Let Me Tell You About Comic Market 76 Which I’m Not Attending

…But maybe someday!

It’s Friday evening in Japan right now, and that means the first day of Comic Market 76 has ended. Not living in Japan and not being able to fly over means I can’t join the hustle and bustle of sweaty nerds inching their way to tables full of fan-made comics, but for those of you who are and have been, I wish you the best of luck.

What’s most important though is the fact that people are still making Ogiue doujinshi. They’re not great in number, and apparently according to the catalogue they’re all located at the same table, but to you fine artists who are keeping the dream alive, I salute you wholeheartedly. I may or may not have friends who are willing to exchange my money for your goods, acting as a  proxy for those of us with a passion for Ogiue and a love of supporting those who also understand Ogiue’s position of superiority in the world of anime and manga.

Otakon 2009: When Guests Are the Real Deal

Otakon 2009 was punctuated by a number of personal differences and changes in my life, not least of which were a new method of travel, as well as a variety of new travel buddies. It was also my first year at Otakon as a member of the Press (thanks to the existence of this blog), and while I can’t say that it was as rockin’ as last year’s Otakon, I can tell you that it was a fine experience where I never felt like there was too little to do.

My trip began Thursday afternoon, where while on the bus to Baltimore and then on the city bus to Downtown Baltimore we argued about moe in all of its forms, seeking to wrestle the elusive beast to the ground with mixed results. Baltimore that day was a breezy 93 degrees Fahrenheit, the kind of weather perfect for strolling through the city carrying luggage. Dropping off our belongings at the hotel, we went off to dinner at the Cheesecake Factory and met up with esteemed guests such as Patz, Ed Sizemore, and Clarissa from Anime World Order. A variety of fine topics were discussed, such as the joys of showing little kids the Real Power Rangers and the deliciousness of beef (conclusion: it is very delicious).

Upon returning to the convention center to get our badges, we realized that there was a line still snaked around the building that normally would not be based on past experience. I luckily had my badge waiting for me at Press Ops, but many were not so lucky. It was yet another sign that this year’s Otakon was Different. The lines would continue throughout the weekend.


The Pre-Registration Line for Otakon 2009

I also had dinner with people on Friday and to a lesser extent on Saturday, meeting the rest of the AWO crew, Erin from Ninja Consultant and others who I can’t quite remember because the table was quite long. If you’re willing to sit down and relax, the downtown Baltimore area is good for food, and if you’re able to travel further out there are also some excellent restaurants. If you want fast food, that’s also available, and if you want to save money on food I recommend Grape Nuts and Parmalat. Grape Nuts is a dense cereal in a small box and is very filling and nourishing. It has the Ogiue Maniax seal of approval.

Food aside, there were so many events each day that they’ve started to blur in my head, and instead of discussing what happened chronologically I’m going to talk about things more categorically.

Industry and Otakon-related panels I attended were the Funimation panel and the Opening Ceremony panel. Funimation, as you might know already, announced some big-deal shows, namely Casshern Sins (which I reviewed here), Eden of the East (one of the best shows of last season), and the “Dragon Box” master edition remastering of Dragon Ball Z just like the one the Japanese have.

The opening ceremony also marked the second year that Madhouse animated a special opening for Otakon, akin to the Daicon IV opening of legend. This year’s animation incorporated the entire Otakon staff and had numerous references both eastern and western. If you wanted to see the Enterprise duke it out with the Yamato, this was your chance. Unfortunately, we were given the news that the director of the Otakon 2009 Opening Animation, Endou Takuji, had died the week prior, and our condolences go out to a man who reached out to American fandom so readily. Endou was also the director of Record of Lodoss War, a show which many fans in America consider vital to their beginnings as otaku.

As you might guess from the title of this post, guests this year were remarkably good in their decision to not constantly dodge questions and defer to others, though it still happened occasionally when it had to.

Yamamoto Yutaka, aka Yamakan, dropped down answers to questions which clearly showed him putting in some genuine thought and not just defaulting to stock answers. One person asked him how he got to be a director, and his response was that he wanted to be an animator but then couldn’t draw so he had to pick something else that would let him work in anime without drawing talent. To follow up, I asked what he thought of Takahata Isao, director of Grave of the Fireflies, because Takahata is also a director who cannot draw. Yamamoto answered that Takahata is one of the two directors who inspired him to get into anime, and that he considers the Anne of Green Gables anime directed by Takahata to be pretty much THE finest example of an anime TV series and how to tell a story in that format. Sadly, he would not reveal the second despite prompting.

I also asked him about Tonari no 801-chan’s anime debut, and he said that the original author asked him personally to do it, and that he felt destined to do it. Other highlights from Yamakan include his belief that what’s most important in animation is having characters stay “in-character” (and anyone who’s seen Tsugumi in Kannagi can attest to him putting his money where his mouth is), his desire for fellow anime creators to be capable of being creative with each other so that they may grow and improve, and his belief that today’s anime creators lack strong enough personalities akin to Miyazaki, Tomino, and Anno. As you can tell, he was not a “normal” Japanese guest and I am grateful for that.

Oh, and as for his definition of moe: If you like it, it’s moe for you.


Frederik L. Schodt

Frederik L. Schodt (apparently pronounced “Shot”) meanwhile revealed very good knowledge of the scanlation scene and an understanding of its appeal, as well as being good at handling the audience at his Astro Boy panel. At his Q&A panel, I asked him about instances where either American culture values in Japanese comics made them unapproachable by an American audience and vice versa. For the manga example, he pointed out how works are still censored to an extent, and that some companies are forced to claim the girls in their media are 18+ when they clearly are not given the context of the story, and that most of the genres of manga in Japan never come to the US, such as mahjong manga. His answer for American comics that were deemed not appropriate for a Japanese audience was even more interesting.

Schodt had accompanied the great Wil Eisner of all people to Japan, as Eisner was interested in publishing his works there and and there was a Japanese publishing company which published non-Japanese artists. However, when shown the work of Eisner, the company said that he had to rework it to flow more like a Japanese comic and have it read right to left. Eisner, who was over 80 years old at the time, naturally did not want to entirely redo one of his comics which had sold successfully internationally for decades and so the deal was off. He also talked about how much he likes The Four Immigrants Manga by Japanese immigrant Henry Yoshitaka Kiyama, a comic from California in 1927 which is written in a sort of simultaneous Japanese and English (thus requiring knowledge of both to read properly), and is arguably the first existence of a comic book in America, as well as predating Tezuka’s debut by a number of years. After the panel, I got Schodt to autograph my copy of Dreamland Japan.

While I did not manage to score any one-on-one interviews, I did attend some very informative press conferences. There was a sudden press conference with Maruyama Masao (head of Madhouse), Ishiguro Noboru (director of Macross and Legend of the Galactic Heroes), Kikukawa Yukio (producer of Legend of the Galactic Heroes), and Matsubara Hidenori (character designer for the Ah! My Goddess anime), which started off with Ishiguro and Maruyama deciding to just sit in the audience and act like they were members of the press. At this point we had some fun interviewing the translator in the room, asking him throwaway questions such as, “Who are your translating influences?” and “What made you decide to become a translator?” When the press conference actually began, as it were, it turned out to be one of the most informative hours of my life. This press conference will most likely appear online in its entirety at some point so you don’t have to worry on that front, but there are a few highlights I’d like to mention.

From left to right: Kikukawa, Maruyama, translator, Ishiguro, Matsubara

One interesting set of answers was everyone’s response to the anime they would love to make if they could. Matsubara said he would love to adapt the Tezuka manga Dororo into an anime, and even has the support of Maruyama. Maruyama meanwhile said that there were so many he’d like to have made and that’s why he makes them. Ishiguro wants to make a story set in Tokyo in 1948 that he’s been wanting to make for 30 years and even has the entire story plotted in his head. Kikukawa’s dream anime is to adapt the Darkover series of science fiction novels by Marion Zimmer Bradley.

Another interesting answer was one to my own question, where I asked Ishiguro to talk about his experiences with the deceased Nagahama Tadao, creator of Combattler V, Voltes V, and Daimos, as well as one of the directors of Rose of Versailles. Nagahama, as it turns out, was actually in puppet theater of all things before he became an anime director. Also, when working as a director he would act out every part, male and female, in the script to give a better idea to his staff as to how the story should go. Finally, because he had no talent for drawing, whenever he wanted to make corrections to a key animation (and he inspected every single one), he would write a detailed description on the back as to what needed changing. Nagahama is not terribly popular in the US even among old school fans so this was an amazing bit of information to find out. I personally cannot wait to ask Tomino this question at New York Anime Festival.

While the other press conference I attended with MELL was not nearly as informative, what I found was that MELL opened up to us much more than I would expect from a musical guest. We found out that, despite the heavy use of English in her songs she was never good at it in school, she had her first band at around the age of 15 or 16 where she sang for a college band, and that she mistook a guy for a girl due to his elaborate cosplay of a Victorian era character.

MELL was also one of the concerts I attended at Otakon, the other being the Tamura Naomi concert, and both were beyond my expectations. I am no music expert and my music vocabulary is entirely lacking, but I will say that MELL and her band knew very much how to perform and keep the audience in the mood. She sang songs from Black Lagoon and Rideback, and showed off why she’s well regarded among fans.

Sunday’s concert with Tamura Naomi showed how incredibly powerful her voice can be, as she demonstrated that the notes she hits in those opening themes she sings are notes she can hit in a live performance. Highlights of the concert include her own rendition of the Jackson 5’s I’ll Be There, and her Rayearth songs, namely Yuzurenai Negai (1st series opening), with which she ended her concert.

I also held my own concert on Sunday where I sang the theme song to the Golgo 13 NES games. In case you didn’t know, the song actually has lyrics!

My dealer’s room experience was also a most pleasant one as I managed to get everything I was looking for, specifically Ogiue-related…merchandise… as well as the recently released Revoltech Souther from Hokuto no Ken, or, as he’s known on the box, “Thouzer.”

On the fandom side of things, while I did not pay much attention to cosplay I was glad to see a good variety of costumes. While you had your endless Sora from Kingdom Hearts and the general love for Naruto and Bleach you usually expect, I also got some pleasant surprises, such as a cosplay of Kitarou and Nekomusume from Gegege no Kitarou.

Something I did not approve of was the near-total lack of Tainaka Ritsu when it came to K-On! cosplay. I like Mio too and all, but the ratio of Mio to Ritsu was unacceptable. I’m just saying.

The fan panels I attended were all well-run and had people who at least to some extent knew what they were talking about. The Neo-Shounen panel run by Daryl Surat succeeded in its goal of showing how Shounen as a concept changed over the years, mainly in its desire to appeal to both male and female readers, and the Lost in Translation panel was a good beginner’s panel for those interested in seeing some of the difficulties of translating from Japanese to English. The Mecha Appreciation Panel had knowledgeable panelists, but the format was a little haphazard and could have used some focus. If you ran this panel, I was the one who said “King J-Der” for coolest Gaogaigar robot.

I also went to the Anime Recruitment panel by the Reverse Thieves, which provided very good advice for how to get people into anime without scaring them off, offering tips such as, “If your first attempt fails, don’t press the issue. Instead, give them time to cool off, like three weeks or however long it takes.” I’ve spoken before on how difficult I find recommending anime to be, so I will take this advice to heart.

I had a personally vested interest in attending the Otaku TV and Genshiken panels, both run by Viga the Otagal, and was curious as to how these panels would go. Overall, they did a good job of showing the audience what these shows are all about, though I think Viga was a little too spoiler-friendly and it could scare off people who would want to see these series otherwise. Still, I was very glad to see such significant attendance for Genshiken-related panels. After the Genshiken panel, someone in the audience actually greeted me as a reader of Ogiue Maniax and asked to take my picture. Whoever you are, that made my day and I thank you.

Viga said in her Genshiken panel that she believes “The Psychology of Ogiue” would provide enough material for an entire panel, and I am inclined to agree. Keep on the lookout for that.

Overall, I have no serious complaints about Otakon this year, as I feel that the events I would have complained about I simply did not attend, such as the apparently misleading title of the “Sailor Moon’s Influence on Hentai” panel. The fact that Daryl Surat’s Anime’s Craziest Deaths got shut down because no one actually knew what Apocalypse Zero was disappointing, but I’m sure both sides will know how to better handle it next year. As a member of the Otakon press, I also would have felt better if I was told in advance that I would not be getting any interviews, rather than being left dangling. However, because this year’s Otakon was so packed with activities and intriguing and intelligent guests, I can say that this was one of my finest convention experiences, and everyone I traveled to Otakon and back with agreed wholeheartedly.

OGIUE’S TRIUMPHANT RETURN TO MANGA (sort of)

I recently purchased Volume 1 of Genshiken: The Society for the Study of Modern Visual Culture creator Kio Shimoku’s newest manga, Jigopuri: The Princess of the Hell, about an 18 year old mom trying to raise her newborn child. A review will be posted in due time, but there is something more important I must address.

Manga published in Japan generally has a dust jacket where the manga’s front cover is printed, as opposed to manga published in the US where the image appears directly on the book. As such, manga often have images underneath the dust jackets. Curious about Jigopuri, I looked underneath only to uncover this on the back cover.

YEEEEEEEESSSSSSS

Ogiue is saying, “Whatever the circumstances may be, there’s no way they could get this big.” (Thanks to prinny for correcting my mistake)

Even when the content isn’t even related to Genshiken, Kio Shimoku still finds a way to fit Ogiue in, and for that I give him eternal respect and devotion.

Incidentally, this is on the front cover.

Madarame: Why did he use these designs?
Sasahara: Who knows?

More Than Enough: Otakon 2008

I went to Otakon with one purpose in mind: to go see JAM Project. Everything else on my priorities list could be postponed or sacrificed as long as I would be able to not turn away, and not show my tears, because I have the power of love to take back tomorrow. I am glad to say that not only did I see JAM Project, but the overall experience of Otakon 2008 has made it one of the best times o my life. It’s a culmination of various parts of a long weekend which turned out to be all too short.

I arrived Thursday afternoon by train along with a number of friends who I’ve known for some varying numbers of years. The first pleasant surprise was the hotel itself. We had taken two rooms in the Radisson, and found the rooms to be spacious, far more spacious than the place we stayed at last year. This was very fortunate, as it meant sleep would be comfortable and not the hassle it usually is at a con. We were later joined by kransom and astrange of welcome datacomp, two happening guys, one of whom is currently on a plane to Japan.

Actually, scratch that. My first pleasant surprise was on the train watching episodes of Cosmic Baton Girl Comet-san. I can’t believe how good that show is.

Thursday night was spent sitting back and playing Smash Bros Brawl with friends in the hotel room. The character choices among everyone were quite diverse, and this became a mainstay of practically every day we were there. As is always the case, Smash is simply a great way to unwind during conventions. kransom also showed me a copy of Patrick Macias‘ new book, Otaku in USA. The book is in Japanese, but it doesn’t seem to be a difficult read so I may pick it up at some point.

Friday morning, I went to the dealer’s room. While browsing DVDs, a dealer asked me what I was looking for, to which I responded, “Something for JAM Project to sign.” Luckily, a female dealer standing nearby pointed me out to a Gravion + Gravion Zwei combined thinpack that she was selling. She mentioned to me that the only reason she was here in the dealer’s room was so that she could be at Otakon to see JAM Project. To the kind woman who helped me out, I thank you, whoever you are. Other than that, I also accomplished another major objective that day.

(I also got an Eureka Seven poster.)

My first sighting of JAM Project was at the opening ceremony for Otakon, though I arrived pretty much just as they were leaving. I was there to see the Madhouse-produced opening animation, which basically involved Otakon’s two lackluster mascots fighting every anime character ever on their way to the convention center. Could have been worse, could have gone without it, the result was that I applaud their desire to celebrate their 10th anniversary with something big.

The JAM Project concert was to be held at the 1st Mariner Arena, a few blocks away from the convention center. After a bit of hassle, I managed to find a place in line with Sub from Subatomic Brainfreeze, and his friends, who I’ve met in the past thanks to a mutual friend of ours. There, we spent time enjoying the wonder and prestige of Sasaki Isao English renditions of Maginzer Z themes, who teaches us that, although humans can fight for good, give it all they’ve got, men are weak and they’re flesh and blood. Mazinger, however, is not. I could not think of a better way to pass the time.

At 7:00 we walked inside, me carrying a glowstick which I accidentally snapped. Sitting only a few rows away from the stage got me feeling anxious as I chatted it up a little with the people around me. Smoke began to fill the stage as I realized I was without my DS and could not participate in the inevitable pictochat. This only made me more anxious, as I knew it was almost upon us, the Japanese Animesong Musicians Project, albeit minus a few members I would like to have seen.

I am not a concert-goer, but I do not think any concert will ever top this one again. JAM Project are the masters of keeping the crowd excited with both their choice of music and musical style, and their sheer stage presence. JAM Project introduced themselves in English. You had the Lover of Amateur Rock Music Yoshiki Fukuyama , the Only Female There Masami Okui, the Youngest Member of JAM Project Hiroshi Kitadani aka Dani, the Most POWERFUL Member of JAM Project Masaaki Endoh (said while flexing his bicep), and the Leader Hironobu Kageyama. With an introduction like that, greatness was inevitable.

Their set included a large number of their combined efforts, such as Nageki no Rosario, Hagane no Messiah, and Breakout, as well as individual songs for which they were famous, which included Chala Head Chala, We Are!, Rinbu Revolution, Angel Voice, and Yuushaoh Tanjou! Knowing I had plans for karaoke the next day, I sang my heart out anyway, actively trying to destroy my throat as I yelled GOLDION HANMAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH. Totally worth it.

Especially impressive during the concert was Ms. Okui, who without Rica around had to sing twice as many lines as she normally would. Not only that, but Okui sounded better than I’ve ever heard her sing before. Usually her live voice is different from her studio voice, but on this night the two were one in the same. This, of course, is not to say that the others were anything less than outstanding. You could tell they enjoy their careers, and have a genuine love for anime music.

They finished off the main concert with GONG, then followed up with an encore comprised of Soul Taker and SKILL. I really couldn’t have asked for anything more, besides the presence of the God of Anime Songs Ichirou Mizuki! Sadly, my “Mizuki” chant did not work. By the way, that’s how I think Kageyama would have introduced him.

After the concert, a woman walked by with a sign saying,”Give your message to JAM Project!” All I could do was close my eyes and smile while clapping. I then gave a deep bow to them to show my gratitude. I hope you see it, JAM Project.

With the concert over, this was already the best con ever. I could have gone home that evening and been totally satisfied. Fortunately, the weekend was not over. After greeting Erin from Ninja Consultant (she asked me what I thought of the concert and my first response was to pump my fists), I ended up eating dinner with a mighty group indeed, perhaps the mightiest ensemble in all of Baltimore that evening had JAM Project not been around. This group consisted of myself, astrange and kransom, Mike Toole (whose panel I attended earlier in the day), ricequeen, Daryl Surat, and Gerald Rathkolb. It was an enjoyable dinner at a humble chain-like mexican food restaurant, where we discussed various anime-related topics. Kingdoms fell at our feet, while my ears continued to ring from being too close to the speakers during the concert.

The social aspect of the convention, which I was concerned about prior to attending, turned out to not be a problem, and was in fact one of the most enjoyable aspects of Otakon. While I ate with some anime titans of the internet on Friday, I ate with a different group of people every night that I was in Baltimore. Thursday night, I enjoyed extremely delicious Brazilian buffet at Fogo de Chão with my close friends from New York and college in Pittsburgh. There, while chowing down on lambchop, leg of lamb, pork sausage, garlic beef, filet mignon, filet mignon wrapped in bacon, chicken wrapped in bacon, etc (I tried to eat as wide a variety as I could), I talked to a waiter from Brazil. He mentioned his fondness for Saint Seiya and Evangelion.

Fogo de Chão is very pricey, so I wouldn’t recommend it as “con food” but as a place to enjoy the company of others while stuffing one’s face with protein-based brilliance, it is worth checking out.

Saturday evening, I ate with the internet. It was a Vegeta-mongling good time.

Afterwards, I ran to attend karaoke, where I gave a poor performance of Disarm Dreamer. There, along with astrange and kransom, I sat down and had a grand old time with wildarmsheero, Link, Omo, Anna, among others. You’ll forgive me if I forgot all of your names, but you were many. I sang along with a number of tunes, including Pegasus Fantasy, English and Japanese Pokemon themes, and SKILL, and tried my hardest to do my Souther impression for wildarmsheero. Watch out for it on his site. I was surprised to find someone singing the ending theme to the Sega Saturn racing game, Sonic R. I salute you as well. Unfortunately I did not have time to sing Minna Daisuki from Shugo Chara, which I had also planned.

While signing up for karaoke, one of the people working there asked me where I got my badge (see all the way up top), to which I said I made it myself. As he looked closer at my badge he suddenly said, “I read your blog!” Thank you, SSJSquall. You made my day in a day full of things which can make days with little difficulty.

On the same day was the JAM Project Q&A, which was a good time for all. There were many highlights to the whole session, but the absolute best was when Masami did an incredible Mizuki impression. Very few things in life will ever top Masami going, “[Mazinger] ZEEEET!” but one of them might be Fukuyama’s sheer antics. This guy is a joker through and through.

Sadly, I missed the Katsura panel because it interfered with the JAM Project autograph session, but I managed to attend the Maruyama/Madhouse panel, which is always a treat. I also sat in for the Fansubbers and Industry panel, which was informative if disappointingly peaceful. John Sirabella, head of Mediablasters, was a blast with his crotchety-yet-informative ways. I wanted to ask how buying region 2 dvds directly affects the region 1 industry if at all, but I was cut off. Maybe next year.

As for the JAM Project autograph session itself, I got to shake hands with them. As Kageyama signed my Gravion box, I pointed and said, “Sparking!” to which he responded in kind. After my friends and I all got our swag autographed, we got together in the dealer’s room to do a Whoa Bundy, the second Whoa Bundy of the day.

I also saw two incredible cosplays during the convention. First was a girl cosplaying as Rosalie from Rose of Versailles. Her outfit was this bright pastel blue, perfect for a shoujo character, and it was as if she stepped out of the pages of Riyoko Ikeda’s work. Second was a cosplay of Billy Mitchell, the first man to ever conquer Pac-Man. I failed to check if he had a bottle of Rickey’s Hot Sauce in hand.

At the train station, I saw Erin and Noah from Ninja Consultant, and wildarmsheero. Along with the friends who I came with, we had a good conversation to wind down the convention, and one of my friends read my blog for the first time. I hope it’s as frightening for you as I think it is.

There are two main lessons I took away from Otakon 2008. First is that on the internet it can become very easy to caricaturize those you talk to, to focus on only one aspect of their character and personality. In real life, we can get along without necessarily needing to debate or to try and make things “interesting.” Those things will come in time.

Second is that, according to Kageyama, this was one GAY 2008.

(It actually says 9 Aug 2008)

May 5th, 2008: Genshiken & Kujibiki Unbalance Doujin Event


Gen-An, the Genshiken/Kujibiki Doujin Event is set to go this Monday, May 5th, 2008. The event will take place from 11am – 5pm in Hanakawado in Taito City, Tokyo at the Taito City Meeting Hall.

Some big names are going to be there, not least of which is Kansai Orange. Not to mention some of the finest Ogiue-drawing artists I know of, such as CAB and Anri of Work Arts.

Sadly, I am not in Japan and I have some serious work to do, so I cannot attend. But if enough people can go, you can carry my spirit to Japan for me.

And I hope everyone who goes keeps a look-out for the kinds of things I’d be looking for.

As for what my preferences are, I’ll give you a hint: Ogiue.