My first Genericon was also my first college convention and by far the smallest con I have ever attended with a head count of 1351. We were also doing two new panels as well as being touted as featured panelists. And to top it all off many familiar faces were in attendance. All of these factors, plus some great people involved, ended up making it a worthwhile and memorable weekend.
Now that I was a featured panelist and have made it to the big times I will try to remember all the little people who helped me get here because that makes it easier for me to make sure they cannot call me. But it all seriousness I was greatly honored to be invited as a featured panelist at Genericon this year. I think along with our fellows guests we were able to bring some amazing presentations to an already traditionally well run college convention. We got to see the Most Dangerous AWO Crew, the stealthy The Ninja Consultants, the professional animators from For Tax Reasons, the harried Evan Minto, and the luminary Ed Chavez. It was a great opportunity to reunite with some old friends from the anime community, sit down at some wonderful panels, eat some great meals, meet some new people, meet the young chap who won the Dirty Pair Box set, and have a great time.
I’m sure for students at RPI the layout was old hat but I had to orient myself fairly quickly as we had one of the first panels on Friday evening. It basically consisted of two halls in two buildings a mere 20 feet apart from each other. Artist alley occupied the floor below one hall while the video game room resided above the other. The giant lecture halls startled me for sure; it seems obvious since it was a college but they were very intimidating anyway. Sounds fairly simple, but the 3D map made it seem more complicated, and what caused confusion was not having the rooms clearly marked as anything besides a classroom (this also caused problems when trying to tell a volunteer just what room you needed help in). There was way more space and rooms than were allowed for use by Genericon so sometimes it was trial and error figuring out which held what. That being said, since it was small it was easy to remember after being through a couple of times.
The convention itself was very cozy but at the same time efficiently laid out which is great when it comes to a smaller convention that takes place on a larger facility. Everything was in two connected buildings and it was simple to walk from one end of the con to the other in a few minutes. I have been to too many cons that were spread out over multiple buildings or are laid out inefficiently so that you have to sprint to get from one event to another. I would have liked if the three panel rooms had all been in the same building but the distance between the three was never enough that I missed anything because of it. I did find it amusing that the tables in artist alley and the dealer’s room were in small classrooms. It made it seem like they were shops in a RPG or a strip mall. There was also a huge table of board games to choose borrow and play. While this was super awesome for people wanting to explore the world of board games it also seems like an invitation for missing pieces.
I must applaud Genericon for their placement of the VIP lounge along with con-ops and staff area which was quiet and remote enough that random con-goers weren’t constantly happening by. We were even able to record a podcast in the lounge which was a necessity as going to and from the hotel was a bit of an undertaking. Things like the dealer’s room(s) and artist alley were a bit forgotten by me actually as the programming was engaging most hours of the day. In any case, I made a special trip to both. There were two small classrooms of dealers, one of which had a decent selection of imported merchandise though it was a tad pricey. Most popular of the vendors seemed to be the one selling Japanese snack foods and drinks. Artist alley was surprisingly bigger than the dealer’s area and consisted of more crafts like knitting than of glossy prints of fan-art. Though the space they occupied was a bit far off from the rest of things.
This was a convention filled with people who seasoned veterans when it came to panels so I spent most of the convention go from one cool panel to another. There was one group that did bad video game and anime panels. For some reason these bad anime/video game panels are always insanely popular and filled to capacity but are always thrown in super small rooms. It is such a bizarre phenomenon. Both panels were well done even if they decided to target my beloved Fate/Stay Night. On the other hand I could feel the palpable Schadenfreude radiating off Narutaki when they decided to send up the work of my buddy Kinoko Nasu. But the group knew how to take select scenes from the given anime or game and throw on a good comical spin. The same group did a panel on underappreciated gems. King of Bandit Jing in Seventh Heaven stood out the most in all of their selections as something that was better than you might have assumed.
As I mentioned, programming reigned supreme from what I saw and it was very robust. Amazingly, there were very few schedule changes throughout the weekend. For Tax Reasons’ first panel was opposite one of ours but I made it to their second. It was about the animation process and how to get started, sort of anyway, as jokes about it being the worst motivational speech ever were exchanged but everyone learned a little and laughed a lot. Continuing on the animation track was Hetalia History with Walter Amos which is as it sounds. I only caught half of it but just to know a series like that creates history buffs in 14-year-old-girls is both hilarious and heartening. Manga based panels like Ed Chavez’s seinen history was of course fascinating plus you never walk away from a talk with Ed without learning about 15 new things; and Ninja Consultant’s panel featuring as much unusual manga you could cram in an hour was very amusing though I would have liked it to either be slotted for longer or have just a few less titles as they talked a mile-a-minute. Rounding things out was me finally getting to a Touhou panel in an attempt to figure out the phenomenon. I didn’t, as it seemed more structured for actual fans and hearing them go on about the world the only thing I walked away with was that it seemed excessively complicated. But I did come to the realization that all Touhou cosplayers are guys and all Hetalia cosplayers are girls.
Anime 101 started out as Daryl’s propaganda lecture on what is anime and manga and what is not. It was fairly preachy but Daryl did make some excellent points if a bit heavy-handed. The second half was a quick overview of the history of anime. As he stated it is impossible to do anything close to comprehensive overview of anime history in one lecture but it did open your eyes to where to start exploring the history of anime which might be greater than new fans would realize. AWO’s Final Fantasy Debate was a bit more Final Fantasy history than debate. They went through all the numbered Final Fantasy games and what new features each game brought to the franchise. They then did some polling of the audience with questions like what was everyone first, favorite, and most hated games in the series. I think they hoped that asking questions like, “What did you not like about 8?” or, “Why did you like 13?” might cause some arguments but everyone stayed polite and reasonable. For better or for worse the audience realized that how you act on the Internet and real life are very different. It did reinforce Narutaki’s perception that Final Fantasy 9 is the unfairly neglected child of the series. The final AWO panel I saw about state of Podcasting. Daryl was called away for an interview for 2/3 of the panel but Clarissa and Gerald did an excellent job hosting the panel. They talked about how it seemed like podcasting was the way of the future when it really took off. It seemed like blogging or webcomics it would be a way for people to make a living. But as time goes on it seems that with only a handful of exceptions the only people who make money podcasting are people who were already famous. The panel was mostly a conversation with the audience about why they thought this was the case and if anyone had strategies on how to successfully market a podcast. Then general consensus was that if you want to have fun and speak your mind than podcasting is great but if you want to make money you should try something else. I think that the highlight of the panel was Noah’s suggestion that podcasters adapt the stripper model of payment were the podcasters ask for gifts that would benefit the podcasters and the listeners more than straight monetary donations. It was both an intriguing idea and an amusing analogy. Plus it gave us the image of Gerald shaking his money-maker for presents.
This was our first time as featured panelists, though I know some cons don’t really have such a thing, so I hope we were able to live up to such a status. As I have hoped for a while now to do a detective related panel, Genericon seemed like a great place to test it out. I was overall happy with our presentation but am taking the suggestion of adding some video clips. There was extra time at the end and perhaps we’d cut a title or two to accommodate it, but I think it will liven it up. One Piece was run on pure adrenaline since the projector decided to reject my laptop. It was a do or die moment that proved when the chips are down I guess we can deliver! I had fun, the audience had fun, and talking about One piece always puts a smile on everyone’s face. Both new panels need tweaking design-wise but that is something that can certainly be cleaned up before the summer time. Our old standard Anime Recruitment had a nice enthusiastic audience especially for a Sunday. This version of the panel had a bunch of updates that helped a lot so I hope to be using this at cons later this year as well.
As for our panels they went rather well despite the fact that we got the normal curse of the panelist that says that at least one of your panels will always have major technical difficulties no matter how well prepared everything is. Our first panel was about detective manga which ran completely smoothly. The panel was a bit empty but that was mainly because it was the first panel of the con and people were still getting badges for most of the panel. We realized that the panel ran a bit short so we will throw in some more shows or some video clips next time. The One Piece panel had crazy technical difficulties so we had to do the whole panel without the slides but oddly enough it still went over really well. The audience seemed really enthusiastic and engaged despite the lack of visuals. It was mostly made up of fans so I hope we got them to think a bit more critically about the show. The last panel we did was an old classic, anime recruitment. We had updated the panel a bit and added a new category but the fundamentals we still the same. The only major difference was the reaction of the crowd was very different. Usually at anime recruitment we have people who are already hardcore fans who want to know how to get other people into their hobby. This crowd seemed distinctly knowledgeable about anime but seemed more like casual fans. So they seemed enticed to watched some of the shows we mentioned more than were looking to entice someone else. But most of the audience seemed to find at least one show that seemed to pique their interest so it was a success just not in the way it usually is.
I had no idea what to expect from Genericon, but I don’t think it could have disappointed me even if I did. The staff was friendly and helpful, the con-goers were not insane, heck there was no rave! This was my first college run convention and I’m here to say if they were all run like Genericon I’d be stopping at as many as possible. That isn’t flattery, I was genuinely impressed. Amazing job guys!
More than anything I would like to thank Evan Minto and the rest of the convention staff for being wonderful to work with. They were always prompt, courteous, and most importantly organized communicators. The staff made everything run smoothly and made the convention extra enjoyable. Next year I would go back even if I did not have benefit of being a featured panelist. The con was tons of fun and had a wonderful feeling of community and energy. That spirit is the key to success with a college con and Genericon had it in spades.