Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Year End Review

Now that it's the end of the year, I thought of doing a year-end report to discuss all the conventions I have gone to this year and what I felt from each one. I first want to thank my associates Matt, Ryan, Zanney, Avi, Erica and Jared for allowing me to work with them on these blogs. Had I not met Matt or Ryan, I would not have been able to do these blogs.

Anyways, I shall start with a general overview of the conventions and gatherings for this year, starting with ALA. This was my third con I did, but I was starting to get into the swing of things.

What I look for at a con are several factors. I look at the cosplay, and how well done they are, the general feeling of the convention, if I was bored and didn't do much, what kind of venues they had, and what guests they have. At the end of each con, I ask myself the question, is this con worth going to next year, and what would I change about it? Depending on what the answer is, that's how I rate the cons.

Now for my individual analysis of each convention.

Anime LA is one of my favorites in the sense it's a great con to relax and meet with friends and do shenanigans. Although I wasn't officially part of the blog yet and not quite understanding of the convention culture and norms, it was a fun con where I got to meet several of the other cosplayers that I hang out with occasionally at later cons. Anime LA doesn't have the big venues like Fanime and Anime Expo, and its more about everyone just hanging out and having a good time. Overall, this would be tied in third place with Anime Expo, which I will explain later.

Fanime had met my expectations and then some. From what I heard from my contacts in Nor Cal, it was one of the best, if not the best in the northern half. I had the chance to finally go this year and it was really fun. Partially because this was the only con that explicitly stated that they had events and arcade that went 24 hours non-stop. There was so much going on at any time but I was not necessarily in a hurry like I was at AX. All the venues they had, from the Artist Alley to Game room and Dealer's Hall, had excellent merchandise. Fanime definitely ranks as one of my favorite cons of this year.

Anime Expo, the big venue. Unfortunately, after Fanime, it didn't seem as fun and was more tedious because Matt and Ryan dragged me around to do signings and such. I found out that next time, we wouldn't we able to do those signings again because it was simply too much work. I didn't even know some of these guests and while I said I would help them out, I found out that sitting in the panel for an hour and then having to run over to get two signatures and waiting in line for so long didn't seem worth it. While being the largest con, it is by no means my favorite nor one that I truly enjoyed. The main thing with Expo was of course the new leadership, but also the feeling that this was more tedious than Fanime, even though Expo is only two minutes from where I live. Plus the staff was much more strict as the feeling stems from the fact that Expo is more industry based while Fanime is more about hanging out with friends. Overall, while the first time it was good, second time around wasn't as fun and next year is still a toss up.

Anime Vegas was really fun for me considering it was one of the conventions on my list that I had to do. I noticed that a lot of the FUNimation voice actors was going to be there and Johnny Yong Bosch was going to be there as well. This was the first con where I really wanted to do signatures and meet Voice actors because I haven't done it yet at any other con. While the location was a drawback as well as the heat, being able to get the signatures from all the people that I wanted to made the con for me. There was some drama towards the end from what I've heard, but it wasn't anything big. All else being equal, Vegas has got to come in as second place.

PMX was also a small little con that was more of a 'cool down' than anything else. Since I wasn't planning to do much other than take pictures and hang out with friends, I don't really expect much and wasn't expecting much to begin with. I was asked to take pictures and help organize an impromptu Touhou gathering and take pictures which was sorta cool. The only thing that stood out was of course Hetalia, in which Tally and some of her friends practically begged me to run the gathering to which I reluctantly agreed. Afterwards we got together a small group of friends and started just chatting about Hetalia, which was pretty nice as a cool down. PMX is there as just something to take my mind off things, but that's about it.

And now, I will announce my favorite convention overall this year. Taking all the factors into account, cost, the general feeling of the culture and the other attendees, the cosplay, and panels and the concerts, my favorite con for this year has got to be......Fanime. Fanime just had everything I wanted. It was the convention that we spent the most time preparing for and the most time we spent at any convention. I bought my tickets a bit late, but that doesn't matter. On day zero alone, we were already getting pictures and hanging out with the other cosplayers. On the first day, we did everything from taking photos to doing a chess tournament and of course, the FLOW concert. That alone made the convention for me. If only Anime Expo got Orange Range then it may have been on par, but since they didn't, Fanime ranks as my favorite con because everything was as perfect as it could be.

The general feeling of the staff was that they were not as stuck up and strict as they were at AX, the panels were fairly decent, the cosplay was well done and I felt that I could really enjoy the con.

This was my first year where I've gone to almost all the major cons around the So Cal area, and its definitely something that I want to keep doing if I can for as long as can.

Peace out!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Zanney's 2010 - The End of a Decade & The Start of Something New

It's December, 2010. The tail-end of a decade that a lot of people never dreamed they'd live to see. My grandmother is one of them, although I think she'll live to be 200, what with how hardcore she is. Someone pushing 97 who teaches Yoga, shoots straight vodka, smokes a pack a day and walks everywhere she goes has got to be something close to immortal, in my opinion.

Longevity runs in my family, it seems. Maybe that's why through the entirety of the crazy roller-coaster that was this past year in my life I still haven't offed myself. Brushed with death a couple times, but nowhere closer than that. Plus, that bus came out of nowhere so fast not even Spiderman couldn't have seen it!

Joking aside, I started dabbling in Numerology a little while ago, simply because there are some weird coincidences in life and sometimes I pick out numbers or other things that can be applied to them. For example, this is my twenty-second year. The number 22, when applied to tarot cards and the major arcana, represents The Fool. From this, I've tied in a fandom I got into just before the end of 2009--Shin Megami Tensei and more specifically, Persona 3.

I find it both ironic and meaningful that I'll begin the new year by unveiling my first female character cosplay in a long time, and that she happens to be the female protagonist of Persona 3 Portable who is represented by The Fool arcana and has the Roman numeral for 22 pinned up in her hair.

Wikipedia's article tells us that the symbolism of The Fool is the search for new experiences and "the childlike ability to tune into the inner workings of the world" and many pictures drawn of The Fool show him preparing for a journey.

This past summer I woke up one morning and decided to buy a passport and by mid-August I was on my way to British Columbia, Canada in search of the answers to countless questions within myself. It was my very first time outside of the United States and I can tell you that I'm definitely gonna go back for Anime Evolution again and again. In Canada, I saw more trees in one square mile than I had ever seen in my entire life! I got to nurture my inner cowboy-nerd at the BC Cowboy Hall of Fame, took a day trip in Barkerville, a historical town on the Yukon Gold Rush Trail, discovered what it truly meant to do something I wanted to do for myself because I felt like it.

And before the summer, I did a lot of other things for the first time. Going backwards from August, I worked at the SoCal Host Club for the first time at Anime Expo. In May, I attended FanimeCon and had my own hotel (to share) for the first time, took Amtrak to con for the first time, cosplayed as a Steampunk variation of a character I liked, made new friends, collapsed from fatigue and had an air tube shoved up my nose by a paramedic on-site, took initiative, told someone off, made someone cry, started a fight, got really really close to punching somebody...

While some of these weren't very positive experiences, that was what the spring and summer of 2010 were like for me. The beginning of the year was equally full of new experiences, what with the Olympics taking place in Vancouver, world records being broken all over the place, making a few new friends here and there, voice acting and writing crack fan fiction simply because I could. Anime Los Angeles was my first time staffing the graveyard shift, my first time being a karaoke jockey, my first time having a panic attack in front of people, my first time being interviewed for television in costume (not that they ever actually posted that video clip...) and my first time realizing that most of my friends still think like middle school students despite being 20-somethings.

So at the tail end of 2010, in which I turned 22 years old and experienced all sorts of new and exciting things, I can honestly say I learned a lot. These are lessons I'll keep with me for a long time, even if I don't cosplay when I'm middle-aged. I think I'll still be very interested in the Blogosphere, since the media continues to lean more and more toward digital. Someday maybe I'll be a professional journalist, but right now I'm perfectly content writing a blog together with my friends here at CaliConBlog.

I'm so grateful to Matt, the website founder, who invited me to join the staff after I did a satisfactory job at the SoCal Host Club panel at Anime Expo 2010. I owe him a lot for rescuing my Fanime group in May, offering us rides and some extra food and being a really nice guy. But before that, I'd been talking to him and Ryan online, long before I was able to remember which cosplayer was HeeroYuy135 or RyuSon777. I was just Cosplay Cyborg to them at the time. Some really enthusiastic girl that Matt just so happened to take a picture of at Anime Los Angeles 2010, I guess.

It was entirely by chance that I stumbled upon the photo from the blog by doing a google search of the character I was cosplaying as. I don't even know how I wound up in a search engine what with how popular Canada-san from Hetalia is nowadays, but that photo led me to this blog and from there I was able to get Matt's contact info.

At times like this, I don't proudly claim that I'm lucky and that my impulsive decisions are what make me who I am and all that other glorified nonsense I tend to spout when I'm excited about something. Instead, I turn to a wise woman from the CLAMP universe:

"There are no coincidences in this world. Only hitsuzen."

Yuuko Ichihara is one of my all-time favorite characters, and I bet you readers can already see why. The concept of hitsuzen is simple--everything is predetermined, and it is so for a meaningful reason. You might not realize it right away, but that reason will someday become more than just a reason. Coming full-circle from Yuuko's favorite saying to Persona 3's favorite theme, the butterfly effect, the choices I made in the last year were all fairly risky, even sometime rash and not very wise at all. But they are what brought me to this moment today--December 28th, 2010--when Matt asked me to write about this past year in conventions.

The Fool is also represented by the number zero. Rather than looking back at what I did last year or the year before or any year previous, I like to start each new year with fresh white sheet of paper, so I will start 2011 not by looking back at what I've done anymore, but by looking toward what I want to do, what I can do and what I will do someday very soon.

Let's begin again~

Matthew's Convention Year In Review 2010

As we approach the end of 2010, I look back to what an amazing year it's been. This was really the year when the California Conventions Blog expanded to places that I never thought I would show up to - Anime Los Angeles, Anime Expo, and Anime Vegas. FanimeCon will always be a staple of my convention year, and for the first time I did not attend a single Sac-Anime and only one Sac-Con - and that was the last convention that I went to in 2010. This is weird considering that I live in Sacramento, but for the most part work prevented me from going to the majority of the Sac-Cons.

I never thought that I would have staff members in 2010, but I added five new members and I'm always finding people who are interested in joining the California Conventions Blog staff. I was hoping to find more artists that can "brighten up" the blog and unfortunately the Banner Contest did not go as planned since no one submitted for the contest. So for now positions for artists and designers (especially web designers) are open, and if anyone is interested my e-mail is on the sidebar.

I said in my Con Year In Review 2009 that "this was a 'year of firsts,'" and I was right - I would say that again next year. From staffers to new conventions to full-blown video coverage, there is always room for new experiences that me and the staff can take away as the blog moves along.

I'll be honest: there weren't as many "at the con problems" as much as there were "real-life problems and issues that became at the con problems." As much as we want to ignore the outside world and all our problems at con, we have to deal with mistakes that we make and issues that we have with one another. I wouldn't say that this alone put a damper on the 2010 con season, but again it's those new experiences on how to handle things so that when it happens in 2011 it can be quickly diffused and the convention can go on without a hitch.

What will the 2011 con season bring? Well, I hope more conventions for one. There are prospects of Sakura-Con in Washington and Otakon in Maryland in addition to the many cons in California and Nevada - maybe even Arizona and Oregon? Adding more staff will be a priority as the blog continues to expand, and I can foresee a huge overhaul of the blog in 2011 especially if I add staffers who are experienced in web design and coding. The big thing in 2011 though will be the California Conventions Blog entering its 5th year, and FanimeCon 2011 will be the 5th anniversary. I don't know how I want to celebrate at FanimeCon 2011 but I know for sure I want to make it big.

That does it for my Con Year In Review 2010. From all of us here at the California Convention Blog, have a wonderful new year and a successful 2011!

Monday, December 20, 2010

End of the Year Reports and a Banner Contest Reminder

First off, there is a week left in the Banner Contest! Check out the page here for all the details, and be sure to submit by 8:59PM PST/11:59PM EST on Sunday!

We are also in the last two weeks of 2010, and soon we'll be in 2011 and a new con season. This means the staff here at the California Conventions Blog will be rolling out their End of the Year Reports. I will be rolling out my report next week, and from my colleagues they will be rolling theirs out soon. Keep an eye for everyone's report and have a safe and happy holiday!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Junpei's White Mocha

I mentioned in my Sac-Con December 2010 report that I had a custom-made Junpei key chain made for me.

Well, here's that key chain on top of a Starbucks cup that has Junpei's name on it. OK, I asked them to put his name on it when they asked for my name. The sad thing is when I got to school I washed it out and when I got back home put it on my anime shelf as a sort of testament to my cosplayed character.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Deleting Photo Albums

To prepare for the 2011 Con Season, I'm clearing out my Photobucket to reserve space for incoming photos. This means that a lot of old Sac-Anime and Sac-Con photo albums are being deleted but are saved to my external hard drive. If anyone wants to see those photos again please let me know and I will be happy to send you a copy.

Thank you for your understanding.

Sac-Con December 2010: Con Report

It's been a year and a half since I last came to a Sacramento convention, and from one cosplayer that I talked to things have changed...a lot. It was nice to see old faces in a familiar setting while taking my new skills and attributes back to my roots of conventioning.

I was there pretty early, almost an hour before the con even opened. This would allow me to lock up my interviews with Laura Bailey and Jason Dube as well as Laura's autograph for my Persona 4 merchandise.

Unfortunately, my video camera needed to be cleaned from the inside (I would later find out that I need to clean the tape head, thanks Robo!) so I went old-school with a pad and pencil. It also allowed me to take notes while I was at the con. I used this con as a training ground for the 2011 con season.

Over at the Dealers Room, I saw some interesting vendors. This one had a coin-operated 10-in-1 NES cabinet. The folks over at Armageddon Potato Games gave me some free play, which I thanked them, then I came back later with a dollar bill to play some more. There was also a comic book dealer that was selling a one-of-a-kind hip-hop comic book series that was the first and only of its kind for over 20 years full of Kanye West, Wu-Tang Clan, and Rick James references. I actually did buy something: a Persona 3 and 4 key chain, which happened to be Orpheus, Minato's starting Persona. With Edward Elric from Full Metal Alchemist getting rusty, I gave away that key chain to a random attendee. I would later go back to that dealers to buy another with a dollar discount and I got Teddie. I did take a quick glance at the Charity Auction, but I didn't buy anything which is a rarity for me.

I also bought a custom Junpei key chain from one of the local artists that were outside. On the front it has Junpei and on the back it has his hat logo. It cost me $4 and I threw in an extra dollar. Thanks for the folks over at Digital-Love for making it!

Over at the Games Room, the people in attendance and I had discussions about last night's Spike Video Game Awards show and the video game industry in general over the pickings of Street Fighter, BlazBlue, Tekken, and Super Smash Brothers Brawl. I also had the first people who recognized me as Junpei from Persona 3, and I talked to them for a bit about the game. I would frequent the room throughout the day.

I was in and out of the Laura Bailey Q&A, but I caught a few of the audience's questions. She said her favorite character was Shin from Shin-Chan, and provided a couple of quotes from that series. She also mentioned work on Street Fighter 4 as Chun-Li and was surprised that she was auditioning for that role because she didn't know originally what she was auditioning for and that she was the only one who recognized Chun-Li from the provided artwork the auditioners provided. There were discussions about how voice actors in original animation like The Simpsons and Family Guy get paid than their anime counterparts because of syndication & the fact that they get paid more for each episode aired in syndication, and how she wanted to be BECK and Mass Effect 2 with a mention that she loves Dragon Age alongside the Final Fantasy and Mass Effect franchises.

During the Laura Bailey Q&A, I caught up with Hikaru Kazushime of Run Around Kazu, another person that I met back at Sac-Anime Summer 2009 and most recently at the FanimeCon Staff Meeting back in January. It was nice catching up with him, and like the cosplayer I mentioned before he told me that a lot had changed.

I went back to Laura's Q&A to hear about accent training and doing research for accuracy before taking off for lunch. I thought there was going to be food available like most Sac-Cons to pair with my one sandwich and a bottle of Gatorade, but there was none so I stuck with what I had. I also saw Team LoveHate's cars outside.

By 3pm the con was already slowing down, and I wanted to see the Masquerade which was supposed to start in an hour. But in fact, it had already started and I got there late.

This has to be the shortest Masquerade that I've ever been to with only 5 entries.

With the con almost dead and done, I went back to Laura Bailey to jokingly ask if she was going to invite me to their wedding since she's engaged to Travis Willingham, and we again shared a couple of laughs. Then I got one last signature for Zanney as Minako before saying good bye for everyone and calling it a day.

It's always fun to come back to where I first started all of this, a laid back and relaxing con where I don't have to worry about running gatherings and Host Clubs and juggling more while hanging out with people that I've grown to more. I wish I could come back to more Sacramento conventions in the near future, and that might me a possibility starting with Kintoki-Con in June 2011.

[Photo Gallery]

Sac-Con December 2010: Interviews with Laura Bailey and Jason Dube

I had the chance to interview both Laura Bailey and Jason Dube over at Sac-Con today, and it was a great experience.

I asked Laura what it was like working on both Persona 4 as Rise and Persona 3 Portable as the Female Protagonist also known as Minako - the same person Zanney is cosplaying. She said that it was really cool to work on such an awesome franchise. She mentioned that her work on Persona 4 got her the role in Persona 3 Portable, and after meeting the producers behind the games they felt that she fit the role as the character. It was noted later in her Q&A session that it was interesting to do Rise and that she was reprising her role as Lust from Full Metal Alchemist. I told her that Vic Mignogna was also in Persona 3 Portable as Junpei and that added to her list of games that he didn't know he was in that she's voiced in, the other being Disgaea 3. I told her that if Travis Willingham was in Persona 3 Portable that we'd have a Full Metal Alchemist reunion, and we both shared a laugh.

As for Jason, it's been a year and a half since I talked to him at Sac-Anime Summer 2009. A lot has changed as he has established a number of milestones. He has completed the Caffeine Poisoned series, and he established the Sacramento Comicbook Creators Group, or SCCG for short. As of now there are 150 members within SCCG, and they meet once a week. The members come from all walks of life to the point when art teachers are joining the group. Originally it was three people at his house meeting once a week, and after a Craigslist ad the group attendance doubled it all went North from there. All of these people have a common goal: to succeed in the industry and to give back to the community. Twice a year they have a comic book jam, which is a collaboration between all the members of SCCG. They are also raising money and toys for Toys for Tots by holding an art charity auction and toy drive at Empire's Comics Vault on December 18th from 11am to 8pm. People who cannot make it to the event can go to the Livestream feed that day and bid as if they where at the event. I mentioned some of the charity that cosplayers has done such as NYC Hetalia group and UNICEF, and he told me that they are cosplayers in the group who draw comics and want to give back to their communities.

I would like to thank Laura Bailey and Jason Dube for taking their time out during the con today to answer my questions, and I hope to do more interviews in the near future.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Zanney & the APHWorldConference Auditions

The great thing about the staff members here at the California Conventions Blog is that we have our own separate projects that we do. Most of us, not including myself, can draw and produce artwork. As a group, me, Ryan, and Zanney are part of the SoCal Host Club. Zanney has done some solo fan projects and fan dubs that can be seen on YouTube.

Which brings me to the APHWorldConference, which recently opened up more characters for cosplayers to fill. As of now, they are taking auditions for a number of characters, one of them being Canada.

This is Zanney's audition.

Wish her luck as she attempts to join the ranks of the APHWorldConference!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Zanney's Con Jams [Anime LA 2011]

I myself like to have more upbeat stuff for con. While I love anime soundtracks as much as the next anime fan, there's so much J-music at a con that I start to miss my good ol' native tongue. Here are my top three choices for this upcoming event.

I'll probably start off my convention experience this year with the theme from the opening credits of Casino Royale since I plan to be everywhere and nowhere for Anime L.A. this time--like any good spy.

This one goes out to any and all convention drama-related anything. Just as a precautionary method. Personally, I like this song in general for simply being what it is--oh so cheerfully pissed off!

And because no con can ever be completed without the regularly prescribed dose of Lady Gaga tunes, I like to keep this remix at the top of my playlist. It's so upbeat that I really CAN'T stop dancing to it.

And those are my three song picks for Anime L.A. 2011!

Themes of Anime Los Angeles 7: Group Tamashii - Tamashii no Sake

The last of three themes for Anime Los Angeles 7 is pretty much self-explanatory. But for those who won't get it, me and Zanney will be cosplaying from Persona 3...I'll let you figure out the other part.

Themes of Anime Los Angeles 7: Dilated Peoples - Back Again

The second of three themes for Anime Los Angeles 7 shows that I'm back again after a successful ALA 6.

Themes of Anime Los Angeles 7: Paul Oakenfold and M-PROJECT

This is the first of three themes for Anime Los Angeles 7, which is about in a month. Given that ALA 7 is going to get a lot more busier than the 1st ALA that I went to, I like some uptempo music that will get me going through the day.

Enter Paul Oakenfold and M-PROJECT.