Taiyou Con 2013
This the 3rd year for Taiyou Con in the same hotel. Programming ran from 10am to 2am nonstop. Many were fan panels ranging from Avatar Dating to Voice Actor panels. There were autograph signings and even industry panel like the Funimation panel. I don't usually see an industry panel at a smaller convention but Taiyou Con had one. Each day, there was a different themed cafe. On Friday, there was the genderbent Hetalia cafe. On Saturday, it was a normal maid cafe provided by Arizona's own At Your Service Cafe. And then on Sunday, it was a Wicked Circus Lolita Tea Party.
For the two dances, it was a Touhou Dance and an Adventure Time Rave. A lot of people were excited for them. Along with them were the Jfashion Show and the Masquerade. The Masquerade was full and packed the entire time. All of the winners received trophies and a DVD/Blu Ray box set of anime from Funimation. The programming also provided a lot of 18+ panels for adults throughout the weekend as well.
AZHP gaming provided an awesome gaming room where 18 stations were set up for people to play video games from fighting games to first person shooters. They also held tournaments with prizes throughout the entire weekend.
A lot of cosplayers showed up for their first convention of the year. There were a lot of photoshoots throughout the hotel and across the street in the amphitheater and gazebo. Cosplays from Borderlands 2 to Homestuck to Wreck It Ralph were at the convention. Even Cosplay In America had a table in the artist alley and was taking pictures of cosplayers.
In this convention, a lot of the younger cosplayers showed up while some of the veteran cosplayers went to another out of state convention. I thought it was refreshing to see some of these younger cosplayers.
The options for food were fantastic. There was a Red Lobster in the parking lot. A Chipotle, Buffalo Wild Wings, In and Out Burger and Samurai Sam across the street. And there was a mall across the street as well. Food options available in the food court and a Mimi's Cafe along with Olive Garden in the mall's parking lot. There were a lot of choices and the food was inexpensive since the area was not near an airport or downtown area.
The venue has been the same for the past 3 years. It is held in the lobby of a Hilton. There is a restaurant and bar right in the middle of the lobby. And artist alley table surrounds the restaurant. And then the programming rooms are on the outer edge of the lobby. All of the action takes place in this area and is very well lit. And there were plenty of couches for people to sit. Everything was centralized and there was a lot of foot traffic for the artists. In the back of the hotel was the main programming room and dealers room and photobooth. There was also a pool area for people to hang out in the back. At times, it feels like you are walking in circles. Because you do walk in a circle with the restaurant in the middle but to get to one thing or another, you don't have to walk far. You can see exactly what's happening from your hotel room as well since all of the rooms are on the outer wall of hotel and there's nothing in the middle. You can peek over and see the entire area in the lobby.
The convention was great. It wasn't crowded and there were plenty of programming, guests and food options. It may be smaller than most conventions but it was well run and everyone from security to attendees were happy to be there. It's a great way to start the new year at such a comfortable and nice convention that has something for everyone.
Pacific Media Expo 2012
When I first went to PMX, the first thing I noticed was the maid cafe. The maids were very lovely and the cafe looked very presentable. It was located in a walkway that led to the upstair courtyard. The cafe offered a variety of games, snacks and drinks. Everytime, I passed by, there were maids greeting us. As I walked around, I noticed the usual panels that fans would run from workshops to random topics. The masquerade or costume contest was also available to anyone attending the convention too. The lolitas were running some sort of scavenger hunt. After spending a few minutes trying to find things, our group gave up. It was too hard and we didn't want to walk around the hotel over and over again looking for items.
One of the more entertaining areas was the karaoke room. I really like karaoke rooms because it's a relaxing place to socialize and to look for entertainment. The team running the room did a great job because lyrics were provided on the screen and you can search for songs on an iPad. It was also set up so anyone can play songs from the MP3 player. The dance was pretty good as well although it was empty everytime I went into there. And there were chairs in the way.
The Dante Basco panel was interesting. So many people showed up for it and the line was really long. People waited for hours. However, it was Dante Basco, the actor who played Rufio and voiced Zuko/General Iroh in the Avatar series, so that was expected. In addition, he somewhat became a Homestuck celebrity online so he was probably the biggest draw for the convention. Too bad he was only there on Sunday.
The cosplays at PMX are probably above average. Mainly because a lot of well known cosplayers live in the area. Although, from the cosplayers I talked to, PMX is more of a relaxed convention. They would probably bring one or two cosplays rather than a full ensemble. Nevertheless, there were many cosplayers hanging out in the lobby. And there were plenty of photoshoots happening in the alley walkway next to the hotel and in the upstairs courtyard.
Aside from the expensive food from hotel restaurants, the area of LAX doesn't offer much. There was a Carl's Jr. and a Denny's nearby. Of course, it's LA. If you have car, you can drive to eat all of the delicious Asian food in the LA area. If not, then at least the two places mentioned above were only 3 minute walking distance from the hotel.
The hotel looked very elegant. The lobby was filled with couches and fancy Victorian decor that gave the place a very comfortable feel. Although the panels, dances and main events were scattered throughout the first and second floor, the hotel looked and felt great. I couldn't find artist alley, swap meet and dealers room for the longest time. They were either in the basement or off in a dead end hallway somewhere. And no maps were provided. I found them eventually but the layout of the hotel was just confusing. The grand staircase was beautiful though.
The upstairs courtyard provided photographers a place to do their photoshoots. And some of the videographers used the alleyway to film their cosplay videos. Aside from those two places, there weren't many places for cosplayers to do their shoots.
Final word is that PMX is a relaxing convention for the locals to meet up, hang out and cosplay a bit. Heavy duty programming convention will still be Anime Expo, and the cosplay convention in the state will still be Fanime. But PMX is a good "in between" convention.
Review: Anime Expo 2012
by Dawn aka Frenchie
Edited by GacktoThis year’s Anime Expo is in its fourth year at the Los Angeles Convention Center. More significantly, it is at its 21st year running! This may seem like such a long time for most convention attendees, but for some who have gone to AX before the attendee population spiked in 2008, the changes are manifest.Location: 3/5If this is your first year going to Anime Expo, you probably have had a hard time going around downtown Los Angeles with the X-Games happening simultaneously. Although most people complained about the poor planning of the city, it proved to be beneficial in some ways: We got entertainment while we walk to the convention, we got to see the confused look on everybody else’s faces, and more importantly, we got free Monster energy drinks! It always makes the average otaku happy to come to a convention that they saved a lot of money for and gets free perks in the end, doesn’t it?Hotels: 3.5/5Distance was obviously a real factor, the further you were situated from the convention grounds, the most time you had to take to plan when you want to go back to the convention, especially for those who have had 8 cosplays planned for this convention. On the plus side, a shuttle service was offered to most of these hotels to accommodate your needs. Lots of people were able to show up to cosplay photoshoots without missing too much. The number one criticism about the hotel database this year was the lack of notification to the public letting them know that hotels are available for reservations. It was extremely hard for people to shuffle back and forth between e-mails and forum posts. However, this could also be due in part of the planning team having difficulties compromising with the X-Games.Guests of Honor: 4.5/5Just like previous years, the guest line-up was very impressive and diverse! A few of the most-talked about guests included LiSA, Steve Blum, Cyril Lumboy, Misako Aoki, and the Madhouse Creative Team. If you have gone to the concerts and/or panels, they were definitely packed with lines still winding around the corners of the convention halls. And for some lucky people, they even crossed paths with these wonderful guests and got away with an autograph or photo!Main Events: 3/5The big talk is the masquerade, as always. Tons of Youtube videos are posted on the masquerade, but I definitely will not spoil it for you! As for other events, the Anime Singled Out panel had another successful year with its same host. Lots of dating hopefuls lined up for some of the cutest and sexiest contestants, such as Jessica Rabbit, Gene Starwind, and Chi! Many sneaky and persuasive remarks got thrown across the huge panel room along with some regrets after getting eliminated and facing their potential dates. In the end, you get what you’ve longed for. One special event that is also the talk of the convention is the new Lounge 21, celebrating Anime Expo’s 21st birthday. Every attendee gets a grab bag that includes a flyer to get a free bottle of Tentacle Grape, which is supposedly grape soda, but the name is much more enticing! Lines for this carded event were never-ending at first, filled with people with anticipation for the free entertainment and exchanges from the baristas. Although the area was tiny, it very much resembled the Stray Sheep from Catherine. Lots of people went to this place to relax, have a drink and just socialize. Panels: 3.5/5With all things considered, one of the few drawbacks to the panels this year was technical difficulties. This caused a handful of panels to start very late than expected, which avalanched to the next few panels. Another issue was scheduling times. The Gundam panel by Model Grade was not on the official programming guide yet their success was measured by the amount of promotion given through hearsay and invitations from their booth in the exhibitor hall. For the thousands of Gundam lovers at the convention, this panel was very informative. Not to mention, if you loved Gundam as much as the next guy, you had the chance of winning one in few free Gundam models that they handed out from playing “Who’s that Gundam?” Now who would turn down a free Gundam?Exhibitor Hall/Artist Alley: 5/5All across the board, everyone loved what the sellers and artists had to offer this year. This may be caused by the latest craze in J-Fashion, anime, videogames and other miscellaneous things. Seeing as how Misako Aoki was a big guest this year, lots of Lolita fashion stores were present and sold a huge amount of full dresses, hats, gloves, and cute little sweet Lolita bags to match their cupcake rings! The number of attendees sporting their Lolita fashion also seemed to rise along with the number of artist alley members who sold Lolita fashion. The most noticeable random item that went viral throughout the convention itself was the alpaca, not the llama. Although there is a difference between the two, no one person could walk the convention grounds without having to see these cute and cuddly guys that come in all sorts of sizes, forms and shades! Even though a collect few went home with a huge alpaca pillow for a hefty $50, most people settled for small keychains at only $8. In the world of videogames, the Portal series seems to have gone viral throughout the dealers, particularly the turret with their wide selection of t-shirts, talking turret plushies, and even a life-sized inflatable turret! With the unlimited amount of things you can find and buy at the exhibitor hall, it’s safe to say that buying these awesome trinkets is definitely worth our money saving! You’ll never know when you will come across them again and when you do, it’s most likely online where they jack up the price with shipping.Cosplayers: 5/5Many, many, many videos are posted on Youtube, displaying the wide array of cosplays that Anime Expo is known for! Some have worked on their cosplays for months and some just a few days. Popular series included Pokémon, Puella Magi Madoka Magica, League of Legends, Legend of Korra, and Mortal Kombat. The list is virtually endless with tons of people making up their own cosplays in a way that everybody else could still understand them, such as a group of tan men wearing nothing but underwear and Pokémon hats or internet memes. Anime Expo is still known for their uniqueness in cosplay from attendees that come from all over the world!Arcade: 4.5/5Perhaps when one is tired from wearing cosplay and just needs a place to relax with their friends, the large hardware of arcade and tabletop games was the place for you. The only thing that was keeping the score from being perfect was poor organization. Many attendees complained of the size of the arcade compared to the dance and that they should have switched. Other than that, it was the perfect place to play any kind of game, no joke! There were standard arcade games like hockey and Street Fighter, the tabletop games like Magic the Gathering and Pokémon, console gaming such as Super Smash Bros, and surprisingly enough, board games such as Axis and Allies and even Chess! If only such a place was open 24/7, no one would leave. Then again if no one left, there would be no need to give business to the hotels.Dances: 1/5To finish the day at such a marvelous convention, one would expect to dance the night away at a marvelous dance, right? For some it wasn’t as pleasant an experience as previous years or other conventions for that matter. Many were disappointed at the size of the room. On top of that, everyone had to wait in line to get in for what seemed like hours on end. What was funny about it was that the long line was at a huge hardware room right next to the dance, where everyone could have potentially started their own dance party. It was really unfortunate to wait in lines to get autographs and photos throughout the entire day, but to also wait in line at the end of the day to just dance is purely unfair. With lines backing up faster than the number of people leaving the dance, many were discouraged from going to the dance for the rest of the convention. Although the dance could have been held at the Nokia Theatre again, the mix of (drunk) skaters with otaku does not seem to resonate with a good time.
Review: Phoenix Comic-con 2012
By Dawn aka Frenchie
Edited by Gackto
With an overall attendee count of 23,000 this year, Phoenix Comic-con is definitely one of the conventions that will remain solid for years to come, at least when there are still geeks and nerds still living in Arizona. A lot of people see a lot of potential for this convention to come to its fruition with a great line-up of internationally-recognized guests who are willing to come down to the desert. Let’s hope that holds true for 2013!Location: 4/5Seeing how the comic scene in Arizona is growing very rapidly, finding a location is key. And what better choice than to have it at the capital! This is also essential for those who are out of state, most especially for our guests. Whether or not you live an hour away from the convention center, it’s very much worth it for the biggest comic convention in Arizona. No other convention center is spacious or more centralized than this one. You gotta keep the supply and demand balanced, right?Hotels: 3.5/5The downtown Phoenix area has a plethora of hotels to choose from whether or not you live around the valley. Depending on your budget, you could possibly splurge a little more for the closer hotels versus paying for parking every day. On the plus side, veteran convention attendees will say that they prefer to stay near the convention because of the convenience of getting to the nightlife! On top of that, if one were to wear a billion costumes during the con, it’s best to have them stored in an air-conditioned unit rather than a hot air-filled vehicle…unless if you prefer to be very extreme and camp outside of the convention center.Guests of Honor: 5/5A remarkable line-up of guests appeared at this year’s festivities, including the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation and Eureka. A few special guests included William Shatner, Ed Asner, Jon Bernthal, Tony Amendola, and Casper Van Dien. Unfortunately, getting autographs proved to be extremely time-consuming. On top of that, autographs could run you as much as $75 for William Shatner’s autograph. It is also rumored that $500 could get you some time to hang out with Captain Kirk himself! Yes yes, it’s rare that you get to meet and greet a ton of your favorite science fiction characters and it’s even more expensive to spend money on autographs on top of the hotel and membership fees that you dispensed just to be in the same location as they are. Trust me, it is really worth it! These actors and actresses crave attention from their fans and you’ll never know if you will run into them at the local bar when they are just about done with the day.Special Events and Geek Speed Dating: 3/5The programming schedule is even more packed with something for everybody. Depending on what your interests are, you could be going in the same events as other people and making new friends along the way! Such places that make these kinds of meetings possible are Geek Prom and Geek Speed Dating, which is new this year. This event could actually be found on television under the same name. For those who are looking for a future with a zombie bride or a Jedi knight, you have to be between ages 18-30, have $6 to spare along with a few hours. Basically the same as speed dating, there are 30 pairs of chairs facing each other in the room with 60 participants. You are given the same amount of time with your 30 potential dates and you get a chance to take notes and write down which ones you would like to date. Each conversation is always interesting, usually commenting on appearances and costumes and then getting down to favorite shows and personas. By the end of it all, you get to write down who you would like to date and then a few minutes later, you may or may not get paired off with someone. Although it’s a game of chance, the experience was very interesting for everybody who attended. Exhibitor Hall/Artist Alley: 5/5The entire exhibitor hall was packed with a variety of items for the nerd in you! The cleverest ones were caught speeding around the hall with a 3-ft long list of comic books that are essential to their collection. I gotta hand it to those guys though, the hall was always busy and crowded that getting around is quite an adventure! It made browsing around nearly impossible without having to bump into somebody every other step. Comic books constitute about 90% of all purchases, new or old. Action figures would be the next, specifically DC or Marvel Comic book characters. With the Avengers film on the rise, many places were selling out of Avengers memorabilia. You had to be careful though, because the prices of these could go sky high if you want them autographed. On-the-scene autographed photos from Star Trek could also go for a hefty few hundred dollars, which is priceless for any diehard fan. And for those who wore Steampunk fashion, there is a noticeable increase in the amount of Steampunk sellers. Many of these stores are owned by people who hand-made everything in the store, such as jewelry, watches, and even butterfly corsets that suit any woman of any size and shape. Even food was readily available in the convention center! Every food stand and restaurant in the food court was open and packed as walking around to panels, shopping for needed comic books and grabbing autographs definitely took a toll! Cosplayers: 5/5It’s hard to think of cosplay outside of anime. But if it could be done for videogames, why not comic books? Obviously a wide array of cosplays was showcased and photographed at the convention. Although, there were a few noteworthy costumes that you really had to dig around the convention floor to find. As a comic convention, many DC and Marvel costumes flood the scene, from the Avengers to the Justice League. The Avengers cosplayers definitely got more recognition than the Justice League members. However, there is talk of a Justice League live-action film to come into play. Outside of comics, Doctor Who also seems to have a major impact among Arizona fans. Although most cosplays are taken from the recent doctors, major themes and concepts such as the Tardis still remains alive and was found inside the exhibitor hall for people to admire like an art project. Along with remote-controlled Daleks, a very nice Doctor Who corner formed inside of the exhibitor hall where a good handful of Thor characters were also found, mostly Loki. Lots of people are in love with this jester-like character and he has gone viral because of sympathy for him. The same thing could also be said about Severus Snape and a couple of other Harry Potter characters who decided to also show up to Phoenix Comic-con. The most unique cosplay that everybody is still able to catch is Carl Fredricksen aka the old gentleman from Disney’s Up! There wasn’t that much to the details of his costume, but he was carrying a miniature version of his house that matched the real thing down to the tee. If you haven’t watched the movie, then you don’t know how a lot of people were very touched by his story. I suppose it could also be the same toward Loki or Snape. Dances: 4/5Phoenix Comic-con had a good handful of dances, depending on your area of expertise, whether it is Pokémon or zombies. On the other hand, the Geek prom is geared toward everybody at the convention for obvious reasons. But if you like going to dances regardless, PCC is the place for you! Once the exhibitor hall is closed and programming has slowed down after dinner hours, there aren’t that many places to things to do. Geek prom is where everybody flocked to re-live their high school moments and replace those jocks and preppy gals with more geeks. That way, you don’t have any shame in your dancing or talking to that cute princess Leia. It definitely means a lot to be in the same presence of potential dates who can speak Klingon, doesn’t it? Moving right along, if you walk a few minutes out of the convention and into the Renaissance, you will find the Pokémon-themed rave. Walking toward the room of the dance was getting tense because it kept on getting hotter and hotter, which was a good indication of how crowded it was. Surprisingly, there was also a huge line of people just resting outside from the craziness going on inside. From the music to the costumes, everything was more Pokémon than initially thought. The best part of the dance was the ravers making art with their glowsticks in the darkest end of the room. One fellow in particular had color-changing glowsticks and a large circular rainbow formed. Taking pictures of it was even cooler, because it turned out to be multiple rings!
First Fanime for Aftercon
Aftercon staff has heard of Fanime ever since they brought jpop singer, Tamaki Nami, to their convention about 7-8 years ago. Back then, Nami was a major pop star in the American anime convention circuit. Since then, Fanime has always been on the list of Aftercon to attend and cover, but we never had the chance. Local convention, Phoenix Comicon, was always held on the same Memorial Day weekend. However, this year the Aftercon staff decided to go to San Jose and check out this convention that we have known for so long but never attended.
The convention center and the proximity of the hotels were amazing. Unlike Anime Expo, all you have to do is walk to the convention and that will take 5 to 10 minutes. You can see cosplayers walking up and down every street. Fanime is all about cosplay. Cosplayers and photographers are everywhere. From video games to anime to kpop, there was someone cosplaying something from pop culture. If you take a look around the front of the convention center near an alcove, photographers set up their equipment for a on the spot studio for cosplayers. From what I hear from cosplayers, Fanime is one of their most favorite conventions.
The convention had a few panel rooms as well. However, they were tucked into the Marriott which was sometimes hard to find. There were some interesting panels. The Pokemen ran a very entertaining panel about the most random things. Most notably, just showing off their bodies. Cosplay Photographers ran a panel about lighting and poses for cosplay photography. There were even late night panels to entertain the crowd. One panel was "How to be an Internet Icon." It was more of a make fun of a CERTAIN internet icon panel than anything legit on cosplaying or tips. For Fanime, we were not sure if there was a dance or a rave. It was one of those things that we forgot about. We did see their Japanese guest perform a concert. It was quite interesting to see a half naked man in a Pikachu cosplay running around and singing. But it seems like everyone had a great time.
If you weren't having a good time at the panels, there were many video rooms for you. From new anime to rooms dubbed "old school" anime, there was something for everyone. And of course, you can always go outside and into the main hall to look at cosplayers. Did we mention that cosplayers were everywhere?
Still bored? Hop on over to Stage Zero! It's a stage on the second floor that is out in the open. MCs host shows and games and anything that may entertain the crowd. You don't even need a badge to watch events on the stage. Just sit in a chair and watch. Aftercon especially liked the kpop videos they were playing on Sunday. Crunchyroll announced their Cosplay Ambassador program on Stage Zero. Here we have Electric Lady as one of the first Cosplay Ambassadors. Basicially, it's a program to pay cosplayers for leading their followers to subscribe to Crunchyroll. The cosplayer would get a commission on that lead. It's the first ever of its kind in terms of getting paid for cosplaying.
Aftercon staff did notice that there were separate halls for artist alley, gaming and dealers room. There were so many artists in the hall that it was hard to buy everything. The dealers had a lot of dealers that sold awesome things from Kamen Rider belts to figurines. And those really cute Necomimi contraptions were on sale there too! Here is a Yuna cosplayer at Yaya Han's booth selling cat ears pictured below. What was surprising was that there were purikura machines at the gaming room where you can take pictures with your friends and have them printed out. It was pricey though. About $10 per session but if there was a group, the cost can be split. There were arcade machines as well gaming consoles.
Overall, the convention was very fun. Aftercon staff met many cosplayers and attended many panels and events. There was never a dull moment. Even if nothing was happening, you can always find someone to hang out with. A lot of attendees were all staying within a quarter mile of each other! Next time, hop on over to San Jose to enjoy the Memorial Day weekend and spend some time with awesome people.
How many Anime Expos can you GO?
Anime Expo is around the corner. Well, it's coming up this week and many of us are going again. For some, it will be their second or third year. For others, it will be their eighth or ninth year. Which begs the question, how many can you go to before you get bored and burned out?
Anime Expo sure has changed over the years. We saw a lot of anime companies go out of business. It used to be an expo to push product and go all out but now, the companies have been reduced to really just a few major players. Is it because anime is dying in North America? Or something else?
What it really is... is that anime is digital now. You can access it anywhere. No longer do you have to go to the store or go to a convention to buy a box set. So why do we still go to anime conventions? It's really just to hang out and socialize. And to buy anime related merchandise. Think about it!
People are now into figures, models and collector items. You see anime DVDs and manga go on discount sale like a firestorm. No one wants to hold the inventory. Manga can be as cheap as $3 from the price of $9.99 a few years ago. Of course, people are still there to see what news are being released about upcoming anime but for the most part, anime is not that big of a deal. It's about goodies, guests, cosplaying and hanging out.
If you are wondering if you are too old or too out of it to be going to Anime Expo anymore, you need to change your mindset. Anime Expo can be anything you want it to be. A place to meet new people. A place to buy things. A place to cosplay. A place just to party for the weekend. Unless you are just disgusted by anime or completely broke, there is no reason for you to stop going to Anime Expo. This is a place where you forget life for the weekend and live your pure desires.
Anime Expo 2012 is 6/29-7/2. See you there!
Connichiwa 2012 Review
The panels are Connichiwa 2012 were exceptional. From fitness panels to Aftercon's own Asians in America and Anime Singled Out, the attendees were able to satisfy their every curiousity. There were awesome hentai panels 18+ at night as well. Electric Lady and JouninK ran a photography panel instructing how to take better cosplay photos and also how to pose as a cosplayer. If panels were not to your satisfaction, there was a video room for you to watch some anime too. The gaming room can keep anyone occupied as AZHP does an excellent job hosting the room. There were fighting games and first person shooters for people to play. Although these aren't really panels, the autograph sessions were a great way to meet the 4 voice actors that attended the convention. Monical Rial, Colleen Clinkenbeard, Kyle Hebert and Mike MacFarland sat out in the lobby and signed many autographs for the attendees.
The cosplay masquerade was as big as ever for Connichiwa. Even when it was held inside the giant tent, people were standing in the back watching the show. Cosplays included ponies, pirates, Vocaloid, Final Fantasy characters, etc. The skits included dances and musicals. It seems dances are a popular choice for this year. Hosted by Kyle Hebert, the masquerade was exceptionally entertaining. The One Piece musical won the skit award and Electric Lady's Bad Girl outfit from No More Heroes won best craftsmanship. As the convention is looking into moving into a bigger venue, there should be more room next year in the masquerade. They will need it as their attendance grows!
Team Kissu, Arizona's premier cosplay cafe, ran a Persona 4 cafe. Included in the cafe were cosplayers such as Luluko, Dahowbitt, and even Gackto as Yousuke. Each round, cosplayers would act like their designated character and interact with the guests. This included drinking tea, eating cakes, and joking around. There would be a rotation so everyone would get to sit with their characters. If you missed Team Kissu, be sure to catch them at Saboten Con for their Sailor Moon cafe.
Other highlights of the convention include the photobooth by Toshi Yamioka who took awesome shots for the cosplayers. The booth was in the middle of the lobby and easily accessible. One night, there was also a swap meet for anyone looking to sell or trade their anime goodies. This year's convention was an improvement of last year's convention where a majority of the programming were cancel. It looks like this year, the staff were on cue when it came to programming, security and organization. Connichiwa 2012 is the best year the convention has had. The guests, panels, masquerade, cosplay, attendance, etc. points to a convention well done and will surely be better next year. For now, the next convention in Arizona is Saboten Con. Then Anime Kaigi is in November with Taiyou Con in January. Then, we can all go back to the convention down south in Tucson called Connichiwa and enjoy ourselves!
Interview w/ Vic Mignogna at Anime Central 2012
Interview by Gackto
At Anime Central, we sat down with Vic Mignogna to discuss some upcoming projects, reflect on the past, and find another way to break into the voice acting industry. Hope you enjoy it!
This is a different format. Instead of the text Q&A, we made a video which should enhances your experience with our interview. Please watch the YouTube link below.
Interview By Gackto
Moi Dix Mois (MDM) is a jrock band from Japan created by Mana. Other members include K, Sugiya and Hayato. Previously, Mana had been in another band, Malice Mizer, along side with popular musician, Gackt. In addition to working on music, the band is also connected with the gothic lolita community in terms of fashion, style and brand. At Sakura Con, the Aftercon Staff was able to ask some interview questions during the Q&A session.
AFTERCON: Are you releasing a new album soon?
MDM: Yes, in the summer.
AFTERCON: Mana, what band outside of Japan has influenced you?
AFTERCON: Is there a chance for a Malice Mizer reunion?
MANA: There would be a reunion concert in September in Japan.
AFTERCON: How long does it take to do hair and makeup for each concert?
MDM: Between 15 minutes to 2 1/2 hours.
AFTERCON: Mana, did you know that people all over the world read your blog?
MANA: Yes, I'm very glad.
AFTERCON: How do you like being in Seattle for Sakura Con?
MDM: Very happy. We love the seafood.
AFTERCON: Do you enjoy screaming during your concerts?
AFTERCON: K, what anime character would you be?
K: Ryuk from Death Note
AFTERCON: Mana, have you seen some good lolitas at Sakura Con?
MANA: I will take some time to go look for some.
AFTERCON: What other bands have influenced the overall band?
MDM: Beatles, Slayers, Slipknot and Queens Right
AFTERCON: How about visual inspirations?
MANA: Tim Burton.
AFTERCON: What influenced you to do gothic lolita?
MANA: In the beginning, there was no gothic lolita. So I created it.
AFTERCON: Mana, if you were on a deserted island and could only have one thing, what would it be?
AFTERCON: Seth, if you had another job, what would it be?
SETH: A chef.
AFTERCON: And Hayato, what are some good beauty tips?
Hayato: Love. And alcohol.
AFTERCON: You are hilarious. Thank you for answering our questions!
Well, the band is serious about their music. However, these guys are also very funny and personable. If you can catch the band at Sakura Con again or at any other convention, Aftercon would highly suggest it.
Interview By Gackto
While Steve Blum was busy doing panels and signing autographs, we were able to ask some questions for this interview at various intervals throughout the Sakura Con weekend. Some of the questions were asked at his panel, some at his autograph session, and some when we saw him walking around. He is one of the nicest man we have met, and he even signed an autograph for us! Steve Blum is known for his role as Spike Spiegal in Cowboy Bebow and many more. Here are some of the questions we were able to ask him. Hopefully, you will be able to meet him someday too!
AFTERCON: What was it like working on the anime such as Cowboy Bebop on Toonami in the late 90's?
STEVE: Well, it was really normal. Mainly because we had no feedback on what we did. We voiced the characters, and it was not until later that I found out a lot of people watched our product when I went to a convention like this one. I practically raised all of you when you were kids! Did you see the April Fools joke that Cartoon Network was bringing Toonami back? It was funny.
AFTERCON: We wished it wasn't a joke. If you rated Toonami from one to ten, what would it be?
STEVE: 10 out of 10!
AFTERCON: Please tell us what was the hardest gig or role that you were able to audition and get?
STEVE: They were all hard. It's a lot about knowing the right people and then after that, auditioning for those roles. But if I don't get the role, I just let it go. You can't have the mindset where you can't let it go. You have to move on.
AFTERCON: Oh what did you think of the Mass Effect 3 ending?
STEVE: I think the people who wrote the story are geniuses, but I can't really say anything about the ending because I'm not really a gamer. But I did hear the fans thought it was a letdown.
AFTERCON: Another random question. Who would win, Spike Spiegal or Malcolm Reynolds?
STEVE: Spike, baby!
AFTERCON: What's it like to play different roles in the same anime?
STEVE: I like the added challenge. Especially when it's in the same scene. It keeps me fresh.
AFTERCON: Can you explain the ending of the Big O?
STEVE: I don't even know the beginning! I don't think the studio even knew what the ending was about. Haha!
AFTERCON: Changing directions again. How do you like Johnny Yong Bosch and Crispin Freeman?
STEVE: Bosch will always be my power ranger. And Freeman is a genius. He does panels all over the world!
AFTERCON: Before we go, what tip do you have for voice acting?
STEVE: Lots of sleep and water. Be sure you don't injure your voice because you can hurt yourself and damage your voice permanently.
AFTERCON: Thank you. Please, enjoy the rest of Sakura Con!
And then Steve Blum went on his way.
Taiyou-con J-Fashion Show 2012
Photography provided by Kataklizmic Design - Katherine Vega
The Taiyou-con J-Fashion show was hosted by one of the best MCs, Yuhki. Although the size of the room was fairly small, every designer and model brought something very unique and appealing for the audience. This year, there were only three designers and a good amount of solo entries. But all in all, crowds were rolling in during the show just to glance at the latest in Japanese fashion.
There is absolutely no shame in being a male model, according to the above models, Jai, Gackto, and Disposable Assassin. Jai sports a Japanese Rock-like outfit in white for the very first time on the runway, happily showing proof of his love for exercise. Gackto and Disposable Assassin are pictured wearing matching Neon Genesis Evangelion uniforms from Japan, both looking very chic while showing their Otaku side.
Aqua Red is a label that started over a year ago and at this year’s show, they are coming onto the fashion scene! Their style of clothing includes designs of a wide variety of characters in a very contemporary style of art. These designs mixed with Japanese street fashion make the label very marketable to a wide range of audiences, not to mention head-turning. On top of that, the choice of near neutral colors makes their looks wearable for both men and women alike.
With the new comes the old, and Cake Shop has been in the fashion scene ever since J-Fashion Shows have risen in Arizona. With a lot of determination, Cake Shop constantly comes out with a wide array of fresh designs on the runway, each sported by models wearing their iconic voluminous wigs and high heel shoes, perfect for going out on the town. But do not be fooled by their accessories, because this designer always looks for the next best thing to make cohesive ensembles with serious wow factors.
Although Poison Sugar has not been in the J-Fashion scene as much as Cake Shop, the designer still respectably comes out with lovely designs like there is no tomorrow! Just like with any designer, each one has their own personal flare with their designs and Poison Sugar seems to focus on working between the Lolita and steampunk division. A lot of the designs include cute yet mature fabric patterns of more subtle colors to make looks that are conservative but still feminine at the same time.
It seems that Guilty Crown consists of all the things that would make a great anime. From mechas to pretty girls to cool fight scenes. After a few episodes, you get a sense of what the overall plot is, and it reminds you of other great series that have come before like Code Geass.
Like Code Geass, this series involve a boy with powers. It has a multiple cute and well trained lady fighters. And of course, the mech suits. While everything seems nice on its own, so far through four episodes, all of the elements don't mesh well. When everything is put together, it seems a little generic. But that may be a different case once the story moves along and develops the characters more.
Animation is great, characters are cool, except the main character who is more whiny than anything else, and the central element is pretty standard for a great anime. Oh the central element? Yes, it's about a terrorist group battling the goverment to gain freedom, and this young high school boy has the power to pull different weapons out of different people depending on their personality to use in battle against evil.
The verdict on the series? Let's keep watching.
The Grandeur of Saboten 2011
By Gackto and Frenchie
Saboten-con was held at the Squaw Peak Resort in Phoenix for another year. The programming schedule seemed very packed, that it came down to making tough decisions on which panels and events to attend! Many people looked forward to the festivities of this convention, because it is the first one after the commencement of school. So, many people brought their absolute best cosplays and outfits to showcase for the attendees!
This year’s show was hosted by Mikoto. With previous experience in running fashion shows in the convention scene, this one outweighed the others by far! The show was held in a very large panel room, so there were many seats to go around. Although the entire room wasn’t filled up to capacity, the designs were really worth sitting through it from beginning to end. There were designs by Strawberry Black, Dictator Fantasyland, Cake Shop and Mikoto’s line, Poison Sugar. A lot of these designers have been showcasing their designs for a long time and as somebody who has watched their designs come out at each convention, I can see a lot of their progress but most importantly their identifying factor.
The highlight of every convention has to be their masquerade and with Saboten-con being one of the largest in Arizona, it has a reputation to keep up for the best cosplays and skits. Besides the long wait in line and possibly horrible seating once you get inside the room, I would say it’s definitely worth it. One pair that stood out was Princess Zelda and Peach. I really have to hand it to them, their cosplays are impeccable but their skit outweighs that by so much. A few more cosplays included Lightning and Vanille, which made some audience members anticipate for the release of FFXIII-2. There was also a fangirl favorite, No Face from Spirited Away. Although the only thing that he did was stand there with his hands out, girls were throwing around cheers while guys were pondering why he gets the most attention in one minute. Whatever the case may be, the masquerade was full of creative and awesomely witty contestants.
In an anime convention, the term “cosplay” gets used loosely every year. Does it necessarily mean costumes from anime or anything else that you fan girl over? At this convention, there are lots of anime-related cosplays, from Hetalia to Fairy Tale. But also, there are miscellaneous cosplays such as the Power Rangers, Spiderman, and the numerous Captain Jack Sparrows. One could also ask whether or not you prefer to wear a “cosplay” for Halloween or a “costume”. What also adds on to the fun of cosplay at a convention is to be able to do group cosplays. I spotted a really nice Final Fantasy XIII group consisting of Lightning, Vanille and Fang. Hats off to all the group cosplayers, solely because it’s really hard to plan and coordinate who is going to do which character and for having awesome communication! There are also cosplays in which the costume wearer requires attention from the attendees. From this convention, there was a lurking Spiderman that kind of seemed like Richard Simmons in that he was very active in every single way, at every single corner of the hotel, at every single minute. He was even caught trying to get a yoga group started outside of the masquerade hall and doing high five trains! That just goes to show the crazy, interactive side of cosplay.
Gaming this year was done by none other than AZHP. The room had a fairly close resemblance to last year’s layout. If we’re talking about traffic, it’s had its ups and downs. It cannot be assumed that every otaku out there plays videogames, but when they do, they play hardcore! Speaking of hardcore, many of them probably signed up to participate in one of a few dozen tournaments, with Super Smash Brothers being the largest. I suppose there is something to that game that really triggers the gamer mentality deep within the otaku. There were quite a lot to play this year, from Rock Band to Call of Duty and Arcana Heart. However, I was slightly to find out that their custom-made arcade machine took a vacation. The staff decided it finally had a good run of seven years. If you don’t know, this arcade machine was custom-built by the staff and it took them about a half a year to make one entity that could hold a billion of the most classic games ever built, like Atari games. Hopefully for next year’s convention, there will be a new one.
To be honest, the vendor’s hall did not change too much, except for the rise in amount of Gloomy Bears and (real) food. Once you enter the room, the first store you see if filled with these cute, cuddly and colorful creatures. I must say, it was very tempting to buy one, yet extremely difficult to choose which one to buy. On top of that, there were a few Gloomy Bears that ooze of chocolate instead of the classic red blood. I found it kind of amusing that all of the colorful and cute items were showcased closer to the entrance, leaving all of the dark and grim sellers near the opposite corner of the hall. I felt that it was a theme spectrum, maybe it was planned out by Saboten, maybe it was coincidence. Some artists had a lot of clever artwork, such as a tofu character with “Miso Hungry” written across the drawing. There were also a good handful of designers from the J-Fashion Show selling their unique clothing and accessories. It is really hard to imagine having to sit for what seems to be a countless number of hours in the same place, greeting customers and perhaps seeing a friend here and there. But all of them can tell you that having that much space at such a popular convention is worth the endurance, because it’s business.
As far as events go, The Hetalia Café had a really good turnout! There were about 5-6 tables in the entire room and only 3 maids to accommodate everybody, crazy! The three maids must be serious servers outside of the convention scene, because any other person would freak out having to serve 16 people at one time. On top of that, there were multiple sessions for the café. Although the maids were probably not tipped, they sure made a lot of attendees very happy. And if you were also there, you probably saw a North Korea cosplayer wearing a midriff and waving the North Korean flag, acting like Hard Gay. So, everybody also got a show! Besides that, the panels this year really brought something different to the table. Although it was first thing in the day, there was a panel called “No More Kawaii: How to Speak Japanese 101” which was really informative. The panelists were two ASU Japanese majors who made a really colorful presentation on the do’s and don’ts of the anime language. The first surprise was the turnout, as the room was filled almost to full capacity and the room was filled with roundtables of 8-10 people each! Another panel focused in on that cute egg Pokémon, Togepi. Panda Cubed hosted a panel featuring the rise and downfall of Togepi, which was basically a narration of how Togepi came onto the pop culture scene in his/her acting career. Lots of the photos (taken from TMZ) were definitely real, portraying Togepi’s first career move, to Togepi’s first one night stand, to Togepi’s recent incarceration. I’m really hoping that they come to the next Anime convention. Obviously as nightfall comes onto the convention, so does the theme of its panels. What I’m talking about are the Adult AMVs. I have never heard of such panel before, and I was curious to know what they mean by “adult” so I went there. At first, I thought I was running a little, because the room was a little empty when I got there. However, I walked in on what was supposedly the most interesting scene of a Yaoi! I was in the back looking at the audience and they all seemed very intrigued by this event, so I left in an instant. That’s the best timing I had at the convention thus far.
The convention nightlife continues with the dances, or raves. One thing was already bad about it: It was on the second floor. On my way to the dance hall, I felt heavy trembling on the floor thinking that it was an earthquake. Once I got to the entrance, I was discouraged to find out that bouncers were guarding it, letting people in as other people leave. Throughout the night, most of the people that left early were dissatisfied that security had to tell them to stop jumping once they realized it was problematic. One good thing about it though: Alcohol. And there was a lot of it for the taking next to the entrance! Once you finally get inside the dance hall, you could see why people wanted to just jump up and down. The music is just plain catchy! With all things considered, the dance was satisfactory. It could still be better planned as far as location goes, because 30 feet away was the nearest hotel room which is crazy. However, the DJ that came from out of state conventions gave a really nice set which kept a lot of people inside.
Final Grade: B+
There were a lot of trade-offs that made a good balance to the convention. Location was one of them. The drive from the Tempe area wasn’t all too bad, minus the car accidents on the way. I never really heard many complaints about panels and events starting late, so the staff really had good mechanics for getting everybody in and out of the right panels. The new food discount was a really fantastic program, especially for the Otaku budget. On top of that, Troy Baker had to cancel his appearance, which wasn’t something we could hold against the staff. In all essence, the convention staff cannot make everybody happy. But they get mad props for trying.
See you next time!!!
Aftercon sits down with voice actor, Colleen Clinkenbeard, at Anime Central 2011 and discuss topics on voice acting and the life of a voice actor in 2011. She is a voice actress, Line Producer, ADR Director, and scriptwriter for Funimation.
Aftercon: A lot of voice actors prepare for their voice acting sessions. What are some things you do not do that other voice actors would do?
Colleen : Sometimes, I sing in the car along with the radio. It really depends on the characters because some of the characters require it. Sometimes, I don't do a lot of things that others do. Such as drink water, eat apples, prepare emotionally... I think the more you prepare emotionally, the more you are making assumptions so I try to make it more naturally.
Aftercon: Are there any differences between voice acting for a video game and an anime?
Colleen : It's completely different. Video games are really free and you build the voice together for the character with the company. It really shreds your voice sometimes. Anime is very controlled and technical, and I really like that.
Aftercon: What's it like working in theater?
Colleen : It's extremely organic. The actors play games and get in touch with each other before the performance. In anime, it's not like that. You do as many takes as you want, and no one sees your face.
Aftercon: Is there a show you want to voice for?
Colleen : Masters of the Universe!
Aftercon: Are there any up and coming vocal talents?
Colleen : Lindsay Sidel is someone I recently work with. She was fantastic and you'll see her again.
Aftercon: Do most voice actors start with bit parts and work their way up to the main parts?
Colleen : Absolutely. Back then, there weren't that many female voice actors so I started out with a big role but now, it doesn't happen that way.
Aftercon: What series was your first role?
Colleen : My first role was in Dragonball GT.
Aftercon: Is there a particular voice actor that you are excited to work with?
Colleen : We are usually a big family. If we aren't working, we go out to dinner together. There are some actors that come into town to do some work but it doesn't happen to often. So I'm not too excited most of the time unless someone new comes in.
Aftercon: Is there something you want to change if you started over again?
Colleen : I would have like to exercise my voice during the down times because you lose your voice if you don't use it. I wouldn't really change anything because it was not the voice for me. I just happened to be at the right place at the right time for this career. So I would say to myself, keep doing what you are doing.
Aftercon: Well, thank you for the interview!
Colleen: No problem, thank you for your time.
Frenchie’s Finds – Anime Expo 2011
It is safe to say that this year’s Anime Expo had a slight decrease in the number of attendees. But nothing could ever take away the amount of fun anybody can have at the largest convention on this side of the country! With a large itinerary of events such as the Kalafina concert and Mikunopolis, there was something to please everybody. I’d like to highlight certain aspects of the convention that really bring out the pride and joy of Japanese Pop Culture.
Highlight #1: Danny Choo & Culture Japan
In my 2nd year of going to his panel, Danny Choo really made a mark on cosplayers and Japanese Pop Culture fans alike. For those of you who don’t know, Danny Choo is the son of Jimmy Choo (yes, the shoe designer). He grew up in London, which explains his British accent, but also spent a good amount of time in Japan. At this panel, he shares his interests in anything involving Japan (such as anime) and how it grew into a big enterprise that launches the career of his dreams. His panel last year introduced his website and television show “Culture Japan”. This year, he revealed a new character, named Mirai, who will hopefully be in an upcoming anime. Most of us probably wonder how somebody can get to a very successful point in their life. Well, that’s where most of his explanations come in. Danny Choo has led such a busy life, he shared a few tips and tricks that he has undergone in order to better his life. He was very elaborate with every aspect of his daily life; I only wanted to highlight a few that struck me as particularly interesting: 1) Time management: A lot of people complain about not having time to do this and that, when in reality, you have all the time in the world. The trick is to organize your time and perhaps invest in things that save you time in the long run, such as a smartphone. When it comes to cosplay, lots of time can be wasted by just disorganization with the approach. By taking some time to plan it out, making cosplays may not be as bad. When you’re stuck, his famous quote goes by saying “Something leads to something. Nothing leads to nothing.” That is what distinguishes people who truly want to get to their goal and people who “want” to get to their goal!
2) Trollism: We’ve faced at least one case of a troll by now, but are they really people that we should hate? Although trolls are known to bring people down by their art, it could be encouraging in some ways. For one, it reassures you that you have a lot going for you than those who troll. In another way, trolls can be looked at as a tiny obstacle that could be easily looked over. Reality says that no one can ever get to a goal without having to face trolls, because that’s how life naturally works. All of this amounts to my 3rd highlight.
3) Passion: You have to keep in mind the reason that you pursue what you love. Above all, you also have to rethink if you love what you do. Looking at things as “Live to work” instead of “Work to live” kind of situation. Danny Choo comments that when you find what you want to do in life for a very long time, you will eventually love those Mondays, because you simply can’t get enough of your career. But the process to get there requires a lot of focus, to think of the circumstances and to choose carefully whether or not doing one thing may jeopardize something larger.
Although I noticed a handful of people snoozing during his lecture, I actually found it really refreshing. He definitely brought a lot of attention to everybody else and made them think of the bigger picture, regardless if it is anime-related or not. He started off by working at a Japanese restaurant and now he owns a website that launches hundreds of thousands of hits per month! Of course it was inspiring for everybody!
Highlight #2: The significance of Angry Birds at the convention
(Yes, the Dragonballs look awesome from the angle I took the photo). For the past year, Angry Birds have become exponentially popular among everybody, young and old. The concept of the game is genius, using birds as stones to throw themselves at pigs who have stolen their eggs. Their popularity has gone wild to the point where every other store at the Exhibitor’s Hall sells Angry Bird plushies for as little as a few dollars. However, these items stood out above them all: Angry Birds with the slingshot! You can still throw the plushies around and play like your arms are the slingshot, but it’s better to have the actual thing! There was also a man walk around the convention wearing a tuxedo and a helmet that sports the main red angry bird, which caught like wildfire for the media to take a picture of. Although these birds aren’t technically a part of anime, there are many other things just like them. But for some reason, they show up at anime conventions. Maybe because they sell a lot or perhaps people just simply love these cute and cuddly creatures? All we know for a fact is that the game is terribly addicting and the convention scene welcomes anything that catches the attention of our fellow otaku!
Highlight #3: The Death Note intertwined with reality
What better way to tie in reality to anime than the Death Note? If you have seen this guy walking around, you have probably seen names in there such as Justin Bieber and Edward Cullen. But if you haven’t, now you know! Death Note has been a series that has a lot of hardcore fans. I have actually seen a handful of Light and L cosplayers that still walk the convention grounds. And I thought that this cosplay was pretty clever in that there have been news stories where otaku have accused the Death Note for a real person’s tragic death. In a world where a lot of people have very extreme opinions, this guy’s cosplay was one that never failed to make every otaku amused. Plus, the better part was eavesdropping on the conversations among lovers and haters and taking it out on each other. Let’s not blame the Death Note though, he’s neutral territory.
Highlight #4: Bandai and the Gundam 00 Movie
Waiting in line to get into the Gundam 00 movie was thrilling enough as it is, talking with fellow Gundam lovers while they play Angry Birds. Speaking of angry, there was a roomful of angry attendees that found out they had to wait another hour for the representative of Bandai to come in with the official DVD. Apparently, there was a miscommunication about the start time of the movie. Then, I’ve been hearing comments among everybody such as “Pirate it!” or “I can download this in less than an hour!” This led to more Angry Birds with the anticipation that we could start no later than 8. But the wait was worth it!
Overall, it was without a doubt that Gundam 00 was a very successful series in the line of Gundam-based anime, along with Gundam Seed and Gundam Wing. The series became very popular to the point where it has to have its own movie. If you haven’t watched the anime though, don’t expect the movie to summarize it for you. The movie is actually a supplement to the main plot, picking up from where it left off in the 2nd season. The movie experience was so thrilling, because you’re not only in a room full of people; you’re in a room full of otaku. Big difference! This reminded me of the time Transformers (one) was released at Anime Expo 2007 in Long Beach. Many couldn’t sit down in their seats and be quiet, because the movie was just that epic. But for the Gundam 00 movie, spectators pointed out things that were more obvious rather than be annoying for the heck of it. It was still quite an experience!
Highlight #5: Cosplays from the classics
Among the numerous cosplayers out there, you can’t help but notice the all-time classics! Many who have been into Japanese Pop Culture from back in the day know how to bring those memories back. Some cosplays have always been gold, such as the Mario Bros. But there have been a handful of cosplays that stood out from the rest, whether the series is very old or that the cosplay is rather tricky to conquer. It was hard to catch a glimpse of them all, but these are my top finds. The Death Note deserved his own highlight, because if I don’t, my name will most likely be on there. Anyhow, I decided to highlight classic cosplays, because you don’t find many of these too often, especially in a convention as gigantic as Anime Expo! Let’s not rule out the common cosplays, though. Regardless of the rarity of a cosplay, we’re all together in a melting pot to simply celebrate anything Japanese Pop Culture.
If you have been to conventions as long as I have or even longer, you really can see the changes both on a surface level and on a personal level. No matter how long you have been to conventions, the kinds of cosplays you can do vary between old and new. Yet, there may be some people that could recognize familiar faces in passing. For some people, cosplay seems to be a way of life or something more than just a hobby. But for others, we eventually have to come back down to reality, that moment when you first come home from the convention, looking around and thinking that everything seemed to have happened in a flash. The nicer thing is that you come home with a ton of memories, put them on Twitter or Facebook, and talk about it until the next convention.
Anime Expo 2011 Cosplay Video
Frenchie’s Finds – Phoenix Comicon 2011
Phoenix Comicon celebrates its 2nd year at the Phoenix Convention Center and the number of attendees is on the rise again! Fortunately, I was able to check in a day before the festivities began to check out the con grounds and the above picture is what it looked like. It kind of looks like a level from Portal, doesn’t it? If you came on the first day, however, you probably saw a mess of people, like this:
It was definitely more crowded than I have ever experienced at PCC. Each day, there is a jam-packed room full of people who are trying to get their badges. On top of that, they used the same room for the Dealer’s Room/Exhibitor’s Hall. Walking through the Dealer’s Room though, I began to feel as if I was at a mini Anime Expo for two reasons: Crowds and Space. This had to be the largest area used for a Dealer’s Room in the history of Anime/Comic conventions in Arizona. Keep in mind, this convention is mainly a comic convention, despite its ambiguity in the advertisements stating “Biggest Pop Culture Event in the Southwest.” The reason being is that the convention welcomes anything that has caught like wildfire, such as these fellows:
Yes, Angry Birds is that all-time famous pastime for smartphone users, both old and young (can’t you tell from the excitement on that young girl’s face?). These outraged birds got its popularity from the concept of a slingshot, not to mention a very cute storyline. Let’s not think too literally about throwing birds though, you could be had for animal abuse. On the plus side, you can buy these cuddly creatures (in various sizes) at the convention and throw them around all you want! I will not be absolutely surprised if I see a billion Angry Birds at Anime Expo.
Whether you’re at PCC for comics or anime, fashion tends to be very independent of them, but takes in fans from both worlds. Steampunk has gotten noticeably popular since last year’s PCC that a good number of stores specialize in Steampunk only outfits. This kind of fashion is inspired by intricate gadgets with a mixture of an outlaw-like attitude. There are series in both comics and anime that are inspired by this kind of fashion and it will only become more popular for next year’s PCC. The Steampunk fashion shows are a must-see, because they do get crowded very fast!
The other side of fashion is one that is very familiar to everybody now, Japanese Fashion. Since 2007, Japanese fashion has definitely grown in the Arizona convention scene. These three outfits were my top favorites, not because of the leg action. Regardless of how much leg gets shown, this show felt different, because about 90% of the models are actually with a local designer. That goes to show how many people are truly inspired by this unique fashion, with the drive to go national or international with their labels. It all starts from the ground up.
Until last year’s PCC, most of the convention was geared toward anime; even the vendors sold mostly anime-related items. Now, the tables have turned! It seemed as if less than 20% of attendees were there for anime. I believe that advertising also had a lot to do with the spike in number of comic attendees. You know, friends who tell their friends who also tell their friends. I find it to be really exciting, because Arizona needed an event like this for nerds and geeks alike. Looks like anime conventions may have quite a competition in their hands next year!
I must say that the gaming room was very outstanding this year! It looks like AZHP did a major upgrade, bringing more games and tournaments to comic and anime fans alike. Even little ones (right) are caught playing against gamers twice or even three times his age. One major relief was the decrease in the amount of “gamer funk” all thanks to a larger room with better circulation! No one will admit their gamer funk, but it’s better to find ways to eliminate it instead. The gaming room offered not only console gaming but also PC gaming, seeing as people were obsessed with World of Warcraft and Starcraft 2.
When I was looking at the programming guide, I hit an obstacle: Go to the “Poké University” panel, or the “How to be a bad@$$ 101” which were both at the same time. I figured that there were too many Pokémon-related cosplays, items, jokes to go around at future conventions, that I decided to give the other panel a try. Surprisingly enough, the panel was very informative. The room was almost packed and we all had a good laugh about certain bad@$$ characters. The two most popular ones were Prince Vegeta (for obvious reasons, he’s Vegeta) and Dante (because he’s cool). The panelists (The Renegades) made a nice presentation on what makes a bad@$$, going into details such as having a good back story to poses, attitudes and weapons. At times, the idea of a bad@$$ seemed similar to a douchebag, but they also talked about how to avoid being that person. If you missed it, let’s hope they will come back to a future convention!
This convention really shifted its focus from the first year it started. Some people who have been to any previous PCC have probably wondered why it looked to be anime-related as opposed to comics. With enough time, patience, and money, the real idea behind PCC finally shined down in Phoenix. I always wondered where all the Arizona comic book geeks went, because I know for a fact that anime isn’t the only kind of media that everybody likes. The number of attendees each year seemed like a wave of zombies in those horror survivor games, they get numerous after the previous wave. Since last year, that wave certainly gave the PCC committee something to work with by hiring more guests, panelists, vendors, etc. Will it be more promising next year? There’s only one way to find out!
PCC 2011 Cosplay Video
For the second year, Tucson had more than one anime convention. This time, Connichiwa introduced a matsuri which provided the attendees another event to enjoy! People can be seen hanging out at the lobby and pool area while cafes and panels were taking place nearby.
Aftercon had their usual Anime Singled Out panel, Kpop videos and Asians in America panel. The Dollars also had many panels and helped run many events like the Matsuri. The matsuri included mini games like ring toss, and food like okonomiyaki. This outdoor festival included cosplay and music as well.
The masquerade was on Saturday night
packed with a full crowd and more than 40 cosplay entries. Our Aftercon member, Electric Lady, won an award for craftsmanship. That night, you could have also caught a performance from Toybox too.
Special guests, Sonny Strait and Todd Haberkorn, were roaming about, hosting panels and signing autographs. We had a brief conversation with Todd, and he is one cool dude.
The people were great as usual. Cosplayers were everywhere. AZHP had a packed gaming room at all times. Team Kissu also had a Black Butler cosplay cafe which was a sold out event. There's a certain charm to hanging out with your favorite anime character! And can't forget the curry eating contest! It's practically free food.
There were some hiccups at the convention such as an early shutdown on Saturday night
including cancellation of the dance, and a mass cancellation of panels throughout the weekend. But thanks to various groups in the community such as the Dollars and Aftercon, impromptu panels were implemented. Not bad for a second year convention, but looking forward to a better third year. The attendees were awesome as usual!
A New Year, a New Con
Before this convention, many people were found wishing for some sort of Anime adventure
between the popular Saboten-con and Phoenix Cactus Comicon. Everybody wished and
everybody got what they wanted. What better way to start off the New Year with a convention
named after the valley of the sun, Taiyou-con. I’ll give it major props for how many people
came, but even more props for those that promoted it. There was a record of some unsuccessful
first-year cons (that shall not be mentioned) that were smaller to begin with, for reasons such as
location, pricing, space, timing, etc. All in all, Taiyou-con was fairly successful. It was held on
during winter break, so (almost) everybody was out of school.
Location: Mesa; not everybody will like the location, depending on where they live. The cost
of going is cheap, which is good for the otaku budget. If you can cough up the cash for a badge,
munch on some treats, buy (most) of the things you want, all for under $75, it is one heck of a
weekend. Anyhow, the convention was fairly convenient for those who lived on neighboring
suburbs – Gilbert, Chandler, Tempe. For those that lived everywhere else, the room rates were
very cheap, just over $100 a night. Lastly, it was convenient if you needed to search for food
and necessities, just in case people needed to ward off zombies and such.
Guests: The line-up was fairly small, but what they had to offer had many con-goers wanting
for more. Guests included Chris Cason, Troy Baker, Brian Foster Kane, Tristen Citrine, Perfect
Math Class and Kitsune Robot. Our local bands rocked out to Anime music and brought a new
wave of music performances to the con scene besides dancing at the raves. Brian Foster Kane
and Troy Baker are also musicians who have made several collaborations. If some of you were
lucky, you might have caught some of their songs during the Closing Ceremony. Their take on
music was almost like The Fray and John Mayer put together, very relaxing and self-reflective.
Chris Cason’s work was also one that is very impressionable, as I’ve seen him at the autograph
sessions, making fans laugh and giggle. Tristen Citrine was also an awesome guest to have,
because she does what most people do (and want to do): Cosplay! Her word of advice from the
start of cosplay through the hardships and to the photo galleries stunned many attendees.
Programming: The programming schedule for Taiyou-con could basically be seen as a melting
pot of what anime conventions in Arizona has to offer so far. So if this is your first convention,
there were definitely a lot of things to experience, such as K-On! Tea Time, Pinku Taiyou
Café, J-Fashion Show, Anime Singled Out, Con-nection Dating Game, Masquerade, Karaoke,
and the dances! My 3 personal favorite events were: Search for the Best Video Game, Troy
Baker & Brian Foster Kane with music, and PokéUniversity. Richard hosted the Search for the
Best Video Game panel, which turned out to be a mix of audience commentary and a beautiful
ranking created by Armand Villavert. The search begins with a set list of the top 10 games
and during each convention; the list may change until everybody is satisfied with it. It was
such an amusement, watching people from the audience do what we were supposed to do, to
standing up and wanting to jump the guy (or girl) that changed the “natural order” of video
games. Secondly, I know that every girl out there has an obsession with Troy Baker and Brian
Foster Kane coming into the Arizona con scene for the first time. It was definitely a big deal to
fellow otaku members that have some music background. Off the screen, these two share with
everybody how their music abilities came about and were so nice as to perform a few songs
to the select bunch that were at the closing ceremonies. With the room being so dark, they set
the mood of their music, which was along the lines of how people predicted it would be, just
even better with their live voices compared to their several anime personas. We really hope they
come back to Arizona for an encore performance! Finally, there’s PokéUniversity. Imagine a
room full of Pokemon along with Pokemon cosplayers and maybe some elitists from the game,
and you got a recipe for an entertaining panel. I was focused on the random topics the panelists
had to present to the table, then a lot of randomosity sprung up with people correcting others,
and some people singing theme music when naming all the seasons from the very beginning.
The only moments of silence during that panel were when people had to answer quiz questions.
Even then, all it took was a mini-second for the energy to come back up again when somebody
answers a question and 5 people decide to troll. All in all though, it was a success not because
of the trolling, but because there hasn’t been a (decent) panel on Pokémon that talks about the
general franchise (games, anime, and etc.)
Cosplays: Since this was a small-starter convention, I didn’t want to say I have my doubts on
how good cosplays were going to turn out. There were actually a few that I wanted to note. Past
the typical anime for cosplays such as Naruto, Bleach, Code Geass, Final Fantasy, etc., I spotted
a really nice Ryoko cosplayers with a really cute Ryo-oki backpack, which I later found at the
Vendor’s Hall. She was definitely rocking the outfit with the perfect colored wig! If I wasn’t
too tan, I’d say that she definitely got me putting Ryoko on my future cosplay list. It’s not too
common that you’ll find Tenchi cosplayers, especially since the series is semi-old. But, it does
have a lot of antiquity for those that grew up watching this teenage boy house a lot of women
while trying to save the universe at the same time (sorry if I spoiled it for you). My second pick
goes to the Tron Sora cosplayer. I wasn’t sure if the person was a boy or girl, but s/he did a
really neat job on his/her costume. The lighting definitely had me baffled, because it was very
strong that you could see him/her across the hotel lobby! What was great was that I found him/
her at one of the dances and turned out to be a pretty good waver of glowsticks-on-a-string,
or whatever you call those. My last pick goes to Emperor Kuzco! I’ve seen the typical Disney
Princess line-up and I think they’re unbeatably gorgeous. However, it’s also not very common
to see the Emperor show up at a small convention; not to mention, the person did a really fine
job with the clothing and accessories. But it wasn’t only the cosplay that made me like it, it
was how the cosplayer played into the character that made it enjoyable to catch photos of. The
person seemed to know a great deal about Kuzco’s personality, that it really reflected in the
photos I’ve seen.
Artist Alley: Gladyfaith had the golden opportunity to be the one who is in charge of the Artist
Alley. Her hard work definitely showed in how smooth the operations and transactions went
among the artists and attendees! Of course, there is also her lovely table that was being watched
over by some really close friends! In my personal opinion, I actually found some really need
goodies that I showed some of my friends. I even decided to stimulate the economy by buying
a few cute cellphone charms and accessories on Sunday, for $1 each (and they were 8 times as
expensive before, awesome deal!). Another thing that I found interesting about the Artist Alley
was the layout. It was literally centered around the elevator and bar area, so it was kind of a
pain to go through a crowd of people that had to pick up their badges, go to panels, go to the
bar, as well as stop and shop all in the same area. But because of the layout, it wasn’t hard to
have everybody at the con eventually pass by every single table there. On top of that, the tables
were categorized. If people are only into the Gothic Lolita and Punk fashion, they wouldn’t
have to travel too far to go to similar stores, because they were all next to each other. The same
thing goes for Lolita enthusiasts and artists alike. From what I’ve seen at previous Arizona
conventions, the Artist Alley would usually be meshed with the Vendor’s Hall. I actually liked
how it’s separate for Taiyou-con for two reasons: It separates (and lessens) the traffic in a
concentrated area and it especially gives attendees less time for unnecessary walking (because
we rather be dancing at the rave, right?)
Vendor’s Hall: Given the fact that it’s a small con, I’d expect a small Vendor’s Hall. And
that’s how it was! If you took the time to look through the nooks and crannies of the place, you
probably found a mysterious box of Japanese cosplay books and magazines. I figured they were
left underneath the table, not meant to be bought. These were definitely items that hardcore
cosplayers would want to buy! I found another interesting find at another store, but this one
required a really sharp eye. There was a store that’s situated right in front of the doors to the
Vendor’s Hall and they sold semi-old but original copies of videogames for the original Super
Nintendo, Atari, etc. They had a glass box near the cashier and it contained 5 boxes of Final
Fantasy IV figures! These figures came at a pretty expensive price for only being 2 inches tall,
about $12. If you’re in love with one of the main characters, it’s probably not worth the gamble.
Just across from that store was another store that had a lot of plushies. If you look at the very
corner of their inventory, there was a Ryo-oki backpack! It was very tempting, but I figured the
lady that cosplayed as Ryoko should have it.
My overall impression: I can see a Taiyou-con 2012 happening for a few main reasons: It was
well-promoted, well-prepared, and well-done! I’d really like to personally thank everyone that
was behind the curtains, and you know who you are! I actually didn’t notice too many problems
that ended up making the fellow otaku mad, other than the usual things like panels running late,
raves needing more people, or security being too uptight. Everyone seemed to enjoy their time
there, whether they came alone or with friends. There was something for almost every type
of otaku, which makes them a happy otaku, right? And with all things considered, I expect a
very promising Taiyou-con 2012 filled with more guests, more panels, more cosplays, more of
Taiyou Con 2011
by Kara H
The written report will be coming soon. Enjoy our cosplay video report. :)