Conventional Wisdom: The Year of Our Con 2011 (Part 4: I ♥ ABTS)

Conventions, at least in America, are social events. It’s rare to find anyone going to a major convention all by him or herself. Always, there is a group of friends, cosplayers, or (in our case) staff. And when you’re an anime blogger with a press badge, there are always the others who share the same privilege. They’re our natural allies and friends and we spent a lot of time with them this year.

There’s a lot of name dropping in this article. Consider this mostly a shout-out to friends and comrades! I’m sorry if this is a little inaccessible for everyone else.

Inside the press lounge. You can actually see zzeroparticle all the way in the back.

IV: I ♥ ABTS (Ani-blogo-twito-sphere)

The first group of people who we sat next to at the Anime Expo press junket were the crew from Nico Nico. While we were surprised they were there, they are not part of the ABTS and therefore not a part of this story.

After Nico Nico left, in walked zzeroparticle (twitter), _eternal (twitter), Shinmaru (twitter), and KylaranAeldin (twitter). I remembered all of them from last year except _eternal, for whom this was his first AX. As a longtime admirer of his writing, I was glad to meet him. Kylaran, who has helped us with subtitle translations for our interviews for the past couple of years, immediately launched into Japanese conversation with Rome (our own interpreter), and we swapped stories, and emotions: nervousness about our impending interviews. Wondering when omo was going to show up—we knew he’d be late. Asking each other questions about Hatsune Miku, which a lot of us didn’t have extensive knowledge about (especially me). Later, an old friend, Benu of Anime Genesis, showed up: he’s been around since the very beginning of Anime Diet and it was great catching up with him as well. I’d run into him again waiting in line for Miku press tickets on the morning of the concert date.

Yes, it was a table full of guys. You can make your sausage party jokes here. Gia, now of Anime News Network, sat with her colleagues at the different table, and she came over once to greet me. She’s been a ubiquitous presence at cons ever since her Anime Vice days. But ANN is operating on a different zone, in a way; the guys in front of me, these were people who I still mainly knew through their sites. A brotherhood of blogging.

Omo finally came in after we got lunch from Quizno’s. I’ve seen him quite a few times since we first met at New York Anime Festival in 2008, and he straddles the two worlds: he’s got his own longstanding blog and now he’s also a reporter for Japanator. We said hi, but he sat mostly with his colleagues from the latter this time, and we’d only occasionally run into him from time to time: most memorably, after the Kalafina show where he was with Fasalina, whom I’d never met up until now. She’s an example of someone who’s more on Twitter than on a blog; when you know someone mainly through Twitter you begin to imagine that they resemble their avatar, and it’s always a surprise to put a face to a pseudonym. I wish we could have talked more.

canon_chan puts in a MANMA-rable appearance at the food truck plaza.

And then there were the discussions, debates, and fake flames: I mean the theatrically heated discussions, often started by Kylaran, about whether Madoka is crap, why Kalafina’s choreography was substandard, and colorful stories about going to the one booth in the dealer room selling Japanese live-action porn. There was especially the blogger meet up at the food truck plaza, where we met canon_chan (twitter), calaggie (twitter), kevo (twitter), yumeka (twitter), and others. (Sorry if I forgot.) If there was anything approaching the experience of being in a big IRC chatroom, or active comment thread, in real life—this was it. Lots of conversations back and forth; me being quiet for the most part. I’m still quite an introvert at heart, especially in large groups.

Most of the guys were heading to the Miku concert just afterwards. We’d already decided which of our staff was going to do it for Anime Diet, and it wasn’t me. I walked with a bunch of the other bloggers to the Nokia Plaza, and there we parted. There, I wrote my first Kalafina article, and waited for the concert to end. (I’ve told the story of Miku, and our struggles, earlier.)

Anime Diet staff are devotees of the press lounge. We like to go there first thing in the morning, looking for the free drinks and food that were promised (and were not forthcoming this year, except on day 1). Stay long enough in there, and zzeroparticle and Kylaran and Shinmaru often will show up, usually plotting which events to cover for the day or, in zzeroparticle’s case, prepping for a panel about Yuki Kajiura one day.

zzeroparticle bestrides the raised table like a skinny Asian colossus.

We wanted to be there to support him of course, Rome and I; as a fan of Kajiura and Kalafina and as friends. Kylaran swore to heckle him from the sidelines, and we saw him and other bloggers scattered throughout the audience. It reminded me of the old days, when Hinano and JPMeyer had a blogger panel at New York Anime Festival 2008, and where I first met bloggers in person: it was in these moments that the con experience felt least like work and most like a bunch of friends hanging out and doing stuff together. There was always lots of laughter, loud, raised voices, and walking slowly down the long corridors.

This is the part of convention-going I never hope to lose, even if by some miracle Anime Diet becomes big one day and ranks with the ANNs of the world. In the middle of hectic, sometimes frustrating events and coverage, this was what made it worthwhile: meeting people, fellow otakus and nerds, putting faces to the words that exist only on screens. I was taught in church that people were more important than things, that relationships were to be valued over objects. I see those moments as moments of grace: like when we were all standing outside Club Nokia waiting for us to be approved as press and griping together, or when we had our computers and equipment scattered around the table in the press lounge, doing our work and having side conversations at the same time.

As professional as I aspire to be at Anime Diet, this is the true spirit of the amateur: the lover, the one who does it because he loves it. It’s the whole reason we exist here at this website, and why other bloggers write their blogs. Without love, it’s just clashing cymbals and nothing. To steal another blogger’s namesake, it’s what we must always remember. And I hope I’ve done an adequate job here in sharing whatever memories I had.

Waiting for Miku tickets. Benu is up front.

This concludes the Conventional Wisdom series. Next time: actual anime reviews!

Author: gendomike

Michael lives in the Los Angeles area, and has been into anime since he saw Neon Genesis Evangelion in 1999. Some of his favorite shows include Full Metal Alchemist, Honey and Clover, and Welcome to the NHK!. Since 2003 he has gone to at least one anime convention every year. A public radio junkie, which naturally led to podcasting, he now holds a seminary degree and is looking to become Dr. Rev. Otaku Bible Man any day now. Michael can be reached at You can also find his Twitter account at @gendomike.

3 thoughts on “Conventional Wisdom: The Year of Our Con 2011 (Part 4: I ♥ ABTS)

  1. Thanks for the shout out guys 🙂 Always a pleasure spending time with Anime Diet! Hope we keep meeting up for years and years to come!

    Also, that’s a fine picture of zzero at his panel. 😛

  2. You and I crossed paths at AX more that I remembered, haha. Yet I never said hi :/

    I was behind you in the last pic, in the very short line for Kalafina tickets 🙂

  3. I really can’t believe it’s been a little over two months since AX. With all the stuff I have going on, that feels like a lifetime ago. I’ll echo Ky’s sentiment that hanging out with you guys was a blast and hopefully, we’ll see this tradition continue next year!

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