Animethon Wrap-up!

If you swung by the site Sunday looking for an Animethon Day 2 post, my apologies.  Due to a combination of illness and staying up Saturday night gaming until 2am, I not only didn’t get back to Animethon on Sunday, but I pretty much spent the day sleeping/dozing on the couch.  So today, which was going to be the Day 3 post, is instead a combination Day 2 and con wrap-up.

So, Saturday at Animethon!  I got to the con a little before 8:30am.  A clever reading of the Animethon Program Book told me the Tim Horton’s in the Cafeteria would be open, and I bee-lined there as soon as I passed through the doors.  As I am enviro-friendly and a coffee-hog, I brought my ginormous TH travel mug with me and cackled with glee as the TH hostess filled it.  Coffee and breakfast biscuit sandwich in hand, I made my way to the first viewing of the day.

Which was Evangelian 2.22.  Underwhelmed by part one I wanted to give it one more chance.  And overall I was glad I did.  The characters seem to have more direction, especially the main character piloting Eva-1.  Still plenty of whining, mind you, but at least the events of part two justified his whining.  I am still “meh” as far as Evangelian itself goes, and I don’t know that I will follow it up on my own time, but it was an enjoyably relaxing start to the day.

Starting the day relaxed was a good choice as it turns out, because my next stop was the Dealer’s Room.  Situated in a level of the parkade at the West end of the con, the Animethon dealer’s area is consistently loud, crowded and dimly lit.  I’m not certain why it continues to be placed there, when there are better areas to locate it (in the new university buildings for instance).  Poor location or not, anime-niacs flock to the dealer’s tables looking for deals on manga, anime and other fan products.  Not a huge fan of crowds, and knowing that I wasn’t in the market for anything (unemployment saves me from overspending yet again!) I planned to make a cursory round of the hall just to see if anything stood out.

While making my rounds I ran into my good pal Melissa, head creator/proprietor of Attic Raiders.  A fixture at many conventions, Melissa is the go-to person for steampunk accessories and creations.  She is always a joy to talk with; funny, kind and a huge nerd her own self.  I spent almost an hour catching up with her and generally shooting the breeze.  Then she was needed back at her table, so I moved on.

Not much more to say about the Dealer’s Room.  Some general advice, which will stand you in good stead in any con’s dealer area: buy the thing you really MUST HAVE right away, because chances are good other people MUST also HAVE it.  Anything else?  Wait until Sunday if you can.  Many dealers will give deals then because they would rather sell at a lower price than haul the material back. And if they don’t give a deal, then you haven’t missed out on anything and you can buy it like you planned.  Also, if you can afford it try to leave yourself a 10-20% money buffer for the assorted “Cool Things You Just Discovered You Can’t Live Without”.  You will always find them, so why not plan for them?

Leaving the hustle and bustle of the hot, dank Dealer’s Room (did I mention a parkade is a really bad place for this?) I made my way back to the Cafeteria for some lunch before my next viewing.  And promptly ran into my buddy Andy, playing Go.  I have to say that running into friends that I don’t normally get to hang out with is well up there on the list of reasons I love attending cons.  Andy is a member of my Thursday night Pathfinder game but we don’t see each other much outside that. So I chatted with him for a bit while he finished his game and then he joined me for lunch.  Turns out he was there as his daughter’s driver/dogsbody for the day, as she and her friends took in some Animethon goodness.  It was a good time, and we got to chat for a while about things besides Pathfinder and anime…even though the conversation did come back to those eventually.

Parting ways with Andy and refilling my coffee, I made my way to my next viewing.  A Channel turned out to be a delightful coming-of-age story, following four friends in their day-to-day schoolgirl lives.  It reminded me a great deal of another anime, Azumanga Daioh, though not as surreal or absurd in style.  But it was funny and cute, and while it isn’t a priority for me I will likely pick-up the series at some point.  One thing I will note: if you watch enough anime you will notice some characters popping up that have…strange fetishes.  In the case of A Channel, this character was one of the male teachers that had a – wait for it – forehead fetish.  I was sure I was missing some obscure joke or point in the episode where it first appeared.  But no, he got all weak in the knees over bare foreheads.  Yeah.  I have no idea either.

I grabbed yet another coffee because I was feeling run down (little did I know the illness lurking), and headed over to my last event of the day.  Not a viewing this time, oh no.  Something I had looked forward to since I saw it on the schedule Friday: a talk on Life & Travel in Japan!  I have long had it in my head to travel to Japan, so this seemed the perfect chance to get some insight from someone who had not only travelled and worked there extensively, but could also talk about Japan post-earthquake (she had just returned from 3-months there).

Catriona Michaluk gave a great presentation on the various ways to travel in Japan (vacation, working holidays, couch surfing; yes, couch surfing), what to look out for with regards to accommodations, food, banking, travel inside the country and customs to be aware of.  She spoke enthusiastically about living and working there, the friendliness of the people, and you could really tell how much she loved the country.  Here are three little tidbits of information from the presentation:

  • Getting accommodations in Tokyo during Golden Week (in May) and around New Years is virtually impossible.  If you haven’t pre-booked your best bet will be a manga cafe. $10 will get you a pallet behind a curtain…and not much else.
  • Japan is a cash economy.  Almost no business takes foreign credit cards and few even take debit (especially foreign debit).  Her advice: got to a Japan Post Office ATM and take out the money you need each day to avoid any issues.
  • My favorite: Japan has drinking buffets!  For a flat fee ($7-$9) you can drink as much as you would like in a 2-3 hour period.  Pro tip: make sure to go with a party of your Japanese hosts, since these buffets are leery of serving foreigners.  I guess we drink too much which takes away their profit margin.

Catriona definitely fanned the embers of my Japan wanderlust, and I am seriously looking at ways I can make the trip happen in 2012.

And that was the end of my day.  I had gaming to attend in the evening so I left after that panel.  Of course at the time, my intention was to return for Sunday and get my Day 3 on!  The aforementioned illness/tiredness put paid to that plan, unfortunately, and so it was not meant to be.

But I definitely got the money’s worth out of my weekend pass.  Animethon is well attended and popular among the Japanese Culture fans here in Edmonton.  And if you are relatively new to the fandom like me,  there is no better place to jump in and learn.  With few exceptions everyone there is happy to answer questions you may have, and there is always something to watch, listen to or try out.  Would I recommend it?  Definitely.  Am I going back next year? You bet!

Some specific Animethon advice:

  • the only ATMs I found easily were the two in the Cafeteria on the main floor.  Hit them as soon as you arrive, because: a) Registration and Dealer’s Room are cash only, and b) long lines develop later in the day, leading to c) sometimes the ATMs run out of money on Sunday.
  • Hydrate, especially if you going into the Dealer’s Room.  The combination of thousands of attendees and decent AC mean that Animethon is warm and dry.  Drink water often, trust me.
  • If you are looking for viewings to take in, pick at least one title that you would normally leave on the shelf if you were buying an anime series.  This is a perfect chance to try new things, and worst case scenario? It sucks, you leave and hit another viewing.  Really, try something new.

That’s my Animethon wrap-up.  If you have any questions feel free to ask in the comments below.  And hey, if you were there and have some things I missed, comment on that as well.  Until tomorrow, gentles!

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Weekend at Animethon: Day 1

Day One of Animethon complete!  As first days go this was a pretty good one; a few bobbles along the way but nothing that won’t be smoothed out (hopefully) for Days 2 and 3.

I got to the Registration line at about 9:35 this morning, and there was a fairly healthy line.  Not Gen Con or SDCC long, sizable nonetheless.  After determining there was no ATM by the Reg table (they only take cash), I walked back through two University buildings to the cafeteria area to use the ATM there (for those not in the know, Grant MacKewan University is a long building, with sections of the building numbered according to what city block they take up; including dorms, it stretches from 104 st to 112 st).  Cash in hand I returned to the line, already in progress.  Lucky for me the registration team was really on the ball, and they dealt with myself and the roughly 70 people in front of me in no time.  Shortly after 10am I had my wristband (ugh! I hate wristbands!) and my program, and set out to find Something To Do!

Since neither the Dealer’s Room nor the Artist Alley were running on the Friday, I decided that today was going to be my “viewing day”.  If you aren’t familiar with an anime convention, one of the key components is anime viewings.  They usually occur in 2-hour time slots, and feature either an anime film, or the first 3-5 episodes of an anime series.  These viewings are meant to give attendees the chance to sample anime they might not have seen before, or have heard of but not watched.  For a relative neophyte such as myself, they are a perfect way to find anime I might want to watch in full, without the risk of plunking down money on a series that later turns out to suck (I’m looking at you, Gantz!).

For instance, the first room I poked my head into was for a series called Gurren Lagaan, and it only took me ten minutes to realize it wasn’t for me.  I didn’t really catch the plot or story, but it had too much of a Dragonball Z vibe to it, which in no way appeals to me.  But no harm, no foul; I just left and found another viewing room.  My next choice was much more to my liking.  Nyan Koi was an amusing story about a boy who is allergic to cats.  After accidentally breaking a sacred statue, he is cursed by the God of Cats; he can now understand all cats, but he must now grant 100 wishes to cats or turn into a cat himself and die from his own allergy.  The two episodes I caught were hilarious, and it has definitely made it onto my “Must Purchase” list.

After a quick break for cheap sushi and cold water, I returned to the same viewing room to watch Evangelion 1.11, the first half of a 2-part movie/OVA.  I thought is was okay, but just okay.  The premise was interesting, and I can’t get enough of giant mecha, but the characters lacked complexity and didn’t seem to have any real motivation.  On the off chance it just starts slow, I am watching Evangelion 2.22 tomorrow morning.  If it is really just “meh”, then the good news is I don’t ever have to watch it again.

I took a longer break this time, just to jot down some notes for later (gee, you’d think I took this blogging thing seriously) and down a coffee. Or two.  Looking around the venue, which had filled up quite a bit since my arrival four hours previous, I noticed something: I was easily one of the oldest people at this con, by at least 20 years.  I’ll admit that shook me for a moment.  But only for a moment.  I reminded myself that there is no age limit on enjoying something you love, and I could get just as much joy out of this stuff as they could.

After my existential pep-talk, I hunted up my next viewing choice.  I was going to check out a dark bit of anime called Ergo Proxy, and this is where I encountered the first sour spot of the day.  I arrived at the room about five minutes before the screening was to start, and waited.  Aaaand waited.  For about 30 minutes.  In that time, despite obvious Moderator presence, no one told us what the wait was for.  But I stuck around because I wasn’t really in a rush.  Finally a young girl comes rushing in and with a flurry of apologies gets the DVD in the machine, and we’re off!

Except not really.  After turning out all the other lights in the room, she can’t figure out how to turn of the lights directly above the screen.  You know, the ones currently washing out the anime we are supposed to be watching.  After a few moments spent poking and prodding at her control console, she gives a shrug and a half-hearted “sorry”, she sits down and proceeds to work on a bit of sewing.  She then proceeds to rebuff offers from viewers to see if they can find the errant light switch. And when several people leave because we didn’t come to listen to anime, we came to watch it too, she heckles them.  So.  Someday I may find out if Ergo Proxy is any good, but today was not that day.

Lucky for me, starting right next door and shortly after the abortive Ergo Proxy viewing was another anime series, Rurouni Kenshin.  And this viewing had the right disc, started on time and wonder of wonders the Mod knew how to turn off the lights!  With this trifecta in place I settled in to watch the humorous tale of a mysterious sword-wielding wanderer, set in Japan’s Meiji-period (1868-1912).  I quite enjoyed the first four episodes, but I did not care for the voice work (we were watching it dubbed for some reason).  It goes on my list of purchases for sure, but I’ll be watching it with subtitles thank-you very much!

A Note on Sub vs. Dub:  I am not going to tell you that there is a right way (subtitles) or wrong way (voice dubbing) to watch your anime.  It really is up to the individual viewer to decide which you prefer more.  But I prefer watching my anime in Japanese with subtitles for a number of reasons. The Japanese voice actors give me a better sense of the character, the subtitles are often a better representation of what the characters are saying, and there is a lot of dubbing that, while acted well, is very poorly scripted in my opinion.  So watch anime how it pleases you; how it pleases me is subbed.

And with that, Animethon Day 1 was complete!  There were other things going on into the night, but nothing that caught my eye.  Most of it was costume related, and since I was not costumed it made little sense to stick around for it.  Besides, Saturday was going to come all too early the next morning so I chose to head home, rest and gird my girdy-parts for the next day.

And I may need that girding, because Saturday brings with it the Dealer’s Room, Artist’s Alley and panels!  I may even learn to speak a bit of Japanese…

Were you at Animethon today?  What did you like/dislike?  If not, are you in Edmonton and attending tomorrow? Comment below!

Animethon: Prologue

This morning will feature a criminally short post, as I ready myself to attend Animethon for the weekend.  I will, however, post a daily round-up of everything I take in over the weekend.  So do pop back Saturday and Sunday to get my latest updates on the anime goings-on.

For those not in the know, Animethon is Edmonton’s anime, manga and Japanese Culture convention.  Held every year in August, it has been held for the last several years at Grant MacEwan University Downtown Campus.  I’ve never had the opportunity to attend the event in full before, having been stuck at a booth in the dealer’s area the last couple of times I went.  As a relatively new anime enthusiast, I’m looking forward to immersing myself for a weekend.  Maybe next year I’ll even cosplay…

If you get the chance, come check out Animethon!  And if you see me come say hello!