June 10th, 2004
Ninjatron is going to talk about how Toronto's big anime event got sliced.
On May 21st to the 23rd, it was time once again to head on over to Canada's big Anime Convention, Anime North in Toronto. This would be my third year attending this convention, and previous years had proven that this show was truly great. However, this year there was a big monkey wrench thrown into the works that significantly changed the way this show was being run. The location where Anime North had taken place for the past 2 years had gone out of business, which amounted to the convention being split into two halves, with larger events taking place at the Toronto Congress Center and smaller events at the Renaissance Toronto Airport Hotel. Right off the bat, I have to say that, while it can't really be blamed on anyone, it did cause a lot of frustration and impacted my enjoyment of the show in a negative way. There were several good points as well, but after enjoying last year's so much, I'm not going to hesitate to bring up the points that I felt made the convention experience less than stellar.
Friday - I Proclaim my Allegiance to Robots in Disguise.
After a lengthy and confusing ride to the Congress center, I arrived and quickly met with my contingent of loyal minions. I made sure that I got there with enough time to sign up, drop off my gear in the hotel room, and get everything in order with time to spare, because I had something important to do as soon as the show started. Once again, I would rise above the level of regular attendee and become like a God, for I was...
Last year I was involved in 4 panels, but this year, due to the split between the two locations, I only volunteered for one: The Transformers panel. I question why it had to happen first thing of the first day of the show, but whatever. I was afraid that hardly anyone would show up, being that I'd think many potential audience members would either still be in line, or not even coming until the next day, and so my minions decide to come along too. However I was pleasantly surprised to see that there were already a few people outside the door waiting, and as time went on we had a fairly good size group of TransFans.
The panel seemed to go very well. I was on my own up there for the first half, but the second panelist, who's a cast member on Offbeat Cinema, arrived late due to the traffic coming in from Buffalo. Some of the more spirited topics we discussed included the new Energon line, the upcoming live action movie, and the GI Joe crossovers. I could tell that a lot of these folks were really enjoying themselves, because it's not everyday that you can talk about Transformers with other people who are really into it too.
I thought that one of the highlights was when the question was raised regarding if the upcoming movie should be live action, and why shouldn't it be all CG or all animated. NeroMan, a fellow patron of the AllSpark, replied with something along the lines of "Because the white man still thinks that all cartoons are for kids." We all applauded this unfortunate yet accurate statement.
After the discussion was finished, NeroMan took a picture of all of us together. Thanks goes out to him for letting me use it up here.
All in all I think the panel was a great success and I'm really glad that I did it. You can bet that I'll be doing it again next year.
Ok, so after that was finished, there wasn't really anything planned that any of us wanted to check out right away, so he took the shuttle service (which was actually a yellow school bus) down to the Congress Center to see what was going on in the main convention area.
And here it is, folks, Anime North in all its glory!
Ugh. What an ugly looking place. I realize they were in a bind in getting convention space after their previous home went belly up, but geez, this place is just so unattractive. Everything was sectioned off with gloomy black curtains. It was quite the eyesore and made for some terrible photography all weekend long.
There was an upside, however. This new location allowed for the dealers' area to be greatly expanded from previous years. It was massive, and best of all, there was actually some room to move around! I took a few spins around there several times over the weekend.
I decided to watch the Red and White Show, which I believe is supposed to be a talent show of some sort with audience participation. I had only heard about it in previous years, and this was the first time I watched it for myself. There was a dance number, some singing, people yelling into a microphone, and some martial arts. I'm not going to say that anyone did a bad job or anything, but I personally found the whole thing rather bland, to be honest with you.
It then became a Cosplay skit contest, for those in costume that needed more time then the masquerade allows to show off their outfits with something funny. There was some entertaining stuff here, including a skit about "The 10 Commandments of Anime Conventions", which told us that "Thou shalt not dress as Sailor Moon is thou art actually Sailor Man." I agree. Another good one was "The Pegasus Prancers" in which Pegasus from Yu-Gi-Oh sang a song about Duel Monsters while Men in Black danced around with him. It was very funny and well choreographed.
School of Rock cosplay? Sure, why not?
Otaku Unite, a documentary about the fans and the culture surrounding anime and conventions in North America, was playing, and I made a point to see it. I was disappointed that there were only a few people in the audience. Come on folks, this all about your history! I'm a big believer that we should be respectful of that history, because it wasn't always as easy being an anime fan as it is now. It was a well done film and I urge all fans to see it should it have a screening at a convention near you.
The evening was capped off back in the hotel room with a hilarious phone call with Sean Connery that I shall not go into details about. Ask me about it if you see me somewhere.
Logan had this "great" idea of bringing cans of soup to the convention and drinking them whenever he's hungry. I hadn't eaten anything all day, but the idea of drinking cold soup straight from the can isn't very appetizing to me. But then I see that our hotel room is equipped with a coffee maker. I suddenly get the brilliant idea that this machine could be used to heat up the soup! Maybe I should have thought things out a little better, because it took several hours to get to a drinkable state, but in the end, we had soup.
Saturday: The Crane Game and The Waiting Game. Which is more fun?
It became apparent very early this morning that people who like to check the provided schedules to see what activities they'd like to be involved in are at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to enjoying the convention. Events either didn't happen on their scheduled time, or just didn't happen at all. This was the case with the first thing I wanted to check out on Saturday. and in several other times throughout the rest of the show. It would be a huge waste of my time to list them all, and I really just want to get through writing this report.
So it was back to the dealer room. Not only was this the place to buy stuff, but it's also the area where the coin operated games were. There was Dance Dance Revolution, of course, as well as this crazy guitar game. I generally don't play these sorts of things.
However, there was another machine that sparked my interest. A crane game, where you control a metal claw in an effort to pluck a plush toy from a pile inside a large box. There were some Sailor Moon and Inu Yasha toys in there, in addition to some generic teddy bears and the like. It's disruptively difficult, and several people were not having any luck. But inside there was a prize that caught my interest, right on the very top of the pile: A Super Deformed Ultraman Tiga plush. Ultraman Tiga rules. I'd never played a crane game before, but that did not matter. I had to have it. I put in my money (only a dollar because someone had left another dollar in there), got two of my minions to scout each side of the machine and make sure the claw was properly lined up, and let it drop.
A Winner is ME!
Heh, you didn't honestly think that I'd write all of that if I didn't win on my first try, did you? I was so happy to win, and my cheers drew attention to that fact. People were saying that the machine was rigged because they couldn't win anything. Well, I proved that it wasn't rigged, you just needed to be an awesome ninja to win! Plus, I really wanted that Ultraman! This was definitely the best single dollar I've ever spent, and probably the coolest thing to happen to me through the whole convention. I was so proud of my accomplishment that I carried my treasured plush super hero around like a small child all weekend long.
I wanted to attend the Voice Over Workshop, where apparently an expert professional voice-person would impart advice on voice acting and the industry. I arrived to a room packed full of hyper people eager to participate. Several minutes pass by, and it still hasn't started. The panel host hasn't even arrived. And so some very bored attendees think that it would be a good idea to put a big bunch of plush toys in front of the room. This is supposed to be quite hilarious, though I can't say that I was all that amused.
Someone eventually makes his way to the front and says that he's the voice actor and he's going to show us some vocal exercises. He tells everyone to go "Lalalalalala" and we all do. Then he says he's not really the voice actor. We all have a good laugh and applaud the guy for pulling one over us all. Now that was pretty funny, I admit, but still, where the hell is the real guy? Someone from the staff finally shows up and just cancels the panel. Well, there goes that.
Sometime later in the same room there's a Voice Actors Contest. People often say to me that I should be a voice actor, and after my performance as Soundwave at TransformersCon I had been giving it some consideration, so I thought why not check this out? It was billed as something where anyone could show up and try out for a part in an upcoming show, but it actually ended up being a big long script reading where a few people got picked at random. While the show they were reading for didn't seem too bad (something about furry creatures and dinosaurs), the "contest" was lame, so I left early.
It's a good thing that I did leave when I did, because there were Voice Actors Q&A sessions scheduled directly afterwards, and you had to travel to the main building. I think it's safe to assume that people interested in voice acting would want to take part in both the contest and the Q&A, so I got to say that was another scheduling misstep.
First up were Michael Dobson (Starscream on Transformers Armada, Dreydan on Escaflowne) and Brian Drummund (Blurr on Transformers Armada, Zechs on Gundam Wing) and. They had plenty to say about their various roles and about the industry. Michael also talked about his 2 brothers Paul and Brian Dobson, who are also voice actors. He mentioned that he hoped all 3 of them would be together at next year's convention, and I'd love to see that.
You know what, since this report is turning into a fairly negative piece as it is, I might as well just say what I've got to say, because it can't possibly make me any less popular than I already am. So some chick asks the two voice actors what their opinion on yaoi is. You know what, honey? WHO CARES? What do you honestly think they're going to say? "Oh, yaoi? I love it!" Yeah, right. Sure, they joked around about it a bit, and they even asked about what the appeal was, but they essentially said that people can like whatever they want. And if you honestly thought that you'd get a different answer then that, then you're completely delusional. And I bet that these guys have to deal with that at every convention they go to, as if no one has ever introduced them to the concept at any other convention before. For crying out loud, girls! Save it for the Internet chat rooms and leave the poor guys alone!
There. I feel better now.
Next up was the Inu Yasha themed session with voice actors David Kaye (Seshomaru). Monica Stori (Kagome), and Richard Cox (Inu Yasha). Highlights were when certain scenes were reenacted while the actors were still sitting in their chairs (by making the chairs hop around), Inu Yasha asking Seshomaru for some advice about girls, and David Kaye doing a spot-on hilarious impression of Kirby Morrow. Richard Cox is an... interesting guy. As people went up to the microphone to ask their questions, he kept saying "Hi!" to them, over and over again, . I'm sure he's a nice fellow and all, I'm just not sure if I'd be able to stand being around him for more than 5 minutes.
By the way, at this point I should mention that, out of all of the people who came to the convention with costumes, at least half of them were dressed as either Inu Yasha or Kagome. Now, I know that people like the show and all, and so do I, but would it kill you folks to show some originallity? Everywhere I looked there was white hair and red robes. It was insane.
That whole stage area needed to be rearranged for the masquerade, and so we all wanted to line up to get a good seat. Well, that was another big problem with the way the convention was run, because there was no good place to line up, and anywhere we chose to stay for a brief moment resulted in getting yelled at by convention staff. Apparently they didn't want the line up to start yet. Well geeze! How about making a line up to get into the line up, then! We just want a good seat for the show, so if we're in your way, then set some area aside for us to wait so we don't loose our place in line!
Eventually a line formed and we were let in when everything was ready (which was after a long freakin' time). Of course, the masquerade wasn't starting on time. I mean, why would it? This is Anime North, after all. So some of my people amused themselves by drinking from the stockpile of cold soup cans. Logan even drank a can of cold Seafood Chowder. Mmm, cold squid.
Finally the show started when this guy in a kilt came on stage. He was one of he MCs, but I don't remember if he ever once mentioned his name. First up were the junior cosplayers. Out comes these 3 young girls dancing to the German version of the Hamtaro theme song. And then, all of a sudden, without any warning at all....
There was a huge power failure! Now, what do you get when you pack thousands of anime fans who have been waiting for well over 2 hours for a show to start into a large room with no power? As if you hadn't figured it out, the whole place went berserk and started cheering and yelling like crazy. The staff did a good job of keeping the peace. Ultimately this resulted in yet more waiting, however I admit that in this case it was much more exciting for some reason. I would have never expected anything like that to happen. It like an act of God, as if he were to say "Screw you, Anime North!"
Both power and order were restored and the show commenced. One point that I need to mention was that our kilted friend was not the only MC. Saying that he wasn't confident in his ability to pronounce Japanese names, he shared the duties with a lady named Clara. Here's the thing about that: She was terrible! I know she was trying really hard, but she couldn't pronounce anything right! She also had this very... unique voice. Not to try to be mean or anything, but it reminded me of the sound of a man trying to do a woman's voice. It just sounded too fake to be real, and yet I had no reason to believe that it wasn't her real voice. Needless to say, it made being in the audience a lot tougher. I don't know what Mr. Kilt was so worried about, because he did a great job.
Good golly, this was a long Masquerade. There were somewhere around 150 entires. After waiting for so long to get in, I wasn't about to leave early, but as the show was dragging on, several people chose not to stay. I could talk about some of my favorite entires, but hardly any of my pictures came out very well, so who cares?
I'll say this, though. In my book, the best entry was definitely this awesome Dragonball Z battle, complete with a really elaborate background. The Goku and Vegita cosplayers even turned Super Sayain midway through the fight.. by spraying yellow colouring on their hair. The effect wasn't exactly convincing, but it was so funny. Like it or not, Dragonball Z will never die.
When that was all over, it was back to the hotel room where a big bunch of us decided to order some Pizza. After a typical lengthy argument over what should be going on this pizza, we ordered and waited. Then we waited again. Then we waited some more. What the hell is with all the waiting going on today? This pizza was even later than an Anime North event! But in the end, because it arrived so late, we didn't have to pay for it. Free Pizza! Whoo!
Sunday: I Hang Out with People and Stuff.
I started the day by checking out this display of Transformers toys. I was expecting something a bit bigger and more expansive, but there's some cool stuff here. I was hoping that Transformers would have a larger presence at the convention this year, being that it's the 20th anniversary and all.
This cutie is named Atsuko Enomoto, and she's a voice actress from Japan. She's been in shows such as Kare Kano and Angelic Layer. She's also a singer, and performed a concert for us where she sang the theme songs for both of those shows. Afterwards she answered fan's questions and posed for pictures. Manning here told her that she was hot and got himself a picture with her. Atta boy!
I actually still had some money and so I stuck around for the Charity Auction, hosted by the guest voice actors. I decided that I wanted to buy something and I didn't really care what it was. I got into a bidding war over some Transformers stuff and ended up winning a fan made book and a Loose Optimus Primal toy from Beast Wars, which we were all told bears a striking resemblance to voice actor Gary Chalk. I got to shake hands and say hi to David Kaye, who recognized me from TransformersCon. I told him that Gary needs to come to a Toronto convention so he can stick up for himself! He laughed and, in a whinny Gary Chalk-voice said "Hey, I don't really look like that!". I tell you, there's something quite surreal about hearing a voice actor do an impression of another voice actor.
I stayed for awhile and took some funny pictures. Um, looking good there, Brian.
A while later, Richard Cox came over to talk to me. He thanked me for bidding and supporting the Hospital that all of the money was going to. I wanted to get a picture of him and I, so I just stood beside him and held the camera in front of us. It took awhile for the camera to go off since the area was so dark. The result is probably the worst picture ever. I look sleepy. But it's pretty damn funny, so what the hell?
Michael Dobson happened to be hanging out right beside me at some point. A fan had presented him with a Starscream Pin, which he really loved. I took his picture with it and told him how much I've enjoyed his work as Starscream. He really appreciated that, and said that playing Starscream has been a lot of fun for him.
After that I pretty much just hung around the dealers room and talked with some friends. And that was about it for Anime North 2004.
Stuff I bought.
In addition to the Ultraman Tiga Plushie I won, I also went home with quite a few things.
I got the Burn Up Excess (the sequel to Burn Up W) DVD box set. It has a Jiggle counter. You know what, if the yaoi fangirls can get off doing what they do (whatever that is), then I think that I should be entitled to enjoy a good jiggle counting series without persecution.
I had to get this awesome book called "So Crazy Japanese Toys". It's full of info and pictures of toys based on Japanese Super Hero TV shows. I had never heard of this book before, but I had to have it once I saw it.
I found the paperback version of Go Nagai's American version of Mazinger. It's the first Japanese manga intended for an American audience and the first manga ever to be fully painted in colour.
While purusing around the Dealers Room wearing my Ultraman Tiga T-Shirt and holding my Ultraman Tiga Plushy, Eric Ko from Udon Studios asked if I liked the Ultraman Tiga comics. I said "Yeah!". I had only read the first 2 issues, so he gave me the 3rd and 4th issue for 2 bucks each! You guys got to check out these awesome comics!
I've become a big fan of Getter Robo, and really wanted to leave with some kind of Getter Robo merchandise. I settled for this Shin Getter Robo action figure. It's not the most detailed or poseable figure, nor is it all that big, but it'll do.
Lastly I bought a Battle of the Planets G-Force logo T-shirt. I think I'll look pretty damn good in it, if I do say so myself.
After reading all of this it may seem like I had a terrible time at this convention, but that's not necessarily true. I did focus on the negative aspects of the show mostly because they stood out the most in my mind. Again, I realize that the two location format was unavoidable, but it needs to be established that it made the convention was worse off for it. I sincerely hope that this does not happen again.
But not everything can be blamed on spiting the convention into pieces. I've noticed that over my 3 years of attending this show that people seem very lax about making things happen on time. This is a huge problem and it needs to be corrected. There needs to be more effort being put forth into making the convention events run on time as scheduled. No more excuses, just make it happen. Having two locations made the problem even worse. Due to the travel time between the two locations, you really had to plan ahead of time to make sure you got to where you wanted to be, and when things are late or just not happening at all, then that just messes everything up and wastes so much time.
I know that a lot of people come to my website to look for cosplay pictures and read the reports, and so I've made sure to address the points where I feel that the convention stumbled on the chance that somebody involved with the convention will read what I have to say and take the appropriate actions to improve the show for years to come.
Other than that, I had a good time and I'm glad that I went. I left with some cool swag, got to talk with fellow fans and industry pros, spread the joy that is the Transformers franchise, and saw some old friends who I hadn't seen in several months. I also met up with several of my former students, many of whom had grown up quite a bit since I had seen them last. As an anime teacher, it meant a lot to me that I was a part of their introduction to this amazing fandom, and so I hope that future conventions mark several improvements so that the fans get the show that they deserve.
Even though there're hardly any pictures there.