While I’m still in the process of writing up my piece on voice actor Greg Ayres, I figure I’ll just share my very personal experience with the AnimeNEXT convention last weekend. I had mentioned towards the end of a previous post that I was going to be getting press badges for all the major northeast conventions this summer. AnimeNEXT was the first, and man, was it an awesome experience.
Actually, the whole thing started with me noticing a “Fan Subbing” panel in the conventions schedule being hosted by Ayres. Wait, a voice actor talking about fanssubbing? This sounded like something I would write about, and it would probably make for a good story on my site. Since the schedule didn’t list any more details on the panel, I emailed my press contact asking for more information. I said that I was considering possibly holding an interview with the voice actor if he was really there to talk about the controversial subject.
Within a couple of hours, Trisha Sebastian, AnimeNEXT’s Director of Publicity, emailed me back:
“I’ve forwarded the details of your request to our guest liaison who will ask Greg if he would like to do the interview.”
o_O! Whoa, a private interview already?!? No, no, no! I was just curious about the panel. I didn’t want to commit to anything just yet.
But Trisha responded to my doubts and reassured me that the panel was just as I thought it was going to be. She sent me a complete summary of the panel from a past convention, a link to Ayres’s MySpace blog, and a link to a post I made in my blog several years ago which she said represented the over all tone of the panel. I was very impressed. Not only did she know everything I was looking for, she even did her homework about my little site and cited something I wrote a while ago. So I agreed to have the interview.
Clearly something was going to be very different about going to an anime convention this time around…
I remember day one of Anime Boston in 2004. It was the first 3-day convention I went to, and it was at the height of the huge boom in the anime industry. Looking down the list of panels for the first day, it wasn’t the biggest names in the business, but I was still drooling over every one of them that I was about to see.
“Ooh, first we can go to Media Blasters panel. They are the ones who are about to put out the Invader Zim boxset. Then we can check out FUNimation’s panel on licensing, they do Dragonball Z. They got another panel tomorrow, so they might not make any announcements today, but you never know. Oh, and then there’s Broccoli! They did FLCL…”
My girlfriend at the time did not seem quite as enthusiastic as I was about all the industry panels. She was more excited over seeing cosplay for the first time and wanted to see more about this new side of anime fandom for her. But she humored me and tagged along for my geeky interest in the business side of anime and manga.
At that FUNimation panel the next day, a slightly older girl sat next to me. Pale skin and and long jet black hair, she fit the profile of any anime fangirl. Without me saying anything, she proudly declared to me, “I’m press,” and held up her press badge. She appeared to be witting for some publication that I had never heard of before, more then likely some kind of “fan-zine” or something of the sort. But her behavior lacked any kind of professionalism or sophistication you’d expect from any reporter.
FUNimation’s big announcement that day was the very popular “Kodacha” series, which was met with a large applause from the audience. Afterward, they passed out toy mallets and played the show’s opening theme song. The “Press” girl next to me, completely beside herself since the word “Kodacha” was mentioned, got up and danced like a raving lunatic. This left my own female companion to stare at me with the look of “Dear God, what the hell is going on?” on her face.
The press badge, while officially issued to her, was clearly just this girl’s cosplay for the convention. An anime fangirl pretending to be a professional journalist.
I continued to go to all the industry panels at every anime convention I’ve gone to since then, dragging along any girlfriends, regular friends, or anyone who would humor me enough to go to these somewhat boring panels. After a while, I had my blog set up and attempted to get my own press badge, only to be denied one every time. But I still went to these panels for the purpose of blogging about them, and I quietly sat with all the press. I began recognizing familiar faces through out the years, like Mikhail Koulikov of Anime News Network, Deb Aoki of manga.about.com, and Brigid of MangaBlog.
Now that I’m out of school, have a decent income, and have two weeks paid vacation time, I can go to even more conventions than before. And now that my blog has its own domain name, a consistent release schedule, and far more traffic than ever before, I figured I had a better chance of being taken seriously when it comes to writing about anime. I reapplied for press badges and much to my joy, I was accepted each and every time.
I walk towards the Meadowlands Expo Center completely lost as to what to do first. I immediately look for a staff member.
“Oh, um… I’m Press,” I manage to squeeze out, feeling completely unnatural, “where can I go to check in?” The staff escorted me to an office upstairs, where I finally got to meet Trisha in person. We talked a little about when I would be having my Ayres interview, and then we exchanged materials. I handed her two of my business cards, which contained a full-color picture of my blog’s mascot with the words “Scott VonSchilling – Writer, Website Operator” written on it. In return, she handed me a packet of press releases for the convention and my very own press badge.
For the first time ever, I became a cosplayer at an anime convention. With this badge, I was an anime fanboy pretending to be a professional journalist.
But I tried to play my part well. iPhone in hand, I ventured all over the convention to “report” on anything I can find notable. Cosplay of internet memes, Haruhi dance workshop, fangirls cooing over Kirby, a kid playing video game theme songs on his keyboard… all the little pieces of the otaku fandom that I have come to love through out my years of convention going. It was great to be able to walk freely around the convention to get the best view of the environment.
Of course, I wished that my equipment worked better and that I was able to report more while I was there, but overall I think it was a very successful experiment. I’m already working on ways to improve my “live blogging” method for next time.
I finally met up with my fellow bloggers at the Del Rey panel Friday night. I had already met Japanator’s Dick McVengeance at the Lolita and Maid Fashion event two weeks ago, but this was the first time I met Gia from the a geek by any other name blog. I have come to respect these two bloggers and their websites so much over the past couple of months, and it was great to be with other people just as geeky about these industry panels as I was. No more having to convince people to tag along and humor me. I was finally with my peers.
Trisha, the publicity person I mentioned earlier, noticed my live blogging coverage and was really digging it. She joined our crew for drinks that night, and we all hit it off pretty well. The four of us sat down on Saturday afternoon and recorded a fun episode of the Japanator’s Podtiod-san podcast. It was so much easier to record a show with everyone in the same room than it was a month earlier when I did the show over Skype.
But besides for the great story and the awesome people I hung around with, there was a certain ego trip about people I didn’t even know recognizing my name, my website, or just simply showing some respect because of the badge. I felt this the most right before the Greg Ayres fansub panel. I had set up my laptop and mic, and was reviewing my notes from the interview I conducted with him earlier that morning.
“Hey, are you press?” asked several of the folks around me. I told them yes, handed out my business card, and explained to them that I was doing a piece on Ayres and his views on the subject. They all instantly spilled out any information and opinions they had, thinking that they would get their names written on some notable website. I was flattered, but ultimately just focused on the business at hand.
I was joined by Evan Minto, a kid from the Ani-Gamers blog who was also cosplaying as press for the first time. He was even more excited over this new gig than I was, practically dancing in his seat. I could totally understand his excitement, but kept a cool persona to put up with the act.
Through out Ayres panel, the voice actor said a few things like “in the interview I had earlier” or “I was just telling someone about…” At one point, Evan leans over to me and asks, “Is he talking about you?”
“Yeah…” I tell him.
“Wow, that’s awesome!”
Actually, yeah, it was pretty awesome. (^_^)
The whole weekend was an awesome time for me, possibly one of the best conventions I’ve ever been to. It was great to have an actual story in mind for the convention, and being able to have the right connections to make it happen. It was nice to be able to walk around the convention freely to chronicle my appreciation for the subculture I’m somehow a part of. And I had a blast hanging out with Dick, Gia, Trisha, and Evan, and look froward to meeting more of the Japanator crew at Otakon in a couple of months.
If you’re going to be at Otakon, New York Anime Fest, or the Portland Anime Conference this year, be sure to look for me and say, “hi!” I shouldn’t be that hard to miss. I’ll be right there in the front row of all the industry panels.
I will just be the anime fanboy blogger cosplaying as a professional journalist. (^_^)