12 Apr, 2010

Manga Recon @ Anime Boston 2010, Part 1

By: Ken Haley and Sam Kusek

Anime Boston 2010 was held April 2-4 at the Hynes Convention Center and Sheraton Hotel Boston and two of Manga Recon’s contributors, Ken Haley and Sam Kusek, were in attendance. They’ve opted to write a conversation-style joint review of their experiences, of which this is part one. Tune in tomorrow for part two!

Ken: Friday was pretty good for me. It wasn’t obscenely panel-heavy or anything so I had some time to meander about the Dealers’ Room and do things like check out Artists’ Alley. It wasn’t immovably crowded, either, so I as able to check out some of the different cosplayers roaming the halls while wishing I had a camera, particularly for the Friend from 20th Century Boys and Shin from Dorohedoro cosplays. Both were unexpected but nice surprises.

The Craziest Mecha Moments panel, hosted by Will Kusleika and Nate Malynn, was a relaxing way to kick things off. It was just a bunch of off-the-wall clips from various mecha shows ranging from V Gundam to GaoGaiGar and everything in between. It was also the first of at least three times during the weekend where I’d see that Ideon clip of the little kid getting his head vaporized. I think it might have been some kind of unofficial theme for the weekend or something. Still, crazy child death aside it was a nice light start to the festivities!

The early evening was a bit of a mixed bag, but that’s really due to whatever I ate for lunch. I was still able to enjoy Play It Again Sam: Anime Remakes, which was hosted by two-thirds of the Anime World Order crew, Daryl Surat and Clarissa G. There was an interesting bit where they explained how companies rush out an anime for the weekly schedule and as result the broadcast version might end up looking a little subpar, but then the companies go back, touch up and redo the animation and artwork for the DVD release. Apparently, most fansubbers use the TV version, while the official US DVD releases almost always use the touched-up versions. Thought it was fascinating stuff.

I think it was after that and right before the Mad Science in Japanese Fiction panel that I bumped into you. So that seems like a good segue to find out about the first part of your day.

Sam: Much like you, Friday was a really good day for me. I got a really early start, not checking out panels, but helping out in the Dealers’ Room! I volunteered with a local Boston shop called Comicopia, which offered a really different perspective for me. Not only was it really interesting to see the inner working of the con, but I got to interact with con-goers in a way I had only dreamed of before! If you have the opportunity, I’d really recommend helping a local shop in your area at a con. The experience really helped me appreciate the con more than I ever did before (and I got some great discounts, too!).

After that, I grabbed some lunch, and was able to catch Erin Finnegan’s Unusual Manga Genres panel. She covered some really interesting sports manga (who knew there was curling manga?) to manga about Capybara (think big red guinea pigs). I really enjoyed it overall; I thought Erin did a good job at finding and presenting really strange bodies of work! It’d be great to get some of them here, though!

From there, I killed some time, helping out a friend of mine look for some things in Artists’ Alley, before we sat down for the VGO or Video Game Orchestra. This is the second time that I’ve seen the VGO play and this performance was phenomenal. The group played an enormous amount of classic game music, ranging from Super Mario Brothers and Super Mario World to Chrono Trigger. The turnout was amazing and what a treat for Anime Boston!

I left a bit early from that performance, though, to make sure that I was able to catch Gerald Rathkolb, Mike Toole and Daryl Surat’s (who showed up late for good reason) The Melancholy of Yoshinobu Nishizaki panel. For those of you readers who don’t know who Yoshinobu Nishizaki or “the Nish” as our panelist called him, he was the co-creator and designer of Space Battleship Yamato, which was one of the first series to really push the envelope on the space drama genre. Sadly thought, after the first series ended, “the Nish” really tried to redo the series again and again across a period of almost 20 years, only to end in failure. I love seeing these guys talk, especially about older ridiculous Anime.

After that, I stayed for You DON’T survive the Anime Apocalypse, which was put on again by Daryl Surat, but this time he was joined by his other AWO host, Clarissa Graffeo, which I think you attended as well. That was ridiculous, right? Especially that Ideon clip, which I had never seen before (and thankfully that was the only time I saw it the whole con!) Overall, though, this was one of my highlight panels and I think it well represents the type of content that really makes Anime Boston a fun experience.

What’d you think of it?

Ken: I really wanted to check out the VGO, but the past few years have had insanely long lines for any kind of musical performer so I passed without even bothering to check out the line’s length. Someday I’ll swing it though. Instead, I hit up a few more panels, with CapyBaron’s Mad Science in Japanese Fiction being a real standout.

CapyBaron hosted an excellent panel on Edogawa Rampo last year, and his Mad Science in Japanese Fiction panel was just as good. Admittedly it might not have been as flashy as some, but it did a fantastic job at exploring mad science in Japanese pop culture, tracing its roots back to historical figures, visits from Einstein, and more. He really, really knows his stuff and it showed throughout the panel. The panel was very well researched, informative and engaging. I was glad to see that it was pretty well packed since his Rampo panel was virtually empty last year; then again I think it was up against some hentai panels, so hey.

After that I sat in for a bit on The History of Japan, Part 1 panel, but I arrived late and unfortunately didn’t catch the hosts’ names. It wasn’t quite what I expected. When I came in they were finishing up a portion on pottery and launched straight into a section following the evolution of Japanese fashion through the Jomon period to the Edo period. It wasn’t exactly my thing, but the way the hostess explained how Kagura’s (from Inuyasha) clothing, attacks and name all fit together was pretty fascinating and gave me a new appreciation for the character. She clearly has a passion for the subject and I think that’s part of what held me in the panel despite not normally being interested in such things.

When I finally got to the You DON’T Survive the Anime Apocalypse, like yourself, I really dug the hell out of it. These clip panels usually strike me as a bit of a gamble as it really depends on the subject, the wit of the hosts and what clips they’re able to dig up. Of course Clarissa and Daryl have a good back-and-forth, and I thought their sense of humor really came across with their running commentary throughout the various end-of-the-world scenarios they threw at the crowd. I think most of the clips were from older shows, too, which makes me wistful for those days when laying waste to civilization was par for the course in anime. Ah well, all good things and all that…

I also have to mention that I really think the AB staff did a good job at organizing and placing things this year. I remember running all over the place, from the Sheraton to the third floor of the Hynes, last year, but by using all three floors of the Hynes they managed to keep most things in one area without getting overly crowded in the hallways. Also, the hand sanitizers and vending machines were a nice touch, as well.

Sam: Surprisingly, and this touches back on your point about overall organization of the convention, lines moved pretty smoothly this year. We were at the tail end of the line and got in just fine (thought I understand your concern). I was also pleased overall with how the convention was handled. The staff was always very helpful and willing to answer questions, which is something I know has been troubling in the past. Even thought it’s not something a lot of people think about, it really does make the experience all the more easy and fun to do.

It really is always amazing the amount of panels that Anime Boston has every year, especially with the non-anime/manga focused panels (I’ve seen some sci-fi and I know they have steampunk groups that come every year). This appeal is wonderful, considering what a wide audience it brings in. One thing I noticed in the panel schedule is an increasing amount of manga workshops and “how to break into…” types of panels. While I didn’t attend these, I was pleased to see them on the roster, hoping that some younger fans would take the next step in getting involved in the medium.

Continued tomorrow in part two!

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