The NekoCon Diaries 2016: Swag Review and Grab Bag Unboxing

nekocon2016

You know we can’t end a discussion about a convention without talking about all the stuff I got!  It’s TRADITIONAL to brag about your level of disposable income to whoever cares to listen!  I made sure to save up a lot more money this year, not only to have more flexibility in what I could do during the trip, but also to make this part of my convention recap all the more interesting.  No need to thank me!  Just enjoy reading about it below!!

Now I ended up focusing most of my budget on grab bags this year rather than anything specific (other than some overpriced snacks), but I did grab these LEGO knock-offs at a pretty damn good price which is hard to find at a convention.  Plus, the poster was free!

NCD2SRGBU-1

Once again, my love for Sailor Jupiter shines through as she is the only Sailor Scout I picked up.  The remaining scouts were there to purchase, but even at a decent price of twelve dollars each, I didn’t want to spend THAT much for a complete set.  The Hatsune Miku one was all the way at fifteen dollars, but then everything with her does come at a premium price.  It’s like an anime law or something.  I did pick up some manga too, and it just so happened that the same vendor was there with the same deal as last year (10 for $40), but the selection this time around was not as good as most of it is still books from Seven Seas which doesn’t license a lot of books that I like and I already grabbed most of the stuff I wanted last year.  Still, there are a few gems here and I also grabbed one from at another table for $3.50 when they cut prices in half on the last day.

NCD2SRGBU-2

That’s not to say I wasn’t happy about what I picked up though.  There are two series in particular I was excited to finally have copies of; one of which is Gakuen Polizi by the one and only Milk Morinaga, and my love of whom is very well documented in my last Swag Review.  Now obviously Girlfriends is the best series she ever did, but I’ve read some of Gakuen Polizi and it’s solid in its own right so I was more than happy to finally pick up the two volumes.  Maximum Ride is the other one that I was glad they had which is a series that’s, oddly enough, written by James Patterson of Alex Cross fame.  They started out as YA novels back in 2005 (the same year as Twilight coincidentally) about these kids who were part of a government experiment to have wings attached to them (as you do) and the books were later adapted into graphic novels with art by NaRae Lee.  I remember reading the first volume of the graphic novel all the way back in high school and really enjoyed it, but never got to find out what happened next as the school library only had that one book.  Recently I did purchase the first volume, and while I still need to get volume 2, these books at four dollars a pop were a hell of a deal.  I can’t be CERTAIN that these are new, but they don’t have any indications otherwise, and normally these would be around ten to twelve dollars on Amazon in that condition.

NCD2SRGBU-3

REALLY fantastic covers!

So that about does it for the stuff I bought on purpose.  Now it’s time to get in the MYSTERY items from both the vendors in the Exhibitors Hall and the artists in Artists Alley!  Convention grab bags in general are kind of interesting to me as there’s a definite allure to them outside of me just wanting something to put on the site.  It’s not quite a lottery as there’s no real indication that you’ll find a big score in one of them (no real way to advertise that in a vendor’s hall other than swearing there’s something good in one of the bags) so I get the feeling that rather than some being good and some being bad, there’s a general baseline of quality that they would have to keep to; hence why some of them even list what’s inside to give you the best idea of what you’re getting without giving specific titles away.  The good news is that, unless you’re dealing with someone unscrupulous (a reasonable concern), you have a certain amount of guaranteed success which is helpful when you’re already spending this kind of money just GOING to a convention, let alone on stuff you’re planning on taking home.  Now the obvious short comings there is that the lack of risk limits the potential for reward, but then I’m not one to do much gambling anyway so the surprise of what I get is usually good enough even if there’s zero change I’m getting a hundred dollar figure in a twenty-five dollar bag.  Speaking of which!

.

Dragon Trading Mystery Bag (vendor)

Website: http://www.dragonstrading.com/

Total: $25

NCD2SRGBU-4

Two things to point out about each of the grab bags here; Transportation was hell so most of the packaging is in rough shape, and I didn’t really get that many business cards this time which is a bit of a bummer.  Luckily, this first one has all its information right on the bag, and this vendor was clearly one of the biggest (if not THE biggest) at the hall.  They were there last year and I picked up most of the food from their booth, both this year and last, but I didn’t pick up one of their bags last time.  I don’t know, something about them being the most recognizable (and probably most profitable) booth there made me think they would skimp out a bit on the value inside.  This year though, I took the plunge and I really hope to be proven wrong!

NCD2SRGBU-5

Contents: 2 Pop figures, a 2 pack box of Pocky, a Doraemon sticker, an Oh yes! chocolate snack cake, a Doraemon cookie, a can of milk tea, and a Ramune original flavor soda

Alright, so I’m REALLY not the target audience for Pop figures as I tend to feel that they’re pretty useless as toys and not unique enough in design to make for interesting collectibles, so the ones I got here aren’t doing all that much for me.  Still, those are two pretty great ones to get as I like both properties, so at least I’m not stuck with a Walking Dead or an Attack on Titan figure, or any other franchise I don’t give a damn about (*cough* Game of Thrones *cough*).  Even though you can get Pop figures on amazon for around eight dollars, most places will sell them for ten, so if we go by that criteria that leaves five dollars for the food to make up for.  I’m pretty sure the Pocky was five and I know the soda is two which are probably overpriced, but adding the snack cakes, the sticker, and the tea it’s probably right at what it’s valued.  For a grab bag though, I kind of expect a bit more for twenty-five dollars.

.

Digitoonie Charms Blind pack (Artist)

Website: digitoonie.com; digitoonie@gmail.com

Total: $10

NCD2SRGBU-6

I like the bag they used here which at least isn’t a simple brown bag (spoiler alert, that’s pretty much the case for all the ones I bought), though the use of a post it note for a label is a bit underwhelming.  I didn’t get much info on what’s inside, but they did give me a business card!  That’s something at least!

NCD2SRGBU-7

Contents: 5 pins and 3 key chains

I’m not sure what they were selling these for individually, but I can assure you that eight of them for only ten dollars is quite a steal!  Unfortunately, I don’t really recognize any of the characters here other than Squid Girl and I THINK Bulma in a bunny suit.  I know two of them are Pokémon, though not which ones, and I THINK the character on the pin with the moon background is from a Rumiko Takahashi series, but that’s all I got.  I have no idea what the other three are.  Still, these are really nice looking and for the right person this is a FANTASTIC deal!

.

Anime Gifts/Oriental Arts and Crafts Grab Bag (vendor)

Total: $25

NCD2SRGBU-8

Okay, so I’m REALLY not impressed with any of this.  There’s no label, the person who sold it didn’t have business cards, and they TOLD me the store was called Anime Gifts, but my receipt from Square said it was from Oriental Arts and Crafts!  There are some other crappy ones I’ll be showcasing, but this one might take the cake for lack of effort.  Still, there might be something good inside, right?  Well there at least BETTER be!!

NCD2SRGBU-9

Contents: A plushie a pink glow stick, a Pokeball stress ball (Nest Ball), a mug, and a poster

The plushie doesn’t do much for me as I don’t recognize the character, the mug seems fine even though I don’t know if it’s from a licensed property, and the glow stick is… well a glow stick.  The pokeball stress ball is fine, and it’s soft enough that I can probably throw it at people, so there’s that at least.  Now obviously the poster is the one that grabbed my attention the most since I’m a sucker for anything with Makoto on it.

NCD2SRGBU-10

It looks to be some sort of promotional poster for a line of toys or something, and I have no idea what the extra insert is supposed to mean but anything Sailor Moon is a definite bonus in my book.  I don’t know if I would have paid for any of the items I got here other than a few bucks for the poster, but for con prices it looks to be at least twenty-five dollars’ worth; especially for the plushie which tend to be REALLY expensive for some reason.  Is it THAT expensive to make those things!?

.

Tangent Artists Grab Bag

Website: http://www.tangentartists.com/

Total: $10

NCD2SRGBU-11

Now the packaging itself isn’t all that great as it doesn’t have any details beyond it being a Grab Bag, but they WERE nice enough to provide me with a business card… that I lost.  Still, I DID get a picture of one of the artists, so there’s that at least.

NCD2SRGBU-12

I KNEW IT!!  There’s no way everyone at this convention was from planet earth!!

They didn’t specify what was in the bag (neither does the bag itself obviously), but the booth was for a bunch of webcomic artists, so chances are we’ve got a few comics inside.  Let’s check them out!!

NCD2SRGBU-13

Contents: A pin, 8 small prints, 1 large print, 1 glossy print, and a comic book

The prints are nice and a few are Doctor Who related so I recognize them at least, but I think the big mistake here is that the comic book provided is issues 3 and 4 (hence the MONSTER SIZE ISSUE disclaimer) and within two pages I had no idea what the heck was going on.  I’m sure I can check out their website to find the first two issues of the comic either posted to read or for sale, but that still doesn’t excuse how little sense it makes to put random comics in the grab bag.  Start with issue one and THEN put random stuff in the bag so that whoever is buying this on a whim (i.e. most people who don’t know who you are or are looking for specific issues) have a better chance of getting into this web comic.

.

Hendone Dollar Mystery Bags (Vendor)

Total: 2 for $2

NCD2SRGBU-14

This is the only other package that might be worse than the one from Anime Gifts, but I’m gonna cut it a bit of slack as these are merely a dollar a piece so it’s not really reasonable to expect them to spend much on packaging.  Now fair warning; I might have gotten the name of the store wrong as they didn’t provide a business card and my handwriting in my notes for these is terrible, but there were some… shall we say INTERESTING aspects of the booth itself that I do remember with clarity.  First, it was the one booth that was openly selling Hentai which I don’t really have a problem with, but where I draw the line is hanging up explicit Dakimakuras for all the attendees (including children) to see, even if they went to the trouble of covering up the naughty bits with copy paper.  Just to put the icing on this cake, the primary vendor there was wearing a Make America Great Again hat with an I Voted sticker on it.  Let’s just say I’m not expecting all that much going into this…

NCD2SRGBU-15

Contents: Bullshit

Well aren’t you fucking clever, asshole.  Also, I’m pretty sure those bags of candy you bought have a Not For Resell notification on it, but who the fuck cares about that, am I right?  Eh, for two bucks it’s not that egregious, but I do want to point out that two pieces of candy do not total up to a dollar, so this is technically a rip off.

[UPDATE: So it was pointed out to me by someone from NekoCon that the booth (which they ALSO pointed out is spelled HenDaNe) was actually selling these as a raffle and not as a Grab Bag, which in hindsight makes much more sense than what I saw as them taking the piss out of the concept of Grab Bags.  Some of the envelopes for sale had tickets for free merchandise at the booth so obviously i wasn’t a winner which means I’m coming off more like a sore loser than someone with a legitimate critique.  Now I’m still not the biggest fan of them due to the explicit Dakimakuras being hung up and one of them wearing one of THOSE hats, but I will absolute cop to the mistake I made.  Sorry about that.]

.

Artist A La Carte Mystery Ninjas (Artist)

Website: raggedyari.deviantart.com; raggedyari@hotmail.com

Etsy: Raggedyari

Total: 2 for $10

NCD2SRGBU-16

The packaging here is pretty solid with multicolored Chinese take-out boxes (at least that’s what I think they are), and it was a pretty good deal considering that buying a specific one was eight dollars.  The artist also provided a business card which I always like AND they put their information directly on the label which is super helpful in case I had lost the business card which is clearly something I have a propensity for doing.

NCD2SRGBU-17

Contents: 2 custom ninja ornaments

Well these two are just delightful!  I ended up hanging both of these on our Christmas tree last year, and they even came with more business cards!  Why doesn’t everyone do this!?  These make it so much easier for me to ascribe credit!  These were a great deal at five dollars a pop and you can get your own at their Etsy page!  Unfortunately, you won’t get the same deal as they are selling them at ten each plus shipping, but even at that price it’s still fairly reasonable for ornaments.  Absolutely go buy one of these if you find them to be as adorable as I do!

.

.

So that’s most of what I’ve collected on my trip and overall I’d say that the grab bags were kind of a disappointment.  The ones from the Artist Alley were the better value but other than the Ninjas nothing really jumped out at me as something I needed to own.  I basically feel the same way about the ones I got from the Vendors, except that the bargain for taking that risk of the unknown just wasn’t there and I might as well have picked stuff out myself that I might have liked more.

Now there are two more grab bags that I did buy, but I’m leaving them at the end here as they are the NSFW Hentai bags, so be aware of that if you decide to continue.  If there’s any nudity on the items I get, I will censor them out (with ONE exception), but I’m sure the covers for these are still going to be pretty explicit.  DO NOT GO PAST THIS POINT IF YOU DO NOT WANT TO SEE NSFW MATERIAL!

.

.

.

.

.

Be Cute Today Hentai Bag (vendor)

Total: $60

NCD2SRGBU-18

Now oddly enough, the two booths I DID get Hentai at were not selling that material openly, at least to my knowledge, and one of them one of the bags even from a pretty big company, though we’ll get to them soon enough.  This vendor was selling them in twenty, forty, and sixty dollar tiers, so naturally I went for the most expensive one so I’d have the most to show you!  Aren’t you all so grateful for that!?

NCD2SRGBU-19

Contents: 3 DVDs

My thoughts on Hentai have already been made clear in my last Grab Bag unboxing, but what I want to point out this time is that on each of these DVDs (and might be standard across ALL Hentai DVDs for all I know), there’s a copy/pasted message that says WARNING: This title contains scenes of explicit sex, rape and/or violence.  I mean that just kind of says it all, right?  They assume that BECAUSE it’s pornographic that also means a high likelihood of rape and violence even though NEITHER of those acts are in any way sexual!  Now since this is a standardized notification, there’s no way of knowing if these DVDs contain that kind of content without actually watching them, so I went ahead and did so.  Dark Love is ALL about rape and I NOPED out of that one pretty quickly.  Lover-In-Law ACTUALLY has zero rape in in (what a surprise) though alcohol is involved in their first sexual encounter which is just used as a shortcut to justifying one character making that leap to starting an affair and that is still pretty sketchy.  Also, if it wasn’t clear already, the story is about adultery… kind of (the actual husband doesn’t show up at any point) so take that for what it’s worth.  Parade Parade ALMOST manages to have no rape in it, but someone gets assaulted in the bathroom because of reasons.  I mean, compared to what I got LAST year which included one DVD where a woman was forced to perform sexual acts under threat of a bullet to the head, Parade Parade is downright sex positive, but shouldn’t we be aiming just a LITTLE bit higher than that?  Is it so fucking hard to come up with dramatic plot turns that don’t involve non-consensual sexual contact!?  I understand that there different strokes for different folks so I won’t go on much longer about the content, but to bring this back to the value of the Grab Bag, I’m just not seeing it here.  These DVDs come to twenty a pop, and while I guess that porn is already on a sliding scale for price, I would never drop that kind of money on anything that isn’t either a season of a TV show or a Criterion blu-ray. Hell, we ended up stopping at a Barnes & Noble at one point during the trip and I picked up the Criterion of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls which is a fantastic film for the exact same price that these come out to when picked at random.  Then again, someone who isn’t as stingy as I am might have a better grasp on the value of these films, so for all I know I hit the jackpot for three hours of problematic porn.

.

DiscoTek Hentai Bag (vendor)

Website: http://discotekmedia.com/

Total: $20

NCD2SRGBU-20

That’s right!  The company that produces blu-rays of Lupin the Third, Sonic X, and Samurai Pizza Cats, were selling off Henati bags and as far as I could tell, those titles were not on the table.  Now obviously, the reason I bought the damn thing is because the vendors who were working the booth helpfully created this delightful little sign so there’s no denying what the hell you’re gonna find inside.  That said, it PROBABLY wasn’t the best idea to have these signs up in the Vendor’s Hall, even if it was on the high shelf where kids may not have been able to see them easily, and by the end of the convention I think they had stopped using these signs for the bags.  Still, I’m glad I was able to get my hands on one before they stopped using them because I probably wouldn’t have even bothered getting this set otherwise! Well then, let’s see what they had to offer!

NCD2SRGBU-21

Contents: 3 DVDs

Holy crap, they put Sex and Fury in here!?  Sure, it has plenty of nudity, but I’d hardly consider it a pornographic film; rather it’s one of the best examples of Japanese exploitation cinema and while I don’t have any specific confirmation that this WAS an inspiration for Kill Bill (DVDs tagline certainly makes that leap) this is definitely a film in the same vein and was more than likely one of the many movies that inspired Tarintno when making those films.  Hell, there’s a fantastic fight scene in the snow pretty early on that looks a hell of a lot like the one between The Bride and O-Ren Ishii… only our hero in here is completely naked which is why I guess is why this was in the Boner Bag.  Even so, it’s a really good movie if you have any appreciation for the genre and I highly recommend it if it’s something that would interest you.  Now the other two I had no idea about beforehand, but considering they stuck a legitimate classic in here, maybe they were just as considerate when packing in the other two.  Now as far as Female Prisoner Scorpion: Jailhouse 41 (hell of a title), the answer is yes.  Oh hell yes.  I cannot believe how fucking good this movie is, and I will treasure this god damn DVD for years to come… unless Criterion takes my advice and gives it the blu ray treatment.  This is a gruesomely dark and sensationally stylistic piece of art, and the fact that this is in the Boner Bag feels like a sick joke from someone who had no idea what the hell they were doing, or knew EXACTLY what the hell they were doing.  Just to be clear, there is absolutely nothing in this movie that will turn you on so its inclusion for this grab bag feels like they might as well have thrown in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo or Requiem for a Dream as well.  There’s so much anger and passion in this film about male privilege and power, yet it doesn’t turn its female leads into saints either and allows them to be just as cruel as the men for the sake of their own survival which makes things all the more bleak, yet it’s so beautifully and creatively shot at points that you can’t take your eyes off of it.  This is a FANTASTIC movie, and I honestly wish I could do a full review of it right here, but this is already getting long so we might as well move on to the final film in the set.  This last one is called Anime Fiction volume 1 and it is an absolute abomination, so I guess we’re only two for three here.  It’s basically a series of animations (if you want to call it that) using famous anime characters clearly without any permission from the owners of those licenses under the dubious excuse of it being a “parody”. It starts out with bottom of the barrel flash animation that you would have seen on Newgrounds around 2002 used for some REALLY unappealing sex scenes between characters I guess we’re supposed to recognize as the only two I knew were Spike and Faye from Cowboy Bebop.  The whole production, especially the sound design, is so bad that I can’t imagine anyone getting off to this kind of porn, but then it gets worse from there.  After three or four scenes of the shit animation, the video just starts playing a montage of gifs with even MORE licensed characters, and it’s at this point that I start to feel this DVD I own is something that shouldn’t legally exist; not just because of the licensedcharacters made to fuck each other, but the production is so cheap that I bet the makers of this just outright stole all this fan art.  It reaches the nadir of awfulness at the end (the third act if you will) when they run out of gifs and it’s just a bunch of still images to terrible (and probably unlicensed) music.  Oh, but they try to make it interesting but using video effects to sort of simulate movement and plenty of strange transitions.  As distracting and baffling as all that is, I couldn’t even enjoy it on an ironic level as most of the images shown were of Dragon Ball Z characters having sex with the Sailor Senshi who are all under-aged, so that’s when I NOPED the fuck out of this heretofore unknown tenth circle of hell.  I’m pretty sure I’m gonna need an exorcism for this garbage movie and I’ll definitely need a shower.  So overall, Sex and Fury along with Female Prisoner Scorpion: Jailhouse 41 were well worth the twenty dollar price tag and are easily the best items I got from any of the grab bags (sorry, adorable ninjas), but I would have gladly paid thirty to get these two WITHOUT that other one which I will now begin permanently scrubbing out of my memory.

.

So with that, my NekoCon experience comes to a close once again!  I hope you all enjoyed hearing about them and if you haven’t checked out my other written pieces about NekoCon 2016, you can find them here!

Advertisements

3 thoughts on “The NekoCon Diaries 2016: Swag Review and Grab Bag Unboxing

  1. Marlene Ivanovich, NekoCon Exhibitor Coordinator

    First off thank you for your review of the items that were purchased at NekoCon 2016; it definitely helps other attendees/consumers as to what to expect for their money (especially in the grab bags). Grab bags have been a serious issue for our exhibitor hall staff; we have to check every bag before they are sold by the vendor; to be clear on this we are primarily checking for bootleg merch, not the value of said items. Grab bags are always going to be a hit or miss; some will think they got cool stuff, others will see it as crap.

    I want to apologize about the HenDaNe envelopes; they did this same thing at Otakon last August. It wasn’t technically a grab bag, it was for a chance to win several of the body pillows (or other items), so you either got candy or a slip of paper with the candy to say you won an item (this was what they did at Otakon so I will assume it was the same at NekoCon). Very low chance on winning something; no way I have of knowing what was in those envelopes. They probably did not make that clear to you, and of course you have a right to be angry. I have changed the policies regarding contests/games/giveaways of this sort for 2017 onward. ALL games/contests/giveaways must be FREE from now on; no monetary exchange. Grab bags will still be a hit or miss, as the only other option is to prohibit them completely.

    If any attendee feels or sees something questionable with any vendor or artist, PLEASE report it to the staff immediately; there is an office in each of the exhibit halls at NekoCon, and many other cons have tables or booths were the staff are on duty in the main exhibit halls. Never, ever feel that you can’t come up to us and state your complaint; it’s better to handle issues at con.

    If there are any further questions/complaints/suggestions about the NekoCon Exhibitors Hall please feel free to email us!

    Like

    Reply
    1. Matt Vetrano Post author

      Thank you for pointing all this out to me and I’ll be making an addendum to this piece as soon as possible.

      It’s my fault that I didn’t realize the item that HenDaNe were selling were not grab bags but were part of a raffle, so I don’t feel like you would need to change the polices regarding contests/games/giveaways just because of my mistake (if that’s what you were saying in your comment). Maybe just have them write on the envelopes themselves that it’s a raffle. I enjoyed my experience at NekoCon greatly and got plenty of enjoyment out of the gab bags offered even if I do seem a bit overly critical in the piece. I honestly am not nearly as mad as I come off in that as it was only two dollars and was more than worth the asking price just so I could write about it here.

      However, if you would like some feedback in regards to your policy, I was kind of put off by the fact that the table had explicit Dakimakuras on display; not just to look at on the table but hanging up on the wall they had. For something like this, it’s always a matter of degrees and you guys deserve all the credit you get for the polices you put in place, it’s just… that was the line for me. Then again, I didn’t think that the bag that said Boner Time on the very high shelf crossed that line, so what do I know?

      Like

      Reply
      1. Marlene Ivanovich

        Thanks for your reply Matt! I’m glad that your overall NekoCon experience was enjoyable, I hope you are planning a return trip this November!

        After NekoCon every year, myself and my second discuss what policies need o be tweeked or changed. The contest change was actually due to an issue that occurred at another convention, and the policy change was suggested as the best route to take. Upon seeing this I thought yeah I like that, so I included it in the changes. Your post after the fact only confirmed that this decision was a good idea. Attendees should not be scammed at a convention that is supposed to be for fun and enjoyment. At NekoCon, we have a yearly charity that we donate to, and ask our attendees to do the same if they can or choose to.

        As to the adult material on display; the requirement is to have the “naughty bits” covered up if on display (this is what most conventions do). Ironically, we had numerous complaints about the paper grab bags, none for the Dakimakuras. Well, in my defense when I glanced at the bag, I saw clock arms; never dawned on me that it was a penis…LOL! But yeah, everyone sees adult related merchandise differently. Years ago, we had a vendor who tired to sell sexual aids openly on their table. I told him the only item he could sell was the rope kit/DVD (only because we have a yearly over 18 panel dedicated to this), but he had to take down the mannequin form with the rope displayed on it, along with other “items”….staffing a convention gives a 1001 crazy storytime tales!!!

        Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s