Category Archives: Anime USA

Anime USA 2013: Happy Memories


It’s been over two weeks since Anime USA and I am in withdrawal. As I try to will the memories to the present so I may live it all over again, I am unsure why I love the capital’s convention as much as I do. It’s like the Mona Lisa. It compels me immensely but I can’t exactly articulate the thoughts and emotions that make it so.

My Cup of Tea and Ikemen Paradise certainly play a huge role. The magic of make believe speaks dearest to my heart. Some people dream about living a fairy tale. The patrons of the maid cafe and host club live in one! The melancholy absence of my maid Shiori and my butler Mr. Stanley conjures a greater loneliness than the word can contain.

Then there are all the people that I met or ran into. My maid, my butler, Chris (Director of Properties and Publications), Ashley (Press Liaison), Chris (Press Coordinator), Tom, Jake (Social Media Associate,), Charles Dunbar, DJ SiSen, Hiroaki Inoue (who is trying to bring more Bubblegum Crisis to fruition!), Kit and Shizuka.

There’s also a koto and its magnificent owner, Kyoko Okamoto. Much like dressage, it takes a knowing eye to understand how incredibly effortless she looks performing when it’s anything but. As much as an engaging presenter as a koto player, she introduced the instrument beforehand so that we may better grasp the ensuing performances. The reader can enjoy one of several here. Beyond the lecture and performances, she invited members of the audience to try a hand at it. Sugoi!


And several panels presented by Charles Dunbar. Enough said.

The press room is much improved from last year. Spacious, elegant and efficient, it morphs beautifully into the ideal photoshoot setting as demonstrated by DJ SiSen. While I miss Lauren, the press staff handled things smoothly in their freshman year. I appreciate the increase in convention space. Cosplay Burlesque certainly deserves a bigger room than last year. Water remains as abundant as cosplayers.

Like Adam, the Vice Chair, said at closing ceremonies, I want Anime USA to grow. Meanwhile, I really welcome its intimate atmosphere that lends so well to a safe space. It’s a heartmaking sight to take in the wide array of fandom represented where judgements made involve craftsmanship not bodies, gender or the like.


Unfortunately, I experienced one black mark over the weekend. While waiting for the BACK-ON concert to begin, one of the volunteers I was conversing with made the choloroform rag meme. It was something mentioned at the Harumph Gentleman’s Guide panel. I told him it’s not funny at the time but didn’t expound on it further. The pepetuation of rape culture is simply not cool. I am not sure if it was brought up by the panelist or an attendee there.

Guidebook is the only complaint I have. It’s ironic when the paper copy is more accurate. I realize it was partly an issue on Guidebook’s part but precaution should have been taken to account for inevitable glitches.

I hear Anime USA has plans to move location due to the lack of parking nearby. It will be sad to have to relearn a new location after just getting to know the Marriott like a friend. The proximity of the hotel to food, public transportation and the National Zoo will be missed. The con has become like a lover that one hopes never changes.

Anime USA 2014 is October 3rd to 5th with a cosplay theme. I will treasure the memories of this year until then when I eagerly look forward to creating new ones.


Anime USA 2013: Club Ikemen Paradise Host Club


“Well, I have to do what you tell me to.”

The top buttons of Mr. Stanley’s crisp white shirt were undone. His suspenders framed the stylish sight with titillating precision. Picture such a deliciously dressed butler delivering the above phrase in a thick, obedient voice and with his enchanting eyes slightly downcast. In that instant, I transformed into Ciel with my very own Sebastian!

We were discussing dinner and I debated sharing my food. The Club Ikemen Paradise, like My Cup of Tea, forbids staff from eating food on the clock. However, there is no denying the wishes of a Master.

My butler restrained himself to one piece of sushi. He exercised far more liberty in a lively conversation. I can’t explain how it happened. We chatted the time away like old friends running into each other. We covered Watamote, competition between Host Club and Maid Cafe, eating habits as it pertains to condiments, wardrobe choices in conveying one’s confidence, his three week long busted lip*, the circular logic of bad pirates** and Pantheon.

I believe we spent close to an hour on Pantheon alone. He’s Mr. Stanley’s favorite champion from League of Legends. Another butler stopped by and they launched into the mechanics and tactics of gameplay in exceedingly high detail. It was absolutely adorable and enlighteningly entertaining listening to my butler excitedly explain the specific steps to counter Darius.


It’s fascinating to note that the usual awkwardness of eating alone while another watches doesn’t materialize here. A servant naturally does not dine with his Master, after all. It speaks volumes of the efforts the hosts summon to bring the magic to life.

And there’s plenty of magic. The night crowd proved more rowdy than their morning counterparts and the hosts were ready to meet the challenge. A large table next to us had a grand time ordering hosts to perform certain acts. They started with purposely dropping items and enjoying the view. It quickly escalated to hosts passing flowers among themselves. Using their teeth. If that wasn’t enough, you also know it’s a party when DJ SiSen reserved his own table.


Assistance from the hotel restaurant’s wait staff in handling service and checks provided a vast improvement from last year. As noted by my butler, it allowed each host to spend more time with the patrons which directly and significantly adds to the experience. Undivided intimate interaction allow hosts to blur reality with fantasy. One truly feels like a Master.

I have one single complaint. Mr. Stanley had wanted to show me a card trick but there were no playing cards on hand.

Friday night was slow so I was able to overstay the hour mark. I wanted to stay forever, no longer caring about the Formal Ball or any of the other panels I had scheduled. I was in paradise. Of the Club Ikemen variety. And I didn’t even play any games, having run out of cash at the Maid Cafe earlier. Even if I had stayed an hour or ten more, it would still have felt far too short. Time flies with Mr. Stanley at your service.


More pictures here.

* An avid airsoft gun enthusist who sports a suit in action complete with shoes, Mr. Stanley once turned a corner and got shot right in the lip. My poor butler :/

** Shizuka cosplayed Bodacious Pirates. She was getting tipsy from just a handful of sips from her martini which makes her a bad pirate. Mr. Stanely remarked as much then we realized that pirates are supposed to be bad. Yea.

Anime USA 2013: My Cup of Tea Maid Cafe


I am in love.

With the Maid Cafe. And with my maid. You will fall in love too.

My Cup of Tea was the ichiban event I looked forward to at Anime USA since my magical visit last year. Like last time, I declined to choose my maid. There’s something about picking a person like a chattel that disagrees with me. It’s ironic really because I am completely enamored of the fantasy of My Cup of Tea. I take advantage of my hour as Master to its fullest. It’s just the one initial hurdle that irks me.

With the memory of yesteryear fresh, I was disappointed that my maid did not offer to take my bag. Can you tell I was spoiled? Then I realized that Shiori is love personified.

I could spend a lifetime attempting to capture the euphoria of having a maid address me as Goushiji-sama and probably fail. To attempt the same for my very own Shiori is certain failure. It’s simply something one has to experience. I can only say that each time her lips uttered that one word, my heart would skip a beat or ten because she wields the sole arrow to my heart. All the maids at My Cup of Tea are talented in her own special way, but…

Shiori plays the violin.

For those who are unaware, I don’t live for music. I breathe it. And violin was the one instrument I played before I realized I had the talent of a brick*. It took every atom of my willpower not to leap over the table and crush her in a hug. I didn’t even get to fall in love. I drowned instantly. Watch the video at your own peril.

The love continued. Shiori made her way around the cafe, proffering her lovely services and seducing everyone at each table that she stopped at. While I can imagine the courage it takes to do that, I do not want to. She wasn’t familiar with the “Moonlight Sonata” that I requested and inquired how it goes. I could only offer that it was three beats to a measure.

Did you see what she did there? Reminds me of my middle school violin teacher who penned “Happy Birthday” on the spot by humming it so that I could play it from the sheet. I must admit some jealousy. I would kill to be able to play something simply by hearing it.

Not skipping a note, Shiori immediately improvised with another piece that I regret not recording. Not that I could given that the only muscle capable of moving at the point was the thumping of my stolen heart.

The rehearsed turn of her wrist on each stroke and the rich agility of her fingers would’ve fooled anyone except I could sense a slight tremble behind the beautiful smile. Her display of courage only endeared me further. I won’t even bother depicting the sound because to call it love would still be a gross understatement.

The love deepened. She solicited for another request and we were at a loss when she revealed that she could play any Disney song. Mere notes into “A Whole New World”, time stopped. The clatter of the cafe faded. For those achingly precious few minutes, as I sat a kiss away, the only thing that existed in the universe was…



moe chant

Upon reflection, part of my reluctance to choose a maid may stem from my wanting to be a kind Master. I don’t want her to be my maid by force. I would rather she serve of her volition. It’s in this vein that I wish maids may dine with patrons should they choose to (or ordered to). I will gladly pay for it. It will also be really, really awesome to have Maid Cafe run all three days.

I need to say something negative. Er, let me think. My colleague Shizuka thought the food was mediocre before quickly adding that no one visits for the food. Um, Shiori’s hair is too perfect. Well, that applies to all the maids! Uh, she didn’t tell me they had Battleship to play -_-


Actually, the same complaint applies from last year. A wall separates the performance place from the vast majority of the cafe which means most patrons are late to notice when dance breaks out. The logistics of the venue make this unlikely to change however. It’s ok. I will just order my maid to inform me of performances beforehand next year!

Speaking of which, why isn’t it next year yet???!!!

More pictures here.

Maid Cafe






*Albert (I like to pretend I know Einstein personally) is my second idol and I wanted to imitate him by learning to play the violin then dropping it to become a nuclear physicist and change history. Instead, all I got to be was a Master. Which is better^^ Oooohh My Cup of Tea, how I heart thee~

Anime USA 2012: September Can’t Come Fast Enough

Anime USA may have achieved the unthinkable in edging out Otakon as my favorite con. I enjoyed myself immensely even if I didn’t have any guest interviews and missed cosplay burlesque TWICE. The depth of programming provided ample entertainment of which I recollect some below. And I learned something. The con’s smaller scale affords an intimate touch that I failed to take advantage of but will certainly exploit next year.

I had expected a few words regarding the change of venue at Opening Ceremonies but there were none. Instead, we got Arashi the Astounding who graced us with some of his magic or really the lack of. The highlight of the ceremony would have been Michelle Knotz who recruited several other guests to dance Gangnam Style with her on stage. Alas, David Lister got down on his knees before the audience and proposed on stage. She said yes.

The various cosplay panels were excellent. Re-Creating the Look: Bringing Art to Life moderated by Lizzy Schram, Lauren D. and Marty Gear was very informative. They touched upon tips and told stories as well as provide further information via suggested textbooks.

A Guide to Fashion Sewing by Connie Amaden – Crawford
Draping Basics by Sally Di Marco
Patternmaking for Fashion Design by Helen Joseph Armstrong

Solid advice was also given at the Crossplay For Girls panel. Never use duct tape or saran wrap. And you know you’re at the right place sitting in on Victorian Inspired Fashion, where one of the panelists, Jen, wore a steel boned corset for two years.

Livan and Chris of the Video Game Orchestra lent their talent near the beginning of the formal ball. I found it an exquisite touch to dance to live music. Duties eventually switched to a DJ however. The demographic of dancers was as eclectic as the music chosen. Genders and number of dancers mingled in every combination.

There was a pair of girls that really caught everyone’s eye. That’s to say, they could dance. There were many who obviously lacked the most basic steps as they spent the entire time looking at their feet. That didn’t seem to deter anyone from having a great time. I recall only one instance in which someone declined a dance. There were certainly lovers in attendance but the majority arrived with the hope of romance in their steps.

The charity auction benefiting the DC Arts and Humanities Education Collaborative proved to be the highlight for my Sunday. There was a wide array of items to satisfy anyone’s taste. I believe the best money spent was a tie between $5 cereal and $5 cup of noodles. I ran into the winner of the cereal and took a photo of his prized conquest. He said it was money well spent given it went to charity ^_^

I would like to make a request. I’ve been spoiled by Otakon with a twenty four hour press lounge. It would be awesome to have the same convenience at AUSA. Finally, I am sad and anxious to see Lauren go. I felt press operations ran very smoothly and hope a management change won’t cause adverse effects.

Anime USA 2013 is September 13 to 15th. The theme is the Edo period. I can’t wait!

Please find all photos on flickr.

Anime USA 2012: Host Club Interview

Celestin and JY

I knew my last chance at Cosplay Burlesque for the weekend would be doomed by the interview but Celestin and Joo Young made it very worthwhile. The two dapper hosts were engaging and charming. They spoke with immense energy and excitement, eager to offer details and extending their private refuge when it got too loud. Thank you to both of them and the Host Club for taking such precious time to sit down with me.

I know it was precious because Makoto sat down with us but before I could ask my first question, he got pulled away and unfortunately, never to return. I had prepared the same questions I asked of the Maid Cafe hoping for a comparison.

The Paper: What led you to apply?

Celestin: I started in 2009 at a friend’s recommendation. He thought I would fit. I play in a band. I enjoy social interactions. The girls are pretty.

The Paper: What do you play?

Celestin: Acoustic guitar.

Joo Young: I heard about it from a high school friend. Actually met the manager of the club at Tysons Corner. Thought it would be fun. Besides, I got nothing to do on weekends.

TP: How many applicants are accepted vs those that applied?

Celestin: Hmm, I am not sure how many applicants there are.

JY: The managers pick them and they’re good at it.

TP: What advice do you have for applicants?

Celestin: Have fandom in Japanese culture. It’s amazing I got accepted since I am just normal guy you know…. know how to make apologies. It’s funny because you have so many tables at once and when you’re late, it’s a lot like apologizing to a girlfriend.

JY: I am going to give uncensored advice. You need to be good at talking to people, to girls. You need to sell alcohol. Be really confident.

TP: What’s the best part about being a host? Worst?

JY: I am still shy…

TP: You don’t seem shy at all!

JY: I am very shy. I wanted to change that. I wanted to make friends… change my mindset. So the best part is making new friends. We stay in touch after Host Club. The worst is that it’s physically impossible to give attention to everyone.

Celestin: I totally agree with JY on the best part. The worst is when customers get angry. There’s too much demand and not enough of us. They will stare at you when you’re at another table with another girl. There’s also a tendency to drink a lot.

TP: Are there any differences in how male and female patrons react?

Celestin: Male clients will come with girlfriend or they’re gay. But no difference really.

JY: Couples just want to have fun. Some boyfriends would get jealous. It’s part of our job to flirt but we must control it because of that.

Celestin: I did experience anger tonight from a boyfriend. It wasn’t even much, I just complimented her hair.

JY: Girls would come onto us but we can’t give out info. They would offer their phone numbers or room numbers.

Celestin: [Shows me his wrist.] I have had girls write their room number on my wrist tonight.

TP: Last question. Is there any rivalry with the Maid Cafe?

Celestin: Nah, no rivalry.

JY: We make a lot of friends with the maids. We hold group meetings together.

They were happy to field more questions and I wanted to accept and stay longer but I clung to my hopeless dream of burlesque instead.

Anime USA 2012: Maid Cafe Interview

I like to thank My Cup of Tea and specifically, Melody and Toya, for granting me an interview before the never ending line on Saturday. The two lovely maids were irresistibly delightful as they chatted with me and between themselves. It felt more like a conversation than interview where answers often ran off in tangents and each would finish the other’s sentences or thoughts. They exuded immense joy in their work during our conversation where they revealed everything about the Maid Cafe. Well, almost everything.

I don’t recall the exact circumstance but shortly after we sat down, I was informed that maids are forever 17. They would have a birthday every year where they would magically turn 17 again. And apparently, I can be 17 as well!

The Paper: What led you to apply?

Melody: I fell in love with the maid cafe as a customer when I visited. I was inspired by the head maid.

Toya: I enjoyed maid cafe in Japan. I wanted to bring that feeling and experience to others. It’s also a good way to make friends. It becomes a sisterhood. [Melody nods in vigorous agreement.]

Melody: Yes, sisterhood is a good way to put it. In fact, it’s like a sorority…

Toya: Yes, definitely…

Melody: There’s an initiation process…

The Paper: Oh? Initiation? Tell me about that.

Melody: That’s classified. [I look at Toya but she’s not spilling it so I move on.]

TP: How many applicants are accepted vs those that applied?

Melody: We have 30 maids with one or two backups. I don’t know how many applied.

Toya: It’s not that many.

Melody: Right, it’s not 100 or anything. If an applicant is serious, she will likely make it. There are also lots of returning maids so that’s a factor.

TP: What advice do you have for applicants?

Melody: Being a maid is more than just cosplay and being cute. It’s a serious job. You need to act the role.  You need to be a maid. [I can attest to the validity of this statement.] We also volunteer to visit other cons to promote the cafe.

TP: What’s the best part about being a maid?

Melody: The job itself is the best part.

Toya: When you see them have that first smile. A lot of customers don’t know what to expect [I nod as I remember my experience from the day before.] and they’re slightly confused at first. But as they grow into it, they break into a smile. That’s the absolute best.

Somehow we got into a tangent and they expressed disappointment in my menu selection yesterday because it didn’t provide a chance for Toya to draw on my food.


TP: Worst?

Melody: Having to go home. [She sounds genuinely melancholy.]

Toya: I forget to eat and drink. You’re so busy attending to others.

TP: Did the maid cafe meet your expectations?

Both (simultaneously): Better than expected!

Toya: Definitely better. I made so many friends. It’s something that will stay with me. I want to do this forever.

Melody: I want to go to each others’ weddings…

Toya: Oh yea…

[They ramble on about weddings.]

TP: Are there any differences in how male and female patrons react?

Melody: Hmmm. It’s a personality thing I think. Guys think it’s cute. Some are nervous. Others are into it.

Toya: You notice some guys who try not to stare. Others are skeptical at first but then warm up to it.

TP: I visited the Host Club last night. Why are photos allowed there but not at the maid cafe?

Melody: We have a photo service so it will diminish the value of that. And our contract does not allow photos. It’s a privacy issue. You can take pictures of the food.

Toya: By paying for the photo, it makes it special. Otherwise it’s just like any other picture you would take at a con.

Melody: We decorate the photos…

Toya: …it’s really pretty.

Melody inquired if I took a photo with Toya yesterday. I think they were dismayed at my failure to do so. [For the record, I don’t do photos.]

TP: Last question. Is there a rivalry with the Host Club?

Toya: No rivalry…

Melody: …it’s more of a friendly competition…

Toya: Yea, we’re like brothers and sisters. Some of the maids would study the hosts. We learn from each other.

Melody: Yea, we feed off each other. We’re all BFFs. We bond outside the con.

Toya: There’s a transition when the Maid Cafe turns into the Host Club for the night where we all mingle with each other…

Melody: …some of us get weak in the knees when the hosts arrive for their shift… the way they swagger in…

I think we went off onto another tangent but I felt I was overstaying my welcome judging by the bustle of noise from the cafe. It’s a real shame because I could have chatted all day and all night with Melody and Toya.


Photos via Maid Cafe.

Anime USA 2012: “Club Ikemen Paradise” Host Club

Tony is the greatest host ever. He made the Host Club for me.

I declined to pick a host like I did earlier that day at the Maid Cafe. And once again, I struck gold. Shortly after we were seated, Tony confessed to me that I was his first table that night. No one had picked him. I was shocked and at a loss for words. He spoke in a cheerful voice that conveyed his carefree personality as he sat across from me.

Dispensing with the usual introductions, he seemed negligent of his duties, not keen on taking my order or ensuring that I had water even after I informed him that I was under time constraints. Instead, he launched into conversation much to my chagrin as I checked the time on my phone.

Tony managed to keep a veil of mystery as he talked away beneath the dimmed lights of the restaurant and I found myself leaning closer. He traveled up to DC from North Carolina. I mention that my friend, who couldn’t join us, is also from his state. We talked about how I missed Kotoko at Animazement. He frequents anime cons along the coast. Sushi looks good.

He inquired about my outfit, unsure if I am cosplaying. He’s more into music than anime. Electronica, dance, hip hop. I quized him about his current rotation of the latter. I don’t recognize any of the bands. Sushi is good.

Suddenly, another host taps him and signals that he’s needed for a champagne toast. Curiously, I watch him join a handful of others in surrounding a nearby table. With the hosts blocking my view of the table, I could only see them chant in a crescendo as they pumped fists. Then it was all over.

Apparently, every time someone orders a drink, one host would partake in the festivity while the rest gather around and cheer them on.

We continued talking and I discover that he breakdances. He’s the only one upside down on the photo board. He got started when he was fourteen. It’s been seven years since he became a B Boy.

“I thought it would help me get girls,” Tony averted my gaze for half a heartbeat before looking up again with a tender grin. He’s quick to add that he dances for fun now, not to attract girls.

We shared the same understanding at that moment so I smiled knowingly in return. It felt like I had known him since grade school. And I am out of sushi. Wait.

Tony knew he had mastered his art. He entertained me while subtly delivering the essentials. He accomplished the impossible in creating a milieu not unlike a date. As my mind rewinded, I could recall ordering the sushi and his fleeting absences from the table but our time felt uninterrupted. I was thoroughly enjoying myself.

My glass was empty however. But if you were there to witness his adorable self, you’d forgive him too. Especially after what he did for me.

After settling the check, I followed him to the space occupied by the then absent DJ. He had recruited a colleague and they queued Propellerheads on the amplifier. I watched Tony sit on the floor as he stretched, removing his various jewelry and chains as he finds them, the thumping beats of music starting to attract attention…

I will let the video demonstrate why Tony and the Host Club is the best. (He first appears at 0:31)

Anime USA 2012: My Cup of Tea Maid Cafe

Do you believe in magic?

One needs to look no further than the line of merry maids standing at attention to greet patrons minutes before doors opened Friday morning. My Cup of Tea, the maid cafe at Anime USA, features thirty maids of your choosing.

Patrons are invited to pick from the photo board at the entrance. Some maids also offer to play a certain personality beyond the default moe such as tsundere. I declined to choose, leaving the hostess to pair me with Maid Toya.

It turned out to be a fabulous decision.

The magic began when Toya addressed me as Master which I found charming. She led me to our table and surprised me when she pulled out my chair. I have never had anyone do that for me. For those in the same boat, try it some time. It’s surreal like a boss. My surprise continued when she refuted my wanting to put my bag in the other chair citing her desire to sit with me. She then proceeded to chide me when I tried to hang the bag on the back of my chair which she insisted on doing. I wasn’t accustomed to such hospitality typically reserved for a master. In fact, I have to admit I was slightly flustered at the majestic treatment.

Toya played her role with absolute aplomb. She didn’t just play the role of a maid. Her actions and words channeled her role as my maid. With her delivery, I was able to grow comfortable in taking on my role as her Master. And therein lies the magic of My Cup of Tea. I am no longer at a maid cafe. I am sitting in my castle at my magnificent dining hall overlooking my vast territory beyond my alligator guarded moat.

While the menu offered variety, it lacked depth and nothing really appealed to me. And the prices will destroy your dealer’s room budget. I was hungry and under time constraint so I opted for egg rolls. Upon its arrival, my maid blessed it with a moe chant before my consumption.

I wanted to write a review from the perspective of a con attendee so I kept my press status hidden. In the same vein, I decided to play a game. I didn’t recognize some of the games on the list including Hungry Hungry Hippos which I chose because it sounded amusing. When Toya returned with the sealed box, I felt somewhat embarrassed at my juvenile choice and remarked as much. She brushed aside my hesitation and cheerfully explained the rules to me as she made preparations.

Starting to adjust to my role as Master, I had an immediate suspicion that she would let me win and voiced my concern. My servant vehemently denied the accusation. Mere seconds later, she beat me. Instead, she fished out the winning gold ball and placed it in my pile, declaring me the winner. I could only smile as I enjoyed the silliness of it all.

Toya surprised me one final time when she moved her chair to my right. I had expected her to sit across from me but the intimate gesture was welcoming. She talked a bit about herself and I was delighted to learn that my maid is incredibly intelligent and talented. And she speaks almost fluent Japanese.

I was sorely disappointed that she lied to me however. In listing her qualifications, she mentioned that she could flip. I demanded a demonstration not realizing her sarcasm. I remember looking at her shoes when she obediently stood, moved into position and conveyed readiness before she chastised me for making such a request while she is unsuitably attired.

“Go change and come back,” I retorted, really getting into my role.

“That would take too long,” she complained.

“I can wait.”

There was a lot of flirting as one might expect. In fact, she speculated that my notebook must be filled with phone numbers. I don’t think she believed me when I replied in the negative so I showed her.

“So my number would be the first?” she inquired with delight.

I nodded.

I wasn’t sure what to think at the time. Is she still in character or is she serious? Then I had my duties as press. What are the ethics surrounding such circumstances? Ultimately, I played along because flirting is a hobby for me but never did press for her number.

Of course it led her to question my notebook which I should have refrained from writing in. Thus I was able to pursue my hobby as we flirted about my keeping secrets.

It was an immense pleasure playing the role of a Master in possession of a maid. While it makes sense that maids are not allowed to eat or drink, I gave explicit permission for my maid to have water. I wish I had given more orders to add to the experience.

Toya served me perfectly. Upon noticing my interest in a passing cosplayer, she confirmed my desire for a picture and flagged down said subject on my behalf. Imagine if I had access to such a service throughout the con!

My favorite part occurred when she addressed me as something else and I had to correct her that I preferred Master. She was speechless for a moment but her expression said all that was necessary. I was having such a grand time that I thought we had achieved world peace.

Sadly, I couldn’t stay longer as my attendance was requested at a panel. I felt forlorn in having to give up my maid. The fantasy started to crumble. I divulged my secret at this point in order to set up an interview. Toya left me with a personal souvenir that she made which I am keeping all to myself by not posting its photo. I am unsure if it’s something all maids provide.

I have two minor complaints. The maid cafe should offer a goth/alternative maid. I am likely in the minority here given that moe is the main appeal. And current seating arrangements mean patrons on the other side of the divide may not be aware when a dance breaks out.

My Cup of Tea at Anime USA is magic personified. For the duration, each patron is transformed into a Master or Princess. This entails the sublime service of a maid. And when one’s maid is away retrieving food or occupied with another table, it’s not rare for another maid or three to stop by and keep one company. The magic is never disrupted and it lives on as a treasured memory.

More photos here and a video.

Anime USA 2012: Sexism In Anime Fandom

I had missed the panel at Otakon earlier this year so at the urging of Shizuka, not to mention three tweets requesting my attendance, it was destiny. If only I knew it then.

The moderation and atmosphere were conducive to audience participation. It felt more like a roundtable discussion than a lecture. And a safe space as some remarked throughout.

Lauren and Patrick first took turns presenting their findings from the survey conducted specifically for this panel. They were dismayed to report that over half of female attendees experienced harassment of some kind. The same issue affects men as well but not to the same extent.

This isn’t a surprise given the prevalence of the problematic practice of portraying women more as objects than people in anime. As Lauren puts it succinctly, there are more breasts than not breasts. While boys do get objectified (Ouran High School offered as an example), overwhelmingly sexism focuses on the female body to the exclusion of everything else.

The misogyny isn’t unique to anime fandom. It exists in all of pop culture. To put a halt into the problem, people must engage in public discourse to broaden awareness of the effects such portrayals of women have on our daily behavior. More importantly, the panel beseeches that one should speak up against those that perpetuate the status quo. Silence is agreement.

Finally, taking a chart from The Cart Driver and labeling the genres from the current season, we can see that sexism also exists in the selection of anime where shounen outnumbers shoujo like stars to planets.

The excellent panel is ultimately ironic. Those in attendance are most likely aware of and have fairly extensive knowledge of the issues. In short, the panel is a complete waste of time.


During the panel, Lauren cited a statement from the survey in which someone was called a creep for wanting to take a cosplayer’s photo. An audience member questioned the cosplayer for making such a comment implying that cosplay invites photography but Patrick raised Slutwalk as a retort which I wholeheartedly agree with.

As it happens, I had taken a photo of a cosplayer on Friday. We passed each other several times over the course of the weekend and I began to grow an infatuation where I wanted to take another photo in a specific pose and moreover, pursue further. I couldn’t justify my intentions.

Feminist theory makes it abundantly clear that women do not want unsolicited attention, especially those with motives such as mine. Even a sincere compliment and nothing more may prove annoying given that the woman has likely received countless encounters of a similar nature.

I ran into her again late Saturday night. We were walking towards each other in passing and impulsively I complimented on her cosplay because it is THAT awesome only to feel bad immediately and removed myself before I could catch her reply if any.

It’s unclear whether she welcomed my comment but that’s irrelevant. I needed to practice more awareness for her feelings, her consent.

This is a lot more than I wanted to share but I hope it will serve as a reminder for me that I have more to do than attend panels.

Anime USA 2012 and Why I am In Love

My decision to pop my cherry with Anime USA coincided with her decision to relocate to a new location for 2012. As one might expect, there were a few issues regarding accommodations but the friction soon gave way to a delightful and memorable experience.

I overhead previous attendees that led me to believe that prior iterations were an exercise in escalator mastery. I am happy to announce that such is not the case for this year. Upon entering the main entrance, one is greeted by a magnificent atrium (Exhibit A) that serves like a traffic circle. The view from above said atrium at the mezzanine level, as it’s called, provides unparalleled angles to snipe photos (Exhibit B). Having said that, to move between the two levels require traversing through enough landscape that allows targets to allude capture in person should one desire an intimate close up.

Exhibit A


Exhibit B

The half atrium leading to the Exhibition level (bottom) does not suffer from this issue with the simple placement of an escalator pair (Exhibit C). I was puzzled at first by the lack of bi directional escalators on either side of this atrium but soon realized the ingenuity of the design in directing traffic flow. (Down escalator on left side of photo and up escalator on the other side.) By pairing each escalator with a set of stairs, the option is always available for one to move in any direction but human behavior quickly revealed that rarely does one deviate from the direction of the accompanied escalator. Bonzai! Traffic rarely collides except the occasions when one is in a hurry like yours truly running to retrieve items before press room is closed for interview.

Exhibit C Looking down from top floor (mezzanine) at the Lobby (middle) and Exhibition (bottom) levels.

Of course, one can point out the obvious that in complying with the direction of traffic, one actually traverses more landscape which in turn takes more time to move from point to point. I concur. However, the bottleneck at the bottom or top of escalators is almost non existent as there is no intersecting traffic like at, ahem, Otakon. In short, I argue that it takes less time. Then again, AUSA has a fraction of attendees of Otakon so I am sure that’s a factor.

Speaking of attendance, Shizuka accurately concluded that the small size facilitates the birth of new friendships as one is more likely to encounter the same person over and over which I can attest to. I believe the layout also plays a role. It is essentially a loop with distributaries.

The hotel needs more restrooms. I have to walk downstairs to do my business? Nani? Someone at closing ceremonies said the same for trash cans which I agree with. And cups. I applaud the hotel/AUSA not only for placing an adequate number of water coolers but keeping them replenished. Only once did I encounter an empty cooler but there was another one literally five seconds away. Unfortunately, one cannot consume water by mere sight when cups are lacking. I will let the reader use her imagination to solve this problem.

Cell phone reception remained above fair most of the weekend. I have Verizon which gave me 3G on the lower level but my friend had 4G with AT&T. It does go in and out which I am ok with. On the other hand, I had zero reception on the top floor Saturday night before the concert. That was annoying.

I like to go on record and state that the staff of AUSA is amazing. Not everyone was helpful but given the new setting, it’s completely understandable. Special mention goes out to the lady that rattled off a handful of panels for my perusal after informing me that Cosplay Burlesque had reached capacity Friday night. She definitely wanted me to enjoy the con. I should’ve gotten her name but someone please give her a raise.

My first Anime USA is like a good kiss. Unforgettable and leaving one wanting for more. Luckily, AUSA 2013 moved up to September 13th so I won’t have to wait a full year!

Anime USA 2011: Outgrowing the Hyatt (Part 3 of 3)

The third and final part of Sh1zuka‘s Anime USA 2011 report. This one focuses on the growing pains of the burgeoning convention, which will move to a new location at the Marriott Wardman Park this year.

AnimeUSA 2011 was held from November 17 – 20, 2011 at the Hyatt Crystal City in Arlington, Virginia. This hotel has been used years prior to hold Katsucon and Otakon. Katsucon’s hotel, the Gaylord at National Harbor, is visible across the river from AnimeUSA’s hotel, and many of the AnimeUSA staff also staff Katsucon.

It’s interesting that AnimeUSA will also move away from the Hyatt Crystal City. Next year, AnimeUSA will be moving to the Washington Marriott Wardman Park, a larger venue that should solve many of AnimeUSA’s current problems. As an attendee of AnimeUSA since 2009, I feel that AnimeUSA has finally outgrown the Hyatt this year, so the venue change is a welcome one.

At 8:30 PM on Friday, the convention is still buzzing with activity.

Layout Changes: A Mixed Bag

AnimeUSA’s layout changed significantly this year, moving the Video Game Room and Convention Operations to the upper floors, and moving the Art Show to the B1 level. A fourth track for panels was added at the bottom floor, in a large, stadium-like room.

Placed in the middle of the Artist Alley, the Art Show garnered much more attention than last year, where it was located in a corner on the bottom floor. I feel like the new location of the Art Show is a major improvement. Unfortunately, I could not get any pictures of the new location as photography was (rightfully) prohibited.

AnimeUSA 2011 Hotel Map. The floors 3rd, 2nd (top row), B1, B2 (bottom row).

However, some of the other layout changes were questionable. I managed to completely miss the fourth panel room during the convention, as it was located in a corner at the bottom of the convention. Also, the Video Game room was moved from its location on the B1 floor to the 3rd floor and placed next to a Workshop track. I heard complaints that noise from the game room bled over to the workshop room, making it difficult to hear the panelists unless you were in the front row.

Due to having only one entrance/exit, the AnimeUSA Video Game Room could not be held in the same location as it was in 2010 because of fire safety concerns. As the convention guide was printed to show the Game Room in its previous location, it seems like the change was made last-minute due to an order from the fire marshal at the convention. As a result, the Board Game Library was cut from programming this year.

Dealer’s Room: Crowded and hot!

I have always found AnimeUSA’s dealer’s room organization to be quite good; going back this year, I found the usual booths near their usual locations. Hen Da Ne sells doujinshi (fanmade manga) and Japanese video games; Anime Sekai sells your typical figures and artbooks, etc. I also noticed a new vendor selling Asian snacks, Anime Snack Time, with a snazzy booth. I look forward to seeing them at other conventions that allow food sales.

Need yaoi?

AnimeUSA allocates space at the center of its Dealer’s Room to allow anime conventions to advertise, but surprisingly, AnimeUSA’s own Dealer’s Room table has been moved from the convention island to just outside the Dealer’s Room along the Artist Alley. I spent a little bit of time wandering through the Dealer’s Room this year, and it was very crowded and hard to move through at peak times. This is the first year that I’ve actually felt like the Dealer’s Room was very hot, and comments from both attendees and dealers agreed with this.

I really felt like AnimeUSA has outgrown its dealer’s room this year. Thankfully, the Dealer’s Room is open late and the traffic clears up then, but hopefully, the new venue that AnimeUSA is moving to will solve all of these issues.

It’s crowded in here!

Programming: Almost Too Popular

AnimeUSA offers six tracks of programming with 90-minute (or multiples thereof) timeslots for panels and workshops. The unusually long panel length of 90 minutes makes it easier to organize the schedule at the cost of programming density, as fewer panels require multiple timeslots.

“One of the goals of AnimeUSA’s programming staff is to make each attendee have to choose between many interesting things all happening at once.” –from one of AnimeUSA’s programming staff

Unfortunately, five of the six programming tracks were located far away from the rest of the convention, on the 3rd floor. Even so, lines still formed before popular panels, creating major traffic issues along the narrow 3rd floor hallway–tabletop gaming tables along the hallway reduced the width to as little as five feet wide. The small panel/workshop rooms, with a capacity for about fifty people, rapidly filled up for many panels, and staff had to limit the number of people inside the room.

The panel rooms could only fifty people.

Sound pollution has been a recurring issue for AnimeUSA’s panels. This year, non-18+ panels were finally allowed to close the room doors, solving sound pollution issues from the outside hallway. However, the wall between the panel rooms is still just a thin wall, and it was not difficult to hear the next room’s laughter drown out the voice of the panelist of the panel you are in. This was particularly tragic for the Workshop 2 track this year, which competed against the noisy video game room next door. People in the back could barely hear the panelists, even with a mic and a sound system.

See you in 2012!

AnimeUSA’s main issue this year, outgrowing the Hyatt Crystal City, is going to be solved next year by its move to the Washington Marriott Wardman Park. With four times the convention space of the Hyatt Crystal City, AnimeUSA is going to be able to finally significantly grow in size, something that it deserves for putting together a very fun convention and addressing issues each year. I look forward to attending AnimeUSA 2012!

Washington Marriot Wardman Park lobby. Photo credit: