Has it really been ten years since the first Anime Boston? That’s half my life! I’ve attended every year but the first. In that time the convention has more than quintupled its attendance. The industry it represents unfortunately hasn’t been so lucky in recent years; the once-growing niche never made it as mainstream as anyone hoped, and piracy, the declining sales of physical media, and the 2008 economic crash have taken their toll on anime distributors. Coming out of this convention, though, provides reason for optimism.
For one thing, the con-goers this year actually seemed excited about anime. Last year it seemed as if anime cosplays made up the minority of cosplays. I have nothing against non-anime cosplays at an anime convention (I’d be a hypocrite otherwise, as I spent Saturday in costume, wig, and blue make-up as Simon Petrikov from the American cartoon Adventure Time), but it was a truly strange last year when it seemed like half the crowd was essentially staging their own “Homestuck/My Little Pony Boston” convention, clogging up hallways to everyone else’s annoyance. The Homestuckfandom in particular has acted with a strange sense of entitlement, continually demanding panels about the MSPaintAdventures.com webseries despite its irrelevance to AB’s Japan-centric non-profit mission and the existence of plentiful sci-fi/comic conventions where Homestuck would actually be on-topic. Homestuck and My Little Pony cosplayers were still numerous this year, but didn’t seem as obnoxious (though horror stories concerning the worst of those fandoms, among others, were recounted at voice actor Greg Ayres’ panel “Why Your Fandom Sucks”). There didn’t seem to be one series that stood out as the most popular for cosplay, but anime such as Madoka Magica, Fairy Tail, and Soul Eater were well-represented, as were the Vocaloid virtual idols. The biggest new presence was Sword Art Online, undoubtably encouraged by the show’s director and producer come over from Japan as convention guests (actors from the American dub also attended). I did not see any cosplay from the new series Attack on Titan, but given how quick the manga sold out in the dealers’ room and the massive cheers whenever it was mentioned at panels, I can see that being the next big thing. Perhaps the most interesting trend in non-Japanese cosplays was the popularity of recent animated movies Brave, Wreck-It Ralph, and Rise of the Guardians.
Among the companies presenting, Aniplex had the strongest showing. Not only did they bring the Sword Art Online crew with them, but they announced via a special animation that the series will be airing on Adult Swim’s Toonami block starting this August (expect reviews then). Their strategy of releasing mainly ultra-pricey collectors’ edition DVDs and Blu-Rays befuddled me when they first started up, and some of their releases still seem on the ridiculous side (who’s gonna pay $600 for a new Gurren Lagann Blu-Ray set when the DVDs have long been available for much less?), but they’re smart about promotion and getting their series out in other outlets like TV and online streaming (though it seems the PS3’s “Neon Alley” channel is a flop). Last year’s implosion of Bandai Entertainment USA was a tragedy, but the Japanese studio SUNRISE seems to be picking up the pieces, confirming that they’re recovered the licenses to their Bandai-released series and are forming new partnerships with FUNimation and Sentai Filmworks, the two most prolific American anime distributors, at their first ever AB panel. Sentai recovered the licenses to Gatchaman, Goddanar, and Di Gi Charat. FUNi didn’t have any big announcements but showed off upcoming releases, premiering the dubbed version of Michiko & Hatchin, a wild Tarantino-esque adventure romp about a prison escapee traveling across Brazil with a girl who might be her long-lost daughter, and screening The Woman Called Fujiko Mine, an arty adult take on the classic Lupin III series by the same director as Michiko. A lawsuit between FUNi and Sentai still threatens to do some damage; Greg Ayres, who works with both studios, has read the briefs and says he understands both sides and that neither company hates each other, but refused to comment further. The weakest industry showing by far was start-up Rising Sun LLC; it’s not a good a sign when your company founder’s banned from the con due to beating up a girl, and after 10 minutes it became clear the representatives didn’t know what they were talking about in their impossible plans to “solve all the problems of the American anime industry.”
The fan-run programming was solid. My “Anime in the West: Parodies and References” panel started off the weekend with a lot of laughs and a few intentionally-provoked groans. Mike Toole of AnimeNewsNetwork.com dug through the archives of fascinating obscurity for his returning “Dubs That Time Forgot” and “Anime Hell” panels. The attempt to MST3K the ridiculously incompetent Samurai Shodown: The Motion Picture proved chaotic but quite fun. “Gender and Anime Culture” brought out some good serious discussion. I skipped the Masquerade this year but heard good reports about it.
Incidents of violence last year led to the cancelation of the Informal Dance this year, but the staff seemed to make up for it with a strong late-night programming selection. Tom Wayland’s Hentai Dubbing event was back (and of course amazingly disgusting), but what was new was the strength of the guest line-up. Rumors of famed Cowboy Bebop composer Yoko Kanno showing up to the con turned out false, but two of her collaborators, Indo-Canadian singer-songwriter Raj Ramayya and Russian pop artist Origa, put on a rocking concert. I missed both of the room-packing late-night panels by Nabeshin, director of such raunchy comedies as Excel Saga and Nerima Daikon Brothers, but he seems like a natural for such programming (I did get into his daytime movie-making panel, where he humorously filmed a PG-rated “porno”).
As usual, Anime Boston was busy, exciting, and exhausting. I enjoyed this year a lot and expect to keep returning every spring.
Links to legal streaming for some of the best anime mentioned:
Madoka Magica: http://www.hulu.com/madoka-
Attack on Titan: http://www.hulu.com/attack-on-
Gurren Lagann: http://www.hulu.com/gurren-
Michiko & Hatchin: http://www.hulu.com/michiko-
The Woman Called Fujiko Mine: http://www.hulu.com/lupin-the-
Excel Saga: http://www.hulu.com/excel-saga
And a school project of mine I showed at my panel: http://www.youtube.com/watch?