FanimeCon 2009 Day 1
by Evan Miller, May 25th 2009
Quote of the Day
"If I go to Comiket, I'll buy an ero doujin with [a character I play] in it. But if my friends saw it and said, 'I can picture you saying these words,' ...that's bad."
- Halko Momoi, Singer/Voice Actress
after being asked how she feels about erotic dōjinshi featuring characters she has voiced
If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area - hell, anywhere in northern California - you might notice one of FanimeCon's best traits before the convention even starts: it's local. Unlike Anime Expo, Fanime's gigantic neighbor con to the south, Fanime seems to draw the majority of its attendance from people in the area. The con's reputation in the area is so strong that I had trouble finding anyone - anime fan or not - in the week before the con who didn't at least know about the convention or know someone who was planning on going (and I live two hours away). The "local" feeling extends to the convention itself in many ways; in the guests of honor who have helped sustain its growth, in the local fans, artists and clubs that help staff the convention, and in the small feeling of the convention center. Even though this place is gigantic, you can walk from end to end of the convention function space in less than ten minutes - and it never feels like you're surrounded by 15,000 anime fans.
Here's a bit about what happened on the first day of FanimeCon 2009!
Momoi and the fans
You could tell that "Akihabara Idol" Halko Momoi was happy to see the reception for her Friday afternoon panel; as fans filled the room, she enthusiastically waved from the stage and chatted with as many people as she could. It was a big change from her last appearance in the US in 2007, where she blogged publicly about the bad experiences she had at Anime Expo. In fact, one attendee at Fanime called her the "geek goddess," a title she happily accepted and promised to record in her blog later.
Momoi talked candidly about her involvement with her role as Komugi in Nurse Witch Komugi. "[That anime] was a picture of the otaku culture, so it involved a lot of internet slang. It was great, since I understood those phrases while some of the other staff didn't!" She also mentioned that she's hoping to write a light novel in the future. As for a Manga? "Not likely," she says. Momoi's take on the panel, in Japanese, can be found on her blog here (Japanese only).
Dark Horse editor and Fanime guest of honor Carl Horn was also on hand Friday to discuss the world of editing manga from a behind the scenes perspective. Although the title "editor" may conjure up images of someone crouched over a pile of drafts, Horn was frank about the amount of business-related footwork that a manga editor has to be part of. These include helping with licensing agreements, working with marketing to promote a title, and helping with "costing sessions" to determine the costs for a title, its projected sales, and how much work will be required to finish it. The kicker? Manga publishers - in this case, Dark Horse - have a tougher time than big comic companies like Marvel and DC since they don't assume ownership over someone's work.
Beyond the hassles of the licensing process, Horn detailed the various stages a manga goes through in editing. After getting materials from Japan in the form of high quality film or scans, editors are responsible for securing translators and letterers, decide on how sound effects and honorifics should be presented, and provide synopses of upcoming titles to other departments.
YAY for the area around the convention center. San Jose actually has a somewhat "happening" downtown now, and with the campus of San Jose State University just blocks from the convention center, cheap eats are easy to come by within a 4 block walk.
NAY for the food guide in the program guide, which only lists nine restaurants that are only listed because they are rated highly on Yelp. In other words, they are all restaurants which are way, way out of the price range of everyone who comes to this con. Memo to FanimeCon: we're cheapass nerds. Just tell us where the Quizno's and the Starbucks are, and we'll be happy.
Special: Stage Zero
It seems like it's impossible to go to a con these days without seeing a bunch of people in the hallway trying to perform in some respect. Saxophone players, people playing guitars, people trying to recreate internet memes* and so forth crowd the halls of anime conventions, vying for the attention of anyone who's willing to slow down. Fanime has put their own spin on this trend with Stage Zero, a small stage in a pre-function space in front of the Artist's Alley. The stage features everything from game shows to impromptu karaoke sessions, and the schedule is pretty free form. That's okay though - besides, most of the people stopping to watch are just passers by.
The stage is also a platform for people to promote their own panels and events at the convention - in other words, a chance to use a mic and a big screen to tell the entire hall to come to your panel. A small seating area is provided for people who want to hang around, and if you're hungry, food stands (somewhat overpriced, but hey, that's pretty standard for any con) selling sushi and bubble tea are adjacent to the stage. It's a nice touch to the convention atmosphere, and it's certainly more entertaining than, say, joining a mob with a boombox and forming a conga line.
Up next: The history of fansubs, massages and more in the Day 2 report!
* - Please stop doing this.
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