Tag Archives: anime usa 2012

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.

Toya

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.

Melody

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.

Not.

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!