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.
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.
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