One of the best parts of smaller cons is having so many fan run events and lectures. This was ever the case at MangaNEXT as almost my entire day was taken up attending panels on many different subjects. The panel and workshop rooms were a good size, never seeming to need to turn away attendees but also not so big that you felt like it was half empty. The equipment was a little all over the place as we learned when checking in for our own panel, however things seemed to work out in the end and everyone got what they needed.
When Narutaki and I were sitting in the hotel lobby we just did a little people watching before we attended our first panel. We saw a bunch of very strange teenagers high on the free Halloween candy that was all over the convention (at least I hope that is what they were high on.) The one thing they were all looking forward to was the rave that night as each of them mentioned it at least twice while we were around. It reminded me once again that there is the convention fan that is there for the social aspect and the convention fan that is there to learn something and never the two shall meet. So as an old fart I will talk about the panels I attended and what I learned because no one would want to hear of my misadventures had I attended the rave.
The panel I started my convention experience with was Mecha: A Love Letter which essentially ended up being three guys (one of which rarely spoke) just shooting the breeze with the audience discussing various mecha anime and what each liked and were watching. They had computer issues so it only got up and running with 10 minutes to spare but there didn’t seem to be a real plan anyhow. There were a few different things that came up including live action Transformers and the many animated versions of the franchise. I spoke up and asked whether the guys were watching Sym-Bionic Titan but they hadn’t had a chance. The panelists polled the audience on a few things including who liked Code Geass (I was one of the few with my hand raised) and also seemed incredulous that I genuinely liked G Gundam. It could have benefited from some structure because most of the audience didn’t speak up.
I went to two of Otaku USA and ANN’s Erin Finnegan’s panels. I missed the first bit of the Culinary manga panel which was a shame because it had my abortion of an attempt to make bread in a rice cooker. But the rest of the panel was an informative look at various cooking and food based manga. It between manga were pictures of meals that Erin made her husband eat as she tried various recipes from manga. It seemed they got more misses than hits but such is life. There were a bunch of familiar manga as well as manga I had never heard of. I had to agree with Noah that Cooking Papa was the mostly manly man of all the protagonists shown in the presentation. He has a jaw that would make Bean Bandit look bishonen. Erin also did a 50 manga recommendations panel made up of a wide variety of manga that appeared on multiple manga recommendation lists. It was the perfect panel for anyone who was just getting into manga and wanted to know where to start or anyone who wanted to find some of the cream of the crop titles.
I attended the U.S. Comics for Manga Fans panel in hopes of gaining some ideas myself as I already like the two. Apparently it is a panel put on by Geek Nights but they were not in attendance so Uncle Yo was presenting it. The recommendations started off with a long, long talk about Alan Moore and then Neil Gaiman taking up the bulk of the panel. While I think stories like Watchman and The Sandman are great pieces in the graphic novel library I was having trouble seeing a correlation between their philosophical and literary approach (and in the case of Alan Moore a sometimes incredibly dense text) and what most manga readers are picking up. Titles that came after seemed better suited like the obvious Scott Pilgrim plus things such as Runaways (which is canceled just in case you were unaware), Fables, Sin City, Blankets, and Atomic Robo. On a random note, less than a handful of people raised their hands when asked if they knew who Tezuka was. I liked the idea of this panel but would have liked to see better links to why manga readers would like something rather than a “these are just great graphic novels” feel.
I also went to the One Piece Podcast panel. They started off with some information about the latest data book called Green. The best part of the panel was the revelation that Sanji was originally supposed to be called Naruto but they changed his name not to conflict with the ninja manga was starting around the same time Sanji would be introduced in the same magazine. They also talked about the latest chapter of the manga and did some Q&A. For some reason my mind went blank on questions to ask but I thought of a bunch on the way home. Such is l’esprit d’escalier. I did win the 41st book of One Piece which was great as it cuts down the number of manga One Piece I need to buy. I always enjoy hearing people talk about One Piece as it is one of my favorite manga so I had a great time. I think Narutaki was a little less enthused but I think she learned some things as well. We now know why he was destined to hate Sanji as much as he does.
I attended a staple panel of cons nowadays, Memorable and Worst Con Stories, which is a hit or miss gamble. This time around it was mostly a miss. The guys at the front were staffers but most of their stories were on the fly so no plan was going on. They started it off but then audience participation was interspersed throughout. It wasn’t too lively a discussion and some of the attitudes being presented weren’t very endearing.
To cap off the night we did our own Best Manga You Never Read panel. It was a collection of 10 manga series that were either canceled, close to being canceled, or were in licensing limbo. The hope was by talking about these series we would drum up support to hopefully get them off the endangered species list. We had a lively audience and at least one older attendee who was interested in everything we recommended as it was his first anime convention. I was happy to recommend Mobile Suit Gundam École du Ciel to a Gundam anime fan who did not know of the manga. When we asked for series people wanted us to consider for the list I was amused that two people told us titles like the Evangelion manga which people thought were canceled but were merely being put out VERY slowly by the author. I think it was a rousing success and hopefully everyone in the audience picked at least one new manga series to buy that really needed some help.
I was happy to see a good variety of panels this year at MangaNEXT, there were even some very tempting panels on the days I could not attend making it all the more possible that next time around I just might have to come for the whole weekend.
The panels this year were a mixed bag but when a panel was good I thought it was very good. There were a bunch of panels I did not get to try out. Everything from The Visual Novels panel on Friday to the Documenting Fandom Panel on Sunday. If anyone has any stories about panels they attended I am very curious to hear them. Please post any stories you have or con report links in the comments. I am curious to see if I should try to catch any of these panels if they give them again.
More MangaNEXT 2010 coverage: