Interspersed with being social, panels ruled my time at Zenkaikon 2012. Let me run ya through:

IMG_3232Saving Time and Money for Anime

Relaying cautionary tales with comedic hindsight, Uncle Yo shared his wisdom on how to make the best out of any con pilgrimage. Pointers were given on everything from pre-registration, travel, and accommodations to proactive healthcare, events planning, and venue navigation. Uncle Yo covered all bases, giving the pros and cons of each as well as ways to make the latter more bearable. While most tips seemed like common sense (at least to a regular con attendee), there were still some surprise, forehead-slap epiphanies: eat offsite to avoid crowds and venue prices, bring your own controllers/dice for gaming rooms, bulk up on vitamin C, and bring power strips to hotels if sharing a room with multiple people. Each insight was delivered either via anecdote or followed by a short comedic rant, making the entire panel a delight to attend.

A Look at Women in Anime

This marks the second time a panel dedicated to the impact of women on the anime scene has been cancelled via no-show panelists (the first being last year’s Otakon). I left disappointed, as this panel promised to explore the evolution of style and personalities. It would have been a great lead-in to...

IMG_3261Mahō Shōjo Evolution!

Having been introduced to the magical girl (mahō shōjo) genre via Sailor Moon and having seen very few series in the genre thereafter, I relished the opportunity to gain insight into what once was, what I’ve missed, and how those shows have transformed. Given my absolute lack of knowledge on the matter, I have no choice but to say the panelists did a great job of explaining the significant influences of specific series, from Mahō Tsukai Sally (the first magical girl translation) to Puella Magi Madoka Magica (the deconstructionist’s wet dream), despite some seeming phobia of the mics in front of them. While examining the defining aspects of turning point series, the panelists also noted the shared themes and carried-over facets of different culminations. I came out of this panel with a huge to-watch list and a greater appreciation for a genre I previously disregarded as flippant.

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Dead Like Us: Shinigami, Death Lore, and Japanese Media

I’ve seen this panel at least 3 times and always enjoy it for a few reasons. Unless you’ve a photographic memory (or a tape/digital recorder and a good deal of time for playback), there’s just so too much information to sponge up one time around. Even if you attend subsequent cons with this same panel, its content is likely to have something new — information, stories, images, or all – as content keeps evolving via Charles Dunbar’s insatiable perfectionism and enthusiasm for the topic. It’s this same enthusiasm that drives the lure of his presentation, which has a volume equal to its breadth. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it every time: if you see any of these panels on a con schedule, make the time to see it. You will not be disappointed.

60 Years of Anime Openings: Style & Symbolism

OP/ED panels can be hit or miss, if for nothing else than predictability, despite their theme. This panel was no different in regards to showing choice examples, but it did have two very specific allures: the fact that it was put together by Charles Dunbar, and the title’s post-colon content. To the first point, it was interesting to see how Dunbar, who usually delivers a depth of well-researched insight via an accelerated monologue and exemplary slides, would go about exploring and interlinking content without a constant narrative. So how’d he do it? He let the images do the talking while serving as a proper moderator by offering up brief introductions to the sections of the presentation and the occasional, brief, transitional shout-out, joke, or story. But two hours of two-minute videos can also take its toll, so why did it feel like this panel was over before I noticed? Aside from the flawless flow between OP selections, the momentum of the panel was driven through the OP selections themselves, pure and simple, which were grouped into several categories. The diversity of themes and brevity of befitting examples drew in and kept a sizable crowd.

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Kyo Daiko Taiko Drummers

If you’ve never seen taiko, treat yourself. The presence of Kyo Daiko, a Philadelphia-based taiko ensemble, at Zenkaikon 2012 was a treat. In the midst of pop culture, tradition resounds within the soul like a drum in a convention center. Cheap (rim) shot, I know, but it’s true. The way those who perform taiko embody the motion behind the music is absolutely amazing. Check it out for yourself.

Uncle Yo’s Stand-Up Comedy

Center stage in Main Events (Hall A), Uncle Yo drew an adoring crowd that filled every available fold out chair. Fitting, seeing as Zenkaikon is where this otaku-centric comedian got his official start.

How Ponies & Dudebro Can Take Over the Internet

I was too busy catching my breath from Uncle Yo’s jokes to catch the beginning of this Geek Nights panel, but I did catch the latter half. My Little Pony as viral force-with-which-to-be-reckoned was in full focus as the presenters noted how the show has been used as the jumping board for numerous mash-ups with other shows that have yet to share any other similarity. This led to a talking point concerning fandom, where what fans do with their love is measured with more weight than the degree of appreciation shown towards the pedestalled. In other words, what a fan makes determines the greatness of love vs. how much adoration one shows a series, which merely implies passive appreciation. Check out Geek Nights’ YouTube channel for previous presentations/lectures. Hopefully they’ll put this one up as well.

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History of Sharp Pointy Things

For the entirety of what should’ve been more appropriately titled “History of Sharp Pointy Thing,” Samurai Dan & Jillian mostly bantered about aspects of their marriage and roles therein. Honestly, it was like watching a bad sitcom with promise of actual mutilation if either was not as skilled as the other (overall a great analogy for marriage in retrospect). The “thing” in question was a samurai’s sword, and Dan did do a decent job of a light walkthrough of its historical use and rudimentary techniques (ooh, blocking). Show highlights comprised an “unrehearsed” duel between hubby and wife (wife wins, go figure) and a combination cut-down of a rug on a pole. I got the sense that Samurai Dan and Jillian both knew their stuff, but the act was more focused on banal jokes than swordsmanship, which made the experience as long and drawn out as an actual marriage.

Motivational Anime

Another panel by Geek Nights, Motivational Anime focused on manga and anime series that followed a particular formula for gripping curiosity and ultimately cultivating (for better or worse) adoration and emulation. Shows cited included, but were not limited to, Initial D, Drops of God, and Hajime no Ippo, all of which feature a reluctant hero, heady terminology, and emotionally evocative music/art while also minimizing consequences or issues attached to that which is glorified. Sum total of this panel seemed to be several examples of anime and manga, backed by videos and slides, that exemplified a shōnen formula applied to real-world subjects and hobbies. Not only were the examples decisive and formula made clear, but everything was just so tasty to watch! ... which was more or less the point. Catch this panel if you can next con!

Yaoi Feud

Family Feud centered around yaoi tropes. The host was tired and made it known, which kind of brought down the atmosphere a little more than the stale and predictable jokes, despite much effort. Best line of the night was something heard between rounds: “Only daddy can steal MY fries.” Yeah. That.


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