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Con Report: AnimeNEXT 2007

AnimeNEXT 2007
July 6-8, 2007
Meadowlands Exposition Center
Secaucus, NJ, USA

AnimeNEXT was held this year on July 6-8, and I figured since it's almost time for NYAF (New York Anime Festival), and I put it off for so long, I might as well write this damn convention report. This was my fourth anime convention, and my first time going for a full three days. Sadly, I was unable to fully experience the three days, since I live in NJ, and stupidly decided that driving to Secaucus each day would be easy. Instead, I ended up missing out on a lot of late-night stuff that would have been possible had I shelled out the dough to stay at a hotel in the area. Nevertheless, the con was, as it was the past few years I attended, a ton of fun.

Friday

On Friday, there wasn't a ton of programming, so I spent a lot of my time in the Dealer's Room, Video Rooms, and hanging out in between, taking cosplay pictures. AnimeNEXT's format is a little odd, with a single Expo Center holding the main con (Signings, Main Theater, Dealer's Room), and two adjacent hotels containing various other events. (One, for example, has a game and a panel room. The other has a bunch of video rooms, some panels and workshops, a manga library, and a tabletop games room) This means a lot of walking back and forth from these different hotels, which is a nice walk in sunny July, but not so fun when you're rushing between panels.

One of the panels I attended on Friday was titled "All About DBZ," and it was easily the highlight of the day. Sadly, I never got the names of the two people running the panel, but these two guys were great. They sat in front of a packed panel room, talking about, notably, the Dragonball Online MMORPG, but also simply answering questions and discussing Dragonball and DBZ canon. Being a Dragonball Z aficionado myself, I found it not only lots of fun (as you'd expect from crazy, now-grown-up DBZ fans), but also very informative.

The other important events I went to involved the guests at the show: Gus Sorola (Simmons) and Kathleen Zuelch (Tex) of Rooster Teeth and Red vs. Blue fame. They held an introduction to Red vs. Blue first, in which they went over how RvB was founded, who Gus and Kathleen are, and answered questions. I had luckily just started watching some Red vs. Blue in the spirit of the occasion. After all, where's the fun in guests when you haven't seen why they're famous? Directly after the Intro, Gus and Kathleen were set up at a signing booth, and I waited briefly on a refreshingly short line to get signatures both for myself and Kevin (The RP Phantom), who attended with me.

Saturday

Saturday was a really fun day, and as usual, had the most panels in it. After some wandering around the convention, I finally went to the Del Rey industry panel, and was not disappointed. Del Rey had apparently skipped attending Anime Expo, and brought their new announcements right here to New Jersey, to my delight. Titles like Alive, Minima, and Aventura were announced for the first time, and I took some notes as for what to keep an eye on. (I even found a copy of Alive a few months later and beta-Reviewed it) After much hand-raising and scoffing at horribly thought-out answers, I finally won one of the promotional manga they were giving out for answering questions about their titles. Sadly, the only one left was a new shojo cooking title, Kitchen Princess, but I took what I could get, walking away in shame.

Next up was C.R.A.Z.Y.O.T.A.K.U. (believe me, it's a pain to type out), essentially a huge contest/party run by the NJ-based group of the same name. They are a growing organization that can best be described as a large anime social-network or anime club. (Visit their website: CRAZYOTAKU.com) The panel was really fun, as Ben Schoedel, MaryEllen Sloan, and other leaders of the group put us through a variety of tests, including holding up stacks of manga, answering trivia, creating improv skits, and even balancing Pocky! Our very own Kevin ended up winning the so-called "Pocky Olympics," and our forums member (whom I met at AnimeNEXT) Kaper got second place. There were awesome prizes to be had, such as Kevin's GameBoy Micro, and a Hellsing boxset. And to top it off, it seems now that the officers of C.R.A.Z.Y.O.T.A.K.U. might be scouting out NYAF next weekend as their new center of operations.

While I of course spent some good time on Saturday in the Dealer's and Video Rooms, I also decided to stop in at another industry panel. Bandai Entertainment sent in a representative to promote their newest products to us, and I--being a true Haruhiist--was obviously in attendance. The panel was not as entertaining as the well-presented, newsworthy, and prize-filled Del Rey one, but the speakers did a good job of presenting their newest stuff (notably Haruhi, but also including titles like My-Otome) and answering questions. There were lots of questions from the audience about Gundam series, Haruhi, and new shows that they would like added to Bandai's roster. I also found their thorough explanation of the distinct difference between Bandai Entertainment and Bandai Visual to be quite informative. Finally, after leaving this panel, I stopped in for the end of the Cosplay Masquerade. Sadly, I had missed the performances by many cosplayers (including Kaper and Zopney of our Forums and their friends) of the Hare Hare Yukai dance from The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya.

Sunday

Sunday had a lot of stuff packed into a little time. Early in the day, I headed over to a panel called "Debate: Anime or Manga?" I couldn't even sit through the entirety of this disappointment, as an older fan stood in front of us droning on about differences between manga and anime. I give him points for trying, but the host was unable to produce a reaction from the audience, turning a debate into nothing more than a monologue. Later, I attempted to go to two forums gatherings, one for Anime News Network and one for the AnimeNEXT forums, but no one showed up to host them. I thought that it might be possible to visit a Square Enix industry panel in hopes of coming out with some meaningful new info, but sadly the crazy fans blocked my way and filled up the room.

I spent the rest of the day in the Video Rooms and hangin out outside on the "Field of Cosplay," where most of the cosplayers go to get their pictures taken and pretend to fight with their cheap kendo sticks. During this time, though, we began and epic impromptu event right in the middle of the field of cosplay: Limbo. Using the magic staff from Kaper's Negi (of Negima) costume, we set up a makeshift game of limbo, with a can of soda as the prize. We had some great contenders, including a dude who leaped over the stick, landing in an action-roll. Plus, a great Allen Walker (D.Gray Man) cosplayer limboed with his giant arm as a counterweight. It was incredibly fun, and we even got posted on YouTube by some nice congoers. (Video 1 and Video 2, I'm the guy with the green shirt and tan shorts, Kaper has a white shirt, Kevin is wearing black, and they're both holding the limbo stick)

After that, Kevin and I headed over to closing ceremonies. They were dull, but served as a satisfying ending to an all-around fun convention. AnimeNEXT is not the most exciting, action-packed con, but it serves as a great social scene for otaku. The setup can be a bit hectic with the con spread over three buildings, but most of the time that makes for great outdoor activities like limbo. Good panels are hard to come by, but there are a few gems here. C.R.A.Z.Y.O.T.A.K.U. meets here every year, so you can look forward to that if you're thinking of attending. In general, it's a great local con for people in the New Jersey/New York area looking for a fun, low-key time with lots of other fans.

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