Friday, July 18, 2014

Ray Reports: Anime Expo 2014 - Day 2 and 3

Days 2 and 3 are the meat and potatoes of the convention, being the two full days of it. They saw me learning a valuable lesson about lining up for panels, as well as tending to a few gatherings and fandoms.

Day 2

Going through my usual morning routine, as well as having a peanut butter sandwich and a chicken sandwich for breakfast, I put on my Reimu cosplay for today, despite the gathering not being until the next day; I wasn't even gonna cosplay Reimu to the gathering; more on this in my Day 3 post.

I arrived at the convention center just before 10 or so, to find that the 3rd floor of the convention center, where the panel rooms are, was still closed, so I couldn't line up for Can I Kantai? You too can Teitoku!, an introductory panel for the personified-ship collectible card game Kantai Collection, so I wandered aimlessly for a bit. Once I could line up for panels, I did so as soon as possible, finding out that there was a panel prior to this one, which in a way is a blessing because it prevents people from lining up for subsequent panels in the same room, bypassing the need to wait hours to secure a seat for the panel.

As I waited in line, a couple of people lined up behind me recognized and took photos of my Reimu cosplay; it seems there's a strong overlap between the Touhou and KanKore fandoms, mostly due to concept: Touhou is about Eastern mythological beings given humanoid shape, and KanKore is about Japanese World War II battleships represented as heavily-armed human girls.

Once in the panel room, we were shown a few Flash videos illustrating the many, many characters/ships found within the game, as well as a cursory explanation of the game mechanics and some manga adaptations of the game. I had hoped that the panelists would get around to explaining how to set up an account and start playing like advertised in the panel description, as the game is unfortunately region-locked and requires tools to play outside of Japan, mostly the instructions boiled down to a plug for the KanColle Wiki and some tools to use to assist in playing the game. Additionally, the panelists were using a few inside jokes and player habits without explanation, which does not bode well for someone like me who has next to no knowledge of how to play. It wasn't a terrible panel, and the panelists certainly were knowledgable and passionate about the subject, but I felt that it could've been made into a more beginner-friendly panel.

That said, the panel did spur me to learn a bit more about the game, and this was the first convention in which I started taking photos of KanKore cosplayers--mostly those of Shimakaze, Kongou, and Tenryuu, as those were the characters I was most familiar with.

There wasn't much else for me to do for the rest of the day. I met up with a couple friends of the CCB staff for dinner at a restaurant down the street, where we indulged in some carne asada fries. I did not attend the Kill la Kill concert, but my friends told me some rather amazing things about it.

I joined them back to the convention center, and as I did so, we caught sight of the LoveLive gathering, which was around 8 PM or so. LoveLive is an equal parts idol game and rhythm game that, while having been available in Japan for some time, only recently got an international, English-language release, and this release in particular has helped the game achieve a cult following on this side of the Pacific.

With not much else to do for the night, I went back to my room to wrap up.

Day 3

Day 3 would see me scrambling around a bit, attending two gatherings and two panels.

I got into my cosplay of Renko Usami from Touhou--you may recall my thoughts of cosplaying this character in my FanimeCon 2014 report, so no need to mention that in detail here. As before, I wanted to bring an obscure character from the series to light, and the Touhou gathering on this day was the perfect opportunity for that. Unfortunately, I encountered a few snags with this cosplay, as I will detail in a few paragraphs.

First order of business was to attend the crossplay gathering, whcih was at 11 AM. Turnout was rather small, with the cosplayers in attendance being entirely males dressed as females like me, although it was still nice getting to meet fellow crossplayers for a little bit.

The gathering ended less than half an hour later, leaving me free to attend the Japanese Video Games: Shmups panel, hosted by STG Weekly and sponsored by Rockin' Android, a doujin/indie publisher known for publishing numerous 2D shooter games such as the Suguri series and Cloudphobia. The panel started off by explaining the basic concepts of 2D shooters, then asked audience members if they could identifty a series of 2D shooters from screenshots, to see if anyone had at least some passing familiarity with the genre. After demonstrating various examples, with me being the only one in the audience who managed to identify every single one, the panelists went on to explore various concepts of the shoot-em-up genre and why it was appealing, detailing things such as the concept of skills in one shooter translating to skills in another shooter and the genre's appeal to those pressed for time (a full run lasts about 15-30 minutes).

Afterwards, one of the panelists, Tobias "Softdrink" Heinemann, stepped up to do a live demonstration of Ketsui, a bullet hell shooter by CAVE. Starting a run from the very beginning of the game, Softdrink met his goal by not only completing one loop of the game, but also unlocking the difficult second loop, impressing the audience with his abilities.

Overall, I found the panel to be quite satisfactory, if only because I was a fan of the genre and was glad to see the genre being presented to audiences in the hopes of getting a few new players into it.

It is here that I would like to draw a few comparisons and parallels between the Kantai Collection panel from the day before and the shmups panel from this day. Both panels share similar goals: introducing the audience to a game or game genre. While I am a fan of 2D shooters--and have been for over 10 years--I'm a complete newcomer to KanKore, so it would be difficult for me to make unbiased comparisons between the two panels. Perhaps this is why I was confused by the KanKore panel, yet enjoyed the shmups panel--if I was a KanKore fan and a shmups newcomer, perhaps I would think highly of the former panel and be confused over the latter panel. Though to be fair, both panels had very different approaches on two different topics, and thus may necessitate differences in presentation style--the KanKore panel was a bit more lighthearted, while the shmups panel focused on being direct.

At any rate, I left the panel, and I went to go get lunch and lurk around the exhibitor's hall for some time until 4 PM, when the Touhou gathering took place.

However, a little confusion sprung up. The initial gathering site was outside on the stairs near one of the West Hall exits, but I was confused, as only a few Touhou cosplayers were present. I soon found out that the gathering had moved across the street by the South Hall, and I only caught wind of this due to a Facebook post--not a particularly good way to mass-communicate with gathering attendees, but perhaps the best way, as we didn't have all of the attendees' phone numbers.

Despite this, the gathering at its updated location had a fair turnout, although I had problems with my Renko cosplay; the hat was too small to fit over my wig which I was wearing, which was a source of headaches when I tried to pose with it. I had to tend to a friend of mine who was in ill condition, so I had no time to socialize with the SoCal Touhou scene. There's always next year, I suppose.

After spending some time with said friend, I, once more in the name of comedy derived from adult material, attempted to line up for the Voice Acting with Hentai panel. The panel was scheduled for 10:30 PM, so I arrived at the panel room around 7:30 PM, only to find that the line had not started yet as there was line for a panel before, thereby preventing anyone from lining up for Voice Acting, much to my relief. I was told to come back at 9 PM, which I did.

The line was confusing to keep up with--after spending roughly an hour sitting where I was in line, we moved outside to the bridge over the street, then stood there for some time before going into the panel room.

As this was an 18+ panel, I'll keep the description of the panel brief: For each round, the panelists would pick volunteers from the audience to dub lines from various adult anime. While I was never picked to do a part, fun times were had all around--one volunteer in particular, who stated that he was not good with English, opted to do his lines in French, which was a rather creative and humorous solution. Unfortunately, the panel was only 1 hour long, and that one hour flew by fast. The panelists hope to get a 2-hour timeslot next year, and quite frankly I share the sentiment, as one hour was not enough to get the most out of this panel.

Once out of the panel room, there once again was a deficiency of things to do, so I made back for the hotel to prepare for the final day of the convention.

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