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No, it's not like you can actually see the convention center from the Ucchan—not even if you stand on the roof (which I don't recommend to anyone but Konatsu—there's nothing I can do to keep my kunoichi earthbound). It is a mile and a half off, after all. On the other hand, if you cut down all the trees between here and there, you just might.

But hey, I never wanted to be a lumberjack…

…aaand I think I'll stop here. Best to leave the Monty Python references to Gary Kleppe, just one of the many people we'll encounter this weekend at…

ANIMECENTRAL 2001: The View from the Ucchan

Sure, it's a great privilege to live within walking distance (if you don't mind walking alongside 4-lane thoroughfares) of the largest con in the Midwest, but with privilege comes responsibility… especially if you make light of your situation. We'd served as a B&B for a couple of my college sempais last year, and it worked out pretty well. So we decided to expand this year, and open up the place for a few others who might want to spend the weekend at the Ucchan, and save their money for the dealers' room.

We're proud to announce that we've more than doubled the number of guests this year. Now, of course, we have to make room for seven people to stay here, not counting ourselves.

We may have bitten off more than we can chew…

Konatsu, in particular, has been working feverishly to clean up the place: only the kitchen and the bathrooms aren't going to be used for sleeping quarters. And I'm not kidding when I say 'feverishly': Dan-chan brought home some kind of bug last week from school, and as these things normally do, they spread throughout the family. As a rule, Dan-chan tends to get a light case of whatever-it-is, 'Natsu-chan gets a mild cough that lasts for weeks… and I get laid up for a day or two, completely bedridden. This time, things seem to have reversed, as my kunoichi took to the sickbed on Monday. Even worse than the illness, in 'Natsu-chan's mind, was losing a day to tidy up the place.

Meanwhile, I've managed to stave off infection thus far, mostly through sheer force of will and liberal infusions of citrus (I mean orange juice, you hentais!) and medication. Hope I don't fall asleep at an inopportune time. Of course, during an anime convention, any time can be an inopportune one, ne?

Between stuff like this going wrong and the fact that there are so many guests, all with their own agendas and what-not, we've sort of resigned ourselves to imperfection. Better to look at this as a party, where anything can happen, than as a stage play, where if a line gets blown, everything's ruined. It's just not going to work that way, and we're going to have to accept that.

Now let's sit back and watch what happens…


Last night, we hung out the shop curtain and made sure all the outdoor lights were working. The Ucchan's a pretty ordinary house, by and large; we gotta do what we can to make sure the otaku recognize it. The shop curtain by day, and the lamppost by night ought to do the trick.

Also been working on copying some fansubs for a friend met at last year's ACen: Tony dropped by for some okonomi-yaki last year, and we've kept in touch ever since, swapping fansubs and what-have-you. Problem is, I've gotten several titles he wants that are on video CDs, and while they play on any DVD player, my only such player is my computer, and I don't know how to hook it up to a television or VCR. And I can't burn them with a CD-writer, because my machine can't FIND the damn drive, even though it's plugged in!

Konatsu indulges my fit of pique for a little while before sending me to bed. The next morning, the computer has no trouble finding the drive.

Granted, the software still can't copy from a VCD like it can from an audio CD, but this doesn't faze me. Same effect, ultimately—I can't copy the VCD for Tony—different reaction. Why? Y'all probably know: I never expected the ripping software to be able to recognize the VCD data, so it doesn't bother me. The CD-RW drive, on the other hand, should not be unseen by the computer if it's plugged in.

I still don't know why it didn't work. And that's frustrating, even though it's fine now. I never know if or why it will go out like this again…

Enough of Wednesday: I did say this section was supposed to cover Thursday, right?

Right. On with it, then… will our first guest sign in, please? Kris Overstreet, aka the Redneck Gaijin, shows up while I'm stuck at Furinkan. As a dealer, he has to arrive early in order to set up his booth, and we were only too happy to allow him the extra day. Of course, it means he's already had to deal with Konatsu being out on an errand when he first arrived, and that my kunoichi has to attend to helping Dan-chan with homework once he's home from school. 'Natsu-chan reports that Kris seemed to enjoy it. Well, hey…

When I finally get out of class, Kris is nowhere to be found… well, not at the Ucchan, anyway. Might have known, though… as mentioned previously, he has to set up his booth beforehand. And considering that the dealers' room opens at noon tomorrow, when's he gonna have time in the morning, ne? Fine… gives us a little more time to clean up.

I finish vacuuming the basement, where Kris will be staying, just as the doorbell rings. But it isn't Kris… it's James-sempai. "I meant to email you…" he says, and has the grace to look sheepish about it. No matter; we've got the guest room pretty well set up. And it's not like it's a total surprise, in any case: he'd arrived on Thursday evening last year, too.

Kris is not far behind, returning scant minutes after James-sempai. We chat in the front hall for a few minutes before it is decided we might as well repair to someplace where we can sit and talk. After a little bit of each of us showing off what anime or music we've got (and Kris asks for a copy of my Kodomo no Omocha, which I dutifully set up in the upstairs office), Konatsu asks us all if we would mind helping clear out the refrigerator. "Leftovers" isn't standard fare for your typical restaurant, but everyone tucks in with seeming enthusiasm. Kris talks about the dearth of conventions in his home state of Texas; I counter by asking about AKon. Turns out, that is essentially the con, and everything else kinda dries up and blows away in short order. So in order to promote and sell his stuff he has to drive long distances to Chicago, Baltimore, and wherever.

And he's got stuff to sell. His company, White Lightning, has just put out (and the pun is intentional—it's an adult title) its first translation of a Japanese manga, called "Blue Eyes." He shows us a blurb in a trade magazine. Nice stuff… d'ju write the copy? Hardly… this was a quasi-review the trade sheet did for it, along with three other picks. Out of a hundred or so comics released and listed, these four got the star treatment. Very nice… this ought to kick-start sales. Kris agrees; he needs to sell at least 2,000 copies for it to be worthwhile to continue. I confess I'm more likely to buy graphic novels than comic books; he replies that if the comic doesn't sell, I'd be in for a long wait. Point taken.

He shows us the ad he'd taken out in the trade mag. Again, very nice, but… geez La-weez! These girls are ridiculously top-heavy. I mean, I didn't mind the extra 'oomph' Nakajima gave me for the second Ranma movie (though really, it was only as much as the other girls, so it wasn't that much of an advantage), but we're talking F, G, H cups here! Kris shrugs and offers that the artist in question is apparently incapable of drawing anything less than a D size, even if he were to depict, say, Misty from Pokemon or Card Captor Sakura. Well, i guess if you look at it one way, these breasts aren't any more disproportionate than most of our eyes.

The conversation ranges all over, from high school days (James and Kris engage in what seems like a 'can-you-top-this' back-and-forth about how small their respective hometowns are) to college (Kris' Dr. Demento reminds James of the days he and I DJ'ed at the college radio station… and I follow up with a later stint that, in a roundabout way, led me to Fanfic Radioplay Productions—have to make sure to look up Sean sometime this weekend), to our plans for tomorrow evening. Kris intends to head straight to Anime Jigoku after the fanfic dinner. I point out that the parody screenings aren't until midnight, while the dinner starts at seven, to which he reminds me that last year's dinner went on till past ten. True enough, but really… what's to do in those other two hours, anyway?

Well, last year we went back to the Ucchan and got Nightman hooked on Utena. Kris insists the only way he'd get hooked on that show is if the tape itself were made into a fishing line and snagged him. It's one of those "what-was-he-smoking-when-he-did-this-and-where-can-I-get-some-of-it" type of shows. If you're into whatever Ikuhara's smoking, that's your deal. I admit that it's a confusing show, especially near the end… and the movie is completely vertiginous.

This leads to one of those ideas that might seems strange by the light of day, but at this hour is downright funny: suppose Utena were to be parody-dubbed with a Jimmy Stewart imitation as the voice of Utena? Anthy would do a great Kim Novak, too. But what about the inevitable Hitchcock cameo? We decide that he'd fit in well with the Shadow Play Girls, as the sillouette was always his trademark.

With that, things pretty much subside, and we head off to our individual rooms for the night.

FRIDAY, 11 MAY 2001

Despite not having gone to bed until past midnight, and despite the fact that I'm still desperately fighting off the virus that looms in every breath I take, I still find myself waking up at around 4:45 am, and just lying there in bed until I can't take it any longer. I hop out and shower; when I finish, it's not even 7 in the morning. I wonder whether it's a bad case of nerves, or excitement, or just a twinge of backache, or what.

Oh, well. Gotta make the best of it. I switch tapes in the office, and set myself up in the dining room, and catch up on my notes.

I really think I'm going to have to take a nap sometime today to catch up. Maybe if I can find a really boring anime showing somewhere… and I chuckle as I imagine Jeanne Hedge recommending Evangelion for the purpose…

Kris takes off without bothering with breakfast. Says he'll eat a big lunch to make up for it. All right, just wanted to make him aware that it's available. James-sempai, on the other hand, takes advantage of it before heading back upstairs to wash up. Once he's done I bum a ride with him—Konatsu wants to stay behind and watch a talk show, and will catch us up later. Besides, nothing's supposed to happen until 11 am.

Actually, it's probably just as well I got here early. Who knew that the hotel would be under construction? It turns out that the con organizers only found out last week themselves. James-sempai and I wind up walking halfway around the hotel looking for an entrance. Thank the Kami it's not raining…. yet. Indoors, it's not less confounding. Among other things, the pre-registration table isn't anywhere near the main registration, where I show up first.

And probably should have stayed at, as the guys at the pre-reg table don't seem to have my name. I don't have a receipt, either… my money pouch disappeared earlier this week (this isn't the first time this has happened in the week before a con… you think someone's trying to tell me something?), and with it such stuff like that—I even have to use my passport as my photo ID (which, come to think of it, would be appropriate for something like this). They send me back downstairs to the regular registration table, and a rather daunting line.

It's not without some consolations, though: I come across Zen-chan and his friend Jerry. Just the two of them… Nesse is getting prepared for an engineering exam or some such. One less guest at the Ucchan, unfortunately. Zen assures me that she will be at AnimeIowa—and further states that this will be his last AnimeCentral. Why? "It's just gotten too big." Yeah, I can understand that, I guess.

It turns out that everything's cool: I ask the fellow at the desk to look us up in the computer, and sure enough, we are there. He apologises profusely, and hands me both of the badges. Hey, as long as it all works out, I'm not gonna complain. Especially since I've got to hurry topside for the opening ceremonies.

Perhaps I'm getting a bit jaded from all the conventions I've attended over the past few years, but the costumes so far aren't fazing me. A lot of Trigun characters, a few girls in bikinis and tiger tails, but by and large, very standard con fare so far. And apparently, I'm not alone in this assessment. In fact, one fellow scopes me out with all the buttons on my jacket and an Ukyou key chain dangling from my cap, and states: "You know, I never thought anyone could look geekier than a cosplayer. Thank you for shattering that illusion."

Am I supposed to take that as a compliment or an insult?

I cut it close, running from the registration table to the opening ceremonies, but I get there just before it's scheduled to start. Which means I find myself standing in line for a few minutes. I find myself idly whistling 'Yume no Naka E,' the closing credit song for KareKano, and am shortly greeted with "It's coming out soon, honestly!" from Jeff Thompson of tRSi, as he hurries by.

Right from the start, the MC claims not to have all his remarks together, "as they're still under construction." The trio of translators fight over a rabbit-ears headband; one of them finally loses the scuffle and gets it shoved on his head, prompting one of his colleagues to comment: "Dignity… always dignity." Each of the self-introductions get shorter until one guest simply 'ditto's his companion's previous statements, much to the amusement of the MC.

Lisa Ortiz isn't here yet, but Brett Weaver is. Amy Howard Wilson introduces her new husband, to shouts of 'It's about time'. Another voice actor warns us all that he will be wearing the same outfit all weekend: "The airline's still looking for my luggage." Scott Frazier does a string of voices welcoming us all, and decides he’ll stay in the same outfit in a gesture of solidarity.

Range Murata is introduced with a serenade of the Beatles'… "Blue Submarine"?

Kia Asamiya is greeted with great enthusiasm, and gets a kick out of teasing his translator with "Douzo" every time he finishes a sentence, in order to turn it over to him. The translator suffers a few other indignities, as his mike seems on the verge of fritzing.

The "Triad" of con organizers come up to point out that 'got soap' is more than a slogan, it's a way of life. They also extend thanks to United Air Lines, and insist the luggage lost was due to the guy taking Air Canada instead. Another of the three mentions the hotel's shuttle bus service to overflow hotels (nice touch, that). The third begins by breaking some bad news: evidently, owing to the whole construction thing, the masquerade participation is reduced from 100 to 60 contestants. Of course, this doesn't sit well. Personally, that'd still be twice as many as OhayoCon, and I remember how long that one went. I think I should be grateful.

The MC offers plaudits to the newer members of the ranks; after all, he says, without new otaku, anime can't be expected to grow. In commemoration of this, he appoints a seven-year-old, dressed as a magical girl, as con co-chair. She waves her wand, the MC taps a staff (which he's procured from a willing cosplayer: he is amazed that no one has brought a mallet) on the podium, and they declare the con open.

Most of the crowd filters out, but we stick around to see some of last year's music videos. There's only four they show, but several of them are quite good. Eva (particularly Gendo footage) is backed by the theme from "Shaft," Goldenboy uses "Pride" as its BGM… it leaves us wanting more than just four. And wouldn'tcha know, tomorrow's contest is scheduled alongside the fanfiction panel. Oh, well… whatcha gonna do?

For now, we’re going to the dealers' rooms. As before, they have two of them; one upstairs, one downstairs. The upstairs room is quite crowded, and there isn't anyone out front checking passes and whatever. Hopefully that situation will be rectified shortly. Most of the selection here seems to be comics, videos, and a smattering of other paraphernalia. Nothing really appeals to me; the series that I enjoy, I have all the available graphic novels for, while those I'm trying to fill in the gaps for don't seem to be here.

Downstairs, we run across Matt Lewis and Mercutio. Hey, guys… long time no see. "Yeah, it was last year, right?" Okay, so it was a lame opening gambit on my part. We chat about the Canadian contingent due to arrive later this afternoon. Travis Butler comes by, and he's looking for Zen. Seems they were going in together on a hotel room… but wait a minute, Zen and Jerry were staying with us, weren't they? And I didn't think to ask him about it, either… I just assumed….

Well, we'll just have to ask next we see him.

The downstairs dealers' room is considerably more promising, with plushies and pins (Konatsu gets Totoro and Jiji), and a table dedicated to doujinshi: do I see a Key the Metal Idol in there? Maybe I could use it as research for Mona Lisa. But of course, the prices give one pause.

Konatsu points out that we need to head back to the Ucchan—we have to pack Dan-chan's suitcase for staying with my parents this weekend—and we take off. We don't get all that far yet, though. There's a cluster of rooms downstairs that were used for screening anime last year, and we still have no idea what's playing. Maybe there's something outside the rooms to give some indication…

Well, there may be something outside the video rooms, but not here. This year, the three rooms have become the Artist's Alley. We idle through, pausing at a table or two. One group, I believe they call themselves Panda Rage, has a fellow giving non-stop schpiel patter. It's sufficiently amusing in and of itself so that the price of their comics ($1 each) is worthwhile. They even are kind enough to sign their own works with little drawings. One of them spots the logo on our caps: "Hey, are you the ones with the banner on the garage?" We nod, and they react enthusiastically, even more so when we invite them over for okonomi-yaki. We may have ourselves quite the lunch crowd tomorrow… hope we can get everyone out in time to get to the fanfic panel.

We finally do make it home, and when Tou-chan arrives, we hand off Dan-chan's suitcase. I set up some more dubbing, and Konatsu does a little more vacuuming. Eventually, I head off and catch that nap I so desperately needed earlier.

The local grocery store calls: they found my money pouch in a cart earlier in the day. It's been missing since Monday, and someone just found it. Well, that's good news. We stop there and pick it up en route back to the con.

Not that we need to eat—the writers will be meeting downstairs in half an hour—but we've noting better to do, so we stop by the con suite. A handful of otaku are crowded around the table in the middle of the room, dissing something called The Big O. Is this a hentai flick? We get a big laugh from that question; they know that we've heard them discuss some of the plot (such as there is) and that we know the question to be a fatuous one. It leads them (without much encouragement on my part, even!) to parody fan works. Neon Genesis South Park is praised (nice to know we've got some of the true classics), as is something called Bad Scottish Dubbing (also nice to know we've still got more worlds to conquer… now, where can we get a hold of it?)

It seems we're mildly late to join the fanfiction crowd… most of them already seem to be here. And once again we're headed off to Denny's; the panelists had more or less decided this by email late last week. For the record, I tried to direct everyone elsewhere, but most places are either too ethnic or too expensive for people's tastes. Also for the record, it's not that I have ought against Denny's, personally… it's just that some of my friends do, so they don't go. Missed ya, Zen!

Actually, while I may have missed him, Konatsu finds Zen shortly before everyone starts filtering out to the restaurant. Apparantly, Travis is right: Zen and Jerry are staying with him at the hotel. Konatsu reports that Zen is quite apologetic. I don't mind: under the circumstances, four guests are plenty. I'm sorry he couldn't join us, but perhaps it's for the best.

We wind up sitting across from Sean Gaffney, who mentions that he hasn't been to a Denny's since last year. We have new blood at the dinner this evening: Megane 6.7, who came with Zoogz to ACen, is also with us (in fact, the two of them, along with Paul Corrigan, rode with us to the restaurant). He starts out rather quiet, and is somewhat apologetic about it: "I only got about two hours of sleep last night." Konatsu mentions that if one is likely to get less than three hours of sleep in a given night, it's best not to bother. I suspect that Meg-kun's insomnia is due to more than merely staying up late.

Actually the apology seems unnecessary; once seated, he and Zoogz are quite talkative. Their site, "A MSTing For All Seasons," has just received 10,000 hits in the course of a mere three months, and they're quite pleased. "And we owe it all to Lorien," and his Nabiki Tendo Enterprises. Why, they don't even have to have advertising banners on their site… lucky bastards.

Denny's has but one cook on duty—just like last year—so it may be a while before we get out of here. Kris' idea of going straight to Anime Jigoku from the dinner is seeming more and more sensible all the time. Sean Gaffney is quite boisterous tonight, even to the point of realizing it himself: he looks over his shoulder as he talks about a certain lemon fic… fortunately, the family that was here when we all arrived has paid their tab and departed.

He recommends a series called Vandread, where the men and women of a certain planet made war, not love, a hundred years prior to the series, and as a consequence, live on different planets. Literally. What with a few of the very opposite sexes confronting each other after all this time, there's bound to be an interesting time. Hmm… I make a note to look into it (and of course, now I'm passing it on to y'all).

The talk veers to obscure series for fanfictions—between Lara and Sean, they've covered about thirty different ones. "Yeah," says Lara, "and I've done twenty of 'em." Sean asserts he too has about twenty series under his belt, too: c'mon guys, is it that surprising that there's overlap? I turn to praise Paul Corrigan for writing his KareKano epics, remembering Richard Lawson's words from a few years back (essentially, something to the effect that KareKano's writing is so good, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to write good fanfiction for it. Of course, this was when it first came out)

Somewhere along the line, the conversation turns to certain annoyances on FFIRC, and what people would accept to be permitted to off certain people: yeah, dark much? I'm not naming names, either potential killers or victim, other than to say Konatsu and I are neither.

It's hard to hear in such a noisy place, so Zoogz's meal is almost forgotten in the shuffle. When it does finally show up (it had actually been prepared, but he apparently didn't hear the waitress ask about it), his fries have been seasoned; he hadn't ordered that. I suppose they'll not charge him extra for that, then.

Speaking of Zoogz, I have to apologize to him. What with him getting married next weekend (and thus being unable to attend Anime North in two weeks), this convention is essentially a last big fling for him: an odd sort of bachelor party, if you will. My apology is for not finding anyone willing to dress up (?) as Kekko Kamen and pop out of a cake or something…

I believe I hear Sean Hayden, of Fanfic Radioplay Productions, talking behind me, and a good thing, too: I might have recognized his voice, but with the beard and moustache gone, I wouldn't have placed his face. I tell him I'm considering auditioning for their production Taming of the Horse (talk about an ambitious project!), and if he can recommend a microphone I can plug into my computer. He insists he's not particular: any voice recognition headset (from Best Buy or the like) will do quite nicely. I nod as he mentions Goldwave; have to get on with downloading that.

Megane, now that he's been fed, expounds on his MSTing of "The Kidnapping", in response to Lorien, whose "Prince and the Lecher" was springboarded from that fic. He also talks about the Canadian delicacy of chickenballs, which has us American otaku having to restrain ourselves from making hentai comments about how tennis-sized balls are preferable to those that are more golf-sized. And I don't think we succeeded completely, either.

Somewhere in amongst the conversations, I hear something to the effect that Carl Macek works for ADVision. That may explain some things… or not.

This year, the bill is a little different. Rather than each seat in turn, the whole 35-person order is on one itemized list. We go around, checking off to make sure everybody got everything, and that everything listed is claimed. Good thing, too… they wind up having to correct the bill, and it drops $8-9 from the tab. Of course, we're talking a tab of $270, so that doesn't mean much. Everyone finally just antes up ten bucks and calls it square. At least this way, there's plenty for a tip.

Megane and Zoogz hop a ride back with Gary Kleppe, while we drag Paul back to the Ucchan momentarily while we set up more dubbing. Back at the con, we meet up with our final guest, Dave-sempai (Nightman, our fourth guest, had met with Konatsu earlier at the con while we were making our separate ways through the dealers' room; my kunoichi gave him a copy of the Ucchan keys at that time) We wander around with him for a little while, slowly making our way back to the main room for Anime Jigoku.

Since it hasn't started yet, we hang around outside the doors for a while, watching people passing by. A woman in a tight latex catgirl costume greets Dave-sempai; unfortunately, I do not catch where she knows him from. She is accompanied by a man in an Ohtori Student Council uniform, enfringed with blue. Miki? No, Luka. Who? After a few moments, I realize… ah, Ruka. Well, it depends how you interpret their pronunciation, ne?

After a few pictures of the two cosplayers, both by Dave and other passers-by, we decide to barge in, regardless of whether Anime Jigoku is up and running or not yet. What is going on turns out to be an otaku version of the Dating Game, and a girl is just making her pick of the four bachelors. That's about the ratio at large at this point, ne? (Actually, I don't think it's that bad anymore, guys… but it's still nowhere near a 1:1 ratio) The next round turns the tables, and a guy is quizzing four—for lack of a better description—catgirls; they're not dressed like that, exactly, but the just have this attitude. Speaking of which… the guy's first question cuts right to the chase: "Which one of you four wants me the most?"

Dead silence. You can't afford that kind of attitude, buddy. ^_^

My notes for Anime Jigoku are a bit sketchy: the main programming is really dark when only the projection screen is on, so it's hard to write. The highlights include a couple of overwrought public-safety films in 1940's-era style (one of which looks like a recent parody done in the style, rather than the genuine article, but it's very hard to tell. If it is a more-recent parody, it's done very well). There's also a live-action interpretation of the opening credits for Card Captor Sakura (which they show beforehand for comparison). The action mirrors the animation rather well, but… a guy dressed up as Sakura? Scary. Another Japanese fellow puts on a film portraying the samurai lord Mito Komen against Godzilla, but with the bare minimum of props: only a few pieces of cardboard to serve as the monster's scales or the samurai's helmet, otherwise he plays all the roles in a cheap gray salaryman suit. What gets some of the biggest laughs, however, is a pastiche of clips of televangelist Robert Tilton as 'The Farting Evangelist.' Throughout the montage, each of his apparently trademark grimaces is accompanied by various different flatulent sound effects, to high hilarity. That the fellow is a man of the cloth, and evidently a roundly hated one at that, keep the joke funny far longer than it might be ordinarily. Of course, his facial expressions really do look like that of a man seeking, er, relief.

Midnight Madness rolls around at 1:30 am or so (hey, it's an anime con—programs running late are part and parcel of the whole deal), and while we're debating whether or not to stick around, they put on the first parody. It's an Evangelion one, and we haven't seen it before.

We stay.

"Evangelion: Death/Redeath" is not the best I've seen, but it's quite good. Heavy with innuendo (Shinji: "Kaji, why does Father want me to be interested in melons?"; and the Pokemon crew, particularly James, singing "Big Balls"), its humor is very consistent. The only major flaw (pardon the pun) is a technical one: the VA playing Misato appears to have literally phoned her lines in; she can be very hard to hear at times. All in all, a very good debut effort (or is it? The hosts running the videos can't quite remember themselves).

The crowd is given the chance to request a parody, and while I ask for the Scottish tape (and the hosts acknowledge with a thick burr that they do have it), I'm outvoted in favor of Ranma 1/3 and other Seishun Shitemasu works. We get up to leave. Hey, we have these—we can see 'em anytime we want, and 3 am isn't really that time.

But we stop by the back to inquire of the hosts where to get copies of E:D/RD and BSD. One of them gives me a name and an email address to contact after the con. Ryan Gavigan… why is that name familiar…?

Oh, that's right: he's one of the con organizers. But also, he's one of the folks behind Magnum Opus Productions, another well-known parody group. No wonder parodies are such a big deal at ACen! Well, I'll have to contact him as soon as I get this con report taken care of—which, at this point, looks to be a while. Even now, this thing's well past the 30K mark, and it's not yet…


Well, actually, it is, but we really need to catch some shuteye before taking it on, okay?

Not only that, but the late-night activity service as my entire Satuday morning con experience. What with the folks expressing interest in dropping by, we decide to spend the morning preparing everything for whatever and whoever may come: mixing batter, chopping vegetables, that sort of thing.

Dave-sempai has a bowl of cereal and heads out early. Before he goes, I give him some money and ask if he can snag the Key doujinshi I spotted yesterday. What the hell—call it research for 'Mona Lisa' or something.

In the living room, the other guys actually switch on Digimon—you'd think network stuff like that'd be anathema to true otaku, wouldn'tcha? James-sempai likes it (well, at least he prefers it to Pokemon) for being a kid's show that tries to actually have serious storylines. Kris, on the other hand, thinks that when the show takes itself seriously, it gets rather lame: needless to say, he prefers Pokemon, which doesn't even try to be serious. Same reason, different conclusions.

Shortly after Kris leaves for his booth, we raid his parody collection (we weren't trying to do this behind your back, honest! It was just that Digimon didn't end till after you left!), and while we start working in the kitchen, James-sempai and Nightman begin watching 'Bad American Dubbing'. From what little I could glean of it from the kitchen, this is sort of a MST/documentary, rather than a true parody. Actual commercial or network dubs from the past are eviscerated for our viewing pleasure. Anyway, the guys certainly seem to be enjoying it.

Zoogz is our first outside visitor, arriving at about 10:20. The real stunner is that he left the hotel at about 8 am… evidently, he forgot to turn at Wilke Road, and wound up doing an inadvertent walking tour of downtown Arlington Heights. And to think he's been here before, too. Of course, it was only once, and Gary Kleppe was doing the driving. We aren't quite ready at the moment he arrives, but we have him make himself comfortable, and make sure he's the first one served once we are ready.

Zoogz turns out to be our only outside visitor this morning. Konatsu had been plugging the Ucchan yesterday, to other folks besides the Panda Rage crew, but it seems to no avail. Perhaps the whole 'we're closing at 1 pm sharp in order to make the fanfiction panel' puts folks off. Perhaps we should have provided maps (although there seems no end of folks who've seen the shop curtain, so it shouldn't be that hard for them to find).

Perhaps we should just get ready and head back to the con. We do wait until 1, anyway, just in case. Actually, between putting away ingredients and getting shoes and socks, we barely get out the door by 1:15. It's gonna be a close one.

Well… not all that close. Remember what I said about programs going long? Same thing here. We wind up in the hallway for about ten minutes, cooling our heels. I check with Ryan Matthews about rumors that Bert Van Vleit actually made it to the con: his absence is why I'm on the panel for what'll probably shape up to be the one and only time. Hey, I've made it once: why push my luck?

At any rate, Ryan's not seen Bert. So I'm on. I plant myself between RavynFyre and Katsu, the two Gundam Wing writers. They protest briefly, but when I suggest that it might be better if we didn't have all the writers for one series clustered together, they agree.

Let me say this up front: it's a lot harder to take notes when you're up on the panel and expected to answer questions as well as write them down. But I'll try anyway. These notes will have a slight advantage for me in that I can write stuff I should have said, but for whatever reason didn't, due to lack of time or forethought or whatever. So here goes…

First, the introductions. Ryan, as moderator, goes first (and when he mentions it's been 10 years since his first panel, I break into a subdued 'Happy Anniversary to you…' until rewarded with mild laughter. No need to belabor it), followed by MegaZone, Megane 6.7, Katsu, myself, and RavynFyre.

With our intros, we're asked to mention some of our better-known works: I decide to claim my persona as possibly my greatest work of fiction. Had I the time, I would have mentioned an email I received a while back, praising the magic quality of bringing a character to life… I've always treasured that, and it's why I don't try to remove the mask online (although Sean Gaffney pointed out at the dinner that in person, I don't try to act like Ukyou, much to his relief).

On with the questions from the audience, starting with possible options now that the FFML has disappeared. Several refugee groups are mentioned, particularly Patch Monkey's (being the closest to a comprehensive list), as well as the FFML Mini-Archive website. There's also Fanfiction.net, and Yahoo e-groups, although RavynFyre requests a moment of silence for what Yahoo has done to those e-groups. Evidently, they ain't what they used to be, and Yahoo's to blame.

Megane is asked about the concept of the Satellite of Hate. Essentially, he was dared to MST a good fic for a change, but since Dr. Forrester would never send a good fic to Joel and the bots, he felt the need to create an alternate world where everybody's personality was flip-flopped. So we have Joel as evil/hentai, Crow as the sensible one, Dr. Frank and TV's Forrester trying to reform Joel rather than breaking him.

Has any of us ever created a 'Mary Sue' (i.e. an all-powerful self-insert)? After some nervous chuckling, MegaZone admits he's been so accused; he stops short of verifying the accuracy of these accusations. Katsu, by contrast, admits that some of her earliest stories were what she later understood to be Mary Sues. I bring up the assertion that all stories are self-insertions to a greater or lesser degree: we're putting ourselves into each of the characters as we write. It's all a matter of how we would react if we were that character in that situation. It's a variation of my old 'acting-on-paper' theory of writing, essentially.

How much fanboy Japanese is appropriate? It's a matter of taste, like seasoning. Megane brings up the need for consistency: you can't say 'ohayo' in one paragraph, and 'good morning' in the next. RavynFyre suggest limiting the amount of Japanese, or more to the point, any foreign language (she makes reference to a fic she once read with a long passage in French—which she could not understand, knowing only smatterings of German and Japanese). Katsu adds that there are also characters for which Japanese is simply not appropriate: Duo Maxwell, for instance, is an American. There's no reason his speech should be in anything other than English.

Someone asks about the origin of the term 'Lemon' for sexually-oriented material. Ryan fields that one with ease by referring to the old 'Cream Lemon' series. Someone on the Utena mailing list recently expanded on that title by suggesting what a half-lemon looks like…

What's the difference between a good new character, and an annoying one? Katsu's answer is short and sweet: "One dimension. The difference between 2-D and 3-D."

RavynFyre asserts that we write for ourselves first, and then for our audience. Ideally, she adds, we should be our own harshest critics.

Everyone has something to contribute as far as pet peeves—well, except for myself, as I don't have the time for a story to irritate me. If it doesn't grab me, I pass and move on to the next one. Megane hates stories in which a character is raped, and learns to enjoy it—in fact, such a fic was the springboard for his vaunted MST6.7 series. MegaZone is completely burnt out on Ranma fanfiction (ouch), and cites poor spelling as well. Ryan builds on MegaZone's peeve by mentioning bad formatting—no matter how good a story is, if it's illegible, forget it. Katsu protests that her top peeves have been taken from her, but comes up with lengthy author's notes at the beginning of a fic: "this is my first time, please be gentle," yadda-yadda-ya. RavynFyre answers with two words: "Pregnant men." Evidently this is a real problem with Gundam Wing.

It occurs to me now that I do have a peeve, and that would be character debates. I've only come out once publicly against a fic or a writer, and it was for an assertion that a certain character was all wrong for 'me'. Well, not that, exactly: 'I' get paired up with a lot of characters in the Ranmaverse. It's an occupational hazard, and I've learned to live with it. But this writer went on to assert that this 'wrong' character was simply an abomination, and should be put out of his misery. THAT boiled my potatoes, lemme tell ya. Differences of opinion are one thing, but when it gets vituperative, then I draw the line.

Back to the panel: there's this one guy who (I think) is trying to top us with a pregnant man/rape fic he's come across. Okay…

One girl in the audience asks about original work and/or characters: apparently a character she created for a DragonBall fanfic outgrew the DBZ universe, and she's now writing for the character alone. RavynFyre warns her that any characters inserted into a series become property of the series' original creators. Ryan and MegaZone dispute this, citing the Babylon 5 creator who could not join the B5 newsgroup, for fear he might have come up with an idea similar to the fanficcers, and open himself up to a lawsuit.

Now, here's an acronym I haven't heard before: PWP. RavynFyre describes it as a 'Plot? What plot?' story. Oh, you mean a lemon. Katsu finds it annoying that there should be huge amounts of character development during the course of a sex scene: "If you can talk that much during sex, your partner's lousy," to which the audience laughs and Ravyn tosses candies to her fellow writer (she's been doing this any time someone comes up with a witty crack—she must have a ton of 'em, seeing how many she's tossed).

What do we do about bad fics? Katsu has had a few bad experiences with writers that wouldn't accept criticism. Megane states that every fic has some bit of goodness in it—at the very least, it's grist for his mill. MegaZone philosophically quotes Sturgeon's Law: "90% of everything is crap."

The guy trying to one-up the bad stories now asks about the likelihood of turning a story into anime. Between the two veterans (Ryan and MegaZone), they can only recall one case in which that happened. So it's possible… but only by the most infinitesimal margin. I think the fellow's dissatisfied by the answer, as he gets up and leaves.

A girl asks RavynFyre why she writes Duo Maxwell as gay or bi, when he's clearly straight. This raises hackles in the audience and on the panel. Ravyn warns her: "Do NOT go there, girl…"

From a fellow by the door comes a question about how we deal with unfinished work. Ouch. I refer back to the fact that, if I'm writing for myself, and my self isn't currently interested in working on the piece, nothing's gonna happen. MegaZone wonders if the fellow isn't hinting for him to continue one of his pieces (and in fact, next to the questioner is one of his co-authors on 'Undocumented Features') He adds that co-authors are a great help as far as pushing one to finish a work. Katsu points out that she does one fic at a time to limit the number of unfinished stories.

How about crossovers? Ryan adds 'scenes we'd like to see'-type material to the list of pet peeves. Meanwhile, Megane puts in a plug for 'The (sur)Real World.' Katsu points out that a decent crossover needs to have a plausible setup: you can't just drop characters from one series into another without some kind of reason. I add that while a plausible beginning is a necessity, you also have to figure out how to mesh them throughout; I've discovered to my peril that, for instance, Kodachi's skill level at fighting far exceeds Utena's—but she's mean/crazy enough to actually kill Anthy, and Kami knows I don't want that. So how to make it work? Someone offers praise to Katsu for one of her crossover works, but asks for help pronouncing the title. I didn't even try to write it down: after all, we've already mentioned spelling as a pet peeve…

The need for research is brought up, and we have another pet peeve, this time from RavynFyre: "Know what you're talking about." On the other hand, Katsu tempers that with an admonition not to bother telling your readers how to build a watch (either MegaZone or Ryan, I believe, utters Tom Clancy's name at this point); just hint that you at least know more on the subject than your readers, lest they catch you in a credibility mistake.

Speaking of readers catching you… the topic shifts to the canon debate. MegaZone insists that one must hew reasonably close on at least certain matters, otherwise, the characters won't be recognizable: don't have Ryoga wearing a blue shirt, for instance. Megane brings out the old argument that only the series creators can, by definition, write canon. And Katsu continues her reign as the soundbite queen: "Bend the universe, just don't break it."

There's a brief callback to unfinished fics: what if someone else offers to continue it? I tell 'em to go ahead, just let me know about it. Both Megs prefer collaborating with the offeror.

Another callback, this time to research: where to find the materials? Katsu points out that reference books are your friends: "I personally own a guide to poisons and their effects." This alarms me, as she's been pouring water for RavynFyre and myself. She denies having done anything to the water. Someone else points out that, with the Internet, you can research anything. And of course, there are writing groups, like the mailing lists, where you can put out an SOS and get plenty of responses to help you out.

The topic of fanfic conventions starts small (first or last names not given in canon that have stuck) and grow larger (characterization issues: Kasumi as ditz, Ukyou as saint) For the record, I object to the second characterization in particular: "I prefer to think of 'myself' as a mensch." Hey, it earns me a candy.

One guy asks if we could eliminate one thing about writing fanfics, what would it be? Katsu dislikes trite "Hey I liked it, write more!" feedback, and this transmogrifies the topic. Ryan in particular disagrees: at least, it proves folks are reading your stuff, and consider it worthy of comment. I try to drag the discussion back to the original question by mentioning what I call 'tweening': trying to get from Cool Scene A to Cool Scene B without it looking like Lame Transition AB. MegaZone again endorses the idea of collaboration to remedy this.

Pearson Mui complains about long, lousy fics: evidently, he's just read one. Jeanne Hedge asks, incredulously: "And you kept reading it?" Another question asks about our muses. I respond with "my dreams," and the questioner clarifies: is there a certain character you identify with, that helps in the creativity process? Megane takes up the ball by identifying with Joel Robinson.

To bring the panel full circle: early on, we were asked about Mary Sues. Now, we're asked about revenge fics. No, none of us have actually done one on ourselves (though now that everyone present knows me, I probably should have the 'real' Ukyou get even with me), but a few of us have worked out frustrations on thinly veiled people we know. Finally, it's pointed out that, aside from moderator Ryan himself, none of us on the panel goes by our right names. That's probably a first…

As the panel breaks up, Konatsu and I attempt to make a plug for the Ucchan Meanwhile, I'm *really* wishing I could go to Megane's live MSTing panel, scheduled in just an hour, instead. Perhaps folks sense this (or maybe it's the whole lack of maps thing again), because nobody show up in the hour we sit home waiting for folks. Well, there's no reason to spoil our time by waiting for patrons who aren't coming. Konatsu leaves a note on our door (sorry, we don't have a 'Closed' sign yet), and we return to the con.

When we catch up with Zoogz and company, they're still waiting for Megane to show up. It's not the best of locations, all of us standing in a circle just outside the downstairs dealer's room, like a group of street singers gathered around a lamppost. There is some idle talk (not by me or Konatsu, for a change) of reconvening at the Ucchan, where we wouldn't be in peoples' way, but that would defeat the purpose of attracting attention (and more potential MSTers), so the idea is quickly scrapped.

As we start in, Dave-sempai drops by, and apologetically hands me my money back. Seems he couldn't find the doujinshi after all. I excuse myself for a moment and duck into the dealers' room just to confirm this. It's not on the top of the pile, but a quick flip through the stacks locates a second copy which I snap up, and return to the group. I probably didn't give him good enough directions.

Anyway, the MSTing target is an obnoxiously punctuated multi-insert entitled 'Battle Royal,' and over the next two hours (so much for that 'will be back by…' sign), we go through about a third of the fic before Zoogz (who's acting as secretary - poor guy's gonna get carpal tunnel syndrome at this rate) calls a halt to it.

Turns out, he's heading back to Michigan tonight… I assume he has a plane to catch, although I didn't hear that from him. In any case, we are to reconvene on the IRC Sunday night (and again on Tuesday night) to polish this thing off. So you can understand why this report's been delayed, in part.

6:30, and we get in line for the cosplay… well, to be accurate, I catch up with Konatsu, who's gotten in line already. Having decided that there was little to contribute in the way of riffs, my kunoichi decided to reserve me (and James-sempai and Nightman) a spot in line.

Nightman wants to order a pizza—specifically, a deep-dish pizza ("It's what I come to Chicago for… well, that and the con," he says). Hey, we didn't go to Gino's for the fanfic dinner… why not? I get on the cell phone and dial.

Delivery will be in an hour or more. It's gonna be touch and go.

Paul Corrigan wanders by, and we offer him a spot in line with us. He shows off a cute picture of Kano Miyazawa from KareKano (hm, that makes it sound like she's the star of the show, doesn't it?) dressed in the duelling uniform from 'Sovreignity-Associationist Girl Nanami.' He says it took a little explaining to the artist as to exactly what he wanted, but it looks like he's got it.

While Konatsu stands vigil outside, waiting for the pizza, the call goes out: "Everybody up! Five minutes to the cosplay!" We stand and await our orders to move. Nightman goes outside to relieve Konatsu, but my kunoichi will not be moved: there'll be drinks to carry in, as well as the box.

The two of them manage to bustle in with the food (and plates!) before we ever actually move. The plates are loaded up, the box is tossed, and we begin to scarf. We assume that the con staff will not allow food into the main programming room, so we have to hurry. Konatsu offers one slice of the two allotted to each of us to Paul, who'd shown up after we'd placed the order. It is just at this moment that the line moves; only a few feet, but we still have to collect ourselves and relocate.

This scenario repeats itself several times: take a few bites, pick everything up, move a couple steps, set everything down. We eat as fast as we can; only Nightman is even bothering with the silverware (okay, plasticware) they've included, and he's starting to fall behind in this pie-eating contest as we near the door…

…but they let him in, anyway. Guess we needn't have worried so.

The cosplay is fifty minutes late in starting, but that's not bothering me. It's par for the course. Besides, I'm waaaay behind on my report. Heck, it takes what? half an hour just to load the place up? It's SRO here, and that's saying a lot.

Among the judges this year is the girl responsible for creating Genma-panda and Pen-Pen in previous years. Evidently, this means she's taken herself out the competition. It may well be the poorer for it.

First up… Bubba, this time decked out as Pretty Sammy. More like Pretty Ugly Sammy, complete with a henshin wand that looks like it was made from a baseball bat.

Tonight's MC points out the… whaddya know, they've got a gong onstage, for when the skits run too long. This worries me… the audience is gonna eat the contestants alive with this. They're bad enough with the chants of "Dance! Dance!"

A group calling itself the "Random Filler Episode" does Nadesico. Apparantly, Akito is 'not man enough' to keep 3 women happy. And since he can't decide? Game show where the winners get action, and losers get knocked up' (Actually, Ruri just bonks them over the head w/a mallet labelled 'baka'). Fist part of the competition is trivia about Akito, which alarms him: "You were spying on me?" The cooking competitions result in two fatalities from the testers. And the final question (What does Akito really want? Answer: to watch cartoons) gives us a winner… Ruri-chan?!

Wedding Peach does a quick walk on, followed by Lime from Sailor Marionette J. She does what looks like a silly walk, edging her way across… until the MC notices a bottle of LimeAway stage front. Ahhh…

A team dressed as the characters from Steam Detectives perform 'A City of Steam' like a silent movie. The good nurse is kidnapped while our heroes argue. The final title says "to be continued": when?

Bean Bandit returns with his shot-up Chicago Police car door. He rails about gas prices, and spots an oil company exec in the audience. Bang! Who hasn't dreamed of doing that?

There's a Card Captor Sakura walkon… and the chants of "Dance! Dance! Dance!" are back. Geez… When Fushigi Yuugi'sYui and Miaka walk on and wave, it's clear that the crowd's not gonna be satisfied with a simple twirl, either. Sailor Chibi-Moon and Sailor… Iron Mouse? flatly refuse to dance, and there's a smattering of boos. Ditto for the Wicked Lady from Sailor Moon R.

A character from Outlaw Star steps onstage—I miss the name in the patter, and the audience's calls of 'kill the wabbit' don't help. Okay, so it's not "Dance!"

Tokyo Babylon sketch: oneechan is apparantly worried about the younger's habit of chasing demons. Neither of the contestants are miked, so we can't hear it. It's the first sketch to be gonged.

Crono Cross costumes are exquisite, but why's it so funny when Lynx says 'meow'? Trunks' costume, by contrast, is none too hot. The 'Dedication to My Rose Garden' sketch has one of the characters from Slayers reciting a modified Dragon Slave… call it Dragon Raid?

The girls from Trigun perform 'Adventures in Insurance.' To claim, it has to be proven that Vash is dead. Uh-oh… Gendo Ikari cancels his policy; that's gonna hurt. Cammie from Street Fighter comes by to claim a bounty on Bison's head… but that wasn't what she had in the bag…

The Guilty Gear gang busts a move. The big ape loses his head… literally. "That'll cost 'em points." But the robot is superb, complete with light-up ray cannons in the shoulders

Washuu just steps onstage long enough to introduce herself in that cute li'l way she has, while Shaolin from Mamotte Shugogetten advertises 1-800-SHAOLIN.

FF7, FF8 and Digimon mix it up: the guy with the big blade blows his line, then busts his blade on the backdrop before the Digimon shows up and drops them both. At this point, Kiki (yes, the little witch herself) shows up and borrows the smaller blade to cow the monster.

FF Battle Tactics crew walk on.. I barely get a chance to register them. The MC is pleased to note that the crowd hasn't hollered "Dance" for a while; naturally, the crowd order HIM to dance. Amazingly, he does.

Tenchi Muyo: the Juraian royalty walk on. Still no cries of "Dance! – guess they got it out of their system.

The Haunted Junction cast seem to be reduced to janitorial duty, if I hear correctly… and I doubt I can. Ed from Cowboy Bebop gets a BIG hand. Considering his age, he deserves it. It's a relatively simple costume, but I'm pretty sure that's a ten/eleven year old out there. Kid's got guts.

There's a Tekken Tag Tourney pantomime, and another Tokyo Bablyon sketch called 'Pika.' Yes, the Pokemon is an evil demon they must vanquish.

Saiyaman from DBZ does a few passes, and passes. Miyako from Fushigi Yuugi recites a few lines of Japanese… they make her dance.

Nausicaa deals with an Obnoxious Fan: "You have all three of my movies? What're you talking about? There was only one." "Well, I have it in English and Japanese." "And….?" Gong.

Digital Universe meets DC: Patamon meets Pataman. Digimonster turns into a quasi-Batman. They make 'em dance. Again.

Escaflowne: Lost and Found. Lost in a parking lot… wasn't this a Seinfeld episode? And why do three of the characters think they're Team Rocket? Or are they Pinky and the Brain? And the cat winds up doing the Meow Mix commercial after the others leave.

The Utena crowd: Touga and Saionji strip to the waist, and Akio, while leaving his shirt on, has it wide open. They don't talk (how can they, over all those screams?) They do slap Anthy around a bit.

Captain Harlock takes the podium to pitch his memoirs: My Death in Arcadia…? Another Saiyaman… what, again? It really looks like the same guy….

Sailor Mars and Belldandy… "You're not my sister." "No, of course not. I'm Sailor Mars, and I'm perfect." "So… I have to let you sing?" The intro doesn't last, though… could Bell have sabotaged Mars' song? Nah…

"The Cosplay Cuties" in vaguely Flinstonesque catgirl costumes. They've got their mittens mixed up, it seems.

Mecha-Godzilla, introduced by Troy McClure (of Simpsons fame). He uses the robot for a bottle opener. Okay, THIS one can dance. Fantastic. Even the MC is stunned: "What can you say but… Damn."

The Not Ready for Bandai Players mix up B-ko, Xelgadis, and Azusa Shiratori. Seems Xel has taken C-ko from A-ko, and B-ko's jealous… until Azusa shows up, trying to claim the rucksack C-ko's being carted around in. B-ko is astonished: "Why… you're even more annoying than C-ko!" She asks her dad to capture Azusa instead, and Dear old Dad strips to… his battle suit (or rather, B-ko's battle suit)?

Pretty Sammy does a quick pass… she looks a darn sight better than Bubba.

Another Tenchi crowd dance (without the crowd having to demand it for a change!) to "Turning Japanese." Ryoko and Ayeka battle over Tenchi to music, while Washuu and Sasami play with Ryo-Okhi.

Subaru from Tokyo Babylon does a walk on. The MC comments on how it seems an odd series to have dominating the cosplay.

Utena, CCS and ChonoCross combined…? Personally, I think the CC guy's got an edge with that weapon… and he's even got a car to race the Akiomobile. But the sound goes out, just as they're about to race—the crowd calls for the pit crews. The CC guys calls out 'Para Para!' and is joined by four guys in undershirts. It must have been better with the music. At least Akio finally gets the ass-whipping he so richly deserves.

Violinist of Hamelin… what a dominatrix get-up. I would not have expected this from the title… ara…

Montoya from Resident Evil toting some REAL heat. Legato Bluesummers from Trigun… he's gonna poke someone's eye out with that thing.

Okay, this is variety, cosplay audience style "Sing! Sing! Siing!" Gong!

Everybody and a Pocky box take the stage to do Kenshin v. Inu-Yasha… and then they're joined by the ACen mascots, the Blues Sisters. The song they do is filk at its finest, transcribed thanks to Paul Corrigan (who got it from one of the Sisters in lieu of a photograph—sung to the tune of 'Y.M.C.A.'):

Otaku, here you're sure to have fun, ne, ne
Otaku, but soon your cash will be gone at the
Vendors--try not to kill anyone as you
Fight for cels and plushies

Otaku, are you ready to sing? Ne? Ne?
Otaku, the karaoke king
Grown men in skirts--video gamers extreme
Dance Dance Revolution Machine

Welcome to the con called A-C-E-N
_Dozo irasshimase!_ A-C-E-N
They have everything for you girls and you men
Chicks in short skirts and bishonen

(tacit) …A-C-E-N
(tacit) …A-C-E-N
Pig out on your Pocky
Stay up all night with ease
And pretend to speak Japanese

(repeat chorus, then)



[Exeunt omnes before the gong gets 'em]

The next sketch is simply entitled 'More Series Than You Can Shake A Stick At,' and with that in mind, I'm not even going to try to describe this… a Miss Anime contest? Utena's willing to dance, but it's a bit interpretive, ain't it?

Wolf from Trigun, carrying his cross: "Confess your sins!" One guy does: "I'm addicted to Pocky!" A girl tops it: "I slept with Steve Bennett!" Another guy finishes it: "So did I!"

Setsuna from Last Blade II, and Do-Re-Mi(?) walk on. The Lodoss War cast looks good (especially the dwarf); pity Deedlit isn't with them. The MC can't resist: "Ho ho ho… Merry Battleaxes!

Captain Tylor gives a public service announcement about responsible drinking… timely, but coming from him, would you believe it? Menchi from Excel Saga is tracked by two girls from two other series. Yuffie Kisaragi from FF7 walks on, followed by another group of five characters from five different series…. no, make that six. Fulfilling all your dancing needs, or so they say. Axel Stone from Streets of Rage… well, that was a weird rant.

The lain Midnights… MiBs with light-up shades. Let's just say they don't get along: "Hey… my laser's brighter." beat "Mine's bigger." "Look me in the eye and just tell me you're not scanning me." "I can't SEE your eyes." And so on.

Pretty Lina's Magical Slayers…? The Black Lady from Sailor Stars does a dance routine, which sort of takes the wind out of the crowd's sails…. but only for a moment. "Gong! Gong! Gong!" And they do. Sheesh.

The Real Vash wraps up the competition, and then the staff cosplay team takes a whack at parodying the constuction situation. Their Vash has to walk all the way around the hotel to get in. Once in, a maid character offers Vash food…. of course, everything becomes a double entendre. Melons, canteloupes… and long, firm bananas? Hoo boy.

Makoto from Ruroni Kenshin is a bit bandaged up, "Never wrap yourself up, and think it is easy," which doesn't get nearly the laughs as does his final word: "Pocky." I sense a trend here…

With the cosplay over, the MC announces that there will be a brief ceremony for Bob DeJesus. Konatsu: "Is he dying or something?" I think he's getting married shortly. "Ah. Close enough." Yup. They fire up Lohengrin, and… oh, my. It's more shortly than I thought… it's right now. This is the real deal, folks… Bob DeJesus is getting hitched right in front of two thousand otaku.

I hear later that it was only fitting, since the two of them met a year or two ago at AnimeCentral, but I must confess it seems an odd choice for a wedding. Basically, this becomes filler while we wait for the judges results – which seems to take something away from the ceremony itself, relegating it to sideshow rather than the main event it should be. Hell, weddings are supposed to be the bride's day, and the star of this show (even leaving out the cosplay) is the groom. Well, it's not my wedding…

Believe it or not, it is handed with a fair amount of dignity, given the circumstances. Emily does balk during the vows at 'with respect for your integrity,' but it's clearly a joke. The 'I do's are sincere. The crowd's chants of 'Love and Peace' suddenly mean more than just that they like Vash the Stampede.

Once Bob and Emily leave, though, to rousing shouts of congratulations, the crowd resumes its rowdy restlessness. A short commercial for Pocky gets the chant going all over again.

I nearly run out of battery power on my computer waiting for the decision, but I probably shouldn't have bothered to wait. This one was pretty much a lock, after all. Gojira takes a bow, and says a few robotic words, before a Ryo-Ohki in armor tries to dash off with the award. He doesn't get far.

Neither do we, as the crowd begins to filter out. It's kinda like the crowds heading back from the fireworks at Grant Park on a small scale: everyone swells out, and flows through the hallways like a flash flood of molasses. Eventually, we find ourselves at the pavilion outside the hotel, watching characters go by, seeing the lineup for the banquet (and the wedding cake, yes)—not that we're at all hungry.

We run across Tony and his friend Phillip; they'd skipped out on the cosplay after getting a load of the line. Not only that, but when they tried to head to where they were screening serial experiments lain, they literally got the door slammed in their faces. You'd think that there'd be few enough otaku running around loose during the cosplay that that wouldn't be a problem. But the screenings are pretty darn small, I have to admit; they really seemed to underestimate the size of their audience here. I mean, come on… isn't watching anime the whole point of these conventions?

(Although now that you come down to it… probably not. We have yet to darken a screening room door, ourselves. Between not finding out until the last minute what's showing, and not generally being interested in what's showing, there's not much point.)

Also in the pavilion: I've met my first cosplay impersonator. Yes, a young woman dressed up as Ukyou, foil-wrapped battlespat and all. It's a strange experience introducing oneself to oneself, but we both manage. The irony is that both of us had been hearing about the other throughout the day… and not until nearly midnight do we actually meet.

It's getting cold out here in the pavilion, so we head back inside. Maybe there's a room party or two we can drop in on? The Motor City anime club has something going on, but it's mostly three TVs hooked up to various versions of Dance Dance Revolution. Interesting to watch for a while, but there's only so many people who can participate. That, and they take up a large part of the room space and all of the screen access. We don't stay very long.

Nor do we stay long in a screening room we drop by en route to the car. Hentai is fine, but sometimes it annoys me when it's not realistic. I mean, come on… there a certain things one can do to a woman to turn her on, and what I'm seeing onscreen here is not among those things, in my experience. I realize these things are generally made by men, so they don't know any different (or maybe they know very different women), but why kid the next generation of fanboys that this'd be appealing to some girl?

It's well after midnight anyway, and we have to get up early on

SUNDAY, 13 MAY 2001

if we wanna see the music videos. Yeah, I mentioned they were going on during the fanfic panel; evidently, there's enough folks who want to see 'em that they've decided to run 'em a second time (but at 8:30 in the morning?). Besides, they aren't announcing the judges decisions until after this second screening.

Konatsu sets an alarm so that we can make it there more or less on time, and it's quite effective: it's not like I can roll over my kunoichi to shut the darn thing off once it starts ringing.

You know, it always amazes me to find other otaku out at this hour: the programming room, while not packed like last night, has certainly got quite a crowd. Maybe most of 'em don't sleep, at least, not for the weekend. It only happens once or twice a year, after all—it's a small sacrifice, ne?

There's a video showing footage from the Utena Sega game mixed in with series footage; it's quite amazing how well the two mesh. In fact, I don't realize it's from the computer game until I see Touga and Saionji duelling with real swords, and I know that's not in the series. Very nice.

There's a stirring rendition of the Escaflowne movie to the theme from Stargate, and a Ruroni Kenshin OAV set to Queen's "Who Wants to Live Forever?" is very moving—Konatsu even cries a bit.

And just in time for the comic bits. Kara-chan, consider yourself fortunate you didn't see "Ode to a Drunken Cabbit," complete with live-action footage of a stuffed Ryo-ohki hugging the porcelain (with a little help). "You're Not the Boss of Me" is a hoot, too.

But the biggest laugh goes to Sailor Death's interpretation of Monty Python's "Camelot," as lip-synched(!) by the cast of Lodoss War. Even at this early hour, people are screaming with laughter. Well done, SD.

The last of the comedy videos features Trigun—and I should mention at this point I've never seen the series, although my next comment may prove that well enough. The footage makes the series look a lot like it's a post-apocalyptic version of Lupin III. If so, I really ought to look into it. If not, would somebody out there set me straight?

For some reason, the Trigun video blows a fuse on the projector, and we take the opportunity to duck out. It's freezing in here, anyway, and we'd like one last go 'round the dealers' rooms. Between that and signing up for next year, we drop more dough in one hour than we have throughout the rest of the con. Ah well… I've been doling it out sparingly thus far, why not? Besides, a stuffed Jiji makes for a perfect present for my kunoichi's birthday tomorrow.

We get back to the video room in time to see the last entry, a tribute to Megumi Hayashibara, featuring her singing and her characters… and it goes on for some time. Well, she's everywhere, after all.

By now, I am wiped out. I get ready to head back to the Ucchan. Besides, we've spread word that we're open for business the afternoon, just in case folks want 'one for the road'. Even Steve Bennett expresses interest, so we draw him a map to the place (hey, we're learning!)

A few do show up, but mostly our regulars. Tony and Phil, as well as our weekend guests, enjoy several helpings before taking their leave. It's been quite a weekend — and we survived quite well.

And so have you, if y'all have read this far. Like the con itself, I wasn't expecting it to get this big (when Konatsu heads back to the see the closing ceremonies and the gripe session afterwards, it's revealed that they'd planned on some 2,700 attendees; they got well over 3,200). It's just that I don't know what'll be important and what won't. Besides, I need to remember everything that happened, and the best way to do that is by including everything (hey, it's like we discussed: write for yourself first). Hope y'all enjoyed it as much as I did—well, actually, I doubt you could… unless you were there.

Or are gonna be there next year (and yes, they're changing the venue: well, it was fun while it lasted, anyway), in which case, we'll see you then!

Itsu mo,
Ucchan ^_^

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