Anime Central 2005

Friday | The Rest

I had almost no money in the bank. But I wanted to go to ACen to see Chiaki Konaka.

Because I had been to a convention before, the Green Bay anime club wanted me to go with them to help avoid rookie mistakes.
That was fine by me, because I wanted to go to ACen to see Chiaki Konaka.

Then Chiaki Konaka came down with the flu and had to cancel. I didn't realize that could happen to deities. Too much partying at Cyberia, I guess.

So... now what?

It was too late to say "on second thought, I'm going to leave you kids to tame the wilds of northwest Chicago alone. If you see my uncle, say hi!" So I was stuck going to ACen with no reason to go. And after the wondrous, lineless 1337ness that was No Brand Con, I didn't want to spend half the weekend waiting in line to get into one event or another. Furthermore, without any disposable income, going into the Dealer's Hall was downright dangerous.

That's when I made the decision to avoid as much of the main programming as possible.
Dealer's Hall? Forget it.
Pillows concert? Not my scene.
Masquerade? Wouldn't be the first time I skipped it.

In a convention known for its long and poorly handled lines that lead into longer and even more undermanned lines, I was going to do the impossible:

I was going to live outside the lines. I was going to live...

The Anti-Mainstream Convention Experience
No Money? No Konaka? No Patience? No Problem!

Our story begins Thursday night. The leader of the Green Bay contingency, Tony, wanted to take no chances. We were leaving at midnight for the four-hour trip to Chicago. Since the gates don't open until 8:00, this gave us time to play "dodge the tollway," grab some breakfast, and maybe figure out where the hell our hotel was. And since he didn't want to wait for anybody at midnight, he wanted us all to meet at his place Thursday evening. A little neurotic? Given prior experience, I wouldn't have minded leaving for Chicago Thursday evening and arriving at midnight. In other words, I didn't find it odd that I left Sturgeon Bay for ACen earlier than I left Whitewater for Baltimore in 2003.

A fun time was had by all at Tony's that evening. The Green Bay area got its first exposure to "This is Otakudom," and after I explained the "Utena... Utena" line to them, they enjoyed it.1 While I was screening my healthy collection of music videos (Tony is still addicted to DokiDoki's "Nyo is War"), we discovered rookie mistake #1- violation of cosplay weapon policy. Damn those oversized Final Fantasy swords. The rest of the night was sucked up trying to get Cloud's sword under four feet. And people ask me why I don't cosplay.

Anyway, we still left at midnight on schedule and I was officially dubbed the navigator for the trip. I'm not sure why they needed help getting out of the UW-Green Bay parking lot and whether to take I-43 North or I-43 South... but after the New York debacle at Otakon last year I'm just glad they double-checked with me. Although the "which way now?" questions got a bit tedious when we had 200 miles of interstate travel before hitting the Illinois border. We got through the trip relatively unscathed and found ourselves in Rosemont at about 4:30. After pointing out the CTA parking lot that would save us $40 in parking, and rounding the convention itself (no lines, just a few straggling security forces getting ready to enforce whatever it is they enforced), we decided to find the hotel we were staying at... some rat's next in Elk Grove Village. Rookie mistake #2- nobody knew where the hotel was. The address said Higgins Road, and I knew where that was, so we started traversing Higgins Road looking for the holy grail of cheap lodging. We went through about three suburbs, and Higgins Road wasn't stopping. By the time we found GameWorks, an arcade that my Whitewater group spent hours looking for on an excursion a couple years ago, we knew we had a problem.

After driving almost all the way back to the Hyatt, we gave up and asked for directions. Turns out that the hotel was actually behind another hotel. Once we found that one, we discovered that our hotel was actually *part* of the other hotel. It just had a separate address, name, and presumably rates. The good news was that we took so long trying to find it that we were able to check in immediately. For anyone who knows what it's like to arrive at a convention in the morning and not be able to check in until the afternoon, you'll know how much of a Godsend that is. So we checked in, divvied up the rooms (arguably rookie mistake #3- not packing into one rooms like sardines), dressed up in our finest cosplay outfits (7 of the 10 dressed up, and it was the first con for 9 of the 10). By then, it was showtime!

The tower is in sight!

I have a thing about parking lot pictures. At Otakon, it's because we borrow the lot for Oriole Park. Here, it's because we cheat the system by parking in a lot designed for El train passengers. Unfortunately, they upped the fee to $3.00... and still wanted it all in quarters. I asked the group to bring quarters, and our stock was quickly depleted. But that didn't matter, since we were going to ACen!

From Il Pallazzo back to Hat-chan!

Besides the Hyatt, the convention center across the street still served as the dealer's room... which meant it was easy for me to avoid. Yay. Unfortunately, that was also where they had registration. So we got into line... the eight that pre-registered, and Rachel and I. Since it was early, and ACen historically doesn't give pre-registrees favorable treatment, I figured Rachel and I would be fine. After about ten minutes we got ahead of the others, reached the end of the line and went into another room to find...

Three more lines. There was the line to go to a computer terminal to enter every piece of vital information you had including full name, nickname, hometown, home address, phone number, birthday, blood type, sexual history, three references, whether you prefer Rei or Asuka, and if you've ever been convicted of a felony (and they wonder why the lines take so long). Then there's the line to pay to get your badge. And then there's the line to actually get your badge. Four lines- each more fun than the last! And just to make sure nobody jumped, they had the security staff. Meet...

Get with The Program!

The Incident Response Team, dressed up in their cute widdle military vests straight out of Battle Royale. Of course, according to many stories about the security roughing people up, apparently the IRT *was* straight out of Battle Royale! Anyone caught violating the weapons policy was forced to use that weapon to battle to the death in Workshop 3. Good thing our Cloud reinforced that sword with duct tape...

Anyway, it turns out that the staff gave pre-reggies the advantage this year; they only had two lines which only took fifteen minutes. Two hours later, Rachel and I were released in the wild with nothing but badges, program books and a Viz promo manga (good for bandaging wounds). But thanks to the invention of cell phones, we caught up with the group and set out for the opening ceremonies. Since this was the first time I had made it to a not-no brand convention in time, I wanted to see what happened at opening ceremonies. Unfortunately, since it was a popular event, there was another line. ACen let us revel in the liney goodness by waiting a half-hour before opening the doors. Eventually they let us in. Aww...

This counts, right?

Headline Guest of 2005? The Pillows! The FLCL music guys! The origin point of no less than eight other lines during the convention!

I avoided them all, and as the picture clearly shows- I still saw The Pillows. Ha ha ha.

And so, determined to avoid lines for the rest of the convention, I set off for the alternate programming. First stop! The AMV Contest!

In ACen's 24-hour AMV room, they screened the contest three times. I stopped in the first time, mostly to see if "Muska the Dreamer" was due for its second straight convention contest appearance. That was about it- you see the AMV Contest at ACen is a three-hour affair, with seemingly no rhyme nor reason. Videos are sometimes shown in a coherent order, and sometimes they'll throw a Drama or Romance video in with the Action. After waiting patiently through streams of angsty Haibane Renmei videos (I will clarify that although I am planning a future Haibane Renmei video- it will *not* be angsty!), in the final hour they showed a comedy! An Ein video set to a dog food jingle! And then...

Comedy
Creator: A. R. Pulver
Title: "Muska the Dreamer"
Footage: Laputa
Music: South Park - Up There

I put the intro title here because that got a bigger reaction from the crowd than the video itself. When I set out to do a concept-driven video, I mean it!

After sticking around for one more video (an awesome Azumanga Daioh video to a Harry Belafonte song), I went to check out the Steve Blum VA panel. Joining him was some guy who does some guy named Ed on some show named Fullmetal Alchemist that I've heard is ridiculously good and I have no excuse for watching.2 Ahem... I didn't get to ask Yamaki-san a question (you had to get in a line, you see), but while the alchemist guy said he was dying to audition for Naruto, Blum said he been there and done that, and that he has a part in it.3

Ahem... That's big news, y'all!! It may be Viz or ShoPro or whoever they are, but it's in the hands of the LA dubbers instead of the Canadians!

Also bumped into Greg Ayres outside. He remembered me from No Brand Con and we had a nice chat. Turns out the personal touch you get in Eau Claire carries over to the big conventions as well.

Oh yes- my friends in Whitewater were a part of this convention, and just because I wasn't traveling with them doesn't mean they weren't late getting to the convention. It was about 4:00 so I figured they were out of the registration line by then. I headed in the direction of the Dealer's Hall and bumped into a huge Mr. Sparkle on the way. Looks like Scott got a new costume!

What a brave corporate logo!

Heather and Katy caught the cosplay bug as well. For more Stellvia, stay tuned.

After some fun with Mr. Sparkle in the consuite, I also found Sara and Chrissy, back from the ocean!

Nice to see Kyoko held up after the trip to Maryland.

Also worth mentioning Gundam Cowboy, Captain Kellin, KORfan and everybody else from the No Brand Con boards that I ran into. All agreed that No Brand was more fun.

I made the mistake of getting too close to the line for The Pillows. I didn't get sucked in, but I did run into a couple of my Green Bay associates. Good? No... apparently cosplay props aren't allowed in the concert. And they didn't want to get out of line. And I was avoiding lines and not going to the concert...

Good thing LaTroy Hawkins didn't blow a save that weekend!

Two swords and a gun... if anyone asks, I cosplayed as a disgruntled Cubs fan. Of course, the way this season's gone that's not technically cosplay.

I carried the loot over to Nick's fansub panel. It let me set my arsenal down. Good way to relax and stay abuzz on the current fansub scene.

The only place at the con where saying "Naruto" was considered profane.

And Nick's adorable Stellvia wallpaper is revealed to all. As was his collection of Naruto, ROD TV and Fullmetal Alchemist fansubs. Heh.

Since Nick had no chance of seeing The Pillows we decided to hit the consuite. By now it was getting late in the evening and the karaoke was flowing. When we walked in, there was some InuYasha cosplayer doing an absolutely horrible rendition of "Change the World."

Oh s**t! That's Matt!

You know that moment in "This is Otakudom" when the Suboshi character is checking out the hot Deedlit chick, then realizes that it's actually a guy from his group dressed as Gourry? I was almost ashamed to admit to Nick that he was from Green Bay. And to think, the week before they all scoffed at the idea of doing karaoke in Japanese. Now they're failing miserably at it. And getting girls because it's InuYasha.

Anyway, while Matt stayed to sing more InuYasha, it was time for Anime Hell and Midnight Madness, the irresistible combination of disturbing movies from around the globe and fan parodies. Scott joined me on this one. Despite a string of about three hellish videos that I had already seen (which tells you something about my life), they had some real gems, including the German forklift video. I can't describe the German forklift video. All I can say is google "German forklift video" and you will find it. Try not to die laughing. You'll be better off than the poor shmoes in the movie.

Midnight Madness followed. It began with the premiere of the disturbingly lowbrow "Fisting of the North Star." How many gay euphemisms can you sneak into a fighting anime? After that was another preview of the "This is Otakudom" semi-sequel, this time without the W.A.T.E.R.+H.E.A.T.=S.T.E.A.M. plot and just had the commercials. Can you spot the ninja?

The room was actually bigger than the ones at the Hyatt.

Kidding! We got a rat's nest hotel room, which didn't come with a ninja. It wasn't that bad though, even if the shower left something to be desired and one room smelled like paint fumes. It is also your ticket to the rest of the convention. Go! Now!

Footnotes

  1. For those who haven't seen it, a shoujo fan and a hentai fan are riding together, dreaming of their favorite series:
    Suzie: "Escaflowne..."
    Randy: "La Blue Girl..."
    Suzie: "Kodocha..."
    Randy: "F3..."
    Suzie: "Utena..."
    Randy: "Utena..."

  2. I've seen it now. Oh ya it's good.

  3. That ended up being one of the top news stories coming out of the convention. BTW, despite persistent rumors that he'd be Kakashi, he was Zabusa, the guy with the big sword with the big hole in it. Refer to Otakon '04 if you need to know why.