Spring is here, and that means it is time for another Anime Boston. Given all the line related issues from last year, I was most interested to see how well the convention would handle themselves. About a week prior to the opening, I was impressed to see an "Express Pass" for Jm and I appear in my e-mail. Printing out this pass would allow you to use a special bar code reader to quickly print out your badge and get you into the con. Unfortunately, they nixed group pick-ups in the same e-mail as well. Jm managed to hit Boston on Thursday night to pick up her badge, but work kept me into the wee hours leaving me no time to do likewise.
However, this seemed to work to my advantage; Jm had to wait thirty minutes to get her badge. When I strolled into the pre-registration area at 11AM, I did not even have to use a kiosk but slid right up to a live person that printed out my badge in seconds. The normal line did not seem overly lengthy. Seems like they might have a handle on the lines, but tomorrow will be the true test.
So, what did they do different this year? First, they contracted a company called Expo Logic to handle the actual technology behind the registration process allowing their staff to focus on moving people through. Second, they finally abandoned the plastic badges and printed out plain paper badges, affixed a special sticker to them, and handed you a clear plastic holder for it. Many people provided this as feedback last year; reduce your costs and time by using simple paper badges. I am guessing that this is more due to Expo Logic’s system and advice than the common sense of people who have gone to various conventions of any sort over time.
Past the line and into… hmm…
You may have noticed that I arrived rather late in the morning; there was simply nothing in the morning I was remotely interested in seeing until well into the afternoon. Looking at the overall schedule, this was clearly going to be a recurring theme. Jm and I strolled aimlessly to get our bearing of this year’s layout, checked out the artist alley, and got into the dealer’s room line about ten minutes before it opened.
Room to breathe
Another significant change had been made to the convention; the dealer’s room now spanned two sizable rooms allowing for plenty of room between the rows. Gone was the claustrophobic feel of the past; no longer did you have to worry about stepping away from a table and into a sea of sweaty flesh. Sure, the tables themselves were still crowded, but you could step away with your purchase and admire it at your leisure before moving onto the next table.
Saw very little that caught my eye; most of the booths were selling the same merchandise. The variety just isn’t there anymore; unless you are looking for a good deal on DVDs or manga, there are better and usually cheaper ways of buying the shiny toys and figures via the internet. Jm did pick up the first volume of the Gyakuten Saiban (逆転裁判) manga from the Sasuga booth and is considering going back tomorrow to pick up volumes two through five. Only one item caught my eye in our quick run through, but I’m saving my spending for tomorrow.
Kalafina and Kajiura Yuki
Again, there was little to see or do, so we headed outside to enjoy the weather and grab a bite to eat. Walked around until ten minutes before the Kajiura Yuki and Kalafina panel began. The group was originally formed to record the theme song for the film Garden of Sinners: Spiral Paradox but evolved into a full-time pop project.
The girls were cute, and Kajiura Yuki was well spoken with a decent and articulate grasp of English. However, the panel itself was a bit pear shaped. Many of the questions people were asking did not seem to be presented well to the panel. For example, someone asked the natural question "What one word would you give to someone wanting to get into the business?" The panel moderator somehow did not seem to grasp his intent, quibbled a bit into the semantics of the question, which led to a response that was less than insightful.
Another item that has bothered me is the way questions are handled. At the first Anime Boston, they had a microphone stand in the aisle; people would queue up and ask their question. It was an easy system that allowed everyone to hear the question. Not sure if it was exactly the next year, but soon after, the con just had people raise hands and ask questions from their seat.
This works adequately if you either have people running microphones quickly or if the moderator repeats the question back. This one did neither resulting in many answers being given with no context. Perhaps the Japanese guests are not used to the aisle microphone format, and this puts them at ease more. However, I doubt this is the case leaving me baffled to the reasoning behind the switch.
Tea for… many
We left that panel early to get in line for the tea ceremony demonstration. The demonstration was led by two ladies, one who was getting a degree in Japanese studies and her comic relief cohort. You could not really see the run through of the ceremony the first time; why there was not a camera playing back the action on the large screen in the room is another mystery. They ran through it a second time though standing up to show off the movements of the ceremony. Overall, they presented the basics of the ceremony and a lot of interesting facts about its history and the history of tea in Japan.
ADV & Voice Acting
After the tea ceremony panel, Jm and I split up as she wanted to sit in on Tom Wayland’s panel for aspiring voice actors. I headed into the ADV panel interested to see how they are weathering the downturn in our brightly colored niche.
It is fascinating to see the change that has come over the company. Gone are the days where the panel would open with a video montage of their upcoming releases followed by "ask a question and get some free stuff". Now, David Williams simply got up and said to start asking questions.
The questions were remarkably interesting for once and revealed one bit of new information. The ADV booth in the dealer’s room is not actually an official company booth. DLW actually has a side business that consists of buying ADV DVDs and reselling them. It was not revealed if this has always been the case, but I found it interesting nonetheless.
Again, nothing on the schedule was remotely interesting for a few hours, so Jm and I took another walk outside and sipped a Coolata while she told me about the voice acting panel. After getting some more fresh air and sun, we slipped back into the hall and lined up for the premier of Garden of Sinners: Spiral Paradox. I knew nothing about this film and was sitting in on it simply because it was the US premier.
Glad I did sit in on it; the film is based on a series of novels and is actually the fifth film in the series. The producer was on hand and gave a quick overview of the characters as a primer to the overall story, but the film also did not require much knowledge of the previous entries. The story revolves around a woman who receives the ability to see "death lines". This pulls her into the middle of a supernatural struggle.
This film is a Memento-esque story about a condominium setup as a bizarre experiment about death. While the flashing back and forth in the time line did not always work, the story held up well and featured stunning visuals. Was a bit gory in places, but it was fairly tame overall. Definitely a movie to look for when it is officially released in the US, and a series I hope they release in its entirety. The first novel should be translated sometime this year, so I look forward to checking that out.
And that was the end of our Anime Boston adventure for the day. Dealer’s room was closed, and nothing on the schedule could entice me to stay. Tomorrow should hopefully have a few more things to do, but I cannot say I am terribly excited about any of it.