Tales Of The Industry The Mecha Saw Combat
by Justin Sevakis,
Welcome to “Tales of the Industry,” a column where we will share stories from real working professionals in the anime business. This week, we have another anonymous tale contributed by a current or former members of the industry, with details changed/removed to protect certain people.
Are you a current or former member of the anime business or convention staff? Do you have a story you've been dying to tell, but just can't tell it the normal way? Get in touch with Justin Sevakis through any social media you like. His Twitter account is @WorldOfCrap, if you aren't acquainted.
It was supposed to be just another Anime Expo. At our (now defunct) Los Angeles-based anime company, we had been doing Anime Expo in a big way for years. We'd bought massive free-standing booths, brought in voice actors and Japanese guests, and sponsored concerts, and while it never went altogether smoothly, we had done it so many times that we were pretty sure we had it under control.
Unfortunately, this was 2007. The year Anime Expo made its brief, disastrous return to Long Beach Convention Center, a venue it had long since outgrown. From a fan perspective, the show had a lot of problems, from overcrowding, 3.5-hour delays at certain events, a semi-canceled anime music video contest... this list goes on. Behind the scenes, I assure you, things were no more pleasant. But there is one incident, concealed from fan eyes, that will forever live in my memory as one of the most panic-inducing things to have ever happened at a con.
The company, let's call them "Shuttered Entertainment," was promoting one of our top shows, the sky-surfing mecha series known as Eureka Seven. We loved the show, and were very proud of how well it was doing. One of the cool things that we had access to (for marketing purposes) was a huge Nirvash statue on loan from Japan. It was a one-of-a-kind display of the mecha piloted by the show's main character, standing about 8 feet tall and riding a surfboard. Under normal circumstances, we displayed it prominently and proudly in the reception area of the office.
On this occasion it was to be transported to AX, to decorate our booth. One of our employees procured a pick-up truck, and we packed the Nirvash and other items in the back, for the trek to the Long Beach Convention Center, which was about a half-hour drive from our office. (Mind you, that's in good traffic.) Our entire staff would be spending the weekend at the con, so we'd picked up a set of walkie-talkies -- both to communicate between us, and with the convention staff. Being an anime company, most of us were giant nerds, so we happily whipped out these new toys as we all piled into three different vehicles and began our slow caravan westwards. "We have to test the range of these things!" we said.
My car led the procession, followed by the Nirvash-bearing pick-up truck, and then the third car. We pulled onto the freeway, each of us feeling that unique mixture of excitement for the cool stuff we had planned for the convention, and the dread of knowing that we were in for an exhausting four days that would tax our sanity and leave us a limp, exhausted mess. It always does. Some halfhearted attempts at walkie-talkie interplay between the cars quickly gave way to driving in silence.
I glanced at my rear-view mirror. The pick-up was still following directly behind me, and keeping up at a reasonable speed. And then I noticed something: the Nirvash was catching wind. That thing was huge, and not really all THAT heavy. We'd thought to tie it down, but didn't do a particularly great job, as we'd thought there was the odd chance that something that big might jostle out of the bed of the truck. The onslaught of wind at 75 miles per hour and its effect on a ROBOT MADE FOR SOARING THROUGH THE WIND simply hadn't occurred to us.
And there, right before my eyes, the Nirvash, that great mecha of the skies, took flight.
In a panic, I grabbed the walkie. "HOLY [string of unprintable words], THE NIRVASH JUST FELL OUT OF THE TRUCK!!"
"OH MY GOD! OH MY GOD!" shouted someone over the static. "WHAT DO WE DO?!"
"We can't stop, we're in traffic!"
"Do we just keep driving? There's a giant robot in the middle of the freeway!"
"Pull off at the next exit and we'll go back for it!"
Hyperventilating, I got off at the nearest exit and circled back. I glanced behind me and noticed that the other car was behind me, but the pick-up was not. "I'm still here, I pulled over," its driver reported over the walkie before I had a chance to ask. "I'll wait for you here."
"Do you see the robot?"
"Yeah, I see it. It's in one piece, believe it or not." It was a miracle. Now, hopefully no other driver would plow into it. As we got back on the freeway not far from there, I remembered that, luckily, we were still in the slow lane. "Is it near the shoulder?"
"Yeah, it's still in the slow lane," said the pick-up driver.
I decided to take the law into my own hands. "Okay, I'm going to slow down when I get close to it, and put on my hazards. Then I'll stop traffic, we'll get out, and drag it over to the shoulder. We'll figure it out from there."
"Okay," my coworkers chirped over the walkie, no longer remembering the bad CB Radio-speak they'd been using earlier. I saw the mecha and slowed to a stop, putting on my hazards. The drivers behind me, annoyed, screeched over to the next lane and sped around us. That's when it hit us -- all simultaneously, it seemed, that this was actually a really really stupid, dangerous plan.
"This is... I don't know about, this, guys."
"F*** this sh**, man, I'm NOT getting myself killed over this!"
"Dude, we stopped traffic! Get the f*** out of the truck! GO! GO! GO!"
About four of us got out of our respective vehicles and gingerly approached the Nirvash. I'll never know how it was still in one piece, but it was, minus some scrapes. We grabbed it and dragged it over to the shoulder and we sat there to catch our breath. I looked around at what a mess we were -- a bunch of dudes, sweaty and panicked, pulled over to the side of a busy freeway, standing around a gigantic, banged up robot model on a surfboard. And the convention hadn't even started yet.
"Okay, let's try and get out of here before--" I began. And that's when, as if on queue, we saw flashing lights and heard sirens. It was the highway patrol. They pulled over, got out of their squad car, and approached us. We froze. This was the LAST thing we needed right now.
"We had reports of an object in the middle of the roadway," the officer said as he approached. He saw the giant robot, the team of sweaty guys, and the frazzled look on our faces. We stayed silent. We couldn't see the officer's eyes through his sunglasses, but as he walked down the shoulder surveying things, my mind started racing. Would we be arrested? Had they seen the whole thing? A laundry list of possible charges flashed across my mind. Reckless endangerment with a motor vehicle. Obstruction of an interstate. Oh god, what would happen to us?
The officer slowly pulled out his ticket book and filled out a summons. We stood there, sweating, for what seemed like an eternity. And then, he tore the ticket off and handed it to the driver of the pick-up truck. "Have a nice day," he muttered before climbing back into his squad car and driving off.
We looked down. It was a ticket for expired tags.
We lifted the Nirvash back into the truck -- tying it down securely this time -- and all got into our cars, and resumed our drive to Long Beach. Thirty mercifully uneventful minutes later we pulled into the convention center, and followed the signs to the loading dock area. I parked behind a large truck and got out, so we could find our booth and unload what we had brought.
As I approached the giant garage doors, a young man, probably a con volunteer, got into the truck and hit reverse. And then, without looking, he gunned it, smashing into the front end of my car.
The rest of the convention went similarly well. We hosted a disastrous concert featuring the vocal cast of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (which is a story for another day), and had numerous other little nightmares. Somehow, we survived, and afterwards managed to get the Nirvash back to the office. Having been scrubbed and cleaned for the show, it looked a little better now, but whenever we passed by it in the lobby we flashed back to that panicked episode, and could no longer greet it with anything but contempt. It just HAD to take flight, and saving it from the horrors of LA traffic had taken years off of our collective lives.
A few years later it was returned to Japan, and I saw it again on display at Tokyo Anime Fair, proudly positioned behind a rope and a stanchion.
But if you looked closely, you could still see the road rash.
Any opinions expressed above are those of the expressing party and do not necessarily reflect those of Anime News Network, it's staff, or it's owners. While Anime News Network will never knowingly publish a false or inaccurate story, please remember that there are two (or more) sides to every story.
If you are a current or former anime industry professional and have a story to share (we can keep everyone anonymous), get in touch with Justin Sevakis via social media.
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