It is funny. I decided to take a short little break after finishing my general impressions post and look and see what other people were talking about when it came to AnimeNEXT this year. And funnily enough there was a video review of the event that mentioned that the panel selection this year was really weak. I on the other hand thought there was a fairly strong turnout this year. Other than one panel I really enjoyed the selection this year. While I don’t think AnimeNEXT has the reputation for panels like Otakon or Anime Weekend Atlanta they do have a good selection that includes everything from high-minded academic ruminations and feminist theory discussions to fun video panels and dynamic guest panels.
And this year so many less “Me and my friend’s answer dumb questions in character while cosplaying” panels which I HATE so very much. So what panels did I go see that this review so clearly missed out on?
Sadly I will mention the return of the horrible interrupting cows. Like last year we had several people who did not seem to know how to just let people do what they are doing on stage. Sometimes it was lame commentary track attempts, other times it was an attempt to outshine the panelist about their subject matter, and other times it was just extremely awkward behavior. But thankfully while there was more people consistently doing that this year overall they were a little less disruptive. It might have helped that Mike Toole stopped in the middle of one of this panels and laid down the Verbal Hammer of Thor on one wannabe Crow T. Robot. So while they were out in full force they were a little less effective as panelists were more inclined to put them in their place.
There was a group of ladies doing some interesting panels this weekend. I only saw all of one of their panels in full but they were a brilliant group. Their Female Stereotypes in Shojo and Josei Manga panel was strong. The three panelists each had their own take on the topic so while they were all on theme each segment felt different from the other two. Two panelists just looked at the broadest archetypes you usually see in manga aimed at women while another looked at the evolution of the role of mothers. But all the sections did a good job at looking at a wide variety of shows from different time periods. They looked at everything from Sally the Witch and Creamy Mami to Say “I love you” and My Little Monster. It felt a lot like a personal feminist anthology panel as opposed to a single monolithic unified critique.
I caught the last half of their Samurai Stereotypes in Historical Fiction Anime and Manga panel. It like the best of these panels uses anime and manga as a springboard to teach the audience about important historical moments and figures and then tempts them do more research independently. While at the same time they also used the historical facts to maybe get you to check out certain anime you maybe have never seen. The key is throwing in some fun stories with the dry facts to make everything go down smooth.
I think they also did the Shojo Manga for Men panel but I missed it when I was invited out to dinner. If anyone saw that panel I would love to see what they thought of it.
I only caught the last part of Awesome Animation Not From Japan but it was a really impressive panel from what I saw. I feel that while these panels are usually pretty enjoyable they tend to draw from countries like France which we see all the time. This panel looked at titles from places like Israel, Serbia, Denmark that usually get overlooked. It really seems that as CG has gotten cheaper and more commonplace a lot more countries are able to try their hand at animation. Also if the idea of a Serbian cyberpunk movie does not interest you I’m not sure what better hook there is. I linked to a post on the panelist’s web page that has all the cartoon he mentioned if you were curious to see what he was talking about.
Anime Pilots and Precursors was a fun little panel that looked at short anime that would one day be turned into full-fledged series. It had such humble beginnings as the Lupin pilot (but sadly not Lupin the VIII) and the infamous Jojo’s movie. It was a broad selection with some odd titles like Seikimatsu Leader den Takeshi! and Ninku as well. Sadly while the presenter was top-notch he was often interrupted by two audience members who seemed to believe this was a RiffTrax audition. He tried to turn the audio up a bit while they were talking to give them the hint but they refused to take it. Looking back I regret not saying something as my duty as a fellow panelist.
Ed Chavez showed up doing his normal amount of blowing your mind with manga knowledge. I was only able to attend the first half of the Vertical Industry panel but it seemed like the gritty movie reboot. Apparently Ed was a bit depressed and it clearly came through in the panel. But thankfully he was in slightly better spirits when he did his panel on the manga licensing process. It was an expanded version of the little segment he did at Genericon. It went into the real nitty-gritty of how a series get localized with all the gory steps like the bidding process and the realities of printing books. It does a good deal to demystify the process that people like to speculate on and often incorrectly. It’s really worth going to if you have any interest in manga in general.
I was sadly disappointed that Visual Novel panel was a no go. It might have been horrible but it also could have had some great titles I otherwise overlooked. I also was unable to get in the Jojo’s Posing School this year. But that is a great thing. I have been talking up that panel for a few years now so I’m glad the new TV series has gotten more people to attend.
I only went to one bad panel. Or more accurately one panel I did not enjoy. That was the General Mecha panel. It was your standard “Lets introduce people to mecha” panel that does not wind up introducing anyone to mecha. I would like to state that at its core there was a good panel there. From what I saw of the slides it was not like the panelist was incompetent or under-prepared. He clearly came with a full length panel that had some good intro mecha sh0ws with a clear path towards learning more advanced shows. So he came with his A-game. It was just that the some people in the audience had a different agenda.
Some people just wanted to talk ROBOTS and derailed any productive conversation almost immediately. And so it ended with a discussion of a detailed analysis of the Moonlight Butterfly (where ALL discussions of Gundam power levels do). The main thing is once people started just shouting things out it quickly turned into a real life forum discussion and not a panel. I’m sure that the audience had fun (which is in many ways the most important thing) but the panel failed in its stated goal. But that is how most intro mecha panels completely fail at actually introducing people to mecha.
I myself would have would have liked it if the presenter had a little more control over the audience. A little banter is fine and helps people stay engaged. Her just needed to wrestle control away from the audience much more often.
And last but not least were my own panels. I wound up being part of 4 panels in total. I did three by myself and was the last leg of Evan Minto’s Panel Lightening Round. I was not originally scheduled to be on the panel but after one of the participants dropped out I was asked to step in and add a new section on Friday for a Saturday panel.
The Lightening Round panel itself is an interesting idea. It is 5 different and unrelated mini-panels on topics either to small for a full panel or as a trail run for a full-fledged panel. My part was only a 10 minute section on some musical references in Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure but I’m quite proud of being able to put it together in such a short amount of time. It was hardly an introspective look into inner working of the soul of the anime medium but I think it was decent for the amount of time I had.
I will mention that I ran over time on all of my panels. It was totally my fault for not properly pacing myself but the main problem was my shaken confidence after Genericon. Because I was racing through my panels after starting late when I was talking at RPI I totally convinced myself that all my panels were too short despite the fact that they ended on time when I practiced them.
So I threw in more content into all three in hopes that I would not just be standing there asking for questions when I ended 7 minutes early. Instead I ended up dashing through or cutting short my panels for time. Once again proving that I work far better as a panelist with someone to bounce off of.
Other than that I think the three solo panels went well. I got a few people congratulating me on the panels after they ended which is always encouraging. I’m glad to see that the themes of Fate/Stay Night panel went over well as that mostly untested experiment. I might go and see if there is interest for a Tsukihime version. I also have a good feeling of which references to keep in my next version of the Hayate panel and which should be swapped out for new material.
I know one of the most common complaints is that it can be hard to motivate people to go see panels at cons who would rather just hang out in the halls being the convention equivalent of mall rats. But overall I saw a solid panel attendance for almost every panel that was after 12PM at AnimeNEXT. It seems unless a panel is about Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure it is hard to convince people to get out of bed before lunch time after a night of debauchery. But that is perfectly understandable. Other than that most panels had packed rooms with many panels needing to turn people away. That is a problem most panelist pray for.
But I have to say AnimeNEXT is obviously doing something right. They have a nice synergy of being lucky enough to have some smart people in the tri-state area who love to inform and entertain their fellow fans while going out of their way to court said experts. It is a wonderful harmony that makes coming back to AnimeNEXT each year so wonderful.
Other AnimeNEXT 2013 Coverage: