Reunions, Q&A sessions, analyses, recreations, historical perspectives, genre explorations, philosophical enlightenments … is there anything a panel can't be? I don't know, but I'll keep on attending them to find out and report my findings to you! After the break, check out descriptions of and commentary on, complemented by photos and video, the panels I attended throughout ConnectiCon 2014. I had a gas and I learned some. In the end, is there anything more spectacular?
Attack on Panels!
Not a bad way to start off a con. This interactive panel, based upon Attack on Titan (Shingeki no Kyojin), pit Survey Corps against Titans. Survey Corps members were made to do some light exercise (stretches, jumping jacks, etc.), while Titans got to draw faces on paper plates. This equated to a lot of needless masquerading in lead up to the inevitable fun of it all: having paper plate-faced titans charge a “brick” (cardboard box)-built wall time and time again with variations. This grew old really quickly. Thanks to the ingenuity of the Titans, however, the last attack I stayed for was a shining moment: facing a “wall” comprised of Survey Corps members linked arm in arm, the titans charged as usual but could not get through. Seeing this, a couple rogue titans sneaked around the audience, behind the wall of the linked Survey Corps members, and tore it asunder. It’s a panel that’s utterly for fun’s sake, but luckily the fans in the crowd and that final maneuver made it worthwhile.
Neverending Story Panel
Talk about a shock: Atreyu is actually a tattooed punk and Falcor turns out to be a wrinkly ol’ white man who all too closely resembles my father? Didn’t matter one bit. Reminiscing with Noah Hathaway and Alan Oppenheimer, actors who respectively portrayed the aforementioned characters, was a pleasantly unbalanced experience of fun and enlightening. Both talked as to the conditions under which the film was made: barely understanding the director, being distracted by gigantic booby props, and the elaborate workings of the stage itself. But both also spoke to how they related to the film, about how the film related to the book, and in one shining instance, about how the film still affects each other. Oppenheimer, reprising one of his key lines as Falcor, actually made Hathaway choke up. It was obvious then that the movie was as powerful for its stars as it was for the fans gathered at the panel eager to hear and talk about it.
Kill la Kill and Feminism
Judith F. and Natalie R., both of whom I’ve previously seen present analytical panels, broke down elements of Kill la Kill into "NOPE," "Arguably," and "Fuck Yeah" categories regarding how appropriate they were to providing a positive feminist perspective. I applaud the panel’s construction and presentation. With the audience so stacked with choir members, much of what was preached could’ve been taken at face value. But the strength of argument behind each aspect under investigation was strong (despite and maybe because of panel members having, at times, differentiating opinions). Topics covered included the kamui, camera angles, role subversion, and more. I’ve seen such panels easily derailed by philosophical rants, but this was definitely not one of them. This panel impressed through a fair and balanced, evidence-backed analysis of one hell of a divisive show. The only perceivable drawback, regarding those who’ve scoured the Web for this type of analysis since day one, is that there was minimal original insight. This panel does present, however, a concrete set of arguments arranged originally. As such, it offers a 101 for those who’ve never sought deeper interpretations regarding its feminist aspects.
FAKKU! members Jacob (creator/founder), Chris (uploader/fan subber), and Bob (“just a guy”) talked about visual novels (VNs) that influenced them in one way or another. Briefly, it must be noted that FAKKU! is a fan-sub-based hentai portal gone legit. (For more on that, check out the FAKKU! Q&A summation below.) Over the course of the presentation, the three panelists ran down their initial experience with VNs, what made/makes them so appealing, and the variety of perversion available. It was an onslaught of depravity I honestly never knew existed, and it was fantastically disgusting and hilarious for being so. Perhaps the most poignant question asked during the panel, about three examples in or so, came from a young woman in the audience: “So, basically, all the examples you guys are gonna give are those targeting heterosexual males?” It was a great observation and question. When Joseph responded with an honest, “Yes,” no-one left. Regarding the A Drug that Makes You Dream, a VN that focuses on girls who embody various social plights (take that one with a HUGE grain of salt), one panelist said, “I forget how the girl’s route ended. I was just too invested in the butt sex.” I’ve never laughed so hard at such depravity or with those who enjoyed it as I did at this panel. It was a riot, but it was also a surprisingly honest insight into the dark reaches of the libido-fueled VN market.
Staring at the Sign Post: A Twilight Zone Panel
Given that Rod Serling was a Connecticut resident, I’m surprised there hasn’t been a Twilight Zone panel at ConnectiCon every year. Thankfully, Charles Dunbar and Aleks brought one this year. It was a more than a summation of the show; this panel was a retrospective highlighting not only stand-out episodes but Serling’s arduous decent into exhaustion upon season after season of working on the show. Clips were accompanied by analysis of the very elements which endeared viewers to the series and placed it well above its peers in terms of focus, writing, production, themes, and situation. The panel also traced the show’s popularity with the viewing public and showed that even the creator’s exhaustion couldn’t keep Twilight Zone from making a triumphant fifth season flourish. After all the analysis, the panelists offered up their favorite Top 10 episodes and asked the crowd about their own.
Cupcakes, Rainbows, and Grand Guignol: Grimdark Fiction and My Little Pony
Can I have my anime “. . .” bubble now? At some previous convention, I’d seen Geek Nights explain how the ingenuity of the MLP:FIM (My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic) fandom promotes the perpetuation of the show’s popularity, but Charles Dunbar takes it to a whole new level. Saying fans are creative is one thing, but breaking down how their adaptations incorporate and exploit such outside influence is an enthralling rabbit hole of history and nuance. Dunbar accomplished this by expounding upon the history, themes, and aspects of the productions of Le Théâtre du Grand-Guignol (1897–1962) and linking them to specific instances within MLP:FIM fan-fiction (videos and literature). The relevancy alone kept every audience in their seat, but the visuals dug up for the purpose of the presentation ensured dropped jaws and laughter of disbelief all around.
The Play’s the Thing: Shakespeare in Anime
It’s one thing to say, “Hey, look! Here’s some Shakespeare in anime,” before moving onto the next slide or clip, but it’s another thing entirely to dissect the usage of such instances. Robert Gannon took the latter course to expose, from worse to better, how and to what effect specific anime series leveraged England’s most famous bard. Before rolling the examples, there were some wonderful bits of insight, such as the habit of ADR scriptwriters substituting Shakespeare as an easily identifiable Western reference for classic literature despite translation accuracy and even plot relevance. Gannon, in one instance, also showed how a certain mouse-mascotted empire used Shakespeare to help avoid trademark infringement. Overall, this panel was a solid mix of identification and analysis. That Gannon read subtitles so that people wouldn’t miss out on clip content despite a low-aimed projector was all the more reason to enjoy the show.
Internet and Gender Politics
The common thread linking the four presenters on this panel was that they talk about media through a feminist lens (to varying degrees). While things started off with some terms and definitions for the uninitiated, the panel eventually got rolling as a general, audience-driven Q&A looking at how people treat each other on the Internet. This led to exploring the various platforms — online games, blogs, Reddit, etc. — social media has provided that afford people the means to voice opinions that both help and hurt as well as specific ways in which they do so. This brought up conversation about the MRA and such memes as #notallmen. Panelists also discussed intersectionality, abuse of the first amendment as justification for harassment, as well as the notion of attention as currency and anonymity as a weapon. A few people were also brave enough to share some of their own personal stories of harassment. While the discussion often sidetracked into media analysis more than perhaps was called for, the issues were related, so the asides were worth hearing. While I feel this should be a panel at every con, I also feel it only attracts the choir. I heard no dissenting opinions throughout, which makes me question if the panel did any good to anyone except in the senses of solidarity and venting (which, granted, are pretty important).
Pinky and the Brain Q&A
If ever there were two guys who knew how good they had it, appreciated the opportunity for it, and shared that warmth by reflecting the love of the fans, they would be Maurice LaMarche and Rob Paulsen. Both recounted their time spent working on the series, from auditioning, to suspecting a spin-off, to their eventual world domination. Never did their sense of wonder at the level of fame they achieved seem dishonest; the glow of humility was nearly blinding. While the audience mostly asked about Pinky and the Brain, Paulsen and LaMarche also fielded questions about other early 90’s era toons — Freakazoid, Animaniacs — and pondered the long-lasting effect the former (spurred on by a question about Pinky being smarter than Brain) while complimenting the writers for making that possible . As a special treat, Paulsen and LaMarche read, as Pinky and Brain, Green Eggs & Ham by Dr. Seuss:
Anime Directors You Should Know
Highlighting directors known for their styles and accomplishments within the anime industry, Internet media titan Scott Spaziani presented brief bios with influences, inspirations, and notable works. After exploring each, he rolled a short clip for the audience’s edification and then moved on to the next director. The most fun came after instances when Scott would ask the audience if they knew of, for instance, Kunihiko Ikuhara, and only a few raised their hand. “Sailor Moon,” he offered. Then ALL the hands went up. “If you know who they are, it’s easier to find what you love,” admonished the panelist. A goodly list of directors was presented, and the great thing about a panel such as this, which cannot possibly fit all of everyone’s favorites, is that the list can change and grow with each iteration. As a side note, I don’t know whether it was Saturday doldrums or just part of his self-deprecating delivery, but the monotone delivery and repetition of “Because I have the mic and you don’t” were, if not off-putting, a tad counterintuitive to the efforts of the panel.
Formerly existing strictly as a fan-sub upload joint built by a kid who just wanted there to be a hentai website that didn’t suck, FAKKU! (NSFW WARNING: This link leads directly to the homepage of an adult (18+) site that has explicit ads and content but no age verification) has turned into a legit hentai manga publisher bringing over titles from Wani Magazine in Japan. Creator and founder Jacob, along with cohorts Chris and Bob, were taking questions from the audience about the company as well as the interests of its … members. After detailing a few of the upcoming titles to be released, the questions began. There were questions about the company’s origin, how it sustains offering free content (advertising), future book pricing, why they chose Wani to work with, how they managed to convince the magazine to work with them (persistence and building the case for free porn as an interest building device), the most bizarre hentai they ever encountered, legal issues with publishing some of the material in the USA, and just about every question you could think of with the word “fap” in it. It was in this panel where I came to fear the oft-uttered lead-in, “Funny story…” Everyone was unflinchingly honest and well-humored, which made the answers to the questions a riot.
Why No One Will Game with You
Delivering the first panel of Sunday at any con is a lonely experience. But given the title to this particular panel, the presence of an initial audience comprised of just three members was humorously appropriate. This was not lost on the Geek Nights panelists, who slowly ate pie in front of everyone. Ok, it was a metaphorical pie eaten by dissent and conflicts. Disappearing bites, slices, and chunks represented the percentage of gamers made incompatible via the likes of geography, preferred genre, skill and economic gaps, gaming rationale, age/maturity, life priorities, and much more. After going into detail about why all of these individually contribute to making it almost impossible to find a match for a game, the panelists offered some suggestions to help improve seekers’ chances. As much of this advice was technical as it was social, including settling for playing something that was not your first choice and building better gamer culture by way of eliminating abhorrent behavior. Suggestions even reached into the political realm, with hints at weighing in on net neutrality. This was another well-constructed and thought-out panel that didn’t deny its own inherent elitist elements but rather used them as an example to that which should be conquered to build a better gaming community.