Friday | Saturday | Costume Contest | Sat/Sun | Hetalia
The buzz for No Brand seemed a little down this year. Many of the other cons were going big this season. Daisho was still thriving off last year's high. Anime Milwaukee had a remarkable guest list. Detour and Geek.Kon have new hotels. ACen has Name That Anime Opening. Okay, maybe that last one's just me, but the net result was that No Brand seemed like another round of the usual. It was also sandwiched between OddCon (a small sci-fi con in Madison that I day-tripped... great fun!) and ACen, so there's no real build-up either. In fact, Evan wasn't originally planning to go until he was convinced to volunteer and space in our hotel room opened up.
Nevertheless, since Geek.Kon was not doing a room party, the prep work was very simple and everybody's still going to be there. It's probably the closest thing to a laid-back con I'd have this year, so it had that going for it. Which is nice.
Escape To Eau Claire
We stopped in Black River Falls for lunch thinking McDonald's, but thanks to some strange road patterns, there was no way to get to the arches from our turn off the highway. We settled for Burger King, only finding the entrance to the McD's out the window after getting our food.
Evan, Sarah and I reached Eau Claire at about 1:30, got our badges and checked into the hotel room. Not only was Geek.Kon not doing a room party at No Brand, I wasn't even rooming with the usual "202 crew" this year. This time, Richard and Harley would be joining us in the room, but they weren't checking in yet. Sarah succumbed to the BK chicken sandwich and felt a little sick, so she checked out while Evan started his shift and I cruised the vendor room and ran into random people that I haven't seen in months.
Hey, look at this! MST co-creator Matt finally returns to No Brand after several years of scheduling conflicts. He helped run their foam swordfighting this year and is not always green.
As Evan had a registration shift, he saddled me with the task of putting up a few Geek.Kon fliers. I got a few up and ran into Sarah B, our costuming head. Then we both ran into Yushi, their events head. He needed our help.
The reason I didn't volunteer here the way I did at Milwaukee was because I figured I'd be helping out at several points during the con anyway. Sort of like last year, where I was moving chairs/Tiffany Grant around viewing rooms/Eau Claire (respectively). This was a false alarm as Yushi was looking for feedback on their cosplay contest's judging system. Sarah ran our masquerade last year and was knowledgeable about stuff like this. I was the host and thus was completely clueless.
Richard had arrived so I left them to their fun and got him into the room.
As fate would have it, the 202 crew happened to end up back in room 202! They weren't running a room party, but they used it in their promotional push for the piņata.
It caught them by surprise that I was now cosplaying, despite doing so twice last year. Instead of returning to America, this year I pulled together two different outfits for the Baltic nation of Estonia. I did this for several reasons.
1) Hetalia fans who look like me stick with America, England
or Sweden. Few bother with Estonia.
2) That sweater Estonia wears in episode one? I totally own that.
3) He's the world's IT guy (he invented Skype, after all). Thus I can convert my laptop case into a con bag and make it part of the outfit.
4) The Baltics rule.
The photo opportunities came quickly as I quickly ran into fellow Baltic Lithuania and his old buddy Poland.
Evan also built off his successful Daisho cosplay. Instead of Arcanine, he went for Houndour.
He also took over putting up fliers, freeing me to actually attend something at the con. It was a tough call on whether to attend Trae's brief summary of the No Brand timeline or Anime Trivia, but only the latter had the chance to win fabulous prizes.
They tried something different this year, giving everybody in the crowd a number akin to an auction. The host would ask a question and whoever got their hand up first got to answer. Highest scores won. It was a good idea that got the entire audience involved, although they gave people far too long to answer questions and didn't always catch the person who actually got their hand up first. Since the questions were fairly difficult (first question was Maya the cat's breed in Azumanga Daioh), they really should have done a better job covering a broader range of series. As such, it was a lot of Bleach and Death Note questions.
There were just enough Haruhi and AzuDai questions I could fatten up on to get third place and win an Ouran Host Club box set signed by Todd Haberkorn (Hikaru) and Chris Cason (Somebody Else). Sarah's a big Ouran fan and was happy to add it to the library, but it does add two more involuntary autographs to my collection. In eight years, I have never requested an autograph and now have them for four voice actors, one webcomic artist and fantasy football rival Drazz.
My last Halloween costume was in the fifth grade. I was Waldo. So this guy's awesome.
After a long rest, Sarah felt healthy enough to head down to Opening Ceremonies, cosplaying a commissioned Hungary.
Remember how I said Anime Milwaukee Opening Ceremonies raised the bar for all other Opening Ceremonies? No Brand was another round of the usual. After screening this year's crop of videos (which gets closer to tolerable production quality every year!), Future Girl (at right) brought news that a device Executron plans to activate during the cosplay contest will bring forth the apocalypse. Yes, this is heavy.
It's no Yugioh Abridged, but it's the cheesy fun we've come to expect. Unless the world ends. That would be bad.
Remember how I said I switched from Estonia to escape the mob of America cosplayers? Meet the only other Estonia cosplayer I've ever seen!
Speaking of hell, we were chilling in the lobby and caught Eric, one of this year's Man Auction prizes, on his way to the event putting on his robe and wizard hat. He was wondering if he'd go for more with or without the hat. Despite our unanimous opinion that the Hat Should Stay, he posed without it and bore a striking resemblance to Donovan Dunmar from my novel...
Picture this kid attending a normal high school in Ohio and you get the idea. It may have had something to do with our endorsement of the wizard hat.
I've been busy with Geek.Kon stuffs and Hetalia World Cup and my muse didn't hit me quite as hard as usual, so I didn't get an AMV in this year. Apparently, neither did a lot of people as they dwindled to four submissions for the year. Two of them used subtitled footage. I spent a lot of time shuffling between that and Richard and Nick Izumi's Manly Men Of Anime panel next door.
Sarah did get a very nice Furuba video in and took second place. The shortened event gave us time to catch the end of Manly Men.
Like the panel at Ohayocon that Richard
stole adapted, the audience would suggest characters and the panelists
would deliberate if he was manly. They were far kinder to Spike from Cowboy
Bebop that Ohayocon was, but no mention of Captain Harlock while I was there
(although they did bring up Gai Daigouji from Nadesico). I stared at Richard
and, without any elaboration, suggested Reggie. It took him a moment, but
remembered Reggie from my novel and accepted him on the manly list as his
gesture for performing magic is a pelvic thrust. I'm surprised he went with that
instead of Reggie's harem of four ridiculously sexy women (that unlike some
anime harems he clearly uses to his advantage), but at least he's approved.
At the end of the panel, I also suggested Digimon's Marcus (from season five), as he doesn't use cards or symbols or the power of friendship to grant his partner strength. He runs up and punches the enemy in the face.
Speaking of manly, the No Brand Bowl was up next, since we never seem to learn our lesson. Sarah opted for the Man Auction (Eric didn't go robe/wizard hat and paid the price, while Yushi set a single Man record). As Estonia can't even do association football (Egypt just killed him in my World Cup project), much less American football, I got out of the cosplay and joined Richard and Zack upstairs.
For once, the stars seemed to align this year. The rain stopped and gave us a window to play, and Zack rounded up enough folks to get us a nice 3-on-3 game.
Thanks to some tight spirals that I threw in warm-ups, Richard and Zack were mistakenly under the impression that I would be an effective quarterback. They corrected their error after our first possession.
Zack makes a TD grab!
Then as the clouds started to come in and darken the sky, we noticed that the parking garage lights weren't clicking on. In year's past, we've played at 10 or 11 at night, and moved to 8 in an effort to get more people. Yet this is the first year we've called the game on account of darkness, with our team winning 21-0.
We'll clean up the rest of Friday on the next page.