And thus starts my now annual vacation. I’ve attended Anime USA for three years in a row now, though I have attended other cons before, namely Katsucon back when it was held at the Omni Shoreham and Otakon at the Baltimore Convention Center, but due to my seniority at job and of course, the needed con funding and the inevitability that said con funding tends to be my rainy day fund, Anime USA is my go-to con. Regardless, I figure I have enough time to just go through this day by day. I don’t think I’ll be getting much pictures from this con as I did last time, I think I’ve just gone picky. Or that my con experience really comes from the panels that I believe I find very interesting.
I originally had a schedule that I wanted to follow, and roughly followed it to some extent. I had not gone to the first one I had listed, mainly due to meeting with a friend who I had not seen since moving to the morning shift at work. So some good places to eat for some reasonable price that folks would probably take a look at would be Tono Sushi. Friend and I chatted about what’s gone on at work since I moved to a better shift (my opinion) over some tempura, eel, and ramen.
Regardless, after she and I parted ways, or rather lost each other in the dealer’s room where I already blew 84 dollars on manga and an Earth Federation Space Forces flag, I went to my first panel. That flag by the by is still with the dealer, since it’s his only one. Every one of his staff was on hand after lunch and I got singled out as “that dude that bought the flag”. I think it’s quite clear who I support. Except the Titans, unless it’s the Titans Test Team, because bunnies.
Cloud Age Symphony: Steampunk in Anime
Presenter: Sarah Hodge-Wetherbe (1900HRS – 2000HRS @ Oct 21)
This is actually the second year I’ve attended Cloud Age Symphony: Steampunk in Anime by Mrs. Sarah Hodge-Wetherbe, and I absolutely am awestruck by her depth of knowledge and enthusiasm. Her day job as a librarian quite shows and she’s often repeating that fact, but the fact she’s also into anime was what caught my attention the other year. As one could guess by the title, Cloud Age Symphony is about Steampunk in Anime, alluding no doubt to the opening song for Last Exile performed by Shuntaro Okino.
Mrs. Hodge-Wetherbe goes through a timeline of shows that may not be seen as ‘steampunk’ in a sense, but are definitely filled with steampunk in aesthetics The start of the panel is also devoted to the definition of steampunk, albeit briefly in comparison to actual ‘steampunk’ panels focusing on the actual movement and fandom as well as related works. This touches on also the associated but not always the same ClockPunk and DieselPunk.
Listing off titles such as Galaxy Express 999 (1979), Mysterious Cities of Gold (1982, but it is an example of what she considers ‘solarpunk’), Spirit of Wonder (1992), Sakura Wars (1997), Read or Die (2001), Metropolis (2001), Last Exile (2003), and Steamboy (2004). This of course was not the full list, but all of them featured aesthetics of Steampunk and maybe some crossing over into Clock and Diesel iterations of the ‘____punk’ genre.
Something she shared which I didn’t realize was while Meiji Japan was enamored with Victorian England, it was due to Commodore Perry’s recall due to the American Civil War that caught Japan a reprieve and allowing them to get stronger. It was of course something I’ve not considered, which I think I should’ve had. Steampunk as a genre tends to focus greatly on the anachronistic future of the Victorian era, airships and early steam industry being the norm, one cannot forget that at the time of Victorian England and the Age of Empires, the American frontier is being played out.
Anime though was also not the only thing she talked about, as the modern ‘anime’ nowadays seems to be in what folks would call an ‘identity battle’, the most recent one being of the music video Shelter and the furor it had caused in the anime sub/r/eddit. She gives the example of Spartakus and the Sun Beneath the Sea, a 1985-1987 French production that is a retelling of essentially Journey to the Center of the Earth; as well as Avatar: The Last Airbender & The Legend of Korra.
In all, I didn’t learn anything earth-shatteringly new, but I had great interactions with Mrs. Hodge-Wetherbe who was more than willing to entertain question from the crowd that provided their input, and I’m quite sorry if I seem to be crowding her for questions, namely because of my fascination with the steampunk movement. Her presentation style seems quite relaxed with a small group and I figure unlike a college lecture where one has to get through the material quite quickly; it was more of a fun endeavor where fans got together and talked about Steampunk in anime. And of course, the quick assertion that if anything, anime and steampunk share the same love of tea.
Nautical Nonsense: A Look into Japanese Naval History and the Anime It Spawned
Presenters: Winning The War on Pants (group) (2200HRS – 2300HRS @ Oct 21)
In comparison to the two panels I attended before by Mrs. Hodge-Wetherbe (I’ll explain later), Nautical Nonsense was more of a fan-panel. The presenters were a group calling themselves ‘Winning the War on Pants’, an allusion to the early marketing slogan for the Strike Witches series in America. Giving a quick overview of Japanese naval history. Included as well is the reason why the naval tradition managed to survive the societal ‘ban’ on nationalism after the war, mostly by pinning the whole blame on the Army.
The presenters started it by showing a clip of Momotaro: Umi no Shinpei, a late war Japanese propaganda film which is considered the first Japanese feature-length animated film, before moving onto a recent show which I’ve blogged before, High School Fleet. The featured clip was of the final battle between the Kagerou-class destroyer Harekaze versus the Yamato-class super battleship Musashi. A little bit of explanation of Japanese military hardware proceeded before this, as well as light-hearted banter between myself and the presenters. This would continue throughout the whole panel.
The next show featured of course was Space Battleship Yamato/Star Blazers, which was done in a very abridged version. While it is easy to see the message inherent in SBY, about the ruthless Garmilas empire reducing Earth into a barren radioactive wasteland; a foreign power offering to save Earth and the utilization of the newly warp-engine equipped interstellar battleship Yamato. Comments were made about the actual ship and its state at the bottom of the ocean, as well as such things being addressed in the Yamato 2199 remake. Featured prominently would be the iconic theme song from the series.
Moving onto Kantai Collection, a quick overview of the game led into a fan-made AMV which to my mind, best exemplified the very disjointed nature of the anime. In the end though, a clip featured the kanmusu Yamato, and lo-and-behold, spliced into the scene in which the Yamato utilizes sanshiki against Abyssal fighters would be the Space Battleship Yamato theme. This was where I figured what they were doing.
Arpeggio of Blue Steel –Ars Nova- proceeded with a quick overview of the universe as well as the scene in which I-401 targets Takao and her limpeted submarine with her Wave-Motion Gun Graviton Cannon. This wasn’t really a very blatant appearance of the Yamato, so of course the scene from Arpeggio of Blue Steel –Ars Nova: Cadenza- in which the Yamato/Iona hybrid supreme flagship showed herself was, once again, spliced with the Space Battleship Yamato themesong.
Zipang would be talked about as well as and its similarities to the movie The Final Countdown. This time though the Space Battleship Yamato theme was recordscratch-halted by the destruction of the Yamato’s shells by the Sea Sparrow missiles aboard the JDS Mirai.
And of course, Strike Witches was mentioned. A good deal of it was explaining the unreasonableness of the world as well as why they named their group the way they did. And of course, the Yamato was featured as well, but most likely the scene of the Neuroified Yamato launching into the sky to attack the Neuroi hive over Romagna (with appropriate music of course). With time running short, they had to really skip through the scene in the movie in which the Yamato is instrumental in destroying the mobile carrier/hive.
Overall the fan-panel was more like a small discussion of similar shows and observations of fans for fans. It isn’t exactly as spit and polished as some of the educational-track panels featured in the programming for Anime USA 2016, but as a fan-panel it was fun and informative, and the very easy-going nature of the panelists and the acceptance of banter was encouraging. I honestly loved the banter between the audience and each other, and it was more of a night discussing anime with friends than something akin to a lecture.
The crew of ‘Winning the War on Pants‘, who are undoubtedly ensuring the right battles against trousers are fought.
Girls und Panel Ausf H.
Presenters: Steven, Chris, Mike (2300HRS – 0000 HRS @ Oct. 21)
A presentation of the various armored vehicles and schools in the Girls und Panzer universe. First focusing on the girls of Ooarai, before going onto other schools like St. Gloriana, Saunders, Kuromorihime, and the like. Also featured would be the movie-specific teams like Keizoku, Chihatan, and Selection University.
Following the quick recap of the movie, other media was briefly discussed, with the most prominent one being Girls und Panzer: Ribbon Warrior, in which the ‘underground’ sport of Tankathlon is featured, and shows a few new schools. The remaining slide was devoted to schools that weren’t shown but only had their school crests displayed.
Afterwards, the presentation included the presenter’s ‘pilgrimage’ to Ooarai, noting that it was hard hit by the 2011 Earthquake and Tsunami. With the surprising popularity of Girls und Panzer (beating out Sword Art Online at times), it led to a sort of revival to the town which had wholeheartedly embraced the franchise. Little tips were given if/when others would visit, particularly on trains and the need to book ahead.
In all, it was even more geared to fans of the particular series than Nautical Nonsense was, hence the lightness I’ve done to cover it. Chris, one of the presenters, I’ve known through his role as one of the dealers of Collectors Anime, whom I’ve established a bit of a rapport with and also how I discovered the patch group ‘Weapons Grade Waifus’. Steven was the Anzio fan and I do begrudgingly approve of his choice while the other presenter, Mike, leans towards Saunders.
In all, it was a good panel, and was less rowdy (but not in a bad way) than Nautical Nonsense was. I’ve originally wanted to go to this panel earlier in the year with Katsucon, but the fire drill that happened made it impossible.
Steven, Chris, and Mike working on getting their panel up and running.
Soul Sucking Snow Women: Mythological Horror in Anime
Presenters: Sarah Hodge-Wetherbe & Charles Dunbar ( 0000HRS – 0100HRS @ Oct. 22)
As the clock rolls over to 0500 on October 22nd, the high I got from the coffee seems to be waning. Regardless, I shall try to continue with this. Charles Dunbar was actually recommended to me by Haru Menna, a panelist I had met previously and found we hit it off over topics such as history in animation, nonsensical items, and general commentary on life, the universe, and the fandom. In fact, it seemed my job was to scare Mr. Dunbar into ‘behaving’ himself else I will rat to Haru. It wasn’t exactly in my nature to do so, but still.
This was actually the first full panel I attended with Charles Dunbar, and while Mrs. Hodge-Wetherbe took centre stage due to the fact it was her presentation, on certain mythological creatures, Mr. Dunbar would take the stage, give a very rousing and informative ‘rant’, and generally entertain and inform the audience. Much like earlier, both took questions to heart, and discussion was quite spirited.
My contribution to this whole thing was when the subject of the Nukekubi came up. Vampyric creatures in which their heads would separate from their bodies when they fed at night. I brought up the difference between ‘western’ and ‘oriental’ vampires and of course, the subject matter experts noted that what is known as ‘western’ vampires are actually a very specific group reinforced by literature. One thing I also talked about was the similarities of the Nukekubi with other Asian creatures similar of it, talking about the particular creatures in Vietnam and the Philippines.
In the end, with time running out in the panel, Mrs. Hodge-Wetherbe featured the Yuki-Onna, the spirit of the snow who freezes men and takes their life force. The popular story was of two woodcutters taking shelter from the blizzard. One was killed by the Yuki-Onna, the other, having witnessed this, was spared but must not tell a soul of what had transpired. This woodcutter would then find a woman whom he would fall in love with and raise a family with. Unable to let go of the even, he tells his wife, who is actually the same Yuki-Onna. Two variations exist of the story, the first is that the creature kills her husband for revealing the event, the other is that she spares him due to their children, not intent on leaving them parentless. He is tasked to raise them well without harming them, else she would come back for him, and he lives his life mourning his loss and in fear of her return.
This was actually adapted to a story in Tales from the Darkside, although the creature was changed to be a gargoyle. It is of the violent end, though the creature adopts a more tragic role, as her disguise fails when he recounts his encounter with the gargoyle much earlier, killing the man in sorrow as her monstrous side takes over. It is revealed that their children are also gargoyles and would join their mother on the rooftops.
In the end, I was mildly surprised by Mr. Dunbar’s energy and enthusiasm. If Mrs. Hodge-Wetherbe is more content in sitting and taking on a bit of a librarian’s lecture, Mr. Dunbar seems to be the type to walk amongst the crowd and get in with them on a related tangent to the subject at hand. I look forward to seeing his other panels, if I have the time.
Mr. Chris Dunbar (left) and Mrs. Sarah Hodge-Wetherbe (right) discussing things that go bump in the night (and day).
View from my room.
Throughout the day, I’ve been around the dealer’s room and artist’s alley browsing the various booths. I also attended another panel on the Disney-produced animated series Gargoyles by Sarah Hodge-Wetherbe, but didn’t take much notes due to being late to the panel. I was late due to meeting with Patrick Drazen in the lobby, author of the book Anime Explosion. We struck up a rousing conversation about the themes in Porco Rosso, particularly his views of himself and of women as well as the dream sequence he had whilst knocked out after the fight over the Adriatic with Austro-Hungarian forces and the glimpse of the Valhalla in the Sky for pilots.
Call the Inquisition, this Commissar has admitted to leaving behind his Imperial Infantryman’s Uplifting Primer!
It apparently was a subject of an piece he wrote for academic journal Mechademia vol. 2: Networks of Desire. It was sadly done at the same time as Girls und Panel Ausf. H, and I was unable to attend. This was seemingly the tale of the evening as there had been times where co-panelists were slotted in similar slots to a joint-panel along with their own separate panels. So it ended up being a coin toss into which panel I would’ve gone to.
Lelei and her escorts.
Another thing I did was mistakenly read my own schedule on the Guidebook App and attend, by mistake, the panel ‘Roll Your Heart Out’, which allowed a little bit of roleplaying to end the night.
So that does it for day 1, and it is now 0530 when I’ve done with the draft on Microsoft Word, I’ll catch everyone else later. I need to sleep.
A convention goer cosplaying as “Stungun” Milly Thompson. Actually one of the best cosplays I’ve seen on day 1.
Convention Gallery – Day 1: