Manga in Minutes: Anime Boston 2014 Con Report

Another year, another Anime Boston! Held every year at the Hynes Convention Center in downtown Boston, it took place between March 21st to 23rd. Now in it’s 12th year, Anime Boston is the premier anime convention in the New England area, and is among the top ten anime conventions of North America in general! Every year the con selects and celebrates a different theme, which serves as a backdrop for their t-shirts, promotional skits and decorations. It doesn’t stop there though, as the con also highlights fan panels that stick with the year’s themes. This year the theme was Magic, so there was a wide variety of panels focusing on things ranging from the supernatural in anime, to the Magical Girls genre. As a single individual I chose to try and give a fans eye perspective to the convention, highlighting some of the fan panels and a several industry ones as well!

DAY 1:

One of the big draws of this years convention was performances by the band JAM Project. They’re a large musical group known for their various anime theme songs, including openings for One Piece, The Soul Taker, and many many more. I arrived early hoping to get tickets for their Friday night show, but due to a little confusion that almost didn’t happen. When I went to the room listed in the program for the tickets I found no line and the door’s closed. Assuming I missed out I made my way to a panel instead.

I arrived a little late and ended up leaving early, but from what I saw, "The 36th Chamber: An Intro to Kung Fu Cinema" was a pretty well done panel. I’m pretty sure it was its first year at the con and it seemed pretty well attended. The host, Jordan Olsen, seemed to know the material very well and his passion for it came through. He touched upon several actors and characters, including Gordon Liu and Pei Mei. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to stay for the entire panel and left during a Tony Jaa clip that had the crowd oohing and aahing. The reason I couldn’t stay is because the ticket situation had been cleared up for me. It wasn’t in the room I thought it was, but at a table across the hall from it. Much to my surprise there was no line and I was able to walk right up to the volunteer manning it and had my pick of tickets with no waiting!

Not long after I took some time to hit the dealers room. I have to say I was pretty impressed by the number of stalls that were selling manga and there were plenty of good bargains to be had. Local comic shops Comicopia and New England Comics both had a good stock of bargain priced manga, and they were probably the two biggest stalls on the floor.

Managed to take in the "Anime After Toonami" panel shortly after. Thanks to a new policy of inserting 30 minutes between panels in the same room, I was able to arrive early and was treated to some impromptu anime clips before the panel officially started. When I arrived the now famous Daicon IV video was playing, and the panelist went on to show the infamous CGI helicopter scene from the Golgo 13 movie, much the audiences delight.

The panel itself was hosted by Vinnie from All Geeks Considered and highlighted some excellent series and movies that came out after Toonami had gone off the air, or near the tail end of it’s first run. There were some top notch selections, and I came away from it with several shows added to an already lengthy “Must Watch” list. Among the highlighted shows were Little Witch Academia, a fantastic short film that’s legally available for free on Youtube and is about a young girl training to become a magic using witch; the absolutely hilarious Inferno Cop, which is really something that just has to be seen to be believed, it’s a wonderfully over the top, low budget looking series that should appeal to fans of Toonami’s own original comedy pieces, and coincidentally it’s also legally available on Youtube; several of the more recent Gundam series were included, such as Gundam Unicorn and Gundam Build Fighters; the superhero comedy Astro Fighter Sunred and many others. It was really an engaging panel with good clips and some nice recommendations. Something he did that really struck me as well, was that he plugged which shows were available at the con in the dealer’s room. It’s a small thing, but it’s nice to see a panelist running and pushing a show then pointing out that it’s available on site and encouraging people to buy it.

I arrived a little late to "Funimation’s 20th Anniversary panel, but I’m glad I was able to check it out. It was a nice look back at the company’s history and some of their bigger licenses. Scattered throughout were some interesting tidbits about special promotions they’ve run in the past. I really liked the idea of sending paper cranes to the Japanese company that produced Fruits Baskets in an attempt to convince them to make a second season of the show. Likewise the Hetalia postcard promotion they ran resulted in a terrifyingly large amount of postcards being sent in to them. They even spent some time talking about the crazy packaging and box sets they used to release, touching upon the wooden slide box they made for Basilisk back in the day. It was definitely fascinating and some of the old promo videos, Toonami bumps and trailers had me missing the old days of being able find lots of anime in physical stores, or being able to watch it on TV after school. it was a very nostalgic and enjoyable panel.

After it ended there was a half hour wait between that and the next panel in the room, which was going to another Funimation panel focusing on their online ventures. I originally intended to stick around for it, but wandered out into the hall in search of a plug to charge my table at while waiting. Things didn’t quite go as planned though as the familiar sounds of Cowboy Bebop’s opening song “Tank” caught my attention from across the hallway. I wandered into to see what was happening, not thinking to check out the schedule and found myself in Dai Sato’s panel!

His name may not mean anything to you, but if you’ve ever watched Adult Swim’s anime line up in the last 14 years then you’ve seen his work. One of the featured Japanese guests, Dai Sato has been a writer on some of the most popular anime series in America. Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo, Eureka 7, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd Gig and the current Toonami darling, Space Dandy are just a few of the shows he’s worked on over the years. After a brief discussion of his career, including a mention of how it was working on Cowboy Bebop that made him realize that he wanted to be a writer, it was onto a Q&A!

The Q&A session opened up with a question about a possible follow up to Ergo Proxy? Apparently the series didn’t really do well in Japan, despite being well received by American audiences. He has thought about a follow up and has a rough idea of what he’d like to do with it, but nothing beyond that. Someone asked a question about whether Dai Sato went into Space Dandy with the idea of aiming it to the US or Japanese audiences? Apparently it was always intended to be an international release, and was always intended to air in the US on Toonami. Another fan asked about the inspiration for the second episode of Space Dandy, with the ramen shop at the end of the universe? Dai Sato mentions that it was inspired by a real ramen shop in his area that has some insane rules about how customers must eat their ramen. There were also a few questions about whether or not Dai Sato had any Western influences, which lead to some interesting responses from Sato. He talked about how he loved the original Twilight Zone as a child and was impressed at how it was able to generate some many different emotional reactions over the course of 30 minutes, and also touched upon how he was a George RR Martin fan and was currently loving the Game of Thrones series on HBO. What was really surprising and unexpected, was Dai Sato admitting that he’s a big fan of Neil Gaiman! He even talked a little bit about Gaiman’s Kickstarter endeavors.

Another interesting question came when an attendee asked about Oshii’s influence and his contributions in the making of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd Gig. This lead to an interesting bit of discussion where Dai Sato talked about how Oshii was a bit more involved with the second season than he was with the first. While he never really dictated things he was more active in suggestion ideas and themes. The terrorist attacks of September 11th also played a part in the change in tone between the first and second season. Dai Sao noted how the first was a bit more introspective, while the second was a more taut spy thriller. In keeping with the terrorists theme, he was also asked about influences in his writing of the Cowboy Bebop episode, “Brain Scratch,” and touched upon the AUM sarin gas attacks on the Tokyo Subway. It was a really fascinating panel and the attendees asked some very good questions. I wish the Q&A could have gone on longer, but all good things must come to an end.

By this point it was evening and I spent a little time roaming the halls and catching The Dubs That Time Forgot panel. It’s something a perennial favorite among Anime Boston attendees and the room was packed. Sadly, for some reason, Evernote didn’t save my notes for the panel. It was hosted by Mike Toole, of ANN’s The Mike Toole Show and was full of bizarre and obscure dubs as the name implies. It’s actually kind of amazing what he’s able to dig up through various sources, things like an old and obscure anime adaption of Alladin, and an oddly misnamed White Fang movie, which was actually an entirely different movie about a wolf.

Following a quick dinner it was time for one of the highlights of the weekend! While I’ve been attending Anime Boston for several years now, one of the few things I had never really done was take in one of their concerts. This is usually due to scheduling and travel considerations, but this year I was able to catch the first show of the weekend.

This year Anime Boston had brought over JAM Project, a group known for their work on anime series opening themes. The first night was a group performance, while Saturday night was going to highlight each member’s solo work. I would have liked to have seen both, but scheduling and travel issues kept me from doing so. I arrived a little late and came in after the first few songs, but was still able to catch most of the show, including the one song that I had been hoping they’d play since I heard they were coming over, “Savior in the Dark,” the theme from the live action series, Garo! They were pretty incredible to see live and were full of energy, probably more than I had at the time. Their two hour set included themes from shows and series such as Soultaker, Super Robot Wars, Shin-Mazinger Z and Transformers. In between the songs they’d banter with the crowd, thanking everyone for coming and engaged in some Mick Foley level cheap pops by expressing their fondness of the Red Sox, Aerosmith and Boston in general. At one point they even made a special point of thanking the US for all the support and sympathy in the wake of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. I haven’t been to a concert in years and I had totally forgotten just how much fun it could be. The size of the convention center’s auditorium just helped give the entire thing a more intimate feel then the few concerts I have attended in the past. It was easily one of the highlights of the weekend and afterwards I found myself regretting the fact that I wouldn’t be able to attend the second show on Saturday.

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