Motaku 2012 has come and gone, and I have to say it was a lot more fun this year than last. Granted, last year I only went on Saturday and stuck to mostly fan panels, but I did see improvement in a lot of the programming. While I did go to more panels featuring the guests this year, over three days I probably still went to just as many fan-run panels as last year.
The guests were pretty awesome. I got a chance to have a conversation with Sophie McNutt, who works at FUNimation, about our favorite anime and what happened to Operation Anime (FUNimation’s program for anime clubs). She is just as passionate about anime as any fan I’ve met, and it was great to talk to her. I just wish I didn’t step on her words so much, but it was a quick back-and-forth conversation between panels and we were both kinda doing it. I don’t think she was bothered by it, though.
The other guests (Kyle Hebert, Chris Cason, Tia Ballard, Greg Wicker, and Samurai Dan) were charismatic and awesome to see. They all ran several panels and I realized how much I missed out on last year by not seeing them. I managed to get them all (including Sophie) to sign their pictures in the program book, which I may keep or I may use as a prize for the anime club. I have not decided which yet. Funny enough, it turns out someone who filled in to voice Mr. Popo on the YouTube hit “Dragonball Z Abridged” was in attendance. When I told one of my anime club people this, he spent several hours trying to track him down to get his autograph. Even Internet fame is still fame, folks!
Speaking of club members, I saw at least four there, which was awesome. I didn’t hang out with them much, but that’s okay. One of the neat things about anime conventions that I’ve noticed, particularly Motaku (probably due to its size), is this sense of camaraderie among fans. You can strike up a conversation with almost anyone without it being awkward, because you’re all there to bask in this fandom completely. Heck, you even have people wearing ‘free hugs’ signs and giving them out… which, y’know, is such a staple for anime and comic conventions now, but I always thought was weird. I don’t know how that started. It’s like a really toned down version of the hippie ‘free love’ movement. Or something. Shut up.
Aaaaanyway, it was a nice positive upbeat atmosphere for most everyone, except that couple that broke up in front of me. And she was his ride. And then she sicked security on him. Ouch. Dunno what happened there, but it was ugly.
I mentioned before that I went to some fan panels, which were improved over last year but, overall, could still use some tweaking to make them better. The ‘Cosplay Combat’ panel was interesting, involving two audience members being instructed to ‘attack’ the other based on a roll of the dice. It was funny seeing the unique and silly attacks they would come up with. There was dead time between ‘attacks’, though, and I think it would have been greatly improved if they picked someone to do a beatbox-style background music and sound effects. It would have gotten more of the audience involved and it would have avoided the silence in the room that threatened to kill the fun of the program.
Dragonball Z: A DBZ Evolution Roast was fun. It was basically Kyle Hebert (“Dragonball Z”’s narrator) doing a Mystery Science Theater thing with that horrible ‘Dragonball Evolution” movie. I stayed through an hour of it, but spent the last hour at “The Horrors of Fan Fiction” panel.
Which should have been renamed “The Horrors of PORN Fan Fiction” because, wow, it… it was descriptive. I also got to hear some exerts from “50 Shades of Grey”, which I new little about other than it started off as a “Twilight” fanfiction, had the names changed, and became a huge best seller. The fanfiction was pretty bad, and it was funny watching the hosts cracking up, but it could have used a lot more structure to it. It’s fine to have a loose atmosphere, but I think with panels they do need to be planned out somewhat and have a direction.
Saturday was a loooong day. Christian met up with me later in the day, which instantly made the day fun as we ripped on anything and everything (not about the con… the con was awesome). The Guest Q&A was interesting, and it was here I ran into two of my anime club people, including the one that’s super into ‘DBZ Abridged’. He asked Chris Cason, who does the voice of Mr. Popo in the actual official dub, to say a line from ‘Abridged’. The whole thing sparked off a dialog about the ‘Abridged’ series, so I’m sure he was on freakin’ cloud nine over that.
Anime Behind the Scenes with Chris Cason was fun, and he told some stories about weird things that happened with voice actors in the booths. It was also here I learned that the ‘Abridged’ voice of Mr. Popo (the fill-in, when the original couldn’t make it) was in the building.
My calendar had something called “DRRR! Fandom at its Greatest!”, which I was so prepared to see because I thought it was going to riff on bad fans… but it turns out it was actually “Durarara! Fandom at its Greatest!” (“Durarara” is an anime series), and they had shortened it to “DRRR” for space constraints. I have never been more disappointed before in my life.
So we went to lunch instead. When we came back, we watched all of the guests perform “Anime Radio”, which was actually more “Comic Book Radio”. They basically took really old “Batman” comics, assigned roles to different people, and read them as the characters. Considering how absolutely terrible a lot of those old comics were, it was pretty amusing. In 2015 the Summer Reading theme for the libraries is supposed to be ‘Heroes’, so I’m thinking maybe we can adapt this as a teen program. I think it would be fun!
After, I went to an autograph session while Chrisian went to the “American Made Anime”, which he left because apparently it was not so great. “Animation of the 90s” was the same, as we both left pretty quickly. The person running it was incredibly soft spoken (hard to hear), did seem to exude any confidence, and the whole thing was quickly becoming a “everything sucks except what I like” speech. After we left, we talked about it outside the room and suddenly saw a ton of people leaving. I don’t know if the guy had a nervous breakdown and was tearing the room apart or what, but they were talking pretty excitedly and seemed in a hurry to leave the panel. We couldn’t make out what the problem was at all, though, and one of the con staff quickly checked in to see but couldn’t find any issues. Christian and I were almost tempted to go in just to see what the whole deal was, but were afraid if nothing was happening we would be stuck. We instead hit the dealer room (but more on that later).
We checked out the “Demotivate Me” panel, which featured various anime and non-anime demotivational posters. There were funny ones and not-so-funny ones, but it was worth seeing.
Finally, we saw at least an hour of “AMV Hell”. If you don’t know what an AMV is, it’s when someone takes clips from anime, takes a song, and makes a music video out of it. Plenty are serious, but others are not (for example, I saw an AMV where someone took clips from anime of women that looked like men and put it to Aerosmith’s “Dude Looks Like a Lady”. Priceless). So anyway, this panel was basically showing all of these weird WEIRD short AMV clips mashed together like a clip show. It was awesome. If it weren’t for the fact we were getting pretty tired, it would have been worth staying for the second hour.
I overslept on Sunday and missed “Women in Anime” (featuring the female guests talking about their experiences working in anime) and “Fanfic Dramatic Reading”, which looked interesting. I saw Christian for about thirty seconds before he had to go, and throughout the day ran into two more anime club people. I watched some of the “Anime Faceoff” game show panel, which was fun and made me wish I caught more of the game shows this weekend. Greg does a great game show voice (and, as we learned during “Anime Radio”, an amazing dead on Adam West).
I saw “History of Samurai Weapons” with Samurai Dan a bit later. If I learned anything this weekend, it’s that Samurai Dan is a character and very energetic. Both him and his wife put on some great panels. This one was, of course, going over the history of samurai weapons, and he showed us a few and explained their purposes. The neatest part was when he broke out the 700 year old samurai sword, and another that was nearly as old (he had been once offered $30k for the samurai sword, which he turned down, and the other one was only one of thirteen ever made). He told us the story behind how they came into possession of these two swords. He also made it clear he valued them over our lives, so no touchy.
I checked out a little bit of “Final Fantasy 13 / 13-2”, but without knowing much on the games it was going over my head. Nothing wrong with the panel for fans in the know, but it wasn’t for me. So I walked around a bit, saw the couple break-up, then watched some of “Motaku’s Most Talented”, which was basically a talent show. I didn’t see enough to comment on it one way or the other, but everyone seemed to enjoy it.
I went to the “Word to your Mother” panel, which was about the video game series “Mother” (or better known here as “Earthbound”). I enjoyed it and participated in the discussion, and even taught some of the other attendees something new.
Finally it was time for the closing ceremonies, which was basically just a big thanks to everyone. They revealed next year’s artwork for the con and the guy from “DBZ Abridged” said he plans on a “Bleach Abridged” series with hopes of debuting it at next year’s Motaku! Abridged series are usually pretty funny, so I look forward to seeing that.
For the most part, it was a very enjoyable con and I felt I got my money’s worth compared to last year. If you left a panel you didn’t get berated this year like they did last, so that was a plus, and there seemed to be fewer terrible panels (although to be fair, I may have just got lucky and picked the right ones. There are always three panels going at any given time).
The biggest complaint would have to be the dealer room, which is super small. This was an issue last year, too, but this year it was even worse because there were fewer actual anime booths. At least half the booths, if not more, were non-anime, such as weapons tables, leather goods (which I suppose fits into the “steampunk” category, but still…), movie posters, and video game vendors. There was also an artist smack dab in the middle of the room instead of out in the hall in Artist Alley, which screamed to me that they were trying to fill in holes. I honestly think I could have taken my stuff from my Bonanza booth and blown away half those booths in anime merchandise. I did manage to buy at least one thing, but it was still horribly disappointing. I know it’s a small convention, but if it’s big enough to host for three days, there really should be more dealers.
Still, a fun con and I got a lot of pictures that I’ll post soon. It makes me look forward to Japanfest in October and in particular Naka-Kon in February.