Otakon 2006: Return of Son of Otakon III

August 7, 2006 at 6:11 pm (Fan Culture)

This year’s Otakon adventure included Fat Power Rangers Fanboys, Turkish Pop Cinema, the Goddess of Destruction, hordes of 4channers, lots of surveys, Goths, Goth Lolis, Goth Link, Communist Wolfwood, and Hard Gay.

For the fourth time I make my long and winding way to Baltimore. It’s a tiring journey, particularly since I’m travelling alone (the last two times I had company). I’ve managed to secure my group a good room about a block from the convention center this year. Everybody seems to arrived from their scattered parts of the world (MA, VA, OH, NY). It’s Thursday evening, so the badge pick-up line moves blessedly fast. I was in there maybe a half hour. My brother hunts me down while I’m in line and gives me my new credit card, half-solving an irritating cash flow problem I’m having and allowing me to check into the hotel afterwards. Then around 8:30, we all converge on the Wharf Rat for some beer and dinner. The Oliver Three Lions they have this year is almost good enough to make me bring back a growler.

The next morning, over breakfast, I mark off the things I want to do. There are more panels I’m interested in than anticipated, though I know half of them will end up being stupid. Most of my day is occupied with trying to get people to fill out the survey I’m running, but in between all of that I got to a couple of the panels and viewings.

Sentai It’s Awesome!
Well, not so much. This panel turned out to basically be a clip show of Super Sentai, and a dry run-through of production history (and in 1987, such and such came out; in 1988 everybody may remember so and so). This is a phenomenon I’d encountered last year at Otakon in the Godzilla panel. Boring. Almost right after I sat down, a gentleman in a Mario costume acquired the seat between me and my escape. We have a sort of conversation, while I stare directly ahead.

“Hi. Do you like Sentai?” he asks.
“No, not really. It can be kind of hilarious though.”

Minutes pass.

“I LOVE Power Rangers! My favorite is the one where Billy and Tommy fight over a [something like this, I don’t remember].”
“Uh huh.”

“I didn’t catch your name.”
“That’s because I didn’t introduce myself.”

This is me, barely resisting the desire to verbally assault this lad. An introduction follows. I manage to shake his hand quickly without moving my head to make any kind of eye contact (this is the politest way I can think of to ignore somebody without leaving).

Briefly afterwards, they show the OP to the Super Sentai that was used to make the first U.S. Power Rangers, and he starts shouting out the names of the Power Rangers, applauding wildly for his favorites.

Sigh. I left, more because the panel was boring than because of the fanboy next to me (though my friends, who’d been sitting on my other side, arrived outside briefly thereafter, claiming a domino effect of proximity to Mr. Mario led them to flee). At a convention, I feel like people should be comfortable proclaiming whatever their fandom is, so I have some sympathy, but this kid was just really annoying / embarrassing me. I don’t know what it is. I met a guy in the elevator later who said he liked power rangers (responding to a cosplayer), but it was said with sort of a chuckle, and I didn’t get a bad vibe at all. So, while I think Super Sentai is pretty silly to begin with, and the PR adaptations a million times moreso, it’s not the mere fandom of such that causes my agitation. It was something in Mr. Mario’s demeanor. I don’t know. Is this like FYG-hate?

How Anime Comes to America
This panel was run by one of Funimation’s brand managers. He’d forgotten his notes, but claimed to have run this panel infinity times in the past and he seemed to do alright. This one was pretty interesting, even though I knew a lot of what he went over already. He deferred all questions to the end / later in the hall, which is a good way to keep from getting derailed. He talked about the contracting process, and went over all the steps of the production procress, occassionally citing particular examples. The sum of this discussion was supposed to detail why it takes several months to get a DVD released.

I asked him about contractual obligations on release dates and pricing, and he said the price obligations were usually just in the form of the per-episode licensing costs, and that there might occassionally be release-not-after or release-not-before clauses, nothing was really standard or common there.

His indication seemed to be that it actually does take several months of production activity to get a contract and then produce the DVDs (like infinity rounds of QC on each step), rather than, as had been suggested to me somewhere before, that they were contractually obligated to delay releases to prevent reverse-importation. He also indicated that they were streamlining the process and getting about two months of production time cut off from their old process, which is pretty good.

Another interesting thing he highlighted, which I sort of already knew, was that a huge difference between Japanese and American television is that generally, a new anime is guaranteed its timeslot. Even if it tanks, it’s gonna get whatever amount of air-time it’s already been set for. In the U.S., on most stations at least, you could be cancelled after two episodes. I guess this would be a huge barrier to the Holy Grail (well my hg at least) of Simulcast Anime.

Oh, also, if you have marketing experience, Funimation is looking for another brand manager.

Turkish Pop Cinema
This was a screening of some half-hour documentary about Turkish Pop Cinema, which is totally AWESOME in a totally camptacular way. They had a bunch of interviews with Cuneyt Arkin, who was the biggest actor in the Turkish Cinema (his IMDB actor filmography has over 250 films). Arkin is hialrious. I’m pretty sure he was liberally embelleshing, but he told a great anecdote about one movie where he was supposed to ride a horse through a stained-glass window. He, as his story goes, rode the horse through the window, but the floor was slippery and the horse tripped up and he fell to the ground and lost consciousness. When he woke, he said, he found that the glass had severed his hand, prompting him to retrieve his severed hand, re-mount the horse, and ride it to a hospital.

The movies — well, the ones that aren’t hilarious rip-offs of Star Trek and other big American titles — are full of bondage scenes, scenes of guys getting machine punched in the gut, and — my personal favorite — scenes like the one in The Man Who Saved The Planet where the guy straps humongous rocks to his legs and runs and jumps while wearing them in a huge training montage, after which he can shatter boulders with his kicks.

Very sadly, a lot of these films no longer exist. Many of the negatives were destroyed (to extract the silver from them? I think they said) when the Turkish cinema went bankrupt a few decades back.

Madhouse Panel
I don’t usually go to industry panels, but since this was a Japanese studio rather than, like, ADV (whose releases I don’t care about), I figured I’d give it a shot (also since Madhouse makes, like, 2/3 of my favorite anime). This one was run by Masao Maruyama (lead producer, I think; I’m not knowledgable about the production studios) and his translator. They played a whole bunch of trailers and OPs, mostly for things I’m watching right now (Black Lagoon, Nana, etc), but also did one for a show called Red Line that isn’t out yet. Maruyama then commented on all of them, often humorously. Red Line is a new movie by Takeshi Koike (featured on the Animatrix), who Maruyama thinks is gonna be one of the big directors of the next generation. Red Line appeared to have an animation budget of roughly infinity, and to be about…racing huge killer vehicles or something. Sorta like Mad Max maybe? I don’t know. Didn’t really look like my kind of thing, but very very shiny. Scheduled to theoretically come out this year, Maruyama said it probably would be 2007 or maybe 2008 and that really he’d just resigned himself to it being done whenever the Koike decided to finish.

Also I think this is old news, but I found out there’s a new Satoshi Kon movie coming out in theatres in December (it’s premiering in some big film festival in Europe before then). I love Kon with every part of my body, so that made me pretty excited.

Unfortunately I had to leave this panel early because I was getting calls about dinner.

The Beautiful Yet Ugly World
I guess this is old news too, but somehow I missed that there was a new GAINAX piece (they did the writing at least), so I went to check it out for lack of anything better to do. I only got through three eps before falling asleep and leaving (it was late and I was tired). The second episode was totally great, but the third was dragging a little bit. I’m gonna have to dig up the rest of this. It was a little disappointing for something with “GAINAX” written on it, but had some potential to be interesting when I’m less exhausted while viewing.

I hopped by Artist’s Alley to look over the auction and wander a bit to see if there was anything super interesting, and then called it a night. So, that was Friday.

Saturday morning I decided I was done with surveys after getting somewhere between 200 and 250. This survey was about fan culture and consumer habits, and I will post the results later when I get them all organized. Contrary to what many who know me believe, while not really shy, I don’t particularly like approaching people I don’t know, so the surveying really exhausted me of Gumption Points after a certain period of time. The huge majority of people were really friendly about it though, since most were sitting around waiting for something to start anyway.

Dating Sim Panel
Events on Saturday started, for me, with two Peter Payne (president of J-List) panels. The first was on Japanese Otaku Culture, which was basically all stuff I already was familiar with, though he did plug Heisei Democracy, which was kinda neat. Peter Payne is pretty cool. I probably should have asked him more questions, but I couldn’t think of any. The second panel was on Dating Sims and was actually pretty informative, since I don’t really know that much about the bishoujo / dating sim genre. I found out (more old news) that there’s free software specialized for constructing these games, so I’m toying with the idea of doing something with it (I’d have to find an artist I guess). The only two things really worth noting that came up were some stats on the popularity and ubiquity of dating sims in Japan (something like 400 new games a year), and an answer to the question, “Why doesn’t J-List get big titles like Air and Kanon?”

Okay, for those who don’t know, J-List is one of the few companies that licenses and releases eroge translated into English. From what I understand, they do the translations themselves. Also, all of their 18+ games (most of their library I think) are mosaic-free. The games can’t be sold this way in Japan; they have to be censored, so it’s sort of a Big Thing. While prohibitive licensing cost for big titles is the major reason J-List does not seek out their licenses, there is also concern that the license-holders will not be willing to allow an uncensored version of the game to be released, particularly if they are planning on licensing an anime adaptation. And J-List won’t compromise on that.

Dealer’s Room
I spent a little time wandering around the Dealer’s Room. I had all my budget alotted to food, and am kinda poor this year anyway, so my purchases were limited to some half-price manga and the hardcover first volume of Errant Story. One of my more employed friends decided it was high-time he started collecting figurines though, so I had fun following him around while he picked out figurines to buy. Oh also, somebody was selling the first two volumes of Robot, translated into English. Robot is TOTALLY AWESOME and I need to buy it as soon as I am less poor or find it on the cheap.

Cosplayers
I didn’t get a lot of cosplayer pictures, because I’m lazy. I was really close to starting a gothic lolita photoset for the hell of it, but didn’t. I mentioned a few of the amusing cosplayers in the first paragraph. There was a goth link. Waaaaaay too many Kingdom Hearts cosplayers (among the 50% of cosplayers not doing Naruto). Communist Wolfwood (a good sequel to Jewish Wolfwood from a year or two ago). And there was the one awesome Hard Gay cosplayer, which made my morning. I did get some photos of him, but I don’t have the cable for my camera right now so it will be a week before I can post them.

Death Trance
I killed some time in the 35mm room watching one of those random East Asian movies about killing things with swords and guns called Death Trance. These movies are great inspiration for tabletop RPG stories. It featured random rocket launchers, and angels falling out of the sky. Pretty fun, as is the point of the genre.

While I considered walking into the “Do It Yourself Bukkake” workshop (I have no idea what that actually was) with my umbrella as a sort of site gag, the line was long and given the now pervasive presence of 4channers there for their panel we decided to head back to the hotel rather than stay any of the hilarious 18+ content like Sex and Fury (described in the program guide as deserving a more accurate title of “Sex and Fury and Blood and Vengeance and Lesbianism and Bondage and Torture and Nuns with Switchblades. And More Sex”).

2LDK
Oh wait, I forgot to tell you about 2LDK. Upon heavy recommendation from friends who said it would be Totally My Kind Of Thing, I checked out this movie. It was. It’s about two actresses living together, who just get increasingly annoyed with eachother, and it escalates in some interesting ways. The movie has a beautiful simplicity to it; it’s entirely set in their house, takes place during one day. Good stuff. I missed the last few minutes because apparently the organizers sucked it hard this year on getting their schedule straight and had to cut it early so they could clear the room for the 18+ content (which requires a handstamp) coming up next. Oh, one other thing. Annoyingly, the line for the 4chan panel was right next to us, and, unsurprisingly, they were being really loud and obnoxious. This is a partitioned convention center room, so there was a door in the wall between us. After a few minutes, one of the guys in our room walked over, opened the door, yelled, “YO! … Shut THE FUCK up!” slammed it shut and sat down to immense applause. Of course, it didn’t really help, but was gratifying all the same. Cheers to you, guy!

Sunday was, as usual, uneventful. There was a disappointingly uninteresting State of American Fandom panel (granted I left early), but that was pretty much it. I’ve come to the conclusion that panels can only ever be good if they’re run by Professionals or by university students studying the subject they’re covering. And even then some of the panels are bad. I’d really like to attend a convention that was smaller, but:

1. Well-organized, with minimized schedule-changes
and
2. Did better pre-screening of content to make sure only things worth spending time on attending made it onto their actual schedule

This was probably my last Otakon. I certainly had fun, but it’s a huge hassle for me to spend the money and get out there every year, and the quality of content is getting questionable sometimes. I’m basically to where 80% of the events I attend are panels, and I get so often disappointed by panels that I’m not sure I want to bother anymore. Meh. Employment will change everything anyway.

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9 Comments

  1. Os said,

    Ah, I caught a part of the Sentai panel -I was there for all the transformations/calling of the names- and I was also there for Madhouse. Red Line looks amazing. Too bad I didn’t notice you were there.

  2. Seth said,

    I managed to totally fail to catch up with any of the anibloggers. I was going to try to organize something beforehand, but I had been really busy with work right up until I left and didn’t get to it.

  3. omo said,

    Hah I was at the Madhouse panel as well, but I kind of left 2/3 of the way for the MUCC show… I was there mainly to see LOAE, lol. It was also amusing how Maruyama made the disclaimer about Black Lagoon….

  4. Jim Vowles said,

    Mr Maruyama is a founder of Mad House, and is currently its creative director as well as producer of scores of shows. He’s been involved in anime production for about 40 years now, and he’s a hoot. Kinda like a fun uncle.

  5. Tyler said,

    *hops off the Google train*
    Hey, I’m one of the guys from the Sentai panel. We tried to keep the talking and straight-up fanwanking to a minimum, hence the videos.

  6. Seth said,

    Tyler, it was far from the worst panel I’ve been too. I was also only there for maybe ten minutes. I just tend to have a different concept of what I want out of panels than the panelists often do.

    That said, videos are good, but need to be balanced with commentary. It’s possible you got into some of this and I missed it (since I wasn’t there for very long), but I was hoping to see something more like a discussion of common themes in sentai, what draws people to it, what makes it interesting as a genre, interesting historical notes, maybe some discussion of cultural specificity / how Super Sentai was converted into Power Rangers in the U.S., etc. Most people probably were hoping for lots of videos and were satisfied.

  7. Tyler said,

    Oh, then you did miss something. We got through that in the beginning, took questions, then onto the videos.

  8. Animelist News » Blog Archive » Funimation Cancels One Piece Simulcast (Update 2) said,

    […] Otakon 2006: Return of Son of Otakon III « Gnostic Lone Wolf Poetry […]

  9. Omonomono » Otakon 2006: An Average Story about a Convention said,

    […] I was actually looking for Os on Friday–imagine we were all in the Mad House panel… […]

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