Otakon 2009: The [geist] Experience

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Having never been a fan of rock or punk music, I definitely would not be the best person to judge a visual kei band.  I can honestly testify though that many of my fellow Kanon Wakeshima fans seemed just as shocked as I was when [geist] appeared on the stage and began playing their hard core music.

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My first encounter with [geist] was during the 2009 Japan Festival at the University of Maryland in College Park.  It was a family event.  Professors, students, and many others in the Maryland community brought their family to enjoy an enriching night of cultural experience.  The festival offered a show of traditional Japanese dance, and had a room filled with booths that introduced guests to various aspect of Japanese society.  It was a calm and quiet affair until the stage was cleared in preparation for the band…

Standing there on stage, the members of [geist] certainly were more than just a face in the crowd.  The audience looked at them with curiosity, and then…they played their first song…  Saying that their music was a shocking contrast to the atmosphere in the room would be an understatement.  The room quickly emptied as grandparents, children, students and professors sought shelter from the noise.  The Maryland community was obviously not ready for [geist].geist 2

As I stood there in Hall D of the Baltimore Convention Center and saw the familiar faces enter the stage, I too was not ready for [geist].  While I can appreciate that there are many fans of visual kei and j-rock, I found their music too great a contrast to Kanon Wakeshima’s.  I do wish the band luck in their climb to success, but I would just ask that they try to choose more appropriate venues in the future.

([geist] Photos courtesy of Lee Miller)

~Lena Pang


Otakon 2008: Fansubbers vs. Industry

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Fansubbers and industry met head to head as major members of both sides gathered at Otakon to discuss the future of anime, subs, and distribution. The issue has been around ever since fans first applied their knowledge of Japanese and video editing to translate the shows they wanted to see. In the years of the VHS, this would take months; today, it takes barely a day. What does this mean to distributors with the license? By the time they acquire, localize, produce, and distribute, almost 75% of the series is already available to fans in translated form, for free. And lo, the expected lost revenue. However if you’re a veteran of fansubs, you already know this shindig, as did those at the panel. There was no heated debate, clash of beliefs, or surprise sting operation, but rather a calm, lighthearted, but serious discussion.

The topic centered primarily on the big issue: copyright. Major subbing groups will often times agree to industry’s request, not because of legal threat, but because of courtesy and respect. Despite what some may think, the American anime industry is not a soulless money-hungry copyright waving machine, but as human and understanding as the rest of us. Only they have actual authority to carry things further, as granted upon them by the parent company and recognized by American law. In fact, the industry has even admitted to hiring former and current fansubbers to help out with the work. Ultimately, they are like any other business, and they need to make money, so stamping out the free distributions is important for them. At the same time, industry also realizes the consumer’s desire for getting a show as soon as possible, in its freshest, least processed form. So far they’ve introduced several alternatives, such as official streaming of episodes and same-day releases (so you get yours the same day as Japan). They’ve made agreements with websites and with groups, so you can still get your anime, but you have to be an honest person and pay for it.

The ugly truth is that the industry is in fact taking a beating from the free distributions. Companies have and will go under if we as an audience and as fans do not go out and actually pay for our anime (you know, like how we really should). They’re evolving to meet consumer demand and desires, but they need your help to stay afloat. So don’t cry if your favorite anime gets dropped because of a cease-and-desist, and don’t bash the subbers and industry for doing so. They need to make money, just like you and I.

You can view a full video of the panel here

~Kevin Zhang


Otakon 2008 Report Day 3

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Technically, the end of Otakon is around three in the afternoon on Sunday, but most people know it’s as good as over after Saturday night. Sunday is really just the day people swarm artist alley and the dealer’s room in hopes of catching some last minute sales. This year really was no different than the others. I completely ignored the Sunday concerts as they are often quite boring, the remaining panels are often slightly depressing as the people who run them are completely aware that everyone is far too sad over the end of Otakon to really pay attention. There was one gem to take note of this year, and that was ADV’s seemingly last minute panel. With rumors of ADV abandoning their panel at AX, I was reluctant to waste time hoping ADV would show up, but my morbid curiosity got the better of me in the end.

Fortunately (or unfortunately if you don’t like ADV), ADV did show up only to report that rumors of their demise was premature. Quite unfortunately for them, they really didn’t have much in the way of actual proof that their demise was premature.

~Paul Tung


Otakon 2008: Jam Project Comments

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I initially was not at all interested in the JAM Project concert, most jpop doesn’t interest me, but a total lack of things to do on Friday night and the fact all my friends were going made me change my mind. For starters, the First Mariners Arena staff was about as oblivious to whatever rules were in place. I was walking with some friends of mine also with press badges and the first time, we went in, we were directed outside to one of the staff entrances as one of the people in our party had crutches. Outside, at the staff entrance, we were directed back into the main entrance where we had to go through security again, only to be told that we’re going the wrong way. I don’t blame Otakon staff for this as it was Otakon staff that led us to the correct corridor, but the First Mariner Arena staff needs some work if Otakon is to employ their services again.

As far as the concert goes, I was quite impressed. I came in not really expecting much as I had very little knowledge of JAM Project; the concert was more a means of wasting time for me. I came out of the concert with ears ringing and me having very much enjoyed the entire thing. Not enough buy the album and get it autographed, but enough that it didn’t seem like a waste of time at all. Like watching El Hazard for the nth time, hearing some of the songs really brought out a feeling of nostalgia in me. Admittedly, even now I can’t name a single one of the songs I heard, but hearing them really made me reminisce about some of the first anime that I ever saw, and how they left such an impression in my memory. One of my friends later told me I looked like I was really into the concert, so I guess I did enjoy it.

~Paul Tung


Otakon 2008 Report Day 2

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The second day is always a little more melancholy for me. The realization that Otakon is essentially half over along with the fact that Monday means work, make me question if I could have spent the weekend doing something more productive. I tell myself every year that I should just take the Monday off so that I won’t have an excuse, but I always forget to do it.

8:30 AM

I wake up. Waking up on Friday is easy; waking up on Saturday is the challenge. Even though the JAM Project concert didn’t end late, I usually find some way to stay up until the wee hours of the con and then somehow make it back to the hotel, which is still further than it should be—honestly though, at three in the morning, across the street might even been too far…

Out the door at nine to catch the Peter Beagle panel, to which I end up being late for. I’m not a Peter Beagle fan, I actually haven’t read anything by him, or seen any of the screenplays he’s written. In fact, I only heard of him when Otakon announced their guest list. One of my friends loved The Last Unicorn and wouldn’t stop talking about it, that’s the extent of my exposure to his writing. I figure his panel would be something good to sit in on and wake up, if not actually learn something.

At ten, it was the Bang Zoom Entertainment panel, I sat for about ten minutes before leaving to peruse the rest of the BCC. At eleven, it was the Bandai panel; moderately interesting, I did not score a Haruhi armband, unfortunately. I couldn’t help but take note of the late night Bandai Surprise panel, perhaps they took a pointer from Geneon? Either way, I had to go and get a Haruhi armband; it had become my goal for Otakon.

1:00 PM

The ever so coveted AMV contest, how I look forward to this each Otakon. Quite unfortunately, this year was a pretty big disappointment. Out of a good two to three hours of sitting there watching creativity splatter across the giant screen, the only AMVs worth noting were the ones made by the same hand full of studios or people that have put out quality AMVs for the past three to four years. As always there were the usual, mainstream anime laced with Adobe Aftereffects, a generic hash of images with a catchy song in the background, and the typical otaku-pandering fanboy allusion fest. Perhaps Youtube has spoiled people into thinking their terrible concoctions are good…Either way, there wasn’t much worth mentioning.

5:30 PM

Now here is an interesting panel that many have longed to see, the Fansub vs. Industry panel. I walk into the grand ballroom, already very much packed with fans eager to see the industry take names and file lawsuits, and fansubbers pointing fingers and yelling back internet memes. Much to my own embarrassment, I was eager to see the same. Fortunately (or unfortunately if you prefer blood baths), it was a very civil panel. Opinions were exchanged, thoughts were laid out, and both sides parted the room smiling; dare I even say, a mutual understanding might have been reached.

Fast forward to 9PM, the Bandai Surprise panel. Reminiscing back to the first Geneon Late Night panel, I walked into this panel with a handful of hopes and dreams (and desires for free merchandise), while fully expecting it to flop given how enthusiastic the actual Bandai panel was. To sum up my experience quite bluntly: if someone told me the industry was dying, Bandai sure wasn’t showing it. The panel started off quite typically, introductions were made, people smiled, and then they wheeled in the dollies full of give-aways. I walked out of the panel room in sheer awe…and wearing a lucky star school uniform t-shirt, Haruhi armband, and had a Gundam Seed t-shirt in my bag. No words can really describe how amazing that panel was, but I sure hope that video of everyone in the room dancing to the Lucky Star theme doesn’t end up on the internet.

~Paul Tung


Otakon 2008 Report Day 1

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Unlike last year, this year I wanted to get an early start. In right as the doors opened, that was the plan and since I was already in the habit of waking up at six for work, getting up for Otakon at eight meant nothing—so I got up at 8:30, an improvement on last year’s ten o’clock wake-up call. I was in the door by nine and how very comforting it is to be in the BCC, Baltimore summers were always terrible. Got my press kit and proceeded to the El Hazard showing. It’s somewhat a tradition of mine to try and catch El Hazard screening at Otakon, then finish up the rest when I get home. I don’t know why I do it, but El Hazard just has that nostalgia aspect about it. Plus, they were showing the dub and El Hazard has such a wonderful dub.

11:00 AM

Off to panels, starting with Hiromi Matsushita and Kazuko Tadano panel. I’m not really a Sailor Moon fan, but it is impossible to deny the impact the Sailor Moon franchise has had on anime in the west, so I figured it would be an interesting panel to listen in on. Unfortunately, not many others shared in my enthusiasm for such an iconic title. The panel was sparsely populated, which is always unfortunate to see, but from the questions asked and rampant cosplay, I could tell they were quite the avid Sailor Moon fans. I wanted to leave early as the panel was quite boring for me as someone who didn’t know the show but ended up staying to the end in hopes of winning some free merchandise.

2:00 PM

Funimation panel, first of the industry panels. With the anime industry looking quite grim lately, Funimation has managed to stay above all the gloom and doom, and even managed to salvage the failings of ADV. As much as I was looking forward to this panel, I ended up having to go back to the hotel to get one of my friends into the room. So very sad…

3:00 PM-ish

I walk in a little late to the Media Blasters panel, but the representative was late so I didn’t miss much. To put it bluntly, I am slightly grumpy for missing the Funimation panel. I don’t know why, but I really enjoy industry panels and especially, the free stuff they give.

The Media Blasters panel was surprisingly more entertaining than I thought it might be. With all the attention focused on Funimation right now, the Media Blaster panel was surprisingly strong at heart, if not in the marketplace. Any signs of them feeling the alleged anime end-days were definitely not present and if anything, the panel was quite entertaining. Like the Funimation panel, I ended up having to leave early as the aforementioned friend got lost in the BCC…Convention virgins…so very sad…

~Paul Tung


Otakon 2008 Report Day 0

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I completely forgot when we were suppose to get to Baltimore, all I know is that I was late,but not the latest one (you know who you are!), so I didn’t feel bad about it. Instead of doing the smart thing and getting our badges right away, we went to get dinner, also known as: the last good meal for the weekend…or so I thought. I always thought it’d be a good idea to go to a nice sit-down restaurant for the first day as that is usually the last good, “proper” meal we would have for the weekend, but some people already had that empty wallet sensation so we resorted to the food court (*grumble*). After dinner, got our badges and retired to the hotel.

~Paul Tung