If I’ve mentioned it once, I’ve mentioned it countless times—I’m not the kind of fan of anything (much less anime) that will get so wrapped up in it that it eclipses everything else in my life. Especially when it comes to my job. Of course, with the convention I was just at, some things came to a rather awkward collision.
Another Anime Convention 2015 was back for another year, back in Manchester, New Hampshire. And it was a fun time, as I tend to experience at these conventions, this one in particular. Though it wasn’t without its difficulties getting to. You see, at the start of October, I was given a promotion to full-time at work. I nearly had a heart attack when I got the call offering it to me, because I had spent the better part of two years—and watching people there shorter than I get promoted ahead of me, to say nothing of people getting hired right at full-time—campaigning to get that position. (Campaigning meaning applying for available slots only to be rejected) Being full-time meant you have a set schedule Monday-Friday, with the weekends off. When I was offered it, I accepted it without a second thought. Then they told me my first day of full-time would be…the same week as the convention.
I scrambled to find out how much sick time I had left, and whether or not I could get away with using one on my first full week of full-time to go to a convention. As it turns out, no, I didn’t have any saved up time off. And, rather, because of me being part-time, didn’t have any to begin with. So that meant I’d simply have to tell my bosses I wouldn’t be in the area that Friday.
Not the most professional way to start my new position, but it couldn’t be helped. At least the bosses’ boss somewhat liked me and was a little more understanding.
Whenever I set a schedule or timetable for traveling to and from conventions, I like to stick by it as much as possible and, by my own admission, can get a little…irritated…deviations. So when I got done work at around 3 on Thursday afternoon, I had expected/assumed the rest of my adventuring party would be ready to go as well. Nope. Thankfully we still had to go grocery shopping for the trip up, so in my travels up to NYC, I stopped at a Walmart on the way to get things we’d need—bottled water, snacks, ramen…stuff that would keep us relatively fed and discourage us from spending too much on the typically overpriced food in and around the convention area. That little excursion…didn’t take nearly as long as I thought it did. I still had plenty of time, even after getting dinner from a Subway to stall for time. Thankfully we got everything and everyone in the car before it got too dark out. And aside from a few car accidents on the other side of the highways, the trip up was fairly uneventful, and I managed to get everyone to the convention by midnight.
The Radisson was as nice as I remember it, as nothing really changed in between the last time I was there and this year. Having every room for the panels as close to one another as they were made it really easy to get from place to place, and there was always plenty of time to get from the end of one panel to the start of the next. It didn’t take us long to unpack and get everything situated, and we all ended up crashing soon after.
Friday got off to a rather slow start for me, as I chose to eat at the breakfast buffet downstairs at the Café on the Park—which was rather underwhelming for its price—and walk around taking pictures of all the wondrous cosplays on display. That was the secondary plan, that is. See, we were originally informed that our press interviews were being held Friday morning. Except that we had been rescheduled. And we didn’t learn about it until we got there. Because the email was sent out late. Oops. No matter; we merely rescheduled everything for Sunday.
The first big panel I attended on Friday was “Win, Lose, or Draw: AAC 2015 Edition.” It was just like the classic game show…in theory. In reality, it turned out to be kind of a muddled mess. The way they showed everyone’s drawings was by using a little camera rigged to show on the big screens on either side of the main stage. The art can be given a pass, as it’s not expected to be overly high quality, but the guesses seemed to be all over the place. It wasn’t that hot of a panel, in my view.
I had better luck soon after, though, sitting in on the “Geek Talk” panel with friend of the show Kyle Hebert. It was pretty much just him sitting on the stage (literally on the stage, and not at the tables and chairs or what have you) and talked shop about anything and everything nerdy you could imagine. He was so thrilled to be around everyone, and very much enjoyed not just being at the convention but voice acting in general.
I walked around and hung out in the game room a bit, and the rooms—and even the games—weren’t all that different from the last time I was there. There were two small rooms set up for gaming, with one having a Rock Band 3 setup and DDR pads, and the other with most of the fighting games and whatnot. It had plenty of Smash Bros goings-on as well, from the stellar 8-player Smash on the WiiU, to the this-is-why-your-fandom-can’t-have-nice-things that was Project M. Oh, and the latter was hacked further to turn alternate outfits into reskins of completely unrelated characters. Talk about making a bad game worse.
Oh, and I also hung out in the pool for a bit. It was cold, the door to the patio wouldn’t close all the way, blowing more cold air in, the hot tub was “out of order” (probably the staff seeing the writing on the wall and preemptively stopping people from jumping in in full body paint to wash off and subsequently wreck the filters), and no one else showed up. It was a disappointment.
I’d get to see much more of Kyle in the panel after that, the “Voice Actor Lip Sync Battle” held in the main stage. Apparently this was based on a skit done by Jimmy Fallon’s The Tonight Show, which I didn’t know he did (what with preferring Colbert and The Late Show in general, myself). Basically, they play a song, the voice actor lip syncs and dances along with it, and the audience decides just whose performance was best. That third qualifier was jettisoned soon after the first song cued up. The performers were Kyle, Michele Knotz (another friend of the show), Daman Mills, and J. Michael Tatum. Altogether, they each got to do two songs, as well as one last song with all of them. I knew I was in for a delight when Michele got things going by singing the opening theme to Pokémon. Clever. Daman Mills sang “Mother Knows Best” from the Tangled soundtrack, Kyle Hebert sung “Uma Thurman” by Fall Out Boy, and mugged for the camera like the best kind of crazy person (I don’t even know if he knew it was me standing at the camera), and J. Michael Tatum sang “Last Midnight” from Into the Woods, while running all over the room. And then they closed out with Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”, so it was actually pretty fun in the end.
I ended up eating a light dinner at JD’s Tavern, which had decent food, as well as a few specials for the convention weekend. After that, I went up to a second-floor panel called “Flustercluck”, which was a trivia contest that tested the contestants’ knowledge of anime, video game, and other theme songs. It was a little disorganized and the presentation needed work, which I can only guess was part of the appeal, and by some fiat, I made it to the final round against a Yugi Moto cosplayer. I ended up losing, but made some pretty good showings along the way considering I got a few answers (e.g. the opening themes to Revolutionary Girl Utena and Chrono Trigger) within less than a second. What can I say? I love those songs/soundtracks. They gave everyone a bag of candy and other doodads just for participating. I ended up letting everyone else in the room go to town on it, since I’ve stopped eating the stuff and am trying in vain to lose weight.
But by far, the biggest thing we were excited for on Friday night was the big toga party. I was told about this going to the convention and it was apparently the goal of my adventuring party to bring out my inner Bluto. Well, it’s not like I would’ve objected to it. See, earlier in the day, in between panels, we managed to do runs for liquor and supplies for the room. We inevitably found our way to a Walmart to get the material, but since they didn’t have a fabric section, we had to go with buying single-issue bedsheets. We certainly weren’t going to be tearing apart the sheets on the bed to make our togas; we can barely get housekeeping to come service the rooms and give us fresh towels, much less make the beds. We each grabbed one, me having to deal with the larger size in an off-white color. It was either that or a fitted sheet, which would’ve looked like utter crap. After finally finding instructions on how to tie a bedsheet as a toga online, I got struck with inspiration. I wanted to have a sash to wear around it. Since I couldn’t get a hold of any fabric for said sash, I improvised. I took the bright red pair of track pants I was wearing that day and tied the ankles together around my right shoulder, letting the rest hang down by my left hip. It was improvised, but it still looked good. The hall where the toga party was held was DJ’d by a very attractive Panty & Stocking pair, which led to an inevitable Garterbelt cosplayer showing up (in a toga). There were games to be played in the spirt of the party, which included a “discus” throw (paper plates thrown like Frisbees), drinking competitions, dressing up one of your teammates in a toga and seeing who looked best, and a “chariot race” (wheelbarrow race for two people from each team from one end of the hall to the other). Our team ended up winning the whole thing, which I wasn’t expecting. It was a lot of fun.
Well, the only downside was that with my long hair and beard, instead of being seen as an emperor (Caesar Rockefeller, anyone?), people started calling me Jesus. While at a toga party. That’s right, everyone, Another Anime Convention 2015 was the time I accidentally cosplayed as Jesus.
Saturday got off to a slower start, having taken some more pictures before going to the “Magic, Romance and Giggles: A Look at Lesser Known Anime Girls.” It was a lecture on other, less known anime females, but it still gave respect due to the more widely popular ones. I’m sure you, the reader, can think of a few; I know I certainly hadn’t heard of anyone the panelists had mentioned.
The bulk of the afternoon after that was spent recording the LeetStreet Boys concert, held on the main stage. I knew they had been around for a while, but only knew of the one song from them—“Cosplay Girlfriend”…a song which can be a bit of a point of contention around the cast of the podcast. Anyhow, it was a good two-hour set, though as I recorded it, I noticed more people leaving throughout than coming in to watch. Either way, they were grateful for the audience’s attention and for being at the convention itself.
I got a late lunch/early dinner, watched a bit of Dragon Ball Z Abridged in one of the video rooms, played some more games, and finally made my way to a panel called “What Did I Just Watch?” You’d be right for thinking the panel was based on showcasing some really off-the-wall anime, and you’d be right. But unlike other panels of its ilk, it focused on the dissection of a single anime—in this case, Akikan, instead of several short clips of notorious stinkers. Akikan’s plot involves a teenager who collects “rare” soda cans (and, if you can believe it, doesn’t have a girlfriend). He drinks a can of some kind of melon soda and the can comes to life and takes the form of a beautiful woman. They then also fight other similar cans with different powers and flavors. It’s quite demented. The main criticisms of it being there’s little action (in a supposedly action-heavy anime), the characters are unlikable, the humor is bad, and the premise is just too absurd to take seriously. It obviously wasn’t well received.
I thought I’d have better luck at the next panel—and coincidentally, the last panel I’d attend that con—which was “Legend of Anime: the Beach Episode.” I thought it’d be a discussion on the various pros and cons of beach episodes throughout anime’s history, and how they’re typically a slice-of-life detour or a cooldown from some rather heavy plot shenanigans. Nope. Instead it was just an excuse to party and spray one another with Super Soakers (in a panel room, keep in mind; there was a tarp down and a kiddie pool, but still…) while beach episodes kinda-sorta played in the background. The panelists even invited people up to spray other con-goers—usually women—with said Super Soakers every now and then. I got called up, and was chewed out by some other lady, a friend of hers, I was assuming, warning me not to spray her in the face. Well, first of all a) everyone was told ahead of time not to spray people in the face, and b) I wouldn’t have even consciously thought about doing that until I was explicitly told not to.
Suffice to say, any kind of enjoyment was abruptly halted, and after that, I simply left, and went back up to the room to drink and shoot the shit with the others. I do remember nodding off after knocking back plenty of mixers myself, as what tends to happen when there are lulls in the conversation and I’m not being engaged in anything. You’ll notice I didn’t say “pass out”, as that tends to invoke images of people repositioned in odd ways, having odd stuff stacked all over top of them, and/or being drawn on with permanent markers; needless to say, nothing like that of the sort happened to me.
Sunday was a lot slower than the other days, as it tends to go in a convention. We all packed up, loaded everything in the car, and finalized whatever we had to do before leaving. I was surprised to feel how cold it had become that morning, especially since all I really had was a hoodie to wear outside; I had checked the weather reports prior to traveling to New Hampshire, and it didn’t seem all that bad…nothing I couldn’t manage. The only major things we did was record our interviews for our YouTube channel, before finally getting everything in the car and leaving. Traffic was a mess, especially getting back into NYC. Thankfully my GPS found a reroute that took a whole two goddamn hours off of our travel time—which was good, because the less time I had to spend on the road after a con, the better. Once I dropped everyone else off, I headed home myself, managing to get home before midnight, a personal goal I had set once I saw how bad the traffic was all over the place.
Another Anime Convention is starting to get up there in terms of notoriety when it comes to conventions, and I’m glad to see it grow the way it has (even if I did miss a year). And aside from its distance from home and the travel time needed to get up there, it’s starting to grow on me, to say nothing of how much the rest of the podcast enjoys it. I’ll just be glad to have actual vacation and/or sick days to use this time next year, so I can take off work with less hassle…and still get paid for it.