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Otakon 2008

Another great Otakon, huge Otakon, and boy am I getting old (but still having fun). Fanboi nonsense was fairly minimal (no one got hospitalized this year, I think) and fangirl screaming also seemed under control, or I avoided it. It was kind of an odd lineup of anime and events--not a whole lot of "must see" for me walking into the door (and the one "must see thing for me, the first four eps of Slayers Revolution, got cancelled, unfortunately)--but I ended up watching a lot of good stuff.

Panel attendance was very light for me this year, but the one I did catch was the Q&A with voice director and actor Taliesin Jaffe. He used to do a lot of stuff for Geneon, and since that folded, Funimation wisely snapped him up. He's an excellent director (he's responsible for the fantastic R.O.D the TV dub, which I managed to say to him that I appreciated his work), though I haven't seen him do a lot of extensive voice work, folks familiar with Hellsing among other things will probably know of him.

My only criticism of Mr. Jaffe is a petty one, but I feel the need to note: please, Mr. Jaffe, if you read this, please do yourself a favor and get rid of the 'do. The last time I saw a sorta-topknot like that was on a 12-year-old skaterboi in 1987, no joke. You admit yourself you're trying to "connect with the younger crowd" but honey, a haircut like that on a 33 year old man makes you look like a clueless 45 year old. Shave it off--a stubbly shaven head is a timeless look and will look cool while also making it much easier for those influenced by first physical impressions to take you seriously. Thank you.

Back to the substance: Jaffe touched briefly on some differences between Geneon and Funimation, and noted that Funimation is a lot more "together"--the recording department knows the art department knows the translation department etc. etc. so there's not only more cameraderie but more coordination. That's a good insight as to one of the reasons why Funi is doing so well when we've lost so many North American/English translation distributors--they're just put together well. It also sounds like they are all very dedicated and enthusiastic. Jaffe also shared his theory that one of the reasons Geneon USA shut down was because it tended to put out "niche" animation (of course, all the anime I liked... R.O.D, Kamichu!, etc.). I think he has a point there--Geneon didn't have its own FMA or Naruto, but at the same time I think there's other issues as well; I think Jaffe himself indirectly (and probably unintentionally) made clear that Geneon had some internal intercommunication problems... or perhaps not problems, but it was less internally familiar and coherent than a company like Funi: Geneon was weak at the seams.

I also personally maintain that one of the reasons Geneon USA fell was just because its marketing was terrible. They really failed to tout shows widely, get them aired on major cable channels like Cartoon Network (despite Pioneer's early success with getting Tenchi Muyo! on Toonami), nor did they produce much merchandise (even very cheap stuff) for a lot of their shows, at least that I could ever see. They made a lot of very obvious and lazy mistakes like failing to update the official Websites for their shows, even the more popular ones (the R.O.D the TV Website--which finished being released in its entirety three years ago--still only has the preorder information for the first volume, and a large number of slots on the site reading "description coming soon")--and I remember when volume 7 came out I encountered a number of fans who didn't even realize the release was complete. If Geneon couldn't afford to do things like update Websites (let alone, I don't know, clearly advertise release dates), then it's obvious they spread themselves too thin and it's no wonder they collapsed. A shame, but fortunately Funimation has picked up a lot of Geneon's lost titles (the big to-do Jaffe was at Otakon for was the release of Hellsing: Ultimate, and Funi is also releasing Black Lagoon--yay!).

Of course, piracy is also a problem for ANY anime distribution company, and it's all the more rampant these days with torrent downloading and even Youtube uploads. I honestly have no problem with a little bit of copying and uploading here and there--I got into several series was because someone gave me an mpeg of an anime so I could get a taste of it for free, but then when I determined that I liked it, I went out and bought the legitimate version. A lot of people aren't following up with the monetary support, and then wondering why all the official releases are going away. Duh, people! You have to support the industry if you want it to succeed. I have heard (but yes, I am too lazy to provide you research right now, but I encourage you to check it out if you're interested) that even Japan is noticing a drop in sales... and that means less anime for us too. Maybe the anime popularity boom in the 90s and 00s will become an anime drought in another 10 years. Hopefully not, but...

It's scary, the difference between Otakon last year and this year--the Industry Room in 2007 was filled with HUGE stalls from Geneon, Bandai, Funi, ADV and many smaller distributors (and I can't remember if CPM was dead at that point or not, though in previous years they were also part of the fanfare). This year, it was just Bandai and Funimation. And the only other fully operating North American distributor that I know of is RightStuf's Nozomi Entertainment, who's been picking up the slack for the more "niche" animes (yay! they're putting out Maria-sama ga Miteru!!!). RightStuf can afford to do that, I am guessing, since they also get a good profit from all the other product distribution they do.

So do Bandai, Funimation, and Nozumi and all the other distributors out there a favor, my friends, and BUY their stuff, or maybe one day we'll be scrabbling for out-of-print copies of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya the way some folks are now for Geneon titles. And no more Anime Network, and Crispin Freeman will have to resort to being an "additional voice" for Disney Movies! No!!!! Don't let that happen! Like a starving catgirl you find mewling at your doorstep, please support your local anime distributor.

But enough of the PSAs and the lectures! Let's get to the anime!

The big thing, I guess, is Otakon showed all 14 episodes of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, so I have now seen the much touted and hyped animation it seems everyone is talking about. It's on the surface a fairly typical seinen style high school adventure, but within is a wonderfully tongue-in-cheek goofball story. It's about a bossy, energetic eccentric gal who longs to meet aliens, psychics, and time travlers and forms a club to do so. Of course, beside the too-sane sarky male protagonist, the other three members of the club ARE in fact an alien, a psychic, and a time traveler, but they can't tell her or they're afraid she'll make reality implode. Generally, it's a lot of fun. The only thing I found somewhat disturbing was Haruhi's continued harrassment of the cute girl Asahina--that's a sort of "humor" I just can't get into. Seeing it in an anime like that is far from surprising, however. All in all though, a good deal of fun and I'd say at least worth Netflixing.

The anime I really fell in love with was a rather unusual one that will never ever see anything close to the popularity of Haruhi... it was called Victorian Romance Emma. Basically, as far as I can tell, the creators caught a marathon of a BBC historical drama and decided to make their own version, but since they didn't have any English actors to hand, made it a cartoon instead. That said, it is a truly delightful historical drama and sweet romance, about a Victorian maid-of-all-work who falls in love with her employer's former student, and he with her. There's a lot of class conflict of course, but I like that it deals with varying degrees of the middle and working classes rather than the more stereotypical lord-loves-the-peasant story. I also like that, oh so rare in anime, it's a romance involving ADULTS and there's very little sighing and whining... just some very sweet courtship going on, and an awesome supporting cast. I expect to see the BBC work with Japan on creating a live action version (including Maggie Smith as Emma's employer, the retired governess).

Other stuff I saw included Glass Fleet which was sort of like the French Revolution in Space, complete with Oscar de Jarjayes-like hero/ine named Michel(le). It seemed interesting, although what appeared to be the start of an extremely stereotypical romance between the arrogant roguish hero and Michelle that was lots of pride and arguing and franly bored me. I imagine what I'd end up feeling about the show would be if their relationship actually became less two dimensional. Also on the subject of nobility in space and even way more gender-bending, we saw The Five Star Stories which seemed to essentially be Star Wars, except that Han Solo is the Jedi, and Luke Skywalker is enormously effeminate. It even had lightsabers, dudes.

Of quite a different feel, I caught an episode of Library Wars, the concept of which is essentially "Read or Die" without the superpowers, and an even more military/government conspiracy feel. This is another story with a fun heroine, but marred by a ridiculously cliched pairing with "the guy who's mean to her because he cares." Yawn.

I also had some fun going oldskool, watching Dirty Pair and some of the original Go-Lion, which is way better that its metamorphosis into the lion saga of Voltron.

Lots of great cosplay as usual, and it seems more people do it every year. Though I saw a lot of new stuff (including a lot of costumes I don't recognize because I'm not keeping up with the new anime like those young kids are these days), I also saw a lot of older stuff and people cosplaying I love, including a TON of Utenas and about four or five Yomiko Readmans. I'm sorry I don't have photos, but on the other hand, I have photos from previous Otakons I've never posted, so I'm almost tempted to just upload those instead. Heh.

I was low on swag this year; the dealers weren't giving away many free goodies either, unlike previous years. As for purchases, I got a copy of the Slayers movie for cheap, and bought a whole bunch of StoryImageFigure Excel Saga figurines (BTW, also watched Excel Saga there, but as you all know I love that so need to re-review it). Also bought some Utena fanart from a girl named Juri, and generally drooled all over the local artists in general. If I were a truly good girl, I'd post links to the artists whose stuff I really liked, but I admit I am far too lazy. Some other time perhaps.

And why am I lazy? Because I am exhausted!! Good night!


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