Monday, June 20, 2011

AnimeNEXT: 10 years of wacky geeky goodness Part I

Like father, like daughter: The Critic with her Dad after his panel, Anime Under the Radar at AnimeNEXT 2011

I realized that as AnimeNEXT turns 10, a convention held in Somerset, NJ that I attended from June 10-12, I will also be reaching a geeky milestone myself.

Ten years ago, almost a wide-eyed freshman in college, I wrapped up my college days by setting foot inside my first anime convention, which was Otakon 2001 in Baltimore, MD. And much like this year, my Dad was by my side, ready to geek out with the best of them. I guess you could say in terms of conventions, I'm as of this year, a proverbial "X-Man" (sorry guys, if you know your Roman numerals, I couldn't avoid the obvious pun.)

Flash forward, and things really haven't changed much. Sure, I've graduated and somehow through a lot of hard work and the grace of God I have a full-time job that I actually like and an apartment to call my own (plus kitteh!) but my love for the proverbial "con" remains the same.

What is it about the con that draws myself, my Dad, and all the lunatics I know that I'm proud to call friends? For me, it's always been the chance of being able to gather with like-minded people and feel like I'm a part of some kind of huge, slightly scary, but never boring family reunion. Yes, I happen to be one of those freaks who dress up and I love it. There is nothing cooler to me than wearable art. If it works for Lady Gaga...

Speaking of wearable art, I made a little slide show of some of the best costumes I saw at the show. I hope you all like it, and if you happen to see yourself in here, feel free to comment and tell us a little about the creation of said costume!

Being on staff this year gives me a somewhat biased opinion of the convention, I admit, but I enjoyed myself a heck of a lot more this year than I did the year before. Part of it was that there seemed to be more staff in general and the con overall had a better sense of what panels were going to be super popular and putting them in rooms that didn't cram everyone in super tight. There were still the usual bugs - events starting late, the Artist Alley being in way too small of a space which counteracted the convenience of it being across from the Dealers Room as opposed to in another building like it was last year. But overall the people working the con were knowledgeable and polite, and the tech guys were really on the ball in making sure projectors and the like could be hooked up to laptops and net books easily for presentations. Both my Dad (AKA: Professor Bill Ellis), and my boyfriend, Casey Schoenberger, did panels and neither had any problems setting up their Power Point presentations or getting sound to work, or any of the usual pitfalls that can bog down and plague a panel presentation. Also, the con staff was pretty johnny-on-the-spot about making sure people didn't run over the time limit, and would pop in and say courteously (and then, if they had to, slightly less courteously) if the person only had 10 to 5 minutes left. This made for smoother transitions between panels.

And then there was this guy...CHIPOCRITE. He came. He saw. He geeked hardcore. And then we were compelled to do the same, as you can see...

Basically, this guy (Paul Weinstein's) shtick is that he "repurposes" old video game hardware into synthesizers, so he's actually controlling the music using an old Game Boy. Pretty great stuff. I wanted to buy his CD because it was only $5, but they went like hotcakes, as they say. Thankfully, this Philly native's music can be heard and bought here.

I also went to some pretty awesome panels, one of which was called Fandom & Criticism:The Art of Active Viewing, which was put on by these cool guys. Basically it gave an interesting overview of how does one decide what is actually good or not, and can BAD anime or movies actually be GOOD? And considering critiquing is what I do on this site, it proved to be a very enriching panel that left the neurons in my brain singing long afterwards. When I handed one of the presenters a bookmark for this blog, he said "Wow. Movie reviews and cats. You must be the most popular blog on the planet." High praise indeed. Working towards it a little at a time...

Anyway, I'll get into more of the other cool panels in Part II! But at least gives you a taste of the good times that were rollin' out.