Anime Weekend Atlanta 2004 Convention Report

Anime Weekend Atlanta mysteriously happened again this year, and once again I was on hand down in Georgia to record the goings-on.

Anime Weekend Atlanta  2004!

Here’s all you need to make a funny, entertaining con panel. Dave Merrill, Daryl Surat, and Neil Nadelman.

Anime Weekend Atlanta  2004!

Dave and Daryl steward the bad anime panel. Onscreen is some horrible piece of shit starring the ugliest giant robot I’ve ever seen in my life, and that includes Magnos.

Anime Weekend Atlanta  2004!

Mai Shiranui from King of Fighters isn’t an easy costume to pull off. This girl has the equipment for it.

Anime Weekend Atlanta  2004!

Later, at the room party, Carl Horn and Patrick Macias rapidly consume the entire room’s supply of alcohol.

Anime Weekend Atlanta  2004!

Carl doles out the bad news that all of the alcohol is gone; Patrick looks contrite. In the background, you can see that Rich “radman” Anderson is crestfallen.

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Aw, don’t worry guys! I don’t drink anyway. God, my hair looks terrible in that photo.

Anime Weekend Atlanta  2004!

The partying hard starts in earnest once Dave Merrill and Elizabeth Christian arrive.

Anime Weekend Atlanta  2004!

What if Pikachu from Pokemon was actually a girl in a pretty dress? It’s best not to think about that.

Anime Weekend Atlanta  2004!

Eager young costumers line up, waiting to be pre-judged! Go, brave costumers! Fight for justice!

Anime Weekend Atlanta  2004!

As the day wore on, I found myself amused by taking long-range shots of the costumers. This one’s from across the hall, on the balcony.

Anime Weekend Atlanta  2004!

Hey, it’s the Aqua Teen Hunger Force! Which one is Carl?

Anime Weekend Atlanta  2004!

Look at all of these costumers lined up to get into the steakhouse. Cosplayers love a good steak, and so do I. Mmm-mmm.

Anime Weekend Atlanta  2004!

This shot was taken directly overhead. Right after I took this picture, I took a crap on these people. And they never even knew that I did it! Honest!

Anime Weekend Atlanta  2004!

My wife did her arts and crafts panel again. Once again, the centerpiece was pumpkins. Here’s one of Tomo from Azumanga Daioh. Tomo is rad.

Anime Weekend Atlanta  2004!

And here’s Neko Koneko from the same series. Go check out all of Prairie’s pumpkins!

Anime Weekend Atlanta  2004!

I took this photo for vanity’s sake, just to prove to the world that my panel, Dubs that Time Forgot, is pretty popular! Yes! Screw you ALL!

Anime Weekend Atlanta  2004!

Here’s Dave again, along with my good buddy Grant Goggans and his kids Julian and Ivy. Grant wasn’t there for the con– he’s not enough of a nerd for that– but just to say hi. As you can see by his shirt, he was also defending the premises from Sinestro.

Anime Weekend Atlanta  2004!

This guy was just hanging out like this. Was he sleeping? I don’t think so. If you ask me, he was carefully hanging out like that specifically so someone would come up and ask him what his deal was. I wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction of that, though. Uh-uh.

As usual, all I can do after this con is feel guilty about all of the great things I failed to photograph, like veteran writer Fred Patten (I got to do a panel with him!), voice acting superstar Kari Wahlgren, and a whole lot of other folks and happenings. AWA is a guaranteed good time, and something I return to year after year, and this time was no different.

Ushicon 2005 Convention Reports

Prior to attending Ushicon 4, I had never before attended an anime convention. I had wanted to attend cons before, but due to distance or circumstance, I never quite made it. So I suppose the angle of the article was decided long before I ever got a mind to write it: the impressions of a first-time congoer. My job here was to portray, as closely as I can, how I experienced the convention. This is my story.

Friday – A Stranger in a Strange Place

I didn’t know what to expect from my first con experience. I read a few message boards, and the response to conventions are mixed at best. Half of all posters seem to absolutely adore cons, as though they were miniature Promised Lands for anime fans. The other half, the one I more readily identify with, tend to focus on horror stories of being glomped, shouted at, threatened, groped (in the case of females), or even seedier things I don’t really care to detail. Granted, being a pretty good-sized guy, I doubt too many people would try to touch me for fear of being flattened, but you never know. This is a big-city anime con, after all. But even so, all those horror stories had to be worst-case scenarios, right? Surely the overall con experience would be a bit more normal?

By the time I pulled into the parking lot of the Renaissance Hotel, I was scared. Suddenly this whole “going to a con” thing seemed like a really bad idea. I walked into the hotel, and immediately saw cosplayers wandering aimlessly around the lobby, an activity I would later find myself frequently engaging in. I was here, at Ushicon, no backing out now. Time to go get my badge and start doing the con thing. Heaven help me.

I had a problem right away. Evidently, my name wasn’t on the list. That could have been the start of a very, very short convention report, but the staff on hand were determined to get to the bottom of things. We soon learned that there had evidently been some form of address foul-up, and my credentials had never arrived to the right people. Fortunately for me and this article, since this was a unique situation they were very understanding, and we eventually got everything straightened out. That was my first experience with the con staff, who were all very nice and helpful throughout the weekend.

Ushicon 2005!

Administrative issues done away with, I found myself attending the Studio Ironcat panel, only to learn that it would likely be the final Ironcat panel ever. The fate of Ironcat has since become public knowledge, so I won’t dwell on that aspect of the panel. But contrary to what you might think, the tone of the panel was very optimistic. Steve Bennett was looking forward to possibly getting a new project started, and he encouraged everyone present to learn from his experiences, make sure to get at least a little education in business, and to be the best you can at whatever you do. Say what you will about Ironcat’s business decisions or whatever, but Steve himself seems like an interesting, friendly guy.

Ushicon 2005! Ushicon 2005!

The rest of my Friday was spent bouncing aimlessly from event to event, with one notable pause to watch random fanboys and girls compete for fabulous prizes on Anime Jeopardy! Anime Jeopardy only served to cement some notions in my head. One: anime is so large and compartmentalized that it’s really hard for anyone to gain a “blanket” knowledge of the entire medium. Two: my mind for minute details is so shot, there is no way in hell I could win a round of Anime Jeopardy. Three: evidently, people who watched Berserk do not exist outside of the Internet. Four: I can’t believe I was the only non-host person in the room who knew that M.D. Geist was the spokesmecha for Central Park Media. Five: computers cannot be trusted, as the second game was cut short by technical foulups.

Ushicon 2005!

The con’s official opening ceremonies didn’t take place until Friday evening, which seemed odd considering the con had technically been underway since late morning. There wasn’t anything terribly exciting about the ceremonies, but I felt obligated to attend if only to get the full con experience. I don’t really know what I expected out of these ceremonies, but all that really happened were the introduction of the guests, and announcements of the events to come later that night, which included HentaiFest and the Shoujo Pajama Party. I think I spent more time waiting in line than I did watching the ceremony.

During the opening ceremonies, they had announced a con suite with hot dogs to feed hungry congoers, but after being on my feet in a high-stress environment all day, the idea of hot dogs for dinner and watching anime in a dark room for the rest of the night didn’t sound that appealing to me. So I went and had a nice dinner at a nearby restaurant and found myself a place to sleep for the night.

So I survived the first day of an anime convention. Who knows? Tomorrow I might actually enjoy myself!

Saturday – Through the Eyes of the Amused Observer

Saturday is always the longest day of any three-day con, which makes it all the more surprising that I actually did less con-related stuff on Saturday than on any other day. I spent most of the day attending industry and fan panels, and spent much of the in-between time not doing much of anything.

My first event of the day was the Funimation panel. It was a fairly loose, easygoing panel. No new titles were announced (not that I particularly expected any to be), but they expected to announce two new titles in the coming weeks. We were then told of release dates for future titles and all the T-Shirts and other goodies Funimation would be releasing for their titles. I did note that their release of Kodocha will contain a lengthy interview with Akitaroh Daichi that will probably span more than one disc. The rest of the panel was spent on fun miscellany like what it was like to work at Funi, voice talent scouting, and Napoleon Dynamite.

Ushicon 2005!

This photo comes from the Iron Cosplay panel, where people try to put together clever costumes out of little bits and pieces one might find around the house. I didn’t actually get to attend this panel, but it looked like it would be amusing to watch.

Next up was the ADV Panel, where everyone who asked a question the panelists liked got a free DVD. It was the most popular panel I was in all weekend, and it was also in the smallest panel room. As expected, there was no earth-shattering news announcements, but a host of issues were discussed. The most interesting thing I found out was that the issue with Newtype USA and its “now there’s no disc, now there is again” didn’t have anything to do with sales or production costs, but the fact that stores were complaining about people stealing the discs and leaving the magazines. The subscription price of the magazine has not changed.

The only other two panels I attended Saturday were the Women in Anime and Christianity in Anime panels. The Women in Anime panel was Monica Rial and Tiffany Grant discussing their views on female characters in anime and women’s roles in the anime industry. It was a fairly civil panel with a few good questions, but like most of the other panels, it got diverted into the specifics of voice acting by the end.

The Christianity in Anime panel was run by the people who produce the Anime Angels fanzine, where Christian manga artists showcase their creations. The discussion was primarily about the Christian faith and what it’s about, its portrayal in anime, and what Christians ought to do with anime. I showed up late for the panel, so I don’t know what all was said, but there were some interesting views expressed. Vic Mignogna sat in on part of the panel, and he shared stories and talked about how his faith affects his life and job. This was probably my favorite panel of the weekend. By that time, whatever I had eaten for lunch had worn off completely, so I struck out for sustenance.

By the time I returned from dinner, the only things still to come that night were the cosplay showcase and the art auction. I attended the cosplay showcase for a short period of time. It had a few fairly amusing skits, and most of the costumes I saw ranged from tolerably good to very impressive, but there’s no way I could ever drum up the patience to stand or sit at one of these things for four hours. I stayed for maybe 45 minutes, then went to the main hotel lobby for to people-watch for awhile before returning to my room.

Ushicon 2005! Ushicon 2005!

And my favorite photo of the weekend, which is even funnier taken completely out of context…

Ushicon 2005!

I didn’t attend the art auction that night, as I was busy counting sheep. Even if I was there, I wouldn’t have any pictures to show you, because the con wisely had an iron rule about no cameras being allowed into the art auction. It’s just as well. Even if they did allow pictures there, my crappy disposable camera would have made even the most skillful works of art look like an epileptic gorilla sneezed all over them.

Sunday – A Farewell to Alarms

Ushicon 2005!

As the crowd numbers began to die out on Sunday, so the enthusiasm began to die with them. I arrived a little early that morning, and since there was nothing much going on at the moment, I had a little conversation with some of the con staff. I ended up learning that between Ushicon and a military ball being held Saturday night, the Renaissance Hotel was completely full – and it was a pretty good-sized hotel. Not bad for a fourth-year con in the dead of winter with no super-big-name guests. Also, the charity art auction was a big success, with over $2,000 being raised to donate to the victims of the recent tsunami. It’s a touching example of people helping others by doing what they do best: artists showcasing their skills, and anime fans spending money.

Tickets were being sold for the big Breakfast with the Guests, which I ended up waffling out on. I would later wish I hadn’t, because what was left of the meal looked pretty good. In lieu of the breakfast, I found myself attending the “Parenting and Anime” panel, which consisted of the panel moderator, three parents, a teenage girl (I assume she was related to one of the present parents, but that’s purely my assumption), and me. The panel moderator was undertaking writing a book about anime for parents, and most of the panel was spent defining terms and kicking around ideas. If she ever gets that book done, I’d be interested in seeing how it turned out.

The final event I attended was a skit show called “Whose Line Is It?” which was an anime-based takeoff of Whose Line Is It Anyway? It had many of the same games as the TV show, but with an anime twist. The contestants were volunteers pulled out of the audience. Normally I would have run away screaming – improv is like doing impromptu film heckling: only the experienced or the quick-witted can get away with it – but I ended up staying for the heck of it.

Ushicon 2005!

It wasn’t really as bad as I expected. In fact, it wasn’t such a bad way to kill an hour. It’s not that the improv was always first-rate – in truth, it could be downright painful to watch at times – but this event was probably the most representative of the con’s one quality I could really appreciate: the sheer raw enthusiasm and carnival spirit: “we may not be skilled improv comedians, but dammit, we’re gonna give it a shot!” That sort of attitude isn’t something I can find much fault with, even if the results weren’t always of the best quality. I guess I know where karaoke gets its popularity now.

After Whose Line was over, I dragged myself over to the schedule. By that time, I was hungry and completely exhausted mentally, if not physically. The only events remaining that day were a Yaoi panel, hours of tabletop RPG gaming, and the closing ceremonies, the first two being things I have absolutely no use for. I decided it simply wasn’t worth it to stick around for another four or five hours just to see the closing ceremonies, so I decided to be on my way. Farewell, Ushicon. Maybe we’ll do this again someday.

I spent the next week laid up with some flu-like bug and what felt like an eye infection. I guess I ended up taking home some souvenirs after all. Hooray for closed, overcrowded spaces full of people practicing questionable hygiene!

Closing Thoughts:

Though I have no prior con experience to which I could compare Ushicon 4, I will say that it went a lot more smoothly than I expected. The staff was more friendly and helpful to me than they had any reason to be, and I could find no fault with the air of enthusiasm and excitement that permeated the air at all times. There was a certain can-do atmosphere to the whole experience, where people were willing to throw off their inhibitions and be completely and utterly ridiculous for a few days, for their own entertainment and that of others. It’s easy to be cynical when you’re constantly being exposed to the worst of what anime and its fandom has to offer, but it’s difficult to be a cynic when you’re around so many people who are thoroughly enjoying themselves. It’s like trying to be cynical when taking your kids to an amusement park: you may dislike the crowds, the heat, the noise, and the way some people are acting, but you can hardly fault your children for having the time of their lives.

I enjoyed the panels and the activities I took part in, but truthfully, my favorite part of the con came on Saturday night, where I did little but stroll around watching people. There’s just something inherently interesting about people at anime conventions. You see a little kid not even in kindergarten running around in costume, eating up all the attention he’s getting, and you can’t help but smile. You see men and women old enough to be your parents (or even grandparents), and you can’t help but wonder what their stories are. You see people making costumes and setting up elaborate shows, all in the name of entertaining other fans of goofy foreign cartoons, and you wonder what motivates us to do such things. We’re a strange lot, we anime fans.

That’s really what cons are supposed to be about: fans working to entertain other fans. A con without that connection is worthless. That’s the spirit I sought to find when I came to Ushicon, and I found what I was looking for. I don’t think I could have reasonably asked for more than that.

Anime Boston 2005 Convention Report

Words and photos by Mike Toole.

Anime Boston is devouring the northeastern US. This year saw it move to the Hynes Convention Center, a much bigger venue. With their attendance cap gone, the convention swelled to 7000 attendees, a ridiculous number for a con that’s just three years old. Since I live across the river, I think it would’ve been kind of rude to NOT show up, so here I go again with another travelogue.

Anime boston  2005!

I like Dave Wittenberg. He used to work for WBCN, a local radio station that’s really gone to hell in the past couple of years. It was probably because he left. If he came back and combined his superpowers with Nick Carter again, the station would return to its glory days.

Anime boston  2004!

Anyway, Dave is still dubbing cartoons, but his stories about this practice wasn’t nearly as hilarious and heartbreaking as hearing about how he managed to miss flying back to Boston in time to celebrate the final game of the World Series because he just kind of assumed it would last seven games. Dave’s a big Red Sox fan, because he’s from Boston. If you live here, you have to love the Red Sox. It’s the law. And Dave loves them. Seriously. I bet if you cut him, he’d even bleed red.

Anime boston  2004!

Sadly, I only got the beginning of Melissa Fahn’s panel. She was Ed in Cowboy Bebop.

Anime boston  2004!

She’s pretty cute, actually, but in a manner that’s completely different from the character she played so well in Bebop. I like how that always happens.

Anime boston  2004!

It’s the Baron from The Cat Returns! I love this guy. He was a big help to Haru in the movie, so I figured he’d be the one I could ask to come out back and give my car a jump. He was too busy, though. Yeah, I’ll bet he were busy!

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And here’s Julia from Cowboy Bebop. This is a ridiculously hard costume to do well, but this girl really pulled it off. I love it when that happens.

Anime boston  2004!

Oddly enough, I hit the game room next. Not the video game room, the roleplay/tabletop game room. I’m not a D&D guy, but I was really enchanted by this. This thing is a huge-scale board game that pits the military against a variety of famous Japanese movie monsters.

Anime boston  2004!

You know, if all games were this interesting, more people would play games!

Anime boston  2004!

Holy shit! A goddamned monkeybot! Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, this thing’s goin’ apeshit! No fucking kidding!!!

Anime boston  2004!

Funimation continue to think up interesting things for people to do at cons. Here, a bunch of folks use crafts (provided by the Funi gang) to create their very own replicas of one of the many hats that Mama wears in Child’s Toy.

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Here’s the finished products. I don’t remember who won.

Anime boston  2004!

Another cosplay break. Here’s a pretty convincing Primera from Magic Knight Rayearth. Again, not a costume that’s easy to do.

Anime boston  2004!

And here’s my favorite of the weekend. This Rosette Christopher from Chrono Cross was FANTASTIC, and had every detail covered, right down to the gloves and the Flavor Flav clock around her neck. I also liked surly nun boss, who had stick-on sweatdrops and veins to convey the character’s surly emotions.

Anime boston  2004!

Farther down the hall, I stumbled across Cynthia Martinez and Monica Rial, hard at work signing autographs for their fans.

Anime boston  2004!

The line to see these ladies was surprisingly long. That’s my friend Maggie in the Number 18 costume. Denim ahoy!

Anime boston  2004!

Ever wonder what the dealer’s room looks like once everyone’s gone home for the night? Wonder no more!

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.)

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 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!

Anime Expo New York 2002 Convention Report

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


So another month rolls by, and sure enough, I end up at another convention in this podunk little burg called New York City. Naturally, I make with the photos.

Yoshiyuki Tomino, creator of Gundam, framed by Yoshihiro Komada and Tommy Ohtsuka.

The same three guys again, at a slightly different angle.

Ah, opening ceremonies. My photos of events like this always suck, because I don’t have optical zoom on my camera. That fuzzy blob is con chair Mike Tatsugawa.

Famous director Noboru Ishiguro starts the convention by drawing an eye on the Daruma. It’s kind of like Pin the Tail on the Donkey, only without all the screaming.

I snapped a bunch of terrible photos of the Cowboy Bebop panel. There’s Yoko Kanno, Shinichiro Watanabe, and Toshihiro Kawamoto. (On the far left there, I believe, would be translator Rika Takahashi.)

You can almost sort of see what the trio looks like in this photo.

This one’s even better. Why, it’s merely awful, instead of absolutely hideous! That’s a shame, because Yoko Kanno is a cutie-pie.

But my camera just sucks.

Plain and simple.

Here’s the fan webpage panel, featuring Megazone, Scott Hards of Hobbylink Japan (BEST. IMPORT ANIME TOY STORE. EVER.), Prairie, and Patrick Delahanty of

Here’s a pretty lousy photo of Taro Maki’s post-Millennium Actress Q&A session.

Ah, this is better. Mr. Maki’s in the middle; the guy on the left is a certain Justin Sevakis.

Here’s the gang from the other side.

Sometimes I delude myself into thinking that anime is still a modest little niche hobby. Then I’m greeted by sights like this. (Unfortunately, the dealer’s room sucked. It was absolutely swimming in counterfeit merchandise, which was lame not just because that’s just incredibly disrespectful to the Japanese staff who attend as guests, but because it made it damn hard for me to search for legitimate merchandise. I couldn’t even find a goddamned copy of eX-Driver thanks to those shysters with the fakes. Also, it’s awfully telling that the largest con, in terms of organization, can’t even get their act together enough to keep the fakes out…)

Character designers Koji Sugiura and Atsushi Takeuchi. They were a little nervous about being photographed, but I took pictures anyway. A-ha, joke’s on them!

Tomino makes a funny.

…but then sits down and answers everyone’s questions.

Well, that’s all I’ve got this time around. The whole Anime Expo New York/Big Apple Anime Fest experience was interesting– the film premieres were absolutely dynamite, and probably my favorite part of the weekend. Some of the panels were good, though the program book schedule was so difficult to read that I ended up missing one of my panels! (Sorry if you showed up and waited around for me…) Aside from the lousy dealer’s room, it wasn’t a bad little con. I’ll probably return next year, when the whole show will be run by the Big Apple Anime Fest again.

Anime Weekend Atlanta 2002 Convention Reports

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

You know, maybe I just can’t do con reports anymore. The past couple of cons I’ve done have been exercises in either 1.) doing events for the con, making me unable to take groovy photos, or 2.) going to parties and seeing my friends, which you jerks aren’t likely to care about (and rightly so, since my con buddies aren’t exactly prime convention entertainment for anyone but myself).

But still, I know people are going to ask me about these damn pictures, so here they are. This time, Anime Jump is proud to present…


introducing MONICA RIAL
special guest star TIM ELDRED

Wasn’t that fun? As I kept repeating ad nauseum at the con, “Sooner or later, everybody wears the bitch hat.” Now that we’ve gotten that foolishness out of our systems, let’s look at some actual photos of regular, non-bitch-hat-wearing people.

Anime Boston 2003 Convention Report

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.

Anime Boston

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.

Anime Boston

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.

Anime Boston

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…

Anime Boston

…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.

Anime Boston

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.

Anime Boston

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.

Anime Boston

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.

Anime Boston

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.

Anime Boston

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.

Anime Boston

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.

Anime Boston

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.

Anime Boston

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.

Anime Boston

Kevin Lillard of A Fan’s View was a good enough sport to wear the bitch hat….

Anime Boston

…as was Chad Kime of Pioneer! (Jerry Chu wussed out.) Remember, sooner or later, everyone must wear the bitch hat!

Anime Boston

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.

Anime Boston

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!

Anime Boston

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.

Anime Boston

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.

Anime Boston

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.

Anime Central Convention Reports

Once again, Anime Central, located in the great city of Chicago (or more accurately, near the airport in Rosemont), has passed us by. For this year, the con’s sixth year and my sixth year on staff, I somehow managed to take a lot more photographs and get a lot more accomplished than I thought possible. I’ve got other coverage from this con, including a swell interview with Yoko Ishida, but for now, I’ll stick with the usual pithy, stream-of-consciousness, incredibly unfunny essay with photographs.

One of the perks that the staff of Anime Central receives is a brief ‘Meet the Guests’ reception on the Thursday prior to the con. The idea is that most staff won’t have the time during the convention to go seeking and greeting their favorites, so it’s good to get it out of the way early. One of the first people I saw at the con hotel was Yoko Ishida. Ms. Ishida is known for singing lots of anime songs. She’s actually got a great voice, I listen to her para para songs when I’m at the gym. She’s also really attractive, a fact that this photo does not, unfortunately, communicate very effectively.

Hey, it’s Kazuyoshi Katayama, the director of The Big O! Mr. Katayama was actually quite jovial and sociable for most of the weekend. Thumbs up!

That’s my ugly mug above on the left. On the right is Maya Okamoto, one of the most fantastic people I’ve ever met at these ridiculous conventions. Maya speaks English– not quite fluently, but you can have a conversation with her– and she’s personable and funny as hell.

On the left is Brett Weaver. On the near right, looking vaguely like a stretched-out Billy Idol, is Chris Patton. They’re famous voice actors for ADV. We’ll just pretend that they’re arguing over the price of veal in this photo.


Hiroaki Gohda was a pretty amusing guy. He was interested in all of the Onegai Teacher stuff that’s been coming out in the ‘states, as he’s one of the guys most responsible for the show. He also directed the hideous Hanaukyo Maid Team, but we’ll forgive him. Mr. Gohda spent most of his free time cajoling the attendees into praising his work and teasing the other guests.

It’s Maya again. Here’s she’s drawing a photo of Richard “Pocky” Kim, a dear friend and one of ACen’s guest relations staff.

The drawing isn’t very flattering, but it’s fun to look at.

The next day saw crowds gathering early for ACen’s opening ceremonies. Meanwhile, the registration line was busily snaking out the door and around the building.

Master of ceremonies Carl Horn was even more dapper than usual, sporting a long dress jacket for much of the weekend rather than his usual matched blazer.

First among the guests introduced was everyone’s favorite Bruce Lewis, who was on hand to teach kids how to draw comics all weekend.

Sailor Bubba escorted Scott Frazier out with a carpet of rose petals. Scott has added “Jan” to the beginning of his name, but I can’t hear the name and look at that blonde coiff of his without thinking of the little girl from The Brady Bunch, so he’s still Scott to me.

Then, Brett Weaver adjusted the microphone height. Why would he do such an audacious thing?

Why, because Tiffany Grant was coming out! Tiff’s a bit short.

Appearing on these shores for the first time in awhile was Kazuko Tadano, the character designer for Sailor Moon and, more importantly, Dancougar. Well, more importantly to me, anyway. Amusingly, she was having trouble remembering the correct kanji for “Super Bestial Machine God Dancougar”.

My camera’s batteries died at this point. I rushed for replacements, rushed back, and snapped a quick photo of the people I’d missed. From left to right, there’s Yoko Ishida, Maya Okamoto, Monica Rial, and Chris Patton. Yaaaay!

Then Kazuyoshi Katayama was introduced. I swear to god, the way his badge was flashing was just a trick of the light. It is absolutely NOT one of his many special, hidden attacks.

On the other hand…

I snagged an additional photo of Katayama, Tadano, and Hidenori Matsubara sitting down, because I’d also missed out on Matsubara. Big deal, he was here last year anyway. Heh heh.

Next was the aforementioned Mr. Gohda, who commanded the audience to spend their entire weekend paying attention only to him. My camera seems to have stolen his face, at least temporarily.

Along with Mr. Gohda, the Onegai Teacher crew was represented by character designer Yasunori Ide.

Then writer extraordinaire Satoru Akahori took the mic. Man, check out the suit on that guy! I haven’t seen anything that smart and austere on a man since I was at the Tomb of Mao Zedong! Mr. Akahori’s a talented writer; he can handle both action AND comedy!

Then Hiroaki Inoue was called to the stage from the audience to hype the upcoming Anime Expo Tokyo. This is an event I wouldn’t mind attending, but I have a hard time justifying the bucks for an American-style con that just happens to take place in Tokyo. Tokyo is pretty cool, it doesn’t need a con to have that party-time atmosphere.

Opening ceremonies closed with co-chairs Ryan Gavigan and Frank Sanchez and vice chair Isaac Sher cracking wise and allowing the fans to declare the convention open.

Then Monica Rial threw a plush doll. Yaaaaaay!

One of the things that ACen does to drum up revenue is some fairly aggressive merchandising. This item, which I positively cannot wait to buy, is the prototype for a Sailor Bubba bobblehead doll. Considering that Sailor Bubba really only has one joke, it’s impressive that it’s lasted this long and is still amusing. I think Bubba really needs to just build himself an actual, working Moon Crescent Wand cigar cutter/lighter.