I decided to squeeze the concert aftermath into the Saturday post because the concert post was so long. I met about half of my link list! Bunch of alright guys. I believe I will be on a podcast shortly, saying nothing important. I rushed for a drink for my poor parched, destroyed throat. I was completely exhausted from the jumping and the yelling and the fist-pumping all night, and contrary to my initial plan of spending the rest of the night watching Bubblegum Crisis, I wanted to do little but eat, drink and sleep. That concert had me unable to speak quite right for the next day or two. We settled on pizza for dinner, and I read my buddy's sister's shoujo manga until it showed up. Have you guys read Walkin' Butterfly? It's great!
I made the point to my friends that reading this was kind of like the gender-reversed version of a shonen fight manga: a tall, rough and insecure young woman tries to go into modeling as kind of a self-challenge. Throughout, she is put through literal training sessions by the people around her in the business. She watches her old boss walk hundreds of times (on secret hidden archival tapes) and replicates it until her feet are all beat up. She pretends to be an up-and-comer that nobody's heard of yet. She stands under a waterfall and tries not to get fucked by an old European man. Real trials, you know? It's just like the girl version of wearing a ridiculous spring apparatus and then running on a treadmill over a pool filled with sharks and piranhas while wearing weighted clothing. I totally hope Michiko makes it after all.
Anyway, then the security came in. Again. Same kinda stuff, only difference was we were in another room, watching the Olympics at a really low volume and waiting for pizza. The pizza took a really long time, and as a New Yorker, I found it pretty poor. I went to bed, and then it was Saturday.
The first order of business, after breakfast and all that, was buying the JAM merchandise we'd missed on the first day. It turned out that it was being sold at Bandai's booth: we had expected an individual booth and just didn't bother checking Bandai out.
Before I continue, I'd like to make a side note of the industry booths. The diminished presence of the US anime industry was extremely noticeable. The only truly fancy booths were Bandai's and Funimations, and those were nowhere near the kind of small-building displays that you used to see in the early 2000s. Worst of all was poor ADV's appearance: a mysterious, unlabeled dealer was selling off exclusively ADV stock for $10 a disc, which, frankly, still wasn't enough to get me to bite. It absolutely had to be them, but they sure didn't want anybody to know it. Media Blasters was there, of course, but they've always been a tiny company whose tables fit in just fine with the other fan-run businesses.
Meanwhile, we got our T-shirts and our CDs and lucky us, it turned out that Bandai was giving out autograph tickets for a 4:30 autograph session to anybody who waited at their booth until 12. And so we did: we watched the same trailers about a billion times in a row, wondered if maybe they could change Kamina's dub voice actor, and puzzled over why anybody would buy DVDs of Aika R-16 just to see erect nipples poking through the characters' clothes. Line management here was also a big problem: they just allowed a crowd to form and said "GO" at noon, causing a terribly uncomfortable pushing, shoving stampede as passers-by cut to the front and snuck past people from the side. That said, we all got our tickets. Feeling a great weight lifted, we proceeded to walk around the dealers' room for the twenty minutes we had before the JAM Q&A started.
I found some great vintage stuff at the Media Blasters table (warning: huge files): I scored a Fire Bomber poster (hoping that maybe Fukuyama would sign it), a Patlabor promo poster, and the prize of the dealer's room, an early-80's poster for the third Mobile Suit Gundam movie, featuring the famous Last Shooting scene and drawn by legendary mechanical designer Kunio Ohkawara himself. At any other con I would have called this the highlight of my weekend, but this con had JAM Project, for chrissake. I also nearly bought an Odin fanbook, but I thought better of it. Later, 4chan's MrVacBob informed me that pretty much everybody who would have bought it did the same.
And there they were again, for the Q&A panel. It turned out that the way you got your autograph ticket for the 2:30 session (keep in mind that at 11, the autograph line had already filled the area and was stretching out of the hallway) was you asked a question here. I didn't have anything more interesting than "who's your favorite robot?", which I now regret not having asked. The questions were pretty fun, fluffy stuff-- including such tough battles as Dani vs Mcdonald's-- made more so by the band members who are, how shall we say, naturally goofy people. Fukuyama, who I've mentioned a lot because he was so consistently awesome, really stole the show: everybody was jokey but he was particularly quick with his one-liners. Overall, the band looked as happy as we were to be there, and seemed to be genuinely grateful for their fanbase. It was really great to hear from them. High points included the yelling part (again, Fukuyama stole this one with his famous Macross 7 line, "LISTEN TO MY SONG!").
I also want to note here that the staffers at the autograph area were totally helpful and nice in explaining the autograph situation to us. Thanks, guys.
After that we killed some time in the dealer's room, the game rooms, and getting lunch until it was time to go back to Bandai's booth, where we got in line and chatted with the industry.We were kinda behind the booth, so when things started, we had to peek at the band walking into the booth through the openings in the booth itself. When they were seated, all that was visible from where we were standing was Fukuyama's big hair.
Now I was starting to worry. I had my Fire Bomber poster all ready, but I also had my tour T-shirt. Now there's a one-item limit, as in everybody signs one item. It wouldn't be cool of me to have JAM sign a Fire Bomber poster, because after all, only one of them ever had anything to do with Macross 7. On the other hand, a signed Fire Bomber poster would be priceless. I talked to a couple of people on the line who were in this exact dilemma. By the way, the poster says on it, in English:
WHAT'S GOING ON? IT BEGINS, SATURDAY NIGHT, YEAH.
LET'S STAND UP. CAN'T YOU FEEL MY HEART BEAT?
THIS IS THE FLYING PARADISE. YOU ALMOST FORGET YOUR ENERGY.
NOW HARRY UP. LET'S TAKE BACK.
So, in hopes that the Fire Bomber would help a brother out, I gave the T-shirt to JAM's handlers for signing and simply stood there in front of Fukuyama with my Fire Bomber poster out. "Nice to meet you, Mr. Fire Bomber." When Fukuyama looked up from the autograph and got a good look at the poster, he got this "oh, wow!" look on his face. I was kind of shocked that he was so happy to see it! I was more shocked when, in the middle of our handshake, the dude bearhugged me. What a guy! The only downside of this priceless gift was that at the speed autographs were moving, my T-shirt was already past Dani and in the hands of Hironobu Kageyama himself. I really wanted to shake Dani's hand, but there wasn't any time. I still feel kinda bad about it!
And what the hell do you say to Hironobu Kageyama? I couldn't think of anything after the handshake and the "Thank you so much" I said to everybody, so I did made a finger-gun with my hand and said "SPARKING!" like he always does when he sings Cha-La. He laughed. I could tell he'd probably seen it a hundred times today, but he laughed.
And what the hell do you say to Masaaki Endoh? He gave me this really deadpan "Hi." after signing and we shook hands. You see, Masaaki Endoh is "most powerful". He talks with his hands. I didn't expect such a truly mighty handshake, and I actually had to step it up, giving him the finger slip at the end for some local flavor.
Right after a big, strong, tough-guy handshake, I encountered tiny Masami Okui and her unbelievably tiny hand. This took some adjustments. I tried not to break her.
And then I passed a Yoko cosplayer out of the booth (this is a good way to get a fanboy's eyes on where he needs to go: clever move, Bandai) and we were done with JAM Project! Kind of a sad realization, but there it was. And Fire Bomber hugged me. We all compared signed goods and did an 80's high-five jump. Nothing too important happened after that, as nobody in my group could quite straighten out dinner arrangements for a couple of hours. While I was in the game room beating people at VF5, JAM was Bandai's surprise guest. So yes, I regret that. We went to that Mexican food place not far from the center, and I paid way too much for underwhelming steak quesadillas.
We tried to check out late-night Otakon but the place was teeming with kiddy ravers and people in mile-long lines for hentai panels. As we walked deeper into the place the crowd got progressively more obnoxious. We turned our backs before the rave was even in sight.
After that I hit the game room and played Battle Fantasia until closing. The owner was there, and he showed me the basics. The game is not at all what I expected from Arc, and I think it's wonderful that it's not just another game in the GG engine like Hokuto or Sengoku Basara Cross. This is a much slower and more deliberate game. We joked that the only way for a new fighting game to get any recognition is to go the Arcana Heart route and pour on the moe. The character design here is much more varied of course, as are the gameplay styles. My character, Fleed, was kind of a Balrog-style dash-punch type of character. My friends, meanwhile, discovered Senkou no Ronde. I thought it was very interesting how appealing this game was to anime fans at the convention and how few of them knew it even existed: when I played, about five or six people passed by asking what it was, where they could get it, and so on. Ubisoft might have done a lot better with this game if they'd pushed it to the anime market instead of suppressing its nature.
Sunday isn't really worth talking about: the dealer's room was too mobbed to get in, and I didn't really bother doing anything else. The Greyhound ride home was a horrific six and a half hours, plus our bus was overbooked and I barely made it on at all. If I ever go to Otakon again I'm ponying up for Amtrak. The money saved is seriously not worth the trouble.
But would I go again? You know, I honestly had a lot of fun. I spent a lot of money, but I had a lot of fun. Met a lot of people I wouldn't have met, got a good price on an Arcade Bumstead, and I met the best musical guests an anime convention could ever have. I'm still glowing from it all. I guess I still have until a few months from now to decide whether or not I want to come back. I'll let you guys know. In the meantime we still have the "awesome cosplay" post left, so look forward to that.