Monday, March 28, 2016

Anime Boston 2016 Round-Up

After fighting off a few waves of post-convention depression (Also known as PCD), I have finally summoned the strength in me to put this together. If you were not among those who attended (Or have no idea what I'm even talking about), Sunday, March 27th marked the end of 2016's Anime Boston. And, to summarize in just a few words, it was pretty radical. So, obviously, I am only one human being and thus was incapable of attending every single panel and event the convention had to offer -- so if I don't cover something you were looking forward to reading about (Cough, cough, the masquerade), I apologize. Maybe.

So, a little backstory before I get into the meat and potatoes of this year's AB -- I originally wasn't going to come this time around. Anime Boston is quite a hefty drive and consumes a large chunk of change, especially when you have less than $1000 to your name. But...then those jerks in charge of booking the musical guests locked in nano.Ripe and literally forced me to drop my prior arrangements in order to attend the band I have wanted to see more than literally anyone else ever (And that's coming from someone whose been to well over 100 concerts of all varieties). And what's even more suspicious about that is that year PRIOR, Anime Boston booked LiSA (Who was second place in my ranking of "Performances I must see before I die"). In fact, I remember directly saying last year, "Wow! The only thing that would be better than LiSA is nano.Ripe!" So, hat's off to you, Anime Boston. If you guys book Amazarashi or Supercell next year I will have ascertained that you are literally stalking my Twitter page in an effort to take all the money I have left.

Okay, let's start talking about actual convention stuff and not just my feelings on the greatest J-Indie band of all time (nano.Ripe).

Friday (March 25th):
First thing's first -- thank god I picked up my badge of Thursday. I walked into the Sheraton around 10:00PM or so and the line for those who pre-registered online and needed to pick up their badges was essentially long enough to fill the entire dealers' room. BUT, according to a friend of mine who actually had to wait in that line, it really wasn't all that bad. The formation seemed fine and, apparently, it moved pretty quickly. Also, I was totally digging the light-up registration booths that emanated different colors depending on what exactly yo were supposed to do at each one. That was cool. If I had another hat, I'd take it off again (See paragraph 2).

Sentai Filmworks Industry Panel and the Defiant Powerpoint Presentation:
Industry panels are pretty self-explanatory at this point in time. People show up, marketing/PR department shows you what's going down in their respective company, Q&A happens, etc. And while the Sentai reps were as bubbly and entertaining as always, the announcements were a bit underwhelming. However, the crowd definitely lit up with the announced acquisition of "Haven't You Heard? I'm Sakamoto," a recent fan-favorite. Apart from that, more titles like Ushio & Tora, Azumanga Daioh, and several others were teased. But the most interesting part of the panel would actually be the defiant powerpoint presentation that never wanted to listen to Sentai Filmworks. Though it was funny at first, the whole scenario just turned out being a little awkward when things weren't progressing the way they should. With that in mind, the Sentai reps weren't at fault for this and did all they could to push things along briskly. Sometimes computers are just jerks.

Aniplex of America Industry Panel and the Kaori Miyazono Pin:
This panel marks the first time I ever won anything at a convention. And if you couldn't tell from the bolded text above me, the item in question was a button featuring Your Lie In April's boisterous violinist, Kaori Miyazono. So, after knocking some cosplayer's basket of Easter eggs over, I made my way up to Aniplex's marketing specialist, Alex Crum, and gladly claimed the button. Then, I would knock the same exact basket of Easter eggs over on the way back to my seat. I am an awkward and terrible person. Apart from the button and the spilled eggs, Aniplex once again boasted a surprising list of beautiful box sets coming in the near future, with titles like: Durarara xWhatever season it's on now, Anthem of the Heart, and (My personal favorite) Plastic Memories. What I've learned from that last title is that Aniplex has really been enjoying making people cry lately. After another Q&A and some more giveaways and announcements, the panel ended and I set off on a typical cliche writer's venture to find an oversized cup of coffee.

Your Lie In April Live-Drawing and Me Being Way Too Lucky in One Day:
After the oversized cup of coffee was claimed in the name of me, I made my way over to what would soon be one of the greatest panels I have attended to this day -- the Your Lie In April live-drawing and Q&A with the original Japanese director and character designers, Kyohei Ishiguro and Yukiko Aikei, respectively. The bulk of this panel revolved around Ishiguro-san and Aikei-san answering both premade and impromptu questions. After the translator (Who I just want to say was pretty damn great) relayed the questions back to the Japanese staff, they would reply with incredibly informed and enlightened responses that kept myself, as well as the rest of the crowd, entertained through the entire panel. Eventually, the tides would turn and Ishiguro-san would be the one asking the questions. One particular question of his, however, wound up being perhaps the most pivotal moment of the entire panel. That was, "Which character from the series do you most relate to?" Fighting the urge to raise my hand and declare why I believe Tsubaki is the most relatable character of the series, each response from each fan called upon spiraled into an emotional support-group type moment in which people poured their hearts out to Ishiguro and Aikei, ultimately thanking them for everything they've done. And now, the moment we've all been waiting for...the giveaways. In addition to the four live-drawings from Aikei-san, signed copies of the scripts for episode #21 and #22 were both added to the list of items that would be taken home by lucky crowd members. And, WHAT DO YOU KNOW, I won the signed copy of episode #21's script! Everything after this moment was consumed by the mass amount of happiness my body had taken on that I can't even remember how the panel ended. SORRY GUYS.

The nano.Ripe Concert and the Line I Have Been Waiting For:
And so came the most important moment of the day -- the moment I have waited years for. Finally seeing nano.Ripe was such a remarkable experience for me that it is actually hard for me to write about. I will say, however, that it wasn't just me that was immensely compelled by the moment. As soon as nano.Ripe took the stage and the first chords of "Toumei No Sekai" from Glasslip rang out, the crowd erupted into an exciting and memorable moment filled with an intensity that could be felt throughout the entire room. That feeling carried on for the entire hour they played. The only thing I would have changed about it would have to be expanding the show's duration from one hour to...I don't know, six or something. I also want to point out how in-love I am with Kimiko and her inability to speak or understand English. I think my heart fell out.

ALI Project and....Dude, I Don't Even Know:
After a short half-hour intermission following the end of nano.Ripe's concert, ALI Project took the stage and then...things happened. In fact, everything happened. And nothing happened. The mood in the room shifted from hype to confusion so quickly that only the people seated in front of stage-left were standing up. No one was even moving really, just looking at each other. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for dark and gothic material...but something about ALI Project's mystifyingly slow burn of a performance was a bit too much for the bulk of the crowd. They didn't even look like they were enjoying it themselves. I went from wanting to stay to see that one song from Another to, "We need to leave right now," in a matter of minutes. Anything after the first two songs, I can not tell you about. I was getting in line for MangaGamer.

MangaGamer and That One Yuri Visual Novel With the Ghosts:
If there is anything I'm totally into, it's dead lesbian girls. Wait, what? MangaGamer is one of the most active developers in terms of English-translated visual novels -- one of the lesser known Japanese entertainment mediums in American society. This panel basically played out the way you'd expect any industry panel to play out. Announcements, current titles, Q&A, giveaways, and horny dudes. Okay, maybe that last part isn't present in EVERY industry panel. But I guess that's just an added bonus for MangaGamer's stuff. Anyway, apart from the normal reiteration of current titles and things of that nature, there was one thing that served as a giant step forward in terms of making an impact on the VN market. That was the announcement of the yuri visual novel Kindred Spirits on the Roof being uncensored on the Steam marketplace -- which, for those of you that don't know, is a gigantic feat. In addition to that, MG also announced that they would be creating games for the drama CD's that originally accompanied the Japanese release of the game, which is yet ANOTHER huge feat. The developers have definitely taken an impressive step forward in the last year or so.

Saturday (March 26th):
Okay, day two. Let's do this. After a very...interesting morning (Which I am absolutely not going to talk about because reasons), I grabbed a Lyft to the convention center with literally less than one hour until our very own Fandom Post panel was slated to begin. When I arrived at said convention center, the line to actually enter the damn place was so incredibly long that if I had actually waited in it, I wouldn't have made it inside until the panel was already over. So, after talking with a staff member about whether or not the word "Press" on my badge was enough to get me inside, I was, in fact, allowed past the line and booked it toward to room 206 so I could go talk about stuff with Chris and the other Fandom Post people as well as you beautiful readers.

The Fandom Post Panel and the Awesome People That Showed Up To Ask Us Questions and Take Our Anime:
For the first time in my career (And what I believe is the 1,956,327th time in Chris Beveridge's), I was able to help hold a Q&A/Discussion panel and, as expected, it went really well! Apart from finally meeting some of the team that I've been writing alongside, I finally got to meet some of YOU guys! That's right, YOU! Anyway, it was great answering all of the questions you had and bonding with you over the hour and half we got to hang out for. Also, it was great to finally publicly express my distaste for Ghibli and see the looks on all of your faces! (Evil laugh). No, but really, it was a great experience that was both informative and fun for everyone involved. It's always great meeting the people that keep you going. So thanks, guys. Hope to see you whenever the next Fandom Post panel is. In the meantime, keep reading!

Your Lie In April Launch Party and Erica Lindbeck's Fantastic Hair:
No really, her hair was fantastic. Some of the best I've seen. 10/10. On another note, it was great to once again witness the spectacle that is Your Lie In April alongside some of the creative staff. Filling an entire auditorium with people that can sympathize with and relate to a series as special as this one is truly something great. This was the first time that the English cast and the Japanese staff got to meet on stage and seeing the parallels between them is definitely something I will remember. Also, watching both sides of the spectrum communicate with and applaud each other really shaped out to be a lesson to everyone. There are a lot of people out there who belittle dubbed anime and refuse to watch anything that isn't in the original Japanese language. But when the actual director from the Japanese series is up there proclaiming how phenomenal the English version is, I think it shows that some people are just being a little narrow-minded. I've mentioned it before, but the English version of Your Lie In April is one of the best dub performances I have ever seen -- and it really allows us to relate to the series on another level. And when you have a show as expansive and important as this one, well, that's just another reason to fall in love with it. One more thing before moving on -- I just want to applaud the girl from the crowd who shared her tragic experience with the rest of the audience (As well as the staff) in an attempt to show us just how much this series can mean. As if the show itself wasn't tear-inducing enough, that went and happened and literally everyone started digging into their exclusive Your Lie In April tissues that were hilariously passed out at the beginning of the event. Thumbs up to Aniplex for being prepared.

All About That Ecchi and Fanservice but Were Afraid To Ask and What are the Staff Even Doing?:
Okay, first off, what is up with that panel title? It doesn't even make sense. There weren't even any questions that were answered, let alone asked for the entire hour this thing took up. The most bewildering part of all of it, though, was how the staff awkwardly forced us all into filling in rows the way they would for main events...but there were only like 30 people and a good 200 seats. Why? I don't understand. So after looking around anxiously for a good five minutes, everyone just got up and moved around and the staff completely ignored the fact that their mishap made everyone ever feel uncomfortable. In fact, that made us feel even more uncomfortable than the next hour of watching borderline-hentai clips did. This panel could be broken down into 50 minutes worth of three (Yes, only three) very-long ecchi clips with literally zero commentary throughout. The first five minutes, on the other hand, was the panelist rattling off different terms for different types of fanservice that made it seem like we were going to have a vocabulary quiz at the end of the damn panel. BUT THEN THOSE TERMS AREN'T EVEN MENTIONED AGAIN SO WHY WERE THEY BROUGHT UP TO BEGIN WITH? Were those the questions we were afraid to ask? Why would we even be afraid of asking them? Why is your panel title so long? Why is everyone drinking Diet Pepsi? This was a mess and I can't even remember why I went. The panelist himself was a lot less awkward than you would imagine, though. I feel like he could definitely throw something solid together if he put effort into it. For this, though? Nope.

Greg Ayres Raw And Uncensored and Exactly What I Expected:
The line was too long so we didn't go.

Sunday (March 27th):
Sunday is basically just a day to finish up shopping in the dealers' room and artists' alley. Everyone knows this. You wake up super early and pack everything up because hotels make you check out by noon so the morning is always rushed and blah blah blah. However, this year, something cool happened that made mornings feel even MORE rushed. That was...

The Kiznaiver World Premiere at 5:30 AM and the Free Bagel for 100 People:
There is no way I am waking up at 5:00 AM. My friend went, though -- he said it was cool.

The Kiznaiver Rebroadcast at 11:00 AM and No, This Is Not the Line for Cosplay Chess:
That's more like it. This is a time where I can actually exist. I actually wound up rushing over to Hall D for this nearly two hours before it started because I assumed it would be packed considering the popularity of Studio Trigger. But...there was basically no one there. And barely anyone would even show up. I mean, there were a lot of factors determining the success of this event (The 5:30 showing, Easter Sunday, dealers' room rush, etc) but, really? There were less than a hundred people in line even when it fully developed. Instead, people kept coming up to us and asking, "Hey, is this the line for Cosplay Chess?" Dude, what even is Cosplay Chess? So we looked it up -- it doesn't even follow the rules of normal chess! You can lose the king and still win! Why are so many people going to this event and not seeing this cool anime about people who share pain or whatever!? Anyway, the anime itself was actually pretty solid. In fact, it might wind up being my favorite from Trigger if it keeps on its current path. After Kiznaiver ended, we were greeted with another premiere -- Anne Happy. At this point, pretty much half the crowd left because dedicated Trigger fans only care about Trigger and that's it. Regardless, Anne Happy was cute, funny, and basically everything you'd expect from a series centered around middle school girls. The question is, can it drag out its running joke of unluckiness for an entire season?

The TL;DR Part:
Anime Boston 2016 was a step up in many ways for the convention. The staff was significantly better this year in terms of line management considering how much of a mess it was in 2015. (Flashbacks to the mosh-pit autograph line for LiSA). nano.Ripe put on one of the best shows I have ever seen and completely rocked the auditorium and dominated Friday night. The mall was less packed than usual and even the Starbucks in it seemed to manage its lines pretty well. The dealers' room could have definitely fit some more booths in there, but the lack thereof definitely made it easier to navigate. Of course, that comes at the expense of having less things to buy. The artists' alley, on the other hand, seemed pretty packed most of the time with more condensed booths than last year. The convention hall, itself, faced no major changes in layout and was still easy to navigate. In fact, I'd say Anime Boston is the best I've been to in terms of navigation. Panels, this year, seemed a bit less diverse and the videos played before main events were rather unlikable, as far as I'm concerned. But overall, the experience was still great and Anime Boston continues to be one of my personal favorite conventions. Here are a few bolded topics to put an end to this round-up.

Best Event: nano.Ripe Concert
Best Panel: Your Lie In April Live-Drawing
Best Purchase: Goodnight PunPun Vol. #01
Best Free Thing: Your Lie In April Poster (Launch Party)
Best Place To Eat: Wagamama
Best Dealer: New England Comics/Aniplex
Best Artist: Tanya Zolotareva

I'm looking forward to seeing all of you at Anime Boston next year when they once again announce a musical guest that I will have no other choice but to go see!

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