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Monday, June 11, 2018

AnimeNEXT 2018: Hitting the Vertical Limit

I first started going to AnimeNEXT back in 2009, when it moved to Somerset, NJ & became a "local con" for me. When it moved to Atlantic City in 2016, I stuck with it, even though it now became much more expensive, due to hotel reservations. Still, the move to the Atlantic City Convention Center was instantly a major improvement. The venue is much larger than what Somerset offered, with more than enough room to grow, and the fact that the ACCC is a four-floor building gives the entire convention a verticality that you just can't find in most other cons, which only tend to feature two floors, at most, which feel more self-contained & seperate than anything. Simply put, it's awesome to be at AnimeNEXT, look above & below you, & always see people moving about. It also helps for special features that utilize the atrium, like Cosplay Pro Wrestling, as the multiple floors create an arena-like experience. Still, if I've been continually going to ANext, why haven't I reported on it?

Well, to be frank, it was because I tend to only report on cons that I do panels at; they double as an info guide for what I showed. In 2016, I only went for a single day, just to get a feel for the new venue. I did apply for panels in 2017, but communication problems meant that I didn't know all of them were denied until the schedule itself came out. This year, though, I finally returned to doing panels at my "local(-ish) con", and I got two approved. Overall, AnimeNEXT has become a rather challenging convention to do panels at, mainly from a content perspective. As AniGamers' Evan Minto said a day ago, it's effectively a mini-Otakon, especially when it comes to panels. ANext has given a lot of priority towards really informational & researched presentations, which in turn make them all the more interesting to check out, so much so that plenty of people I know had put in panel applications that sounded awesome, only for them to get nothing approved.

Therefore, similar to Otakon, if I get approved for AnimeNEXT, I feel a real need to up my game & deliver a solid panel. At the same time, though, that puts a self-imposed expectation on me wanting as good of a crowd as possible to entertain & (hopefully) educate... So when the latter fails to pass, it really does put a damper on me, and it makes me wonder sometimes if I should really keep doing panels. I honestly had this feeling on Friday night when I did Late Night with Anime to a "crowd" that didn't even hit double-digits at its peak in one of the larger mid-sized panel rooms. Inspired by a two-part piece I did back in July of 2012, this panel explained how anime effectively went from a "mainstream" piece of Japanese TV entertainment, that aired all over the day, to mostly "anime infomercials" that air primarily between 10 pm & 3 am, solely so promote the eventual home video release, original source material, & other swag that is made to go with it. I thought it was a cool concept that would help give some context to the anime that we all watch nowawadays, while also poking fun at some of sillier aspects of these early days, like how blatant the music promotion was, as Eat-Man's OP was just a credit roll with wipe transitions, & Hareluya II BØY's first episode ED was a literal music video for the band; I even made it 18+, so that I could show things like bare breasts & gore for a couple of bits.

So, yeah, the lack of "support" for that panel, in a sense, was disheartening, and I wasn't expecting too much for my other panel, which wound up being scheduled Saturday at 12:15 am (post-midnight), so technically early Sunday, yet wasn't 18+; yes, the "family-friendly" panel happened later than the "late-night" panel. Anyway, said second panel was Gundoh Musashi, The Disaster Anime, which was solely about the infamous 2006 TV anime based on a concept by Lupin the 3rd's Monkey Punch. In order to do this panel, I actually rewatched all 26 episodes this past February, taking notes of each & every of the most inscrutable mistakes, terrible drawings, photo backgrounds, & general bizarreness that I came across. Needless to say, I came up with so many instances that I only bothered to get video clips from the first half of the show for this panel, though I did take screenshots from the entire show; I'll gather the rest of the clips another time. Due to the late-late-late scheduling (I was the second-to-last panel to happen that night), I wasn't expecting much of a crowd, but I wound up with what I'd consider a decent turnout, which I was happy to see. Anyway, the crowd had a ton of fun, laughing at the various errors & reveling in the glorious disaster that is Gundoh Musashi. I definitely had their attention, because when I revealed that director Yuki Kinoshita wanted to redo the animation for the boxset release, only for the release to get canceled a month before scheduled, I heard a few people actually go, "Ah, no!"

I got them right where I wanted them...

Anyway, on the whole I had a fun time at AnimeNEXT, as always, and while I do wish that Late Night with Anime had a better turnout (though it is impossible to go up against Anime Hell by the legend himself, Dave Merrill of Let's Anime), I still think it was a solid panel in terms of content, and I do plan on doing it again at some point. But, for those few who did attend, and even for those who are just curious, here are the titles I showed at that panel:

Sennin Buraku
Lemon Angel: Legend of the Red Light
Super Zugan
Those Who Hunt Elves
Next Senki Ehrgeiz
Haunted Junction
Shadow Skill
Eat-Man '98
Hareluya II BØY
Serial Experiments Lain
Outlaw Star
Space Pirate Mito
Legend of Basara
Ippatsu Kiki Musume/Miss Critical Moment
Pet Shop of Horrors

P.S. Team Guntank Forever!

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