Just coming back from Otakon, I’m not really sure I wanted to go to yet another convention. Still, going to Vancouver is always pretty fun, and even if the convention wasn’t any good at least we could enjoy bicycling or something else in town.
Hitomi left on her own Thursday night as I had to work Friday. So I left a little early to drive to the border. Traffic was miserable (despite the carpool lane) and Leo in the backseat made it even more miserable. The iPad playing videos seemed to placate Leo, but I found it was pretty grating listening to all the kids songs and I couldn’t listen to my own music. (I had headphones but keeping them on his head as I drove seemed unlikely.)
Finally as the traffic let up past Marysville, we were in Conway and I stopped for some food at the fruit stand. I picked up a sandwich and chips and fresh berries. I did what I could to keep him occupied until the border, feeding him berries from the front seat the the back. The border was like a 30 minute wait and the slower things got the more Leo wanted out. I arrived around 8PM, so a 4 1/2 hour slog, and I was pretty much ready to call the whole thing off.
Although I ate, dinner seemed like a good call and a way to wind things down. The local Izakaya “Hapa” was staffed by hot looking Asian ladies in tight clothes. Our waitress happened to be half Japanese and German and friendly. Yet it was probably not a good place to bring a two year old who likes to climb on tables, on a Friday night. I hate to sound like a Yelp review, but the food wasn’t that great for the price, and it seemed to have interesting dishes, but none seemed really well done.
We grabbed dessert, even though it was quickly getting later and later. Leo was in bed around 10PM, which wasn’t good because I knew he’d be up early. In fact, he was getting us up before 7AM the next day and I was in no mood. I pretty much told Hitomi no more traveling this year. The main reason was not having time with her, and secondarily me not getting enough rest.
I had packed my bicycle and Hitomi had hers, so getting to the convention center was pretty quick. Vancouver has a fantastic pedestrian and bicycle trail around the West End, though expect more than a few tourists to be walking on the bicycle-only path. I had put Leo into a car seat supported on the back of my Ritchey, but I had installed it too high and it felt really scary to turn.
The convention space was one part cruise ship terminal, one part hotel, and the rest anime convention. Throughout the weekend, tourists from the cruise liner were taking their pictures with cosplayers, both kids and grandparents. It was somewhat Disneyland-esque, although a bit more sexy. Girls were dressed as soldiers from the recent anime Attack on Titan, in similar proportion to what I had seen at Otakon.
There wasn’t much to do in the morning, and I stepped into a video room to watch a little of the Steins;Gate dub. I’m not sure the technology or story makes much sense, but I liked the characters and character designs. The dub was well done, but I think the VA director should have had the actors properly pronounce the character names.
We had also taken a look through the dealer’s room. Although it was small, it had some above average stuff. A few of the booths were selling bootlegs, but there was a car wrap company along with a few cars wrapped with the mascot characters from Anime Revolution (ita-sha); large paper art Zelda and Link; a Sci-Fi real-estate agent, who talked a lot; merchandise and shirts that looked really good (Hitomi and I liked the Volunteer pink shirts); talented illustrators, dojinshi arists, and crafters (felt, plushies) in the Artist area; etc. Hitomi met a Japanese lady selling fashionable printed sweatshirts (Retropop Nama) next to the Origa music booth.
I promised to meet Stein for lunch. He walked from Chinatown in the morning to Kirin in the West End. Kirin has good dim sum, but it’s pretty high end, meaning you order off a menu, not from a cart. Unfortunately that made the meal a bit lengthier—meaning not Leo friendly. I thought everything was pretty great, including the rice soup (お粥), but it wasn’t much.
We had arranged a babysitter for the concert that night. The plan was to attend the concert then eat, and be back around 8 or so. But the concert was about an hour late. I was in line and chatted with some Seattle locals and that wasn’t too bad.
The delay was obviously due to technical difficulties (sound), and when the concert began the sound issues were not solved. Anime Revolution seemed either short on speakers or amplifiers. Or perhaps their configuration was wrong. The DJ that came out tried to twist more than a few nobs–what were they for?–but it didn’t seem to matter much.
I hadn’t seen Origa in person, just on video. Obviously she can sing. But as for singing, this time she was singing dance music, and the volume and mix was too quiet. Though actually it was worse than quiet, it was distorted, like she was singing underwater. And it wasn’t really late enough in the evening to feel like dancing. And it’s hard to dance when you’re there to watch somebody on stage.
Yes, Origa primarily was singing club/dance music: It did not help was that her audience was expecting some of the more melodic tracks from anime she was in, namely Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. I was familiar with her less known work, as I bought her CD Era of Queens way back when it came out. She did sing a cappella (maybe no music track? rights issue?) a few songs from GiTS: SAC. But who knew her newer songs?
I had a few thoughts: One was that audio problems are ever so typical for anime conventions. In my opinion, the one thing you don’t mess up when a guest comes is their audio: Forget them at the airport, but all is forgiven if you ensure their sound is pristine. Secondly, they should have had her perform in a dance-like venue. Like, schedule it as the “Anime Revolution Dance starring Origa”. Lastly, it would nice if Sakura-con could invite her as a guest, as she lives in Vancouver, Canada now, and have her do their dance.
Because the concert ran so late, we didn’t have time for dinner before Leo’s babysitting was over. So much for couple’s romance: Riding back with Leo, I stopped and picked up some food at the neighborhood donburi takeout joint. The staff spoke Japanese but obviously didn’t want to with me. Here I was, 9PM at night, yelling at Leo as he rampaged the place, as I waited for the food to be made I was getting my pickles in order.
Back in the room, Leo’s bouncing on the bed while Hitomi and I are finally eating. And after Leo’s in bed at 10, so ends another exhausting, yet uneventful day.
Like most small conventions, Sunday’s schedule was pretty open. Aside from part of one train-wreck panel (Worst Cosplay Contest) I hadn’t seen any panels and was there anything left to see? Hitomi and I chatted up a few people in the exhibit hall. Leo slept in the stroller, eventually.
I picked up the car, and fought traffic to the convention center and out of the city. An hour later or so we were finally in Richmond, where the local mall had some pretty ugly parking lot traffic. The mall we were at had a nice fountain which intrigued Leo and tempted him to reach into the water. Plus there was some sort of exhibit on Italy, complete with Italian cars and motorcycles. Were the local Chinese going to be intrigued to visit Italy? Leo climbed around all the exhibits that he was supposed to stay off of, oh well.
Enough chasing of the kid. We drove back to the U.S., with a stop for dinner at Skagit River Brewery. There was one more convention left for us this summer: Japan Expo USA.