by Ed Sizemore
I’ll start off by saying, if you are going to attend Otakon, you must get the Guide Book app. It’s available for both iPhone and Adroid users, and there is a mobile site if you are using another smartphone OS. Not only is the program itself wonderful, but the Otakon staff did a great job at constantly updating the app with schedule and room changes. It really made my convention scheduling so much easier.
My first panel of the convention was “Best Manga You Never Read: Tokyopop Edition”, hosted by Kate and Alain of Reverse Thieves. It was one of the few manga-focused panels at Otakon. As they pointed out at the beginning, this was not a “greatest manga from Tokyopop” panel, but a list of books that seem to have been either overlooked or forgotten. Both did a good job of explaining the appeal of titles they selected. A few people said they were going to the dealer’s room to look for one or more of the series. Here are the 12 series they discussed: Sgt. Frog, Karakuri Odette, Dazzle, Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad, Gundam: Ecole du Ciel, X-Day, Planetes, Nosatu Junkie, GTO: The Early Years (Shonan Junai Gumi), Saint Tail, Kodocha, and Harlem Beat.
Next up was the Japanimerica panel by Roland Kelts. Kelts didn’t show up, and there was no explanation given by the staff. I later learned on Twitter that Kelts didn’t feel well and couldn’t make the panel. This was unfortunate, since it was my only chance to catch one of his panels at Otakon.
The panel following Kelts was “Remembering Satoshi Kon“, hosted by Daryl Surat of Anime World Order. Most everyone in the room already knew about Satoshi Kon, and they were there to pay homage among fellow fans. Daryl recommended Andrew Osmond’s excellent book, Satoshi Kon: The Illusionist. It’s the only English language book about the director. Daryl did a wonderful job giving a biography of Kon and explaining what made his movies so memorable.
After a quick trip to check out the dealer’s room, I attended the Peter S. Beagle Q&A panel. He announced that he had settled his decades-long dispute with Granada Media over royalties to The Last Unicorn movie. He then answered questions from the audience. The questions were equally divided among people wanting to ask about a particular book or story and people looking for advice on being a professional writer. My favorite piece of advice was, “If your muse is late, start without her.” He had a very down-to-earth vision of artist as craftsman, not tortured genius.
I then got into the autograph line for Makoto Shinkai. Shinkai is one of the few anime directors that I follow. I have loved, and own, all his films. I can tell you he is one of the nicest guys you’ll meet. He had each person write their name on a slip of paper so he could personalize each autograph and know to whom he was speaking. He greeted each person with a handshake and thanked them for coming. Then as he was signing, he asked everyone a question or two. He spend 18 months in London and so could speak English. I was very impressed.
My next panel was “Fandom & Criticism: The Art of Active Viewing”, hosted by Evan, Elliot, and Ink of Ani-Gamers. They began their discussion by asking if quality was an objective criteria. There was some debate among them. I felt Elliot had perhaps the most nuanced answer, saying it depends on what aspects of a work we are talking about. Certainly, we can say whether an anime is well-drawn, even if art isn’t a deciding factor in liking a show. They went on to describe active viewing as the art of watching a show in an evaluative manner without being completely caught up in it. Discussion of the value of sharing your opinions of a work with others followed. I felt they gave reviewers too much influence in how well a book or movie sells and told them so. This lead to discussion on how much influence reviewers actually have. They had a very lively audience. Later, Evan told me the discussion continued in the hallway for another hour and a half.
After a quick dinner, my last event for the day was the Otaku Game Show. I didn’t catch the name of the hosts for this event. I went because Alain from Reverse Thieves was a contestant. It’s a very impressive set up. Audience members can participate for prizes too by either texting or dialing in their answers. Categories included Character Theme Songs, Product Placement, Holiday Special, and Vegetables. Alain didn’t win, but there’s always hope for next year.