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Christmas Goodies
by Christopher Macdonald on Wed Dec 24, 2008 1:27 pm
I'm not sure if it's meant as a holiday gift, or if the timing is just circumstantial, but I received this from the SPJA today:

The AX button was separate, I just put it on the plushie for the picture.
Con Sketching: New York Anime Festival, Day 2
by Evan Miller on Sat Sep 27, 2008 6:47 pm
Transport Hassles: Seriously, what the hell. I get up this morning, get out of bed, and suddenly I find myself on the convention floor in a cardboard box. I don't remember being stuffed in the box, I just remember the feeling of being tossed around in my corrugated cage as I was dragged to the convention center. People, I have two working legs and I can take the subway - I don't need to be treated like a FedEx shipment. Still, my escort was that charming "Snake" fellow. He's awfully nice, especially considering that he didn't charge me any transport fees. I think I owe him a beer though.

Fun can be scary: Scariest cheer I heard in the hall today: a cheering war between people screaming "Yaoi" and "Yuri." Uh... yeah. Which reminds me: this convention needs to ban those Yaoi and Yuri paddles (like every other convention has). Please.

Unintentionally Hilarious: Right next to an anime convention that extols the virtues of Pocky, sugar, and hyperactivity, we have this:

I love irony.

The State of the Event Hall: Things are far busier than they were yesterday, when you could hear a pin drop in here. The convention has grown a lot in its second year, and it looks like crowd control may become an issue. I still wonder why people have to stop and take pictures in the middle of a lane of traffic, but hey... at least everyone seems to be having fun.

Shout out to: Sarah Arai, who was our featured Gallery artist a few weeks back. She brought us a bag of anko-filled doughnuts that essentially kept my empty stomach from caving in on itself. Thank you, Sarah, for keeping me from passing out in the fan-filled hallways of the Javits Center.
The Price of Fandom - Day 2
by Bamboo Dong on Sat Sep 27, 2008 6:35 pm
After stumbling into the convention center this morning with a grande caramel machiatto in one hand, and a bag of exhaustion in the other (and it was only the second day!), I needed some good ol' retail therapy.


I've never understand the general obsession with fairies-- or, as many fantasy nerds like to call them-- "faeries." They don't seem to serve much of a purpose, they're all slightly bitchy looking, and they remind me too much of Tinkerbell, whose attitude earned my hatred even at a young age. But, for everyone else who likes these mystical creatures way too much, and needs to adorn their Jansports with these whimsical little sprites, you can get a whole COLLECTION of them.

Cost: $7

More shirts

Luckily, this same booth also had a giant stack of Barack Obama t-shirts, drawn by Alex Ross. There's no better way to show your support of our next president by wearing this studly shirt. Granted, his campaign doesn't see a cent of this money, but as far as unlicensed Obama shirts go, this one's pretty boss.

Cost: $20


Hey, you know what'll charm the pants off any lady (of legal age)? Hanging this baby in your room. I doubt that she's actually 18, but she's not even human, so it makes it okay. Plus every time you make love to your lady, you can stare into Nyu's eyes and pretend she's your real girlfriend.

Cost: $40

Of course, if you're afraid your mom will get mad at you for having scandalous posters in your room, you can just put up something more vague, like this Gurren Lagann flag. It symbolizes ultimate manliness, and it's the perfect adornment for your man nest.

Cost: $40

Cute things

Here's the parts of the exhibition hall that I really like. The cute things. I die every time I see a round animal, so this con had a billion things to slay me. First up, SQUARE PIGS. Originally, these pigs were part of the San-X Monokuroboo line, and only came in black or white. Now they come in a delightful array of deliciously pastel colors. I would eat every one of them if they wouldn't cause me massive indigestion.

Cost: $13 has an amazing assortment of fat creatures. They don't seem to serve a purpose except to be fat, and that's fine by me. They're also huge, and come in many varieties, including the pictured zebra. Also available are frogs, snails, orcas, sharks, octopi, rabbits, and a variety of others.

Cost: $38


What event would be complete without nerds ravenously shoving Pocky in their mouths? I'm actually surprised there weren't more places selling Pocky, because these damned things practically sell themselves. Also, a thousand curses on that Kakashi cosplayer who breathed chocolate-flavored Pocky on me.

Cost: $2.50


Awwww... hugs! Just the thing to soothe the soul.

Cost: FREE
Con Sketching: New York Anime Festival, Day 1
by Evan Miller on Fri Sep 26, 2008 10:43 pm
High Noon: The event hall opened around Noon, but it's pretty clear that NYAF is still not drawing the kind of huge Day 1 crowds that conventions like AX and Otakon are bringing in. Artists in the Alley reported slow sales and things still felt pretty spacious most of the day. I expect that things will pick up a bit more tomorrow, considering that this convention seems to be based less on traffic from area hotels and more on the locals themselves.

Adjustments: The convention is in the same amount of space it was in last year, but a few necessary changes were made: the main event hall is now in a hall (as opposed to the curtained-in setup they had last year) and the "maid cafe" now also features butlers. So for those of you who are unsure about whether you prefer girls in frilly outfits or skinny guys in spiffy shirts, congrats - you can have expensive convention center priced coffee (six bucks, such a deal!) with both! One of them did have a hamster with them though, which is pretty awesome. As long as it isn't named Ebichu.

Night Life-less: My biggest issue with this convention - and this is partially not the fault of the con itself, but convention center regulations - is the lack of any nightlife to speak of. Things shut down around 9 or 10, and then the convention center is locked. There's no dance, no Karaoke, and no all-night video room. While that hasn't kept fans away, I can't help but feel that the convention feels less "fun" as a result.

So... some of us simply opt to create our own fun. These photos are from the staff dinner last night, where Bamboo Dong, Jon Carrera and a few others decided that the best post-dinner activity we could engage in would be to recreate a scene from the classic video game Pac Man on the table. Observe:

Looks like fun, right? It's amazing what's possible with a straw wrapper, a few pairs of chopsticks, mochi, and a lemon slice.
The Price of Fandom - Day 1
by Bamboo Dong on Fri Sep 26, 2008 10:13 pm
It's no secret that anime is not a cheap hobby. Buying DVDs can cost a fortune, merchandise can make things worse, and if you want to get into cosplaying-- your wallet is pretty much done for. Anime conventions just take that horrible addiction and amplify it by 100x. Even worse if you have to fly across the country to go to one (did you know that US Airways charges for beverages now??)

Seriously, look at all this awesome stuff that could possibly tempt a nerd. If I had all the money in the world, and slightly less shame, I would buy all of these items.


What could possibly show your inner beast better than the quintessential wolf t-shirt? That kind of thing rakes in the ladies. Wearing one not only releases your innate pheromones, but it also tells everybody who's the leader of the pack.

Cost - $17-34, depending on design and size. This place also has some sweet buck shirts, and a glow-in-the-dark shirt that has a full star map.

You could also display your hip internet humor with this (not) creative take on the 300 catch phrase. I mean, Zelda is cool. 300 is cool. Surely, an inside joke involving both has to be awesome. This will make you more friends than you could ever want.

Cost: $20

Wacky accessories

Now, if only there was a way to show people your crazy raver side. Maybe you need something to complement your kawaii neko ears. Why not join the pack and get one of these fox tails, for a mere $20? Glowsticks only cost $1 at Duane Reed, too, so you'll be ready to bust out all sorts of dance moves.

Cost: $20


Even better, why not just buy a sailor fuku, so you can cosplay on the spot. Props to the dealers who don't even give enough of a damn to iron their costumes before selling them. I sure want to buy a rumpled heap of cloth. Close-up of the rumplage.

Cost: $60


Eating lunch would've cut into my anime time. PASS.


Every anime fan needs to eat Asian food all weekend long. A trip to K-town landed us at a Korean buffet, and over a pound of food.

Cost: $8.50

Day 1 Dream Total: $123.50

If you're not here at NYAF, you should be jealous. You can't even imagine the merch you're missing out on. Zombie t-shirts, guys. Zombie t-shirts.
Con Sketching: Otakon 2008, Day 2
by Evan Miller on Sun Aug 10, 2008 12:03 am
The Longest Jam: I've been to many live shows before, but I've only seen a band try to play more than 90 minutes or so once. According to attendees, the JAM Project concert went for over 2 hours. My hat goes off to the band - that's no easy feat, particularly in a humid auditorium packed with fans.

The Kano Sisters have a new anime project, Abunai Sisters in the works with Fuji TV, Production I.G, and other people who have prestige to spare. The two Japanese superstars/models/entertainers/fashion experts paraded around the convention floor today, along with two giant drawings of their anime alter-egos. They posed with cosplayers, Otakon staff, and with Pedo Bear (your joke here). The sales and distribution plan for the anime is quite ambitious: a worldwide simultaneous release centered around pre-orders of the anime DVD. The Kano sisters aren't uber-superstars on this side of the Pacific yet, but this anime - not to mention the sheer amount of production power involved - could push them a little closer.

And while we're on that topic...:"Abunai" (危ない)
Often translated as "dangerous" or "bad," but can also refer to something as "really" or "incredibly." Think of how people used "Bad" in the 1980s and you'll know what I'm talking about. Sample uses:
"Ano dekkai Pikachu wa abunai yatsu da ne." - That giant Pikachu is a pretty dangerous guy.
"Usagi no kawaisa ga chou abunai!" - The bunny is unbelievably cute!

Dangerous? A few voices of concern could be heard over the din of Otakon's very full convention hall today. The reason: the convention is becoming pretty crowded again, and a few people are wondering if the dreaded "attendance cap" will rear its ugly head again. Personally, I doubt it... but who knows?

A few random pictures:

Ubiquitous translator and ukelele master Taka, with Ai from Pony Canyon. As you can tell, they're hard at work at the Kano Sisters panel.

Am I the only person who finds this fellow both cool and scary looking at the same time?

Oh, and just in case you care: The reason I'm not doing art recs at this convention shall be revealed next Saturday. So hey, if you needed an extra cliffhanger in your life and don't care about the quality of suspense that said cliffhanger provides, there you go!
Con Sketching: Otakon 2008, Day 1
by Evan Miller on Sat Aug 09, 2008 1:40 am
Year 15: After an off year when the convention was sandwiched between Anime Expo and San Diego Comic Con, Otakon is back in its usual August time slot. Perhaps the most striking aspect of this con that one notices when arriving is the fact that other local businesses actually seem excited to have the convention here. Every single bar and shop on the main drag of Pratt Street has a "Welcome Otakon" or "Welcome Otaku!" sign out - even the bars, which probably can't even serve half the convention attendance legally. By the same token, when the streets were a bit crowded during rush hour this morning, Otakon volunteers were out on the streets to stop con attendees from jaywalking into someone's windshield. Seeing all that, I can't help but think how much nicer the world would be if every anime con had the kind of relationship with their host city that Otakon has with Baltimore.

Complaints: I have heard a few, and most of them are what you'd expect: the layout is confusing, certain places are hard to find, and it would be helpful if there were more signs to direct people. I've also heard the usual complaints about long registration lines, which (as usual) snaked around the entire south and east skywalks.

Hospitable: "American fans are always very polite. So many people try to speak Japanese with us, and if they want an autograph, they wait in line politely. In Japan, it's totally different."
- Animation Director Hiromi Matsushita, Otakon GOH

Just in case you're curious...: Here's a look at some of the hard-working ANN staff here to cover Otakon. From the top:

Mikhail, Events Correspondent and author of many panel reports and other con-related pieces. This man is a Karaoke wizard.

Jon Carrera, our Video Director (and appreciator of all things humorous).

Me, working on interview questions and chugging coffee. The expression conveys the sleep deprivation nicely.

Tom Carrera, brother of Jon, is once again on board to help with convention coverage this year. He hasn't been kissed by any cosplayers yet this year, but you never know... the con just started, right? And to his right, we have...

Christopher Macdonald! Chris is the head honcho of ANN. He doesn't show his enthusiasm like Tom, but don't worry - he's thrilled to be here!

Justin Sevakis is here too, but he was not there when the pictures were taken. Rest assured, I'll find some mildly hilarious picture of him to post later (as long as he doesn't threaten to kill me in the process...)
Con Sketching: Anime Expo 2008, Day 4
by Evan Miller on Tue Jul 08, 2008 3:46 am
Mecha and b-boys: The third and final night of Anime Expo 2008 was a combination of all the stuff that make "24-hour" conventions so fantastic. The karaoke was rocking, the dance was packed to capacity, the DJs were good, and the Arcade was always busy. A friend of mine and I were playing air hockey, and it took all of 30 seconds before a cheering section assembled around us. In the hallways, people were breakdancing in the hope of showing their moves off on the dance floor. There's no doubt it was a good time, but I still wonder about a few things. For example, who is that guy on stage during the dance who looks like Ozzy Osbourne? He's there every year, but I've never heard an explanation for his presence. Here's another puzzler: why do people not wear deodorant when going to a dance? I thought we were past the whole "anime fans are smelly" thing, people!

Energy: Today, I had an interview with Kikuchi Hideyuki and Takaki Saiko, the original author and artist for the Vampire Hunter D series. Due to a lack of time/space, we ended up conducting the interview on the floor of the Exhibit Hall. The interview went fine, but every 2 minutes or so, a huge cheer from one of the giveaways at the Gaia Online booth would distract us. After this pattern repeated a few times, Takaki-san turned to me and quipped, "That sort of thing [the excitement and noise] is pretty rare in Japan." Not that it's a bad thing; pretty much ever Japanese guest I've ever interviewed is impressed by the enthusiasm of the American fans. I talked to Takada Akemi (who we first met at TAF) on Friday, and she was quick to mention how happy she was to have a chance to meet with her North American fans again. Congrats, everyone: you were fantastic hosts.

One last round: Some alley dwellers have already found their way to being published. Lincy Chan was in the AX alley promoting the manga she's working on with Anthony Andora, Rhysmyth. Volumes 1 and 2 of the series is available from Tokyopop. Speaking of Tokyopop, Rising Stars of Manga winner Lanny Liu was also in the alley doing watercolor commissions. Finally, Mason Totoristiki's Amber-Tuned Jazz is being adapted into a PC game slated for debut in Spring 2009.

Looking back, I'm really not going to bother labeling this convention "good," "bad," or anything else. Besides, no matter what I say, that's a debate that will undoubtedly play out on forums across the internet from a countless variety of perspectives. Cosplayers will have one view, the industry will have another, and so forth. I'll leave it to each side to express their view as they see fit and keep my uninformed opinion to myself. (You're welcome.)

Cons are, on the whole, really a matter of perspective. If you're in the industry, things might not look so good. On the other hand, Cosplayers might be a little happier this year simply because the masquerade started on time for the first time in recent memory. Artists had a slower con weekend; I've already heard estimates from artists that say they're only making about 30% of what they made at AX last year. As for the press, many of us noticed that things simply ran smoother this year.

I remember joking with a friend last summer after AX 2007 wrapped up and people were panicking about the LA location that "fans will still show up, even if the con is at the bottom of the ocean." I still believe that. Although guests, exhibit halls, and everything else is important, events like AX are still the perfect place for like-minded fans to gather, meet one another, and have a good time. Even if all the extra stuff disappeared, I still think the fans would find a way to gather to hang out.

Furthermore, I think this weekend's attendance reminded both the industry and the SPJA that the fans are still there. I think AX earned a lot of goodwill back from the fans this year, and they'll probably reciprocate by making sure AX posts yet another attendance increase in 2009. Now the industry has to do the same - gather the fans and earn their support to make the anime industry healthy again. How will they do it? No one's really sure. However, after this weekend, one thing can be said for sure: in the game that will determine the health of the industry in the future, the ball is still in the court of the fans.
Con Sketching: Anime Expo 2008, Day 3
by Evan Miller on Sun Jul 06, 2008 11:22 pm
Fan Powered: This morning, heading into the convention hall after missing my shuttle, I found myself behind a gigantic group of people that were attentively listening to a Japanese tour guide explain to them how to get registered for Anime Expo. Curious, I stood in the back of the group and listened. It wasn't long before I was approached by a guy in a pink t-shirt who asked: "Are you here for Shokotan?" It turns out that I had wandered into a group of about 100 people from Japan, most of whom have never been to the US before, who came to the states exclusively for Shokotan's Saturday concert.

The group was an interesting mix of people: a bunch of people in pink shirts, a few cosplayers, and an older guy who had one of the best sentai hero costumes that I've ever seen. Half said that they weren't even planning to visit AX - they just wanted to hit the concert. After that? "Disneyland!" said one pair of women. Others were less shy about experiencing the convention, and they liked what they saw: "The level of quality is so high," said one Japanese cosplayer, impressed with the skills of his North Ameircan counterparts. The group asked to take a picture with me, and I happily obliged:

Since a lot of people in Japan worry about privacy and so forth online, they requested that I blur their faces before I posted this. I've covered their faces with Ninas, and I've left my own mug exposed as an example of why taking pictures in bright sunlight isn't always a good idea.

The family: One of the cutest group cosplays in the entire hall was this one:

These blocks also made a stop in front of our humble booth. I asked the girl in the "s" shaped block why they chose the Tetris theme. "Well," she said, gesturing to the young girl in the square block, "we're all cousins, and we wanted to get her involved too. So we went with Tetris." Besides being cute (not to mention serve as an example of how Cosplay can be about inclusion instead of DRAMA DRAMA OMG), the group gave me a good idea:

Cosplay or Box? Yes, I know that cardboard is a useful material, but sometimes it can be the stamp of laziness. Tetris? That's cute. This?

Eh, not bad. And then there's this:

Come on, buddy. A little effort doesn't hurt. Dig deep and find that inner creativity!

Speaking of Creativity: For some reason, many of my alley selections for Saturday tended towards the macabre. It was completely unintentional. Really.

Eikuu Hyo has the second volume of her series Bless the Metal out, and rumor has it that she'll also be at San Diego Comicon. For a bit of cute with your macabre, there's the Molly and Ian series by munchicookie at Poyo Studio. Finally, Goddess Boutique (who were generous/kind enough to appear in our Otakon Artist Alley vid last year!) made their AX debut this year with all kinds of accessories, cat ears, and "lolita" top hats.
Weird Stuff Episode IV: A New Hope
by Zac Bertschy on Sun Jul 06, 2008 3:31 pm
Well, it’s the last day of the show, so that means this is the final installment of Weird Stuff. Let’s get right to it!

Sunday is usually the last day of the convention, and one time-honored tradition con attendees always adhere to is celebrating the final day of the show by not coming at all. Here you can see said celebration already taking place in the exhibit hall.

One of many goth clothing booths on the dealer’s floor, this one is called “Timeless Trends”, presumably because goth fashion has not changed in any discernable way since 1982 or so.

D3 Publisher, distributor of fine products like Naruto: Path of the Ultimate Hokage Battle Ninja Academy Strike Force 3, which everyone is saying is WAY better than Naruto: Path of the Ultimate Hokage Battle Ninja Academy Strike Force 2.

You know what I love? STAR WARS




The manga library. I find the concept of the manga library funny; pay $60 to get into an anime convention, and then proceed to sit in a quiet room and read a book with a bunch of other loitering teens. One thing’s for sure: the AX manga library perfectly captures the feeling of walking through the manga aisle at Borders.

God damn, Jackie Dosai freaking loved Coconut Bubble Sex Cosplay.

Me, I just love Coconut Bubble Sex. Google it, but not at work.

This is an increasing trend that frankly disturbs the crap out of me. Cat ears are one thing, but the fox tails are taking it too far. We can’t let the furry menace invade our culture any further than it already has. This is a few dangerous steps away from fursuits with conveniently placed flaps being acceptable at anime conventions. We can’t let that happen, people.

These people had gathered together for the sole reason of singing “What Is Love” and showboating in the hallway. Groups of people collectively attention whoring has also become incredibly popular at anime conventions. Here’s a tip for anyone considering doing something like this in the future: don’t. Please.

This guy isn’t actually cosplaying as anything, he just raided a Hot Topic and then came to the convention. There were a surprising number of people who appeared to do the same thing.

These booths selling replica swords are at every convention in the country and they always crack me up. Hey kids! Here’s your chance to be “that guy” with the cheeseball replica swords mounted on the wall and a kimono secretly kept in the closet, praying every night to one day obtain a kawaii Japanese waifu who could don the garment on “special occasions” and massage your back while you watch Kanon.

And finally, this is the Anime News Network booth. We used it as a makeshift workstation, in effect turning ourselves into an odd zoo exhibition where people could view real live editors at work. Here, we see lovely and talented Evan Miller on the left, transcribing an interview. That happy fella on the right is Justin Sevakis, who just recently gave painful birth to our newborn video player and is still wiping the placenta off. And that laptop in the corner left there? Why, that’s the laptop THIS VERY BLOG WAS WRITTEN ON!

Yeah, that’s right. I just blew your mind right now.

Welp, that about does it for Weird Stuff I Saw at Anime Expo 2008. In spite of all my asinine mockery, this convention was sincerely one of the best-organized and most professionally run cons I’ve attended in my long years doing what I do. We all know last year’s AX was a mess, but this year proves that they really pulled their crap together and put on a great show. Of course there were hiccups – there always are – but in my estimation, AX 2008 restored the convention’s reputation.

Also there were a lot of silly nerds doing stupid crap there. See you next year!
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