Words and photos by Mike Toole. Pictures are thumbnails. Click for full image.
For months, I was convinced that Anime Boston would fail somehow.
I’m not a total pessimist– I just figured that the con would hold together until Saturday, and then some sort of catastrophic meltdown would occur, mostly because of overcrowding. The problem is, Anime Boston was smack in the middle of the city, and it took place on a weekend that boasted a brace of Red Sox games– not to mention a certain little-known marathon that happens to be the single biggest tourist event for Boston all year. Those were factors that could potentially interfere with the convention, as the majority of the people staying at the hotel were actually Boston Marathon runners and tourists. (Interestingly, the mix of marathon runners and anime fans meant that the skinniest people in town and the fattest people in town were all under the same roof!) Another problem was a simply amazing response to the convention– prior to the con, there were more than 1,300 registrants, which would mean that some 3,000 would also show up at the door wanting to go to the convention. The Park Plaza is a grand old hotel, but it could use some renovation and is a bit cramped. So how the hell could Anime Boston possibly manage, in the face of these trials?
I don’t know, but they did it. They pulled it off. Despite a crowd so large that registration had to be shut down at just 11:00am on Saturday, Anime Boston drew nearly 4,000 fans to the downtown area over the weekend, instantly establishing themselves as the northeast’s largest fan-run anime convention (AXNY/BAAF was technically larger last year, but that convention was run with support from Central Park Media, among others) and the largest-ever first year convention. Apparently, fans in this neck of the woods have been wanting a con for awhile, because they responded in tremendous numbers. The result? A large, noisy, and almost unwieldy convention, but one successful enough to ensure a popular Anime Boston 2004 next year.
Anime Boston also had the novelty of being just minutes away from my house, so I wasn’t about to miss out on it just because I didn’t feel like fighting the crowds. I hit the convention all three days, and managed to get a few good snapshots in. Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to get to any guest panels or snag photos of those man-tastic Gundam Wing actors (did you know Scott McNeil is going to be in the next Scooby Doo movie? It’s true!), so if you’re looking for pictures of them, you’re outta luck.
As with most cons, Anime Boston was all about panels. Friday boasted a panel about anime on television. Here are the panelists, Bill Todd and David Williams. Bill is the one with the mullet. David is the one who works for ADV and therefore knows a bit about the hows and whys involved with anime getting on TV, albeit often in edited form. The only bit of news I can report is that the Anime Network is doing well enough that it just might be in your town by the end of the year.
That was the only panel photo I managed to get that day; Prairie and I were planning a private party in the evening, and that sapped our attention from the convention for several hours. Saturday, however, things started off quickly with Chris Beveridge’s panel. This was a weird one– he got a good crowd wanting to know how he runs his extremely popular site and finds time for his wife and kids, and he had so many DVDs to give away that every single person who could think of a question to ask got one. In fact, free stuff rapidly became the theme of the day. At the Bandai Entertainment panel, where Jerry Chu let slip that the company would have Witch Hunter Robin out before long, s-CRY-ed and Argentosoma shirts were given to pretty much anyone who wanted one. I snagged one of each, only to give them away myself later in the weekend.
At the ADV panel, which was crowded to capacity and had to turn away some 100 eager fans, Matt and David unveiled several news shows and discussed stuff currently in production…
…but not before the stage was bum-rushed by a crowd of fans and friends of the company dressed as every single player (including the coach and manager) from Princess Nine. Yes, some of them were actually men in drag. No, I’m not saying which ones. As with the previous panel, stuff was given away to fans, this time in exchange for answering trivia questions.
Then there was Chad Kime from Pioneer, who discussed upcoming release plans for shows like the second season of Mahoromatic and Master Keaton, along with passing out t-shirts and pencil boards from Pioneer shows. Hey, he’s got a cowlick! Heh heh.
Taking a break and heading to the front of the hotel, I saw something I’d never seen at a con before. Who knew? I wonder how many people had to go home disappointed because they arrived too late? Hopefully, the fact that next year’s con won’t be butting heads with the marathon (and the fact that the dealer’s room is moving to a large venue across the street) will allow more fans to squeeze in.
Then I took a few shots just to try and establish the flavor of the con. The Park Plaza is a grand old hotel, with a large, fancy lobby and mezzanine that was entirely too crowded. These cosplayers were leaning over the railing observing people. I tried to observe them without them noticing, but they were too quick for me.
Here’s an overhead shot of a girl in an amazing winged costume. Not sure what it is, but the thing lights up, just like Fenway Park at a night game.
Here’s the reverse angle shot of the same costumer. Look closely– you’ll notice that the winged lady is at least two feet clear of the last defender back, definitely offsides. I’m happy that she managed to draw with Manchester United, but the referee really should’ve disallowed that second goal.
One of my favorite subjects is people asleep at the convention, islands of tranquility with the mad energy of the con swirling around them. This guy isn’t one of the hilarious “couch campers” who stake out lobby couches overnight– he’s just a fan who got tired and is taking a little mid-afternoon nap.
This girl is drawing fan art and is in costume. Obviously, it’s very dangerous to do both at the same time, but she’s living on the edge.
Hey, it’s Andrew “Reikun” Tei and Mariela “Sapphire” Ortiz! Andrew contributes reviews and Mariela maintains the Grand High Licensing List at Anime on DVD. They are rad people.
Kevin Lillard of A Fan’s View was a good enough sport to wear the bitch hat….
…as was Chad Kime of Pioneer! (Jerry Chu wussed out.) Remember, sooner or later, everyone must wear the bitch hat!
Next up was the Production I.G. panel. Several posters showcasing their work hung on the front of the conference table, and promptly started falling down as soon as the panel got underway.
Some dudes from NHK– all the way from Japan!– were on hand to cover Anime Boston. I’m told the con even got a blurb on CNN!
Maki Terashima has been running Production I.G.’s tiny U.S. offices for years. The company is finally starting to make serious headway in the ‘states, with successful co-branded productions like Love Hina and FLCL. The daddy company back in Japan is working with Manga Entertainment on something called Dead Leaves. Also, Maki gave away a ton of crap, including I.G. tchotchkes, a few DVDs, and even a handful of Gameboy Advance games.
The last photo I snagged was of a private party where the attendees were required to wear pajamas. Most of these nerds hang out on #animedvd on ESPernet, so be sure to swing by and heckle them.
I walked away from Anime Boston with this clear poster of Jin-Roh. This is one of the coolest little prizes I’ve ever gotten at a con– I love the cartoony caricatures of the deadly serious movie characters! I think my favorite is the moony-eyed wolf sitting on the guy’s head.
….aaaaand that’s all I’ve got this time around. Maybe Anime Boston’s inaugural outing wasn’t perfect, but I still came away very impressed with what they did. Their space and resources were limited– as all first year cons are– but in the end it all turned out OK. The convention had that very definite feeling of excitement in the air. One thing I noticed was the extreme abundance of new fans, who’d never hit a convention before. This was actually really cool– every single panel had a good crowd, even the obscure ones trapped in the upstairs meeting rooms. Even my panel, the usual outing of Dubs That Time Forgot, was standing room only. I love it when that happens!
All things considered, Anime Boston was a strong outing with plenty to write home about. I can’t wait to go back next year, because frankly, there’s nothing as financially convenient as a con where you live close enough that it doesn’t make sense to bother renting a room. Maybe there’ll be a convention in your hometown next year– and maybe it’ll be run as well as Anime Boston.