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.

CLICK HERE FOR SPECIAL MUSTARD GUY EDITION!!

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 Adequate.com.

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…

STARRING…


DAVID WILLIAMS
MIKE TOOLE
GEMA GEMA
WEDNESDAY WHITE
SCOTT FRAZIER
BRUCE LEWIS
GREG WICKER
BRETT WEAVER AND FEATURING…
EK
DAVE MERRILL
ROBERT DeJESUS
DAN BAKER
MIKE HORNE
DOUG SMITH
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.

Otakon 1998 Convention Report

Dar says, “Otakon rocks!” Ah, Otakon. I’d been planning to attend an Otakon for years, since they started having it at State College. But my plans never coalesced, until this year. Along with my travel-mate, I faced a tremendous 9-hour car ride, not to mention the desolation of dozens of Roy Rogers and Popeye chicken restaurants, and to say nothing of the possibility of a detour to Stuckey’s. After getting lost very briefly, we made it in on Thursday night and got settled, and the adventure began.

I had quite possibly the most unique con experience ever. Planning just to keep a fairly low profile and get some decent photos (not to mention lots of crap for my girlfriend and my brother for their birthdays at the dealer’s room), I instead ended up getting autographs from both Shoji Kawamori and Hiroshi Aro (who included a sketch to boot), grabbing dinner with half of the American voice-actor guests on Saturday, winning the costume competition, and sitting at the same table as most of the guests of honor at the post-con dinner. The only unique and interesting con experience that I really missed out on was getting kicked out for doing something dumb, but I’m not complaining about that. I’d like to think that all of the conventions I attend will be like this, but I doubt it’ll be like this past one.

Friday was uneventful for me, until the evening. (Though I did manage to catch Gaogaigar in the video room, and it’s just about the most wonderful, outrageous thing I’ve ever seen. I hope Bandai decides to bring it over here…) Evening meant it was time for karaoke, and me, with my Darth Vader vocal range, had to sing the theme from Mazinger Z. (I don’t see the need for someone with my voice to bother with anything from after, oh, say, 1975 or so.) After karaoke and some wandering around (and managing to miss Yoshiyuki “The Guy Who Created Gundam” Tomino’s new thing, Brainpowerd), I headed to the main hall for the quickie meet-the-guests thing before Mystery Anime Theatre 3000. Everyone was around and got introduced, except for Shoji Kawamori, who’d flown in not too long before the session and was jet-lagged all to hell.

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The mood was jovial when the lights dimmed and about a dozen technical glitches happened before MAT3k got started. It was amusing tribute to the original with a CG moviesign sequence, as Joel Saotome, Crow, and Tom Servo sparred with Dr. Forrest Clayton (above) and Anime’s Frank before sitting up and dissing Battle Arena Toshinden, Rocky Horror style. It got the expected results, with the audience’s laughter frequently drowning out some of the jokes. After that, it was pushing 2am, and definitely time for some shuteye. (I used to be guilty of the stay-up-for-the-entire-con crime, but nowadays, I’ll tell you, only fools and speed freaks do that.)

A Trip to the Tezuka Museum Report

Osamu Tezuka stands head and shoulders above all other manga creators. While manga existed in Japan prior to his rise to fame, it was Dr. Tezuka who popularized it, first among children with his New Treasure Island series, and soon after among adults, with tales like Adolf and Black Jack. The breath of his influence can’t be measured, and he was the most daring artist of his time– who else, for example, was bold enough to arbitrarily include Hercules in the old Chinese legend Journey to the West? Who else had the innovation of thought to cast three super-powerful space aliens as wacky-looking cartoon animals? Who else had about a dozen character designs that he recycled, over and over and over? No one but Dr. Tezuka.

I can’t say enough about the man– his animation and art has always impressed and moved me, and even convinced me of his complete and utter insanity. So it was no surprise that my friends and I went out of our way to visit the Tezuka Museum, a shining beacon to his greatness hidden in the remote Takurazuka City, which also was home to a number of garish theme parks and an influential all-girl theatre revue.

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Our trip to Takarazuka City and the Tezuka museum was foreshadowed by a strange coincidence– at Kyoto station, we actually bumped into Black Jack. I took the time to pose for photos and ask him a few questions (“So, what do you think this sore is all about?” I said, pulling down my pants), but he just stared at me glassily– I think he was stoned. Later, my girlfriend would insist that he was just a plasticene statue, but I know the truth. Thank, you Black Jack.

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These are the foot, hand, and sometimes face-prints of all of Tezuka’s famous characters. For example, it was here that I learned that Black Jack’s shoe size was closer to my girlfriend’s than to my own. It was here that I learned that Astroboy looks like he has bound feet. It was here that I almost fell plummeting into Ambasador Magma’s footprint, which was about forty feet deep. See it? It’s that one over there.

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Here is a marvelously-crafted bronze statue of Hi no Tori, Tezuka’s immortal Phoenix. Hi no Tori is one of Tezuka’s central characters, but she also serves as mascot to the millions of McTezuka’s restaurants worldwide. Why don’t you stop by and have an Atom Burger, made with Tezuka’s own special “Wonder 3″ blend of horsemeat, rabbit, and duck? Personally, my favorite is the Kimba combo– endangered species never tasted so good…

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Every year, thousands of bright-eyed young Japanese schoolchildren are herded into this building to be brainwashed by watching the same five Tezuka cartoons over and over. It’s a common sight to see armies of schoolchildren come marching out of the exit, chanting the march from Ribon no Kishi. And speaking of which…

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Here’s Prince/Princess Sapphire herself, the Princess Knight, rendered in breathtaking floor tile! Sapphire is a highly influential character- Tezuka’s creation was the first really tough, capable female lead in popular Japanese comics, and continues to influence anime creators and viewers today– just look at Utena. Sorry, I can’t think of a witty caption for this picture that doesn’t involve my idea that Sapphire is actually a guy dressing as a girl dressing as a guy, to get chicks.

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Here is one of the most striking aspects of the museum– a stained glass depiction of Tezuka’s best-loved characters, including Mighty Atom, Princess Knight, and Black Jack. Just to the left, outside of the range of the camera, there’s a sixteen foot tall sculpture of Astroboy being crucified. I’m not sure of the sigificance of it, but it’s disturbingly-detailed. There were also pews and a hymn book, but I didn’t stick around to look at them.

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While this is in no way related to the Tezuka museum, I thought this sight was an amusing one. Back at our hotel, the Shinjuku Washington (which I recommend if you’re on a kinda-tight budget but can’t find an inexpensive ryokan or can’t deal with a youth hostel), we saw this sight– a Print Club machine displaying the accursed Windows Blue Screen o’ Death. It seems that even Print Club isn’t safe from the ravages of Windows.

And that, in a nutshell, was our day at the Tezuka museum. I entered it with a deep reverence for Dr. Tezuka and his work, and left it with more or less the same feeling, only I also had tons of crap to haul around. Black Jack postcards! Black Jack figures! Black Jack school supplies! Black Jack iv drips! Black Jack ambulances!

As we walked back towards the station and the promise of a tasty meal, I think my girlfriend Prairie (who is responsible for the photographsyou see) summed our experience up best when she said, “Why the hell do these traffic lights take so long to turn? It’s annoying.”

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.

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 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..

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 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.