Tuesday, June 19, 2012

AnimeNEXT 2012 Roundup!

So after forgetting my power cord for my laptop at the con in one of the panel rooms because I'm a derp, this is getting up a little later than I'd like. But in short, AnimeNEXT 2012 was definitely the best year EVER!

Before I get all texty on everyone, I'm going to present what I promised all those lovely people that got bookmarks from me....the AnimeNEXT photo reel! TA DAA!!!

By the way, if any of you would like copies of any photos you see in this photo reel, you can go to my public Facebook album by clicking here. If you want higher resolution photos for printing or whatnot, feel free to drop me a line.

Okay, now that we've gotten that out of the way, here's the rundown. There were some great panels that were given at the con, and many of you showed up for What Bronies Can Learn from Anime Fans, a panel I helped out with that was presented by my awesome Dad, Dr. Bill Ellis, who is also known as the owner of Sensei's Anime Gallery. ( When I announced the fact he is my Dad during the panel, the room pretty much went bonkers.) And I gotta say, you all were AWESOME. I mean, we literally got bum rushed at the end, and as a result I am clean outta The Insatiable Critic bookmarks. Also, seeing the combination of Bronies and Otaku meshed together in a big love fest just did my heart so much good. By the way, you can see a select few photos of my Dad and the slides from the panel in action here.

Check that guy out in the front nabbing that Critic bookmark! Love you guys!

I also give major props to those of you who came to the ill-fated Anime Under the Radar panel, whereupon I learned the Golden Rule of paneldom, repeat after me...


But people were patient and awesome and despite our panel being SO under the radar that due to a prior scheduling glitch it was not included in the con pocket program guide. Then it was rescheduled from Friday to Saturday, then it had a room change, and THEN there were a bunch of ladies who had been misinformed about the room's availability and were about to do a cosplay panel that my Dad had to politely boot out of there. And we still had over 30 people in attendance to listen to Dr. Bill Ellis, Dylan Ferrara, and myself babble on about Heat Guy J, Saint Seiya, and Maeterlinck's Blue Bird. We had a great discussion about other titles such as DNA Squared and Darkside Blues that haven't gotten the credit they've deserved over the years. If anyone at that panel is reading this now, feel free to comment and list other obscure series worth a watch. A review of Heat Guy J, basically summarizing what I talked about in the panel, is waiting in the wings and will be posted on this blog soon. 

I also want to briefly mention voice actress Michele Knotz's Knotz Your Everyday Panel, which gave attendees a chance to strut their own personal voice talents, from a young girl singing the National Anthem (and pretty much blowing everyone away) to a guy doing a rap in the Kirby voice. It was awesome that she gave others a chance to shine as well as showing everyone a great time!

 Charles Dunbar did his usual awesome job with his panels, particularly with Style and Substance: 50 Years of Anime Openings which chronicled the development of the anime opening from its early days with Astro Boy to shows airing in Japan currently. I got a personal thrill getting to see the opening for Lupin III on the (relatively) big screen. Retro-tastic! (Also, he referred to this blog to a fellow con staffer as part of a group of "major web media outlets"! Not sure if that's accurate, but I'll take it!)  My personal favorite, however, was Beyond Castles, Forests, and Houses: Philosophy in the Works of Hayao Miyazaki, given at 11 a.m. on Sunday morning of the con. Usually a groggy time for most people, the room still ended up being packed. For those of you who couldn't get up that early due to too much raving or weren't able to get in due to the room being maxed out, your friendly neighborhood Critic videotaped a portion of the panel for your enjoyment:

GENERAL CON IMPRESSIONS: Being part of the Black Butler cosplay shoot as Grell on Saturday was a blast. Anime shows that are mega popular usually aren't my scene, but something about Black Butler has really captivated me. Fellow BB cosplayers were fun to be around to just get silly with, and silly we definitely got, as you can see from the photo reel. Also, I got a lot of complements on my Grell pointy shark teeth, which I made using a tip from Cosplay.com of taking fake nails and denture adhesive and sticking them on the surface of my front teeth. 

And speaking of Black Butler, this was my personal treat to myself from the Artist Alley: 

Look ma! You can have either Grell or Sebastian right-side up depending on how you feel that day.

 They had sold out of this print but were nice enough to ship it to me for FREE and it only took me a week to get it!! I was very, very impressed. When I can track down who actually DID this artwork I will pass it along.

Despite the usual craziness that accompanies attending and staffing a con, most attendees were very kind and sympathetic towards staffers and I didn't hear any major grumbling as I had in years past about people being shut out of panels or there not "being enough going on." If anything, there was so much stuff to choose from it was like being on a veritable caffeine high for most of the weekend. I sat next to a very nice woman who cosplayed Esmeralda from Disney's Hunchback of Notre Dame during the Miyazaki panel who supplied me with ample amounts of sugar, saying she really respected what we as staffers do as a whole to make this con come off every year. It meant a lot for me to have a total stranger say something so heartfelt. In fact, it's that very heart-on-the-sleeve attitude that seems to be fostered at AnimeNEXT and at the end of it all, makes the "real world" so very hard to go back to.

 It's something I've heard referred to as PCD (Post-Con Depression.) Part of it is conning it up for three days when you're 29 is not the same as when you were 19. (Part of it was forgetting my freakin' power cord. D'oh!) You enter this world where people are totally accepting of you and your weird ways and having been a con-goer for over 10 years now (and an AnimeNEXT participant for at least five), you begin to see the familiar faces and it just ends up becoming a big ol' family reunion. And being able to share this interest with my Dad and get to spend some quality time with him is truly invaluable. I always find it highly appropriate that AnimeNEXT always falls within a week or two of Father's Day, and I can't think of a better way to spend it!

But what always stops me in my tracks about what makes something like AnimeNEXT all the more extraordinary is that it is all done through the efforts of a group of insanely dedicated VOLUNTEERS. The program guides that Sarah Moulder, Rene Jack, and I worked so hard on really looked slick despite the printers "forgetting" about our order in the warehouse and not actually getting everything to us until Friday morning of the con. Are we looking for new printers next year? You bet your sweet bippy we are. And Lisa Lamhut did her usual awesome job with her incredible artwork that was also featured on the con's official t-shirt.Major props also go out to Robert R. Rustay, AnimeNEXT con chair, the members of the executive committee and Universal Animation, Inc., board of directors, and Con-Safety, who worked their butts off all weekend to make sure we all had a safe, fun time.

But the truth is, it took everyone involved to make something this big and awesome come off, and it's only gotten bigger and better as the years have gone by. We're talking about a bigger venue in years to come, and I'm excited to be along for the ride, now and hopefully into the future.

Friday, June 8, 2012

In the Ring With the Pit Boss - Nothing Small about Four Feet Tall & Rising

 Image courtesy of Tantor Media, Inc.

The first line of the book pretty much says it all:

"I've got a big mouth. I came out of the womb wailing and I've pretty much been yelling ever since."

For those of you not in the know, Mr. Rossi is the creator and star of the Animal Planet show Pit Boss; he also happens to be a little person. But I can tell you - after meeting the man and giving his memoir Four Feet Tall & Rising  a listen,  there's nothing small about Shorty Rossi.

I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Rossi before I read his book, which is co-written with S.J. Hodges.  Beyond being unfailingly polite, he is everything the book shows him to be - loud, honest, and ultimately, big-hearted. Seeing him interact with his gorgeous and gentle pit bull Hercules (see above on the book cover), who also happens to be his service dog, was like seeing two old, dear friends shoot the shit with each other. (Far from the pit bull fierce "attack dog" stereotype, Hercules nuzzled his nose into my hand when I reached out to pet him and started licking like crazy. "He likes the ladies," was Mr. Rossi's amused comment.)

I can't imagine this book being read by anyone else. No one else would be able to do it justice. It is so personal and raw, and cuts so close to the heart at times, especially when he talks about his decade spent in prison. He also gives the humor a cigar-nashing, pugnacious charm. Hearing his story coming out of someone else's mouth just wouldn't hold the same weight. When he talks about how he started rescuing pit bulls off the streets of L.A. after being released from prison, you can hear the depth of the emotion in his voice when he describes what these dogs mean to him, and how they are like family to him.

Being a volunteer at a no-kill cat shelter in my area and having grown up around a pit bull (her name was Rootie, God rest her gentle soul) Mr. Rossi's advocacy of humane animal treatment hit a deep chord within me. To have someone who grew up having to fight to have his own identity against his family's wishes, to have experienced prison, and to be able to come through it as a successful person who can still have the love and passion to fight for these dogs - if you can excuse the pun, it is a true underdog story.

I won't say too much more about the book because I don't want to take the words out of Mr. Rossi's self-proclaimed big mouth. I will say that his story will  stay with me long after I finished it, and I'm not sure it would've made such an impact if I had simply read it on the page - something about hearing it in the audio made an already incredible story that much more personal. It reminds us that we, as humans, have responsibilities for the lives of each other and the lives of the animals around us, no matter what the stereotypes are surrounding a particular man or beast. That above all, every creature - big or small - deserves love and respect.

 Thanks for having that big mouth, Shorty.

To listen to an audio sample, click here.


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Critic Invades AnimeNEXT!

The Critic is going to AnimeNEXT 2012 in Somerset, NJ this weekend and is going to rock the casba!! Watch me throw in my two cents at the Anime Under the Radar panel on Saturday in Panel 3 from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m., where I'll be talking about the semi-obscure and totally underrated anime Heat Guy J. Fellow panelists Dylan Ferrara and Dr. Bill Ellis will be weighing in on this panel discussing other older series such as Saint Seiya, Grimm's Fairy Tales (yes, they did make an anime of those, and it is awesome), and Maeterlinck's Blue Bird.

IMMEDIATELY following that in Panel 1 from 10 p.m. to 11 p.m., you can catch me helping out Dr. Bill Ellis at his What Bronies Can Learn From Anime Fans, discussing the phenomenon of the fandom of grown adults that have gravitated toward the 2010 (and ongoing) reboot of My Little Pony animated TV series and how it is not so different from otakuism (that is, anime nuts like ourselves).

Dr. Bill Ellis will also be holding a panel discussing the sometimes complicated relationships between fathers and daughters in anime series, particularly "Magical Girl" series. That will take place Friday in Panel 3 from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. 

I will be handing out free Insatiable Critic bookmarks, so first come first serve! Here's a sneak peek at one: 

Other panels worth checking out...the incredibly talented voice actress Michele Knotz , who you might know from a little series called Pok√©mon and is currently the English voice of Alisa Bosconovitch from the new Street Fighter X Tekken game that was recently released will be doing a panel discussing her role in the game with equally talented voice actor Kyle Hebert...who's done just about everything. You can catch them on Friday in  Panel 2 from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. If you can't make that, never fear! Michele will also be holding Knotz Your Everyday Panel! where she will discuss her voice acting career on Saturday in Panel 3 from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m.

I would also highly recommend any panel hosted by the illustrious Charles Dunbar, owner of the site Study of Anime. He will be doing no less than FOUR panels, all of which sound delicious and nutritious for the otaku soul. The ones I'll be catching include Style and Substance: 50 Years of Anime Openings on Saturday in Panel 3, from 8 to 9 p.m. (AND since you're all going to the Anime Under the Radar panel anyway, riiiiiight, you might as well get there a little early and check this one out. It's in the same room, yo!) And finally, Beyond Castles, Forests, and Houses: Philosophy in The Works of Hayao Miyazaki on Sunday, Panel 3, from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. looks pretty damn interesting.

 Also, if you're in the mood for something a little more playful, check out Kakurenbo, an altogether unusual game of tag that my illustrious colleague Mr. Ferrara will be holding in the Arena area on Saturday from 5:30 to 7 p.m.!

Have I made your head explode with all the awesome? It's gonna be a blast! See ya there and get yer bookmark!!