Kumori-con ("Cloudy convention") was so named since it takes place in rainy Oregon. Though, every convention since 2003 first has been quite warm and sunny, since the date changed from a weekend in November to September.
Hitomi got in touch with the Momoi fan group wanted to prepare an introduction and call book for her performance in Kassel, Germany at Connichi. (Nice picture of her here.) Hitomi took a crack at translating some song lyrics (for about three songs) and I went in and edited them to make a little more sense. There were also a few paragraphs in Japanese (not sure who put these together) explaining what the songs were about. I took a crack at them. Apparently, even cute girls in Japan get teased and outcast if they don't have normal interests. Momoi wrote about how she managed to meet friends through an online network (which, at that time, was not Internet) who were like her.
I'm a little surprised that she wasn't able to meet people at her school that were into, well, fairly common geek activities. Maybe there were none female? I haven't watched her drama, or finished her book, which I suppose explains the loneliness she felt.
The translation work done, Hitomi and I headed off to Portland at around 11:30AM. I was hot without air conditioning, and traffic was almost as bad as rush hour. After not finding a place to eat around a mall in Olympia — every lot and I suppose restaurant packed — we headed off to some Korean-owned teriyaki restaurant in a new mall in Tumwater. Which was better expected, though I could have used some kim-chi with my kal-bi. Alas they did not serve with it, probably to hide their Koreanness.
I use the F word more than I ordinarily do when driving in a hot car stuck in traffic, which upsets Hitomi. Having a new car with air conditioning would certainly help my morale.
Finally, we arrived. Vancouver, Washington actually turned out be a bit nicer than I had though. They managed to preserve what looks like a walkable downtown. There appeared to be a lot of renewal and high-rise construction efforts underway, somewhat mimicking Portland across the bay. The main hotel (sold out) for Kumori-con was a recently built Hilton, next to a very nice park, Esther Short Park. In this very park, the people of the city and local businesses were celebrating Vancouver's 150th Anniversary … along with numerous otaku dressed in costumes of ninjas, school girls, samurai, etc., milling about their clock tower.
Hitomi and I got free cake (from sponsors Costco) and sat down on a bench, and were entertained by the spectacle.
The crowd of cosplayers developed into a circle of spin-the-bottle glomping girls and boys. They initially used a PET bottle, and later days, I noticed Ramune bottles and multiple circles formed. Apparently on Sunday, there was a spanking circle as well.
Kumori-con, still a fraction the size of Sakua-con, doesn't get any Japanese guests and doesn't draw many big names or performers. But as a small convention, they do things most conventions don't, such as show fan subtitled anime. They also have a dedicated music video room, which is a bit surprising considering how unpopular it has been over the years. So, Hitomi and I use this convention as an opportunity to "catch up" on new anime and J-Pop artists.
After a few hours inside watching videos, we went back out in search of dinner. There's a few restaurants around Esther Short park. One's a Laotian/Thai place, which was unusually packed. We got a table at the bar in the back and ordered some food. Our food took about an hour to get, but I had a nice chat to a cute woman dressed as a video game character: dressed as a sexy Red Riding Hood, she had (plastic) guns in a basket. (Not her, but similar dress.) She also happened to be a bartender and chatted with the actual bartender. I helpfully explained that I was used to waiting for service during conventions, but I got a little impatient waiting another 30-40 minutes to get our dessert.
We walked back to the Shilo Inn, passing a number of bars with smokers milling outside. Aside from a few places, the rest of the town seemed asleep.
Sunday morning we headed back to the park and picked up a number of goodies at the farmer's market. Peach season is reason enough for happiness, but I couldn't have imagined munching on juicy fruit in a dark theater, so we got some fresh baked goods instead. We spent the morning of the convention watching various fansubs. I'm not a supporter of piracy, but I do like that shows with little to no market potential do manage to be available, at least online. One show I've been interested in seeing, called Over Drive, was about a high school bicycle race club and actually turned out to be quite good. Somehow I feel compelled to download it and share it with Larry at Perfect Wheels, but it's funny enough to entertain non-bicyclists. Incidentally, the main supporting female character was voiced by Kaori Nazuka, who was at Sakura-con this year. Hitomi pointed this out, and I felt a little embarrassed I had not noticed.
We watched about three more shows. One show was about a yakuza (gangster) mermaid family, whose daughter (who is in mermaid junior high) got engaged to some human boy. The jealous father does not want to see his daughter go, and tries — unsuccessfully — to put a hit on said boy. It's a comedy. The opening theme and mermaid girl is voiced by Hitomi's favorite Momoi Halko. Another show we saw was about a boy, in debt to (human) yakuza, runs away, and tries to kidnap a rich girl for ransom who mistakes his kidnapper for a boy in love with her — another comedy. The last show, based on a four-panel gag strip, called Lucky Star, was about high school friends' various observations. There was no real plot, just a series of conversations and events of daily life.
By myself, I watched Soukou no Strain, a show was mostly your typical all-girl-academy-in-space story, whose main character is trying to find her older brother and kill him for siding with the enemy, while less talented mean girls try to bring her down. I'm a sucker for tragic female characters, myself.
After dinner at a fairly fancy Hawaiian place, we (again) were in the music video room most of the night. There was a "Con-Chair's Favorite Hentai Anime Video" showing after 12PM, but Hitomi wasn't interested. To walk her back to the hotel, I abandoned plans. And to be honest, after experiencing the day's accumulated funk of some overweight otaku in the front of the room, felt like it my viewing pleasure would be limited.
I've been thinking of running an ero-manga panel next year, probably at Kumori-con. It would be a pouppori of various artists, themes, recurring situations, vocabulary, fetishes, etc. accompanied by scans and translations by yours truly. I might make it seem scholarly, but really I'd be there to talk about things I like. There's really a limited number of titles available in the U.S., due to concerns about violent or underage sexual depictions, and though the material is readily imported, it's rarely published domestically. It'd probably be attended by a few "serious" enthusiasts, and the rest random perverts looking for after-midnight entertainment…but so be it.
Our last day, we tried to get in some non-video events, such as the A-key-kyo concert. The concert: In addition to bad mixing and audio equipment, the performers got sidetracked into some pretty stupid stage antics between songs. Hitomi and I got bored and left. We took a look at the dealer's area, which turned out to be some area partitioned off from the parking garage. Next year they're moving back to Downtown Portland, so they'll have a proper place.
Overall, we had a good time. Staff were nice, things were organized — always better than AX with its 35,000 attendees.