Panels are the main course for me at conventions. They are at once belly-filling meat-and-potato and nutrient-giving veggies. Panelists do not have to be high-profile to present thought-provoking or enjoyable sessions, but that happenstance usually doesn’t hurt. That said, with Ninja Consultant podcasters Noah Fulmor and Erin Finnegan on deck, a humorous edification on trends in manga was immanently discernable throughout Genericon’s schedule. Ani-Gamers’ own Evan Minto, who was also Genericon’s Convention Vice-Chair, brought some academia and history to the panel selection, while The Con Artists layered on the trivia-based levity. I did not go home hungry. Here’s a little about each of the panels I attended.


 

Erin and Noah present a panel on Anthropomorphization

Recent Trends in Anthropomorphization, Hetalia to Wikipe-tan
Panelists: Ninja Consultants – Erin Finnegan & Noah Fulmor

Anthropomorphization in Japanese culture, which stems all the way back to the nation’s creation myth, is not wholly the moé-centric characters we see today as portrayed by series such as Strike Witches and Hetalia. There are diverse applications and intents for which anthropomorphized mascots are used, from signifying events to personifying and alleviating anxiety associated with specific organizations and phenomena. Finnegan and Fulmor did a wonderful job of not only illustrating the breadth of that which is anthropomorphized but also exploring similarities and differences in this trend as well as expounding and ruminating upon reasons for it.

 

Scott Fermeglia presents Anime Trivia

Anime Trivia
Panelists: The Con Artists – Scott Fermeglia, Shushma Chandran, Daniel Condaxis, Brendan Flaherty

Trivia happened: host Scott Fermeglia asked, and audience members answered. At least most of the time the audience answered; sometimes, okay, a lot of the time, it was a staff member or fellow panelist. This was seemingly due to the fact that the questions were based on anime that no one or very few people in the audience had seen. Even when a few attendees raised their hands, the collective sighs at the difficulty of the questions after their respective answers’ reveal left most laughing. Despite long stretches of touch-and-go Q&A, Scott kept things very entertaining with a good blend of jokes, ribbing, and self-effacing humor.

 

Anime-Name-That-Image

Anime Name-That-Image
Panelists: The Con Artists – Scott Fermeglia, Shushma Chandran, Daniel Condaxis, Brendan Flaherty

Screenshot trivia. I thought I stood a chance, but this game proved as humbling as it was humiliating. In my group of friends (outside the ani-blogosphere), I’m considered the one who’s entire viewing habit revolves around anime. But trying to identify screenshots at a rate of roughly one per every three minutes throughout a two hour panel, and failing miserably to even recognize half of what was shown, made me feel a bit of awe with respect to just how much anime I haven’t seen. Conversely, that which I was able to identify put me in the shame-on-you-for-watching-such-trash category nine times out of ten ... if I even made it to nine. Kudos to those who chose the screenshots, which ranged from regular full frames to zoomed-in shots of characters' shoes and images on TV sets in the background of shots. The choices made the game fun and challenging.

 

Fandom & Criticism: The Art of Active ViewingFandom & Criticism: The Art of Active Viewing
Panelists: Evan Minto, Ink, Erin Finnegan, Noah Fulmor

Best panel at the con. Hey, this ain’t no newspaper — I don’t have to be objective. Seriously though, we had a great turnout for such an academically titled panel. Evan and the Ninja Consultants recorded it, so I’ll spare you any summary other than that this roundtable discussion — from the four panelists to the crowd and back again — went seamlessly. The audience seemed engaged and eager to contribute, and everyone on the panel brought out valid points and even some surprising revelations concerning how they watch and think during viewings/readings. How did 4 panelists with no prepared order of response manage to so effortlessly coordinate their answers? One item: 4-sided die. Oh yeah, ‘cause we’re that kind of cool.

 

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The Changing Faces of Anime
Panelist: Evan Minto

In what would probably make one hell of a PowerPoint post here on Ani-Gamers (cough-cough), Evan took the audience through the diversity that is anime’s visual history in order to examine aspects of styles unique to particular directors and animators via their associated projects. He also explored the ever-branching tree of consequential influence, explaining and illustrating what certain successors have used and changed from their predecessors. Speed accelerated some of the dryer subject points, and humor made the time pass all the quicker. Minto's obvious knowledge and research pays off in transitioning between panels and filling out examples with great detail. Evan's speed ended up leaving the panel with 17 minutes to spare, but his ability to think on his feet when fielding answers from the audience eliminated some of that dead air time. Unfortunately, he was so thorough that there weren’t many raised hands from the rather full room.

 

Unusual Manga Genres

Culinary Manga, Alcohol and Manga, and Unusual Manga Genres  a Three Panel Retrospective
Panelists: Ninja Consultants – Erin Finnegan & Noah Fulmor

Sense a theme? I do: learning! The first two panels listed above explored manga with a specific focus, whether as a series or in stand-alone volumes; its relation to Japanese culture; as well as the myriad audiences towards which they are marketed. "Culinary Manga" exposed the audience to multitudinous titles that dealt with subjects ranging from the microscopic (Moyashimon) to the epic (Toriko). "Alcohol and Manga" (gee, whoever thought I would attend a panel titled such?!) highlighted vocabulary, gave examples of national shame and pride, and touted as many obscure titles as they did mainstream, such as Bartender and Drops of God. Heavy research and reading experience meant that ne’er was there only one example, but at least two or three of every niche market-reaching topical Unusual Manga Genresmanga out there! Due not only to the diversity of topics but also number of examples, the podcasters’ skills came in handy during all the presentations and especially in "Unusual Manga Genres", which incorporated a little bit of both aforementioned panels while also diving off the deep end to explore a seemingly endless supply of niche manga produced for education, promotion, awareness, and entertainment. Erin and Noah would basically run through slide after slide until breathless or parched and then hand the mic off to the other. In this fashion, and without any lag in spirit or humor, the Ninja Consultant duo opened the audience’s mind to myriad universes of the printed page.


Cosplay Dating Game

Cosplay Dating
(8:30 AM Sunday edition)

Maybe I’m just not enough of an otaku, but 8:30 in the morning seemed like a poor scheduling decision for a Dating Game variation. In fact, the room was nigh empty...until around 9:00, when cosplayers and normies started trickling in and taking their seats. By the time the panel was ready for its first round of interviews, the audience was ample enough in number to garner a decent selection of contestants. The gears were far from well oiled at first, but eventually hosts and guests found their timing. There was also a little bit of awkwardness in making this game happen without the use of the 18+ questions (even when a couple mistakenly slipped in). All said and done, there were two rounds that left the hosts with only 20 minutes left. “Another round or leave early,” asked one of the panelists, to which the crowd eagerly responded “another!” I’m guessing you can call that a success.

 

Ar tonelico II: Melody of MetafalicaBurn on Sight! – Bad Games
Panelists: The Con Artists – Scott Fermeglia, Shushma Chandran, Daniel Condaxis, Brendan Flaherty

Sometimes expectations garnered from years of congoing can be smashed in the most delightful ways. For this panel, Fermeglia and fellow Con Artists didn’t just do a slideshow commenting on horrible video games. Instead, each member elaborated upon their disgust for one particular title, including one instance where the presenter did a tit-for-tat comparison of the original Contra (good) and Neo Contra for the PlayStation 2 (BAD!!!) — chock full o’ color commentary. The crown jewel of this panel, though, the best saved for last, was an epic tale centered around the PS2 game Ar tonelico II: Melody of Metafalica. Sure the game’s content, as pointed out by the presenters, was overly complex and jaw-droppingly inappropriate at almost every turn, but the sheer length of the presentation, stressing the length, the never-ending nature of the game (much like this sentence) drew me closer to insanity with every second it continued. A presentation to match the essence of the game? Brilliant.

 

Viewing Anime Online

Viewing Anime Online
Panelist: Rick Ralston

Admittedly, I ran out of steam and patience by the time this panel rolled around. So please forgive the tone and lack of specific content in this summation. The presenter seemed nervous and had a delivery that could make a snowman close its eyes, which is a shame given the topic at hand and the average age range of attendees. As younger, Internet-savvy fans get involved with anime, the morality of supporting the industry can often fall to the wayside, forsaken for instant gratification via illegal fansubs/scanlations. Thus this panel could have been a great way to explain to the younger set some positive means of accessing the content they desire while supporting the industry. According to the Genericon guide as well as the presenter’s meet up page, the panel aimed to identify industry-supported websites, explore if/why it is necessary to support those sites, discuss what online viewing means in relation to the future of the industry, and talk about advantages of paying for service as opposed to using free sites. The content seemed basic to me, with Rick presenting options such as FUNimation’s online portal, AnimeNetwork, Crunchyroll, Crackle and the like, but my previously stated exhaustion and intolerance for bad presentation didn’t let me take in much more than the first 10 minutes (a good chunk of which involved technical difficulties due to Genericon’s finicky WiFi). Likewise and unfortunately, a good deal of the audience was also leaking into the aisles, trudging up the stairs, and heading towards the door. If the presentation of material gets better, I'd love to see this panel get scheduled at every single con on principle alone.

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