No, really. John and I got to San Jose for Day Zero a week ago Thursday and before either of us knew it we were on our way out on Monday. Attending Fanime is always one of the highlights of my year and while this was just a “good” con compared to previous years it still went by faster than I would have liked. Part of that stems from the fact that there was frankly a ton of stuff to do and see at the con, as always. In addition to the dealer’s hall, artist’s alley, and gaming hall, there were four panel rooms and six video rooms (which were running 24/7) so there was always something to check out at almost any given moment. Most of what I checked out was pretty entertaining, as you can read below starting with a convention tradition:
Dark Horse Manga: Carl Horn was back again this year and with some actual bits of good news. While the majority of the panel consisted of him reading from the company’s upcoming release schedule, there were some noteworthy bits there. Specifically that vol. 8 of “Blood Blockade Battlefront” will be out in November and vol. 5 of “Drifters” will follow in December. I also asked Carl about the status of “The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service” and if we’d be seeing any new volumes soon. While he reiterated the fact that the series was now profitable again thanks to the omnibus releases, there remained a question of how to publish the series going forward. As in, do they go back to single volumes and hope those start selling well enough to continue or continue with an omnibus format and make the yet to be published vol. 15 part of the next one?
After the panel I told him that as someone who bought vols. 13 & 14 to go ahead and go straight-to-omnibus with vol. 15 if that’s what it took. Carl seemed to appreciate that. I also asked him about the status of “Eden” and to my surprise, he had an answer. Apparently they’re asking Kodansha about giving that series the omnibus treatment to see if it’ll boost sales in the same way it happened for “Kurosagi.” That’s a sliver of hope right there and hopefully we’ll hear more about it as the convention season rolls on.
Doug “The Nostalgia Critic” Walker: John and I were both excited to see this guy in person after being introduced to his style of video criticism at Fanime several years back. He hosted three panels at the con, “Remembering the Past With the Nostalgia Critic,” “Movies People Fight You On,” and “Ask the Nostalgia Critic.” While he’s incredibly witty and funny in his videos, there was always the chance those qualities wouldn’t translate to real life. Fortunately, that turned out not to be the case as he came off here just like he does in his videos. We only got to see a little bit of that in the “Remembering the Past” panel, where he screened three of his favorite reviews — “Batman v. Superman,” “Mad Max: Fury Road,” and “The Room” — with additional commentary. While entertaining, this was the least of his three panels because Doug was basically competing with himself for time and space. He did get a lot of mileage out of simply getting the audience to chant “KISS! KISS! KISS!” whenever two characters on screen got incredibly close to each other. Which was usually himself and Angry Joe in the “BvS” review.
The other two panels were a lot more fun as he got a chance to showcase his cinematic knowledge and opinions while interacting with the audience. “Movies People Fight You On” had members of the audience telling him about movies or TV shows that either they liked and other people hated, and vice versa. There were some interesting choices that elicited some surprised shocks from the audience, but Doug kept everyone in line and the overall tone positive. He was similarly quick on his feet in the “Ask the Nostalgia Critic” panel where the topics ranged from people asking him about shows they wanted him to review (“Norm of the North” is coming in July for the Critic’s 10th Anniversary) and on more serious topics like fair use issues with YouTube and how he manages his business (he doesn’t, Channel Awesome handles that end).
Doug also mentioned that he reached out to Fanime about attending the con since he had never been to a California con and had heard good things about this one. He said that was having a good time so far, so it’s possible that he might be back next year. Which would be great.
Andre Pena: Here’s a guy who is not only a staff member at Fanime, but someone who has been running various panels at the con for years. This time I caught five of them: “Cthulhu For President,” “Bad Hentai,” “Midnight Madness,” “How to Panel,” and the “Hentai Anime Music Video” competition and exhibition. In order for me to be entertained at a panel, the person speaking has to project confidence, be knowledgeable about their subject, and have a good sense of humor. Andre has these in spades, which is why his how to panel about hosting panels was fun to take in even though I don’t have any real plans to host my own (well, maybe…). “Cthulu” is probably his signature panel since it’s just him laying out his candidate’s platform and cabinet and interacting with the audience for Q&A. As said platform includes babyeating, it allows him to serve up some delicious black humor as well as be a dick to the questionnaires in a thoroughly entertaining way.
“Bad Hentai” is similarly entertaining since it’s just him riffing on the worst hentai has to offer. This time around it was the Nazi rape machine from “Urotsukidoji 2” and the first two episodes of “Adventure Kid” which gave us zombie rape and a trip to a dimension ruled by Aramaki from “Ghost in the Shell” (no, really). While his commentary was generally pretty entertaining, being put through the majority of “Adventure Kid” was pretty wearying by the end and left me wishing for more variety in the panel. The Hentai AMV screening was great filthy entertainment as always and very much worth lining up for (and enduring the long wait to get everyone seated after an ID check). Andre’s one miss this year was “Midnight Madness” which was a six-hour marathon of random videos and anime. Coming right after the similarly-styled “Anime Hell” the videos showcased weren’t as entertaining or edited together in as compelling a fashion. Still, four out of the five panels I attended were well worth my time and that’s a success in my book.
A-to-J Connections: This two-girl-one-man group ran two panels at this year’s con, “Super Dimension Panel Macross” and “Erotic Grotesque Nonsense.” The former was an entertaining trip down memory lane for myself and John as we’re both Macross fans. I can’t say that either of us learned a whole lot from it, but the slides were informative and the panelists were energetic if a bit unfocused at times. While their eroguro panel boasted some attention-getting content that I wasn’t as familiar with, their slides were more informative than the panelists themselves. Much of the commentary was of the “Oh my god this is so crazy!” variety with little actual analysis. The fact that the guy on the panel was a lot more excitable and unfocused here than in the “Macross” panel didn’t help things at all here. I did come away from the panel having learned a thing or two, but that was in spite of the panelists rather than because of them.
Final Fantasy VII Remake: Hopes and Fears: This was from a four-man team from Easy Allies who really had their act together. It was clear that they were all fans and knew what they were talking about from their thoughts on how they thought the gameplay would be updated, the episodic nature of the game, and what was likely to be changed or left out. One amusing bit involved their thoughts on how Aeris’ death would be presented in the remake. While they acknowledged that it would likely be unchanged, the idea that you could experience it through Playstation VR was suggested. Overall, they were excited about the remake even as they acknowledged some areas for concern. I did ask them what they thought about Tetsuya Nomura’s status as one of the game’s directors despite the fact that “Crisis Core” and “FFXV” languished in development hell until Hajime Tabata took over. While they acknowledged Nomura’s failures there, they noted that he has additional supervision at Square Enix now which they hoped would prevent this project from lapsing into a similar status.
Shigeto Koyama: He’s a character/mecha designer for series such as “Gunbuster 2,” “Eureka 7,” and “Heroman.” However, he’s probably best known as the designer for Baymax from “Big Hero 6.” One of the bits we learned from him was that he got the job of designing Baymax after the movie’s director saw a toy from “Heroman” that Koyama designed and wanted that same sensibility for the character. It was also amusing to find out that he worked on one of the episodes of “Oreimo” after a friend of his asked him if he had the time to do it. This wasn’t a panel that I had planned on attending, but the information I learned made me glad that I did.
Anime’s Fiercest Females: I only caught one of Richard “MoNgR3L” Neil’s panels this year and it was one that I had seen last year. Fortunately he came prepared with all-new material that spotlighted the likes of Nausicaa, Iria of “Zeiram the Animation,” Birdy the Mighty, and Priss from “Bubblegum Crisis.” All worthy choices with Neil providing involving commentary. The main issue with his presentation is that all of the clips he showed were dubbed whenever possible and not all of them were dubbed well. “Iria” and “Bubblegum Crisis” showed what a dicey proposition listening to a dub from the mid-90’s could be. Also, showing a clip where one of the “Fierce Females” is slapped probably doesn’t belong in a panel like this.
So yeah, I had a good time and wish I was still up in San Jose. Sure, Comic-Con is almost upon us, but I appreciate the more intimate fan-driven vibe that Fanime has to it. If only I didn’t have to wait a year to experience it every time…