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FanimeCon 2005

I get odd phone calls sometimes.

"Do you want to go to Fanime?"
"Uh… sure… but I don’t want to pay for it."
"Don’t worry about it. I’ve got you covered. I just need you to do me a favor…"

I made a deal with a friend of mine to help run the beta version of the Manga Library (ML) during FanimeCon 2005 in exchange for a pass to the con and a room to stay. The full-featured version will debut at Anime Expo 2005 (AX) in a few weeks, so keep an eye out for it. Even though I hadn’t slept much over the week, going to an anime convention seemed like a good opportunity to catch up on some sleep.

Okay, maybe not.

Manga Library (beta) from FanimeCon 2005    Inside the Con from FanimeCon 2005

After a fitful sleep Friday night, we went to get badges for the convention Saturday morning which was a relatively quick and painless process. It would be a shame to start the day without a proper breakfast, but the closest thing was McDonald’s – "I’m lovin’ it?" Not really.

It was still early, so we took our time getting to the ML. For those of you still wondering what the Manga Library is, it’s as its name implies – you get to "check out" books and read them in the room (pic above, on the left) in exchange for your letting us "borrow" your badge.

"Waiting for a panel? Tired of watching anime or playing games? Grab a manga and chill for a bit at the Manga Library!"

Now, the only problem was that the ML was pretty far away from the rest of the action. While there were signs advertising the ML, they were, as they say, "out of sight, out of mind". Hopefully, they’ll put the ML in a relatively accessible location at AX which will give people the opportunity to peruse the various titles out there. Good idea, bad location.

Earlier, we decided that we’d work in 3 hour shifts – I was on the first shift (11am-2pm) to I could catch the game show in the afternoon (at 3pm). When I left, there was still a bit of time so I peeked in the Console Gaming Room which was actually larger than the one at AX. It’s sad to note that a convention with less than half the amount of attendees has a gaming room twice the size. It would bring a tear to my eye, but there wasn’t any doujin gaming going on – they both fail at the internet. ^_^

The schedule on the door for the Game Show said that it wouldn’t start until 4:30pm – chou mukatsuku! The Program Guide said that it would start at 3pm! I try not to dwell on things I can’t control so I went to look around in the dealer’s room.

Dealer's Room: Left from FanimeCon 2005    Dealer's Room: Right from FanimeCon 2005

I admit that the spacing of the two pictures above depicts the dealer’s room as a small place, but it really wasn’t that big. I estimate that it was about as big as the one for AX ’99 at the Disneyland Hotel. Of course, I wasn’t interested in buying that much, so my speed through the room must have contracted the actual distances perceived from my frame of reference. I saw a couple interesting things, but nothing that would make me say, "You know what, I really don’t need to eat this month…"

With plenty of time left, I strolled around the convention center getting the lay of the land and planning escape routes in case there was a sudden influx of rabid, unwashed otaku. Always prepare for the worst.

At around 4:00pm, I went to wait in line for the Game Show, then they let us in at 4:30pm. Of course, the show didn’t actually start until around 4:45, which wouldn’t have been such a big deal, it’s just that they didn’t plan for a slow start and had people from the audience get up on stage and do lame things to "entertain" the crowd. Sigh.

Fortunately, they had a game-show type program on a computer with an actual buzzer system that displayed the questions and scores on a large screen at the front for the audience to scrutinize – a system light-years ahead of the one used at AX the past couple years. It was also neat how they gave the contestants "nicknames" like "Shiny" or "Dr. Phil". As a final touch, some of the questions had random points assigned to them ranging from 63 to 764. Odd.

Of course, with the good comes the bad, and their selection of the audience members was similar to AX – random pointing in the crowd. I’m all for giving people a chance, but it isn’t anywhere near exciting to watch a bunch of people fumble answers. At least with a screening process, if I’m not picked to participate at least I’ll know why. Even worse, the "first half" of the show focused on the May 22nd lineup of Adult Swim. Bleh. I have nothing against Adult Swim, it’s just that I never watch it; this part of the show was completely lost on me. I would’ve left at that point, but I wanted to get in to play for the second half that they said would feature questions on "robots and ninjas."

As expected, I wasn’t "randomly" picked, but I stuck around anyway to see if it would improve, which it did. The second half was 42 times better than the first half. Even though the questions were easy, it was fun because two of the competitors were fast on the buzzer. This experience only increased my urge to participate in an anime trivia show. ;_;

Hunger made me temporarily forget.

Initial D Shopping Cart Cars from FanimeCon 2005    Sklathill working the crowd... from FanimeCon 2005

After a quick jaunt off to dinner, I returned, ready to stroll through the hallowed halls of anime fandom. I was almost run over by some Initial D fans who had dressed up shopping carts like the various cars from the series. Scary, yet funny.

Narrowly escaping, I randomly wandered the convention center, eventually ending up in various Video Rooms where they featured many fansubs and live-action Asian films. Unfortunately, the person who encoded the divx to mpeg2 for DVD didn’t resize the video – only the top half of the subs were visible. Tsk, tsk. Oh well, I give them an "A" for effort.

Later on, I hung out at the piano impressed by the small crowd that gathered around Sklathill. There were quite a few enthusiatic fans making me wish I knew how to play an instrument of some sort; I’m good at Queen of Heart ’99 and Party’s Breaker, but nobody cares about that. Oh well.

Lack of sleep started to kick in forcing me to hit the sack relatively early (~2am).

Roy Mustang: Captured! from FanimeCon 2005    Gathering of the Heroes from FanimeCon 2005

On Sunday, I took the early shift for the ML, hoping that I could make it to the second half of another Game Show; however, it ended at 1:30pm, and I didn’t get out until 2pm. Suck.

I decided to wander a bit more and ended up at the GTL panel – quite entertaining. I could talk a bit about it, but it’s better to see it for yourself if you get the chance. I was surprised that most people didn’t know the famous Konami cheat code. n00bs.

Immediately after that, there was a curious panel called "How to Talk to Girls". Girls run away when they gaze upon my hideous features, so that information is useless for one such as myself. I took off after a couple minutes and hung out in the Karaoke Room until dinner time.

I wanted to be at the Masquerade from the beginning, but dinner took longer than anticipated, so I ended up walking in halfway through the show with Sklathill. By a strange coincidence, as soon as we walked in, the speakers were blaring "Real Otaku Heroes" as if heralding our arrival (of course, no one noticed us). I believe they played all of them that night, but it seemed like the audience was getting tired of hearing them. I don’t blame them – they are relatively old and have a lot of repetition. I’d like to note that I had no idea that they would use them that much; I hope no one blames us for that.

To make things worse, the audio for the whole Masquerade was pretty bad. I could barely understand anything anyone said. Also, I wish they had two cameras showing different parts of the stage so I could take in all the action at once, especially with the larger groups. It wasn’t nearly as bad a setup as AX since there was an upper level with quite a bit of room, but I was too lazy to climb a few flights of stairs. The only other bad thing was that some of the skits seemed to go on forever. Less is more.

I wanted to hang out at the piano with Sklathill after that, but I had a bad cough at the time. I took a bit of a nap at around 10:30pm to recover a bit, but I was worse off than I thought since I didn’t wake up until 2:45am. The only reason I got up was because Sklathill had called over the walkie-talkie at the time saying what a weird night he had. I kicked myself for not being there. To make up for lost time, I went to hang out in the karaoke room until 6am. Sleep would’ve been a better choice, but Monday was pretty uneventful in the ML. This gave me a chance to catch up on a few Z’s behind the table of books.

Despite the small quibbles I mentioned, FanimeCon 2005 had a good "small con" feel reminiscent of the early days of AX.

I’d go again.