Friday | Saturday | Sunday
Saturday was a very frantic, rushed day for Evan and Sarah, as they were competing in both the masquerade and a second competition. I was free and easy and loving it.
But I was still determined to kick butt somewhere. Our mission for Saturday was to split up and dominate this con.
Divide and Conquer
One plot twist while we were restoring our table Saturday was that our hotel room keys decided to stop working while we were taking materials to the table. Apparently, they only had us down for one night. It never escalated beyond eye-rolling inconvenience, but could have turned into stuff of legend under different circumstances. Although I understand the No Brand contingency may have a few stories about their experience at this hotel.
Sarah as Noriko from Battle Royale.
Our table in all its glory, after getting power and playing tunes off my laptop. Since I left my room party speakers at home, Daisho staffer Batou was nice enough to lend us his for most of the afternoon.
I played an extra spin of Inner Universe in gratitude.
Evan's entry for the swimsuit cosplay contest- Beach Party Gohan.
Evan had a particularly challenging go of Saturday as he entered both the swimsuit contest and the masquerade, something allowed and encouraged by staff. However, both events had to be pre-judged, meaning Evan had to be changing in and out between Gohan and Free all day. This was compounded with the decision to move the swimsuit contest back an hour so that it started roughly 45 minutes before his masquerade judging slot. As soon as he was done he ran up to the room, changed into Free and made it to his judging with no time to spare. Those really should be on separate days...
I was not able to watch (or photograph) the swimsuit contest, as I had my own contest to triumph at. With Sarah in the AMV Contest, Joe took over for me, because I was heading to Name That Anime Tune.
I've made no secret that I much prefer running my Name That Anime Opening game at bigger conventions like ACen and Iowa since the larger pool of players and audience members tend to be more anime savvy. And since it's hardly an original concept (and since I pretty much hijacked my franchise from Tyler), I didn't bat an eye that someone else was giving it a shot here. What was cool about this, however, was that it allowed me a chance to see how well I'd do at my own game.
Note: It was named Anime Music Guessing Game in the schedule grid and not listed at all in the panel description, but it was most certainly supposed to be called Name That Anime Tune. Daisho has a very bad habit of renaming panels against their submitters' designs. My con stories panel was a victim last year.
To my surprise and delight, running the game was none other than Henry (actual name Nikolai), member of Team Anti-Gravity, 2010 ACen runner-up! Also to my delight, he had a working buzzer system, Java program to keep score and a format modeled after the original Name That Tune game show.
One tiny gripe I did have about his format was that its qualifying was the same as the one from Ohayocon- where participants get to play if they are first to name a random song (although he chose songs designed to get a good cross-sample). Once the field is selected, the rest of the audience is generally out of the running. It was also an individual's game rather than a team game, which means a lower likelihood of any given song being recognized by participants.
But that's where the criticisms stop. The execution was phenomenal. The game was run as an eight-player single-elimination tournament. I was lucky to qualify, raising my hand hesitantly, just barely able to remember a song as the opening to Weiss Kreus... and having the guts to admit that I recognized the opening to Weiss Kreus.
Now, obviously, that's a song I never would have been exposed to had it not been for NTAO, so it could be perceived as an unfair advantage. It probably is. But how someone is exposed to anime music really doesn't matter when the contest is about how much you are exposed to. I could run a perfectly effective game with my own library, but I make my game better by seeking out additional songs and, hey, sometimes I remember what shows they're from.
Not that it mattered because Henry included endings in all this and, as John from Fast Food Anime likes to prove every time I walk by his booth, there's a crapton of shows I don't have in the hopper. The first round would have probably been an "audience wins" round had such an option existed. Luckily, the openings to D.Gray-man, Blue Seed and the ending to Azumanga Daioh came up, so I swept my quarterfinal match.
The semifinal matches were done as full three-round Name That Tune fights, with Melody Roulette (the wheel decides the difficulty level), Tune Topics (all series fit a common theme or title), and Golden Medley Showdown (um... first to three wins). Incidentally, the reason I haven't tried something like this is because I would insist on incorporating that game where notes are played on the piano.
As it turned out, the girls I was playing against really knew their stuff. While I lucked out in the first round by being quicker on the buzzer on easy-difficulty songs like Pokémon (a song where I omit the opening "Pokémon! GET da ze!" yell) and Big O (which I omit completely), the second round was a closely fought battle in the Pretty Pretty Princess category. All songs had Princess in the title, and she was a split-second faster on the opening to Princess Nine. If you've ever heard how the Princess Nine opening begins, you'll know how impressive that is. I ended up winning in the final round when she drew a blank on naming the Baka To Test opening and I didn't. And we both buzzed in before the song gets all fast and crazy. Yeah.
Incidentally, every year I burn a mix CD of anime songs for car rides. Usually it's done over the summer, but I was terribly behind this year. Since I carefully plan out song selection and order to create a good flow, it's a small undertaking. Under pressure from Sarah as it was the last con of the year, I was up until 2:00 am Thursday night assembling it. Seven of the songs either on or heavily considered for that CD ended up getting played. The Baka To Test opening was one of them.
After winning the first round of the finals (one winner was Initial D, another song on the CD), the category involved shows with the word "Gun" somewhere in the title. I thought I was hosed as the only show that immediately came to mind was Gun Smith Cats (and Gunslinger Girl had already been played). Yet I ended up going three-for-three: not only did Gun Smith Cats come up, but so did Trigun and, as I answered it, "something something Railgun." He accepted that, but I blurted the English translation "Certain Scientific Railgun" later when I remembered how much I was hoping someone would answer that at ACen. Oh, and that one would have been on the CD had I not felt like being cute and throwing in "No Brand Heroes" from Here Is Greenwood at the end.
(Speaking of which, from talking to him later, Henry is really up on his music. He had never heard of No Brand Con until this convention, saw their table and instantly theorized that the convention's name is a reference to the song. And he is correct.)
I got schooled in round three, and the game was played under Legends of the Hidden Temple rules where the third round is worth the full Pendant of Life. So we went to a sudden-death tie-breaker. One song to rule them all. Or, rather, one song after shooting a couple blanks. The song sounded very familiar to me, but I wasn't placing it. Somehow I knew it was an ending, so it wasn't something from my playlist. Closing my eyes, a crazy thought came into my head...
While Henry was playing at ACen, the audience and I joked that Terriermon was feeding his team all the answers. Fast forward six months and strangely enough, it honestly felt that way in my head. I got this strange sensation from that general direction that I had to follow my gut and take a stab at this one.
It was the ending to season five of Digimon. That was the winner.
In the interest of being fair and balanced to all monster anime...
After its conclusion, Henry and I shared some notes and thoughts on running a game and playing each other's, both with some good insights and ideas to draw from. He likes how I involve the audience, I like that he dares to undertake the subjective task of ranking by difficulty... and that he doesn't have to resort to duct tape for a buzzer. I might have to look into that for ACen.
After forgetting to get off work, Nick F. finally showed up, along with Scott, who called Friday and said he'd be late due to relying on Nick. Ah... the "unreliability of Nick F." was my very first con recap trope and it's still dear to my heart. Even the Fail Watch still can't compete with the classics.
Probably a good thing Nick did arrive late, because this was my sherpa up Otaku Mountain and the only one I know who could potentially destroy me at recognizing anime music. This is a guy who follows most of the latest releases out of Japan *and* has all of Kimagure Orange Road on DVD.
Back at the table, our mission was a success: three contests, three wins. I won Name That Tune, Evan won Best Male in the swimsuit contest and Sarah took third in the AMV contest. It sounded like the judging was still pretty speculative, so it remains blacklisted until they get a panel of judges and not just one guy.
While it would have made for nice symmetry with Anime Iowa, blacklist is a bit too strong a word for why I didn't attend the masquerade. Although the headache-inducing MC work still was on tap, last year never smacked of the "you're doing it wrong" factor that's typically required. The Daisho masquerade is closer to non-essential than anything else. It had more to do with the fact that I'm just plum masqueraded out. I've attended (or hosted) all but two since the ACen '08 show rekindled my interest and the string of "meh" since has gotten me out of that phase. That and skipping Iowa's this year seemed like the best decision I ever made.
There was no epic Great Debate-style alternate programming. Or if there was, I was too busy manning the table to notice it. Most of the time was spent chatting with Nick F. and No Brand/Geek.Kon staffer Belkie... who is also named Nick. Some interesting con-op ideas from ACen's perspective, but nothing amusing.
Evan and Sarah returned and said that while the production and costume quality had improved, there were no "you had to be there" moments. Just some more dubious treatment of participants and an intermission that evoked the nightmare Geek.Kon.08 halftime show that led us to start showing AMVs so it doesn't happen again.
Once the crowd died down, we packed up the table, chilled in the room with Nick F. for a while and headed to Kitsune Kon's room party.
They were tucked away in a little cul-de-sac in the pinery area, so we were worried that they wouldn't get much traffic. Turned out they had a counter-measure: hamburgers and a George Foreman grill. The wafting scent of sizzling former cow and some ninja advertising had the place packed within a half-hour.
We were impressed. They be getting the name out nicely. Can't wait for this con to happen.
Borrowing one of the beds, Mandy and Harley started an Apples to Apples game not to keep patrons occupied (they were doing plenty well on their own), but because Mandy and Richard had established several custom cards they wanted to try out... namely the Old Spice Guy card.
A giant gnome also came by to visit, officially taking this party to another level altogether.
At midnight, Mandy, Sarah and I went to the Hetalia panel, run by buddy Kim from Day Glow Studios (you can find her Switzerland in the back of the first volume of the Hetalia manga). When we got there, we discovered that there really weren't any plans for this panel. In fact, other than Kim there weren't any panelists for this panel.
So much for not doing any panels this weekend.
We muddled through as best we could, being completely unprepared. Kim developed a nice conceit where we would assign countries to members of the audience based on personality, which was particularly fun for those who weren't familiar with Hetalia.
There was also the same random mischief normally befitting a Hetalia panel.
Anyway, we tried. For some reason, this too broke out into an Apples to Apples game because some of us wanted to try to play in character based on the countries we were assigned. Fun when someone draws Worldly, fun to see Japan's reaction when someone plays Hiroshima, 1945... kinda boring when half the cards played are American celebrities. Plus there were more than 15 of us, so there were a lot of American celebrities in play. By the time we went around the circle once, it was 3:00 am, hotel staff came in to take a wall down in the room and we were all dead tired. I went last, thankfully ending it on a high note when Estonia matched "European" with "Machine Guns."
To nobody's surprise, both Scott and Nick F. were asleep in our room when we returned. The more things change...
On to Sunday!