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Con Report: Animazement 14, or I’m Too Damn Old for This

15. June 2011

I want to start off this post with some personal background. The past few weeks have been crazy for me. I drove up to Raleigh from Birmingham, only to return after the weekend, only to drive back up to North Carolina a week later to Asheville, where I now live. Throw in some car trouble and a lack of internet during that week and you have me, apologizing for waiting so long to do this writeup.

Animazement 14 was Simeon’s and my second time at the event, as I’m sure you all remember. The con was held at the same venue, the Raleigh Convention Center. Little changed about the overall format: the panel rooms were at the south wing of the building, the dealers’ room downstairs, and the main events in the huge ballrooms upstairs. Panels ranged from commentary on the industry to fandoms of specific series and genres to cosplay workshops. Guests included a number of voice actors, both American and Japanese, but the most prominent guest in my opinion was Kyoko Kon, widow of the late Satoshi Kon.

Overall, I came away from the convention unimpressed. Don’t misunderstand, I enjoyed the time I spent there and intend to go back next year, but the actual panels were generally lackluster. Unlike many of the anime conventions I’ve gone to, where I had to choose between events, I spent no small part of Animazement just walking around, waiting for the next thing to happen. And for the events that interested me, I kept leaving with the unified thought that I could have done a better job. Of note was the “AMV’s You Have To See” Panel. Technical issues which kept them from using sound aside, the choices the panelists picked were honestly NOT must-see videos. And rather than play them in order, explaining why they were so good, they left the list open and even asked the audience which ones they should show. To me this showed a lack of confidence in their content and a lack of ability to reasonably run the panel–I walked out as they showed this gem, which was made so much worse with the cringe-inducing censorship. Also disappointing was the “Rumik World” Panel; I needed a quick shot of some old-school and hoped that I could at least learn about Maison Ikkoku and Ranma 1/2, but quickly left when the panelist needed an audience member to come help him out because he didn’t know anything about Inuyasha (which led to a hyped-up fangirl talking obsessively about her favorite show).

Don’t get me wrong–not every event I attended was bad. I thoroughly enjoyed the Visual Novels Panel, despite the same A/V problems that plagued the AMV girls. The guy knew his stuff and shared a few good resources for those wanting to get into the hobby. The Yuri Panel was also informative and fun, even to someone who’s not really into that scene. As always, Anime Hell was phenomenal, even though I miss AWA’s five-hour block of insanity. The AMV Contest was not as awesome as AWA’s either, but I still came out of it impressed with the showing.

Scheduled events aside, no small part of my weekend was spent hanging out with my friends and taking pictures of cosplayers. For the most part, though, if you weren’t a Black Butler or Vocaloid fan, you probably felt underrepresented. Personally, I feel if you weren’t one of the newer fans, the kids begging for attention in cosplay or the ones willing to give them that, you were underrepresented. The event calls itself a family friendly convention, and the absence of any porn rooms and a dearth of 18+ material in the dealers’ room (except for one booth selling boxes and boxes of Hetalia yaoi, categorized by country) backs that up; Simeon himself pointed out that the focus was on more mainstream stuff, particularly the Shonen Jump demographic. This didn’t really bode well for me, someone who is becoming jaded with the modern anime fandom. Perhaps I’m turning into that crotchety old man who wants the kids to get off his lawn, but I think Colony Drop summed up my feelings nicely in their review of New York Comic Con:

“Between the squealing, the chasing, and the desperate pleading for attention with paddles and signs, I can’t imagine anyone over the age of 16 sticking around longer than five minutes after stumbling upon this place. As an adult I felt, as usual, like I was at the wrong nerd party. As an anime/manga fan I merely endured the place, because that’s where the panels and the showings were. I don’t think anybody’s ever going to walk down into this ghetto— like my generation walked into the Animation aisle at Blockbuster Video— and meet and fall in love with anime. The niche culture is too deeply entrenched, and the scene on the con floor exemplifies anime’s image problem with the geek mainstream.”

I don’t want to necessarily discourage these kids from doing what they enjoy and being who they are; far be it for me to judge them. However, I find it very hard to take the fandom seriously under these circumstances. To compare it to PAX East, people at the gaming convention were there to play new games, to interact and socialize with new people, to meet and greet with the industry and learn what makes games tick; the anime fans were there to parade around in costumes and get the voice actors to say things their characters normally wouldn’t say.

So there you have it: Animazement 14. Not much has changed since last year, which is either a blessing or a curse depending on how you see it. It really doesn’t stand out from other anime conventions in style or execution. What really drives it are the attendees, which can vary from nerve-grating teenagers to interesting, fun-loving fans who just want to share what they do and who they are.

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