AnimeNEXT 2018: Panels

hisui_icon_4040_round I’m not sure how many other people noticed this but I felt like panels were a little emptier this year. It was not as if there was no one in attendance this year but there seemed to be more unoccupied seats this year. Panels that usually have to turn people away like those presented by Charles Dunbar and Anime World Order were filled but they never close to capacity. Were there just fewer people this year, were people less interested in panels or was the staff better at putting the right panels in the right rooms? Or was it some combination of the three with some other factors I’m not seeing? I’m genuinely concerned because the panels at AnimeNEXT are some of the best around so I don’t want to see them fade away. What can I do as a presenter to help out the panel community at AnimeNEXT grow and become richer? Can I do anything? Is this the beginning of a major sea change or just an off-year?

By the way, did anyone attend the Chaldea Symposium panel? I was running my New Anime for Older Fans so I could no see what sort of Grand Order panel this was but I’m very curious what people thought of it.

I noticed that Xan from Spiraken Manga Review was a virtually a one-man panel track onto himself. He seems to be rapidly approaching Charles Dunbar levels of insanity.  As a single mortal human, I did not have the ability to see all of his panels so I will try to just give you a general overview of some of what he presented this year. 20 Contemporary Manga Recommendations For Grown Ups is a panel of his I have seen before but it is one of those panels that always has new titles on so it is a nice way to see if you’re missing out on some hidden gems in the manga world. Considering how easy it is for a manga to escape your notice it is a valuable bit of curation. Xan basically uses the New Anime for Older Fans criteria for selection: Recent titles that you can legally read that appeal to audiences that are out of college. The title that stood out the most was Golosseum. I know someone has mentioned this manga in the past so it was vaguely familiar but  Xan really sold the whole insane premise well. 

Xan’s other two panels that I saw were Literary Anime: Series that were originally Light Novels and Order Up: Cooking Manga/Anime. These might have been panels he ran in the past but they were new to me. Literary Anime looks at good anime based on good light novels. The last few years of anime have been flooded with anime based on light novels but they have gained a bit of a bad reputation. That said there are still a good deal of stand out titles. Light Novels are still a medium where it is all too easy to pick a stinker, although there are some DISTINCT warning signs for assured dreck, a good shepherd is always welcome. Order Up was also a recommendation panel but it had a little twist. Xan not only talked about various food and drink themed anime and manga but he also tried to make a dish from some of the titles he talked about. While he sadly did not have samples to hand out but he did have the photographic evidence of his attempts. Clearly, some of them worked out better than others. Also while its easy to try something from Sweetness and Lightning dishes from Delicious in Dungeon are either impossible or had to be heavily fudged since he could not get his hands on basilisk meat.

Anime World Order were at AnimeNEXT as featured panelists. At this point, I feel like they are generally fairly known quantities. It would be more shocking if their panels were mediocre or bad than anything else. Gerald’s Anime in Non-Anime is sort of a staple of his repertoire but there is enough new content to mine that he is almost always able to have 70% new material while just recycling a few chestnuts more because they tickle his fancy than anything else. His focus this year seemed to be sports stars who mentioned anime. Considering his more stereotypical nerdy disinterest in sports it only makes sense that the world of athletics would not be the first place he would look for anime discussion.

Best Anime Openings of the 1980’s is the one panel of their’s I saw with all three of them. This panel was a bit more standardized than Anime in Non-Anime as your going to get a core group of openings with a little flexibility so it is not the same panel every time. I’m always amused that as much as Daryl dislikes Kimagure Orange Road he loves its well-made openings.

Clarissa also did a solo panel about Gambling Anime. Gambling Anime is one of these genres that mostly has a small bunch of evangelicals and then the rest of the fandom mostly ignores it. There is a cult of Fukumoto fans but even at their height, they were always a micro-niche. She mainly tried to stay away from pure sports and gaming anime like Hikaru no Go even if the occasional storyline brings up gambling. The closest she came was Saki which she admitted was really close to getting kicked off the panel. I assume the love of tacos is what saved it. I do wonder how many people already knew about The Legend of Koizumi and how many people discovered a new world of wonder.

I have seen several panels like Anime Before Astro Boy that look at animation in Japan before the initial TV broadcast of Tetsuwan Atomu. These panels are always interesting because the scholarship on pre-Tezuka anime is always evolving. There are always some major titles like NorakuroMomotaro’s Divine Sea Warriors, and Panda and the Magic Serpent with everything else being a collection of various other short films and experimental works. But every year a few new items will work their way into these types of panels. A mixture of natural disasters in Japan and poor preservation techniques have destroyed an unknown about pre-Tezuka anime but a few lucky examples have a tendency to be discovered from time to time. So every year tends to add a few new pieces to most attempts at such a panel. Evan’s emphasis seemed to be artists influenced by kamishibai theater although they were hardly the only artists he talked about.

I only stayed for the first half of the Shodo 101, Japanese Calligraphy workshop. The first half was a history of Japanese calligraphy with the basics of the art form and its tools. It was a strong overview of the subject. Then came the practice half of the workshop. While the woman running the panel had enough materials for everyone about half the tables in the room had tablecloths and the other half did not.  She wisely decided that amateur calligraphers and naked tables are a very bad match. While there might have been a Seishū Handa or two hidden in the audience most everyone else could have easily damaged the tables they were working on without much effort. I decided to bow out at that point so other people could practice with the ink and brushes. It was a very well run panel and hopefully next time the room setup will be able to accommodate everyone.

I was glad to see Ninapedia was running the  Lesser Known Magical Girls: The good and the NO panel as she is one of the few panelists who actually has seen enough Precure to actively talk about it in her panels as more than a kiddy babysitter show or a fetish anime for adults. This time she spoke about magical girl anime that for one reason or another has not gotten a good deal of attention. Sometimes because it was a good show that just had some bad luck and other times because it deserved to be forgotten. I was a little surprised her pick of Splash Star as the overlooked Precure title. Mostly because in my humble opinion it is an extremely mid-tier Precure. It is far from worst Precure but it also is never going to win any popularity polls. I suppose its bad reputation even in the fandom despite the fact that it was decent made it more of a target for the panel than a stronger Precure title that at least has the support of the Precure fandom. HeartCatch and Go! Princess may not have as many supporters as Sailor Moon but their fans are loud and proud. Splash Star advocates are as rare as hen’s teeth.

I will note that Ninapedia was selling Hugtto! PreCure pretty hard before the panels started. Hugtto! is a show started merely OK with some encouraging signs of promise but it has recently really bloomed into something worth getting excited about. It is ALMOST like Junichi Sato is an old hand and this and this could have been easily expected but most people should know by now I am often surprised by the unsurprising.

Otome Games 101: Romance Delivered, On Demand! was a nice bit of information on a part of fandom I’m not super familiar with. If you pay attention you will notice that for the last few years almost every season had at least one anime based on an otome game. Like any anime based on a game they tend to have a horrible trash to treasure ratio but sometimes that is because the source material is garbage and other times it is just a poor adaptation of the otherwise solid material. This makes playing the original games a far better value proposition. The two women running the panel did a good job of introducing the genre. They mostly talked about Japanese games with translations but they also talked about Indy games and English original games as well. They wisely pointed out some free (or very close to free) titles for those who want to dip their toes in the genre but don’t want to invest in a full priced game.

The Good Bad and Ugly in Anime was pretty much what I expected. Much like our New Anime for Older Fans panel the idea is the panelist watches a good deal of the new season and then shares the break out hits. The idea here is he mostly shares shows only on the extreme. Only the best or the worst shows. In the end, he actually mostly just shows stuff from Eromanga-senseiInterviews with Monster Girls, and Inuyashiki which is all stuff I would consider much more firmly in the middle of the pack. None of it is utterly boring or rote dreck, It is just mid-range material that also happens to stand out. That said the guy running the panel picked his clips well and made mediocre trash look much more fantastically bad than it probably is. It was one of that panels that was well run but my tastes ran so different from the person giving the panel that I did not get as much out of it as others would. The only show we really agreed on was Re:Creators and I realized we liked that show for vastly different reasons.

I’m guessing thanks to Devilman Crybaby we shall see a whole bunch of Go Nagai panels at Otakon as well. This is the only time in a long while when I could even conceive of seeing two Go Nagai panels at one convention. Seeing one at all is always a bit of a four-leaf clover situation. It is hardly unheard of but also not common. Two at the same convention is like seeing two five leaf clovers right next to each other. As always Go Nagai is an artist I respect more than love so I was willing to watch one panel about his works but both is a bridge too far. I eventually settled on Go Nagai in the USA more because it was not up against anything else I wanted to see. Also, it was the 18+ one. Going to all ages Go Nagai panel is like watching softcore porn. You get the gist but you really getting the watered-down version of the real deal. If nothing else the panel made me realize two things. The first was that a surprising amount of Go Nagai’s has worked its way over here. The second is you realize that what we got here was just the tip of the bizarre Go Nagai iceberg (which I assume is made of frozen robots with mammary missiles and phallic ninja incubi.)

The Macross: Musical Warfare panel stands out to me mostly because it was the panel was well done but I  disagreed with so much of what he said. I don’t remember any major factual errors with the panel. The material was well researched and presented. I was a good introduction to the various Macross anime with some nods to the various other parts of the franchise. One could theoretically go into detail about the Macross games, manga, or music but anything more than a cursory look into any of them quickly spirals into its own panel. He just really hated Macross 7 and was very much Sheryl over Ranka. There is nothing wrong with these opinions it is more I was just amused how much he was my polar opposite when it came to opinions of Macross.

There is one major benefit to the gap between the ending of Diamond is Unbreakable and Vento Aureo parts of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure and that is Jojo’s fandom has died down enough that I could get into Jojo’s Posing School again. This always used to be one of my favorite panels but at the height of the Jojo’s madness it was one of the IT panels and would always have to turn people away. I mostly stopped going because I did not want to take a seat away from someone who had never experienced the sheer joy of the panel before. Now that Jojo’s is on a bit of a break the fandom still burns strong but it is more of a steady flame than a roaring inferno. I could easily attended the panel and see it filled with people but not be worried about denying some new fan. While about 80% of the material is what I have done before it always is fun to do.

I’m guessing there will be a Jojo’s Posing School at Otakon so if you have never gone before this might be the perfect year to go. When I originally wrote this paragraph I mentioned that since production on Jojo’s Part 5 is generally confirmed but not officially announced it would be best to go to a Posing School panel before it is too crowded to get in easily again. The very next morning there was the official announcement that Golden Wind is coming out in October. So the Jojo’s wave is going to be and its peak again. When that happens getting into a Posing School will go back up a difficulty grade so get in when the getting is good.

I ran an experimental version of New Anime for Older Fans this year since I ran it by myself. I called in the 100% Hisui remix because it was made up of shows that only I had seen when I made the panel. While some of the shows on the panel might show up in next year’s New Anime for Older Fans if we do that panel together but I wanted to minimize the crossover. I also tried making the clips a little shorter and more succinct so I could make room for the openings of the shows I talked about. Since the opening of most shows is their best foot forward they often help sell the titles you are talking about. The panel went really well and I hope that some of my little tweaks will work themselves into the regular version of the panel. I have a few minor ideas that I might still try out when I run this again at Otakon.


Other AnimeNEXT 2018 Coverage:
AnimeNEXT 2018: General Impressions
The Speakeasy #102: AnimeNEXT and Tokyo

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