Anime Central 2002 Convention Report

Words and photos by Mike Toole. Some pictures are thumbnails. Click for larger image.

There’s not a lot to tell about Anime Central 2002. Since I’m the karaoke guy, I end up spending a lot of the con’s “prime time” trapped in a room with singing teenagers. (Not that I mind, though– karaoke rules, especially my karaoke!) I did, however, manage to snap a few photos, so I figured I should at least share them with everyone.

I honestly felt pride at seeing this, because I’ve been an Anime Central staffer for all five years of the con’s existence. (I’ll be returning for a sixth year, as well.) Despite being hundreds and hundreds of miles away from my hometown, I think of ACen as my “home” convention, and probably always will.

Con co-chairs James “Cornboy” Alsup (who’s left the ACen treehouse to start his own con, the highly promising Anime Reactor) and Ryan Gavigan duel over the cake. Wait a minute, I can improve this.

That’s better.

But both chairs lost out to Bob DeJesus and his wife, who did the honors.

Then we all started harrassing the guests. From left to right, there’s Hidenori Matsubara, Toshihiro Kawamoto, and Tetsuya Aoki.

There’s Bob DeJesus drawing up a storm. (Sneaking in on the right is Hilary Haag!)

There’s Bruce Lewis!

My good friend and fellow Anime Jump-er Dave Merrill, with his then-girlfriend (now wife) and fellow comic artist Shaindle Minuk.

Holy crap, it’s Ken Akamatsu! I’m not a huge fan of Love Hina, but I like the way this man draws girls. So I had him draw me two.

Awww, yeah.

Crispin Freeman talked up his newest stuff, which included Hellsing.

This banner amused me for some reason. “Anime World Tour”. Heh heh.

Carl surreptitiously mugs for the camera while waiting for Opening Ceremonies to start.

At ACen, Dave Merrill and I launched one of our latest little projects, the multimedia panel Dubs That Time Forgot. These are photos of the audience.

As you can see, the panel was standing-room only. (Let’s leave out the fact that the panel room was fairly small…) It was a hit, and the panel was repeated (to a welcoming response) at both Anime Expo New York and Anime Weekend Atlanta. Look for Dubs That Time Forgot at many more midwestern and east-coast cons!

Gundam Truck! Convention Report

Words and photos by Mike Toole. Most pictures are thumbnails. Click for larger image.

I remember just last year, at Anime Weekend Atlanta 2000, a certain now-sadly-departed marketing dude at Bandai Entertainment had a little breakfast with myself, Prairie, and our pals Mara and Wednesday. This fine fellow chatted us up about our feelings on the viability of marketing Gundam to kids in the US, and bounced a few ideas off of us, just for shits n’ giggles. One of them was for a truck, a “Gundam Express” that would roam the countryside, appearing in mall parking lots and dispensing toys and indoctrination to children all over the country.

Needless to say, we thought it was a smashing idea. And wouldn’t you know it, this summer saw the appearance of an actual Gundam Truck! Here are some photos from the truck’s appearance in Framingham, MA on September 9th, 2001. Hopefully, we’ll see this truck (or something like it) next summer, as well!

The glare from the sun (and my camera’s poor handling of exposure speed) keeps you from seeing too much, but here’s a shot of the truck’s exterior. Folks were lined up along the side of the truck, playing Gundam Battle Assault (a.k.a. Gundam the Battle Master 2) for PSX and Gundam: Journey to Jaburo for PS2.

Here’s a very slightly better-looking shot of the truck, with a car passing by. Hi, car!

This sign, while indicative of the necessity of handicapped access, made me giggle. “Excuse me, Gundam Captain? Could you lower the wheelchair ramp for me? Thank you, Gundam Captain!”

Ah, now this was impressive. The truck was plastered (on both sides, no less) with a blown-up illustration of the U.C. Gundam main cast, done by Haruhiko Mikimoto of Macross fame.

The real sights began inside the truck. Here’s an awesome, full-scale replica of Sayla Mas’ costume. The detail on this was great!

I can say the same for this costume of Amuro Ray. How soon ’till we can get these through the Previews catalog?

Here’s a shot of the length of the truck from the back. On the left and right are displays showing off Gundam toys and the franchise’s “timeline”.

The truck was manufactured by Anaheim Electronics, Luna’s best heavy electronics manufacturer!

Here’s a shot from the opposite end of the truck– you can see that the back is equipped with a nifty Pioneer flat plasma display, which is held in a 1:1 scale model of a Gundam’s hand!

Obscuring the wonderful toys in this shot is Anime Jump‘s Live-Action Traction contributor, Mike Horne! Fight for justice, Mike!

And here’s the harried Gundam Captain himself, readily explaining the universe of Gundam, including all of the great things you can buy! With your money! You know, money? Cha-ching!

To be fair, Captain Teeg here was a cool dude. He explained all about the Gundam toys and goodies to all of us kids (big and small), and was actually surprisingly knowledgeable about the franchise (meaning that he actually knew what we were talking about when we asked him about Zeta and G-Gundam, though he couldn’t comment on them). Thank you, Captain Teeg!

In fact, Captain Teeg was kind enough to favor us all with special edition cards of the Gundam: M.S. War card game, featuring our own fair city of Boston! Cards were issued for each leg of the tour, so these are actually fairly tough to come by if you weren’t at the truck in Framingham or Boston itself (the truck also made a stop in Dorchester). Neat– a GM is standing guard over the Boston Tea Party!

Here’s what you’re realling interested in: the toys! Here’s a wide shot of some of the new toys, many of which are in stores now!

Here’s a closer shot, specifically of the U.C. Gundam character miniatures. They look nice, but man, I wish they were poseable…

Here’s a shot of the opposite wall ‘o toys. Time to start making that Christmas list already…

Anime Weekend Atlanta 2001 Convention Report

Words and photos by Mike Toole. Some pictures are thumbnails. Click for larger image.

I love Anime Weekend Atlanta. Not only have I made a million friends at the convention, there’s always an interesting mix of good programming, weird stuff, and fun guests. I won’t waste time waxing poetic– here are some of my favorite photos from Anime Weekend Atlanta 7!

In this first photo, popular ADV voice actors Jessica Calvello and Brett Weaver harrass Bruce Lewis at the Cheap Disposable Entertainment table. I’d print what these two goons were saying to poor Bruce, but it would probably get me locked up. Without electricity.

Later, I took a candid photo of Brett, and forgot to turn the “read mind” feature on my digital camera off. We should alll be lucky enough to be as lucid and introspective as Brett.

I later went to a panel on writing about anime, which I wasn’t actually sitting on. (I was incensed, of course, but I somehow managed to keep my famously-violent temper in check.) Here, Rob Fenelon, Steve Kyte, and Jonathan Clements react to the sudden appearance of a monkey on Helen McCarthy’s head. After a brief but memorably chaotic moment, it was established that the monkey was actually a regular contributor to Animerica magazine, and the panel continued peacefully.

Here’s a shot of Carl Horn and Bruce Lewis, the other two panelists. Did you know that Carl discovered the peanut? It’s true! And Bruce is actually the man who invented Velcro! I’m serious!

The next day (that would be Saturday, you loons), I began the day properly by attending the panel of Hilary Haag and Kira Vincent-Davis, two more actors in ADV’s stable. It was a fun panel (only 3 unruly fans had to be escorted out by armed guards). I enjoyed hearing the two talk, even though I was mostly there to meet Hilary (on the left). Her performance as Nene in Bubblegum Crisis 2040 had charmed the hell out of me, so I was crushed when I discovered that she didn’t look exactly like Nene. Can you believe that? And George Lowe doesn’t look like a thing like Space Ghost, either! I want my money back.

After the panel, I rushed up and took a photograph of the gang at the front. Left to right, it’s Greg Wicker, Brett Weaver, Hilary Haag, and Matt “Bowling” Greenfield.

I really can’t remember when this photo was taken. I think I took it on friday night, and then it somehow got processed out of sequence. Here’s evening relaxation, featuring Melissa Jensen, Dan Baker (peeking out from the back), and Kathy, one of the coordinators of the wonderful party on Saturday night that is only open to a select few friends.

Cosplay photos are fun and popular, but I tend to only take a specific variety of cosplay photo when I can: the kind where the person in costume is doing something normal, like waiting in line at the ATM. Here, as Prairie succinctly puts it, Hikaru is waiting to get her escudo.

The Georgia International Convention Center is spacious and roomy and space-age. Here’s a couple of balcony-eye views of the crowd gathering for registration and the dealer’s room on Saturday morning.

These two crack me up. On the left, there’s Corinne Orr, voice of Trixie in Speed Racer, the Snuggle fabric softener bear, and hundreds of other character voices. On the right, there’s Peter Fernandez, the voice of Speed in Speed Racer, and the lucky guy who got to direct the dubs of all sorts of cheesy old Japanese movies and cartoons. Meeting these two is always a tremendous experience– they’re always full of stories about how bizarre the cottage industry of dubbing is.

Saturday night saw a party hosted by the lovely and cultured Jessica Calvello, who will shortly be appearing as the title character in Excel Saga. Her only requirement for admission to the event was that each person needed to wear something anime-related on their head. Here’s ADV’s famous producer David Williams, wearing something anime-related on his head.

Here’s more from the party. On the left is Mariela Ortiz, known to Anime on DVD readers as the keeper of the indispensable Grand High Licensing List. On the right is Stan Dahlin, the man who brings guests to Anime Weekend Atlanta and arranges them in a fashion that allows us fanboys to meet them. He’s a swell guy.

Blinded by the flash in my camera, EK grins helplessly, while Mariela reads comics.

I stopped on the way out of the party to be photographed with its hostess, Jess herself. (She’s dressed as Shiokaze from Virgin Fleet, a character she provided the voice for in the dub. Don’t mind her, she always dresses like that.)

Anime Central 2001 Convention Report

Truth be told, I didn’t take many photographs at Anime Central 2001. I’d kind of overdone it the previous year, when I both busted my ass on staff and took a ton of photos. This time, with different staff duties, I tried to take it easy. I failed, of course, but at least I tried. And I did get a few photos, which I will now share with you all.

Right away, Prairie and I noticed that something was wrong with the hotel when we arrived. We couldn’t quite put our finger on it, though.

Something just seemed… missing, I suppose. We later realized that the whole goddamn lobby was under construction, which proved to be a tad inconvenient.

What is it with King of Fighters and crossdressers? Anyway, nice costume, though I never thought that Iori would be so into satin.

Here’s the usual gleeful chaos of registration, early on Friday.

As the kids got registered, the dealer’s room slowly lurched to life.

But all was not ready yet. In the dim morning light, shambling hulks lurched about, toting huge boxes of Gundam model kits.

In 1999, he was Sailor Bubba. In 2000, he was Saber Marionette Gay. And this year, he was… Magical Girl Pretty… uh… I can’t think of a clever name. Anyway, here’s Bubba in his swell Pretty Sammy costume. This joke just never gets old.

Here’s where I spent the bulk of the remainder of the convention– running the karaoke. Fortunately, as you can see, it proved to be a popular event. Here’s Friday’s crowd.

Everyone likes to sing– and sing they did! Even the ones in costume sang!

These girls kept taking photos of me. Naturally, I had to retaliate.

Here’s the left side of the room on Saturday evening. (Yes, karaoke ran on both Friday and Saturday.)

It never fails to amuse me when people dress up as anime characters– and then sing the theme songs to their own shows. This Haruko, for example, is singing “Ride on Shooting Star” from FLCL.

Ah-buh-buh-buh!! Those girls are at it again! They’re gonna make me miss Chopper Dave!

Someone had the presence of mind to start a popular conga line, to the tune of “Tank!” from Cowboy Bebop.

To round things off, here’s a rather nice photo of my friends, Brett, EK, and Bruce.

Animazement 2001 Report

You know, the sprawling, epic con reports I wrote for last year were wonderfully fun to write, and very well-received. But making them left me physically and creatively drained, so much so that I couldn’t even eke out reports for one or two cons I attended later in the year (a terrible injustice, because Otakon 2000 and AWA 2000 were both wonderfully fun cons). As such, this here coverage of Animazement 2001 won’t really strive to be the Fanboyiads that the others I’ve written are; I’ll just offer you up some photos, and a few words to go with them.

Thursday evening is usually a sleepy one at conventions. Sure, there are people there, but they’re probably holed up in their rooms, copying episode after episode of Minky Momo and carefully sorting their huge collections of Speed Racer yaoi doujinshi. Animazement is a little different– it’s become a tradition to offer a nice “meet the guests” reception, strictly informally, the night before the con begins. Last year, this event was mobbed, because not only was the popular Yu Watase there, the lovely and talented Chiho Saito and that nasty old queen Kunihiko Ikuhara were there, as well. This year was a little different; the lineup of guests was nice, but not as impressive.

So Prairie and I took our seats at the table of Akira Kamiya (famous voice actor) and Tsukasa Kotobuki (draws cute girls with big boobies). I’d met them both before, but wanted to talk to them again. Why? Because they’re so cool! Translating was the inimitable Taka Karahashi, with his trademark hat and goatee in place.

But then Mr. Kotobuki noticed something strange about Taka’s translation style.

Perhaps Taka’s interpretations aren’t as literal as we’ve been led to believe.

Messrs. Kamiya and Kotobuki regard the harried translator suspiciously.

Much fun small talk was made that evening; I found out that Kamiya is trying to get anime versions of the sequels to Fist of the North Star and City Hunter produced, that Kotobuki’s been taking a break from design and doujinshi work to focus on drawing serialized manga, and got to meet Coastal’s Scott Houle (again) and meet the cast of Virtua Fighter (for the first time).

The next morning, Prairie discovered how to get impeccable, attentive service at a hotel restaurant– dress up as Cutey Honey. Something about the costume just draws your attention, I can’t put my finger on it.

Not long thereafter, Prairie and I (along with Phil Carr, who’s a good pal of ours, and PR’s sewing buddy back in Boston) ran into our friend Jupey– well, okay, her name is Steph. Steph was wearing her Mutsumi (Love Hina) costume, and as you can see, my camera was apparently set on “smurf” (she’s not usually that blue). We love Steph; she hails from Thunder Bay, Ontario, her vowels are a little “rounder” sounding than those of us jaded Yankees, and her “about” sounds more like “aboat” to me. To us, she represents everything good about Canada.

Then I had to get the full shot of Prairie in the Honey costume. You can’t see them here, but her boots have spike heels that made it a little difficult to wear the costume for extended periods. Fortunately, you can see her extended middle finger, which is a very important part of the character.

Is that Edward Wong-hau Paplov Tivrusky IV at the registration desk?

Why yes, it is!

We were thunderstruck by this man’s choice of attire. The bandolier is very daring and fashionable, and upon seeing the message “GO AHEAD, ASK ME WHY” crudely emblazoned on the belt of Nintendo Mario/Duck Hunt cartridges, we had no choice but to ask him why. He explained that he and his friends had seen the classic Nintendo GamepakĀ™ on sale for as little as five cents at local used video game stores. Not willing to see such a well-loved game suffer such a humiliating price, the group bought every cartridge they came across– and amassed over 300. Now, the price of the game has risen to almost fifty cents. THE COMMON MAN CAN CONTROL THE LAWS OF SUPPLY AND DEMAND! By the way, this guy is named Norm, he’s a carpenter, he usually cosplays as Dan Hibiki, and he ended up eating Mexican food with us in our room on Friday night. (I’m still not sure how he ended up there, but he was a lot of fun to hang out with.)

Then we met the guests at Opening Ceremonies. This is never very interesting, but I always show up for it for some reason.

Robert Woodhead of AnimEigo talked about his company’s upcoming releases, and played sample DVD clips for us. But it wasn’t any fun without Shin there to abuse.

This picture looks a little strange. It’s taken through glass, and the other side of the glass contains the video game room. These gentlemen are actually engaged in a heated game of Dance Dance Revolution, and despite being in costume, both danced quite well. This made for an amusing sight throughout the con. And, I might add, the guy in the Max Jenius costume does a swell rendition of the Space Battleship Yamato theme song.

Trigun Maximum!: Mike “Wolfwood” Corbitt, Prairie “Kuro Neko-sama” Clayton, and Phil “Vash” Carr. This pose drew many, many photographers.

It’s always amusing to see a person in a very accurate anime costume behave in character without even realizing it. Phil is just ordering some nachos here, but it’s all too easy to imagine Vash himself bellied up to the bar.

These people were just having way too much fun in this photo.

Absolutely excellent Cardcaptor Sakura costumes.

Friday night was spent at the hotel lobby bar– I LOVE it when hotels have a bar in the lobby, because there’s no better place to hang out and socialize with the entire con. Here, the Important Industry People (l-r: David Williams of ADV, Scott Frazier, Jason Alnas of Bandai, the Dude from Digital Discs Whose Name I Never Remember, and Matt “Mean Joe” Greenfield) swap stories about that one dude who always emails their companies, threatening to boycott them for releasing Sailor Moon without the naked parts.

Prairie and I were seated adjecent to the above table, talking to the Monkey Squad! I know these guys mainly because they always make the trek out to Boston for its annual Science Fiction Film Marathon– it was good to be able to socialize with them outside of that context. Among the subjects discussed were pornography, dead Japanese rock stars, and stereotypical Fushigi Yuugi fangirls (“Foogies”).

Anime Weekend Atlanta 2000 Convention Report

Okay, so I was feeling guilty about never uploading my photo coverage of AWA 2000. It was a fun convention, but the problem was, I was trying to write one of those crazed, detailed half-false con reports that I’d done so well with for previous conventions. I couldn’t do it; I was burned out. So the entire thing languished for over a year.

Until now. I’ve unearthed the photos, and I’m going to share them with the world– with minor commentary. There’s some good stuff here– the first Let’s Classy! party, in particular– and I hope you’ll enjoy it.

Obligatory dealer’s room photo. Mostly just took this one to make sure the camera was functional.

I began taking photos in earnest at Let’s Classy. Here’s a pair of classy cosplayers– that’s Steph “Tikki” Brown on the left, as one of the Hyperdolls. Don’t know who Maetel on the right is, though.

Prairie and EK fix drinks. This is one of PR’s last appearances with long hair, and poor EK was playing bartender for most of the party.

Now that’s classy. Carl Horn and Ed Hill.

Our own Mike Horne and EK. EK’s probably not going to be pleased with this photo, being as she appears to be in mid-scowl, but I had to get a shot of that great cocktail dress of hers.

Your humble webmaster and EK. Boy, did I ever need a haircut.

Even classier. Dave Merrill and Bruce Lewis.

Dessloktoberfest party militia Carol and Cathy fall prey to my camera’s dreaded ‘smurf’ effect– an overzealos flash. Or maybe their true Gamilon heritage is showing in this photo.

Jessica Calvello and David Williams. Jesus, they almost match in this photo.

Classy lassies. From left to right, it’s EK, someone I don’t know (feel free to clue me in if you can ID her), Jess, and Nickey Froberg.

Classier lassies. Strike a pose!

AWA a/v boss Gordon Waters and EK enjoy the festivities. That’s classy!

Famous voice actors! Michael “Hayami” Granberry, George “Space Ghost” Lowe, and Jessica “Cutey Honey” Calvello. If three’s not enough for you…

They’re soon joined by Michael “Crusher Joe” Brady, to round out the fantastic four.

George readily gave advice to his younger peers. Or was he lecturing them on how to change a bike tire? I can’t remember.

Something about George Lowe is just oddly photogenic. Did you catch him on Sealab 2021 a few weeks back? The soda machine episode?

He howls; Nickey smirks knowingly.

And as the party coasts to a successful ending, Dave presses the button on the detonator, triggering a chain of earthquakes that separates the entire western seaboard of California from the rest of North America.

Brett hums a merry tune as he slips a variety of substances, such as arsenic and cyanide, into the partygoers’ drinks. Let’s Classy! was a truly classy affair.

Otakon 2000 Convention Report

 

You know, once upon a time, I actually had a partially-completed Otakon 2000 report.

It disappeared. Poof. I hate it when that happens! But I still have a bunch of photos, and I wanted to “fill in the gaps” of my con coverage. So, for your enjoyment, here are photos of Otakon 2000, posted only 15 months after the actual convention! Isn’t that fast?!

Otakon 2000 actually started off serendipitously for me. I arrived very early Friday morning in Baltimore, but since I had coincidentally booked on the same flight as my friend Neil Nadelman, I got to hitch a ride with him, because he was a guest of the con. We even met Simon Yam at the airport. Ahem. Anyway, at the con, I was greeted with the welcome sight of a hordes of nerds, as seen above.

This con was promising a huge crowd, but the facilities seemed more than sufficient for the task– the Baltimore Convention Center is cavern-like.

Check out that hallway. Man, that sucker’s huge!

Here’s an aerial view of the registration line, at about 10:30 in the morning. See if you can spot Mara K!

Another giant hallway. Parts of this convention center were so large that I saw sparrows flying around in them unconcernedly.

This is Video Room 1, which is approximately the size of Tienamen Square. Here, I was treated to the spectacle of watching To Heart, only Akari’s soft, girly voice boomed from the sound system as though her lines were being spoken by Zeus. Quite an experience.

Here’s the “choke point” of the whole con– the single escalator that led from the rest of the con down to the dealer’s room. It would prove to be a bit of a problem later…

Here’s the dealer’s room itself, setting up on the morning of Friday.

Remember the whole “choke point” bit? That really started to come into play as the line for the dealer’s room built up.

And built up. And got scarier and scarier as the morning progressed.

These folks were actually crazy enough to wait on the floor in front of the dealer’s room for more than 5 hours. They were at the head of a very long line when I snapped this photo.

There was a veritable sea of humanity. A stinky, obnoxious, otaku sea, that is.

I left this chaos behind to attend the web panel, presided over by Steph “Jupe” Herman, and filled out by (l-r) Widya Santoso, Danny Hong, Allen “Sailor Bacon” Tyner, and good ole Mara K. It made for a gay old time.

The panel discussed… uh, websites, or something. I couldn’t tell you, I fell asleep after the first 5 minutes. I only woke up when Steph said my name, and she only mentioned me to get me to stop snoring. I love panels.

Then there was the Studio Ironcat panel, where Steve Bennett & co. enthusiastically took suggestions for new titles from the fans. I’ve always thought Steve Bennett’s life (at least when he was at cons) resembled a beer commercial; it was good to see him. “Hi Steve,” I said. “Whoo!!” he replied, clinking his bottle of Molson Ice against mine, as bikini-clad cosplay girls danced and Journey’s “Any Way You Want It” blared in the background.

Anime Central 2000 Convention Report

Words and pictures by Mike Toole. Most pictures are thumbnails. Click to enlarge.

Disclaimer: Half of this con report is completely fabricated, and the other half is more or less true. I’ll leave guessing which half is which up to you. This is a work of parody blah blah blah please don’t sue me.

What the hell can you say about a con where you work staff? You get in early, sure, and you get to meet the guests early, sure, but you also work your butt off, such that you don’t get to experience a whole hell of a lot about the con.

But I have to say, Anime Central was interesting this year. In fact, a lot of things just seemed strange about the convention. I first noticed this when I arrived and stood outside, looking at the hotel.

What’s wrong with this picture? I dunno, something just seems… well, off about it.

Inside, we were informed that our rooms weren’t ready yet (we being myself, girlfriend Prairie (who was also on staff this year), and our pals Geoff and Mara K.). So, we just kind of hung around.

I saw ACen founders Maria Rider and Roderick Lee, still hard at work for the con…

and then I saw James Alsup. James, better known as Cornboy, was this year’s vice chair, and also in charge of video staff. Now, I love pictures like this one. It should be obvious why.

Now, without further ado, let’s all play a game called…. WHAT’S CORNBOY HOLDING?! To find out the answer, highlight the text area under the photo.

WHAT’S CORNBOY HOLDING?! A chihuahua!

WHAT’S CORNBOY HOLDING?! A studebaker!

WHAT’S CORNBOY HOLDING?! A coelecanth!

WHAT’S CORNBOY HOLDING?! It’s… oh man, that’s just stupid.

After that, much time was spent doing boring staff things, like unloading vans and wheeling tech equipment into the hotel, making sure all of the equipment was accounted for (“Forty-six SVHS decks?” “Check.” “LCD projector that’s bound to act funny?” “Check.” “2 gross hula hoops?” “Check.” “240 dollars worth of pudding?” “Check.” “Chairman Kaga?” “Check.”) and generally doing actual work. After getting about halfway through setting up main programming (a sisyphean task that would dog me for the rest of the weekend), I darted off to say hello to the guests.

Of course, first on the list was the famous voice actress Brett Weaver, perhaps best known for his role as “Scientific Assistant” in Gamera: Guardian of the Universe. The lady on his arm is the mighty EK, grand marshal overlord of Big Big Truck and frequent poster to this site’s own forum. Don’t tell anybody, but I think the two might have a crush on each other, or something. Tee hee!

Here Brett signs autographs, because he is a Movie Star.

And then there’s Amy Howard, sporting her shiny new role as Miranda in Irresponsible Captain Tylor, and her husband-to-be Dave Wilson. To Dave’s immediate right is the lovely and charming Lisa Ortiz. Lisa was acting kind of odd that night, and I think I know why. Using the latest photo-analyzing software, I was able to discern something that wasn’t immediately visible to the naked eye.

Aha! What’s this?!

As you can see, Lisa was repeatedly set upon by a mischevous, floating green man that only she could see. So remember, if you meet Lisa at a convention, just keep that in mind!

Other than that, Lisa was just relaxing, signing autographs…

and buying sexual favors from the artists across the room.

In other words, it was business as usual at this convention.

Next was Crispin Freeman‘s table. Unfortunately, he saw me levelling my soul-stealing machine at him, and quickly ducked. His girlfriend, however, was not so lucky.

“Hey,” I asked Crispin companionably, “was that you in Fencer of Minerva?”

He looked colossally embarrassed for a split second, then cleared his throat and coolly replied “Well, I’m kind of surprised that you’d admit to watching something like that.”

Oooh, busted! “No, no,” I backpedaled, “A friend of mine saw it. He wanted me to ask you if that was you in it.”

He nodded smugly. “Yeah, sure.” Then he stood up on the table. “Hey everyone,” he declared, pointing at me, “this guy actually watched Fencer of Minerva!” The entire room brayed in uncomprehending laughter. I tried to hide under the table. Damn these conventions! They always end up this way. And I didn’t watch Fencer of Minerva– honest!

One of the more famous guests at the convention was Ryo Mizuno, celebrated creator of the entire Record of Lodoss War universe. Mr. Mizuno was having the time of his life– see, he’s a fanboy, too. I approached him with a couple of items to sign. “What’s your name?” he asked me in English. Impressive! “Mike,” I replied. “Bill?” he replied hopefully. “No, Mike.” I insisted. After several minutes of consulting with his interpreter, Mr. Mizuno handed me back my items, signed “TO MY GOOD FRIEND BILL”. Thanks, Mr. Mizuno! You’re my hero!

Then I took a quick photo of Toshi Yoshida and Trish Ledoux, the John Steed and Emma Peel of the U.S. anime industry. I tell you, those two go together like concrete and sand. What a pair.

Next was the most crowded table, the one with Chiho Saito and Kunihiko Ikuhara at it. To make matters worse, Saito was steadily drawing sketches (and Ikuhara did a few here and there.). I stood nearby, waiting to photograph Prairie giving the two some gifts she’d prepared for them.

It was then that Ikuhara glanced over, and his eyes widened. I’d been recognized!

Curse you, Chairman Kaga!

Anyway, I marshalled my courage and managed to stand my ground while Prairie got a sketch of Nanami from Saito, and then presented the pair with their gifts– a couple of lovely handpainted wooden bowls.

Upon being told that this was actually a gift, Ikuhara was so flabbergasted that he began rooting around for stuff to give to Prairie. She ended up getting a couple of Utena movie postcards, five bucks in quarters, and Ikuhara’s watch. Not a bad haul.

However, using the incredibly powerful technology of digital photography, I later noticed something unusual.

What’s up with THAT?!

The rest of the night was spent doing mundane tasks like setting and testing the sound rig and swearing at the LCD projector, which was malfunctioning at random. I got about two hours of sleep before going back to working and swearing, and somehow managed to stay up all day Friday..

Animazement 2000 Convention Report

Editor’s note: Sadly, due to a catastrophic error while transferring the site in late 2000, nearly every photo from this convention report was lost. Poof. Gone. Completely. This report will remain here, but without photos (except for a precious few). If you think you have some of the photos from this report saved or cached, please email me at your earliest convenience. I’ll make it worth your while if you do.)

(Disclaimer: Like most of my deranged ramblings, the following is peppered with exaggerations, half-truths, and outright fabrications. If I mention you by name in these pages and you feel as though you’ve been unfairly represented, well, tough shit– you’re gonna have to sue me to make me shut up. Now, on to the report.)

Hey, look at me, I went to Animazement! In a rather spur-of-the-moment move (I only made plans about 6 weeks in advance), I decided to hit this convention, simply because it was in close proximity to my birthday and because I wanted to meet Yu Watase. The addition of Chiho Saito and Kunihiko Ikuhara, however, clinched it for me. So I went, I got pictures to prove I was there, and I had a gay old time.

THURSDAY

The flight down to Raleigh was rather dull. However, I knew that the con would be interesting when the first sight Geoff Tebbetts (he of Animerica and Anime 2.0) and I were greeted by was that of Kunihiko Ikuhara and Chiho Saito themselves, just kind of sitting placidly in the lobby. Since my command of Japanese is basically limited to “Omae wa mou, shin de iru.” (“You are already dead.”), I didn’t try to engage them in a friendly chat.

We quickly checked in and hooked up with our other roomate, Brad “doesn’t run a webzine” Lascelle. Unfortunately, our newly-minted keycards didn’t seem to work. So we went downstairs and got new ones. They didn’t work. So we went downstairs and got new ones, and got one of the desk jockeys to follow us up and make sure things worked. One of the cards worked, so she left. The other two didn’t. So we went back down to get new ones. They all worked. Then I lost mine, so we had to all get new ones. See? Less than an hour after arriving at the hotel, and my life had already turned into a Sam Beckett play.

Finally, we resolved things. Down in the lobby, we soon encountered Richard “Pocky” Kim and Brett Weaver, the famous voice-actress. Brett, genial as ever, flashed us his gangster hand signals as he strolled up. Richard just mugged for the camera.

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Others filtered in. An entire flotilla (heh heh… flotilla) of Japanese guests passed by– in fact, with the exception of Ikuhara and Saito, just about all of them trooped in. Unfortunately, my camera was only quick enough to get Akira Kamiya, famous voice-actress– er, voice-actor.

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Not to mention the famous Rachael Lillis, she of Pokemon and stuff. Rachael and I were happy to see each other, because we’ve been corresponding for the past year or so. Of course, I didn’t see her after this point until the tail end of the con, because that’s what always happens.

Of course, we also saw the ubiquitous Kevin Lillard of A Fan’s View. I was envious of his camera, which was about twice as expensive as mine. I also asked him how he kept up such an impressively hectic travel schedule. “Two and a half jobs,” he said. He didn’t go into what exactly those jobs were all about. For my money, I think he’s a company CEO, a negotiator, and a crime-fighting superhero. Big Fansview, showtime!

After a couple of hours of wandering around and watching Brett drink beer in the hotel lobby, it was time for the “Meet the Guests” reception. This was where all of the guests were arranged at tables and them bum-rushed by all 200 of the con attendees who arrived on Thursday. I could see the terror mounting in the guests’ eyes as people gathered for the charge. While I waited, I chatted with Pocky about random stuff. He told me an interesting story about a Japanese game show that featured otaku trying to answer tough questions about obscure anime, while voice actors and industry types made commentary from a panel. I expressed skepticism that such a show would be that difficult to play, but he told me that questions involved such obscure series as Vickie, the Boy Viking (more on that later). He said that a skilled challenger had been stumped by one question: What was the first name of Inspector Zenigata from Lupin III?

“Koichi,” I replied absentmindedly.

“No, you’re wrong HOW DID YOU KNOW THAT?!” Richard replied, grabbing me by my lapels. I’m a big Lupin III fan. But then, it was time to make a pass– uh, I mean, pass through the guests’ tables and chat with them. Being nice guys, we figured we’d skip trying to talk to the popular guests (I briefly attempted to pry my way to Yu Watase, but I nearly had my arm taken off by the six-deep wall of giggly fangirls surrounding her) and hung around with the people who didn’t create wildly popular romantic girls’ comics. It was kind of fun– since Pocky actually speaks Japanese, we didn’t really need the overworked translators hanging around each table. We talked briefly with Nov. Takahashi of Studio Hard, who complimented me on my site’s URL, and action figure journalist Toshifumi Inagawa, who spoke lovingly of Toys R Us.

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Then, we swung around and talked to Koichi Tsunoda, an animator and drawing director who, judging from his bio, did his best work for Toei Douga in the 70s. It was fine work indeed– turns out that this guy had been a major collaborator on Mazinger Z, and had even had a hand in the design of such super robot-o-riffic creations as Mazinger’s jet scramble (his bulky, winged jetpack). Pocky and I are big Mazinger fans, so it was definitely fun to talk to this guy.

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Then we talked to Akira Kamiya. We both love Kamiya’s work, so we pretty much stammered and gushed and made asses of ourselves. Kamiya was cool, though– he gracefully posed for a photo, and even shouted one of his characters’ trademark battle cries into our nerdy palmtop PCs.

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I got a nice, candid little shot of Rachael and the famous Lisa Ortiz.

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Unfortunately, after that, it was time to leave. Too short! Much too short. Oh, well. After that, the guests and other important people hung out with the staff for a couple of hours (fringe benefit for being on staff), so Geoff and Brad and I followed Pocky up to his hotel room, to help him price the huge stack of filthy doujinshi (fan-produced comics) he was planning on selling. It was amusing, but the weird stuff I saw in the comics is probably not actually legal to even describe, so I’ll just leave it at that.

Then, it was time for that most blessed of con events: the first trip to the bar! The bar was a gaudy affair with loud, annoying music and poorly-mixed drinks. Still, Brad, Geoff, Brett, Richard and I– along with EK, supreme overlord of Big Big Truck, and Amy “Nova Forester” Howard and her beau Dave “The Third” Wilson– hung out for awhile. See?! Lookit!

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The thrill, however, wore off quickly. We then decided to hop in EK’s car and go in search of alcohol more to our liking. In the lobby, Richard cheerfully informed Nov. Takahashi and his lady-friend (who was wearing platforms that appeared to augment her height by at least three feet) that we were headed out to Wal-mart. “Ah, Waru-Maato,” said Takahashi. At this point, my friends felt compelled to grab me and drag me out of the hotel behind them, as I screamed “AGAIN! MAKE HIM SAY WAL-MART AGAIN!!” Anyway, Wal-Mart turned out to yield little but an amusing photo:

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I love photos like this, because they present a potentially infinite spread of possibilities. For instance, take EK’s position.

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She’s just making a goofy face, but just think of the things I could place in those highly-marketable hands!

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Things wound down quickly after that illustrious excursion. Booze was not to be found, so after quietly hanging out in the lobby for a couple of hours, I turned in.

FRIDAY

Friday started, as always, with a quick dip in the pool. After the lifeguard rescued me and I regained consciousness, I went and got cleaned up and went to Opening Ceremonies. But it was early, and I spent a little time nosing through the stuff in the dealer’s room. I soon bumped into Brett and EK, met back up with Geoff and Brad, and we went on a Quest for Beer. Beer was found quickly enough to get the hell back in time for…

Opening Ceremonies, which are usually just kinda tedious, but I always feel obligated to go. It’s kind of like the family fourth of July barbecue, in that respect. Anyway, the guests each got to make a speech, after the emcee made small talk and asked that nobody use flash photography on Yu Watase, because it gives her headaches. Then the guests started talking.

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“Where the hell am I?” remarked Ms. Watase pleasantly, as hundreds of flash bulbs went off simultaneously. “Ow. I can’t see a goddamn thing. Sumbitch.” Then Kunihiko Ikuhara, director of Utena, pointed out that he wasn’t at all satisfied with the way Japanese animation production companies do business. Chiho Saito said something vague and pleasant, I dunno, maybe it was about the Super Bowl. Kazuto Nakazawa, character designer for El Hazard, then took the mic, and explained that, since he’d made such an ass of himself last year, he wouldn’t be drinking this year. Unfortunately, the mic picked up the telltale sound of a beer can tab being popped under his table, so we knew THAT wasn’t going to be happening. Akira Kamiya wowed us with his vocal gymnastics, proving that he is, indeed, the Michael Winslow of Japan. Skilled director Hiroyuki Kitabuko immediately asked if there was a buffet. Nov. Takahashi and Toshifumi Inagawa got in a fight over who had a bigger collection of action figures. Kia Asamiya just sat silently, wearing a gigantic Mardi Gras-style Ruri head to conceal his identity from the press.

Koichi Tsunoda knew exactly what to tell the crowd, however. “Do you want to learn to draw characters like Mazinger Z and Sailor Moon, Dragonball and Candy Candy?” he asked the audience. “Then come to my panel!” The audience received this in stony silence. “And free beer,” Tsunoda hastily added after a moment’s pause. The crowd erupted in cheers.

The American guests were considerably more gregarious. I honestly don’t remember if Lisa Ortiz, Rachael Lillis, Scott Houle, or Pamela Weidner said anything of merit, though, because I fell asleep about twenty minutes into Brett Weaver’s incredibly rambling, long-winded speech. I’m told that it lasted nearly four hours, but I lost consciousness while he was explaining at great length about how eating steak and mutton pie was the closest thing to being in heaven.

Then, Yu Watase’s panel was happening in the same room, so I stuck around. She was personable and answered all of our questions. She spoke with great candor, easily answering questions about the cast of Ayashi no Ceres screwing each other, and only losing her temper and screaming her head off for a few moments when she got asked how she got inspired to do Fushigi Yuugi for the 4th time.

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Then, pandemonium briefly occured. “OH MY GOD, WHAT THE HELL IS THAT THING?!” Watase bellowed, pointing at the hapless person dressed as Tama the kitty from Fushigi Yuugi stumbling in disorientedly. The costume was certainly impressive, but it seemed to render the wearer almost totally blind, which isn’t necessarily a good idea, though it was kind of amusing.

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I did eventually get to meet Yu Watase, though. I shook her hand, told her that I thought she was brilliant, and that she should keep making stories. She thanked me, staring at me like I had just burst through the wall, screaming “OH YEAH!” I then turned to helpful translator Taka Karahashi. “Taka,” I said, “you look like Abraham Lincoln.” “I do?” Taka wondered aloud, and I walked away. Later, at the autograph session, I got this blurry picture of Watase and myself.

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I’d like to call special attention to my enormous, pumpkin-like head. Isn’t it ridiculous? She’s awfully cute, though, don’t you think? After seeing how ugly, misshapen, and otherwise odd-looking most popular American superhero comic artists are, it’s kind of disorienting to see reasonably attractive people making comics for a living, let me tell you.

After that, there was a panel with Bandai Entertainment‘s Jerry Chu. He was quite the swanky dresser. He rambled politely about the success of Gundam Wing, and forthcoming DVDs of good stuff like Cowboy Bebop and Outlaw Star. Midway through his panel, however, a call came in on his cellphone from Bandai Important Guy Nobuo Yamamoto. Nobuo always seemed strangely out of place at cons– his air of quiet seriousness and austere dressing habits always made seeing him wandering around the dealer’s room was akin to seeing Marilyn Manson at church on Christmas eve. But Jerry held up the phone so we could say hello, and unfortunately the rest of the audience’s friendly “HELLO!” drowned out my frantic “AHH! UNTIE ME! UNTIE ME!”

Anime Weekend Atlanta 1999 Convention Report

Pictures are thumbnails. Click for larger image.

Anime Weekend Atlanta is always an interesting and memorable experience. I know this because my friends always tell me about it for weeks afterwards; the assholes just won’t shut up about it. So, this past year of 1999, I finally got my druthers (what the hell are “druthers” anyway? Are they like “luggage”?) and my pals, and headed on down to AWA 1999. Considering that AWA Fearless Leader Dave Merrill was kind enough to give me and my photog girlfriend complimentary press passes, I figure it’s about time to give him and his convention my journalistic due. I mean, it’s been a few months, and I haven’t said a goddamn word that indicated I was even at the convention, so I figure I should say something. So without further ado, here are some pictures, and some words underneath them.

(Disclaimer: The following recollection of events is colored by the passage of time, the occasional ingestion of beer at the convention (though I managed to refrain from getting drunk, sustaining my unbroken 23-year-long record), and the fact that I’m an incorrigible bastard with a forked tongue and no regard for other people’s feelings. Frankly, I find that just making crap up is much more fun than actually reporting facts; if you feel that these are gross misrepresentations of the events and participants at AWA, well, who’s gonna believe you, anyway?)

There isn’t much to say about the trip down or the commute from the airport to the con. It was all uneventful. Of course, things immediately got interesting when I stepped into the lobby; as I lugged my luggage I bumped into Matt “Koko Wa” Greenfield and Brett “Tora” Weaver of ADV Films. Matt’s first words to me at the convention were “How was Asia?!” Egads, he’d have to have been reading Anime Jump to know about the trip to Asia! My ego swelled so much, I had trouble getting in the elevator. (While he later gave me the typical “shut-up-fanboy” eye roll a couple of times when I was complaining about name pronunciation in the Nadesico dub, Matt’s generally amusing to talk to and quite receptive. Brett, for his part, is a hell of a nice guy, and still seems amazed that he has fans.)

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After getting the room and gear situation squared away, the next order of business was to do all of my usual con fare: walk downstairs, compliment Carl Horn on his choice of tie, ogle the half-naked 14-year-old female cosplayers, and give my dear friend Richard “Pocky” Kim a big hug. Pocky’s always a great guy to hang around with at cons, and AWA was no different. Why, I even forgot that he had a lighting tree growing out of his head after the first two hours or so of talking to him.

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Later, there were parties. Here, Psychommu Gaijin chief ranter V.D. Gaijin reclines and drinks beer (his two most finely-honed talents) while writer extraordinaire Dave Van Cleve…. well, I can’t remember if he was animatedly describing the stench left in the downstairs men’s room by some erstwhile fanboy, or just mugging for the camera. You decide! PG’s party was amusingly low-key; we spent the bulk of our time watching Iron Chef and V Gundam. I’m told there were interesting happenings in the PG room at other points, but since I wasn’t present for them, they can’t possibly be of any importance.

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At his Sinatra and Gunbuster-themed(?!!) party, damned-intellectual Carl Gustav “Jung” Horn mixes gin and tonic for his guests. Note the careful, artistic placement of the antenna, almost directly up his nose. I can assure you, that was intentional on the part of the photographer. Later, I toddled up to the party in the con suite.

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Again with the Psychommu Gaijin crew. They actually convinced me to drink a little of something which they insisted was tequila, though I maintain to this day that it was actually Windex, or possibly leaded gasoline. Here they are at the big Friday night bash, doing what they do best– and remember, these guys are professional drinkers. Don’t try this at home, kids.

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At the same party, ADV voice actors Tiffany “Chocolate” Grant and Brett “Carrot” Weaver prove that they get along much better than their on-screen counterparts. She still whips the crap out of him, of course, but only when they happen to be at the studio at the same time. Meanwhile, Matt “Reverend Al” Greenfield looks on, steeling himself to grab my camera and stomp on it frantically, while screaming “Don’t point that soul-stealing machine at me!” While reaching for it, though, he swung wide and put my lights out with a devastating right hook.