Tag Archives: anime expo 2007

Conventional Wisdom: A Reflection on Congoing (Part 2)


An official, Publishers Weekly photo of Tite Kubo: the sort we weren't allowed to take.

To be fan and press is something of a liminal experience.

Like, I remember our first San Diego Comic Con in 2008. The main reason we were there in the first place was because Tite Kubo, the mangaka of Bleach, was attending and holding both a fan panel and a signing. We managed to snag no less than 4 press passes—keep in mind this was only the third time we’d ever gotten them at all—and the team was united on that singular goal of getting as much Kuboness as we could.

The plan was simple, albeit demanding. There were 4 panels preceding the Kubo one. An advance team of two would stake out and claim center front row seats at the first panel of the day, and do their best to hold the surrounding seats open as the panels changed hands. Coordination would be handled via text messaging. By the time I arrived one panel before Kubo’s, four team members had already arrived, and there was an empty seat waiting for me. We patiently endured an entire presentation about various Transformers toys and bearded men asking questions about whether an obscure model from the 1980s was about to make a comeback. A glance at the crowd behind, however, revealed through their Soul Society uniforms and their multi-colored hair that half of them were certainly not there to hear about robots in disguise.

At last, the Kubo panel was about to begin. We were told in no uncertain terms that there was to be no photography, video, or recording of any kind. Even for press. Murmurs swept through the front rows, which were filled with more than few other press representatives. Switches flicked off of cameras that had been armed and ready for shooting. Japanese guests are like that sometimes, and we were used to those kinds of restrictions at anime conventions.

Nevertheless, we were bloggers and we were wired. I calmly took out my laptop as the cheers for Kubo, arriving in shades and a white jacket, came out like a rock star. I began liveblogging the moment the panel began. Just plain old text. One of our staff members put in a question in the hat to be asked, and lo and behold, it was asked. I noted this in the blog in bold letters.

Later that night we found out the site’s server was down. Quick traces revealed that the liveblog had been linked to from Bleach fan forums across the Internet, and they had brought our shared hosting to its knees.


You know I take my job seriously because I'm the only one not smiling. (I keed, I keed!)

There’s been a debate, mainly in the political side of the blogosphere, over whether bloggers are really journalists. A stereotype quickly arose of a blogger being a person typing in his pajamas, sucking off the work of real journalists with his inane commentary while somehow getting unearned legitimacy off of it.

This stereotype doesn’t seem to apply as much to fan press covering entertainment-oriented conventions, though. A lot of fan/online/blog sites with press passes serve a much more documentary than editorial role in these events. Since our very first passes to Pacific Media Expo in 2007, we’ve used our access primarily to do interviews, take panel and concert footage, and provide transcripts of things whenever possible. This makes sense given how global our readership is and how the majority of our readers can’t be at the convention with us; it serves a purpose.

What I found interesting about the experience at that Kubo panel, however, was that while being press earned us the valuable privilege of simply being able to attend the convention for free, there was still plenty of fan-like work to do, like staking out seats far in advance and having to subject questions in the lottery. Nor was press allowed to take any footage. This was in distinct contrast to the rest of the convention, where anyone could shoot video of Samuel L. Jackson and other Western celebrities. To be fan press was thus a kind of in-between experience: we weren’t treated like a member of the major mainstream media, but we weren’t quite ordinary attendees either. Our purposes were not just to bask in an idol’s presence, but we had put in the kind of effort someone who wanted just that would have to do.

Is this a fair balance? In a way, we are beneficiaries of a recent dilution of the meaning of “press”: now you don’t have to go to journalism school and work for a newspaper or a magazine in print or TV, to be considered a reporter. You just business cards, a site, and some hits. Some might argue that this is a bad thing, a “cult of the amateur” that sacrifices quality for exposure and gives regular schmoes like me unearned privileges. But I think the difference between amateur and professional is in attitude and result, not in pedigree. My goal at Anime Diet is to be as professional as possible, and to treat the work before me as seriously as I do any other work. I don’t always reach that goal—witness one of my first junket interviews, and cringe with me at its awkwardness!—but it’s always the aim. I was raised with a belief that with rights come responsibilities, and I treat press as a privilege whose responsibility is to act like it’s true: that we are on level, if not better, than entertainment reporters from US Weekly and People who might only come to these places to gawk and mock those weird freaks in costumes. We may be press, but we would always know this scene better than them, because these were our people. We are, still, those freaks.


Pic taken while waiting in line for Hirano Aya autograph, AX 2007.

The last time I rewatched my video diaries from 2007, I felt a pang of nostalgia. They were shot without a press badge, but they contained as much if not more on-the-ground reporting as anything we’ve done since. There was a purity to their fan’s-eye view of a botched convention, capturing raw emotions, glitches, and miscommunication all around. Sometimes I wonder whether I should even voluntarily give up press one year and try to replicate the innocence of that experience of waiting in line, of talking and interviewing your line mates, and even the disappointment of being on the short end of the stick. It’d be a break from hopping from interview to press conference to main event, in the eternal chase for footage and pictures and coverage.

Then I realize how foolish nostalgia can be sometimes. 2007’s video diaries worked because they were both accidental and virginal: accidental in its capturing of mishaps and thus becoming a sarcastic expose (one that apparently made the rounds among anime con staff circles), and virginal in that it was the first time I’d ever tried making any serious videos. There’s no way to repeat that experience ever again, and it’d be stupid to try. It’s been 4 years and many cons since then. Our privileges and responsibilities have grown, and I wouldn’t trade them for some hazy, romanticized experience. There’s nothing particularly romantic about waiting in lines to nowhere for hours. And you will never, ever, see my face in a video that badly lit and pockmarked and ugly again!

But next time, I’m going to try to make a video diary again. We’ll do the interviews of guests and all the other stuff we always do—but maybe I’ll leave more of that in the hands of equally, if not more, capable staff. I’ll take my camera and my microphone, stand up, walk around, and start asking that guy dressed as a tentacle monster just how long it took him to finish that costume and whether I should get a judge to issue a restraining order on him. And then say a few words into the mic myself, before moving on to the cute Yoko cosplayer who’s standing next to a bare-chested Kamina, preening on the top of the steps, waiting for someone to give them a little publicity.

Conventional Wisdom: A Reflection on Congoing (Part 1)

Three Vignettes

2007, Long Beach Convention Center.

There is a man named Matt dressed as a Wii remote standing in front of me and my linemate Steve. We are waiting for the possibility of getting an autograph from Hirano Aya, and we’ve been waiting for two hours already. My new Panasonic video camera and its cigarette microphone are out for fan interviews: they were a great way to pass the time. I sometimes forget to press and hold down the “mic” button to ensure that Mr. Wiimote’s voice is picked up by the external mic and not the camera’s weak built-in one. The sound fades in and out abruptly in the footage. Despite some misgivings, I decide to leave it as is when I edit it, backed by the music of the Pillows. His enthusiasm and uniqueness more than made up for the lack of technical quality. After all, I wasn’t press or anyone from the “real media,” as I called it at the end of my last video that year. I was just trying to record my thoughts and feelings of being at an anime convention.

None of us ever got that autograph, of course.


Unreleased footage from AX 2009

2009, LA Convention Center.

I am sitting against the wall across from Petree Hall, cradling a borrowed video camera. We had just finished our joint panel, the Indecent Otaku Comedy Hour, which was fun, and flawed, and draining. The thought occurred to me that I should be out with my microphone in hand, interviewing the cosplayers for the video diary. But I barely had enough energy to lift my head, let alone summon the courage to talk to a stranger dressed up like Prinny, or Pedobear.

I turned the lens toward the passing crowd, pressed “record,” and said a few words into the microphone—I can’t remember exactly what. When I looked through my video archives to look for it, it was nowhere to be found. It was probably recorded over, replaced by footage that I never ended up releasing. There was no video diary that year, and there hasn’t been since.


This video was actually shot before the vignette that folllows, but it shows the spirit at work in it.

2010, LA Convention Center.

Five of us are hanging out in the press lounge on the next-to-last day of the convention. We are busy reviewing the footage captured both by the HD camera and Ray’s Sony Bloggie, as well as the pictures taken by the new DSLR. There are close ups of singers and cosplayers, footage of fan interviews and guest of honor interviews from the junket. Dan walks in after covering the Funimation industry panel and announces that he has gotten in touch with industry reps to get review copies. Jeremy has just finished his first review in a while, something which is a delight and a surprise. We fill the whole table, and we are the loudest in an otherwise quiet press lounge.

I lean back in my chair, watching ourselves sit and stand and pace about, the tools of our trade and all its wires scattered about the surface. I can’t help but grin. Soon it would be time for the Masquerade, which was held in the Nokia Theater that evening. The theater staff confiscate the Leatherman on my keychain. The costumes were nice but the skits still suck.


Evolution

Do I congratulate ourselves too much there? Very well, I congratulate ourselves. How could I not, when all of these wonderful people that I’m privileged to work with here have accomplished so much? They are why there’s anything here at all, and why we’ve gone even further since that moment of glory described above.

This series is a personal look at my years of convention-going, though, an attempt to distill the experiences of the past several years into something like a coherent statement. The vignettes were chosen to suggest the broad evolution of my “coverage” of conventions, from random video diaries to formal press. But while they were milestones, they don’t tell the whole story either: the endless Skype planning meetings, the hurried dinners at Denny’s before LA Live was built, the dramas that sometimes broke out, and the exhausted birthday toasts at the ESPN Sports Bar after a long day’s work. Because, now, conventions are work. Fulfilling work, but intense and sleep-depriving work, so that readers all over the world can catch a glimpse of what fans and guests alike are doing in the name of Japanese animation and manga.

It’s work, but most of all, it’s fun. There have been many lows as well as highs, but that core has always remained: I do this because I enjoy it. So the pursuit of happiness through anime convention coverage, and the lessons I’ve learned along the way, are the topics I’ll be writing about over the next week to close this summer’s con season.

Next time: Full Court Press, or, what it means for a blogger to be considered a member of the media

No More AX Lines Like This?

 

Remember that video? Well, according to the Anime News Network, Anime Expo is implementing significant changes to the way they handle lines. Here’s the details:

The Society for the Promotion of Japanese Animation, the parent company of Anime Expo (AX), has announced that it has hired a third-party company to oversee registration starting in 2008. Experient’s services will include a dedicated pre-registration site with group and hotel reservation options, a scannable confirmation form for quicker on-site processing of pre-registered attendees, 60 manned and 40 self-registration stations, and on-site and on-call support from Experient’s personnel.

Mike’s Take: I have just one thing to say:

WHAT. TOOK. YOU. SO. LONG????

Seriously. They say first impressions are everything and when one’s first impression of AX is that impossibly long line as documented above–especially for people like me who were pre-registered–and it turns out to be all too typical, too, you do not come away with the greatest con experiences. I was heartily amused by the rejoinder comment in the article here, too:

Attendees have complained about waiting in registration lines for up to three hours or longer in recent years.

[Raises hand.] Yup. Oh yes.

Now just do the same thing for the main events and concerts and you’ll be golden. I wonder how long the lines will be now. If they’re less than an hour that’s already a massive improvement. This site has some Secret Plans (c) for AX 2008 so we’ll be on the scene like we were this year to see whether this is worth anything.

Halko Momoi Retracts?

Halko Momoi, who we talked about in our con wrapup podcast regarding the notorious treatment she received at AX 2007, has posted a thank-you which seems to double as a retraction. She now thanks the staff for their hard work, and talks about how great the concert was. (See the ANN news item about this.)

I’m an onlooker on these events, since I didn’t go to her concert on Monday, and it’s my understanding that her infamous negative blog post about AX 2007 was posted a day before that concert. As her apology notes, it was after a number of events, including her autograph session, were canceled. I suppose it shows how a good show can go a long way in repairing the feelings at least of an aggrieved performer.

I don’t think this letter, heartfelt as it is, totally negates the poor impression that her initial blog post caused for AX though. That a major guest would complain so openly and publicly is already something of a tipping point, a sign that all is not well at the root. It appears that the staff scrambled to make things better after the post, which is to their credit, and helped turn her overall experience into a generally positive one. She even notes at the end that she hopes to play more US shows in the future…will it be at AX again, though? Who knows.

This story ended well, but the lesson is still clear: don’t screw your guests of honor!

Fansubs VS Licensed DVDs – Are fansubs killing the industry? Or the industry people’s crying wolf?

At AX, the industry claimed that fansubbed shows have been killing DVD sales. One of the points (thanks to Chibi Tokyo and other podcasts for reporting) was the fansubbed copies of certain shows can still be seen on Youtube even after these shows were licensed.

Next, some of the points we have discussed here at Anime Diet Radio (you can heard the latest eps here) and other points I’ve heard from other people, including people from the industry:

– fansubs are killing DVD sales.

– some DVDs are not well made at all and they’re a waste of money.

– companies should make episodes downloadable online, as soon as each eps is show on Japanese TV.

– some anime eps are already downloadable, but these files are dubbed and they’re so encrypted/protected/whatever that you can’t do anything else with them except just watch them – you can’t even back them up on discs (some clarifications here will be greatly appreciated).

– People do buy DVDs they like.

Here are my thoughts:

1. Fan subs are ultimately what helped to bring anime over to the States. It’s almost like an institution (albeit it’s really not, and it’s not going to be) for letting the fans previewing the newest titles available.

2. As for the DVDs, some of them have such bad production values on subtitling and/or dubbing, so much so that many complaints are heard. However, who’s to say for sure that not enough people buy well produced DVDs?

3. I don’t appreciate pirate copies and I appreciate DVD rips evenless. Yes, I’ve downloaded these before from a certain site. But I have stopped and I’m tossing away all the DVD ripped discs and replacing them with licensed DVDs – the artwork and the included goodies are such treats for me as a fan. But some people may feel entirely different about these things.

4. DVDs are cool, but they can be such a hassle to keep because they take up physical space. If I can download good subtitled copies and store them on my HD, I can access them so much quicker.

What do you think?

AX Video Diary, Day 4 – Autograph Again? + the Dealer Room

Here we are, with the final entry of my AX Video Journal. This one details my second failed attempt to get Hirano Aya’s autograph, despite having gotten up at 4:30 AM and getting in line by 5:30. (She didn’t show up at all to the open autograph session.) I also have some cool footage of the dealer room, which I only visited for the first time on this final day of the con.

These videos were so much fun to put together and share with you all. Thanks for watching! I will be doing a complete writeup/wrap up of this year’s con experience soon.

AX Video Diary, Day 3: Autograph and Masquerade

And the third day (Sunday) of my Anime Expo 2007 video journal is now up! This one is again in 2 parts, and they divide neatly.

Part 1 is about my futile effort to get an SOS Brigade autograph, and the interesting people I met in line. The autograph line was already not supposed to be there on that day–it was because the original autograph session had been cancelled. People with tickets distributed at the Friday Focus Panel had priority. Those with no tickets, like me, really had no chance, but I didn’t know that yet. :)

The second part is all about the Masquerade. This is more than a montage of clips from the various skits, though. It’s a record of the glitches and mistakes that plagued the con all throughout, with breakdowns in light and sound, and the announcement of a wrong winner in the awards ceremony. Herewith is the ultimate expose!

Day 4, the last day, should be ready by tomorrow!

AX, whose fault is it? The guests/VIPS/artists, the rules/corporate sponsors, or the AX staff?

I’ve been listening to some people complaining about the Japanese guests, thinking that it’s all their fault.

Some have been saying that the rules such as no photos, no video recordings, and no sound recordings, sucked.

Others have been saying that the AX staff screwed it all up.

SO the 1 million dollar question, or the $60 (at door price) question is, whose fault is it?

AX Video Diary, Day 2

Finally! Day 2 (Saturday)–aka SOS Brigade Invasion Day–is up. I’ve got some really colorful interviews in this one, including a rather…interesting Haruhi. You’ll see. :) Plus, I caught some of the technical glitches during the Geneon and ADV panels, which was a harbinger of things to come at this con.

To keep the video under 10 minutes for Youtube and to make the video a coherent narrative, I had to cut some interviews that I originally planned to include. If you were looking for yourself and you didn’t see your interview, don’t worry: I plan to include a reel after all the days are up at the end of the week with everyone I had to cut from the main video.

Anyways, Day 2. Enjoy! Day 3 will be posted hopefully tomorrow.

Coming soon: after all the videos are posted, a thorough, well-thought writeup of my impressions of AX. Part of a continuing tradition of reporting on cons every year (see my report of AX last year).

Addendum: amazing. Someone actually smuggled a camera into the concert and caught some footage of Aya singing “God Knows.” So if you were curious as to what you were missing…here it is. I think it confirms, alas, some of my impressions that I give at the end of my video and it wasn’t just a technical problem.

What do you want in an anime version of “Waynestock”?

386px-waynes_world_two_ver2.jpg

Ah, AX. Later this week, when we have our podcast we’ll be firing verbal gigaslaves (no, dragonslaves won’t do it), Lances of Longenesses, Buster Rifles, and anything you can think of at the most recent AX convention, which my fellow colleagues went. Actually, we’ll have an intelligent discussion about it while sipping the afternoon tea and expressing our dismay. But as the title asks, what do you want, if you were to organize an anime convention? I know this is a rather wide open question, so feel free to say anything you wanted. Also, if you feel like you haven’t fired enough verbal “dragonslaves” at the AX’s Otaku bouncers (snicker)…I mean, AX’s excellent and uber professional staff, please rant away.

(rumor: some of us are so pissed off at AX that we want to start our own anime convention, for real.)

(Image from Wikipedia, for licensing info please read this link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Waynes_world_two_ver2.jpg