fellow alumnus of my alma mater, and the previous president of the school’s Anime Club before me. Every year, I find a way to meet up with G at Anime Expo; and every year, he finds a way to outdo his previous year’s cosplay. This year, however, he may have reached a summit (though he could surprise me next year), by being what is arguably the most popular cosplay at AX 2014! This year, G crafted his own full-body suit of Totoro, made popular by Hayao Miyazaki’s film My Neighbor Totoro. It goes without saying that this costume was immensely popular, as he is very likely to be featured in tens of thousands of pictures, videos, and other media regarding this convention. G is shown in this picture taking a break from being Totoro, holding up his suit so that it doesn’t fall over or get damaged. Around his neck is a small battery-operated fan so that he doesn’t pass out in the suit. You can imagine just how hot it can get inside the suit, considering it’s summer and considering that the convention filled up with over 80,000 guests! Of course, G didn’t get to enjoy nearly as many panels as I did during this convention, but he didn’t seem to mind. Despite being quite an introvert in real life, he was the most popular cosplayer at Anime Expo 2014. And now I can officially say that I went to school with Totoro!
9. Networking with JET
I love anime. I love Anime Expo. But let’s face it: neither of those things are helping me out when it comes to looking for a career (or are they?). I am still an “aspiring” teacher (granted I am officially a tutor for an education service company), and because of certain bureaucratic issues, I have to go back to school. But perhaps I might have other options, albeit extremely competitive ones. The Japanese Exchange Teaching Programme is a government-funded organization aimed at hiring anglophone people to live and teach in Japan over the course of 3 years. This program is definitely not for everyone, nor is it limited to just fans of anime; however, as an aspiring teacher who is very much interested in his ethnic Japanese roots and cultural exchange, I think it’s worth a shot. So with an exchange of business cards and a brief conversation about anime, I got a chance to learn a little more about JET. And if (that’s a big IF) I somehow get into the program this year (or eventually), I may not be coming back to Anime Expo; but definitely, for all the right reasons.
10. The Grand Finale
With my premier pass came a voucher for one main event at Anime Expo. Seeing that I wasn’t interested in the other offers, I chose to use it for rePLAY: Symphony of Heroes. And sure enough, I was not to be disappointed! rePLAY: Symphony of Heroes is a 70-piece orchestra that featured two distinguished guests: Sonya Belousova on piano and Eru Matsumoto on cello. The concert featured medleys from over 17 video game titles, all of which are very popular in the US, whether or not they were Japanese-made. However, because it’s Anime Expo, rePLAY: Symphony of Heroes also featured two additional medleys. The first was a series of solos featuring Belousova and Matsumoto. But more importantly, the second was a medley of the songs from Sword Art Online! The concert left me speechless, the perfect way to end my experience at Anime Expo 2014. But for now, I must return to some kind of normalcy, whatever that means! These and many more are the memories I will cherish from this year’s convention. Thanks for all the love, Anime Expo!