AnimeNEXT 2013 – a con in review

From June 7-9, AnimeNEXT took over the Garden State Exhibition Center and Doubletree with the usual plethora of guests from fashion, music and Japanime industries. Turning into an AnimeNEXT regular, Satsuki and Tomo returns with Moon Stream with a friday performance. Other musical guests include Asterplace and Chipocrite for the chip aficionados. Isobe Akinori, Founder and CEO of BABY, THE STARS SHINE BRIGHT visits with lolita designers, Kano Masumi and Tachibana Saki. Also doing a fashion show, MINT of h.Naoto returns to showcase his MINT NeKO designs. Other Japanese guests include director Yamamoto Sayo and key animator Shimizu Hiroshi as well as illustrator, Usuda Hiro. Stateside guests include voice actors Michelle Knotz, Bill Rogers, Greg Houser, Chris Cason, Greg Ayres and Mike Pollock…as well as the Robotech crew, Kevin McKeever, Steve and Tommy Yune. Among many others. The question is, can we see everything in one weekend? Nope, but it’s chaos central here on in!

Friday: June 7

Thursday sported light rain which drizzled upon the line of people waiting outside to pick up their pre-reg badges. Despite the sprinkle, it still didn’t deter cosplayers from donning the first of many cosplays that weekend.

Friday…was pouring rain. The line to wait for the initial opening of the Dealer’s Room was outside…but thankfully under the erected canopies. Though the line stretched outside, the entrance was thankfully through the cooridor like prior years. (Last year, the organizers had the odd idea about having the main entrance to the dealer’s room be from the outside rather than utilizing the middle corridor between Main Events and the Dealer’s Room outer wall. Whether it was due to the rain or not, that was thankfully not the case this year.)

After grabbing pics of cosplayers, I checked out the Dealer’s Room.

Satsuki’s Moon Stream table was in the Dealer’s Room this time, not the Artist Alley. But sadly, Satsuki was not at the table.

I ducked into the KPOP 101 panel where the panelists showcase various dances from Kpop, ranging from ‘Gee’ of Girls Generation to Psy’s ‘Gangnam Style’. With some break dancing in between. It’s intersting to note that the best dancers there were not the girls but the guys. And the girls were definitely not terrible either. *applauds their awesome skills*

Opening Ceremonies

Time for an opening ceremonies tea party! Cosplayer Euphoria returns as Usagi hosting a tea party for the guests. Unfortunately, though there were scones, Euphoria didn’t sing like she did last year. However…Uncle Yo did….

autograph break

I caught MINT at the h.Naoto booth before heading to the Doubletree for autographs.

There was already a huge line for Greg Ayres and by 6:30pm, his autograph session was closed out. Instead, I went to obtain Chris Cason’s autograph who was signing with Bill Rogers and Michele Knotz. Chris came into the room first…with Michele being late and Bill even later. Thankfully, they allowed the signing to start with just Chris and Michele…and even separated the line of those who only wanted one autograph. Chris signed my Fullmetal Alchemist cast pic and I complimented him on his voice of Roman Empire in Hetalia.

Moon Stream concert

We got to take pics throughout the entire concert! Moon Stream allowed the press and attendees to take photos with no flash. Thankfully, we got some awesome shots. Yes, we have a pic of Satsuki-san caressing Tomo’s hair…and trolling the fans….

The rain had stopped by that time and it was beautifully cool outside. The concert and the cool night air was a wonderful way to end the first day of the con.

Saturday: June 8

American Voice Actors Panel and signing

When voice actors are gathered together at a con, chaos occurs. There was no Voice Actors After Dark during this con (unfortunate since those are hilariously fun,) but…this panel skirts dangerously close to 18+. Kinda….

Fashion show x2

Bringing the latest in Harajuku fashion to New Jersey, MINT holds his fashion show featuring his MINT NeKO designs. It’s followed by the fashion show for BABY, THE STARS SHINE BRIGHT’s ALICE AND THE PIRATES as well as their sweet lolita line. (Link features photographs from both shows.)

Yamamoto Sayo and Shimizu Hiroshi Q&A – Saturday

After the fashion show, I headed to the Doubletree for Yamamoto-san’s panel at 5pm which showcased Lupin III: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine.

AMVs

Prior to the masquerade, the amv winners were shown on the screens. Below are the youtube links to some of my fav entries and winners.

    True FeelingsClannad – Romance Winner. Finally a Clannad amv that doesn’t bring me to tears. It’s still beautifully sweet.
    Somewhere Only We KnowSword Art Online – Romance/Sentimental runner up. It’s more than a game when it’s love….
    TRITIUM 1.0: IN CRESCENDO – Various – Drama entrant. Awesome editing…as to be expected from TritioAFB. A fabricated story is still a beautiful one.
    Not the EndMagi – Drama winner! It’s easily a fav, even if the song sounds light hearted, the mix between the scenes and music is appropriate to this series. (I don’t know why, but I loled when ‘lose all inhibition’ line is accompanied by the pic of the sushi-like scene. XD)
    Prelude to Death II – Various – Horror winner! Undeniably creepy and nightmare inducing. It’s perfect!
    Shoot Me!Black Lagoon – Action winner. The song and anime are a good match up. Kinda catchy too.
    The Fatest Girl in the Galaxy RedlineRedline – Action entrant! Definitely a fav. What could be more action packed than an anime about racing? ^_^
    Turning the TablesSaki – Action entrant. I was surprised to see this here since it was featured last year as well (not at AnimeNEXT but at Otakon.) Still awesome.
    Are Ya Ready 4 da Ruffneck Bass – Various – Artistic winner. All the pretty lights and colors…. *stares*
    BaBOOM!!!Nichijou (My Ordinary Life) – Fun winner?!? Did we always have a ‘Fun’ category? It’s like another comedy category…but this is definitely fun. Weiner!
    Every Day is a Festival!!Tamako Market – Fun entrant! I love the chickie… The last moments of the amv is about the bird. ^.^
    B.F.B.B Gata H Kei – Another Fun entrant! OMG, is there another song that is this perfecct for this series? lol This amv would be good in the Romantic category too…but it probably is more appropriate here.
    Don’t Stop Arale Now!Dr. Slump – Fun entrant and Coordinator’s Choice! Linda Yao would love this amv. ^_^

Masquerade

Last year, the story framing the masquerade was Final Fantasy VII, this year, it was ‘Wreck It Ralph’ with the hosts being the characters from the Disney movie. It has an entertaining premise and between the two hosts, a funny plot was created between all the skits. Unfortunately, I don’t know if it was done on purpose or not, as the framing story was never elaborated on. Though we heard the sounds of a train (or some engine?) chasing the hosts offstage, they never resolved the thread of that ‘story’. (Unlike last year when the host Aerith ‘died’, she was sent to the ‘other world’…and ended up as a test subject.) It was an interesting plot device, yet the hanging thread left much to be desired.

Truly, this has been the saddest of all the masquerades at AnimeNEXT. The quality has been fluctuating in recent years so I usually don’t expect much from it…but this was even worse than 2 years ago. There were only 10 skits I believe and over half of the skits were single cosplayer entries. Most of them were dances without a story plot. (Not to say solo performances are bad, but the more people makes for more creative ideas.) Baka Sisters Cosplay was one of the best…though they didn’t win Best in Show. I figured that might’ve been the case since there was really no competition for them. (They probably didn’t win first place either since it would have been too easy.)

I included the timestamp for the masquerade link for some of my choice skits and other parts of the masquerade. Click for the entire masquerade.

    A Lesson for DemyxKingdom Hearts – 5:46 – MC award. This was a good start to the masquerade. An original song sung live.
    Memory of a HeroFinal Fantasy VII – 9:03 – MC award. Awesome cosplay, expressive single person battle. The sword sticks to his back! O.O
    Super Anime Jpop Dance Party – Various – 14:05 – 1st Place Performance Winner. Interesting Kyary Pamy Pamyu-twist to the usual dance skit. KPP <3!
    Unlocking Amu’s HeartShugo Chara! – 18:00 – 2nd Place Performance Winner. Best Craftsmanship Award. My favorite and I’m sure a fav of many others. It was a definite win…which may be why it didn’t. Awesome dance mixes and good story premise. Girls rule! Plus Taeyang? OMG, I’m in love! ^_^
    A Broken ButterflyBlack Butler II – 36:46 – Judge’s Award. The right amount of insanity and pain. Usually something like this would not work…but for Alois, it is strangely appropriate.

There were good skits, just not that many. Despite the masquerade skits being as dismal as it was, the performances after the skits were very entertaining. After the skits, a special encore performance of Cosplay Burlesque came on with dancers from Sailor Moon. No clothes were taken off, but it was pretty amazing as is. (44:40 timestamp of the above link.)

The walkon hallcosplay entries came on, highlighting some of the best cosplays that weekend. The winner was a large monster-like thing in the right corner of the room. It moved, blew out steam and took a single person to move…though the Panty cosplayer that was hovering about was probably helping out with it.

Do you remember the Penguin raver/dancer? He is back to kill more time! Some of the mixes were some ‘classics’ from the 90’s. A definite fav among other fans in the audience. (1:23:00 timestamp.)

Another special performance featured the maid cafe of AnimeUSA. They first danced ‘Kanpeki gu~ no ne’, the first ending to Fairy Tail. Then they played moe moe jankenpon with selected members of the audience. It was awesome, concluding with a showdown with Nozomu-sensei from Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei and a young kid. O.O They were at it for such a loooooonng time! Finally, the little kid won. (Was he really that little?!?) He was made a honorary maid. ^_^ They ended with the dance for ‘Girls be Ambitious!’ (1:28:00 timestamp.)

Sunday: June 9

Yamamoto Sayo and Shimizu Hiroshi Q&A – Sunday

I was too late to attend the Human Cosplay Chess this year but I did make it to the second Yamamoto panel. This proved to be quite rewarding as Yamamoto-san storyboards for the audience and Shimizu-san draws them out. Also, we got to take photos of the screen!

last autograph session

There was the odd scheduling of Moon Stream with director Yamamoto and animator Shimizu. These two groups of people are from two different fields which made for a mixed autograph signing. Mostly J-rock fans. Of course, I didn’t mind since I wanted to meet Moon Stream as well…but I knew the J-rock fans would overtake the signing. The line moved really slowly and unfortunately, many weren’t able to get Moon Stream’s autographs at all. Satsuki-san had a ‘Gomi-project panel’ at 2:30pm so the fans all vacated the line for the panel. Lucky us since my goal was to get the autographs of the director/animator in the first place.

Of course, the majority of the remaining people on the line were from the panel before. The Japanese staff thanked us for attending the panel and apologized for the insane line.

In Japanese, I told Shimizu-san that I was a big fan of Fullmetal Alchemist and that I really liked the action scenes of the series. Both series truly have some of the best fight scenes in anime. Shimizu-san drew Lupin on my shikishi. *fangirls* To Yamamoto-san, I mentioned that I liked the new Fujiko Mine series and I was looking forward to more new anime from her. Hopefully, my Japanese was somewhat understandable.

The other side of the table sported doodles and artwork from Moon Stream. It seems that they went all out! (Was this why the line was so long? XD) Of course, now I want to take the table home….

just a bit more cosplays

By that time, there was only 15 min. left before the Dealer’s Room closed. I went in to do a bit of last minute shopping. The music of Asterplace filled the hall as they banged out their closing performance. I went around the pond area of the Doubletree where photoshoots were still in fullswing. I grabbed a few choice photos before heading back to my hotel and home.

and in closing comments

This year has been one of my most confusing concerning the printed schedule of Anime NEXT. Yes, the online schedule and the guide book app was most informative and up-to-date. On the other hand, the printed schedule and maps had the many errors…some of which could have been avoided. First was title changes which is understandable since descriptions may come out later and the printed ones are stuck with whatever was the tentative title given. However, what could be avoided were the naming of the panel rooms. Panel A and B? They never appeared on the map. Panel 4, 5 and 6 were all mixed up. There was no panel 6 (I think?) and 4 and 5 were switched. On the map, there wasn’t even a panel 4. The Green Room on the map usually refers to the room where guests of honor hang out. Instead, it was the location of the autograph area. Since the autograph area was there last year, why change it to the Green Room only to change it back? For AnimeNEXT returnees, this may not seem like a big deal, but for new attendees and for me (who is trying to plan things out,) that was bothersome.

Press relations have been steadily improving at AnimeNEXT and this year was one of the best. Besides the confusion of the no photo policy at Opening Ceremonies, press had almost free reign with first seating and no flash photography. Of course, much of the allowance is from the Japanese guests so I must give them props for allowing us to roam free during concerts and shows.

Besides the masquerade, I felt disappointed at the industry panels being scheduled at the same time as major events. Fashion Show and Aniplex? Moon Stream concert and Vertical? Masquerade and Moon Stream Q&A? It was like J-fashion/music vs. Japanime tracks. Both are vital to the industry and though I understand that it was done to probably spread out the crowds, it made covering them very difficult. *shrugs* A minor problem since covering them all would be very difficult too if I really attended everything.

AnimeNEXT 2014 will be from June 6-8 and their earliest pre-reg ended on saturday 6/15 at $35. A 3-day membership is at the usual $45 until 1/1/2014. People are already making plans and booking hotel rooms. Planning early is a must. This year had a rare occasion where both the Doubletree and Hotel Somerset Bridgewater was completely sold out before June and perhaps even May. It could be because of the con…or the belly dancing convention that was happening across the highway…. Whether that will return next year is iffy, but definitely, AnimeNEXT will grow to be even better in the coming year.

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One Response to AnimeNEXT 2013 – a con in review

  1. This and the other parts are a GREAT con report! Thank you, I-hsiu!

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