I got airport duty early Thursday. I met and picked up Lin Clover's troupe and some Japanese attendees. I helped load luggage and with Lin Clover's staff, I traveled back in a taxi van. I caught up on some work.
Later that day Hitomi and I took Yuri from m.o.v.e. to Northgate Mall. Yuri is cute and has a nice personality, and pretty well grounded for what you would consider a rock star to be like. She spoke about how she (out of the thousands that auditioned at some strange event) was called back to be given a chance to be voice trained and join a new group, moving from her home in Kyushu, living in Tokyo (and not liking it), how she has a dog that sleeps in her bed, her New York City boyfriend, her interest in American Idol, etc. At the mall, I needed lunch and got a bite to eat while Hitomi was taking her to the different Abercrombie-like stores. I met Hitomi back at Hollister, which is a pseudo-surf clothing shop, where she was shopping for some stripes for her boyfriend. The clerk was a good-looking surf enthusiast who spent some time in Japan, getting drunk at some bar for many weeks.
On the way back, I stopped by the house to pack some clothing. She took some pictures of us in the driveway and our cute house. Old American houses are cute (perhaps better translated as charming?), while old Japanese houses seem dark and haunted, she said. She saw our cat. (Later she would ask how Rei was doing.)
Back at the hotel, we gathered for the annual Thursday night industry dinner. One immediate issue was getting everyone to the restaurant. Despite being only about a 15 minute walk, it took at least 30-40 minutes to locate cars, decide on the load order, get the cars, drive, etc. For the 50 people, we had only gotten 4 cars, only 2 were available, and both cars could only hold about 8 people each (including driver), which meant many trips. And to increase the inefficiency, some sort of entrance ticket was required, which required matching 50 or so tickets to 50 or so people. Many of the staff like myself suggested that people walk. I hung around waiting with the guests, since that's what I have to do.
The dinner, despite being a buffet, was remarkable. Things were cooked just right, not overcooked or dried out, or overly oily, all made with the right level of seasoning and taste balance. The recipes themselves represented fine Northwest cuisine: salmon, crab cakes, casseroles, good coffee, desserts, etc. There was an good selection of beer (though bottled) and wines, and good coffee. We sat at tables or on benches scattered about the ballroom.
Hitomi, me, and the rest of the Japanese staff introduced ourselves to the guests. A few toasts were sent around. Things were looking good for the weekend.
Back at the hotel. With all the excitement building for the weekend, and the coffee and beer and bit of wine, I had a tough time getting to sleep. And I broke the first rule of sleeping in hotels: which is to open the window at night. A sore throat earlier in the week plus the dry, warm hotel room air made me feel worse.
Friday morning we had the usual breakfast at Ruth's Chris Steak house: where the portions are too big, service too slow, and though the ingredients and preparation is top-notch, breakfast there is still pretty bland and boring. Served is typical American hotel breakfast food, though breakfast steaks on the menu make it pretty remarkable for the guests.
Dealing with last minute issues, Hitomi (and later Yurika and other staff) left before service came and missed the meal. Chance put me next to veteran voice actress Ms. Shimamoto, and while eating I followed a discussion by Ms. Nazuka on her junior high school trip in Beijing. I spent some time talking about the local weather. I learned a new word, "shimobashira" – which I had not heard, and the dictionary translated as frost column.
It was actually quite unusual weather on Friday, a record 79 degrees.
Mostly, I spent the day inside though. There were a number of panels on Friday, one I was assigned to, one press. I was mostly along for the ride, though. I supported as moderator and timekeeper, I could listen to the guests and know what they say, though I can't translate for some reason.
Even though it was a press panel with people who could ask a lot more deep questions, a lot of what got asked was regarding the same topics asked over and over again. Mr. Daiichi is asked about Fruits Basket and rumors of continuation. Mr. Minowa, being a character designer is asked about how he designs characters, or his favorite character, etc. (Read about the panel.)
One topic that was brought up, was about how American animators are copying the Japanese. There is, in some respects, a kind of convergence, when two sides mimic each other. Minowa said, "I think it would be boring if America and Japan were the same, I like to see things in different styles." But I guess what I like about Japanese anime is it definitely has a style, and many American cartoons are often unremarkable and bland, unattractive. Not cute, in Hitomi's opinion.
Friday night was the meet-the-guests dinner, but due to my late arrival I was forced to sit with some dealers and miscellaneous attendees that seemed more interested in food than discussion. There was a buffet dinner again, which looked much fancier than it tasted: overcooked, bland.
Plans were hatched to meet up at 9:30 at the Lake Union "Hooters". A table set up in the corner of the bar was the stage for much frivolity. It's pretty remarkable how hard the girls work for their tips: hula-hooping while pouring beer, balancing Coronas on their heads, singing stupid songs, making elephant head hats out of aluminum foil. Gone were the orange hot pants and white shirts, and instead more attractive black outfits. As sort of a bonus was a roving bachelor party, where the bachelor was wearing a wedding dress. Various artists in the Japanese guest group offered and then signed said bachelor's body parts. Mr. Daiichi drew a rendition of Gonta Dango on the buttocks. D, from Vampire Hunter D, a very attractive half-vampire, was drawn on the midriff. Ms. Nazuka and others made their appropriate signatures or other marks similarly.
Sometimes it's hard to tell if the guests are drunk, since they are very silly normally anyway. Not a moment goes by without somebody cracking a joke. I did see quite a large number of pitchers and Coronas go their way. I was located on the opposite end of the table with Fred Gallagher and some other guest relations staff. Lony ("Loony"), along with Hitomi and Chiho, James made our own conversation. Fred and I talked about kayaking. I'd like to go out with him sometime. Instead of going out with the American guests, who get quite drunk, he tagged along with us the weekend.
On Saturday, I helped out Mr. Haga and Michiru (Chiho) with the cosplay judging rules and accompanied them to the cosplay event. I took Michiru around the Freeway Park for pictures.
Did you buy ero manga today?
I attended the cosplay and helped with skit judging.
Sunday I went to the airport with Mr. Nagahama and Ms. Nazuka. There was the final night's dinner at Ruth's Chris Steakhouse. I failed as Director of Cake.
Monday was a bit of a bonus day, where many of the staff stuck around another day. We had dinner at Elliot Oyster House.