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Con Report: Genericon 2013 - The Panels

Convention Horror Stories
The most important thing to keep in mind when giving a storytelling panel is how to tell a story. As both stress relief and cautionary tales on how not to act at cons, hosts Alexandra McDowall and Ebro Hemey respectively told the audience about an embarrassing crossplay dress-flip and a stalker who couldn’t take a hint that single-sided Hetalia cosplay combat is naught but unwelcome harassment. Their stories were told with a good deal of energy and vocal inflection. Obviously they were used to sharing stories and were good at doing it in front of a crowd. After the hosts were finished, they opened up the floor to everyone in attendance. There were no shortage of volunteers to share their horrors, but the quality in storytelling definitely declined. The highlight was a young man describing an affair he had with a piece of carpet after drinking some odd water at a rave.


Overthinking the Apocalypse
Upon examining myriad titles (books, movies, etc.) that deal with apocalypses and post-apocalyptic worlds, sci-fi author Tim Maughan posed a question: what’s the allure? There’s several variants on how a world will survive after as many kinds of world-ending catastrophes, but what ties those possibilities to the forefront of human fascination? This is (roughly) where the title of the panel came from: by defying escapism and analyzing the content we consume, an understanding can be reached as to why we like that kind of escape. To this end, Maughan explains 5 theories - Warning, Escape, Fear of the Future, Clean Slate, Special Snowflakes - that link human history and psychology to offer some possible answers as to this concept’s appeal.

The 156,804,000 Yen Panel: Being a Better Otaku through Hayate
Alain Mendez (Hisui of Reverse Thieves) gave a brief synopsis of the manga, Hayate the Combat Butler, and then dissected several panels and scenes therein to expose the insane amount of references and allusions (some blatant and some more ingeniously hidden) hiding in plain sight. Mendez definitely did his homework; no page seemed left unturned. His numerous examinations not only revealed the references and what they referred to but also included a brief reason of how or why some of them came about. This usually included trivia about the manga-ka and who he worked with, on what projects, and in what capacity. It’s easy to get lost in a sea of examples in a panel such as this, but the flow seemed smooth and breathable thanks to Hisui’s humor and insight. If you want a little taste of what this panel was like, look at this post over at the  Reverse Thieves blog and then check your guesses against the answers here.

Licensing with Vertical Books
This wasn’t your standard industry panel. Aside from plugging some soon-on-shelves titles and announcing two new titles, Pink and From the New World, Ed Chavez of Vertical Books detailed the process of manga title acquisition and localization. This was an in-depth look at all the frustrations involved with bidding and negotiating in order to win contracts as well as the myriad considerations behind even getting that far. Listening to all the details of the efforts of those in this industry made it clear how much love they must have in order to soldier on as they obviously do. I’d like this panel to appear at every con, I’d like the panelist to be as open and honest as Ed was, and I’d like attendance to be mandatory. This is a panel that can foster understanding as much as it can open a line of helpful communications between fans and companies.

Superflat Influences on Madoka
Check out Ink's full review here.

Meet Tim Maughan
He walked in, said “‘ello,” and then left. Nah, not really. Tim Maughan, sci-fi author and ani-blogger for people who don’t normally watch anime, filled attendees in on his life and times as well as his influences as a writer and sci-fi enthusiast and talked about the Bristol scene (his hometown). The funniest/most disheartening moment was when Maughan asked if anyone was familiar with such British icons as Banksy and Massive Attack, to which one or two audience members raised their hands but most only shrugged and stared blankly. But upon the mention of dubstep, the kids woke up. Vinnie Averello conducted an in-panel interview (available as an All Geeks Considered podcast) after Maughan was done with all he had wanted to say, which kept the pace of the panel rolling and eased the transition into audience Q&A. Additionally, Maughan premiered the rough draft of a short film based on the first story in his three-story sci-fi collection, Paintwork. The film was so impressive that I bought the book, which definitely does not disappoint.

Kill ‘Em All and Let Sunrise Sort 'Em Out: A Yoshiyuki Tomino Panel
Check out David Estrella’s full review here.

Cyberpunk: Nostalgia for the Future
Armed with seventy-two slides and not a single note, Tim Maughan provided a timeline saturated  with a goodly balance of book titles, writers, trends, influences, and lexicon … all from memory (and love). The history which Maughan outlined and highlighted, with benchmark details starting in 1957, continued through present day. Definitions of movements and elements thereof were included every step of the way, enabling the most oblivious outsider to get a decent grip on the course of this genre’s evolution. While the panel’s examples ended on the millenium, Maughan also explained what followed: post-cyberpunk. In this section, the most interesting note was the theme of celebrity vs. obscurity, whereby focus of creation outshines the creator.

Truth from Fiction: Satoshi Kon
Sadly there is not much more that can be said than that which has been said since the death of one of anime’s most accomplished and promising directors, Satoshi Kon. But the biographical retrospective put together by Evan Minto should be shown at every single con from here to forever in hopes of garnering new viewers by promoting appreciation for the ways in which Kon worked his captivating magic. Much more than a filmography narrated from Wikipedia, this presentation takes you through Kon’s works and delves into shared elements and themes as well as the director’s history. The suckerpunch, and this is not a spoiler since no matter how many time you attend you will always well up with tears, is that the panel concludes with Kon’s last recorded words, which are an inspiration, like his productions, in that they portray a humble yet honest humanity.

Yamato 2199: A Great Remake, or The Greatest Remake?
This panel could easily have just been a clip show, but presenter Walter Amos is much better than that. After playing the first two minutes of “Remember a Day,” a short film recalling the rise of Star Blazers (Space Battleship Yamato), this panel could’ve also turned into the Crotchety ol’ Anime Fan panel. Instead, Amos used the clip as a springboard to give some context on the rise of anime fandom in the U.S. As Yamato was the initial anime which brought many into the fold (and the focus of this panel), the next logical step was to dissect it. Amos filled the audience in on all aspects of the original series, including plotholes and omissions, and then played clips from the Yamato 2199 remake that actually corrected said flaws. In this, the presentation was like a well-crafted essay that managed to convert at least one of my fellow audience members into wanting to watch the remake despite his disinterest in the original. On a personal note, I was eager to see the remake before, but now I’m completely stoked.

10 Anime to See Before the Apocalypse
Tim Maughan, carrying all the weight of the first couple of days of Genericon, mustered enough energy on the final day to present his personal Top 10* list of the best Apocalypse-themed anime to a Sunday audience of con attendees. Classic titles like Akira and Fist of the North Star are required viewing for anime fans to carry any sort of authority when talking about anime in general, but perhaps the most intriguing title in Maughan’s list is Angel’s Egg, an early Mamoru Oshii film with art from Yoshitaka Amano. Maughan cheats once in his list by putting in everyone’s favorite Best Anime, Cowboy Bebop, causing everyone to go, ”yeah, that makes sense, thinking about it.” After finishing his list with Nausicaa, he opened the floor to the audience for suggestions, a few of which (shows like Macross and Pale Cocoon) were actually good. Props to the guy who mentioned Sound of the Sky though.

As an aside, while talking about Neon Genesis Evangelion, Tim vocalized his hatred for Asuka and everything she has done to Anime over the last twenty years. Never would have guessed Tim Maughan was a Rei fan.

*He only named seven titles in a clever ruse to do less work and string along the audience into participating at the end of the panel

Anime Jeopardy
Everything was broken and it was a disaster. No one seemed to mind however, as we all laughed off Evan’s algorithm that would generate similar questions across the Jeopardy board, with similar answers following one after another. The great thing about the Sunday crowd is that everyone’s tired. Everyone is just as done with the convention as the guys running it, so what would otherwise provoke a live panelist meltdown is paid no mind by a poorly-rested presenter and an understanding audience. Anime Jeopardy was a good idea hinging on a wonky system that worked for as long as it needed to, long enough for everyone to be wowed by one participant knowing everything there is to know about anime (except for the subtitles to the Mobile Suit Gundam 0079 movies, shame, shame).

Anime Blinded Me with Science
I saw this panel once at animeNEXT, where Walter Amos was joined by Evan (Vampt Vo) Minto and Vinnie Averello, and the passage of time between then and now is evident in Walter’s confident and animated delivery. The panel takes instances of science in anime and then examines them to prove or explain their varying degrees of plausibility. One example of each extreme would be the apt use of GPS technology in Summer Wars and Gene’s rule-breaking pocket monopole in Outlaw Star. An old-school overhead projector was brought to life to illustrate points via diagrams and formulas. While one may think of watching someone write equations as an unwanted throwback to the thralls of mandatory education, Amos’s intellect, banter, and humor were more than enough to make the relatively brief proofs as entertaining as they were real-world science.

Merica: Anime’s Punching Bag
This panel was dedicated to pointing out instances of unflattering depictions of the USA and its citizens in anime. To be fair, I came into this presentation near the end, so examples might have been running thin. To be fair, this panel ended with fifteen minutes to spare. The most apt example I caught was that of Code Geass, where the hosts did a decent job of explaining how the series goes about implying U.S. imperialism by consistently showing it on maps but renaming it Britannia. The three hosts seemed somewhat disorganized, often bickering over who was going to explain what. During my attendance, there was also no mention of how dubbing by U.S. companies also mocks our own culture (as in dubs for characters from Osaka Prefecture or other areas with notably different accents). It was a good idea for a panel, but what I saw needed tighter organization and more examples or longer clips.
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