Friday | Sat Afternoon | Sat/Sun
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The drive over notwithstanding, I consider Anime Iowa a pretty easy convention. No insane lines like ACen, no obligations to friends or public service like No Brand, and none of the incredible planning that went into Ohayocon or that should have gone into Otakon. With that in mind, I decided to up the difficulty level a little bit. Now that I had a laptop, I'm free to run Name That Anime Opening pretty much wherever the heck I want to, and since there wasn't a fanfic panel last year I was willing to step up and moderate. On both accounts, I ended up getting more than I bargained for.
The fanfiction panel had a perfectly decent time of Sunday at noon. Or at least it would have been had I not realized that the ACen league's fantasy football draft was that morning at 11:15. After an unsuccessful attempt to change either time, I had to somehow do both simultaneously.
And NTAO? An absolutely perfect time of Friday at 3:00. Barring another registration failure, there was little else to do, the Vendor's Room wouldn't be open yet and I'd have a nice loud flashy game going on in Main Programming. Of course, the problem was that the lack of access to the Vendor Room meant I had to scramble to get those gift certificates from John to use as prizes. Anticipating this, I contacted him ahead of time and wouldn't you know it? He forgot to mail them. So now, Friday and Sunday feature Adam in scramble mode.
At least Saturday was clear!
One somewhat relieving development came Tuesday. I was originally going to give Joe (as seen in last year's Iowa recap and hopefully was mentioned on Geek.kon and Milwaukee's as well) a ride to the con. Then he got his credit card statement. Despite losing someone to split gas with, his dropping out cut off ten minutes from my drive and shortened the amount of driving I'd need to do on Madison's beltline during rush hour. A good thing, as I was white-knuckled for the brief stretch I did have to make.
When calling Jasmine and her gang to get their location during a rest stop, they weren't far behind me. In fact, thanks to my second stop at a Kum & Go in Monticello (mentioned solely so you can snicker at the store's name), they beat me by just five minutes. But I got the better parking spot, so there.
Now last year, there was a huge registration fiasco, resulting in 2-3 hour wait times. In preparation, I instructed Tyler to tell a staffer we had a panel that afternoon and needed to get our badges right away to have time to get ready.
Nada. We all walked right in and got our badges in seconds. I was actually a little ticked off: I wanted special panelist privileges! How dare they learn from their mistakes??
And the cosplay pictures lead off with... Midori Days? Really?
You ever notice at conventions that sometimes shows, regardless of your interest in them, seem to be prevalent throughout the convention a little moreso than their popularity would otherwise dictate? At Ohayocon, it was Digimon. Here it was Midori Days. And the difficulty skyrockets.
Sweet cosplay though.
Around this time, and I mean as soon as we walked in, I was greeted by reader Sir Exal. He wasn't in the same fanfic circle as Star and Chromus, so I'm not sure if he was on the suck list, but in any event, he's officially off. Once I had my badge and dropped off my MST booklets, we chatted for a bit about projects that I had almost forgotten about... in particular, the one that necessitated the disclaimer on my "I don't write yaoi... much" line. Thankfully he dwelled on the more redeeming aspects of that particular fic... which only involved yaoi tangentially.
Certain to see and chat with him later, I headed off to the vendor's room with the impossible goal of sneaking in and accosting John Pinder.
After explaining my quandary to the bouncer guarding the room, he escorted me to the Fast Food Anime booth, where John was thankfully setting everything up.
The bad news was that he could not find the gift certificates. To make matters worse, while tearing the booth apart in search, along came TongoJeff, also in need of gift certificates for various forum awards. John sent his minion to the van to find them while we chatted for a bit about various stuffs. The minion returned empty-handed just as John found them in an unopened money bag.
So the mission was a success, but since I was already in the vendor room against convention policy, I might as well belabor the trespassing a little longer.
A staffer dressed as a lumberjack, solely because lumberjacks are awesome. After settling on his costume, he discovered that his great-grandparents ran a lumber mill that employed the actual Paul Bunyan. That's right, his family bossed around Paul Bunyan. And yet I was still here when I wasn't supposed to be.
Just so happens that Shannon and Richard from OnY were right across the street, and Shannon found a fellow Dr. Horrible's Singalong Blog cosplayer. So I prolonged my stay chatting with them. Explaining my fantasy football dilemma to Rich, he was more dumbfounded that my league's having a draft this early. The reason for that is due to other convention conflicts on later weekends.
Anyway, it was off to get NTAO ready after that. Besides the friends offering moral support, we were already getting some people a half hour early. Among those people, tech staff were not present. In fact, although my end of the game was all set up, ten minutes before the show the audio equipment hadn't even been brought in. After two calls upstairs, people finally showed up and got us hooked up. In the meantime, we got the first teams up and going- the Mighty Eggplants and yet another incarnation of Team Sea Slugs. "We'll stop using the name when Azumanga becomes less awesome," replied the name's conceiver. In any event, we were all set.
Our set-up for Anime Iowa, borrowing a serving tray in the back to use as our podium. Unable to find a suitable Iowa equivalent, we went with duct tape again. Only this time, it was yellow.
It worked just fine. By the midway point, the place was packed and there was no shortage of contestants. Great atmosphere.
Some really good action in the game, including the end of round one when a Sea Slug hovered over the tape and an Eggplant strolled in and snatched it from underneath, calmly answered Shakugan no Shana and clinched. The audience jumped out to a two point head start in one round, prompting me to mention that the audience had never taken a round in NTAO history. It got better...
That's right, a 4-4-4 tie between the audience, the Eggplants and the Oneders. No, I wasn't expecting to hear a team using a mispronunciation of the band name from "That Thing You Do," but at least they weren't the Sea Slugs! Alas, the power of Tom Hanks did not propel them to victory. The Eggplants named Last Exile and won round 3. Eventually, the Eggplants would fall to the Snow Peas, who in turn fell to the Gurren Brigade, who took another round to set up a climactic battle against Mighty Eggplants 2: Electric Boogaloo for the title, the duct tape, and those damn gift certificates.
With one final answer of Cromartie High School, the Mighty Eggplants win it all!
Best part, of course, was playing master of ceremonies to the whole thing- trying to headbang to the Ayashi no Ceres opening, giving the audience a hard time because only one person knew the opening to Now & Then, Here & There despite it being on Sci Fi after Gurren Lagann, and of course giving friends a hard time. Got Tyler the scoreboard monkey involved a little, but saved some special harassment for Spencer in the audience. You see, at No Brand this year, Spencer failed to recognize the Prince of Tennis opening, despite cosplaying a character from it. I made sure to point that out to everybody when PoT came up, adding "Everybody point and laugh at Spencer." When the above Midori Days cosplayer got the opening to that show, I told Spencer that was how to do it... then had the crowd point and laugh at him again. He was getting harassed by total strangers the rest of the day.
As soon as the panel ended, the entire crowd filed out and made a right turn to the dealer's room... including Jas, Spencer, Theresa and Tiffany. Which left me and Tyler to clean up. To make matters worse, the only soul entering the room was Chris Ayres and his Sippy Cup of Doom. He had a stage combat demonstration in half an hour and needed all the chairs cleared out. Thankfully, not our job. Seeing the parting crowd, he was also interested in what had just gone on here, impressed at the game... and also asking what kind of stuff we played. Namely whether stuff he's worked on was included. To my chagrin, Gantz was the only show he mentioned that actually played. "Note to self: next year, include more stuff Chris Ayres worked on."
Incidentally, that comic was thus far my only connection to Chris Ayres, and he seemed perfectly content with that when I mentioned it.
Saw the other Ayres on the way back from the car after unloading. We chillin'. It was a good panel and I needed a second to enjoy it. Because now it was smooth sailing until Sunday. Hit the Vendor's Room officially, picked up the latest Eyeshield, and found my friends to get into the hotel room. I claimed my territory (the corner chair), the cosplayers changed into their cosplay, and we went down to attend Opening Ceremonies!
Er... wait... actually, tucked away on page 47 of the program was a note saying the AMV contest would be in one of the viewing rooms at the same time.
That's right folks, everyone's favorite event, the AMV contest, held during Opening Ceremonies in a far-off corner of the hotel. And this important tidbit was posted towards the back of the book.
Oh, the fail was just beginning on this one. I was in despair.
But if I must, I must. Jasmine, Spencer and Tiffany joined me into an impossibly crowded viewing room for the contest, each taking our slips to vote for audience favorite among the 53. There were some pretty good videos in this field: a Captain Tylor video using the trailer of Down Periscope was obvious, brilliant and perfect all in one. Of course, with a field of 53, there were also a lot of bad videos. Fansub-quality footage and egregious subtitles abound. Two particularly excruciating examples almost made me dislike the musical Wicked for a few moments. It got to the point where my friends surrendered, bailing as soon as my video wrapped up. Best of all, they all voted for mine (with no prodding whatsoever from me!), leaving me the freedom to vote for my actual favorite video.
Which came an hour later in the form of a brilliant Macross Frontier AMV using the Jennifer Saunders version of Hero from Shrek 2- the one with all that dramatic orchestration just begging to be set to a mecha series. It was good.
With about ten videos left, I had every intention of sifting through the craptacular and staying to the end... but then Jasmine called and said they had ordered pizza. I'm off!
Since my only food intake had been the innuendo-laced Kum & Go hot dog for lunch, I was starving. So the pizza was a good call. Plus Tyler was showing Doctor Who. I watched a whole fifteen minutes of it, loved it, and left to make sure I didn't get hooked on yet another fandom I don't have time for.
This incredibly long line was for the next great syndicated game show- Who's Boobs. Knowing nothing about the format or the execution, but deeply interested in seeing the construct of another game show (and a mild fleeting curiosity about the uh, er, boobs), I wanted in. But that line wasn't moving and I got the feeling they were filled to capacity. So just like at Otakon, I left without knowing just whose boobs they were.
I did run into my teammates from Anime Jeopardy at ACen. Apparently they also wanted to try another late night game show.
Meeting up again with all but Theresa (who apparently remained with the good Doctor), we checked out the dance. Uh... yeah.
Now I've spent much recap space maligning the dances at Anime Iowa... oftentimes in recaps other than those for Anime Iowa. Thing is, Tiffany was with us this year and she likes to dance. I do too... I just prefer to do it to music. So like it or not, it was on the agenda. And Friday, we made a good faith effort at dancing to whatever was offered. In this case, some sort of weird jungle groove that showed sparks of getting interesting, but ultimately never went anywhere.
Jasmine and Spencer gave up and returned to the Doctor. I stayed with Tiff for another hour, determined to find a beat here. And take pictures of the sadness.
A long line of people, stretching across the room, doing Caramelldansen. Which would be sweet... if Caramelldansen was playing... or if anything they did was at all in time to the rhythm. But they were off in their own little world where fun music was playing and I wanted desperately to join them.
Behold the emptiness! And the blurriness... took me a day to get the Hi-ISO figured out on the camera. But the lack of bodies was astounding. Con twice the size of No Brand drawing half as many people to its dance. And they wonder why Dr. Jasmine plots against them.
So then it was back to the room for a rousing game of "my internet works, how about you?" Took me forever to score a point in that game, making me very nervous about my fantasy football prospects Sunday. Eventually, I did connect long enough to check the Cubs score and present Tyler, Theresa, Spencer and Tiff the Field Guide to Convention Cosplayers I had mentioned a couple times to them. Despite its rampant popularity on the Daisho Con forums (and random boards in Scotland and Australia that picked it up), I hadn't posted it on the No Brand forums, for fear of upsetting anyone that may fall into the stereotype (a long story having to do with some trolling on those forums and a nasty debate on cosplay elitism). But I read it all for them and they adored it... even after Tyler identified Tiff as a "Hot Topic du Jour."
Somewhere that night, Tyler saw me working on my laptop in my chair and somehow got the idea that I'd make a great Stephen Hawking cosplay.
I added to the mystique by using the read aloud feature on PDF files to read a chapter from MST in the voice.
When we went to bed, we noticed that the smoke detector was flashing every few seconds. Now that couldn't be good. Surely, we had to do something!
Problem solved. Ya ha!