We are just a week away from the start of NekoCon 21 which is my fourth NekoCon and will therefore be referred to as Live Free or NekoCon; and if I go next year it will be A Good Day to NekoCon. It’s the one convention I go to every year to recap for the site, except… I didn’t write anything about last year’s con, i.e. NekoCon with a Vengeance. It’s not like I didn’t have any material as I had two notebooks full of details (they’re around here somewhere!) and I even got a few quotes from some of the panelists that go a bit more in depth with the topic that they were discussing! So what happened? Where are these BRILLIANT pieces that should have been written!? Well… nothing really happened. Despite how much effort I expended taking those notes and getting information (I even had an hour long meltdown when I lost the damn notebooks), I just couldn’t bring myself to put it all together and post it to the site. I guess there are a few reasons for that. I had already been there twice and despite the panels being different and a few improvements here and there, it still felt very much the same the third time around. Maybe people want a certain sense of continuity from year to year or maybe me being a socially awkward SOB in a sea of strangers meant I couldn’t truly appreciate what was there, but in the end it felt very much like a trip to a mall or something along those lines that I’ve been to before rather than a yearly celebration with like-minded people. Maybe to a certain extent I’ve just drifted away from “fandom” in general; especially when it comes to anime which is the primary subculture on display there. Aside from nostalgia bait like Dragon Ball Super or Sailor Moon Crystal, nothing has caught my eye or felt like an evolution away from the worst aspects of the genre; i.e. more video game adaptations, more shows with increasingly esoteric naming schemes and comic book levels of confusing continuity, and an adherence to gendered stereotypes that have been set in the hardest stone imaginable. Heck, the last non-nineties anime I fell in love with was Princess Jellyfish and that was eight years ago! I’m sure stuff like One Punch Man and Little Witch Academia are just fine (not Fate though, which is terrible), but I just find that my interests have drifted elsewhere whether it’s western animation (have you seen that Barbie Life in the Dreamhouse show!?) or just movies over twelve episode story arcs. At some point I should probably just stump up the money to go to one of those fancy film festivals, and I’m certainly gonna try looking at other fan conventions in 2019, but for now I’m still committed to NekoCon as well as to my DUTY as it were to cover the convention to the best of my abilities. Will it be better this year? Well it certainly helps that I’m AWARE of my ambivalence now instead of being blindsided by utter apathy once the dang thing is over and I can also now be more proactive in finding ways to report on the convention that will hold my interest all the way through. However, there are other factors specific to this year that are undercutting my efforts to stay optimistic. On a personal level, I’ve had a few setbacks this month as well as a nasty cold that’s persisted for about two weeks now; neither of which are really things are all that serious but have still drained me a fair bit and are leaving me not in the best headspace with just one week left to go. On top of that, the convention itself has made some decisions this year that have left me less than enthused with the programming compared to previous years. One of the things that I look forward to each year (and seems to be a major draw for many others) is THE GAME ROOM where they have consoles set up on side and an assortment of arcade machines on the other. This year however, they’ve announced that the arcade section was going to be replaced by… pachinko and slot machines.
This all goes back to the THEME this year which I found questionable when they first announced it. See, since this is the twenty-first NekoCon, this ostensibly family friendly convention has a CASINO THEME which I’m sure is the main reason they’re doing this along with whatever deal they have with Clover Collectables who will be selling said pachinko and slot machines there as well according to the above post. Now obviously this is still gonna be a family friendly event (not to mention that I’m sure it’s a BIG pain to get a gambling license if one would even be obtainable in this state) so all the “teeth” are gonna be systematically removed from the theme, but if that’s the case then even GO there this year? If there was any question about it, they have confirmed that the machines are not gonna require money to use and won’t have cash payouts, but without that there’s just no point to there even BEING these gambling machines.
Now you can argue that there IS a certain amount of entertainment value to be gleamed from seeing the machines themselves in action which, if Clover Collectable’s website is anything to go by, look interesting and are based on famous properties which could be novel to play with. The thing is though that unlike say a Pinball machine that has that same kind of novelty just by looking at it, there’s no actual GAME there to hold your interest as Pachinko and slot machines are purely luck based. You throw the arm once or twice, but if nothing’s at stake there’s no point in continuing to try and get the payout that won’t actually pay out. If they want to use THIS specific theme, there are plenty of gambling and casino games that could have worked. Card games are fun even without money because you’re competing against other players. You could argue that games like roulette and craps, while still entirely luck based, has a social dynamic to it that can make it fun even if nothing is at stake. Heck, if they stretched the definition a bit and threw in a few pool tables, that’d be ENORMOUSLY fun! The least interesting game possible with no stakes and all luck is you vs a machine, and frankly you can get the same experience playing one of the numerous slots apps on your mobile phone. Now this is SOMEWHAT of a moot point because a more recent update from NekoCon confirmed that Clover Collectables won’t be making it to the convention and so THE GAME ROOM will be ENTIRELY consoles with no pachinko, slots, or arcade cabinets of any kind. I’m still bringing all this up though since they didn’t cancel it because they thought it was a bad idea (which it was in my opinion) and also because there was no back up in place if something like this happened. So instead of arcade cabinets this year, they bet on a bunch of one arm bandits and came up short.
Now I’m also gonna cop to a minor bit of bitterness on my part that I’m sure some of you will say is coloring my perspective going into this convention, and that’s the fact that I submitted a panel and they rejected it. I was really looking forward to doing a presentation this year on a subject I’m rather passionate about and it was the one thing that was REALLY keeping me invested in the convention for the last few months as I worked so many long nights on it; trying to get pieces of it finished in between all the other obligations I have to this site. Now that’s not to say that all that work has gone to waste! Oh HECK no! The panel was always intended to be a “test pilot” of sorts for a bigger project I’m working on for the site itself, so even if they didn’t want it there it’s STILL gonna show up in some form right here and I’m hoping to have enough of it done to start actually posting it on the site in 2019. I WILL say though that the submission process itself feels incredibly lacking and doesn’t give a lot of room to really let your idea SHINE if you’ve put in that much work. You’ve basically got a title and a very short description space (I think it was somewhere between three-hundred and five-hundred characters) to try and sell your elevator pitch. Granted, longer submissions means a longer vetting process, but there was just not enough room to explain everything that went into my presentation. Heck as part of the panel I even managed to get in touch with a production designer on a movie that hasn’t been screened in almost two decades, and he was even nice enough to share production stills from it that presumably haven’t been publicly seen since 1999 if ever. How the heck am I gonna convey a cool highlight like THAT, let alone a simple SUMMARY of the panel itself, in such a small space!? So… yeah. I’m certainly not deterred from FINISHING this project which I’m still keeping under wraps (why spoil the surprise!?) but not being chosen to present that panel has definitely taken my already deflated attitude due to other issues this month and cranked it down another notch. And just to clarify, this isn’t about ANYONE who DOES have a panel; rather it’s my frustration with the process itself. Then again, maybe the idea itself was just crap. I guess I’ll find out soon enough! Even with all that though, I’m gonna go into it this year with a much more open mind and a much clearer idea of what I want to accomplish and what my limits are going to be for certain things which will hopefully mean, for good or ill, I’ll have a lot more to say once it’s all said and done!
Also, I’m gonna TRY to scrounge up whatever material I had for last year’s convention and see what I can post to the site. I know that I finished the Swag Review and Grab Bag Unboxing for that year, so you’ll definitely see that one if nothing else!