Another year another Anime Boston! Held every year at the Hynes Convention Center in downtown Boston, just blocks away from the site of the recent Boston Marathon bombings, this year it ran from May 24th to the 26th, Memorial Day Weekend. Now in it's 11th year, Anime Boston is the premier anime convention of the New England area, and is among the top five anime conventions in North America! Each year the con features a different theme, with theme serving as a backdrop for promotional skits, materials, t-shirts, decorations and more. The con also highlights fan panels that stick to the years theme, and often has contests and video programming which also tie into the theme. This year the theme was yokai and ghosts, which meant we had a bevy of supernatural themed panels! As a single individual I decided to try to give a fans eye perspective of the convention, highlighting some of the fan panels and a few of the industry panels as well.
I arrived fairly early to try and get as much panel viewing and roaming in as possible. After popping by one or two panels I eventually made my way to the Opening Ceremonies were I caught the tail end of the guest introductions. The highlight of the Ceremonies was Origa, who came out and performed "Inner Universe", the opening theme to the first season of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. I did arrive a little late, but I was glad I was on time to catch that performance. It was a nice surprise and had me wishing I was able to attend her concert on Saturday night, but alas I am bound by the limitations of public transportation.
After that I spent most of the day scampering from fan panel to fan panel, something that was a reoccurring theme throughout the con. The panel list was so packed with interesting topics and official industry panels that I often found myself having to bow out early or arrive late. In some cases, especially on Saturday night, this meant not being able to get in at all as several panels were filled to capacity and they had turn people away.
Among the highlights of the first day were "Little Boys and Lizards Are Very Bad Things". I hadn't originally intended to attend the panel and simply popped in to burn some time, but once there I got sucked into the discussion. It focused heavily on the dual role technology plays within anime and Japanese pop cultural, referencing things such as Godzilla, Akira, Nausicaa, Mewtwo from Pokemon and more as they explained and expanded the idea of technology destroying and rebuilding society. It was pretty fascinating and the passion and enthusiasm the panelist had for the material was palpable. I really wish I had managed to get there sooner, but I'm glad I caught what I did.
Following that I attended one of several panels dedicated the tokusatsu superhero shows such as Kamen Rider and the Super Sentai franchise. This is something of a new phenomena. I've been attending the convention for nearly 6 years now and up until a few years ago I don't remember seeing a single panel regarding this topic. This year there were at least four of them! One can only wonder at why there seems to be such a growth spurt among the fandom.
During the early evening I managed to fit in visits to two of the industry panels. The first was the Aniplex America panel which I arrived late to due to needing to eat or risk starvation. Thankfully I did make it in time for what was arguably the biggest announcement of Anime Boston, namely that Sword Art Online will be airing on Toonami starting in August!
The second industry panel I hit up was the "Funimation Town Hall", hosted by Sarah Sullivan who was celebrating her 225th con, and three year anniversary with Funimation! The idea behind the panel wasn't to discuss upcoming releasing or anything like that, but to shed a little light on "how the sausage is made". This meant that topics ranged from the causes of lag times in releasing material in the US, to the methods and accreditation Funimation requires their translators to have, market research methods and more. It was actually a bit of a fascinating look behind the curtain and I was especially impressed to discover that some of the credentials they require their translators to have are the same that the UN requires their translators to have as well.
I rounded off Day One with two panels which were sticking to the convention's chosen theme for the year, yokai! The first was "Vixens and Tanuki: Trickster Spirits in Japanese Lore". Once again I arrived a few minutes into the panel and missed the initial introduction and presentation. The room was pretty packed, but shortly after I arrived and sat down the host asked the audience what they wanted her to discuss and over half the audience got up and left. Ouch. Despite this I stuck around and what followed was some light conversation regarding the trickster archetype and its many permutations throughout pop culture, world mythology and anime. The host clearly knew her stuff, I just wish she had a longer presentation or a more structured presentation instead of the free wheeling open discussion that ensued.
The final panel was, in my opinion, one of the best fan panels of the entire convention. Like the previous one it stayed on theme, and like the previous one I arrived a little late and nearly didn't get in at all! "A Night of Haunts from Japan" was absolutely packed and the convention staff was actively turning groups of people away. The host, dressed in full cosplay as Fatal Frame's Sae Kurosawa, herself a take on the popular Japanese female ghost trope, discussed various types of Japanese yokai, myths and ghost stories. She was very well informed and was able to field several questions regarding different details on some of the yokai mentioned. The combination of the cosplay, her knowledge and research on the topic, and a structured panel helped make it an incredibly enjoyable and informative experience. Towards the end she opened the floor for people to share any Japanese ghost stories or yokai myths they knew and that she may have missed. While doing something like that can often derail a panel and descend into off topic conversation, the audience and the panel host kept things on track and shared and discussed several different myths and stories. It was easily the stand out fan panel on Friday and one of the better ones of the entire convention. I have no idea if there are any plans to run it again, but I'd gladly show up in a heartbeat if she did.