I’m doing my best to shake off the annual bout of post-con depression here. This year’s Fanime didn’t have the depressing lows or thrilling high of the previous one, but it was an awesome experience overall. That’s because there was enough going on between panels, screenings, and visits to the dealer’s hall and artist’s alley that I didn’t need to kill any time by hanging out at my room unless I had to. For things like sleep. John and I are already making plans for next year with the hope that we’ll find an easier way to get rooms, that Steve will be back next year, and that we’ll get more of our friends to come along. In the meantime, what follows are my thoughts on the con that was, along with what has become our “Day Zero” tradition.
X-Men: Apocalypse: For the last few years, starting appropriately enough with “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” we’ve been going to see a movie on the Thursday that we arrive in San Jose. I had suggested that we go see “The Nice Guys” instead after the reviews for “Apocalypse” started coming in, but John was all for checking this one out. I’m thankful for his mindset because this turned out to be a lot better than the reviews indicated it would be. In fact, it was as entertaining as it was cheesy — and it was VERY cheesy.
Things like the Egypt-set prologue, Scott Summers’ “coming out” scene at school, the bit about the Bible getting the “Four Horsemen of Apocalypse” from the man himself, and Magneto’s “I’M A MAN OF PEACE! I’M DONE KILLIN’!” status at the beginning of the movie came off with varying degrees of ridiculousness or groan-worthy predictability. That said, it helps to have a cast as committed and talented as this one to sell such material. It’s also impressive to see the film continue to capture the essence of these characters on film, as there was one scene between Scott, Jean, and Wolverine that felt like pure fanboy porn to me given all the years I’ve read about that relationship in the comics. The film does rely a lot on the relationships set up in the previous two movies, so don’t see this one without checking those out first. If you have, then the characters, the acting, and legitimately entertaining scenes like Quicksilver saving the day, and Wolverine cleaning house will keep you entertained.
For reference, John enjoyed this unreservedly. Steve, who has not seen the previous films, said it was “fine.” Though something about the tone of his voice suggested that he was just being diplomatic. Eh, that was probably just my imagination.
The Twilight Knights: One of the things that brought Steve back this year was to check out more of this group, who specialize in Renaissance-era European and Asian weapons as well as the discussion and demonstration of such. I’m always up for new experiences at Fanime, so I followed him to several panels. As a result, I was treated to some entertaining experiences from people who really knew their stuff. Whether it was demonstrating the proper use of a sword and shield, finding out about exotic weapons (that don’t involve live steel) of Japan and their origins, or hearing some of their members talk about all of the things wrong in weapon fighting on TV and in movies, the Knights delivered a consistently engaging experience. I’ll be back to see what they have to offer next year.
The Legend of Shenmue: At the other end of the spectrum, compared to pretty much every other event I attended at the con, were the guys running this panel. Clearly unprepared and reliant upon videos to take up most of the panel, I came away with no new appreciation for this venerable franchise. If it wasn’t for the “Shenmue”-related Mega 64 videos they showed, this panel would’ve been a complete waste of my time instead of being just plain bad.
Fazio vs. Anime: The fifth year of this panel and a return to form after last year’s got bogged down in repetitive discussions about trigger warnings. I wasn’t expecting to hang around for the whole two hours, but Fazio did a great job of keeping things interesting and funny. He also didn’t dwell too long on any one topic which ranged from (of course) anime, to superhero movies, to politics, and whatnot. Simply appearing at ease, knowing your stuff, and being able to roll with the audience is a necessary skill for running any panel and Fazio has these things down cold.
Richard “MoNgR3L” Neil: Someone else who has a good handle on the above is this guy, and I wound up attending two of his panels at the con. The first was “Deconstructing Kon” which was a nice if lacking in depth look at the works of the late anime director. Neil knew what set the director apart and the particulars of his style (and a good selection of clips) though I would’ve liked to see more discussion of those particulars. Better was his “Anime’s Fiercest Females” panel which kicked off on a rousing “anti-moe” bent with a scene from “Welcome to the N.H.K.” that segued into a music-video montage of fierce anime females kicking ass set to “Engel” by “Rammstein.” I couldn’t argue with his list — he even included Kino from “Kino’s Journey’s” — which had some great slides introducing the women as well.
Steve also attended Neil’s “Anime to See Before You Die” panel. Based on the partial list of titles he mentioned afterwards (and he gets points for including “Mononoke” on the list) it’s clear that panel would’ve been worth attending too. I was just busy checking out “FFVII Machinama Abridged” and the first half of “Anime Hell.”
Dark Horse Manga: Carl Horn was back again with plenty of things to say about the company’s slate of titles through the end of the year. While I was expecting him to not have any news about new licenses, he did say that they were still negotiating for some and to (maybe) expect some announcements at Anime Expo. It was also good to hear that the omnibus program for “The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service” has been working out well for them. According to Horn, the series is now back in the black after being $9k in the red when vol. 14 came out last year. I did ask him whether this means we can expect new volumes in the series to be delivered in omnibus format in the future, but the future is cloudy there. That’s due to the exact nature of how much in the black the series is as well as the fact that they’ll need to find a way to release vol. 15 in a way that will please both longtime readers and omnibus-waiters. I found out who deserves the “goddamn medal” for their decision to publish “I Am A Hero” in the 2-in-1 format. That would be the book’s editor, Philip Simon.
Weird Retrogaming Anime: This was a panel all about the anime spun off from games in the Famicom (read: 8-bit Nintendo) era in Japan. Most of them never escaped the country, and for good reason as we saw here. I only got to see the second half of the panel as the three of us were busy getting lunch. However, that’s a decision I regretted after I arrived halfway through and saw who was running the panel. Heidi “Zerochan” Kemps has overseen two of the most entertaining panels I’ve seen at Fanime in recent years: “Hilariously Awesome Bootlegs” in ‘14, and “Cringeworthy Game Cutscenes” last year. Had I known she was moderating this one, I would’ve made an effort to get up before 10 AM, eat, and then show up on time for her panel. Next year, I’ll do my best to find out what’s she’s hosting before the con.
Andre Pena: Overlord of the “Hentai AMV” competition. That’s something I didn’t find out until two years back at his “Badasses of Japanese History” panel, that he also hosts the long-running “Cthulhu For President” panel as well. After… certain maid-related circumstances prevented us from attending last year, I was not going to miss this year’s panel. It was every bit as hilarious as I expected from Pena’s evisceration of the current political candidates, detailing of the tentacled-one’s cabinet (how can you go wrong with one that has David Lo Pan as Vice President, and Hannibal Lecter as Surgeon General), and outline of his platform (on abortion: “Om, nom, nom, nom”). Pena has also mastered the difficult art of being an asshole to his audience while making them laugh at the same time. He was in a more reserved, but no less engaging, form for his “Books for Learning About Japan” panel which I attended late after the “Dealing With Post-Con Depression” panel turned out to be a bust. The title for this one may have sounded dry and academic, but Pena made his selection of titles on subjects from the Japanese underworld and sex trade, travelogues of 70’s-era Japan, the post-WWII reconstruction, and food all come off as worthy of our attention. Pena hosts more panels throughout the con, and my opinion now is that you really can’t go wrong by checking any of them out.