Providence Anime Conference 2008October 13, 2008
She Might Not Be Into Meowth: Dating Tips for Otaku
Dubs That Time Forgot
The Business of Anime
What? Why? Hentai!
Back in MY Day…
Bleach: Of Death and Dyings
All About Anime Cons
When Otaku Attack: The Dark Side of Fandom
The New Wave: Women, Manga, and Where We Stand
Couples in Anime
The Fans Fucking Scare Me
Anime in the 60s
Anno Atomu: Manga Before the Age of Tezuka
The Vile Spectre of Moe
The Absolute Worst of Osamu Tezuka
Do Anime Cons Have a Future?
Providence Anime Conference was a great victory for conventions but I worry that it was a Pyrrhic victory in the same moment. Only time will tell if my fears are grounded or if I’m just being my normal pessimistic self. I was never at a loss for an interesting panel to attend, a cool anime to watch, or a fascinating person to talk to. The atmosphere was distinctly refined and sophisticated while still retaining a passion for these Japanese cartoons and comic we all love. The only problem was the dreadfully low turn out for such a lavish convention center . It is a shame because it was an unique experience I would love to bring other people to next year.
I must say the Rhode Island Convention Center is ideally suited for a anime convention. It is connected to the Westin Hotel and Providence Place Mall so theoretically you could check in and never have to leave the interconnected complex. It does not matter what the weather is because you can stay indoors all day and night if you wish. I myself stayed at the Providence Hilton because they gave you a discount if you booked a room online. I had to walk farther to get Chinese food around the corner where I live than I did to get to the convention center. Downtown Providence was sort of sterile but it seemed safe, clean, and there were plenty of places to eat and drink. It was also within walking distance of the bus station so no wasted money on a cab. It would have been the prefect location for the convention had they gotten the 2000 people to show up.
I got in just a little before the first panel started; got my attendee and panelist badges quite easily. The badges has quite unique and colorful designs that I think most people including myself enjoyed. I then quickly checked into my hotel and then went to panels all day. The schedule was quite good; I more often than not had to decide which panel I wanted to go to more. I was also really pleased that the guests did multiple panels and often did panels that were not just about them but topics that they had experience with. A good case in point was Christopher Ayres doing a panel on Mock Combat for Cosplay despite the fact he was at the convention as a voice actor. I always thought it would be a good idea to see what other type of panels the guests can do to mix things up and I think it worked.
I started with Sarah Hodge-Wetherbe’s anime dating panel. She did not actually talk that much about general dating advice like I assumed the panel would consisting of. It might have come up at the very beginning because I did miss the first ten minutes. Since she is a dating columnist for soulgeek.com she just had the audience if they had any questions and she would them give them her advice. There seemed to be no end of questions from con-goers and she answered them in a serious and entertaining fashion so the audience and I had a good time.
Iris “Rakshar” Gordon had the most scholarly panels with Geoffrey Tebbetts coming in a close second. Iris did the Bleach – of Death and Dyings, Death Note – The Psychology of Solipsism, Fullmetal Alchemist – The Symbolism of Alchemy, Neon Genesis Evangelion – The Man in the Machine, and Witch Hunter Robin – The Hero’s Tale panels. I attended at least an hour of each of her panels and they were without a doubt the highlight of the convention and the closest to the stated higher goal of the convention. She had meticulously researched each of her presentations and they were well written and well presented in an engaging manner. I felt that some of her points used some academic shoehorning to get them to fall into place but they were always backed up with documentation and thoughtful ideas. I knew that when she was explaining how the Captains from Soul Society each corresponded to a Buddhist Hell I knew I had finally gotten what I had come for. If you have a chance to see one of her panels I highly recommend it.
Geoffrey Tebbetts was no slouch himself with the Nandeyanen!: The Finer Points of Owari Comedy and Anno Atomu: Manga Before the Age of Tezuka panels. The first panel was an investigation of not just Owari Comedy but Japanese comedy in general. I loved his little Naruto themed comedy act at the end. Take that Uncle Yo. The second panel was an insightful look into what people before Tezuka contributed to modern manga and how they were different as well. We all too often assume that anything before Tezuka is not worth talking about but that is obviously not the case. It is always interesting to see panels that go in different directions and slightly more obscure topics. Geoffrey is another panelist you should go out of your way to see at a convention.
Dubs That Time Forgot, Anime in the 60s, and The Absolute Worst of Osamu Tezuka were panels by big name fan, owner of Anime Jump, and all around cool dude Mike Toole. Dubs that Time forgot was half material that I saw on Anime News Network and half new material. Since Mike Tootle is always adding new content it was still fun to watch. Anime in the 60′s was a good overview of the best (and worst) of what 60′s anime had to offer. The Absolute Worst of Osamu Tezuka mostly dealt with mediocre adaptions of Tezuka’s classic works and some of the mediocre to horrible movies his original production company put out. It was still mostly a love letter to his best works. I was hoping to hear more about stuff like Rainbow Parakeet that nobody talks about. He did dozens upon dozens of different manga. Some of it had to be bad.
I finally got to see one of David Merrill’s Anime Hell panels. They are just dozen of wacky and amusing clips which are more often than not have only a tangential relation to anime. But they are usually darn fun so it’s all good. My favorite part was the man who did the one man Mito Komon vs. Godzilla movie. It’s was worth the price of admission in itself. Don Hertzfeldt’s Rejected got a big reaction out of the crowd as well.
When Otaku Attack: The Dark Side of Fandom and The Fans Fucking Scare Me were both panels talking about the worst that anime conventions and anime fans have to offer. Both panels were obviously well attended and well received. When Otaku Attack tended to be the more serious panel. It started out with Internet fandom horrors stories which of course always leads to a discussion of how 4chan is the anus of the Internet. The second half was mostly about anime fans praying on other anime fans and how we have to band together to prevent that. The Fans Fucking Scare Me was mostly funny little stories from the Funimation rep, like how a kid punched out his best friend for a promo card or how a trailer trash family followed his Dragon Ball Z tour for several states.
The most disturbing story was the story of why Anime Boston no longer allows signs at their convention. Apparently one year Sarah Hodge-Wetherbe was at the con. Her and her friends were chatting with con security while waiting to get into an event. One of their friends spotted a girl who could not be more than fifteen with a “Will Hentai for Money” sign. Attempting to call her bluff he called over the girl and threw down five dollars. She then proceeded to robotically flip up her skirt showing the Full Monty including the fact that she was quite hairless down there. Everyone who saw this was flabbergasted. When they regained their sense they proceed to find the girl, take away her badge, and give her a lecture about how utterly stupid and dangerous her actions were. And so we know why they have rightfully instituted a no sign policy at most anime conventions.
The Business of Anime and ADV Films panels were looks into how anime is brought to the U.S. and then how it comes out on the shelf. The Business of Anime was run by Adam Sheehan from Funimation and the ADV Films panel was run by David Williams. ADV unsurprisingly did not comment at all about the companies current situation and could not even comment about the state of their rumored CLANNAD license. Both companies representatives did talk a good deal about digital downloads. They seem to be a good way of supplementing their income on licenses while providing a legitimate alternative to fan-subs. The only problem is that Japanese companies are extremely hesitant to give out digital distribution rights.
Back in MY Day panel consisted of Kevin McKeever from Harmony Gold, Chris Beveridge or AnimeOnDVD, and David Williams of ADV. It was a fun little look back to fans who took their love of anime and turned it into a career one way or another. Kevin and David did most of the talking. Chris seemed to get embarrassed after he mentioned that Cream Lemon was his gateway into serious anime fandom. David talked a lot about how he got into anime and how that led to the creation of ADV. He also spoke about how they did things back in the early day of the company. It was a fun panel and when David Williams took out the heavy sipping whiskey and started passing it around among his fellow panelists you knew it was informal as you could get.
The Vile Spectre of Moe was interesting and not nearly as harsh as I thought it was going to be. I assumed it was going to be a Daryl Surat style moe bash fest. It was actually a history of otaku fandom and how it led up to the popularity of moe. Christian Daly was clearly not the biggest moe fan but he went out of his way to be fair and balanced. My only complaint about the panel was their was this girl in the audience who felt she should have been a co-panelist. She must have piped up with her own 2 cents after after point he made which, although out of Christian’s control, was annoying. If she obviously knew more than Christian it might have been fine but this was not the case. I felt like screaming, “Let the man run his panel thank you very much!”
I really liked Providence Anime Conference. I don’t think it was able to live up to all it’s ideals but PAC did a good amount of what it wanted to in only its first year. I saw no attention whores in the hallways, most everyone asked intelligent and thought provoking questions at panels, and we saw a more mature set of panels that were generally well attended and received. Although there was a good deal of drinking going on at night and there were hentai related panels it was hardly the majority of the experience. I don’t drink and don’t care that much for hentai but I always had something to do. The only negative thing to say about PAC was it was so poorly attended. They had planned for 2000 attendees but I would be very surprised if they they got over 500. I got the feeling that everyone I talked to had a great time and I know that I would got again next year. The real question is if everyone else is not too gun-shy from this lackluster turnout to try it again. I hope that if the New England Anime Society too took much of a loss on PAC to try it again that someone else sees that this was a good idea and learns from PAC’s mistakes to give it another shot.
It was promised and so I made it come to pass. I commissioned Hisui and Narutaki art as I plan to do at every convention I attend. The first piece is by Nikki O’Shea of Dragon Press Graphics. I hope you enjoy it.
Top 5 characters who should have 1/8 sized figures so I can buy them
5. Amelia Wil Tesla Seyruun (Slayers)
4. Momoka Nishizawa (Keroro Gunso)
3. Ranka Lee (Macross Frontier)
2. Shiro Emiya (Fate/Stay Night)
1. Ryuunosuke Fujinami (Urusei Yatsura)