Pictures by DiamondMox
This was my first con experience, anime or not, and my primary reason for going was to see anime that is currently not licensed in the US. My con experience was probably not what most of the readers of this go for, so I'll put all the anime comments at the end to make them easier to skip.
I arrived at the hotel late on Friday, spending rather more time stuck in Dallas traffic than I had planned for. There was enough rain to slow things down and get me stuck in the early rush hour, even on a toll road. The hotel was easy to locate, and once there things went smoothly. I got checked in, signed in with the con (I had pre-registered), and hooked up with a couple other Austin Anime Heretics.
Preregistration for the con got me a nice packet which included copies of all the winning fanfic contest entries. Considering that preregistration prices are cheaper than at-the-door, I highly recommend taking advantage of it.
The hotel itself, the Hotel Inter-Continental Dallas, is fairly nice,
but nothing spectacular. I never used room service, so I can't comment
on that, but the maid service seemed to be handled well. The rooms were
given at least a basic cleaning each day, and I encountered no problems
with them. This is a very good hotel for this convention, but I could
get no confirmation on where AnimeFest would be held next year. While
speaking with one of the representatives I learned that the con had grown
greatly in the past few years, so it may be outgrowing the hotel. The
Cosplay competition and Boa concert were certainly straining the capacity
of the largest available room, and the dealer room was full for most of
the weekend. Several showings in the video rooms were overflowing as well.
After getting signed in I checked out the dealer room. I hadn't planned on spending any money there (and almost succeeded) over the weekend, so I didn't spend a whole lot of time there. The first day it wasn't full yet, but there was a good selection of videos, manga, models, cels, and toys, as well as a couple of dealers selling jewelry and weapons. Over the weekend the dealer tables did fill up, and there was a pretty good amount of traffic every time I went in, so they must be doing something right. I did see some things that tempted me, at least until I found out the prices. I didn't manage to resist purchasing some Pocky, which makes a great video-viewing snack.
I never really checked out the J-Pop room or the Battletech games. The former I know nothing about, and it's been a long time since I've played any Battletech. I'll just note that they were there, and seemed well attended.
I missed the fanfic awards, but since the con packet included texts of the winners, I did get to read some stories. There were definitely some good fics there. I did check out the fanart room, and there were some good pieces, but nothing that struck me as truly outstanding. The fanart display room also wasn't full, and it didn't seem to be a major part of the con.
The opening ceremony wasn't anywhere near as long as scheduled. A few announcements were read, then the performers came out. They seemed rather popular, but I wasn't too impressed. Ceremonial drum music, however well performed, just isn't my thing.
The Boa concert was definitely one of the high spots of the convention, and was well worth the price of preregistration on its own. That's not to say things went perfectly. There was a rather long delay, nearly an hour, before the concert started. They were having some technical difficulties, not having all the necessary converters for the band's Roland D50 keyboard. Unfortunately, this wasn't fully resolved, so we ended up with no Paul Turrell for the duration of the concert. This resulted in several attempts by the audience to call him out on to stage, but he didn't show until after the concert was over and most of the crowd had left.
This also effected the playlist, as there were some songs they didn't want to do without the keyboards. The songs are listed below in the order they were played.
During the concert there was a nice projector set up, running Lain episodes. They just ran the episodes straight through, but they synchronized quite well with the music played. I've seen a couple AMV creators comment on how well Lain worked with music, and there does seem to be some sort of rhythm underlying the show. The question is how much of it was intentional.
The band was great. They obviously don't take themselves too seriously.
Before the concert got moving they offered a couple possible names for
the band if Boa were an acronym (no, it isn't), including Bunch Of Alcoholics.
Jasmine hung around after the concert for a signing session, with everyone
besides her brother Paul (the other Paul) making an appearance.
Cosplay was the other big event, and like the others it got started a bit late. Boa, except for Jasmine and her brother, were judges for the event, as were Steve Bennet and Scott McNeil. I tried to get the names of the winners, but the con staff wasn't able to get them to me in time for this, so all I can do is give the character name.
The children's awards were given out to:
a Sailor Moon,
a Card Captor Sakura,
and a Samurai Jack: The Early Years team (Jack and Aku).
A special award, a Dragonball Z book, was given by Scott
(The voice of Picollo) McNeil to Goku, who did a short Dragonball Z parody.
I know, "short" and "Dragonball Z" don't go together,
but that's what he was pointing out. "Aaaaaaaaaaaaah! Four episodes later...
Another award, a Gundam Wing video, was given to a very
well done Rei.
A Hitomi and Merle team got an Escaflowne video and Blue
A non-amine showing, Link of Zelda, was also given an
Sailor Moon and Sailor Venus were given a Miyu video
and a CCS video.
A group combining Lain, Final Fantasy 9, CCS, and Utena
was also given a set of prizes, but I wasn't able to see what.
Another CCS cosplayer (popular choice this year, no surprise)
was given a CCS doll.
Junjun of Sailor Moon got Best Costume.
Best overall was given to a Vash and Wolfwood team.
This was mostly what I was after this time around. I've done some (very) brief reviews and commentaries on the what I saw there. Starting with my top picks from the con:
Comic Party. It's about a normal high school kid who's good at drawing. His friend Taishi gets him interested in doujinshi, and stage-manages getting him sucked into otakudom. Very good series, lots of great relationship drama as it shows the effects on his schoolwork and girlfriend, as well as the new relationships he forms. (Taishi makes me think of what the child of Excel and Illpalazzo would be like. Not only does he look right, he seems to have the right mix of Excel's energy and Ilparrazo's laziness, Excel's unique way of carrying out her missions -- minus the destruction -- and Illpalazzo's bizzare plots to take over the world.)
Great Teacher Onizuka. It's about a guy who runs a major bike gang who decides he's going to be a teacher... so he can hit on high-school girls. Simple premise, complex story, very good results.
Infinite Ryvius. It's basically a science-fiction version of "Lord of the Flies", about a group of navigation students in the future who have to fend for themselves after all their teachers are killed during a problem on their orbital (around Jupiter, IIRC) school. I definitely expect this one to be picked up sooner or later.
Kiko-chan's Smile. This will not be to everyone's taste... it's about a very precocious 4 year old girl. She's quite smart, very athletic (in certain ways), and also incredibly silent (one of the ongoing plots is her teacher's battle to get her to say good morning instead of writing it down somewhere). The story's quite amusing, but I can see how a lot of people won't like it. This one will never make a US release, as it never even received a full release on tape in Japan. Only 12 of the 51 episodes were ever put out on tape. Luckily, a fansub group has 49 of the episodes, so we may see the whole series available eventually.
Noir. It's about a pair of incredibly deadly assassins who together form a mythical team (named, of course, Noir). Both are female, one is quite young and remembers absolutely nothing of her past. Quite violent, but almost no blood is shown, and they manage to have that not detract at all. Good series, excellent soundtrack, and ADV is supposedly negotiating the rights. The R2 DVDs on this are anamorphic, and the original show was apparently broadcast in HD. Good signs for image quality, so let's hope ADV doesn't mess up the transfer.
Sister Princess. What happens when the number 1 student fails the entrance exam for the only high school he applies to? In this case, he ends up getting basically kidnapped off to another high school ("accepted by recommendation"), where he suddenly finds out he has younger sisters. Lots of them. This is the story of him trying to cope with this, and there's something going on in the background that wasn't fully explained in the five eps I saw. Very good show, pretty touching, definite buy if you like shojo.
These didn't make the top picks for various reasons, but for most of
them it was simply because I didn't see enough of them to get a good handle
on the quality. There's a lot of good anime out in Japan, and we can only
hope that most of it eventually makes the transition to the states.
Alien 9. Interesting looking sci-fi/comedy, but they only showed one episode. It's a kind of odd premise, in that there's some (unexplained in the 1st ep) problem with aliens showing up on school grounds, and a small group of students has been chosen to deal with them. The students involved get alien symbiots to help them, which they have to wear on their heads. Unfortunately for the main character, who has a horrible dread of being touched by aliens, she was chosen for the post from her class. Looks pretty good, but one ep is hard to judge.
Angelic Layer. Didn't see too much of this one, but it can be summed up as Clamp does battlebots. Seemed pretty decent, but got overridden by a higher priority, namely the cosplay competition.
Animation Runner Kuromi-chan. It's a one-episode OVA (although apparently two more are being made now) about the trials of getting an anime episode done. Good story, as novice Kurmoi has to take over the production schedule mere weeks before it's due, and everything is running late. I don't expect an R1 DVD, but the R2 does have English subtitles, and the sequels will be done as R0 DVDs.
Da, Da, Da! Cutesy and odd tale, about two (unrelated) kids who end up living together and taking care of an alien baby and his pet baby-sitter.
I, My, Me, Strawberry Eggs. Only had one episode there, but it was pretty interesting. It was about a guy trying to get a job as a phys-ed teacher. Only problem is needs a job NOW, and the only available one is at a school that only hires female teachers. Lucky for him, his landlady has a grudge against the school's headmistress, and helps him disguise himself as a woman so he can get the job... This one's supposedly being released by Pioneer in R2, so we'll probably see an R1 release as well.
Kamikaze Kaitou Jeane. Magical girls show with a not too unusual premise. The main character is a reincarnation of Joan of Arc, and it's her duty to run around "sealing" demons. Unfortunately for her, these demons hide themselves in beautiful objects of art, and when they're sealed the art objects disappear. This means she's being rather heavily chased by the police, including one of her best friends (the daughter of one of the policemen).
Mahou Senshi Riui. Fantasy comedy adventure. Main characters are a group of female adventurers who end up having to take on a male sorcerer as a team member for various reasons. Only problem is the only available sorcerer seems to be happier (and better at) hitting things than casting spells. Decent series, not as good as Slayers from what I've seen. ADV supposedly has the rights to this.
Read or Die. Heard this one was good, only managed to catch part of one episode.
Risky-Safety. When Katsuragi Moeh (the main character, a young girl) is feeling suicidally depressed after she finds her boyfriend cheating on her, an apprentice angel of death (Risky) shows up to take her life. Things don't go quite as Risky planned, however, and Moeh ends up cheering up. When she does so Risky is transformed into an apprentice angel (Safety) who tries to keep her cheered up. As the moods (not necessarily Moeh's) swing back and forth, there are several abrupt transformations between the two. Pretty amusing, although there is a danger of overdosing on cuteness in the Safety scenes. I don't know what they're dosing that poor voice-actress with...
Super Radical Gag Family (Urayasu Tekkin Kazoku). South Park on crack. If you ever liked South Park, this is probably a show for you. It's about a group of kids (and their families) in much the same way South Park is, only ever so much more so.
Trouble Chocolate. Only saw part of this one, but it looks interesting. Magic is a reality in this world, and when one of the teachers at a local school is trying to impress someone into joining the class something goes wrong... various forms of small-scale magic mayhem are involved, most having to do with collector's cards from chocolate bars.
That's all from AnimeFest 2001. Hopefully I'll be at UshiCon 2002, and I can already see several things to look for that I wasn't paying attention to last time. Hope to see you there.
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