Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Anime Boston - Because the Stuff I Wanted to See is Being Trickled Out Slowly

It's been a while since I wrote out a con report.

This is partially because it's not something I've been in the habit of (only really doing two or three any given year), and partially because I just tend to enjoy them on a personal level, rather than an industry level.
Well, with the exception of New York Comic Con in 2012. That was a mix of catching enough generally interesting industry material to report and the fact it felt worth passing along on the long shot anyone might be listening that it was being run with such incredibly poor management as to make the late Joseph Conrad spin in his grave.

To be honest, this one also had a few problems, but was still a very enjoyable con.

So I'll regale you for a bit, but try to keep it brief. One part cause I didn't really get to as many events as I'd been hoping to (for various external reasons, but through no real fault on any part.)

I promise, there will be a review to come in the next couple of days. Won't be a theater run one, but an interesting title nevertheless.

In the meantime, rather than do this one chronologically, let's break this down by the good and bad, shall we?

First, we have the events and panels...

Like I said before, wasn't able to get to too many of these. Largely a consequence of the travel time to and from the con, more focus on catching up with other people and the fact that Saturday was...well...we'll get to that.

Anyway, of the three panels did make it to this year, two of them pretty much had to be at, as I was participating in them. It's not really a shameless plug at this point now that they're over, is it?

First was a discussion on live action anime adaptations that actually aren't bad. Between myself, my girlfriend, and another friend, we put together a pretty solid list of six fairly strong entries that prove the classic perception of all live-action adaptations of Japanese media to be abortions is somewhat exaggerated. The resulting spread was a good mix of comedy, drama, action, and even some fairly creepy thriller elements (watch the 20th Century Boys movies and tell me Friend isn't at least a LITTLE creepy...) Further, thanks to some suggestions from the audience, we got a good spread of titles to consider for if we do this panel again in the future. Cause hey, it's not always gonna be Dragonball: Evolution.

...not that that stopped us from using that as a title image.

Later that day was the one panel I got to just attend as a regular congoer and learn from. The panel was apparently approved at the last minute, which was rather unfortunate, since it was an interesting topic, and from the sound of things drew quite a crowd.
I say 'from the sound of things' because, thanks to the short notice, they got dealt a VERY small room to work with. We were lucky to get seats, but reportedly there was enough of a line outside that con staff had to give the warning that if you got up from your seat to leave, they couldn't guarantee it wouldn't be taken by someone else. Which I can't say I blame them on - with the draw this apparently got and the room they had to work with, they were just doing the best they could with what was available.
The panel itself was initially about the idea of gender identity in anime, which is itself a particularly interesting topic to explore. In particular now as the medium is slowly evolving and (still somewhat slowly) getting better with the handling of transgender (as well as agender and genderfluid) characters. It was quite well-informed and broke down a lot of the depictions in various shows for good and bad, most notably with regards to some of the more awkward stereotypes and misunderstandings the medium has depicted and informed over the years.
From there, the second half of the panel went into how con culture has developed with regards to how it views and treats transgender people. This was equal parts informative and disheartening. For as much as the con culture plays itself up as being inclusive, this is one area where it could stand to do some learning. Fortunately, for what people were able to sit on the panel, the message was largely well received - one rather problematic question asker aside (without going into too much detail, let me just say I found myself muttering the phrase "Dig up" repeatedly. The guy just did NOT realize how much worse he was making his stance by trying to explain it.)
In all, this is a panel I'd like to see developed more for future years. Hopefully in the future the con will be able to give them a bigger room to work with, cause this is a topic that a lot of congoers could benefit from learning more about.

The one photo we were able to get of the panel. Sorry it's not the best quality.

Finally, and a part of Anime Boston that has been a tradition for me for several years now, I took part in the annual panel "All the Mecha You'll Ever Need." As the title suggests, it's our salute to the giant robot genre of anime - with our suggestions for lesser known titles and discussion on topics within ranging from general talking points to recent announcements of new developments, cause this is one type of anime that's pretty regularly rife with new material. It's one of those events I look forward to every year at Anime Boston, and we all have a lot of fun with it each year.

As you can guess at this point, panel photography is also kind of a crapshoot in general.

From here, the next plus in general is the Artist's Alley. These cons are as much about the general social aspect as they are the industry getting to reach out to the fans. In this regard, the Artist's Alley is a big plus here - as it's a chance for a lot of people, some local, some otherwise, to sell their goods and generally converse with other fans. It's also just a very nice area to relax from the crowds in the hallways from time to time. Plus, I will admit this is becoming a part of a tradition for me with regards to one of the booths - Zombie Romance. With each con, artist Kristilyn Stevenson opens up for commissions. Between the two I have done so far, I have the makings of a recurring theme of horror villains slowly growing (I must say, I'm quite impressed with how she handled the rendition of Fluffy, the crate-dwelling monster from George Romero's Creepshow.)
Which leads to the other great thing about the Artist's Alley. It's also a great place to reconnect with people you don't meet up with as often.

Actually, I wound up meeting up with a lot of people this year. Some I was expecting to, others I did not expect. It's probably one of the best parts of the con for me, really. I mean, I go to AB for some of the industry aspects, don't get me wrong. Likewise, some of the guests are pretty awesome (voice actor Richard Epcar is actually a pretty fun guy to talk to with the right topics, though learning how Williams Street treated Lupin III was kind of a shame.) But really, this is one of those cons where, more often than not, I go for the people - for the chance to catch up with people I've not met in a while. It sounds kind of overly sentimental, but Hell with it. It IS a big part of this for me.

The Dealer's Room is another area where that works out for friends as well as purchases. I did catch up with a couple of people there as well, however briefly. I didn't pick up as much this year, admittedly - spent more in the Artists' Alley, though I DID pick up a copy of Vertical's release of Satoshi Kon's manga Tropic of the Sea. Halfway into it right now and I have to say, it's pretty solid so far - though I keep being struck by how much Kon's art reminds me of that of his friend and fellow artist, Katsuhiro Otomo. Still, it serves the story well.
Anyway, I'm getting off topic. Otherwise, it's just fun to sometimes take a spin through there, see some of the stuff, and talk with both friends and just some of the vendors about shared interests (one vendor talked with turned out to be a fan of classic Giant Robo, which was a fun surprise.)
Also, this year I finally confirmed the existence of an item I have been scouring dealer's rooms to find for several cons now: the infamous Kaiyodo Revoltech figure of Woody the cowboy from Toy Story. For those who don't get why this is such an infamous find, the figure was packed with a second face which...well...let's just say if you don't mind losing a bit of sleep, go google the phrase 'Rapeface Woody' to see what the Internet has done with this figure and its gleefully nightmarish rictus grin. I didn't pick it up at this time (cause $50 is a very hard sell for that) but even just seeing it for myself was still pretty well worth it.

This small picture doesn't even begin to do it justice.

Really, for as low-key as this con was for me, there was only one particular downside to it - and to be perfectly fair, that wasn't on the part of the con.

Rather, the security being demonstrated by the Hynes Convention Center and the Prudential Center wound up creating more problems than they solved. Spurred on in particular by problems at last year's con rave, and much more to the point, last year's Boston Marathon, there was a pronounced uptick in security, and especially bag checks this year. This resulted in already long lines becoming even longer - a problem only further aggravated by the decision to hold this year's con in March where other years have held it in late April or May. Given the cold winds this season, most people would stick to the indoor line rather than chance the outdoor entrance, making that interior line that much longer and slower. This got particularly bad on Saturday, where I know at least one person sent a message saying they, and I quote "ragequit the line." On top of that, if that shorter line is any indication, there were the somewhat sporadic metal detector tests. It's the kind of thing where, on the one hand I feel like making everyone take it would have just further slowed the line, but on the other, as it was employed, it really was inconsistent and ultimately kind of pointless.
Along with the logistical problems, it didn't help that the Hynes, despite having hosted this con for over ten years now, wasn't exactly respectful about the whole thing. While my own experience was fairly unremarkable, other congoers reported being openly treated as though they were kids - these being grown adults, mind you - for the fact they were going to this. Now, you don't have to like anime, I can respect that. But really, every other business in the area is good about this - they reach out to the fans in a way that doesn't feel pandering, and they enjoy the extra business the con brings. By comparison, the Hynes and the Sheraton have had some painfully bad promotions and this dismissive attitude by their security staff is surprising. It's not enough to break the con, but for as many years as they've been hosting AB, one would expect a little bit more respect and professionalism by this point.

Ah well...

Next review coming in the next day or two.

Till then!

My girlfriend and I taking a crack at the practice of couples cosplay.
Her part turned out quite well. For myself, I apologize for nothing!

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