Pumpkin Spicy Takes: Ogiue Maniax Status Update for September 2021

The past month has been quite a ride for me as an anime fan. I attended my first live convention in ages, I watched the finale of one of my favorite franchises ever, and I stumbled into my most popular tweet in a very, very long time.

I’ll definitely be watching the second G-Reco movie next month, so watch out for that review!

Meanwhile, I’d also like to thank the following Patreon sponsors for their continued support:

General:

Ko Ransom

Diogo Prado

Alex

Sue Hopkins fans:

Serxeid

Hato Kenjirou fans:

Elizabeth

Yajima Mirei fans:

Machi-Kurada

Blog highlights from August:

I actually think I posted some of my best work in a while, so I recommend readers check out everything this month, but if you only have a little time, these are probably the best.

Farewell, Old Friend—Evangelion 3.01+1.01: Thrice Upon a Time

My extensive analysis and personal send-off of the final Eva film. Clocking in at over 5,000 words, it’s one of the longest pieces I’ve ever written for the blog.

Risk vs. Reward: Otakon 2021

I attended Otakon this year! In person! See my thoughts on con-going in the COVID-19 era.

The Fight Against Oneself: Mobile Suit Gundam Hathaway

Like Shin Evangelion, another look at the past and then the future—this time, in the form of my review of the latest Gundam movie.

Hashikko Ensemble

Chapter 43 is the first time we’re Kousei’s orphanage—a significant development for the character, in my opinion.

Kio Shimoku’s Twitter account has some interesting Eva tidbits in August.

Apartment 507

In terms of setup and interesting storytelling, I think Love Live! Superstar!! might be the best the franchise has to offer.

Closing

Over the course of the pandemic, I’ve noticed a funny thing with my blog stats.

Throughout 2020, I received many more hits than I have over recent years. This trend started to subside around spring this year (when the vaccine rollout started getting some steam), but now over the past couple months as the delta variant ravages the US (where most of my visitors come from), I’m seeing an uptick in blog views again. As much as I like having more people read my stuff, I’d rather everyone be alive.

Go get vaccinated and wear a mask in public and when around others. Stay safe, and I wish you all good health.

Risk vs. Reward: Otakon 2021

2021 was the first year where I questioned whether going to Otakon was a good idea. It’s long been my favorite anime convention, but the ongoing threat of the COVID-19 pandemic and the frightening rise of the delta variant in the United States made me anxious about attending an event that regularly brings close to 30,000 people into a single indoor venue.  Ultimately, I decided to make the trip to Washington DC—partly because I wanted to support the fan-run con that has provided so many excellent moments. But it was also because I wanted to try to do something “normal” while taking every precaution I possibly could in order to avoid straight-up tempting fate. 

Personal COVID-19 Precautions

I traveled to DC fully vaccinated and wearing the best facemasks I could obtain. I decided not to do any interviews with guests this year (though the lack of Japanese industry guests helped that). I largely steered clear of the dealer room and gaming room. And I greatly reduced my normal frantic pace of checking out every panel imaginable to eat and take respite in my hotel room, where everyone else was a familiar face who was fully vaccinated.

Otakon COVID-19 Precautions

Prior to Otakon weekend, attendees would receive emails about the numerous precautions being taken to try to ensure everyone’s safety. Masks would be mandated, the convention center would be well ventilated, and temperature checks would be included.  Vaccinations were not required, which I hope can change for next year.

In terms of masks, the vast majority of people I saw wore masks and wore them properly, and even those whose mask etiquette was questionable would at least try to fix it eventually. This was only my limited perspective, so I can’t say if there were pockets of people resistant to doing so, but it gave me at least a bit of faith that most attendees wanted this event to work. However, trying to enforce a mask mandate on 23,000 people is no easy feat, and I’m not sure if a greater amount of staff/security would do the trick.

The Walter E. Washington Convention Center is a very spacious venue with high ceilings, and was even used as a temporary hospital for COVID-19 patients in previous months. In a more cramped space, I would have been much more alarmed, but walking past people on the way to a panel felt no busier than a New York City sidewalk, albeit indoors—at least on Friday and Sunday. Saturday had more attendees (an inevitability for any weekend convention), and that had me feeling more apprehensive. I took particular care not to remove my mask for any reason on Saturday.

The panel rooms themselves could have used better social distancing, as there was no incentive presented to steer clear of others outside of one’s own desire to do so. In some cases, volunteers encouraged us to pack in for the more heavily attended panels, and I found myself (perhaps against better judgment) staying and hoping my mask and vaccinations (as well as the masks of those around me) would be enough. I feel there should have been more done to encourage social distancing in rooms, even though I understand the disappointment it would inevitably cause for those who wouldn’t be able to enter a panel or event they could have in previous years. I myself presented a panel this year with the best attendance I’ve ever seen for one of my presentations, and I feel conflicted about it because of these circumstances.

As for the temperature checks, I did not see any, and I’m not sure how they were supposed to work or if anyone was indeed caught having a fever. If anyone spotted the temperature checks in action or have more information, I would like to know more.

Fan Panels

As mentioned in the introduction, there’s a lot I typically look forward to at Otakon—interviews with Japanese guests, especially—that simply didn’t happen this year. The ability to get interesting industry guests who are willing to share greater insight into the world of anime and manga beyond just pitching their latest projects has been one of the most valuable parts of the Otakon experience up to now. In their absence, I had to wonder if the other appealing aspects of the con could carry the event.

While guests are great, I think the real lifeblood of Otakon is the robust fan panel programming, and I was happy to see it out in full force. A combination of veteran presenters and (I assume) new blood kept things entertaining and informative. While not every panel was an absolute winner, the energy that comes from seeing people onstage sharing topics they find fascinating or encouraging others to expand their scopes is always encouraging.

Thirty Years Ago: Anime in 1991

Daryl Surat from Anime World Order is always a solid presenter. He picked a nice and diverse set of works and made good cases for why they’re still memorable today. As I expected, he made reference to Brave of the Sun Fighbird, the super robot anime that gave birth to the “Is this a pigeon?” meme.

The Best Openings for Shows You (Probably) Didn’t See

This had the Anime World Order crew in full force. As advertised, there were some I didn’t see, and I liked that it had a real mix of genres. The fact that it started off with the opening to Goshogun earns it plenty of points. 

Japonisme: A History of the First Japanese Culture Craze in the 19th Century

This panel looked at the weebs of the 1800s, particularly in terms of the great artists of the century. The presenter (an art history teacher) did a solid job of showing how names like Cezanne, Van Gogh, Gauguin, and more were influenced by the woodblock prints and other forms of art coming out of Japan—as well as the problematic Orientalism surrounding the whole thing. 

Manga Masters: Kentaro Miura

Patrick (The Cockpit) and manga expert Ed Chavez did a retrospective on the life and career of the late, great Miura Kentaro. Some of the big takeaways were that 1) Miura was not just a skilled artist, he was a nurturing and supportive figure to his friends and fellow artists 2) he single handedly put seinen on the map for the predominantly shoujo-oriented publisher Hakusensha 3) he changed the landscape when it came to manga and fantasy titles. Overall, it was an informative and insightful panel.

Samus vs. Ridley: A Metroid Historia

Not just a video game history panel, this one looked at how the disparate scraps of lore and storytelling gradually came together to form the Metroid we know today. It was fascinating how seemingly everything, even the Nintendo Power comic from the 1990s, somehow has found its way into the mythos in part or in whole.

Bad Anime, Bad…The 20th Anniversary!!

One of the enduring highlights of Otakon is back to celebrate twenty years of awful animation, and I think it’s important to note how much this panel acts as a predecessor of sorts for the current Youtube anime review scene. Not just limited to Japanese animation, it was good to see this still going strong—and Dracula: Sovereign of the Damned is evergreen terrible.

The Wonderful World of Yas

Another creator retrospective, this time it was for Yoshikazu Yasuhiko, the character designer of Gundam and one of the finest artists to ever grace the industry. Finding out that he was dissatisfied with his work in the 1980s makes a lot of things click together in terms of my understanding of him. I wish this panel was better attended, as I think plenty of fans would love seeing not just Yaz’s mecha stuff but also his love of history. However, it was literally up against a different Gundam-related panel.

When Anime Companies Knew Nothing About ANIME FAN WANTS

Run by George Horvath, this panel was a series of painful lessons in industry hubris. However, perhaps it had the opposite effect on me, and I kind of want to start my own anime company…

Ogiue Maniax Presents: Saturday Morning MILFs

A few years ago, I decided to turn an idle observation about anime into a panel where I introduce fans to the surprisingly wide variety of interesting and attractive mom characters cropping up in works for kids. Amid the perennial love of high school characters in anime, I thought MILFs was a worthwhile subject. Unfortunately, my initial attempts to present it were met with rejections and waitlists.

But this year, I decided to swing for the fences and apply for it as my sole panel submission…and actually got the okay! While I was out of practice when it came to public speaking, I actually had most of the panel prepared from previous years’ attempts, and felt comfortable that I could deliver something at least decent.

What I didn’t expect was to be in Panel 1 (one of the two biggest panel rooms at Otakon), and for my silly little project to have the largest convention audience I’ve ever dealt with on a personal basis. It was packed (though that was perhaps not a good thing, given COVID and all).

The funny thing about me is that I often feel a lot more pressure presenting in a vacuum than I do to an actual audience. In front of a gathering of otaku eager to see some MILFs, I worked to educate and inform, while also throwing some red meat out there (because at the end of the day, it was an 18+ panel). Afterwards, a few longtime friends complimented me on the panel, saying I successfully threaded the needle and balanced learning with pleasing the horny audience.

Industry Panels and Screenings

Despite a lack of Japanese guests, the industry panels I did attend were all worthwhile in their own way. The DENPA panel was run by Ed Chavez, and he’s always your best bet for getting an inside look at the manga industry. AnimEigo has the benefit of CEO Robert Woodhead’s many decades in the industry, and I was impressed by his company’s dedication to preserving art and design material for anime projects. Discotek panels are always a blast, but the announcement of blu-ray releases for both Aim for the Top! Gunbuster and Machine Robo: Revenge of Chronos practically stole the whole show at Otakon. I’d been waiting years for the former, and the latter never got a full release—it was actually licensed by accident

I also decided to check one off the bucket list and finally watched Project A-ko, or rather, Discotek’s remastered blu-ray edition.

In addition, there was a screening for a 3DCG short called HOME! by the animation studio Orange. It was a brief but sweet story about an astronaut and a ghost inhabiting a space colony, and it showed why Orange’s CG work is a cut above its competitors in Japan. A short panel afterwards elaborated on Orange’s approach to 3D work, and it’s easy to see the care that goes into shows like Beastars and Land of the Lustrous.

Artist Alley

Artist Alley is usually not one of my priorities, but it sort of took the place of the Dealers Room for me this year. Below are all my purchases at Otakon. It’s not much, but I think it all looks great.

Food

The places I went to this year for finer eating were Farmers & Distillers, SUNdeVICH, and Bantam King. There was also a newly opened Ben’s ChilI Bowl in the convention center (and the old dining area near the underground entrance to the Marriott was closed for renovations).

Farmers & Distillers’ claim to fame is that they get everything directly from local farms. It’s more expensive than your standard restaurants and requires a reservation, but the food is amazing. I got the Yankee pot roast and the vanilla bean cheesecake with strawberries and cream—a combination that was as delicious as I’d hoped but left me regretting the heaviness of the overall dinnerl. the next day. Take a lesson from me and try to balance your meal out better.

SUNdeVICH is a sandwich shop with a variety of solid choices with an international flair. I tried the Shiraz (Persian beef tongue) over salad and the Rome (Italian cold-cut combo) on a sandwich, and both were top notch. 

Bantam King I’d been to on my first trip to DC for Otakon, but this time I went for the curry snow fried chicken plate instead of the chilled ramen. The onions and white sauce on top reminded me a lot of coleslaw and fried chicken, and the flavor profile worked well. However, the simplicity and sheer deliciousness of the chicken drippings over white rice was the real winner.

Ben’s Chili Bowl at the convention center suffered from being short staffed (a common problem caused by the pandemic), but once I got my chili half-smoke (chili over a beef-and-pork sausage on a bun), it was amazingly solid. 

Cosplay

This year’s cosplay had the inevitable addition of masks. Some of the cosplayers would temporarily remove their masks for photos but kept them on otherwise.

Final Thoughts

The overall Otakon 2021 experience, for better or worse, was surprisingly normal. In any other year, it would’ve felt par for the course, but the surrounding circumstances at times made things awkward. There were moments where it was easy to almost lose myself in the moment, but had to get snapped back to the reality of an escalating pandemic. I’m still not sure if going was the right idea, and as the delta variant escalates, I worry about 2022. In the meantime, though, I made it back with plenty of good memories. I hope everyone else can say the same thing.

[Otakon 2021] The Kitchen Sink Too: Project A-ko (Remastered)

Project A-ko is an indelible part of my anime fandom. As a young nerd in the 1990s eager for more information about this newfangled “Japanese animation,” I ran into it everywhere. The super strong A-ko, the technologically savvy B-ko, and the crybaby C-ko defined anime itself, and their antics were the stuff of legends. What fan didn’t recognize them?

But while I “knew” Project A-ko, I never actually watched it. Less a secret shame and more an ongoing omission, this representative gateway anime of those early days just never crossed my path–that is, until Otakon 2021

A Brief History of Restoration

In 2019, Discotek Media announced that they were releasing a blu ray edition of Project Ako, and what began as a state-of-the-art transfer from laser disc eventually gave way to the discovery of an original 35mm film master long thought most to the aether. Fast forward a couple years and a pandemic, and Discotek brought the first showing of the remastered Project A-ko to Otakon attendees. What better way to experience this missing piece of my history?

And so I sat in among a crowded audience, a near-even split of longtime Project A-ko fans and newcomers. Because of my exposure and cultural osmosis, I knew too much to pretend like I was viewing it in a vacuum or with a blank slate. I had read the fanfics, I had seen the websites on Anime Web Turnpike. Now, it was my time to bridge that gap between hearing everyone else’s opinions on Project A-ko and establishing my own.

Story…?

Transfer students A-ko and C-ko are best of friends (or something more). Graviton High’s queen, B-ko, wants C-ko for herself, and she’ll do anything to tear the two friends apart. However, A-ko is superhumanly strong, and neither deception nor giant robots can stop her. Though not immediately obvious, the film was originally meant to be part of the Cream Lemon erotic OVA series before spinning off into its own thing.

The premise of Project A-ko is less a central driving narrative and more of an excuse. It’s a canvas upon which the creators display all manner of gorgeous and lovingly rendered animation ranging from slapstick to tense hand-to-hand combat to fanservice nudity to science fiction set pieces that could impress Moebius. In terms of technical and artistic perspectives, Project A-ko stands the test of time. In terms of artistic indulgence, it stands near the top.

I think how much you like Project A-ko truly boils down to how much you love animation for animation’s sake, how much the excitement and titillation of its myriad spectacles draws you in, and how much you can tolerate a paper-thin plot. I found myself somewhere in the middle, blown away by the sheer beauty of it all, but feeling the drag of nothing to truly anchor it, my attention started to drift halfway through. Yet, now knowing what Project A-ko is like now, it shines a whole new light on the fandom I remember from over 20 years ago.

Hindsight Is Hilarious

Project A-ko is comedy and satire, and I think that much is obvious if you’ve been exposed to plenty of anime. But while watching the interactions between the three core characters, I couldn’t help but recall the kinds of series-related discussions I would see as a young anime fan. Chief among them was the recurring hate lobbed at C-ko, with viewers frustrated that both the cute and feisty A-ko and the beautiful and elegant B-ko would devote so much attention to a loud, whiny, blond gremlin who seems like the worst kind of shoujo heroine. But in the wise words of McBain doing stand-up: that’s the joke.

C-ko is supposed to be obnoxiously innocent, from her shrill voice to her garbage-dump lunches she eagerly makes for A-ko. The way the haughty B-ko stares longingly at C-ko when the latter is at her loudest adds to the absurdity of their interactions. And unlike Mineta in My Hero Academia, who some fans find so annoying that the fanfiction site Archive of Our Own has a tag to indicate the removal of Mineta (and any traces of his history) from MHA, C-ko isn’t just some comedic side character. C-ko is essential to Project A-ko.

But I’m aware of the fact that Project A-ko hit the Western anime audience at a very particular time when there just wasn’t much anime available. Fans at the time took Project A-ko at face value, and it took the discourse around the movie in a certain direction that’s fascinating in hindsight. It’s possible I would have fallen into this trap myself—If I had watched Project A-ko back in the 1990s, I most definitely would not have understood that their class teacher is literally Creamy Mami, for example. In other words, “If a work of satire comes out in an environment where the target of satire does not exist, is it still satire?” 

Generational Differences…in Spaaaace

In the anime Darling in the Franxx, the characters eventually take to space to fight a greater threat. I often welcome this familiar trope, having grown up on it as a matter of course, and the studio behind Franxx, Trigger, is often known for this particular kind of escalation. But to a number of viewers, this is the point at which the show jumps the shark. To them, the move to space battles makes little sense, and nothing about what came prior sets up this little twist. In contrast, I think Franxx is at its strongest after this point, and it’s because I’m of the A-ko generation without having previously seen A-ko.

That fandom generation gap is evident in the constant presence of that Star Wars–esque science fiction/space fantasy aesthetic in Project A-ko. Spaceships, aliens, and beam weapons are mixed into the setting and the narrative, and while technically there’s a twist, the plot revelation component is less important than the pretense it allows for more fantastic animation. And of course, there really isn’t any science fiction in the thematic or philosophical sense—it’s all about the explosions. “Why wouldn’t you have a space battle?” asks the 1980s/1990s anime fan, and Project A-ko is designed to be a collage of all the things that anime fans of the era adored.

A Worthwhile Experience

While I know all too well the period in Western anime fandom when Project A-ko was a definitive anime—from the obsession with chibis to the limited reference material that shaped the perception of anime in a certain direction—I also know that I can never truly return to that time. I can only look at Project A-ko from a point where it’s not the mind-blowing, life-altering experience that introduced me to all of the possibilities of animation. But that’s okay: Project A-ko still has a certain charm that’s hard to deny. The lack of inhibition it conveys and the loving care put into every second of it still stand the test of time, at least in terms of spectacle.

Otakon-kon-kon: Ogiue Maniax Status Update for August 2021

For better or worse, I’ve decided to attend Otakon 2021 this year. And barring an even more devastating report about COVID-19 and the delta variant than what’s already out, it looks like I’ll be on track. I’ll be vaccinated and masked, and while it’s basically impossible to ask anyone to be the former just one week out from Otakon, there’s also a mask mandate for the event itself. Stay safe, everyone!

I have a single Otakon panel this year, and it’s actually one I’d been trying to get into the con for a while now. Come see:

Saturday Morning MILFs (18+)

Friday, 10:45pm–11:45pm

Panel 1

Did you know that kids’ anime has a long history of spotlighting hot moms?! They’re here to teach kids important lessons…and keep the parents from changing the channel! Explore the legacy of attractive mothers in Japanese animation and their continuing influence on the fandom.

Yes, I made an educational panel about anime MILFs. I looked at the schedule, and I’m the only 18+ panel on Friday, so it feels rather…daunting.

Anyway, I’d like to thank the following Patreon sponsors for supporting the blog and allowing me to indirectly research topics like attractive anime moms:

General:

Ko Ransom

Diogo Prado

Alex

Sue Hopkins fans:

Serxeid

Hato Kenjirou fans:

Elizabeth

Yajima Mirei fans:

Machi-Kurada

Blog highlights from July:

Haachama vs. Brian Pillman: VTubers and Evolving Gimmicks

A comparison of the worlds of virtual youtubers and pro wrestlers.

Back Arrow Never Asks for Too Much

My review of the quirky mecha anime Back Arrow.

Oh, What Could Have Been: Maku Musubi Final Review

A look at one of my favorite recent manga that felt like it had more left in the tank.

Hashikko Ensemble

Chapter 42 brings new club members, including an arrival I’ve personally been anticipating.

Kio Shimoku’s Twitter account through July has him quote tweeting me!

Apartment 507

A review of Demon Slayer -Kimetsu no Yaiba- the Movie: Mugen Train.

Closing

If I see you at Otakon, I’ll be glad to give a solid thumbs-up from a safe distance. And remember: Wash your hands, don’t touch your face, wear a mask. Let’s make this a memorable convention where no one catches COVID-19.

And one last thing: I’m really, really looking forward to seeing Gaogaigo in Super Robot Wars 30. I hope I can finish the last novel before the game comes out.

Ju-shin Ly-ger: Ogiue Maniax Status Update for July 2021

Summer 2021 anime is just beginning, and there are plenty of shows I’m looking forward to. Chief among them is Getter Robo Arc, bringing the classic giant robot franchise into the 2020s. I definitely plan on reviewing it once it’s done, but I’m curious to see how it does with a modern-day anime audience.

Speaking of robots, Bandai just announced the GX-100 Soul of Chogokin: Gaiking and Daikumaryu. Coming in at 82,500 yen and measuring about 750mm, it is going to be an impressive hunk of diecast metal. I’m not a super big fan of Gaiking, but I’m looking forward to all the toy reviews.

Also, check out this GX-100 celebration stream featuring Sasaki Isao, singer of Yamato, Gaiking, Getter Robo, and many other classic themes.

Before getting into the posts from the past month, I’d like to thank the following Patreon sponsors:

General:

Ko Ransom

Diogo Prado

Alex

Sue Hopkins fans:

Serxeid

Hato Kenjirou fans:

Elizabeth

Yajima Mirei fans:

Machi-Kurada

Blog highlights from June:

20th Century Boys: Pandemics, Conspiracies, and Cults of Personality

How the Urasawa Naoki manga is eerily more relevant than ever before.

BNA: Brand New Animal, Assimilationism, and the Myth of the Model Minority

This series from 2020 continues the trend of socially conscious furry anime.

Little Lady, Big Meals: Kozuma no Kobito no Kenshin Recipe

One of my favorite manga authors, the creator of Mogusa-san, has a new series!

Hashikko Ensemble

Chapter 41 brings the Culture Festival tournament arc to a powerful finish, as well as some surprising insight into the Kimura family.

Kio Shimoku’s Twitter account through June featured a lot of insight into his older work.

Apartment 507

Pui Pui Molcar!

Closing

I mentioned last month that I am fully vaccinated, and it’s given me a new sense of security and freedom I didn’t have before. However, now we have a new COVID-19 variant, the Delta variant, wreaking devastation around the world. It’s also getting a foothold in the US, and I find myself nervous that I’m getting a little too complacent and worrying about trying to neitheo over- or undercompensate for the current situation. Having to balance the psychological happiness that comes from doing things again with some sense of normality with awareness that we are in no way close to getting out of this pandemic reminds me of all the conscious decisions I’ve had to make these past 18 months, and the toll it can take.

That being said, I plan on being at Otakon next month. I’ll be fully masked, and playing it as carefully as I can short of canceling. I hope it’s the right choice.

Tan-June: Ogiue Maniax Status Update for June 2021

Last year at this time, it felt like the world might not ever be the same again. This past month, I became fully vaccinated.

While I’m still exercising caution in a lot of different ways (including wearing a mask in public), the extra safety a COVID-19 vaccine has provided has helped tremendously to alleviate some of the psychological pressure I’ve been feeling since 2020. For the first time in a long while, I feel like I can grasp some sense of the normal again. I’m still undecided if I want to attend the recently confirmed Otakon 2021, though.

I just hope that we actually learn from the mistakes we’ve made on a social and political level, and that we must create a better “normal” than the one that resulted in a global catastrophe powered by greed and willful ignorance. I’m fortunate to be in a place where I could obtain a vaccination after a year and a half of keeping safe, as not everyone has been able to do that. The real failures—whether they’ve been in the US, Japan, Brazil, Sweden, China, India, or elsewhere—are the consequences of poor leadership above all else.

I can’t make anyone get the vaccine, and availability varies from place to place, but I hope everyone does what they can to at least protect themselves and those they care for.

Thank you to June’s Patreon sponsors, with special gratitude to the following.

General:

Ko Ransom

Diogo Prado

Alex

Sue Hopkins fans:

Serxeid

Hato Kenjirou fans:

Elizabeth

Yajima Mirei fans:

Machi-Kurada

Blog highlights from May:

Miura Kentaro, Berserk, and the Pursuit of Perfection

Thoughts related to the untimely passing of the author of Berserk.

Miss Nagatoro and the Teasing Girl as Goldilocks Archetype

An exploration of the appeal of teasing girls.

Witch Hat Atelier: The Fantasy of Science, the Science of Fantasy

My review of one of the best fantasy manga around.

Hashikko Ensemble

Chapter 40 continues to have Jin’s mom, Reika, steal the show.

And here’s more from Kio Shimoku’s Twitter account.

Closing

I just learned that Zettai Karen Children is ending soon after 17 years. It’s amazing to see a series that ran for seemingly forever actually reach the finish line. Authors and artists, take care of yourselves!

Otakon Needs Our Help

Otakon, the largest American anime convention on the east coast, is in trouble. Due to the ongoing pandemic stifling last year’s event and the nonprofit nature of its parent organization, Otakon is at risk of shutting down for good. In order to fight off this unfortunate possibility, Otakorp is now, for the first time ever, accepting donations online.

I make no effort to hide the fact that Otakon is by far my favorite anime convention. I’ve been an attendee since before I started Ogiue Maniax all the way back in 2007, and I’ve gone as press (and occasionally even a panelist) every year since. Writing con reports and conducting interviews with great Otakon guests have become staples of this blog and my experience as an anime fan. Donating to Otakon has been one of the easiest decisions I ever made.

What I love so much about Otakon is that it never feels as commercialized compared to some of the professionally run anime conventions that are so common these days. I can expect interesting guests from Japan, including those who might not be as well known to the mainstream anime fan, and it’s always a pleasure to pick their brains for industry insight. I also love the fan panel culture that has grown out of Otakon, where every year is full of genuinely enthusiastic presenters, both new and seasoned, who encourage their audience to explore a little further and think a little deeper about anime, manga, and fandom. And it’s also been a great place to connect to many of the fellow fans I’ve met online.

In honor of Otakon and in hopes of it continuing on, I’ve decided to list some of the great interviews I’ve done at the convention over the years. I hope they can at least show you why it’s a cultural touchstone worth saving.

Furuya Toru, the voice of Amuro Ray and Tuxedo Mask (Otakon 2019)

Inoue Kikuko, the voice of Belldandy and Aina Sahalin (Otakon 2019)

Kawamori Shoji, creator of Macross (Otakon 2018)

Furukawa Toshio (Piccolo, Kai Shiden) and Kakinuma Ai (Naru in Sailor Moon) (Otakon 2017)

P.A. Works, the studio behind Shirobako (Otakon 2016)

LeSean Thomas, co-director of The Boondocks and creator of Cannon Buster (Otakon 2016)

Takamatsu Shinji, director of Gundam X and J-Decker (Otakon 2015)

Park Romi (Edward Elric, Loran Cehack) press conference (Otakon 2015)

Seki Tomokazu, the voice of Domon Kasshu (Otakon 2013)

Otakon in 2020 Was Fun but Strange

Whether it was in Baltimore or DC, part of the Otakon experience for me has always been the trip there and back, for better or worse. It could be smooth sailing, or a train could break down and leave the passengers stuck for hours (this really happened). That’s why this year’s Otakon was such a pleasant surprise. Rather than the three-plus hours it would normally take, the total travel time from bed to convention was approximately 20 seconds. From the start, I could tell there was something very different about this 2020 version of Otakon.

Unlike previous years, Otakon this year was a Saturday-only event on August 1st, which had its ups and downs. For one, while I do like immersing myself in the con environment for an extended weekend, I didn’t have to take time off to attend. And although the food in DC has been great, it usually was a bit of a trek to get anything to eat (even inside the Walter E. Washington convention center). This time, amazing home-cooked meals were just a few steps away. 

Panels and Workshops

Unfortunately, I did not have any panels accepted, so I was purely a spectator. This year, panels were significantly shorter, clocking in at 30 minutes per panel as opposed to the traditional one hour, but I saw it as a way to fit more presenters into the one-day event, making it a net benefit. Notably, the audience for every panel I saw was quite impressive, not only because they often numbered in the hundreds, but also because there was no trouble in getting into the panels despite such large attendance numbers. While there were some audio and video hiccups in some of the panels, they were fairly quick to resolve.

30 Years Ago: Anime in 1990

The first panel of the day I saw Daryl Surat’s “30 Years Ago: Anime in 1990,” which went through some of the highlights of anime from that time. It gave the sense of being a really transitional year, and I appreciated his highlighting of Brave Exkaiser, the first entry in the Brave franchise. He ended the panel with loving praise of the infamous Mad Bull 34, and tied its story of a rule-breaking, trigger-happy cop to current events in a manner humorous yet critical.

Carole and Tuesday

From there, I stepped into the Carole & Tuesday panel. The panel was already in progress, having started with a viewing of the first episode, but because I’d already seen the entire series, I thought it safe to skip. Amazingly, the travel time between Daryl’s presentation and this one was near-instantaneous, so I didn’t miss much. The panel started off with a beautiful musical performance by Celeina Ann (the singing voice of Tuesday Simmons), and led into an interview with her, director Watanabe Shinichirou, and (I believe) producer Makoto Nishibe. One thing I learned was that Alba City, the main setting of the show, is also a city in Cowboy Bebop. They also showed a vide of the recording and animation process, and seeing the amount of effort and collaboration that went into the show gave me a very positive impression.

Chibi Chibi Drawing Time

I normally don’t attend workshops at Otakon, but with things being so convenient this year, I decided to check out Chibi Chibi Drawing Time, which taught people how to draw super-deformed characters. It’s been a while since I scratched my art itch, and I used this opportunity to follow along with the spirit (though not always the letter) of the presenter’s guides. You can see the results below:

Into Another World: A History of Isekai

It’s the big genre that’s been sweeping the anime industry for a while, and thanks to this panel, I got to learn a little more about isekai. My main takeaways are that the introduction of gaming-oriented isekai helped to bring forth non-isekai anime in gaming-heavy settings (think Goblin Slayer and Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?), and that the number of shows seem to multiply exponentially. 2019 looked to have about three times as many isekai anime as in previous years, and I have to wonder when the juggernaut will finally slow down.

Godzilla, Kaiju Eiga and the Amazing Toho Studios

This was perhaps the best panel I saw of the entire convention, as it was meticulously researched and gave a lot of insight into the making of Godzilla as well as the kaiju movies that propelled Toho to additional fame. I was intrigued to learn about all of the different players of this time, including Godzilla director Honda Ichiro and Ultraman creator Tsuburaya Eiji. If you have the chance to see this panel, either in person or via recording, I highly recommend it.

Bootleg Anime from South Korea

I’ve attended this panel by Mike Toole before, but I always welcome an opportunity to see more “creatively appropriated” giant robots. It reminds me that, around the world, you really can’t decouple animation fandom from bootleg products, and it results in interesting products and cultural output nevertheless. I’m still waiting for that Soul of Chogokin Taekwon V.

Overall

I appreciated how different Otakon was for 2020, and the heavy focus on panels appealed to me a lot (I truly think they’ve always been the best part of the con). At the same time, I think I’m still a bigger fan of the regular version. The unusual format meant there were no autograph signings or big live concerts this year, and I didn’t really get to spot any unique or unusual cosplay. I also miss doing interviews.

I wouldn’t another Otakon like this, but I’m hoping 2021 provides a return to the tried and true classic.

Break the Unbreakable, Fight the Power: Ogiue Maniax Status Update for June 2020

This blog is a reflection of myself, and my thoughts and feelings on anime and manga both for their own sakes and within the greater context of the world we share. So much has happened within this past week, let alone this past month, that I’m feeling overwhelmed. Between COVID-19 and the protests that have emerged in the United States, Japan, and Hong Kong in response to institutional injustice, I hope that everyone can stay safe as we fight for fundamental changes to transform the world into a place where power and authority are not used as tools of oppression.

Thank you to my Patreon sponsors this month. I appreciate your support, not just those listed below, but everyone who thinks Ogiue Maniax is worth something even in these times.

General:

Johnny Trovato

Ko Ransom

Diogo Prado

Alex

Sue Hopkins fans:

Serxeid

Hato Kenjirou fans:

Elizabeth

Yajima Mirei fans:

Machi-Kurada

Blog highlights from May:

The House in Fata Morgana and Full House: The Inherent Limits of “Pure” Translations

Translation accuracy and localization have been recurring fandom topics lately. I thought I’d give my perspective on it.

The White Fear of Mediocrity

A thought about Steely Dan in JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure turns into an exploration of whiteness in America and its ties to the suburbs that dot the country.

Wishing for Hope, Reaching to Help

The recent deaths and suicides of so many have me wishing that everyone stays safe mentally, physically, and emotionally.

Hashikko Ensemble

Chapter 28 puts some focus on the castle-loving Shinji.

Patreon-Sponsored

My Favorite (?) Anime Computer Games

It is what it says, sort of?

Apartment 507

Thinking about nostalgic sequels and their use of time.

Closing

Whether you choose to stay indoors or go out there to fight for justice, please stay safe. I will try to provide things worth reading, whether you want to engage more with the world around us or to stay within the realm of art. Just remember that the border between the two sides are porous and prone to mingling.

Futari no Social Distance: Ogiue Maniax Status Update for May 2020

Anime Expo: Canceled. Otakon: Canceled. EVO: Canceled. But it’s all for the best as we try to keep one another safe in these strange times. I’m thankful to all the organizers for making the right choice, and I hope to see you all at conventions eventually. In the meantime, I find myself trying to make the most of my time spent at home.

Thank you to all my supporters on Patreon again this month, especially these fine folks below.

General:

Johnny Trovato

Ko Ransom

Diogo Prado

Alex

Sue Hopkins fans:

Serxeid

Hato Kenjirou fans:

Elizabeth

Yajima Mirei fans:

Machi-Kurada

Blog highlights from April:

Their Problem is Our Problem: The Promised Neverland, “Coronavirus,” and the Systems that Force Inequality

The Promised Neverland brings the fury as it asks readers to think about the world around them.

When Comedy Goes Nuclear: Spy x Family

This popular new Jump+ manga is probably going to be the next big hit. I highly recommend it.

Eureka Seven, Holland, and Fujiwara Keiji

My tribute to the recently deceased voice actor who brought his A-game to every role. If you want to see my Top 10 favorite anime roles of his, I also wrote something up for Apartment 507.

Hashikko Ensemble

Chapter 27 is, at last, the big performance…with a dash of possible romance.

Patreon-Sponsored

My Favorite (?) Anime Computer Games

It is what it says, sort of?

Closing

I’m nobody special when it comes to giving advice, but I hope everyone can enrich themselves and stay sane in these crazy times. As for me, I’m finding great joy in AI-generated memes (like the one you saw at the top of this post), and incredibly dumb and hilarious #partyparrot memes. (The joke is dicks.)