When I tried to gather my thoughts about this year’s AnimeNEXT into a unified thought one word came to mind: Mild. Everything about the trip really grooved into that feeling. My travel experiences, my dining choices, the panels, the guests, and even the weather. I’m not using mild as an insult. This is not the weak sauce sense of the word. It more means nothing that was spicy in either an exciting or aggravating way. A good mild sauce can be flavorful and complementary to what it is paired with but it also tends to stand out less than a spicy sauce which you tend to either remember for being great or horrible. Mild is both extremely accessible yet at the same time lacking any outrageous flavor. This General Impressions post will show you how that can be a wonderful thing as well as a bit of a disappointment.
First of all the weather itself was rather mild. The last two years Atlantic City has been baking when I was at AnimeNEXT. While I was able to walk around it always felt like you were crossing the desert whenever you had to travel more than three or four blocks. It definitely made any journey a bit of task. This year since it was a bit overcast the overall experience in Atlantic City was far nicer. It only rained a bit on Saturday and Sunday. I got caught in a bit of a downpour while getting breakfast on Saturday but I just ate a leisurely meal and by the time I was done the rain had died down. The previously arduous but rewarding trip to White House Subs became nothing more than a leisurely stroll. This year my roommate often would miss turns because he remembered the trips being longer when in fact they were just more grueling. I know that AnimeNEXT cannot control the climate ever since G.I. Joe destroyed their Weather Dominator but it would be nice if it were mild like this again next year.
One of the major complaints I had about last year was how it seemed for every problem the staff fixed from their inaugural year it was replaced by a different but equally annoying problem. This year AnimeNEXT felt like a convention where the staff knew the convention center and understood how to use it properly. The lines for registration, events, and panels were extremely well-organized and got people into the panels rooms seamlessly. I did not see any tangled lines or miscommunication about what went where.
Also, the communication was also just better this year. As a member of the press, panelist, and attendee I felt the staff better communicated far better on what I could do and what I needed to do. The emails were far more frequent, detailed, and better composed. I did not see the major scheduling problems with panels. The few rooms and time changes seemed more to accommodate the panelist or give more room for panels that needed it. Considering how poorly the panels were run last year it was a breath of fresh air to see everything running so smoothly this year. I did not notice any major lack of communication between departments this year. I don’t have any first-hand evidence of better communication but the fact that I did not see any problems speaks volumes. Overall nothing that the staff did left me feeling spicy. This is the AnimeNEXT I know and love.
On a more somber note, the panel attendance was far milder as well. Everywhere I went panel attendance seemed down. I can’t remember seeing any panels that had to turn anyone away. New Anime For Older Fans which is always a popular panel got a good turn out but you could also get a seat any anytime. I would feel a bit more disheartened but AWO and Charles Dunbar were not packing the house either. Make no mistake. All their panels were very popular but they are usually standing room only panels. I’m curious to see if it had to do with lower attendance numbers or if people were just not as jazzed about panels this year.
The guests were also a bit milder. Make no mistake Shinji Aramaki and Kenji Kamiyama are hardly small fries. They have both worked on blockbuster proprieties and are names that any scholarly fan will know instantly. The problem is both of them are also guests that really appeal mostly to the Oldtaku. With his most notable involvement being with titles like Appleseed, Space Pirate Captain Harlock, and Bubblegum Crisis his resume is firmly in the “stuff geezers watch” category. Kenji Kamiyama is definitely hipper but he has not had a general fandom friendly title since Eden of the East.
Their first Q&A is was just titled Production IG Q&A and the second was titled ULTRAMAN feat. Kenji Kamiyama & Shinji Aramaki. The problem Production IG has not built up a reputation the way Trigger had at AnimeNEXT. It was better than just calling it the Kenji Kamiyama & Shinji Aramaki Q&A but not by much. The second Q&A had a better title the only problem is Ultraman much like most tokusatsu shows does not have a huge amount of cache outside of the Power Rangers. So the turn out was decent but it was not anything compared to the fans who came to see Rei Hiroe or the staff of Studio Trigger. I’m not sure that mentioning Bubblegum Crisis or Ghost in the Shell would have double or tripled attendance but it might have helped. Then again someone might have wisely decided that Bubblegum Crisis is still really old and their work on the new Ghost in the Shell series is still very much in pre-production and they might not want to talk too much about it.
This might seem like I’m saying that AnimeNEXT should only bring of Japanese production guests from the hippest new shows. I loved being able to see Kenji Kamiyama and Shinji Aramaki. They were distinctly the reason I attended AnimeNEXT this year and I’m glad AnimeNEXT still brings over guests like this. That said I’m sure the majority of the attendees considered them extremely mild. That is a shame but it is also a reality.
I think that came off like a rant about how the AnimeNEXT should have named the panels better. That is not my intention. Consider it more of a disjointed rumination on the problem of getting more panel attendance for Oldtaku guests.
I did pop into the Video Game room a few times. Thanks to the size of the hall the room is in and space between machines the con funk was at normal levels as opposed omega death levels it can get to at smaller conventions where more people are crammed into a tighter space. Tokyo Attack! made sure that they had the newest games like BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle cabinets and Persona 3: Dancing in Moonlight. They also had the Mobile Suit Gundam: Bonds of the Battlefield machines which I was far better at after I played with them a second time (and perhaps watched the tutorial.) They did not have anything new that was crazy like Magician’s DEAD so it was extremely solid and fun but not really spicy.
Overall I had a good time at AnimeNEXT 2018. I enjoyed all the panels I went to, learned quite a bit from the guests, met up with some great fans, and experienced a much tighter ship than last year. The thing is if you asked me for my favorite convention experiences or even AnimeNEXT memories I don’t think AnimeNEXT 2018 would come to mind unless I actually went to the blog and looked back on my experience. Now if someone asked me what I thought of AnimeNEXT 2018 a few years from now I would give it a positive review after they jogged my memories of who the guests were.
This was a return to form for AnimeNEXT after their somewhat disorganized performance last year. They clearly circled the wagons after 2017 and came back with some major improvements. This lead to a well executed mild sauce of a convention. Nothing was surprising but everything was satisfying. I hope that 2019 will give us the same level of excellence but with some spicy surprises.