Over the years I have usually gone in whole hog with panels at AnimeNEXT. Last year I did five panels which was quite a workload. This year in order to fully take in the new location of the convention I only did two panels. This let me experience more of the Atlantic City Convention Center experience without Kate to back me up. Hopefully that will get everyone a better sense of the selection of quality panels that have increasingly become a hallmark of AnimeNEXT.
Lets start at the bottom, get that all out-of-the-way, then we can get to what I actually want to talk about. I was not a fan of either the A Snack on Titan: Snacking Etiquette for a Colossal Hunger or the Every Con Until You Like It: A Nasuverse Fan Panel. I want to state neither of these were bad panels. In both cases the panelists running the panels were prepared and has quality content. I have seen some TERRIBLE panels in my time but neither of these fell into that category. It was just that neither panel was to my taste.
A Snack on Titan is another one of those panels that most of the audience seemed to love, I could see why they loved it, but despite that I could never get into the groove of. It was a panel that discussed different snacks and how “good” they were. They also had silly little clips and contests involving snacks in between segments. A mixture of snark, talking about junk food, and free food made the panel a near guaranteed success. My major problem was that it did not feel like an anime panel. Sure it had a few little clips and pictures in the slides related to anime but overall they were the minority and it mostly seemed focused on mimetic material that occasionally happened to be anime content. Plus all the criteria for the quality of the snacks was based on how good to eat while gaming.
In the end I think a little modification could turn it into a panel that would be right for AnimeNEXT. The first would be to have it be about Japanese snacks. As anyone who has watched Dagashi Kashi will tell you there is a universe of Japanese snacks that is similar to American snacks but different in vital and fundamental ways. The other way would to base the judging criteria on the best snacks to watch while doing an anime marathon as opposed to gaming. As it stands right now the panel feels 100% home at a generic nerd convention but very out-of-place at a convention like AnimeNEXT.
My major criticism of the Nasuverse Fan Panel is mostly that I have already run a very similar panel and it never works. It is supposed to be a panel that introduces the curious to the world of Type-Moon while giving news fans some different avenues to explore. The problem I quickly found is you VERY rarely get anyone who is not already a fan and the fans already know most of what you are telling them. You might open a few eyes to something a little more obscure like Fate/school life or Notes but overall your preaching to a choir of religious scholars.
The panel also came of a little stiff but the solo panelist mentioned that this is usually a two person panel that was only being run by one person this time. I clearly saw there were points where a little banter or extra insight was built into the presentation but it seems the other person who usually on the panel could not make it. The panel itself was run well enough but it just did not live up to its full potential.
Overall my biggest problem with the panel was that it merely showed me all the mistakes I have made with my first Type-Moon panel. The base of the panel was fine so hopefully the guys who run this Type-Moon panel will come to the same conclusion I did and branch out into Type-Moon panels that are either more specialized for hardcore fans or more inclusive of people outside the fandom. If they keep on doing this panel that is fine but I saw the potential to do something far more interesting in the future.
It’s Showtime! A Tokyo Mew Mew Panel and The Fine Art Of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure were great panels to learn a lot more about two specific shows. They were panels that did a wonderful deep dive of one particular anime and had something for both people who knew nothing about the series as well as the fanatical devotee.
OK. I know I said I got most of my complaining out-of-the-way but I still have a little grousing left in me. The Tokyo Mew Mew Panel has a surprising amount of depth. The woman running the panel clearly knew her Tokyo Mew Mew inside and out. She gave a history of Reiko Yoshida, the manga, the anime, and even the story of the American adaptation of the anime and manga. She also talked about the characters and themes of the series, the merchandise, the differences between the original anime and manga, and the history of edits to the series. She even went into Tokyo Black Cat Girl which was Reiko Yoshida’s prototype for Tokyo Mew Mew and examined the different animators who worked on the anime. It was everything you could ask for in a Tokyo Mew Mew Panel.
The problem is there were four people on the panel and only the main presenter did ANYTHING of value. As far as I can remember the only time the other three panelists said anything was went they introduced themselves at the beginning. They might have spoken up once or twice but whenever they might have said was of so little consequence I can’t remember what it was. I can’t say I know everything that went on behind the scenes. Maybe all four of them did the research for the panel and then they picked her as their lead because she had the most skill at public speaking. While that could be the case what I saw was one person who deserved to be a panelists and three people riding her coattails.
The Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure panel on the other hand was simply flawless. It looked at how Hirohiko Araki has used classic art and modern fashion in Jojo’s. While I feel the musical references and influences in Jojo’s are both well-known and well documented the influence of fine art and fashion is mostly only given lip service in discussion of the manga. The unusual poses, odd color choices, and even some of the stranger plot points make MUCH more sense after you see what Araki is drawing from. The manga is still VERY bizarre despite the lesson but it does help you slightly get into the odd mind of Araki. If you’re any stripe of Jojo’s fan then panel is definitely worth checking out.
Since bloggers and podcasters love to also be panelists I have to point out the Anime Burger Time and From Under The Bed: Horror In Anime/Manga panels. Anime Burger Time was Evan Minto’s panel that was just scenes of people in hamburgers in anime. I’m mostly just slightly surprised that Kate has not already done this panel but I suppose Evan beat her to the punch. (Don’t worry Kate is doing a dogs in anime panel so the cosmic balance will be restored.) It is a fairly simple premise but Evan was able to create a small narrative with the clips which helped give the panel a bit of structure beyond just a parade of hamburger clips. The funniest thing was the fact that Evan apparently only scraped the surface of burger eating in anime since everyone I have talked to had 2 or 3 clips they felt he should have used but he did not have time to include. He had a wide variety of shows from Love Live to Zeta Gundam so that is quite an accomplishment.
From Under The Bed: Horror In Anime/Manga on the other hand was by Xan from Spiraken Manga Review and he basically tried to show the audience the best of horror manga and anime. He had a nice selection of titles from odd school shows like GeGeGe no Kitarō to new shows like School-Live! and manly man horror like Devilman as well as shojo fare like Pet Shop of Horrors. He even threw in Barefoot Gen to show that horror could exist in the real world devoid of monsters and the supernatural. His only rule was NO VAMPIRES which is a rule Kate could get behind. My only criticism might be that he started off with his most shocking clip first. Right out of the gate he showed a scene from the infamous Shōjo Tsubaki movie which was probably his most shocking clip. It was either a brilliant idea to use his big gun right off the bat or possibly something he should have eased into to shock people in the middle. I curious what other people think about that decision. My roommate came away with a few series he wanted to watch so the panel was definitely a success in that regard.
History of Magical Girls and History of Hentai Games in English were both panels from the AWO crew. Gerald and Clarissa presented the History of Magical Girls while the History of Hentai Games in English was just a Gerald affair.
The History of Magical Girls is another one of those panels where it is just as telling what gets passed over in a panel as what is focused on. There are enough Magical Girls with a wide variety of feels that you have to pick what you talk about to get any sort of overview in an hour-long panel. There are a few titles that you can’t overlook like Sailor Moon and Sally the Witch but beyond that the selection can get very personal. It is telling that they only give a sentence or two for Precure in the whole presentation. Then again this gist of it was mostly that Precure is basically become the Gundam of Magical Girls and is far too large a rabbit hole to go down in a panel of this scope.
The focus was also mostly the older shows but that makes sense as they far less likely to be known by the general audience. I was surprised by the fact that Himitsu no Akko-chan actually can claim to be the first magical girls series since its manga came out before the Sally the Witch anime. It sort of reminds me the longstanding mistaken belief that Astro Boy was the first TV anime. Also the Majokko Club Yoningumi: A Kuukan kara no Alien X and Mahou no Princess Minky Momo vs. Mahou no Tenshi Creamy Mami were definitely unexpected little hidden pieces of magical girl history.
Gerald’s History of Hentai Games in English was interesting if for nothing else the official release of Japanese porn games tends to be something that does not get any sort of cataloging because of the subject matter. It is the case of it being not horrifically difficult to find documentation about individual titles with only a little digging but very little work to compile that all into a greater directory. At this point it is probably easier to get an overview of the entirety of the Japanese visual novel landscape in English than the history of the translated titles. Like the History of Magical Girls panel the focus was more on older titles that might have been forgotten as opposed to newer titles that are far easier to find information on. That means there was much more discussion of Cobra Mission: Panic in Cobra City than say My Girlfriend Is the President. Gerald has clearly shown a dedication to making panels about anime porn that are more than just making fun of bad henati dubbing (although there is a brief section of that in the panel.)
I would be remiss not to mention Patz’s two mecha panels, The Bravest Robots: Sunrise’s Brave Series and Mecha Fight Club: Debates in Robots. I was part of the Mecha Fight Club which was far more of an old school panel discussion like you would more commonly see at a science fiction convention. The general format was Patz would ask a general open-ended question to Tom Aznable, Hazukari, and me and then we would discuss it. It is an easy panel to do but also an easy panel to go south with very little effort. Thankfully the panel avoided the two biggest banes of such panels. First of all the panelists did not talk over each other or have one panelist who dominated the discussion. That can easily make sure not much of value is said or the panel becomes one person’s long manifesto on mecha with some side comments by the rest of the panel. The audience was also engaged but never overtook the main discussion. The audience asked questions and even chimed in from time to time but overall let the panelists retain the control of the discussion. Mecha panels are notorious for have audience members who assume they know more than the panelists and are MORE than happy to try to prove that for an hour. Thankfully THAT GUY was notably absent from the audience.
I did not get to see The Bravest Robots: Sunrise’s Brave Series but I am curious to see how that went. The Brave Series has a decently strong reputation in US mecha fandom thanks to The King of Braves GaoGaiGar but overall most people have barely seen two or three of the shows in the series let alone all of them therefore I was curious to see the engagement and interest in this panel.
Last but hopefully not least is my own two solo panels, Anime Recruitment and Epic Grail Battles of History. Anime Recruitment is distinctly a panel that needs some work. It was one of our first panels and I wanted to bring it back out and see how it holds up. Overall I think the premise is still solid but I think it needs some tuning to work today. First of all I really needed someone else to bounce off of. The panel comes off a little dry when it is just me talking about how to get people to understand anime and pick shows for other people. Also the panel really needs a video component. I wanted to test if an all info panel would still hold up and it might with a second person but as a single panelist I really needed some video back up. Actually the best option would be to have two people do the panel with both of them backed up with video.
I got some questions after the panel so it was not a total failure but this run showed me what I need to shore up to get that panel running smoothly. Live and learn.
Epic Grail Battles of History on the other hand went extremely well. I got a fairly small turn out at Castle Point Anime Convention for the panel which worried me a bit. I was very relived when a got a fairly healthy audience for a panel on Sunday at 10 am. The audience seems really engaged and I got quite a few people asking about both the historical ascepts and the Type-Moon material. That was really encouraging because the panel is extremely modular and I currently only use 1/2 of material I made for the panel in its current iteration. I could easily write-up other Servants for several more versions of the panel plus they are constantly adding new historical personas to the game. If nothing else I realized Tamamo no Mae is crazy popular so I should probably add her to the next version of the panel.
I already have some interesting ideas to test out next year at AnimeNEXT and I can’t wait to show them off.
Other AnimeNEXT 2016 Coverage:
AnimeNEXT 2016: General Impressions
AnimeNEXT 2016: Guests
The Speakeasy #078: A Trip to AnimeNEXT, Hamacon, and Japan