Left early in the morning to catch an earlier flight. Hitomi and I were on "standby" since she wanted to get to San Jose for Momoi's afternoon panel. Since I switched later I wasn't sure I'd be on the same flight. Took a taxi ($21 or so) to the Convention Center. According to Hitomi, to reach light rail system by bus takes "forever", even though you can see it's about a half mile away. Maybe after the San Jose airport remodel is done it will be faster.
Got rooms at the Hotel Saint Claire for about $105 a night. James T. was willing to have us stay at a more distant hotel but the hotel wasn't in walking distance.
Met some familiar faces and I tried to remember some names. Just a few Momoi fans from Japan came, and I suspect it was fear of the swine flu that kept them home. A few were rooming with locals, like Kent, who has been a fan since 1998 or so. Momoi's Japanese fans are very nice, but singularly obsessed, really.
Opening ceremonies were a casual affair. Fanime's a casual con, really. There were taiko drummers outside but they weren't too great technically but had showmanship. We mostly hung around until Momoi made a brief appearance.
Momoi's panel for today was titled "Path of the Otaku" according to the schedule but I guess she thought it was about "Seiyuu and Singing", which was supposed to be the theme for tomorrow. As usual, lots of vague, open-ended questions, although there were some specific and interesting ones as well.
Re: Path of the Otaku. As it turns out, I don't think any of the "Momoists" (fans) had girlfriends or boyfriends. (Just a guess.) To me, it seems the path of the otaku is a lonely path, in this respect. It would have been interesting to discuss what does it really mean to live your (entire) life for a particular hobby.
Went to watch Fist of the North Star, following the panel. I saw the movie version. I hadn't watched a whole lot it before, just bits and pieces, so I felt really educated to learn the backstory about exploding heads. Guy running the room hadn't setup the sound properly so I complained. Not a whole lot of interest in older anime these days, it seems.
Dinner…I went with several people in a car to Mitsuwa, a Japanese supermarket. We bought cheap (tasting) Japanese bento and curry. I complained about my katsudon which needed spice or pepper or something.
Saw Detroit Metal City, a parody about a death metal band. First up was the live action version, then some of the animated version.
Hitomi left early to catch a movie, which was canceled and replaced with a serious Korean ganster movie. Koreans really love gangster movies. I wonder if Seoul is safe? I slept in a bit and saw some of K-ON!, which is probably the hit of 2009 in Japan.
Momoi autograph session at 12PM.
Following this was a maid life performance on Stage 0. Momoi shows up.
The past few years, Fanime has had a maid–English, not French–brigade, which dresses up accordingly and actually says the sort of lines you'd hear in a Japanese Maid Cafe. (I wonder why not just use formal English?) They also are expected to sing and dance a little on stage, play games with customers at a cafe, and take pictures.
3PM was Momoi's panel, followed by a call workshop. I spent a few hours translating an article for the call book, which was probably more of a souvenier for those that received it, than study guide as it was intended. Ironically, I'm not into learning calls myself, but I have somehow put in a lot of time working on them anyway. The workshop was for practicing calls but turned into more about otagei, which is a related topic. Otagei is pretty straightforward, except for the infamous Thunder Snake technique.
I killed some time looking at cosplayers out front of the convention area. Eventually we congregated and headed out for dinner. Found a Baja Fresh resturant, it lots of empty seating, fortunately.
Came back and watched two hours of "Anime Hell" which isn't really about anime or hell, but a collection of weird animation, clips from Japanese television, etc., that anime fans would enjoy. I guess "Hell" part refers to the black humor aspect. At 12AM was "Evangelion: Endless Debate" which would have been fun to participate in but I headed off to bed instead.
Hitomi's obsession was uploading pictures and blogging throughout the convention. Take a look at her blog…
Day of the concert. Serious Momoists were itching to arrive first in line for an 8PM concert at around noon. I spent some time unwrapping glow sticks in boxes.
I went to see the voice actors for Resident Evil 5 at a panel. Saw how they blue (green?) screened it, and did facial motion capture. I was thinking that somehow all or most of the character movement, including stunts, and facial animation was actually animated from hand. But in reality, all of it was captured.
Carl Horn had a panel on manga and in particular Dark Horse Manga. In terms of print quality, they are probably the best. (There are really some terrible importers, like Tokyo Pop or CMX which somehow get by doing a half-ass job, so maybe consumers don't really care?) It was interesting to hear him talk about the printing and proof process. And also the move to publishing combined volumes of manga, which retailers love and saves money for publishers as well. Still, a thick book is hard to read. I was going to ask about slip covers–like why nobody does them–but forgot. (Okay, it's obviously a cost issue but I'd still like to see them.)
Visited the Maid Cafe. It was busy the whole convention. Hitomi had saved a spot for me and was waiting with other Momoists. All the maids were really nice. Our assigned maid was trying hard to interact with everyone but somehow either people were distracted or shy. She drew everyone a picture and we played a simple game. Then they put on a little performance, similar to the one the day before and we had pictures with the group.
Snuck into the Gurren Lagan documentary and watched how animators slave away to create a few seconds worth of footage. Hitomi wanted to see it but went outside to wait in line.
Johnathan, a Momoist, was helping out with the NicoNicoDouga (NND) panel. I was curious and went. NND explanation: People upload funny shit to this site. And then peoples' comments fly across the screen. Also: Japanese have their own set of Internet memes so the same concept is repeated over and over again. And unlike Youtube (which the Japanese do use), NND supports live streaming so the entire panel was streamed as well.
Then saw Baccano!, which was a recommended by some older fans…Lots of 1920s Italian mobsters and families going after each other. However one family in particular seems to have a few immortal people. Immortality comes in handy when you're a gangster.
Went to Anime Music Videos "Best of 2009". Interesting that AMVs have caught on world wide so they have an International community and international competition. Lots of effort to combine footage you don't own with music you don't own either. Sometimes the result is "cool" but the flaw I see most often is they are too overwhelming (lots of cuts) or long. The best are actually kind of repetitive or have a variety of pacing.
I finally make my way outside to the line. Hitomi's camped out. I play Momoi songs on my Blackberry. A girl ahead of me looks uncomfortable, lonely, and unhappy. I'm sitting next to her on a concrete wall surrounding the perimeter of the concert hall. She eventually stands up, as if she might have sat in something sticky, but I couldn't tell what it was.
Filtering in, I secure two seats about 2 rows back from the front. We weren't sitting in the front row but there are bigger fans than us and Hitomi doesn't like to be in front anyway.
Opening act was a anime music cover band, Makenai. They sang well-known songs and did a fairly decent job, but it was obvious the sound was a bit messed up and feedback was obvious. (Amaturish sound technicians strike once again.) They did have a few of their own songs, and the last of these was decent. Momoi fans being who they are were equipped with light sticks and had a few calls coordinted for the well-known songs, so it got pretty lively. But many of us were holding back, since we were preserving energy for the main event.
Needless to say, Momoi being the veteran that she is, put on a solid show. Not all my absolute favorites but many of them. With all the enthusastic jumping and gesturing I was sweating through my shirt. (Maybe from my bicycle training I have built up better endurance but I seem to sweat more even though I'm not straining.) With all the movement, I was a bit wary of landing on Hitomi but we had an extra seat open next to us so it wasn't too crowded.
I tried following the calls, and being a tall guy I knew for sure the people behind me were paying attention. But at times, I found myself paying attention to the first row rather than the performance itself, so I had to let myself go on autopilot.
Ninety minutes sure went by quickly. The biggest disappointment was how she was obviously pressed for time, not even having time to introduce her band members or "MC" as much as she usually does.
Concert's over and we are shooed out of the theater as quickly as possible. Out on the steps of the hall people are taking video, sharing pictures, and fans were interviewing fans about how the concert went. I had FOOD on the the mind but people were inclined to simply hang out. When the front lights went out, it was a sign to get out. So now the roving group of Momoists went to seek food. Not many places open at around midnight in Downtown San Jose, as we discover. Eventually somebody finds out Jack in the Box is open and nearby and people congregate there. I hit up a Tacqueria, grab a burrito, and head on over.
Lots of chatting about this and that. Eventually we're done eating and are taking up space. I head back to the convention center, while Hitomi heads to bed. (Actually, Hitomi heads back to post various videos and pictures.) I discover there's not much to do but hang out in the Pr0n room and watch Night Shift Nurses. It wouldn't be an exaggeration to call it Fucking Nasty, though I have worse in manga format. Notably, though, what I haven't seen in a manga are public hairs stuck to the face of a woman nor ejaculate in the texture of cottage cheese. Combine sex with violence and suicide and it's a bit of a downer. Most amusing moment of the night: Staffer passes through the video room with a megaphone, asking for everyone for "hand check".
3am and I'm a bit tired. Still we wake up around 9-10am. It's the last day. Momoi's autograph session is one of the few events I go to. 3PM we watch closing ceremonies and the convention's over. Then we spend the last few hours at a Japanese supermarket and bookstore. (Some out-of-towners don't have these I guess.)