Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Con Report - Anime Punch 2008

I'm writing this on the flight home from Anime Punch 2008. This was my third year at the con as an invited guest, and once again, I had a very good time. My sincerest thanks go out to the organizers of Anime Punch for having me, and for hosting such a good event that was safe, fun, and always full of interesting activities to keep enthusiastic otaku of all ages occupied.

In particular, I want to thank con chair Mike Beuerlein and Susan (the head of Con Ops) for their hospitality and helpfulness, the guys in charge of the panel rooms for always coming through when I needed help with A/V issues, and everyone who came to my panels (I hope you liked them).

Anime Punch is a convention run entirely by fans, and is associated with the OSU anime club. Even though AP is not nearly the size of conventions like Anime Expo (in Long Beach, CA) and Otakon (in Baltimore, Maryland), there was never a dull moment--which is something I can't always say about those larger cons. There's something about fans at smaller conventions that always impresses me. The atmosphere is different at events where the con-goers, invited guests, and staff aren't so different from each other, and where strangers are eager to help other strangers have a good time, instead of complaining about minor snafus and inconveniences.

For the first time in a long time, I had a very balanced con experience. I went to the opening ceremonies, attended (and presented) panels, spent some time in the video rooms, played video games in the game room, shopped in the dealers' room, ate some snacks in the (very nicely stocked) con suite, participated in game shows, struck up conversations with people I hadn't met before, went out to dinner with friends, and genuinely got excited about new (and old) anime again.

Much of my time was spent preparing for and presenting numerous panels. Officially, I was responsible for being on 5 panels, 3 of them to be presented completely on my own (so those were more like lectures or moderated discussions than "panels", per se). As it turns out, at the very last minute, I was recruited to talk on one additional panel, and I recruited someone to help me on one of my own panels.

Here's a list of what I presented:
  1. Gainax (together with Mikhail Koulikov, maintainer of the Anime/Manga Web Essays Archive and fellow AMRC moderator). I focused primarily on the early history of Gainax and the studio's pre-Evangelion works, and Mikhail covered the more recent titles.

  2. Otaku as Viewed by Media/Normals (with Laura). I introduced myself to Laura, who organized this panel, and she asked me to help out, so I did. We had a nice (if somewhat unstructured) group discussion about public perceptions of otaku culture (in both Japan and America). I hope Laura and I can do this panel again in the future, since it allows me to spend more time on other topics during my Otaku Studies talk (which I've presented at AP three years in a row).

  3. Anime in Academia (together with my academic colleagues CarrieLynn Reinhard, Mikhail, and Dr. John Lent). Traditionally, this panel has been very well-attended, and we even had a bigger room this year, but for whatever reason, it felt like there were fewer attendees this time around. Anyhow, all of us had other panels that were well attended, so that's okay.

    Lawrence at Anime Punch 2008
    (This image, by OZinOH, is used in accordance with a Creative Commons license)


  4. Otaku Studies. Based on my doctoral work, this is the talk I give every year (with updated content, of course) in as many places as possible. It's always very rewarding to share with my fellow fans what I've learned being amongst them and trying to make sense of our diverse community's various activities, values, and ethics. I always get really good questions and feedback from this talk. Hopefully, the more I give this presentation and make adjustments, the better it will get. Maybe I'll eventually turn it into a 2-part seminar or workshop.

  5. Anime and the Internet (with Aaron). I didn't know until the day before the con that I was the only person who would be presenting on this topic. That was okay, I figured, since anime fandom's use of the internet was such a big part of my doctoral dissertation. Also, I work for a company that makes the world's best Web browser, so this was right up my alley. That said, I was very pleased to see Aaron of the WARP Anime Podcast in the audience. I asked him if he'd like to be part of the panel, which he kindly agreed to do--contributing some very nice insight and information about the world of anime podcasts. Our discussion topics ranged from pre-Web online fandom to the development of early anime fansites to the current-day landscape of corporate sites, blogs, social networking sites, and Wikipedia.

  6. serial experiments lain. During this panel, I surely repeated more than once how happy and surprised I was that so many people showed up to hear and talk about lain, a show that will be 10 years old this summer. I was planning to chat with at most 4-5 people about my favorite anime TV series to celebrate its 10th anniversary, but there must have been a couple dozen people in the room, all of whom had watched lain and were fans enough of it not to attend the other, higher-profile con events of Saturday night. Since everyone in the room had seen lain already, it was a fairly high-level panel. We discussed the themes of the show, its influences, the shows it influenced, and how it affected us as viewers. I also showed some special video clips, shared information about lain merchandise, and gave away a lain artbook (to one very dedicated lain fan in the audience). Even though I prepared the least for this panel (not counting the fact that I've had a huge lain website for 9 years now), it turned out to be really fun, and I hope to do it again before 2008 ends.
I had a great weekend, and seeing all the smiling faces around me at the con, I know I wasn't alone. Anime Punch continues to foster a great intimate feeling amongst its attendees. As otaku, we're a community of fans that's all about having fun together, sharing knowledge, and being passionate about our interests, and that's why I still love going to anime cons and look forward to Anime Punch 2009!

3 comments:

  1. I had hoped to attend your panels but wasn't able to since I was working on our group's cosplay skit. I would like to volunteer my services for your next Anime and the Internet panel. I've been with anime fandom since Usenet days, and involved with such websites as The Anime Web Turnpike and Anime News Network.

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  2. Sounds great! I'd love to have you on the panel.

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