Anime Boston 2004 Convention Report

Once again Anime Boston descended upon the city, and we were there, camera in hand, all ready to report on… uh… anyway, we were totally ready! Really totally! Read on for some photos and reports from Anime Boston 2004, live at the Park Plaza hotel!

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This is about 90% of the convention experience, right here. It can all be distilled to a chilly, clinical hotel conference room, some portable A/V equipment, and Bandai Entertainment rep Jerry Chu. Here Jerry tells some of his famous knock-knock jokes. Actually, I don’t even know if he has any knock-knock jokes, I just don’t remember what he was talking about.

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Next, we ventured into the dealer’s room (which was actually across the street this year, in a curious castle-like building), where we encountered the fiendish Dr. Cube of Kaiju Big Battel fame! But was this the real Dr. Cube, or one of his legions of dopplegangers? We may never know for certain.

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Here’s the dealer’s room in general. The lighting was bad so I had to boost the levels through the roof, which is why it looks so grainy. There’s the Dreamworks booth in the background. Hey, thanks for not promoting Millennium Actress, guys! Way to go, you jerks!

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Now, it’s very important to visit the guests at these conventions, so I ducked in to meet some famous voice actors and test the settings out on my crappy digital camera. Here’s the famous Lex Lang, who has a website and apparently a record album. He’s also played the voice of both Captain Harlock AND Kenshiro from Fist of the North Star, which puts his manliness way off the scale, higher than even an entire fleet of motorcycle-riding Steve McQueens.

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Here’s another picture of Lex, and the panel moderator. I wonder if Lex is short for “Alexander?” Maybe it’s short for “Lexington.” Or perhaps it’s an abbreviated form of Lexmark, that crappy printer company.

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Ah! Lex is melting! Lex has even gotten to play the Movie Trailer Guy a couple of times. That’s a lifelong ambition of mine. I want to utter dramatic phrases like, “IN A WORLD COVERED IN CHOCOLATE… ONE MAN”

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Here’s the only photo I got of Dave Wittenberg. Dave Wittenberg is awesome. Not only was the the voice of Kikaider in the cartoon of the same name, he was Lee in the Cowboy Bebop movie, putting forth the best fake cockney accent this side of Don Cheadle in Ocean’s Eleven. He was also the sensitive computer nerd in Witch Hunter Robin, a fact which had teenage girls queueing up for his autograph and a demonstration of his vocal talents.

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Then I grabbed a couple of snapshots of cosplayers. I try not to take too many cosplay photos– not only does that practice eat up time like crazy, there are lots of sites which do a much better job of cosplay photography than I ever could. But when I saw these costumes, I couldn’t resist, being a huge Rose of Versailles nerd. So here’s one.

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And here’s the reverse angle. I’ll be frank: I’m kind of jaded about cosplaying, most stuff doesn’t impress me the way it used to. But these are some damn good costumes. Seriously, this shit is HOT.

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Here’s a shot of the hotel mezzanine, with nerds practically hanging over the railing as they wait in line for some event or another. Later in the afternoon, I’d encounter two girls waving badly handwritten signs and begging for attention. I never knew anime kids liked crazy homeless people so much that they wanted to imitate them!

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I’ve got just a couple of more big events at this particular con. Like I was saying earlier, I tend to eschew the flashier shit, and here’s a neat little tableau that unfolded before me on Saturday afternoon. See, there’s always a piano at these damn conventions, and there’s always some jerk playing it. It’s invariably either a kid messing around, some asshole playing “Piano Man,” or some even BIGGER asshole playing Final Fantasy or Super Mario Brothers music. I don’t remember what this couple was playing, but I just had to capture the scene.

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Ah, but what’s this? One dude left, but two more people came to watch the girl in the maroon velvet play. The one on the right is wearing one of those cheap, awful felt cat tails. No offense, lady, but those things never look good.

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Again, the cast of piano players and specators shifted! What drama.

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At one point, the girl was just playing by herself. Check out Sanosuke in the lower right-hand corner! I love shit like that.

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Then some other dude showed up and started playing. You can still see the redhead chilling out in the background.

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Finally, two OTHER dudes, one playing, the other listening intently. This entire shuffle happened over the course of about seven minutes. Once again, I love shit like this. In my opinion, it’s a better summary of what a hotel anime convention is really like than any giant-ass parade of cosplay photos.

 

Anime Central 2004 Convention Report

Anime Central is a con that continues to be near and dear to my heart. It’s a thousand miles away, but it’s still my “home” convention, the one I staff at, and the one I see the most buddies and acquaintances at. I always look forward to it, and always return with a photo-diary of my experiences. Here it is.

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The first thing I saw on Thursday evening? Nabeshin! Director extraordinaire Shinichi Watanabe was a little baffled at all the attention being paid to Excel Saga, a show he directed 5 years ago, but he was happy to sign a t-shirt.

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What amuses me the most about Nabeshin is just how much he resembles the animated version of himself. None of it is an exaggeration, he even dresses like Lupin in real life.

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Here’s con officer Isaac Sher and voice actor Brett Weaver, both of them good pals of mine. But you know, this photo just isn’t surreal enough. I think I need to add a thought bubble.

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Ah, much better.

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Dan Baker moves too quickly to be seen by the naked eye.

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Bruce Lewis doing what he does best– drawing pictures of dogs wearing little hats.

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Ah, opening ceremonies! The excitement is building as the cavernous main events room fills up!

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As usual, M.C. Carl Horn was there to kick things off.

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He introduced the likes of Monica Rial…

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Scott McNeil, a famous cowboy from Canada…

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Greg Ayres, a voice actor who specializes in playing children and teenagers and looking like the lead singer from Korn…

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Japanese glam-rockers SID…

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Super-cute seiyuu Chiwa Saito, whose agency asked that we not publish photographs of her. Fine, have it your way! Jerks.

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And Nabeshin, who, to nobody’s surprise, stole the show.

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Things wrapped up with remarks from the con chairs, co-chair Locke the Superman, the Man of Might, and convention chairman Frank Sanchez. Frank looked hungry, so I also made him thinking of a taco.

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.

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

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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.

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

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

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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.

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

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

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

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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.

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

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

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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!

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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.

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

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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!

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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.

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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.

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.

Animazement 2001 Report

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

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

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

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

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

Messrs. Kamiya and Kotobuki regard the harried translator suspiciously.

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

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

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

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

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

Why yes, it is!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Absolutely excellent Cardcaptor Sakura costumes.

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

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

Anime Central 2001 Convention Report

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.”