AnimeNEXT 2012: Panels and Events

Ah panels. My favorite part of any convention report. As there were no guests that interested me this year a bulk of my convention experience was experiencing panels. Panels this year were the usual mix of the good, the bad, and the paradigm shattering. If nothing else I feel it is my duty as the press to talk up the great panels as well as shed some light on the panels that could use some tweaking. As I mentioned in the general impressions post there were quite a few interrupting cows so I will go into detail about that as well. I also attended the AMV screening this year which I have not done in a while so I have a bit to talk about on that front.

I will start with Charles Dunbar’s panels as they were consistently turning people away. There a certain names that will pack a room just with the offhanded mention they will be on a panel. Charles Dunbar is one of those people for good reason. He usually has very academic panels but presents the material in a fun and energetic manner. The ability to teach you while entertaining is a valuable skill.

The Yokai nation panel was probably the most traditional Charles Dunbar styled panel I attended. It was a look at how the Japanese view the various fantastical creatures they call yokai and how it affects their media. There are many names for various spirit creatures in Japan but the main theme behind creatures called yoaki in that they are beings of change. The panel had a combination of a Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! showman’s flair with a good deal of academic research.

His marque panel had to be the 50 Years of Anime Openings panel. Apparently Narutaki and I are partially responsible for the panel existing in the first place. It was a good mix of openings from the very origins of anime all the way up to the present day. He started off with samples from each decade with a magical girl , mecha, and shonen show from every period. After that he did some groups selections with a certain theme like character focused or symbolic. He then ended with some wild card silly picks just for fun. There was even some magical friendship added to Samurai Champloo. It is a wonderful panel as you can do it 20 times and never repeat the same content twice. Although you should never remove Rinbu Revolution or Rock the Planet. That would just be silly.

He also had a clip from A Certain Magical Index. It was sort of strange to find someone who ACTUALLY likes A Certain Magical Index and does not just watch it to complain about it. I assumed it was just me and the few people who contribute to the Index wiki that actually like the show in English.

Charles also had a hijacker attempt to comment on all his selections. The use of the volume controls to politely tell the audience member that his comments could be saved for YouTube without saying a word was amazingly effective. About a quarter of thew way through the panel the guy got the hint that he should just sit back and enjoy the panel like everyone else.

The Fanthropology forum was the most free form of the panels. Unlike previous years it was less Charles talking about his own research into fandom and more just moderating discussion between the audience as he threw out topics about fandom that just naturally generate conversation. Heck the way the audience was any single topic could have caused a debate between participants for the whole length of the panel without breaking a sweat. I will say the most interesting thing to me was the fact that it seems like “otaku” has become an equally shamefully word to American anime fans as it has to the Japanese. I feel like if you asked the same question 5 years ago only 1 or 2 people in the audience would have been insulted to be called an Otaku. Now most people seemed to dread having the label attached to them.

Friend of the blog, Evan Minto was on three panels as well as helping with the Fanthropology forum panel with Ink. His first panel was his Changing Faces of Anime panel. It is a look at how character designs have changed in anime and manga over the years. While the format is relatively unchanged since we reviewed the panel in 2010 the panel has been revised several times to add in a lot more artists. I noticed that all the creators Narutaki mentioned in her review were added as well as several others.

The other solo panel he did Adaptions in Anime and Manga. It was a look at all the ways that anime and manga are adapted into other mediums but also what other mediums gets turned into anime and manga. If that respect is a pretty large area to cover so Evan mostly focused on showing all the way the flow of adaptions can go with some well-known and totally bizarre examples of each. I was disappointed there was no mention of anime based on pachinko games. Those are always amazing. I was really surprised that given the trend at this convention no one tried to hijack this panel despite the fact that the room was full and the topic was ripe for the attempt at a coup d’état. It was slightly fluffier than the Changing Faces of Anime but still very informative.

The last panel Evan was on was the Science in Anime panel. This time he had two co-hosts. He had Vinny from All Geeks Considered and Walter Amos of old school fandom. It was very clearly the first time they run the panel because it almost seemed like three different panels stitched together. Everyone had the same topic. How real is the science you see in anime? Each panelist had their own examples with some clips from the show and then a discussion of the science within. Beyond that each panelist had a very different approach to the material. How much they focused on the clip, the science in the anime, and how much it relates to the real science varied from panelist to panelist. Each clip individually was interesting but as a whole it felt a bit disjointed. A more universal format for each panelist would have made it come together more seamlessly. Still the audience ate it up and Walter really laid some powerful science on the audience.

The Martial Arts fight panel is always a guaranteed fun time. Each year the panel has a new theme and all new clips. It is mostly just pure fight scene goodness with some informative set up for each clip that gives it just enough context that you also feel you are learning something. The theme this year was video games so all the fights were from live action martial arts movies that had some connection to video games.  If nothing else I finally learned the story of why it took so long for Jackie Chan and Jet Li to star in a movie together. I can’t wait to see what next years theme will be.

The two manga panels I went to run by Xan from the Spiraken Manga Review were pretty fun. The 15 Manga for Grownups was a fairly comprehensive guide to seinen and josei. But in all actuality it was really 45 Manga for Grownups. Each time he spoke about a manga he would bring up two other manga that had a similar theme as well. It was a nice selection of titles. It was distinctly seinen focused but there is just less josei available in English (and less josei in general.)

The only real problem with this panel was he had a super persistent hijacker. This guy felt in very necessary to comment on every selection. It was already a tight panel considering how many titles he was recommending so this guy having to throw in his 2 cents every time was hardly helpful. You could easily see how Xan was getting angrier and angrier as the hijacker refused to take any hints that his color commentary was not welcome. The worst part was that he later went on the compete in Xan’s trivia contest and won the big prize. Not only did be complain about his prize afterwards he wanted to give a wealth of health advice on how he could improve said panels. I think I might have punched anyone who pulled such a stunt on me.

I did not see the all ages version of Xan’s manga trivia game but I did see the adult version. Overall it was pretty fun. Most of the questions revolved around seinen manga but that is usually where you are going to get most of your rude dude questions. The question difficultly was interesting. Some of the questions were extremely easy with at least 2 of the answers being extremely silly and others were pretty difficult even if you knew the series. But some of them were trick questions where the logical answers was the trap unless you knew the manga. Sometimes what you thought were one of the two throw away answers was actually the right answer. I loved the Jojo’s questions because they were often the trickiest for anyone has never read the manga. They were all questions about which one of the four answers was NOT actually in Jojo’s. Since Jojo’s is often so insane figuring of what is the off the wall premise that is not in the manga is a real challenge. Since it was the last panel of the day in the room and everyone was having fun the game went for about an extra hour than it was supposed to.

I love going to the Jojo’s Posing School panel. They always schedule it for the first slot on Sunday and I would not have it any other way. It really wakes you up while teaching you about how awesome JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure is. It is a great interactive panel. Sadly it was in a room with almost no air conditioning. So after an hour and a half it was a bit … muggy in the room but it was well worth it. In fact by biggest complaint was that it was in a smaller room than last year. It is a great panel in a mediocre but well-timed slot. They really should upgrade it to a nice room next year. The more room that panel has the better. It deserves it.

It was also the STRANGEST panel by far that someone tried to hijack. There was just one guy who constantly tried to add his 2 cents every time either of the two women running the panel said anything. It is hardly the most complex material. Both women clearly were experts on the manga and the poses. They said exactly what was needed to be said about anything. No more and no less. No one really needed to add anything. At first I assumed he was awkwardly trying to flirt with the panelists by showing off his supposed mad geek cred but he did the same things at other panels.

In fact the other panel he tried the same thing at was the Masami Kurumada panel which was run by a man. So there went my first theory.

The panel itself was an overview of the work of the author of Saint Seiya as well as several of his other hit series. He is an odd artist by the fact that he seems to have several series that are enormously popular throughout the world but has never had a  hit in America. When his boxing manga Ring ni Kakero is not popular in the US because it is a sports manga that makes sense. Americans hate sports anime. But his other shonen work seems like it should sell like gangbusters. But for whatever reason it never has caught on here. The panelist did a job of going over Kurumada’s body of work with some good clips from any anime based on his manga. It was not that well attended but it was in a Sunday morning death slot which never helps. Still it was an informative panel that put a spotlight on an under appreciated artist.

I went to the Are you lady? panel mostly on a whim. Apparently it turned out to be a Idolm@ster panel as I learned from The Digital Bug. It was a fairly comprehensive look at the Idolm@ster franchise from the games to the various spin off materials. The panelists seemed fairly well versed in the material especially considering how much of it is only in Japanese. They laid things on in a fairly straightforward manner but were enthusiastic and engaging. To spice things up they played various songs from the series that highlighted whatever they were talking about at the time. They mostly stuck to the official material as opposed to the fan made works but they clearly had 2 panels worth of discussion from that alone.

The strangest thing to me was the fact that the panelists were both ladies. I have always just thought of the Idolm@ster as a mostly guys only property with a few random women who were the exception who proved the rule. I would say only a little under half the room was women by the panel’s end. That fact alone led to some lengthy conversations with anyone I have ever talked about the panel with. Consider my mind blown.

I went to the two discussion panels out of a morbid curiosity. The Legend of Korra panel and the Homestuck panel were mildly frightening but I was curious to see the conversations that went on. Narutaki and I both love The Legend of Korra but overall Avatar fandom has a bit of bad reputation. At the same time neither of us know anything about Homestuck other than it is an enormously popular web comic. Both panels were very similar. They were panels run by people in cosplay who just answered questions in-character. There was little to no introduction to anyone who did not know the property in question. It was really sort of surreal.

I can’t really say that I got anything out of the panel. It was a bizarre hybrid of  theater and fan fiction and mostly akin to a live action version of someones in-character Tumblr account. They were not bad panels. It seemed like the audience was having fun. But they were truly for fans only. I came away with no greater understanding of what the heck Homestuck was as I did when I came in. And even though I already knew about the Legend of Korra I can’t say I learned anything interesting about the show. Maybe the fandom but not the show. Oh well. To each their own.

Anime convention rule 82: Any panel with WTF in the title is probably not very good. The WTF anime endings panel seemed like a strong topic. The idea was to play key scenes from various wild and wacky anime endings . The problem was the panelists were relying on the convention center’s wifi to play their clips from the Internet. That is pretty much the WORST idea you could ever do. You have to grab any clips you need before you panel. Relying on wifi is pretty much guaranteeing that you will get no reception.  Plus you can edit the clips yourself so you don’t scroll thought the material manually which is always a bit clumsy.

After that did not work out the panel plodded on but it was mostly out of steam as it seemed that the clips were the key to the panel. This lead in fact to the only case were the hijacker in the audience was SO persistent that he actually became the one running the panel after a period of time. That was just a clear case of the lunatics taking over the asylum.

The WTF Moments of Anime panel was best summed up by Evan Minto as the sort of conversation stoners would have after watching a night of Toonami. They basically just had the audience chime in about various tropes in anime while saying, “Isn’t that weird.”  It is just another type of panel that seems to be popular but just leaves me cold.

There were two panels both with the same panelist that were very unusual. They were both with Bill Ellis who did the I’m Gonna Be An Angel! panel last year. This year he did a panel also looking at under the radar anime but this time he improved the panel so much. Instead of focusing on one anime he picked several shows and he also added some other panelists. I have to say so many people do overlooked anime panels and they usually pick some show that really need more love. But this was one of the few times that I saw someone talk about anime that I actually did not know existed. How many panels are going to discuss Maeterlinck’s Blue Bird? It has character design by Leiji Matsumoto but you never hear anyone mention it. That was amazing in itself. The other two panelists had your normal selection of shows like Master Keaton and Saint Seiya. All shows that deserved to be talk about but I think the real strength of the panel was the levels of obscurity. There were the normal over looked shows for the casual to intermediate fans and then there was the ultra rare for the hard-core. I have to say I am slightly jealous of a spread that diverse. The only downside was the panel was not on the schedule so it might not have gotten the attention it deserved. But the room was filled so it at least got a good deal of people regardless of that fact.

While that was a mind expanding panel the other panel also touched my brain. But this time in a very different way. Bill Ellis’ other panel was what Bronies Could Learn from Anime fans. He was obviously trying to be somewhat academic about the topic. The general gist was essentially that while both fandoms both had a stigma attached to them they both could be enjoyed by people of all ages if they had the proper positive attitude. It was an interesting examination of how both fandoms could create interesting and vibrant communities. He even went out of his way to be very conversational despite putting an academic spin on his material.

The thing was the audience was filled with meme crazy bunch of fanatical monsters that are the exact creatures you think of whenever you think Bronies. At points it felt like you were at a sedate 4chan panel. But even a sedate 4chan panel is still very scary. This was my exact reaction to my companions at one point. At times the audience and the panelist seemed on the same wavelength. At other times they almost seemed to be reacting either to another panel or a different audience. It was strange cognitive dissonance. Also clopping came up during the panel.

Believe you me. I did not link clopping for a reason. It exists. That is all you need to know.

The only event I went to was the AMV Contest. All too often the AMV contest showings either run when I want to go to something else or when I want to eat. But this year the Saturday show fell in just the prefect slot for me to watch them all. It was nice to see some real high-grade AMVs. Picking through the stuff you just find on say YouTube has an insanely bad signal to noise ratio.

As always my favorite category is comedy. When done right a good comedy AMV just knocks it out of the park for me. My least favorite category is always artistic. It just seems like the category for AMV creators to try an impress other AMV creators. It is less about telling a story through the combination of words and pictures as it is showing off your mad AMV editing skillz. I was also very disappointed with the trailer selection. All three selections seemed rather uninspired. Usually it is the only group that can give comedy a run for its money. They all also used video games whereas the other categories were all stickily anime. On the other hand the Romance/Sentimental section might as well have been called the Makoto Shinkai category. There was one and only one Nodame Cantabile AMV in that section. Everything else was a love letter to Shinkai. But overall most of the selections were very good. It was an enjoyable 2 hours overall. My favorite video was probably Marketing Ploy but Hands Up! was a close second.

In conclusion I have made a pledge about hijackers. In the future if I see a hijacker that is disrupting a panel and I feel that the panelist feel awkward saying something I will step up. There are plenty of ways to nicely remind someone that while enthusiasm is great but they should wait to speak their turn. Especially when they are not on stage. But besides that strange rash of rudeness I had a great time at the panels for the most part. I hope that next year is just as stimulating.

4 thoughts on “AnimeNEXT 2012: Panels and Events

  1. matty manzarek (@matty_125) says:

    Stimulating, eh? Never heard an anime convention being described that way ;p

    Too bad about hijackers. The ones I usually come across are mindful, but the ones you described… If I were part of the panelist I would have some colorful commentary of my own to give back, I’ll say that much.
    Panels are my favorite parts of conventions. I’d hate if there will ever be a point where I walk into one and hope any dolts show up. Even eroge panels aren’t that bad.

    I think what lends IMAS to wider audience outside of male otaku (outside the singing and dancing) is that it isn’t really heavy on the protagonist/Producer relationship and let’s the characters expose their personalities themselves.
    Too bad you can come to AX. We could have went to the IMAS dance workshop together, maybe even find a new calling.

  2. Richard Simonsen Jr. says:

    WTF endings was my fault. I had no way really get clips and going to internet was back up. My fault more then anything and I had help. It wasn’t hijacking as some said but it was suppose to be interactive. Just went all wrong and felt like digging a hole after it.

    • reversethieves says:

      Yeah. It is very tempting to rely on WiFi. But it is like relying on your stoner friend.

      You can do it but don’t be surprised when you get burned. ;)

      Oh well lesson learned. Next time you will be prepared.

      – Hisui

  3. Michelle says:

    I saw the Manga for grownups panel! That “persistant hijacker” did the same thing at CloverCon during Anime Parliament. He just doesn’t know when to stop talking. We think he can’t help it. It’s still frustrating to deal with, and the panelist was really good at not blowing up at the guy. He was really patient.

    Now that I think about, I think he complained about the selection in our Manga Library too. As if we have room for 500 volumes…

    It’s funny, I saw the post mentioning rude people at panels, and thought, OMG, it’s that guy!

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