In my effort to try and get back into the swing of things before Live Free or NekoCon, I’ve pulled out this post I started on over a year ago and am presenting it here; mostly so that the absurd amount of money I spent on this crap didn’t go entirely to waste. The reason why this one didn’t go up despite me finishing most of it is that I always set these up to be the last one of my convention recaps but I always write them first. When I get back, it’s just easier for me to get the table ready, get the lights, and go through all this stuff right then and there instead of postponing it and hoping I’ll ever be in a better mood to get it done. Also, I do want to point out that one of the manga I bought has a hate symbol on it that I have “tastefully” edited out, so just be aware of that before we go any further. And with that, everything going forward (excluding a brief wrap up at the end) was more or less written a year ago, so enjoy!
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.
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!
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.
The biggest event at NekoCon this year (even more so than Mike McFarland!) has to have been the VOCAMERICA concert; the first (relatively) major Vocaloid concert made entirely by Western producers. Sure, we’ve had Miku Expo here in the US for a few years now, but that was part of a bigger worldwide tour and frankly there are so few shows they have in the US that it’s almost impossible for most Vocaloid fans to go without a WHOLE lot of cash to drop on it. VOCAMERICA is still small so the accessibility issue is still there, but if this gets enough momentum going, it could be the start of something that may never eclipse Hatsune Miku in terms of popularity but can be enjoyed by more fans of the genre; especially those outside of major cities. Some of you may be wondering, just what IS a Vocaloid and who is this Hatsune Miku person? Okay, if you’re reading this to begin with, you PROBABLY aren’t asking those questions, but let’s answer them anyway!
So there were a few more panels this year that I didn’t talk about in my earlier pieces, and the reason why is that they covered topics that I wanted to go into with a bit more depth and nuance than I did with the others. We’ll cover VocAmerica next time, but for now I think it’s time we had a talk about sexism in anime. Now keep in mind that this is all my own recollections and interpretations of what was discussed at these panels, and my opinion should not be taken in isolation. There are PLENTY of people who talk about these subjects with much more authority and eloquence than I could possibly muster. Let’s get started!!
Alright look. I KNOW it’s been a while since I did the last one of these and that NekoCon has been over for almost three months now. Things got… complicated after the convention, and that coupled with the Holiday Season means this was put on the back burner for a while. I’m getting to it now though, and hopefully my memory as well as my notes can bring you a proper look at the guest panels I was able to attend! Anyway, let’s start with the big one!
Aniplex Industry Panel
Ah yes! The good ol’ runner up in the anime biz! Sadly there was no Funimation Panel this year which is a shame considering the one they put on last year was very professional and actually got me interested in some shows as well as their streaming service. Compare that to what Aniplex shat out in 2015 and there was no contest. It was just a viewing of one episode a show and then they randomly handled out swag at the end. Now thankfully they seem to have taken a page from Funimation and managed to put together an ACTUAL presentation of their upcoming releases which is preferable to… whatever the hell they did last year. Now that being said, when I name the anime I love it usually comes from Funimation, while Aniplex had… I don’t know, that Fullmetal Alchemist series that I actually still like but everyone seemed to turn on when Brotherhood came out? Well, you never know! Maybe they’ll surprise me and show something that’s an ACTUAL must see! Let’s see what they had to show us!
Right off the bat, there’s this which seems to be all about this one dude who’s talented and sad being cheered on by a girl who’s talented and sad; the former on the piano and the latter on the violin. I don’t know what to tell you, the trailer was one big pep talk to this guy who doesn’t seem all that interesting and there’s nothing in here to elicit the tiniest bit of interest for me. If there’s one genre I’m just so freaking tired off, aside from cruelty gore fests, is the overwrought school drama. Hell, if it was for occasionally awesome comedies like Nichijou, School Rumble, or Lucky Star, I’d be happy to never see another freaking show set in a school ever again. It’s just not an interesting place to set anime at this point because of how overdone it is and I’m just sick to death of everything this show seems to be. If I were to give this many praise, it looks like the animation is done well, particularly in the performance scenes which look really smooth and carefully choreographed. I highly doubt they were rotoscoped, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they were modeled after records of someone actually playing those instruments. However, that’s still not enough for me to even bother with this so… I guess check it out if you’re not as jaded as I am.
So when you’re like me and don’t know what to do with yourself other than look at overpriced figures at the Vendor’s Hall, it’s good to have a schedule to provide some structure to your con going experience; hence why I attended so many panels this year. Well, that and I knew I was going to recap them for the website; and that’s a win-win in my book! Today, we’ll be focusing on the fan panels which are hosted by individuals attending the convention rather than the invited guests or representatives of some company looking to market directly to their fans. Do these manage to have an authenticity and love of their respective fandoms that you wouldn’t find in more professional presentations? Let’s find out!!
90s Animation Revisited: Rejoin Your Childhood Friends
Hosted by Peggy Miller
This was the first panel I went to at the convention, and right off the bat it put me in a sour mood. This was nothing more than nostalgia baiting with nothing even resembling insight or depth into what made these cartoons so memorable (or in certain cases, infamous). Rattle off the name of a series, show the opening, ask the audience what year it came out, and repeat nineteen more times. Hell, they couldn’t even stick to the decade as several of these started in the late eighties but remained popular throughout the nineties. Fair enough I guess, but what about showing Power Rangers which was NOT an animated show? I’ll let you all know right now that my biggest problem with most of the fan panels this year is that they’re sometimes a mile wide but always an inch deep. This one did manage to have a breadth of content by name checking twenty different shows in an hour, but so what? No mention of Klasky Csupo shows, no mention of how Mighty Mouse: the New Adventures from 1987 was the jumping off point for many prominent animators in the following decade, no mention of Disney Television Animation who made half the shows name checked here, and most egregiously (at least in my opinion), they couldn’t even be bothered to tell us all that the creator of Doug was born less than a hundred miles away from where we were sitting. That’s a VERY easy factoid to just throw out there to the audience and I’m sure several people would have gotten a real kick out of it. The only thing you’d get out of this is what you already would be bringing into it, and I just don’t think that’s much of a panel.