A Mission for Myself: New York Comic Con

General Thoughts

As New York Comic Con has come to rival San Diego Comic Con and become its east coast counterpart, the scope and demand of NYCC are constant points of consideration for any potential attendee. While the convention pretty much improves every year and little can be faulted for how it’s run, the guests they bring, and just the amount of stuff there is to do (aside from perhaps the inevitable over-emphasis on professional and industry panels), I find that there’s a certain evaluative process I notice my friends and me going through every year, which all boils down to the simple question: should I attend next year?

First and foremost, as an anime and manga fan I have to say that NYCC delivered, and in ways I hadn’t expected to affect me so deeply. This year, they most notably brought Naruto creator Kishimoto Masashi and Uzumaki Naruto voice actress Takeuchi Junko and premiered Boruto: Naruto the Movie for the first time outside of Japan (see my review here). Aside from some hiccups in terms of the Hammerstein Ballroom venue—the overly strict no food policy went so far as to ban bottled water, and the concert-oriented seating obscured the screen for significant portions of the viewers—it was the most memorable part of the convention for me, and it brought me back to 13 years ago when I was at the height of my own Naruto fandom.

On top of that, the announcement of a Tiger & Bunny film helmed by Ron Howard was the biggest surprise by far of NYCC, and the opportunity to get a personal drawing from Attack on Titan animator Asano Kyouji was a rare treat. While I was unable to get Asano to draw Holon from Real Drive like I hoped (to be fair that show is 10 years old), this image of Sasha from Attack on Titan is the coolest thing I brought home from New York Comic Con:

However, my experience with NYCC made me realize just how disconnected I am from a lot of current fandoms. This isn’t to say that I disliked New York Comic Con, or what it does. I’ve always enjoyed the mix that New York Comic Con brought, between the opportunity to meet professional artists, the focus on entertainment media that has extended out from the superhero movie boom, and just the general celebration of nerd culture. However, partly because I was out of the country for four years, and partly because of my own general taste for things, I haven’t been as deep into certain popular works in recent years as I might have been in the past.

What really brought this point home to me was how much I enjoyed the Justice League Reunion panel. Seeing Carl Lumbly talk about bringing his cultural heritage to the role of the Martian Manhunter as an immigrant with a traumatic past, finding out that Justice League Unlimited was a clever and creative compromise with a soulless marketing engine that wished to use the cartoon purely as an action figure commercial, and hearing Kevin Conroy sing “Am I Blue?” flooded me with so many fond memories of what made that series great. It made me recall the character of A.M.A.Z.O. and how incredibly deep and interesting his story was, and the “Ask the Justice League” portion was downright hilarious, especially Martian Manhunter’s greatest enemy being “a villain made of flaming Oreos.” It made me want to find this feeling again within more non-Japanese works.

This is certainly not a criticism of the current state of animation; many fantastic works have been and are still being created. Rather, it has made me aware of just how much a connection to the “nerd mainstream,” as it were, fuels New York Comic Con. NYCC is a for-profit convention backed by the entertainment industry, and it will aim for the works that hit the widest audience, or at least the widest audience within a niche. This is what fuels the decision for a Firefly panel, or indeed inviting a manga megastar like Kishimoto. Rather it fuels my desire to expand my interests further than where they are currently, to get a better sense of the zeitgeist of current American (and non-American!) fandoms.

Exhibitor Hall, Artist Alley, and Panels

Again, when it comes to the actual con, there was much to enjoy. In the Exhibitor Hall, I got the chance
to try Street Fighter V, say, “Domo” to Ninja Slayer, and get that cool Sasha drawing from Asano.

The Artist Alley, as always, was a great place to meet artists, find out about new works, and see the trends that fuel the creators. Superheroes are a no-brainer, anime is less prominent but if it is it’ll be something that captured the imaginations of American fans, such as Dragon Ball Z or Sailor Moon. Stylistically, I made just one purchase at Artist Alley this year, issue 1 of a comic called Henchgirl by Kristen Gudsnuk, the premise of which is exactly what it sounds like. The Artist Alley filled with everything from amateurs to industry veterans, with talent abound. However, I tasked myself with a challenge, which was to find something that spoke to me, that didn’t rely on name recognition, and that wasn’t too tempered by my own preferences for specific types of characters or heroes. Gudsnuk’s drawings resonated with me the most because of the humor and soft, cartoony style. If you’re curious, you can read the comic online for free.

The other highlight of the Artist Alley might have been seeing a small kid, probably no older than 6 or 7, hand a copy of Days of Future Past to Chris Claremont.

As for panels, it’s no secret that a for-profit con like NYCC will have a different flavor from a fan-oriented endeavor such as Otakon. I generally enjoy the latter kind more when it comes to programming, but NYCC has a pretty consistent track record of quality, possibly because it’s such a big deal now and encourages industry hosts to bring their A-Game, as seen with the Justice League Reunion.

The Kishimoto panel was a rare opportunity to get into the mind of one of manga’s most successful creators. While the questions were curated, the host did a great job of opening up Kishimoto, and I’m sure that him no longer having to keep deadlines or worry about how his answers might influence sales of Naruto allowed him to give responses that were a bit more candid than what is usually seen from Japanese guests. Probably the best thing I found out from the panel was the friendly rivalry shared by him and One Piece‘s Oda as Shounen Jump‘s two frontrunners, as well as the titles that influenced him most. That said, I hope the audience that was mostly silent after hearing Kishimoto mention Tezuka Osamu’s Phoenix get the chance to find out more.

“Push Boundaries Forward: Gender, Diversity and Representation in Comic Books,” featuring Marjorie Liu, Darryl Ayo, David Brothers, Amber Garza, Jeremy Whitley, Joey Stern, and Shannon Waters was one of many panels over the weekend that focused on addressing the changing dynamics of comics creators and readers. Both the audience questions and panelist answers showed a strong desire to move forward, to learn, and to understand that greater diversity in comics is a multifaceted challenge that never ends, and is ultimately beneficial to comics as a whole.

The Felicia Day panel was pure Q&A, and that’s exactly what the audience wanted out of it. Incredibly charismatic in that awkward way that appeals to geeks most, Felicia Day genuinely engaged her audience with an attitude that was both deeply caring and kind of flippant, bringing a realness to her answers. The best moment was when she complained that you couldn’t have sex with her character in Dragon Age 2, which her manager had ordered the studio against.

The Sunrise panel showed once again that they’re one of the direct-from-Japan studios to really get what it means to throw a panel. In addition to the surprising news about Tiger & Bunny, their announcements were varied and spoke to different portions of their audience. By the way, if you heard a couple of loud guys cheering for Giant Gorg, that was me and Patz from the Space Opera Satellite Podcast. We were serious, too. Giant Gorg is a rare series directed by the character designer of the original Gundam, and had been in licensing hell for years.

GORG!!!

Yo-kai Watch is also a thing.

Finally, I decided to attend a screening of a Love Live! concert, partly to satisfy my curiosity about this particular aspect of Love Live!‘s media mix, and to see the fan reaction. What I got out of it is exactly something I mentioned in my review of The School Idol Movie: the series is extremely malleable by fans, going from a warm, inspiring story full of interesting characters to a mountain of instant memes at the drop of a hat. As people shouted at the character Ayase Eli, “DON’T LET YOUR DREAMS BE DREAMS,” I wondered if that could somehow be parlayed into the slogan of Love Live!: “Make our dreams alive!”

Cosplay

As with most con reports at Ogiue Maniax, I’d like to leave off with some cosplay. Truth be told, I wasn’t digging a lot what I saw, but Sunday really turned it around.

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Best Anime Characters of 2011

BEST MALE CHARACTER

Kaburagi T. Kotetsu, Wild Tiger (Tiger & Bunny)

The world of Tiger & Bunny is filled with heroes, but none are quite like Wild Tiger. With the power to increase his physical abilities hundred-fold (his so-called “Hundred Power”), he fights to protect Sternbild City, but when we see him at the beginning of the series, he’s a C-List star, unable to capture the public’s attention as his peers do. However, it doesn’t matter to him, because he loves being a hero to people and he loves to save lives. While his actions may sometimes create more problems than they solve, it’s clear that his heart is always in the right place. In Kotetsu, you have a man full of pride but without an ego.

What is even more impressive about Kotetsu however is that he handles success just as gracefully as he handles failure. When he and Barnaby start showing the world what they’re made of, it’s clear that he’s still the same person he always was. Rank is of no concern to him. And when his powers start to decline, we see him deal with that in arguably the best way possible as well.

Wild Tiger is not the first hero to have his powers wane, but the prior example we’re given shows how the gradual loss of that superhero identity can be devastating to not only the hero but also their family. Tiger, though he struggles with deciding what to do, simply doesn’t have quite the same problem, as his personality doesn’t allow for it. At first, he opts to retire and just spend more time with his family, but he eventually realizes something important : even if he has only one second’s worth of superhuman ability, that’s still one second more of a difference he can make that a normal person could not. This, above all else, is why Wild Tiger is my pick for 2011.

BEST FEMALE CHARACTER

Tsurugi Minko (Hanasaku Iroha)

An aspiring chef working at the inn “Kissuisou,” Minko (“Minchi” to her friends) is notorious for her creatively blunt word choices, whether it’s telling people to go die, or calling them an unborn chick fetus used in East Asian cuisine. However, her seemingly constant and fierce anger is in reality a product of her never-ending determination.

The first scene that really had me take notice of Minko came early on in Hanasaku Iroha, when she rejects the feelings of a would-be suitor by listing the traits of her ideal man. Describing this “perfect guy” as someone with a sharp tongue and the ability to take initiative who is also very kind and takes his work seriously, the profile turns out to be that of Tohru, one of Kissuisou’s resident chefs. This becomes something of a recurring aspect of her character, as she angrily defends Tohru’s character and honor from what she believes to be unjust criticisms on more than one occasion.

It might seem like I’m defining her character entirely by her feelings for a man, but what is clear about Minko is that she is very serious about becoming a chef. She originally even wanted to skip high school entirely, and along with the fact that Tohru acts as her mentor, it is this dedication to cuisine that allows her to see Tohru’s better traits so thoroughly where others would write him off as brash and uncaring. When a rumor surfaces that Tohru is leaving for a better position elsewhere, Minko refuses to stop him despite her strong feelings, because she recognizes that this would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a chef and knows how hard Tohru works to perfect his craft.

Minko does not want to get into cooking as a profession because she is in love with Tohru; rather, she is in love with Tohru because her dreams (and the ability to follow through on them) put her in a position where she can truly understand him. Even in love, her dedication to her goals shines through.

Final Thoughts

Kotetsu and Minko certainly do not share the same personality, nor very much anything at all. In fact, the Hanasaku Iroha equivalent of Wild Tiger would be the main character Ohana, while the Tiger & Bunny counterpart to Minko might be Barnaby. However, Tiger and Minchi do have one major thing in common, and that is a strong will. In either case, their powerful personalities potentially lead to misunderstandings for those who don’t know them well, but for those that do they wind up being devoted friends and partners who you know have ideals and goals far above the norm.

Ice Ice, Cold Cold: Otakon 2011

Otakon 2011, occurring over a blistering 100-degree weather weekend, was a unique anime convention for me because it was the first US anime convention that I have been able to attend since my departure to the Netherlands. In the context of my vacation back in the US, it was an odd little break within a break that felt all the more special as a result.

There was also just a lot to do at Otakon, even more than previous years.

Premieres

Otakon this year was packed with premieres, anime that had never officially aired outside of Japan. In an age where convention viewing rooms have lost their importance compared to when they were the main reason to go to a convention, the willingness for Japanese companies to debut their works at cons brings back a bit of old school flavor.

I attended the showing of episodes 1 through 3 of Puella Magi Madoka Magica, the dark, subversive magical girl anime which this past year took the Japanese internet by storm. Though normally I would not watch at a con something I’d seen already, especially a series which doesn’t rank among my top favorites, I attended the premiere in order to gauge the audience reaction to the show. Who exactly was attending this premiere? Despite its popularity among fans on the internet, how many people had actually seen Madoka Magica?

Though there were a number of people who had obviously seen the show already, it was clear that for much of the audience, this was all-new. The crowd cheered and clapped not at the moments where you expect someone with full knowledge of the show would, but at points in the episodes where new and exciting things happen, such as when a magical girl transformation happens for the first time. Also, in re-watching these early episodes, I noticed some particular details, such as how Mami’s transformation sequence is different every time. Overall, I think the show made quite a good impression on the viewers, and I expect the series to reach some degree of success.

Another of the big showings was for the film Trigun: Badlands Rumble, a follow-up to the enormously popular Trigun series. Trigun is probably one of the most beloved anime titles among American fans. I’ve known a lot of people both personally and through observation who had been itching for more Trigun anime for years, and Badland Rumbles scratches that itch pretty well. Centering around Vash the Stampede’s confrontation with a robbery-obsessed villain named Gasback, who only ever takes money so he can use it to fund his next heist. The film features all of the main Trigun cast, and acts as a good reunion for fans, though I’m not sure how well it would do for someone who’s never seen any Trigun before. If I had to make a guess, I think it could still do a decent job because of how action-packed and fun it still is.

The last premiere I attended was for Shinkai Makoto’s new film, Hoshi o Ou Kodomo: Children who Chase Lost Voices from Deep Below. Known for deeply introspective works such as 5cm per Second and The Place Promised in Our Early Days, Hoshi o Ou Kodomo is a first for Shinkai, a more mainstream-feeling title that, although possesses a good deal of introspection, has a greater emphasis on adventure and exploration. Focusing on a young girl named Asuna who gets drawn into a mysterious world, the film has a number of flaws, feeling like it tried to introduce too much all at once and so occasionally lost focus. It manages to mostly overcome these problems, though they’re still a sticking point. This may be a sign of Shinkai’s inexperience with this type of film.

Regardless of the film’s strengths and weaknesses however, the showing of Hoshi o Ou Kodomo was made all the more special by the fact that Mr. Shinkai himself was a guest at Otakon 2011, his first ever American anime convention.

Guests, Directors, Producers

We were given a number of opportunities to interact with Shinkai, with a Q&A directly after his film on Saturday, an additional Q&A later in the day, a press conference on Sunday, and then a final Q&A with a bunch of directors and producers. Due to certain conflicts, I was only able to attend the first and last Q&A but both were extremely informative. Shinkai is not just simply polite but actually very humble, giving detailed answers to every question asked. At the first Q&A, Shinkai elaborated on his desire to create a more mainstream film that is visually accessible not only to a Japanese general audience but an international one as well. I was able to ask Shinkai a question myself:

Q: In the film, Agartha is in decline and the people there think it’s best to accept it, but others struggle not just against death itself, but struggle to live their lives. What are your own thoughts on to what extent a person should struggle against that fate or accept it?

To which he responded:

In the film, there are those who have accepted that they are not long for this world. But Shin, a resident of Agartha, hasn’t accepted it. If asked this question 15 years ago, I would have definitely sided with Shin, but now that I’m older I can’t help but say I understand the view of the other people. In this film, I didn’t want to side with either side. I didn’t want to deny either side.

I had originally wanted to ask Shinkai about digital animation, but after seeing the film and the concept of accepting the decline of one’s own civilization, it had me thinking about the way in which all of the various characters struggle in different ways and to varying degrees against their circumstances, and it spurred me to ask this question instead. Fortunately, I would have another opportunity to ask Shinkai about the animation process itself at the Directors Q&A Panel.

The Directors Q&A was nothing short of amazing, as it brought together directors Ishiguro Noboru (Macross, Legend of the Galactic Heroes), Murata Kazuya (To Heart, Full Metal Alchemist: Sacred Star of Milos), and Shinkai, and every answer showcased just how different these three were in terms of age and experience. The best example might be when someone asked what series would be considered the directors’ top must-watch anime. Whereas Murata picked a good, yet fairly expected response in Future Boy Conan, Ishiguro mentioned old Czech puppet shows, Canadian animator Norm McLaren, and a Chinese sumi-e-style animation from decades prior called Muteki and Shinkai actually selected Ishiguro’s own Legend of the Galactic Heroes. This generational difference was also evident in their responses to how the recent earthquake and tsunami might affect the industry and its people, with Ishiguro mentioning that the lack of escalators and power outages were something that he remembers and is familiar with from decades ago, while Shinkai talking about how he thinks that there is definitely potential to use this event to fuel the creative process but doesn’t quite know yet how to do so.

Keeping in mind this living history of directors available, and also remembering a comment from Ishiguro earlier in the panel about how he has had trouble adjusting to digital animation, I crafted my question accordingly: I asked if Shinkai and Murata, who both worked in digital animation, had any advice for Ishiguro in terms of working with digital animators. If you think about it, Ishiguro worked primarily in an age of analog animation, Murata worked in the transitional period between the two, and Shinkai is purely digital, this meant that each of their responses would embody different experiences and values. Knowing that Ishiguro is a living legend and that neither Shinkai nor Murata would want to show any disrespect towards him, I tried to phrase the question to give them as much leeway for politeness as possible, but it was still clear that this was going to be a tricky situation when the translator actually said, “I’m not going to touch this one.” Fortunately, Ishiguro, upon learning what I asked, actually encouraged the younger directors to give answers, sincerely willing to set aside seniority for some help.

Murata spoke of his own initial thoughts towards digital animation. Having worked with cel animation and remembering the hardship of lining up cels and taking photos of the compiled images one by one, Murata saw the move to digital as an opportunity to do more with more freedom. Shinkai, however, actually said that today’s digital animators should be learning from the older cel animators because, at the end of the day, as long as the initial images are still drawn with pencil on paper, those experiences and talents are still very important. Another interesting conversation arose when Shinkai mentioned working with older animators and how they worked in “millimeters” while digital animators think of space in terms of “pixels,” to which Ishiguro responded that he had to deal with the opposite problem, seeing the term “pixels” for the first time and wondering how many millimeters that was supposed to be. My question was the last one and it felt good to end the panel that way.

I was also able to get Evan Minto from Ani-Gamers to ask Shinkai a question at the press conference, about what it’s like to work with computers in animation. Interpreting the question as to mean 3DCG, Shinkai remarked that he actually prefers 2D animation despite his background in games, and would only go back to 3D if 2D faded away. Given the number of great anime creators who only started working in anime because they couldn’t find more “legitimate” work, I have to wonder if this could be another case for allowing 3D anime to fully mature.

There were Q&A sessions with both Ishiguro and Murata, as well as Madhouse founder and perpetual Otakon guest, Maruyama Masao, but unfortunately they conflicted with just about everything else. Notably, Maruyama’s and Ishiguro’s panels ran during the showing of Shinkai’s film. Still, I am glad I got the opportunity to see Ishiguro on the Directors/Producers panel, and I managed to get autographs from both Ishiguro and Maruyama. Speaking of Maruyama, the man has worked on so many things it’s actually kind of hard to be completely unable to find merchandise related to his work. In my case, I had him sign my Cardcaptor Sakura movie DVDs.

Industry Panels

This year’s Otakon included a Sunrise industry panel, which might not seem all that special compared to other companies’ panels until you realize that Sunrise never holds industry panels. Usually, there stuff goes to Bandai Entertainment, but this time it was Studio Sunrise, creators of Gundam, coming straight out of Japan to talk to the fans at Otakon about their shows. The panel began with an introduction from Sunrise producer, Ozaki Masuyuki, and then continued with a video showing called “The World of Gundam,” giving a brief history of the franchise and how it has affected Japanese animation. The video delivered on two points, first of which is that it fulfilled my wish for it to have a hilarious English-language narrator, and second of which is that it managed to result in a few surprises. Ozaki was clearly expecting the cheers for the original Gundam and titles like Gundam W, but when the crowd went into a roar over G Gundam, I could literally see that Ozaki didn’t expect it, with his body actually being taken aback by it.

From there, they showed a recap of the first season of Tiger & Bunny (which contained spoilers!), and it was also evident that the show was extremely popular. I also had a bit of a realization during that section, as Ozaki asked one by one if each hero was the crowd’s favorite character. Naturally, characters like Wild Tiger, Barnaby, and Blue Rose got good reactions, but when he asked about Dragon Kid, I found myself to be the only one clapping and hollering.

(Dragon Kid is the best, forget y’all.)

The panel also had a bunch of new show previews, the most interesting of which is probably (Gundam AGE aside) a series titled Phi Brain Puzzle of God. Apparently, it features a kid who is good at solving puzzles. The title alone makes me want to check it out.

Speaking of Gundam, the Tamashii Nations booth in the Dealer’s Room featured this:

Being that this was the first and possibly only time we’d ever see an official Sunrise panel, a lot of questions were asked about a lot of series. Patz from Insert Disc for example asked about the possibility of streaming older shows, especially the Yuusha robot series, and the answer there was that they were looking into streaming as much as they can but that there were no definite plans. I asked about the possibility of reviving significantly older giant robot franchises such as Zambot 3 and Daitarn 3, to which the response was that Sunrise prefers to create new concepts rather than going back to older ones, unless there is significant fan demand or a director/producer has interest in doing so. Gundam, I assume, falls under both the former and latter. There was also a lot of praise for Tiger & Bunny and hope from the fans that there would be more. Probably the question that sticks out to me most was the lone girl who politely asked them for more My-HiME/My-Otome in a thick southern accent, if only because that franchise didn’t seem to be on anyone’s radar. Interestingly, Ozaki said that the My series is designed to have sequels. These are certainly not concrete answers, but more than I typically expect from a company official.

If you want real answers at an industry panel though, look no further than Vertical Inc., publishers of Twin Spica, Chi’s Sweet Home, and a plethora of classic Tezuka titles. While going through all of their upcoming titles, marketing guy Ed Chavez (who you may remember from the old Vertical Vednesdays) would talk about his own feelings towards them, giving a genuine sense that he had a personal investment in all of their licenses, which include a manga adaptation by Furuya Usamaru of No Longer Human, Princess Knight, and The Drops of God. In answering a question of whether or not the manga would be flipped or unflipped, Ed remarked for instance that The Drops of God would remain unflipped despite its potential for success outside of manga readers because of how the intricate labels on wine bottles would be excessively difficult to correct afterwards.

The Bandai After Dark panel tried to be a somewhat free-flowing, “casual” panel as well but didn’t quite come across that way. That said, there were a number of highlights. The Gosick and Nichijou anime have been licensed for DVD release, as has the Nichijou manga, which according to one person I know is far superior to its adaptation in terms of comedic timing and such. The composer for The Disappearance of Suzumiya Haruhi was also present, and he played a violin solo of that movie’s main theme, Yasashii Boukyaku. I really love that song, and I think that was one of my favorite moments from Otakon.

In terms of industry panels, last but not least must be the Angel ScandyS Q&A, which centered a show that isn’t even actually in production yet. Ishiguro, the aforementioned director of Macross, has thrown his hat into the ring that is the moe idol genre. Planned to be a story about angels, devils, and human idols competing over a young man’s soul (or something), what’s fascinating about this project is that they bothered to show it at Otakon at such an early stage, something I’m certain has never been done before. The voice actors, who were selected first and had characters based on them rather than the other way around, had prepared a skit as well, both in valiant Engrish and in Japanese, to give the audience an idea of what the show might be like. When asked about the music, we were told that Ishiguro himself wrote the lyrics for the music. Ishiguro meanwhile, had been sneaking around the panel itself, preferring to film the panel from an audience perspective. I asked them about the character designs, which seem oddly familiar despite being so generic, but was told that 1) it was done by an unnamed Artland (Ishiguro’s studio) employee and 2) that the character designs aren’t even final. I don’t know, seeing a project so early in its life piques my interest.

Fan Panels

Due to the sheer amount of premieres and unique industry panels this year, on top of the scheduling conflicts that caused similarly themed panels to run at the same time (Gundam Unicorn showing vs. Sunrise panel vs. Gundam panel vs. Underrated Mecha panel), I unfortunately was unable to attend very many fan panels. Still, of what I saw I certainly enjoyed.

The Reverse Thieves ran two panels this year, “The Best Manga You Never Read: Tokyopop Edition” and “Investigating Detective Anime.” The former pointed out titles that the two considered to be underrated titles, many of which did so poorly in the US as to be canceled even prior to Tokyopop’s demise. One good reason to go that panel is actually the Q&A section, not because they give out free stuff, but because they’re actually really good at answering questions and taking suggestions. The Detective Anime panel showed the sheer range of genre fiction available in Japanese animation, and focused less on finding the most obscure titles possible. Again, their Q&A session was excellent.

I also made a quick stop at the “Moe Moe What?” panel, curious about how exactly they were going to approach the subject. Though I cannot say how the panel turned out by the end because I had to leave early, I found the panel to be informative enough, though obviously geared towards fans of moe who are looking for an intelligent way to defend the idea.

I attended both of Daryl Surat of Anime World Order‘s panels, “Remembering Satoshi Kon” and “Anime’s Craziest Deaths.” As someone who knows Kon but doesn’t really know Kon, it was a highly informative panel which showed his influences and his connections to other great names in manga and anime. In particular, Kon began his career as a manga assistant for Otomo Katsuhiro (Akira), and even worked with Oshii Mamoru (Ghost in the Shell) on a number of occasions. As for Anime’s Craziest Deaths, I had talked to Daryl when he was originally planning it a couple (?) of years ago, and even contributed some examples, but was just unable to see the final result for a long time. Now that I’ve experienced it, I can say that it’s really worth its own title, though I realized that my suggestion of Zambot 3  felt a little weak compared to the blood-and-guts violence of the likes of Baoh and Violence Jack. Perhaps something from later on in the series would do it more justice, though I think it more has to do with the fact that the “craziness” of the deaths in Zambot 3 are more contextual than visceral.

The last fan panel I attended was the Otakon Game Show, which had four contestants on-stage showing off their anime trivia skills, one of whom was an aforementioned Reverse Thief. The format of the game had it so that the audience could participate as well, and keen panel attendees might have noticed that I reached second place in Round 1 of the Game Show, just about 30 points shy of the #1 spot.

I realized my own frightening power during that panel. One of the categories in the second round was “Shower Scenes,” and for one question, even before the clip started playing and all the only thing visible was a shower head, I said “Chun-Li” to my friends and was eventually proven to be correct. Sadly, none of the contestants actually got it, though any arguments I make about that shower scene being really distinct and iconic does not help me in any way. Still, for one moment I shined in the most brilliant yet dark way imaginable.

Though that was the last panel I participated in as an audience member, I was also a panelist on “Anime and Manga Studies,” which had us answering questions from both the moderator, Mikhail Koulikov as well as the audience. It was a Sunday 9am panel, which meant that attendance would inevitably be somewhat sparse, but I was still glad to see quite a few people show up. I hope we provided a good panel for you all!

Cosplay

I’ll let this section more or less speak for itself, but I do want to say that the three of the biggest cosplay this year were probably Madoka Magica, Panty & Stocking, and especially Tiger & Bunny. Sadly I did not get any photos of Tiger & Bunny, and the only Dragon Kid cosplayer I managed to find was when I was waiting for the bus on the way home.

Miscellaneous Noteworthy Things

The artist’s alley this year had some really interesting features, an “Art of Akira” exhibit that features the animation cel collection from a diehard Akira fan and did a really good job of showcasing the visual excellence of that film.

A couple of artists also caught my eye, especially one Ashwara, who I commissioned to draw a piece of Ogiue fanart for me. Amidst a number of artists who draw well but pretty much look the same in style, his work really stood out and I was glad to have seen it.

There was also a wall at the Aniplex booth where people could ask Kyubey for a wish. Seeing it, there was one wish I knew I had to make.

Is it a cat?

This year also gave attendees the opportunity to donate to Japan in light of the recent disaster, to which they gave merchandise. I received this Madoka poster for my efforts.

In terms of cheap and simple food, a Jimmy John’s had opened up since the previous year, which had me jumping for joy (you can ask others about it). Back in college, I frequently visited the local Jimmy John’s, and had not been able to partake of it in over five years. Now that I know that there’s one to greet me every Otakon, I know where I’ll be eating at least once. It’s nothing fancy, but it’s really quick and I think it tastes better than Subway.

In terms of more expensive food though, the place to go this year was Abbey Burger Bistro, which features a number of exotic meats in burger form. My burger ended up being a medium-well Kangaroo burger with mushrooms, onion rings, chili mayo, herb yogurt, swiss, and pepper jack. The only thing that made it better was being in the company of good friends, including Daryl and Gerald from Anime World Order, the Reverse Thieves, Patz, the crew over at Ani-Gamers, and many more. Same goes for everyone I met over the weekend. You know who you guys are.

A Special Message

In the sweltering heat of Baltimore in July, when humidity and temperature worked together as an unpleasant duet, only one man was truly able to save us from the sun. He sold cool, freezing temperature water for a mere dollar, and he had a powerful advertising jingle to go with it. Apparently around last year, the addition of the megaphone made his presence fully known. Even for those who did not buy his goods, he was quite possibly the most refreshing part of Otakon 2011, his pitch quickly becoming a popular tune to sing along with for the attendees. I found myself in that group as well.

Ice Cold Water cosplay is inevitable.

Would Fans of Superhero Comics Like Tiger & Bunny?

With its German-sounding location (Sternbild City), prominent use of English, and decidedly American superhero motif, Tiger & Bunny resembles something closer to the comics of Marvel and DC than it does Japanese-style costumed heroes, your Kamen Riders and Gatchamans and the like. At the same time, it’s not just a direct imitation of the superhero genre, and puts an interesting twist on the whole thing by making the heroes both celebrities and walking billboards for corporations, like if the fame and fortune-seeking Booster Gold (I know, he’s changed now but bear with me) was doing those old Hostess snack cakes advertisements.

Because of how Western Tiger & Bunny is in concept, though not necessarily execution, I’ve been wondering whether or not the show would be capable of reaching that English-speaking superhero comics fan community in any form, be it through the current Hulu stream  or dubbed and put on cable television. In considering how I would sell the series to superhero enthusiasts, I’ve pictured myself describing it as a somewhat more light-hearted Watchmen because of how it takes a critical, yet relatively optimistic view of heroes, but when I consider how many factors might make that comparison feel off for readers. They might find that the writing isn’t as airtight as Alan Moore’s and that I’m insolent enough to compare the two. They might feel unsure about the title itself (“‘Bunny?’ Do you really expect me to take that seriously?”), or that it’s still too anime for their tastes, or that the popularity of the show among fujoshi sours its reputation. They might not even like Watchmen and the comparison would have them want to check it out even less.

So I’d like to ask both superhero comics fans, anime fans, and fans of both to tell me what you think about selling Tiger & Bunny to the Marvel/DC crowd. From your experience, how do you think it would fare? If you’re a comics fan and you’ve never heard of Tiger & Bunny, what do you think of my basic Watchmen/celebrity comparison? If you have heard of it but chose not to check it out, what about it turned you away?

Ivory Jaws

Note: This post discusses spoilers for Tiger & Bunny, A Certain Magical Index, and Hajime no Ippo.

In episodes 12 and 13 of Tiger & Bunny, the heroes of Sternbild City fight the powerful villain Jake Martinez. His telepathy allows him to read an opponent’s intentions and avoid getting hit. Out of the four heroes who face him, Jake only ever gets hit twice: Once by accident when Wild Tiger trips over himself, and then a second time when Barnaby is able to land a clean hit, but Barnaby’s attack is enough to defeat him.

Broken rib or no, one hit doesn’t seem like it should be enough to take down such a strong adversary, but Tiger and Bunny does a good job of making it obvious that Jake’s weakness isn’t just a glass jaw, but a side effect of his powers. Jake is so adept at using his NEXT abilities to avoid any and all attacks that he is simply not used to being hit, and so making contact shocks him not just physically but psychologically as well. Even Wild Tiger’s inadvertent flip kick has little force behind it and yet still gives Jake pause.

When I saw this, I immediately thought of another villain: Accelerator from A Certain Magical Index. Like Jake, he is the mid-series villain, and like Jake, he possesses a power which prevents attacks from reaching him. In Accelerator’s case, he can control vectors, so any punch or bullet thrown has its direction diverted or even reversed with little effort. In the face of Index hero Kamijou Touma’s ability-canceling abilities however, Accelerator’s face meets Touma’s fist repeatedly. Like Jake, he can’t take a hit.

I think there’s something a little satisfying about villains whose weaknesses are something so simple and basic that anyone could avoid them if only they were familiar. With both Accelerator and Jake, they rely a little too much on their abilities, so when those are negated they do not have the natural reaction time to make up for it. In a way, these antagonists are portrayed as members of a kind of ability-based ivory tower, where their privileged statuses make them vulnerable to the rest of the world, even if it’s not immediately noticeable.

Interestingly, Hajime no Ippo shows the other side to this trope, though without any use of true villains. In the world title match between Date Eiji and undefeated champion Ricardo Martinez, Ricardo lands a severe blow on Eiji, which he’s 100% confident will take Eiji down for good. To his surprise however, Eiji manages to recover from that punch, which leads Ricardo to conclude that the only reason Eiji could’ve possibly taken that hit is that he must have fought someone whose punches are as hard if not harder than Ricardo’s own. This, of course, refers to Eiji’s fight with the main character Ippo, who is characterized by incredibly brutal punches. Had Eiji not gained the experience of taking hits from Ippo, had the impact not been engraved into his body, the sheer shock from being hit in a completely new way would have finished the match with Ricardo right there.

Which is to say, in a Martinez fight, Jake definitely wouldn’t want to get hit by Ricardo.