Ohayocon 2011 Review ver. descent
Hello everyone! It is as good a time as any to make my way back here and get busy again. Forgive any minor bits of craziness, suffice it to say that I just finished watching Madoka Magica Episode 3 and I am still a little shaken (coward desu). Like my friend pandamajik I am just getting finished with a busy week after returning from Ohayocon 2011. I can’t tell you how excited I was to make it back for another go around this year. Ohayocon 2010 was actually my first convention experience in the months after I truly “discovered” anime and manga for the amazing art forms they were. What was also special about this convention was that it was the first time I had the opportunity to share my passion for Vocaloids with other fans by running my own panels. It still leaves me baffled how much has changed for me in the past year…just 12 months ago I was wandering around Ohayocon ’10 in wide-eyed shock at the spectacle of 10000 anime fans and cosplayers, recognizing almost nothing and really just along for the ride. Flash-forward a year and I actually know my stuff a bit when it comes to recognizing cosplays and can easily discuss a whole variety of topics with other con-goers. Even more amazing is that this time last year I didn’t even know that things such as Vocaloids and one insanely cute Vocal-android by the name of Miku Hatsune even existed…my how things change!
After the jump I will be discussing my thoughts and opinions of Ohayocon programming, my own panels, and the con overall. I didn’t have a good camera on me this year but I do have a few pictures and videos taken by my awesome friends to share as well. There was lots of fun to be had this year but there was also a number of concerns as well, so I will do my best to address all of them. Please feel free to add your own comments at then end!
Class wrapped up for me around 2pm Wednesday so after getting the car gassed up and the carpools assembled, our 3-car, 11 person convoy from Lexington, Kentucky headed up I-75 on the way to Ohayocon. Traffic was pretty light, except for the Cincinnati area, and we were able to make it into the hotel by 7:30pm. Check-in was actually a bit of a hassle but we managed to get our whole crew shoved into our tiny single bed room, luggage and all, by around 8:30. I really wish I had more time to see some panels but with “Wide World of Vocaloid” set to start at 10pm, I really only had time to pick up my badges and sit around being super nervous while my two friends and I went over of the details of my panel.
descent Panel 1: Wide World of Vocaloid
My first Vocaloid-themed (and first ever) panel, Wide World of Vocaloid, really turned out to be a great success and for that I really can only thank the amazing and energetic crowd we had! I almost had a heart attack when we first got there and were missing half of the necessary wires to run the videos and the microphones. However, thanks to the help of the Ohayocon Staff and my fantastic assistants we were able to get things going while only losing about 15 minutes or so. This panel was really intended to give people at taste of what Vocaloid truly is, and the amazing technology and creative content it entails. In order to do this I tried to create a panel that was equal parts Video, Powerpoint, and Discussion. While I wish we had more time (and maybe we will next year), I hope that I was able to do an adequate job and that people had a fun time.
To open the show we watched the by now iconic intro to the March 9th concert with Miku performing “World is Mine” by Supercell. I was glad to see many people singing along and all the excited faces when the world’s first virtual diva took the stage! The first 45-50 minutes were spent discussing and demoing most of the current Vocaloid programs. In doing so I tried to pick a variety of songs and music videos that really showed the Vocaloids and producers at their best, while also focusing on some of the more recent Vocaloid productions so that people could see just how far Vocaloid has come. Everyone seemed to enjoy most of the videos and also our young and energetic “spinners” who danced for us as Luka sang “Double Lariat”. We spent the last part of the 90 minutes or so looking at some of the exciting developments associated with Vocaloid today. These included: The Project Diva Video Games, Miku Miku Dance (now with motion capture), Dreamy Theater, Black Rock Shooter, Vocaloid Collectibles, and both official and doujin Vocaloid manga. It was neat to hear all the “ooooohs” and “aaahs” during the motion capture demo, I had a very similar reaction when I first saw it. Apparently I created a new Vocaloid favorite for some people during this time when I showed Youtube MMD producer JAD3’s “Miku sees the Double Rainbow” (why not give his vid or channel a shoutout!) video. I was amazing by the positive reaction and even more so by the encore request in got Saturday night. Finally we discussed some ways to listen to, discover, and purchase Vocaloid music and meet other fans. We wrapped up the panel with a little bit of goodwilled selfishness on my part, by watching Miku perform my favorite song of all time, “Love Words” by Deco*27. Never before has such a happy yet humble love song ever been written (I’m not biased!!). Some of you may know that I am also a blogger and community member at Vocaloidism.com, during this panel I also had a chance to meet a fellow member of that community which was also a special experience. Finally, to the very nice Kaito cosplayer who thanked me for doing my small part in correcting the way that Vocaloid fans “don’t get enough love”…I really, really appreciated your kind words! Thanks to everyone for the compliments! (NOTE: I will be posting playlists for both my panels and a download of my presentation for those interested tomorrow! Look for another post then).
Somewhat blurry pics from the panel:
(from left to right: Miku performing World is Mine, Gakupo singing the epic “Dancing Samurai”, and finally a shot of me talking while my two buddies from back home run the AV side of things, thanks guys!)
The rest of Friday Night
After a day spent equal parts in-class, traveling, and presenting, I was needless to say quite worn out. However I did find the time to meet up with fellow blogger pandamajik for a bit and together we checked out Let’s Read Hentai Out Loud. While I can’t say that I came away over impressed with the content, especially when compared to last year’s Hentai Dubbing panel, the creators do deserve some major props for having a decently organized event. They had plenty of *erm* “materials” prepared beforehand and ran the panel in a way the truly engaged the audience and got them to participate enthusiastically. Unlike last year’s, this hentai panel left me just as shocked as it did amused. Yes, yes we all know about Rule 34 but even so, Dinosaurs? Really?? I left the panel in fairly high spirits and it was a good nightcap before heading off to sleep for the night. We all know what happens at cons so it is fair to say that given the fact that practically all 10 of my roommates choose to stay up all night, there wasn’t much sleep to be had…
The first part of Saturday morning after waking up was largely spent browsing the dealer’s room with my friends. I was actually pretty impressed by the selection this year. There were quite a few vendors selling a wide variety of figures, t-shirts, trinkets, and more. Some of my friends was also excited by the great selections offered at the Doujinshi and Foreign game vendors. I was very happy to see one of my friends pick up Project DIVA. On a personal note the decent selection of Vocaloid stuff was awesome. Unfortunately they didn’t have alot of high quality Miku figures but I managed to pick up a Cospa-brand Project Diva Shirt, another Miku Hatsune t-shirt, a Sakura no Ame themed Miku mini-figure, and a ridiculously cute charm for my key chain featuring some official Crypton collectible artwork. Check out my mini-haul below (love you miku!):
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Although I didn’t buy all that much it was actually really fun spend a couple of hours checking out all the collectibles with my friends.
I started my panel visiting spree by checking out “Dysfunctional Aspects of the Otaku subculture”. Unfortunately this one seemed rather doomed from the start. The panelists did have a presentation prepared, but allowed themselves to get distracted by discussions a little too easily. Their tone was also somewhat inappropriate for the material. While I have no particular desire to become a hikkikomori or marry a Loveplus character I also wouldn’t make fun of the concept when doing an informative presentation on the matter. I felt that the panelists took a somewhat unprofessional and yet not very funny attitude to the whole thing and it actually wound up offending several people around me (I was fine but still pretty disappointed). You have to remember that when you present information to others in a general setting like that it is your job to be unbiased and let others draw their own conclusions.
Panel #2 on the day was Japanese 101. My friend Austin and I mostly spent the time trying to use our 1-semeter’s worth knowledge of Japanese to cheat on the quizzes and contests (although I’m sure lots of others were as well). The cheating didn’t keep me from reading Nihongo as Hiragana one time however, I think I need glasses. The panel didn’t contain much useful information (because you can’t teach language in 2 hours) but because the information was so well organize and the panelist were so knowledgeable, I am sure quite a few people had a good time and are maybe considering tackling Japanese on their own now. That is a success.
We sprinted over to the Drury Inn for the next panel, Irashaimase! An intro to Maid/Host Cafes. I will tell you right now that this topic is of little interest to me. However I couldn’t help but come away impressed by the panelists as individuals. They were all part of a maid cafe hosting group based in the Pittsburg area and they really knew their stuff. They talked about all the different types of cafes you will find in Japan and their own efforts to develop and improve their own cafe. They seemed to genuinely like each other and were really committed to their idea they had birthed. I really do wish them the best and if you are headed to Tekkoshokan in Pittsburg later this year make sure to make your reservations soon.
I will direct you to fellow blogger pandamajik’s post if you want more information on Realism in Costuming, which I attended next. I learned alot and felt it was a great presentation by a very experienced presenter. However, I know next to nothing on the topic and probably shouldn’t comment much on it.
After dinner it was time for me to get prepared for my own panel at 10pm, which I did while hanging out in Hayes during the JRock101 and Kpop panels. JRock101 was not really all that impressive.I’m not a huge fan of the genre, and bias aside I felt that the panelists, while prepared, really didn’t try to put JRock’s best foot forward and instead focused too much on lots of screamo and niche groups. While you can see the talent, it also has a somewhat narrow appeal and also didn’t let people explore all that JRock has to offer. They were prepared however and if they improve their lineup I feel I might be more of a success next year. Kpop was hampered from the start by some technical issues (and a MASSIVE over-reliance on Youtube). I was left feeling sad at the lost potential of the panel after the fact. The room was packed with 200 or so people and you could see the passion both the crowd and the panelist had for the subject matter. (The screaming of the fangirls helped too) However the poor preparation and internet issues kept everyone from enjoying as many videos and dances as they might otherwise have. It was amazing to see how many talented con-goers knew some of the ridiculously hard dances down to a T. PLEASE bring this back next year and be sure to come prepared with videos next time! The fans will love you.
Finally, 10 o’clock came around and the time came for Vocaloid to shine once more. As my super assistants and I begin to set up I was momentarily rendered speechless at the sight of the AWESOME crowd how showed up for the Vocaloid Horror Show. I was expecting maybe 20-30 people and never thought we’d have a packed room! The enthusiasm and support made me decide to modify the panel a bit to give people a chance to see a variety of Vocaloid beyond just the “horror genre” videos. Now that doesn’t mean that people weren’t excited to see the scary stuff, in fact we got plenty of cheers for that as well. I was amazed by the very loud cheer that went up for Daughter of Evil and the laughs when we checked out Rin’s unsual “collection” in Fear Garden. After about 30 minutes spent on the darker side of Vocaloid, we checked out some of the top videos from 2010 and some more requests from the Vocaloid concert. Finally we wrapped up with a crowd and fan favorite: Nanameue’s Vocaloid adaptation of Cyndi Wang’s love song “Honey“. We had a great Meiko cosplayer who got up and did the dance as well. Thanks to another of my awesome friends you can check out the video below. As people got ready to leave we closed to a encore showing of “Double Rainbow” to big laughs. Thanks again to everyone who passed on kind words and compliments after the show. I got several question about where I might try to take these panels in the future. As of now I can say that I will probably try to do them at Colossalcon 2011, Sugoicon 2011, and will definitely try to be back at Ohayocon 2012. I hope to meet even more awesome Vocaloid fans at all of them!!
After a long day at the con and a failed attempt at making it through the karaoke line with some friends we headed back to the room and hung out, reminiscing on all our fun times over the weekend till about 4 in the morning. It truly was a special weekend.
Not much else to say here. The morning was spent in the insanity of checking out from the hotel. I dropped by the Old Toonami & Adult Swim panel but really wasn’t all that impressed. I know part of it is because I wasn’t a big fan back in the day, but once again we had a panel that lacked a plan and any form of guidance for the discussion. It was mostly just people calling out old series to cheers, catcalls, and a few inane comments by the panelists. Some might have enjoyed it but really it wasn’t a way to get people excited. The day at the con ended for me with another fun hour or so spent catching up with pandamajik and just chilling in some good company.
From a personal perspective only, I had a much richer experience at Ohayocon this year. However this had much to do with my expanded experiences with anime and Vocaloids, as well as the awesome time I had presenting my own panels. However I feel that many of the critiques that have been floating around are quite justified. On the whole I didn’t visit a single panel that truly blew me away this year and almost never had to make a tough choice between which panel to attend (not a good thing). I feel a large part of this mundane experience had to do with the lack of preparation I have mentioned several times in my recap. Far too often I found myself sitting in a panel where people didn’t have a clear idea of what exactly it was they were trying to show their audience and how they were going to go about doing it. Instead you had some panelists allowing the crowd to completely guide the discussion or take them away from their prepared material. Don’t get me wrong, engaging your audience is the MOST IMPORTANT thing you can do in a panel. However you cannot allow a handful of audience members to hijack the discussion or derail a topic. I also hope to see a more diverse offering of panels next year. I would really like to see some more panels focusing on recent series and anime seasons. There are a large number of fans who follow current releases and I am sure many individuals would love to discuss some of their favorites and have a good time.
There have also been some comments about the high handedness of staff members and security. Now for the most part I didn’t have any problems with this. I felt that the staff, while being overworked, went out of their way to accommodate and help panelists when they could. I cannot offer the same level of praise for security however. Security isn’t present at a convention to boss people around, they are there to help with making the con safe and fun for everyone. While I had no personal bad experiences, I witnessed quite a few instances where security was less than polite while making demands and requests of others. There was definitely lack of professionalism as well. Just so you know, making jokes about abusing your power, especially in a big crowd, is about as bad as actually abusing your authority. Obviously these instances I witnessed weren’t isolated and the complaints have been quite extensive on the Ohayocon forums. At least until recently staffers did a fairly poor job of responding to these unfortunately. When situations like this happen it is important to get out ahead of the complaints, address them with respect, and use the feedback as constructive criticism. For awhile though there was far to much defensiveness and marginalization of the complaints which left many of those providing feedback feeling put off. Things have improved since I first began writing this but I hope the Ohayocon staff, which was largely excellent, learns their lessons and works hard to improve things for 2012. Ohayocon is still my favorite convention I am looking forward to an even better Ohayocon 2012. See you there!
To close, feel free to check out a few of the other pictures my friends and I managed to take at the con:
Thanks for reading guys. Comments and thoughts below!