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Anime USA 2013: Happy Memories

titan

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!

Okamoto

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.

food

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.

free

Anime USA 2013: Club Ikemen Paradise Host Club

Stanley

“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.

cards

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.

kiss

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.

host

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

Shiori

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…

<3

 

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 -_-

battleship

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~

AnimeUSA 2011: A Small Anime Wonderland (Part 1 of 3)

Report by guest correspondent Sh1zuka. First of three articles.

AnimeUSA 2011, held from November 17 – 20, 2011, is a cozy and moderately small anime convention held at the Hyatt Crystal City in Arlington, Virginia. This year’s registration rate was $58 at the door, and cheaper if pre-registered over a month in advance. If you know you will arrive on Friday, you can skip the long pre-registration line by registering at the convention, saving you lots of time.

Even though AnimeUSA is a small convention, it is still a full featured convention, with usual Artist Alley/Art Show, Dealer’s Room, Video Game Room, Video Rooms, Masquerade / Skit Cosplay Contest, Concerts, and Hall Costume Contest. The convention’s small size will have you constantly running into people you just met hours ago, perfect for making new friends!

Unique to AnimeUSA is the Themed Ballroom Dance. This year’s “Military Cosplay Ball” required dancers to follow a dress code of Western formalwear or Military-themed Cosplay in order to get in. AnimeUSA introduced “dance cards” for the ladies at the ball, letting gentlemen leave their names on a lady’s dance card for a guarantee that the two would dance together on the dance floor. I really wanted to go to this dance, but I was stopped at the door: I didn’t meet dress code.

AnimeUSA also has the best convention Maid Cafe and Host Club on the East Coast, and compared to last year, it has gotten much better. Be sure to check out the forthcoming AnimeUSA 2011: Maid Cafe & Host Club post for more details!

Layout

The convention can be best described as vertical, spanning five floors. The bottom two, B2 and B1, are dedicated to Main Events, the Artist Alley/Art Show, Video Rooms, and Dealer’s Room. If you are looking to lighten your wallet, you need only head down the escalator from the lobby and descend into the madness of beautiful fanart, handmade plushies, poseable Vocaloid figurines, and more!

Can you name the Vocaloids?

The lobby, used only by AnimeUSA for registration, is usually filled with cosplayers during the day and offers a convenient shelter from the cold November weather. For attendees of age, the lobby also contains the bar (called the “Lobbibar” by the Hyatt), making it a popular destination at night when not attending raunchy 18+ panels. With a bar on the first floor and lots of 18+ programming, AnimeUSA accommodates older convention attendees rather well.

The Iconic AnimeUSA Torii (鳥居) (red archway). Photo by plumvs.

The floors above the lobby contain the bulk of the fan programming. Three panel tracks, two workshop tracks, and the Video Game Room are on the 3rd floor; an Events track, Manga Library, and the “My Cup of Tea” Maid Cafe are on the 2nd floor, while the “Club Ikemen Paradise” Host Club, located on the 20th floor, is only accessible via elevator from the 2nd floor.

“I choose YOU!”

All of the floors except for the 3rd floor are connected together via escalators. The 3rd floor is only connected to the 2nd floor via hard-to-access stairs, making getting to the workshops, panels, and the game room difficult.

Nearly-free Medicine

Something AnimeUSA does that’s awesome and unique is nearly giving away medicine to attendees, for a nominal fee of 25 cents per packet. Apparently there’s a law in Virginia that prohibits them from giving away medicine for free, so they charge a quarter.

I can say from personal experience based on the instructions I was given at the con that the entire leadership of the con has one goal. That goal is [to] put on [a] great convention where every attendee goes home saying they had a great time.” –forum post from one of AnimeUSA’s Medical Staff

I’m not aware of any other convention that does something like this, and it’s a great idea to help attendees stay healthy and comfortable during the convention. If you’ve ever been unlucky enough to get sick during a convention, having medicine is essential to being able to enjoy the precious little time you can spend at the convention.

Elevator Hell… No More!

I always made a point of never wanting to stay at the Hyatt for AnimeUSA because in previous years, attendees staying in the hotel rooms above the convention space fought with convention attendees who wanted to use the elevators to get from floor to floor.

This year, AnimeUSA disabled access to the lower floors (Lobby, B1, B2) from the elevators, an excellent decision that made elevators much faster and more efficient by reducing elevator demand. It’s really a blessing in disguise: you might make a few friends on the way up the escalators! The only downside is that getting to panel rooms requires more exercise.

Another welcome improvement is that access to the Host Club is only via one elevator on the 2nd floor, which only goes between the 2nd and 20th floor and is controlled by staff to prevent the host club from being full when you get there.

How many people are in the elevator?

Overall, AnimeUSA 2011 was tons of fun, even though I wasn’t allowed to go to the Military Cosplay Ball. Check out the next post on AnimeUSA’s Maid Cafe and Host Club, the attraction that I consider the best part of AnimeUSA.


Photos by scout, Shizuka, and plumvs.