They're a little late, but we've got a veritable mountain of panel reports from AnimeNEXT 2012 for you, courtesy of Ink and Evan. Jump in for some panels about yokai, the anime industry, My Little Pony, SCIENCE!, and much, much more.
Edit 1: A bunch of Ink's links got dropped during the editing phase. This has been fixed.
Spoilers: The Good, The Bad, WTF of Anime Endings
Evan My first panel of the con was “Spoilers! The Good, The Bad, WTF of Anime Endings.” I came in partway through, but the panel seemed to just be two presenters talking about series with weird endings. Their presentation largely consisted of seemingly unrehearsed rants about series that don’t really beg for a spoilers talk. The breast-themed series Manyu Hiken-chō? I haven’t seen it, but it doesn’t sound like it requires the level of discussion they tried to give it. Worse still, a very animated audience member thought it was appropriate to take over the panel after one of the co-hosts had to leave, and from there “Spoilers!” devolved into little more than him ranting about Witchblade and whatever else was on his mind at the time.
Ink Having arrived a little earlier than Evan, I was privy to a little more of how the panel was trending before the hijacking by the aforementioned Witchblade enthusiast. Due to issues with the convention center’s Wi-Fi (mainly the inconsistency thereof),there were no means to view videos to illustrate WTF moments or spoilers to the eager audience. This really pointed to the poor planning by the panelists more than anything else. Video presenters should never rely on Wi-Fi; downloading and streaming media straight from the computer/HDD/SSD is the only way to go. Instead, and somewhat admirably, like a string quartet playing the descent of a luxury ocean liner, the panelists decided to describe the WTF-ery. Nervousness or a speech impediment or the combination of both, coupled with banal descriptions of what should have been laughably insane moments, drove attendees out in, well, droves.
WTF Moments of Anime and Manga
Evan After one panel with “WTF” in the name, I stopped by “WTF Moments in Anime and Manga.” Run by two young ladies named Jamie and Lucia, the panel seemed like it was starting off well. The presenters had an energetic crowd and bounced off each other well. However, as soon as they started presenting their content — a series of weird clichés and improbable situations often seen in anime — the panel started to fall apart. They mostly solicited ideas from the audience and jokingly complained about magical girl transformation sequences, robot combining scenes, harem anime, and shojo heroines’ unnerving penchant for twisted ankles. While there were a couple of fun moments, mostly involving funny anime-related videos the panelists found online, there wasn’t much entertainment or education going on here. The jist of what I got in “WTF” could be represented by imagining an anime fan smoking a blunt, slowly exhaling, and asking the rhetorical question, “Man, what’s up with anime, right?” to which everyone in the room answered by parroting.
Ink The super-secret FUNimation panel (marked in the con’s pocket schedule by a large empty white box), would have never gotten fully underway if not for Ani-Gamers' own Evan Minto and his fantastic collection of electronics adapters. While waiting for a saviour, the FUNi rep fielded questions from the audience. Of personal interest, it was revealed that Shakuga no Shana plans beyond the release of season one are definite and will be revealed later this year. It was clear that there were to be no big announcements made here, but she did stress, “Attend New York Comic Con!” There was a lot of talk about FUNimation Channel’s ongoing feud with Verizon FiOS, including the zero-day notice FUNimation received when it was dropped, fan reactions, and campaigns (such as adding comments to Verizon’s Facebook page in EVERY post, despite relevancy). Simulcasts were also discussed in brief, with the panelist reassuring the room that the numbers of views is very positive, even for the new Lupin series. Inquirers also addresses console-based apps (Xbox, Playstation) and were given the “stay tuned” response. I left to catch another panel shortly after Evan returned with video adapter.
Ink As a recent inductee to the world of manga appreciation and a 34-year-old man, I love when panels such as this one pop up at cons. Spiraken Manga Review’s Xan Spiraken did a masterful job of recommending manga you can read without embarrassment in front of friends, coworkers, and family. Xan divided all recommendations into categories — occupational, crime drama, alternative history, etc. — and described each example in detail. At the end of each category, further reading suggestions were given by name only. This format made for a seamless flow of both example and list that didn’t grow tiresome. What did grow tiresome, however, was a certain attendee (later known as “second row guy”) who pushed the presenter to the very precipice of patience. To his credit, Xan never blew his top despite numerous interruptions, and because of that, the audience left with a lot of manga to look for in the dealers room.
Ink Oh, how things can change in just one year. I reviewed this panel as part of last year’s AnimeNEXT. Even though the panel I’m reviewing right now spawned from that one, it has become its own monster. That is to say "Yokai Nation" has evolved into a fully fleshed-out piece of art. Charles Dunbar examined Japan’s historical monster culture and pulled it apart, myth by myth, to expose the origin, relevance, and influence of each yokai type summoned from an encyclopedia of fear. The only shame concerning this panel was its scheduling. It took place relatively early on a Friday, so the room was not full but also far from empty. Every attendee was glued in their seats, however, and not a peep could be heard from the crowd. I wish more could have been there, and hope more will be there to witness future incarnations as solid as this one.
Ink Suspension of disbelief was an odd find in this panel. Vincenzo Averello, Evan Minto, and Walter Amos looked at select anime scenes that featured applications of various scientific fields — ethology, physics, forensic ballistics, and IT — for better or worse. Spawned from realizing truths and flaws depicted in Chi’s behavioral patterns in Chi’s Sweet Home, this panel most notably explored polar magnetics in Outlaw Star, investigations of Golgo 13’s sniper shots, satellite-aided weaponry in Space Battleship Yamato, and the subtle but awing use of GPS in Summer Wars. While the explanations for most scenarios were either relayed on laymans terms or glossed over for sake of time and the nature of the audience (we are but simple otaku), Walter Amos brought the hard science (diagrams) without apology and with a teacher’s finesse. All three panelists did a good job of exploring and exposing the audience to some diverse examples of science in anime. This may be just because I’m a bit of a science nut, but next time I’d like to see the backing calculations for a bit more credence.
Ink Attending any type of convention for the first time can be an alienating experience. First-time attendees are most likely to feel like pilgrims stepping ashore in the New World: fans standing still amidst the towering presence of other fans that seem to exude three times their own fanaticism. This is wholly what I thought I was going to feel like walking into and sitting through “Obtain the Pass, Attend the Con, Visit the Homestuck Panel!” It was another world to be sure, one complete with panelists who never broke from characters I did not know while fielding questions from enthusiasts of their established fandom (the Homestuck webcomic). That said, I was an unnoticed ant to this mass of self-involved, fire-horned giants. Of the panelists, I could only tell there was one who was almost always drunk, one that had a shadow self and was never without his glasses...and that was about it. In-jokes and character-based ad libs kept any sort of exposition away from the prying eyes and ears of outsiders. Even when Ani-Gamers’ own Evan Minto, in disguise as Vampt Vo, asked the panel of characters directly as to the nature of Homestuck and the adventures it brings to the Web and its crawlers, the answers given seemed at best riddles, tests perhaps made to draw in those interested and dissuade further investigation from the faint of heart.
EvanI've gotta say, as crazy as the Homestuck fans were, they were kind of charming. The fandom is largely composed of the sort of excited teenagers that once filled the halls of anime cons with Ed Elric jackets, and I'm happy to see them so strongly engaged with convention culture, even if they're celebrating a non-Japanese series at a Japanese-centric event. Their enthusiasm and good humor was contagious, and despite not knowing anything about Homestuck, I left with a smile on my face.
Evan Kevin McKeever, VP of Marketing at Harmony Gold (creators of Robotech), frequently makes appearances at anime conventions to promote Robotech. He brings a lot of experience with the nitty-gritty details of the anime as well as greater entertainment industry. In “The Downfall of the Anime Industry as We Know It,” McKeever brought this experience to bear on the current (dire) state of anime in North America. I only caught part of this panel, but I was impressed by McKeever’s depth of knowledge and ability to work the crowd. Topics covered included the industry’s dying business model, anime piracy, the new streaming market, and even the effect of the recession and the dollar-to-yen ratio on the industry. McKeever also focused a lot on “gateway” anime, something I’m really interested in. Furthermore, he did his best to answer every question — even the many ill-informed, poorly worded, and inexcusably long-winded ones — that the audience threw his way. Even when he couldn’t provide a hard answer, he was at least able to provide interesting insights based on his own industry presence and history.
Ink McKeever’s presentation is mildly brief but also very dense. This splits the panel into one-half presentation/lecture and one-half audience-driven Q&A with a lot of back and forth. The combination of knowledgeable, real-world insight and questions from the fan community-at-large makes this panel worth checking out if you happen to see it on any future con schedule. Almost full audio (last few minutes of Q&A are cut off) is available here.
Writing for Dubs (with Leah Clark)
Ink In a reversal from what the panelist admitted was usually just a Q&A-style session, Leak Clark led the audience through a typical day at her job as a dub writer and voice actor for FUNimation. Visual aids included such enthralling projections as spreadsheets, and the demonstration implied a duty just as dry. Luckily, Clark’s sense of humor made the mundane a laugh a second. Honestly, I gained more respect for the work required behind writing for dubs just via what I’ll dub cubicle sympathy: being trapped in an office (even though that office is wherever a laptop resides) and staring into a screen for hours on end performing mindless tasks such as transcription. “You see this timecode? This is my hell,” said Clark. Aside from pointing out her own challenges, Leah also mentioned how she, when not in front of her laptop, coordinates with translators and the head writers and laid out the basic chain of command ending with the booth.
Evan Ink and I got to be panelists on this freeform roundtable discussion, hosted by the "Anime Anthropologist" Charles Dunbar. Topics discussed included marginalization of female fans, the rise of multi-fandom (interest in non-anime media) at anime cons, and self-hating fans (anime fans who make fun of anime fandom). I was pleasantly surprised by the packed room and eager attendees, who contributed lots of very interesting questions and discussion. In fact, there was a fifth-grade girl who added lots of her own insight, and we were all incredibly impressed by the level of thought (relative to her age) that she put into her experience at anime conventions. Giddy fangirls, take note! This was my second time at a Fanthropology panel from Mr. Dunbar, though my first time being a co-host, and I'm looking forward to taking part as either panelist or audience member at a future panel.
InkFine-tuned and streamlined since its appearance at Zenkaikon 2012, this panel was yet another at AnimeNEXT that was forced to deal with “second row guy.” Luckily, panelist Charles Dunbar was armed with pre-amps and a hefty volume knob and was not afraid to use them. He had to, really, as this panel is timed down to the second as to cram in as many OPs as possible. Any interruptions are sand in the fuel tank. Unfortunately, powering through the openings to negate any influence by second row guy cost some of the explanatory transitions (and drowned out others to a simple and earnest “I really like this opening”) that enhance this panel. Still, great choices, and, as Evan “Bronied” Minto can tell you, a few surprises.
Evan Yes, I got "Bronied." Charles slipped in a Samurai Champloo/My Little Pony mash-up that sent me into a white-hot rage. He shall never be forgiven.
Anime Under the Radar
Evan Presented by Elizabeth Ellis (of The Insatiable Critic), her father Professor Bill Ellis (of Penn State University), and Dylan Ferrara, "Anime Under the Radar" focused on great anime series that fans may have overlooked. Ironically, the panel didn't show up on the final schedule, so it too was "under the radar." The panelists took turns featuring their selected shows, resulting in a panel that switched back and forth between between excellent recommendations and odd choices. Professor Ellis was first up, with descriptions and videos of: Golden Bird (Kin no Tori), an adaptation of Grimm's Fairy Tales; The Star of Cottonland, an adaptation of Yumiko Oshima's shojo manga produced by Tezuka's Mushi Productions; and Maeterlinck's Blue Bird: Tyltyl and Mytyl's Adventurous Journey, an adaptation of a play by Maurice Maeterlinck with character designs by Leiji Matsumoto. Ellis mostly showed non-English dubs of these series, since finding the original Japanese versions is rare, and English versions even more so. This wacky, unabashedly cartoonish scene from Golden Bird was probably my favorite of the bunch. After that, Ellis the younger profiled the science fiction buddy cop series Heat Guy J, a series whose inclusion I didn't quite understand. After all, it aired on MTV, so it can't be that obscure. Ferrara also tackled Saint Seiya, which is certainly not popular among all the kids nowadays, but is hardy an "anime under the radar." I mean, it's one of the most famous shonen series of all time, right? I managed to learn about some really cool old series thanks to this panel, so I can certainly say it was worth going to. However, in the future the panelists should try to pick more obscure series and, on a more technical note, rip YouTube videos to their computers before the panel! Bad buffering and other technical errors made this panel experience more than a little frustrating.
Evan Already feeling out of my element thanks to the Homestuck panel, I figured I might as well experience firsthand the terror that is Brony Culture. These are, of course, the adult male fans of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, the most recent cartoon incarnation of Hasbro's toys for little girls (female fans are either "pegasisters" or "phillies," though "bronies" generally encompasses the whole fandom). In this panel, Professor Bill Ellis (of "Anime Under the Radar") walked both anime fans and bronies through the similarities and differences between our two fandoms. He brought in a lot of his own expertise in folklore and mythology, comparing online fanworks to traditional folklore. The comparison is certainly apt, and there is an entire paper to be written (if it hasn't already been) about fandom-as-folklore, but I didn't really understand what Dr. Ellis's point was. The only real lesson I gleaned from this panel was, as I jokingly told Twitter, "The answer to the question 'What Can Anime Fans Tell Bronies That They Don't Already Know?' is actually 'We're the same, you and me.'" Yes, bronies are basically anime fans who are into a show about ponies. Other than answering that question, the panel seemed to basically be an introduction to bronies for anime fans, with slides about My Little Pony-related image macros and even Rule 34 pony art (that means pony porn for those of you still blissfully unaware of the terrors of the Internet). Naturally, the largely brony-dominated crowd erupted into loud cheers and unfathomable in-jokes at the end of nearly all of Ellis' sentences, providing me with yet another reminder of why I generally steer clear of these equine enthusiasts.
Evan Hosted by Xan Spiraken of the Spiraken Manga Review, this mature version of his manga game show panel was a ton of fun! Spiraken basically just ran through a bunch of questions, separated by category and ordered by difficulty. Questions included things as mundane as "Who created Astro Boy?" and as obscure as "Which of these insane things does not happen in Jojo's Bizarre Adventure?" Because this was the "Adult Edition," Spiraken also required answerers to say one piece of profanity as a part of their answer, and featured a category all about male genitalia. The late-night panel drew only a modest crowd, but Spiraken's infectious enthusiasm made it a lively night for both contestants and audience, especially after the prizes ran out and the game show became much more freeform. There are far worse ways you could spend your Saturday night at an anime con.
Ink This panel, using character illustrations from Hirohiko Araki’s Jojo’s Bizarre Adventures, asked its audience to wake up and warm up to the day, each other, the con by striking some ultra-ridiculous (and challenging!) poses. One might think it would be intimidating to act this goofy in a room full of strangers, but even as socially awkward as I am, I had no problem playing the clown from the very start. After all, we were all clowns! The panelists were exuberant and humorous, but not overwhelmingly so for one of the first panels of the day, and knew how to keep everyone smiling. This is a little taste of the AnimeNEXT 2012 panel (after I left), and you can check out more iterations of this panel from other cons here!
Evan As the con wound down on Sunday morning, I stopped in for a little underappreciated gem, a panel about manga artist Masami Kurumada (when I arrived, the panel had only three attendees). Kurumada is the brain behind hugely influential boys-with-armor series Saint Seiya and boxing series Ring ni Kakero, but the panelist — George Horvath from “obscure anime blog” Land of Obscusion — tackled more than just the surface level of the artist’s corpus. He delved into a detailed release history of anime based on Kurumada’s work, touching, of course, on the original manga as he went along. I’m a big fan of old-school anime and manga, but I have little to no experience with Kurumada, so I was really happy to get an education in his style and career. That said, George might want to try shortening his video clips, since people at a panel aren’t really there for an extended anime showing. As an obscure anime nut, I’m looking forward to seeing more panels from him in the future!