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Exposition: Anime Expo 2012, Day 3 [FINAL]

Silver Tier—now that’s more like it.

Day 3 was, unfortunately, my last day, since I had to go back to work on Monday.

I did the same as the day before—arrive early in the morning to the press lounge, to pick up LiSA concert tickets. This time, they were available, but Masquerade tickets were not. I had no intention of going to the Masquerade, but apparently they too were the victim of printing problems. The conspiracy theory that a bunch of us press folks floated the night before—that our FictionJunction tickets were deliberately printed late to give us worse seats—was probably groundless if even Masquerade tickets were late. Shinmaru, newly minted Cart Driver writer, arrived later to the press lounge, along with zzeroparticle, Kylaran, and of course Benu.

I should mention that the press lounge was distinctly lacking in power strips, but I usually arrived early enough to claim one of the wall plugs near the window overlooking the exhibit hall. Free water was only available early in the morning. These are minor, minor complaints, especially since the all-important wifi and AC was still available, but it’s still a step back from the previous year. But I digress.

The first panel I attended with Shinmaru was the Madhouse/Chihayafuru panel. As we followed toastcrust and others on Twitter at Fate/Zero voice actor Rikiya Koyama’s panel, it was increasingly clear we went to the less funny and interesting one…nevertheless, there were many good questions asked at this panel for a change. We received some clarification about Chihayafuru S2—apparently it’s not certain if Madhouse will animate it. (We had been bizarrely asked not to talk about S2 during the press conference because it hadn’t been confirmed, though ANN had reported on the news earlier.) One Kana cosplayer caught the eye of the producer, who asked for a picture. A huge Keroro-chan sat in the back and waved. They all opined, diplomatically, that the moe trend didn’t necessarily pose a threat to quality anime. This was, despite the lack of Jack Bauer singing, a quality panel and we got some good tidbits out of it. And ATT 3G did not FAIL this time.

During the downtime between the Madhouse panel and the LiSA concert, I interviewed more press and industry folks about the troubles they had this year with registration, access, and other issues. It was around this time that I resolved to make a report about our frustrations this year. It felt like a duty as a press badge holder to make these things known in a truthful and accurate manner. You’ll be seeing that soon. I also had lunch with my friend Phoebe, who with her friend was cosplaying as Kurumi and Sawako from Kimi ni Todoke. I hadn’t seen Phoebe in a few years and it was good to catchup again.

When we took our seats for the LiSA concert, much to our relief, we learned that photography and video were both allowed at all times. And it was clear to me why, as LiSA began her cheerful, upbeat show. If Kajiura was reserved, powerful, and dignified in her music, LiSA was outgoing, inviting, and joyous. She interacted in solid English with the fans all the time, doing a great job getting everyone on their feet, to follow her motions, to sing along. This young, relatively new singer had a command of stagecraft that is enviable for her age and experience, and the open policy on shooting footage is a reflection of her relative openness. When she invited everyone to come up near her for a last photo at the end, I enthusiastically joined the stage rush. It’s been a while since I felt so happy after a concert.

Perhaps in an attempt to placate some of our dissatisfaction, there was a press-only reception at the 21+ open bar Lounge 21 not long after the concert. While the free drinks and hors d’oeuvres were appreciated, we heard nothing but similar complaints and stories from our fellow press colleagues. I managed to get several statements on video regarding our troubles. It was nice to hang out with our compatriots and see that we were not especially spoiled or alone, something I have no wish to be. There will be more than one press outlet that puts out a report about these issues, I now know. You don’t mess with press. :)

From the Red Carpet: Minami Kuribayashi, Kouki Yoshimune, and Ayami.

After dinner, there was just one more event I could attend, the Total Eclipse premiere with Minami Kuribayashi and Ayami singing their songs. Photo and video of any kind were not allowed, but given the low battery level of our equipment, we wouldn’t have been able to catch much anyway. In either case, I arrived just as Ayami was about to begin her song, and got into the spirit with Rome, Benu, and the rest of press in front row as we pumped our fists and cheered. The focus, of course, was on the anime itself, which was a surprisingly brutal war/militaristic mecha piece that featured only some fan-service in the first episode and no more. It’s basically the prologue/origin story of the main character, and so the main plot will begin with episode 3, but despite some clumsy directing it was actually fairly solid.

I had to rush out of the convention center and back to the hotel to pack up and leave for Union Station after that, saying a hasty goodbye to everyone, though I was able to get in a few wisecracks about Total Eclipse to the guys remaining in the hotel. I barely made it, with only 10 minutes to spare when I got on the train.


And that was my Anime Expo 2012. It was, on the whole, a successful convention, though not without its special frustrations for press this year. I had tremendous fun hanging out and being with my fellow aniblogging colleagues as well as of course the faithful and hardworking staff of Anime Diet. Thanks to @_eternal especially for providing a room for a bunch of us smelly scum of the earth, even if I went to bed and left earlier than all of y’all.

Let’s all meet again next year!

Exposition: Anime Expo 2012, Day 2

“Bronze Tier” should have been a tip off that something was amiss…

Day 2 was going to be Ground Zero for me: the day that I had anticipated the most as a fan. The day of the Yuki Kajiura/FictionJunction concert.

I did what I did last year for the press Kalafina tickets: I got up earlier than all of my blogger roommates, headed to the convention center, and waited outside the closed press lounge for our two allotted tickets for the Kajiura concert. To my surprise, the staff opened the room early, and I was able to charge my equipment while waiting.

When 9 AM, the appointed time for ticket distribution, came—there were no tickets. They would be ready by noon, I was assured. Ticket printing problems had come up. I hung around the press room for another hour or so before deciding to head on out for the Vocaloid panel with Rome, Benu, and other press folks.

Now, I know little about Vocaloid and Hatsune Miku beyond the basics. I’m not familiar with the most well-known Vocaloid composers—Benu and Rome told me that the ones who appeared at the panel, like Kagome P, Deadball P, and Dixie Flatline, were actually some of the biggest on the scene. Despite my lack of background, the panel was thoroughly enjoyable. The songs were either hilarious or, in one case, a bit poignant. The composers were frequently funny and/or outspoke, with Kagome P giving a hearty “fuck you” to the Japanese government’s laws closing dance clubs early, and Deadball P being his best otaku self by declaring Miku his “waifu” and that he has had a baby with her. His song, “Japanese Ninja #1,” is perhaps the funniest thing I’ve heard or seen at this convention. Dixie Flatline told of how a Youtube video of last year’s Mikunopoils concert (I’m still smarting over having our videos taken down by Sega—but we still have them here!) inspired him to start his musical career over again.

I tried to buy Deadball P’s record after the panel, but it sold out quickly, and no wonder.

Smile for the fangirls.

Next up was the voice actor Nobuhiko Okamoto‘s panel (Seiji in Sakamichi no Apollon, Io in Acchi Kochi among others). Jeremy had suggested we try to cover the panel and then seek a private interview with him, since though he was grouped with the Fate/Zero team during the press conference the previous day, he wasn’t part of our private interview. Fortunately, press was allowed to take unlimited photography, so we sat in the front row taking pictures as he made his fangirls (and one crazy Index fanboy) swoon by doing voices and impressions. Okamoto is a very pretty man indeed, inspiring one shy fan to give him a gift and others to declare their love in Japanese. My attempts to live blog/tweet, however, were thwarted by the total inability of ATT’s 3G network to function on my phone. I got out a few tweets using Jeremy’s T-Mobile powered phone, though, in which the most interesting factoid to come out is that Okamoto would probably have been a shogi player if he didn’t become a voice actor.

Unfortunately, he left straight back to Japan right after the panel, so we couldn’t get our private interview. The Aniplex rep, however, was friendly and told us we can try to get in touch later, but we might have to be prepared to pay. Seiyuus, he said, typically require to be paid for interviews. I wonder whether this is one of the reasons why there was no junket this year—perhaps the indebted AX couldn’t afford to pay enough.

At this point, our staff writer ElectricV01 (Dan) came by. In the absence of a planned interview with infamous, PAX-expelled cosplayer Jessica Nigri, he suggested we interview another pro cosplayer, Yaya Han, instead. Having not heard of her until that point, I was surprised later by how famous she really was. We took a mere 15 minutes to come up with good questions and you can see the results over here:

This ended up being one of the few times I actually visited the Dealer Room this year. Having already broke my con buying budget by buying NIS America’s Kimi ni Todoke box sets at AM2 earlier, I couldn’t afford anything anyway. We did briefly note one big change, the return of Viz Media with a booth. For the past few years, they’ve eschewed AX in favor of San Diego Comic Con for their big booth. When I tried to get one of their famous canvas bags, it turned out there were a lot of hoops to jump through to get one. I’ll just wait until SDCC to get one.

Dan and I then decided to try to get into LiSA’s fan panel. We saw hordes of fans crowding around the hallways, with an entire room dedicated to line overflow. Press and industry were grouped together with Premier Fan ticket holders. The line filled up quickly, and we heard staff announce that the line was full and they weren’t able to seat anyone else. Fortunately, press was allowed to go in first, even before the Premier Fan holders, and we got a good seat near the front. Dan took pictures with the DSLR, and I borrowed his Verizon phone to tweet, as ATT was once again out. (I fully intend to switch providers now, especially since I’m off contract.)

LiSA was as winsome as ever, making cute faces constantly as we saw examples of her work. The questions the moderator asked tended to be super basic, like “do you like anime?” (to which the obvious answer, of course, is “yes!” and she repeated her bit about Nyaruko-san). If the Okamoto panel was filled with fangirls, this one was filled with fanboys. None of the questions were terribly engaging, as is the norm in fan panels, but the energy in the room was palpable.

After the panel, there was only one more event left to cover: the FictionJunction/Yuki Kajiura concert. We headed back to the press room, having already gotten our tickets around 2:45 PM earlier. We had been assured by the press staff that these weren’t, in KylaranAeldin of Nihon Review’s words, “bitch seats,” but the double row letters and the “Bronze Tier” designation was not encouraging. On leaving, the press staff told us no video, but we could take non-flash photography, which was a typical stipulation for most concerts we’ve attended as press. I could live with that.

The first sign that something was wrong was the seat locations themselves. They were all the way on the left edge of the hall, and near the back to boot. It was a poor location to shoot photographs, though I felt fine that my zoom lens could handle it. Then we were told, by fellow press members already seated: the rule was no photography of any kind, even for press. “Oh, they must still be negotiating,” I reasoned, and replied that the staff had told us otherwise. No, I heard; it’s an absolute blanket prohibition. This was later confirmed by a slide put up on the Jumbotrons.

Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign

I admit: I was angry enough to issue several complaining tweets, which is not the norm for me. (Believe me, I’d much rather talk about Sato or someone else, but this needed airing, because others shared my frustrations, something which will be documented in a forthcoming report about press problems this year.) Apparently we were supposed to get better seats, but ticket printing issues prevented it, and we were supposed to be able to shoot pictures, but artist management overrode it at the last minute. This kind of treatment of press is poor, and hindered our ability to cover the concert, which for many like myself was supposed to be the highlight of the entire convention. The more paranoid Japanese management organizations, like that of Miyuki Sawashiro from last year, need to understand that the game has changed and that total control of artist image is less and less relevant in the Internet age.

Reluctantly, I put my press hat aside, and my phone. I decided to enjoy the show, and…you know, I really did. The vocal and instrumental performances, all of them live, were superb. The majesty and deeply emotional wells of Kajiura’s music came through, especially on the Madoka and Mai-Hime pieces. The numerous pieces from .hack did not move me as much, and there were points in the first half of the show that the songs seem to run together—adding some weight to the frequent charge that Kajiura’s music tends to sound the same. The camera director behind the Jumbotron, which was the only way to really see the artists from where we sat, was also a bit slow on the uptake; there were frequent pans to the curtains and non-playing musicians. But overall, as our reviewer as already said, the concert was an impressive musical performance. Despite my feelings about the management, the Kajiura and her singers and musicians did a fine job. I’m not going to let that ruin my admiration for the music.

Corn chowder at the Farm.

That was it for me. Instead of returning to my hotel room right away, I decided to eat a late dinner at a restaurant across the street to decompress a bit (the Farm of Beverly Hills), and then collapsed into bed shortly after. I missed 2DTeleidoscope and his Tanto Cuore playing anti-FictionJunction con apparently. :) Oh well…

Next: Day 3, my last day