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FanimeCon 2006

I didn’t decide to go to FanimeCon 2006 until the end of April when Vince said he wanted to go to Fanime. I had a bit of free time, so I said I would go. Unfortunately, the local Eternal Fighter Zero and Melty Blood Re•ACT players were having a gathering that same weekend. I was tempted to cancel going to Fanime, but I had already promised to split the cost for the hotel. As Ohba Eimi would say, “Chou mukatsuku!”

Damn promises, ruining people’s lives…

A conversation at Curry House highlighted a fundamental question about going to Fanime: “Why are you going to Fanime?”

Other than the fact that I had a bit of free time, I honestly didn’t know.

Last year was easy because I had a sense of purpose: run the Manga Library. This year, I wasn’t too interested in the guests or any of the activities that they had up. I thought about having a space to hang around and play doujin games and seeing if people would play me. On the Friday night that I arrived, I wanted to stay up late and game till the crack of dawn; however, my body vehemently protested to such a foolish plan. There was a time when I didn’t have to sleep every day of the week, but that time has long since passed…

Saturday, May 27th, 2006

I got a brisk 3 hours of sleep and then strolled over to register for the con. The process was pretty quick and painless – a definite plus in my book. My only complaint was that they didn’t have any paper schedules in the bag of goodies they handed out after registering. D’oh! Fortunately, they had free wireless near the Hilton so I was able to download the schedule. I was sated until I took a look at the schedule. The pdf of the schedule made it very difficult to read. I had to zoom in to around 300% to read the text, but, at that level of zoom, the layout made it difficult to correlate the event location and time. Grrrr. After picking a few events that seemed interesting, I went to the first stop on the list, the Game Show with Scott Rux (co-author of the Anime Trivia Quizbook 2).

People were supposed to email ahead of time to get on the show, but they only had 2 out of 4 spots filled. I asked to be on the show, and the only requirement for me to get on the show was the following conversation:

“What is your favorite anime and why?”
Gunbuster. It has Gainax, Mikimoto, and it was also…”
“Okay, you’re on.”

Shrugging my shoulders, I headed up to the stage to sit in the second seat. When he was picking nicknames, I made the mistake of asking to be called “The Spatula”. I should have just said my name and let my friends in the audience suggest my nickname. To demonstrate his authority (and perhaps irritate me), he called me “Spork”. Damn that Scott Rux. I knew the answers to all the questions except one, but I was too slow to answer. Speed is an issue. Next time, I’ll hit the buzzer as soon as the choices pop up, then guess from the choices. This is a dangerous way of playing, but they give the person who buzzes in a lot of time to answer. The problem with the multiple choice format is that it makes it easier for the people to guess the answer. I suppose this makes for a faster game, but I would prefer if you just had to answer straight from memory. All in all, a decent experience, but I still had a couple gripes.

My first gripe is that the questions were assigned random points that varied from 36 points up to 512, and you didn’t know what the question was worth until after the question appeared. If I knew ahead of time, then I could use this to see if I should bother hitting the buzzer early.

Another gripe is the prizes were pretty lame. The first place winner got the complete DVD set of The World of Narue (not too bad), I got a large plastic Tyrannosaurus Rex, and the third place winner got a DVD of BEAVIS AND BUTT-HEAD DO AMERICA. My only consolation was that the third place winner traded her DVD with my T-Rex because she already has that DVD. I suppose it wasn’t a total loss. Strangely enough, the ranking was the same as our seat order – Dragonball, Spork, Care Bear, Near Losers. Coincidence?

In another twist of fate, the Near Losers were named that because they said that they each placed 3rd when they played last year. With a name like that, nobody was surprised when they came in last…

I felt a bit down because I didn’t stomp the competition into the ground, so I wandered over to the dealer’s room. I was hoping that I could find some interesting bauble to distract me from mentally berating myself. Of course, the fact that I have steadily bought less and less from the Dealer’s Room at cons over the last 6 years made this prospect unlikely. Nothing caught my eye, so I decided to take a look inside the E-gaming room which was amazingly sparse (see the two pics below).

E-Gaming 1 from FanimeCon 2006   E-Gaming 2 at FanimeCon 2006

Regarding the space, this was a huge improvement over last year where the same equipment was stuffed into a room that was way too small. Last year, the E-gaming room was hot and smelly due to the closed space and poor circulation. I was pleasantly surprised by the vast amount of space set aside for this activity. Given the relative emptiness of the room, they should have put a couple other things in there, so attendees could check out a couple things at once and save time wandering around the con. Inefficient use of space seemed to be a common theme at Fanime – rooms were either too small or too large for the various events. This affected my perception of the convention space and the people around me. Last year, the Artist’s Alley was in the large pathway that ran between the Mariott and the Hilton, and that helped give a cohesive feel to the con.

There wasn’t anything particularly interesting in the E-gaming room, so I hung out a bit in the Internet Cafe playing some Eternal Fighter Zero, hoping that a random person would challenge me. No such luck.

I had a bit of a headache because I didn’t eat much over the past 14 hours, so we went to get some food at the Sonoma Chicken Coop. After eating lunch, I went back to the hotel room to take a nap until 5pm, hoping my migrane would subside. The nap didn’t really help, so I popped over to Video 2 to take a look at Studio 4c: Sweet Punch, but it was a bit too weird for my tastes. I tried to catch a bit of This is Otakudom, but the ending credits were rolling by the time I got there. I wandered around a bit and eventually ended up at the Hirameki panel.

I met up with the gang, and we all sat in the middle of the first row. The presentation had some interesting facts about visual novels, but the presenter lacked personal knowledge about the subject. I give him an “A” for hard work and courage, and an “A+” for giving away a bag of goodies. The bag contained a bunch of candies, a giant Pocky, two fans, and a raffle ticket. Even if you didn’t win one of the main prizes, you could still use the raffle ticket to take 50% off the price of one game if you bought two games from Hirameki in the Dealer’s Room. Nice.

During his PowerPoint presentation, one slide had pictures with the Leaf / Aquaplus games Shizuku, Kizuato, and To Heart. When he asked if anyone knew anything about these games, my hand shot up, and I gave a relatively brief description of each of the three games. Looking back on it, I probably went into too much detail and scared some of the audience. It was worth alienating my fellow fans since I received a nice figure of Multi for my efforts (next to a USB Flash Drive for comparison).

Multi prize from FanimeCon 2006 next to USB flash drive    Kafra cosplayer at FanimeCon 2006    Saber cosplayer at FanimeCon 2006

I didn’t win anything from the raffle, but I had an interesting discussion with a fellow named Kent “Prisoner” Keltner about various things related to topics on his website. He had a ton of interesting stories about dating sims and Momoi Haruko, but I was itching to hit some other panels. When it seemed that he was primarily focused on talking to Vince, I wandered off to the Pocky – The Gateway Snack panel.

I was curious to see how they could possibly talk about Pocky for an hour, but it turned out that the title was a last minute name change because the original title was too long to fit in the box in the schedule. The panel was just four people who were talking about the current state of fandom and wasn’t anything too exciting. Damn misleading names. I was hoping to get some free Pocky…

I wandered a bit more and stumbled upon two guys playing Melty Blood Re•ACT.

“So, you guys play this game much?”
“We just started an hour ago.”


I played a round, but I didn’t have to try so I decided to leave them alone and look for them later. I never did see them again…

Normally, I would have stayed around to play longer, but I had planned to go to the How to Talk to Girls – Lingerie Edition panel at 11:30pm. The promise of scantily clad women talking frankly about relationships seemed curious enough. I wasn’t too surprised to see a line to get into the room. The panel itself wasn’t anything I hadn’t already heard on Love Line a hundred times, so I took off in the middle of it. I felt sad that I gave up an opportunity to play doujin games to listen to women in their lingerie. Shame on me.

Sunday, May 28th, 2006

Hoping to cleanse my palate, I strolled on over to Midnight Madness in Video 8. The room was so packed that it made me wonder why they didn’t swap rooms with the Hajime no Ippo showing in Video 1, which was at least five times as big. You’d think that such a “traditional” event would have a larger room for more people to enjoy it. Also, I didn’t notice earlier, but in these smaller rooms, it’s difficult to see the subtitles if you’re in any row except the first row. Simple solution: reduce the picture size and tilt the projector up a bit. Who cares if the picture doesn’t fill the entire screen? Being able to read the subs takes precedence!

Moving right along, I caught the last 15 min. of the True Naruto Style Movie made by the demented mind(s) over at Hi Speed – disturbing, but humorous. After the movie, they spent about 30 minutes trying to fix the equipment for the next show. The audience started to lose patience and degenerated into a free-for all on the stage in front of the screen. “Midnight Madness” indeed.

Fortunately, they started to show This is Otakudom before I started to drop kick the more disruptive individuals. This is Otakudom was great if only for the fact that it brought back memories of an earlier, more innocent time in my anime fandom. After that, they played the True Naruto Style Movie over again so I was able to watch the rest of it. The first part was even more disturbing. I didn’t want to end the night with a vision of Temari and Kankuro singing A Whole New World very badly, but when you gotta sleep, you gotta sleep.

To avoid getting a headache from lack of food again, I got some breakfast over at McDonald’s. I tried to save some money by bringing my own snacks and water, but I realized the foolishness of that way of thinking. At cons, I probably use more energy running around doing stuff than most other times of the year. Eating right is hard to do, but it’s necessary to keep up with the faster pace.

After sating my deep hunger, I waited in line for Studio Sokodei‘s Nescaflowne. I was pretty early, so I pulled out my laptop and fired up Melty Blood Re•ACT. I’m glad I did because someone asked to play, but he wasn’t used to playing with a USB Saturn Pad. He said he usually uses a stick, so it was hard to gauge his skill level. We only played one match since he was just passing by. I never did see him again.

Not to be discouraged, I fired up Eternal Fighter Zero to get some much needed practice. Before I knew it, someone else asked to play saying he played it before. He seemed unfamiliar with the game, and he admitted that he had only played the first one. Sigh. Useful opponents were unavailable, but my disappointment was quickly forgotten after watching Nescaflowne. I spotted some tidebreakers in a scene from the last episode of the TV series; I just have to borrow someone’s DVDs now…

I had accepted the fact that Fanboy Bebop wasn’t on the schedule, but the guys from Studio Sokodei said that they would forgo some of the time from their panel to show it. Very nice. There was only an hour before they would show it so we started another line for their panel. I had someone save a place in line for me, then I went over to the Hirameki booth and used my raffle ticket to get a copy of Ever 17 for only $17. Ironic? Fanboy Bebop was similar in structure to This is Otakudom, and it was interesting to compare the perception of anime fandom from a newer generation. The parody of AX as ASUX was quite amusing.

On my way to the Sonoma Chicken Coop for refueling, I noticed Cloud from Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children waiting at the crosswalk (below). You’d think that a guy like Cloud wouldn’t need to wait for the light to cross the street when he could probably shrug off getting hit by a car. It’s reassuring to see that, despite being so powerful, he obeys the law.

Cloud Strife cosplayer waiting for the crosswalk at FanimeCon 2006

Next stop was the Anime Intellectual panel headed by Gilles Poitras. Since I aspire to have something intelligent to say about anime at some point in my life, I thought I could pick up some hints. He spoke mostly about his books, and two of his favorite anime Maison Ikkoku and City Hunter – the usual suspects. When asked about new anime that he was interested in, he said Angel Heart and Top wo Nerae 2! (Die Buster). Angel Heart makes sense since it’s a sequel to City Hunter, but Die Buster seemed like an odd choice. I asked him why he picked Die Buster, and he said he thought it was well-made and he enjoyed the original. As a fellow fan of Gunbuster, I’m willing to give the sequel a try.

There wasn’t much time left before they started seating for the Masquerade, so I strolled around the Dealer’s Room for a bit before waiting in line. I thought that we had a pretty decent spot in line, but Vince, Joe, and I ended up a couple rows back from the middle. An hour early isn’t enough. Decent camerawork almost made up for my obstructed view. Almost. If you’ve ever sat near the front row, it’s tough to go back.

The Masquerade was mostly forgettable, and I sat there wondering why I alotted so much of my time for this particular event. The audio was a bit better than last year, but some of the entries had garbled audio. People really need to check their recordings before handing it over to the people in charge. I did enjoy the AMV Hold me now by Tidirium Studio. I’m tempted to watch Princess Tutu now. Tabun.

Monday, May 29th, 2006

I did a bit more wandering around the con after that, got a snack at the worst Jack in the Box I’ve ever seen, then hung out a bit at the internet cafe before catching a couple episodes of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. I felt bad because some of Nathan’s friends were really tired, and they only caught the tail end of the third episode – some slept and another left near the start of the fourth episode. I think it’s best to read Volume 1 of the novels (English translation here) before watching the anime to get the most out of it.

It was checkout day at our hotel, so I skipped breakfast in order to get all of our stuff out of the hotel room in time. I think I would’ve been more active in the con if our hotel was one of the two that are attached to the convention center. Our last minute plans forced us into a hotel across the street. I gotta learn how to plan ahead better…

Even though I’m not over 30, I thought it would be interesting to go to the Anime Fans Over 30 panel to listen to the older-types talk about the “good ol’ days”. Gilles Poitras was, once again, pitching City Hunter as a good show that everyone should watch. I was a bit surprised to hear an older woman (50’s perhaps?) say that she loves Fullmetal Alchemist, and that she sometimes watches anime at work. As I listened to them talk, I wondered if I would still be into anime as much 10 or 20 years down the road. I’m not sure.

Finally, I took one last look around the Dealer’s Room before heading over to the Old School Games panel run by a guy from Rooster Teeth Productions. It was somewhat interesting, but he didn’t have anything prepared since they asked him to do it at the last-minute. Most of the time was spent talking about games people used to play. It was curious when he blamed the Dreamcast’s death on people pirating games. Oh well, we all make mistakes sometimes. I felt sad that I missed RahXephon: Pluralitas Concetio (the movie).

Even though I had nothing planned going in, I was still able to do quite a few things while there. I was a bit torn between playing doujin games and going to events; my curiosity to see new things won out over my desire to beat on people. There should be a place in the E-gaming room where I could play people in my favorite doujin games so I wouldn’t have to carry around my massive laptop.

I’m not sure if I’m going again next year, but if I do, I’ll make sure to plan a bit earlier and be careful of schedule conflicts…

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