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AnimeIowa 2000 — Spatula Not Included

There's something slightly discouraging about the fact that the largest part of my writing this year should be taken up by con reports. Part of that is for good reason: business at the Ucchan is going gangbusters; in fact, it looks like it'll be a record year for income. But when you're busy, you don't have time to write much.

That, and the fact that I'm tired. Writing isn't as much fun as it was, and there's still so much external reading to do. And of course, there's the actual watching of anime, for that matter. I've acquired and screened the entire ouvres available fansubbed (and a few raw bits) of Utena and Kodomo no Omocha. It's great having material the whole family can watch, but unlike some of you, apparently, I can't write while I do so. Maybe it's the rocking chair I sit in while I watch the stuff…

Anyway, at least at AnimeIowa all I have to do is drive there and enjoy it, as opposed to the frenzied bouncing back-and-forth of AnimeCentral. So I should have at least a little time to put together my characteristically pungent observations on the total immersion approach to otakudom.

I hope… at least, I don't have to make up what happens here out of whole cloth…


We're off to a late start this time, as we don't have to get Dan-chan off to school this morning. That, and the fact that the folks will be babysitting, not just Dan-chan, but his fish (don't ask — no, they're not for okonomi-yaki). A quick lesson on their care and feeding, and we're off.

Four hours is just long enough for Konatsu to read through a hardcopy of Chris Rain's latest RST3K opus. Since I've already read it, my kunoichi doesn't need to bother with reading it aloud — except when it provokes a laugh. As a result, my kunoichi winds up reading most of the fic aloud anyway. It's the cornflakes approach to fanfiction: reading it again for the first time (Mentioning this later to Zen, he points out how appropriate this description is for going to a con in Iowa) For those familiar with Revolutionary Girl Utena, I strongly recommend reading Chris' stuff… you can find it at http://www.mindspring.com/~khabal/www/rst3k.htm

We arrive in beautiful downtown Cedar Rapids (no jokes, please), and the Crown Plaza looms over the central section. And to think I was afraid I'd miss the thing. It's a big joint, I tell ya. Now, it's nice to see the con growing, but at the same time it's a bit of a concern. Part of the appeal to this place was the size, really. For me, there are two anime cons that interest me: AnimeCentral and AnimeIowa (although we're torn about OhayoCon… more on that later). ACen is a con for the merchandising aspect of fandom, while AnimeIowa is a con for the fans. But I'm concerned that it's starting to get too big for that, or at least, if it continues to grow like this, it will. I hope my fears are unfounded, but this looks big, and maybe a bit disconnected.

After getting our namecards and what-all at the registration desk, we really mean to head back to the room to hook up the VCR (after all, we have as much KnO as the con's showing, and more of Utena and Chibi-Goddesses!), especially seeing as nothing starts until 4, but we run into Zen and his friend by the elevators. Needless to say, we don't use the elevators. We do, however, use the scratchball game one of the con staffers hands out… although they use a cute stuffed frog in lieu of a ball. Vince Seifert, consider yourself lucky you weren't there… the stuff this frog suffered would not have been to your liking.

Zen admits to having forgotten to bring his trademark spatula along. Which is fine by me, and I didn't bring my grill, either. He mentions that he is attempting to get a new spat made, out of titanium, no less. Konatsu and I express a desire to purchase his old model once he replaces it, but we advise him that he'd probably do best to auction it off on Ebay or some such… can you imagine what that might go for?

Four o'clock rolls around eventually, and the four of us are swept up in the wake of folks headed for the dealers' room. Steve Bennett is even headed down there, despite having to be at a panel at the same time: "Have to get something first, after all…" Makes sense; what better time to advertise (and sell) your wares than at your very own panel?

I hope y'all will forgive me… I feel like Scrooge during his tour of Christmas Present: "There's a lot of buying going on here…" Actually, there isn't: it's just this huge whomping crowd outside the as-yet-unopened dealers' room. Is everyone in such a hurry to spend their money here, too? I understand it's where everybody is, and that I should get in on the action, but I leave Konatsu with a couple of Jacksons and head upstairs to freshen up… and to write a bit more of this before I forget.

I expect 'Natsu-chan to spin tales of being crushed in the mass of people flooding into the dealers' room. What I don't expect is finding that the dealers' 'room' is essentially the floor of a basketball area. It's huge. It's also largely empty, even though there's probably more dealers here than ever — the philosophy appears to be 'better too much space than too little'. Needless to say, there are no crushing masses at all, as they are dispersed throughout the place with plenty of room to spare.

We chat with Steve DeJesus and his fiancee about Japan (she's trying to talk him into going back over there for their honeymoon next year) as he sketches Mink the dragon-girl on a T-shirt. It's tempting — I've never bought a con shirt, but for this, I might just. Assuming I can come up with something worth sketching on it, that is… now, which one, Ukyou or Utena…?

Konatsu has already spent the money on plushies — no Babbit, though, so we're probably not going to do that cosplay we were considering (more on that tomorrow, I should hope) — and I get a new volume of the Video Girl Ai manga, so who knows… maybe another episode of that fanfic will be forthcoming shortly (don't hold your breath, though).

They say these elevators can hold sixteen people at a time. Maybe… if we're talking Ohtori Academy students, we might. They're the only people thin enough, if you ask me. Meanwhile, the con staff is busy trying to find out how many kegs they can hold as we head for the opening ceremonies.

Of course, they're not ready for the opening ceremonies yet. At least the doors are open for us to go in and sit down (we're footsore from the dealers' room anyway). We do chat with a few of the con volunteers, and get a few recommendations regarding certain series to watch. Pity some of them are going on during the fanfic panel… well, we'll just have to look for them in fansubs or stores, depending…

Meanwhile, it's getting cold in here… they've got the A/C cranked. Since the opening isn't ready, I scurry upstairs for my jacket… and I actually miss the first part. Watched pots and all, I guess.

Toshi Yoshida and Shinpei Itoh are introduced, pleased to be here. Bob DeJesus is just pleased to find out there's more beer in the con suite than usual. Steve Bennett is also happy to make a fourth return engagement, "We didn't have to club [Toshi and Itoh] over the head and drag them here… although it was fun, regardless. Anyway, let's get started, let's have fun!"

Our MC asks whether Steve is feeling all right: "That's the shortest address you've ever given." Well, Steve's not gonna pass up a second turn at the floor, and point out that he and DeJesus aren't the only artists here this time, and that we should feel free to press Itoh and Yoshida into service on our T-shirts, too.

It is a short ceremony, and that's fine. Not that we're beer drinkers, but one of the things AnimeIowa is famous for is its con suite. Granted, in a hotel like this, there's no way it can be conveniently placed in the midst of the action (since the action's taking place over four different floors), so they just don't bother. Instead, it's in the Presidential Suite, on the 15th floor. The place is spacious, as is the spread. The full veggie mix, as well as home-brewed root (and non-root) beer. It's as good a spread as any they've done, and we make ourselves at home.

A fellow notices my Utena buttons, and we launch into a discussion of the apparant fascination with transsexualism and homosexuality of both stripes in Japanese anime. My theory is that folks are simply intrigued by the other side of the coin, and this is a vicarious way to experience it. Given my own experience, I believe I'm an authority on the subject.

At another table, a girl in a long black wig and sailor fuku is holding the old sub v. dub debate with a fellow who turns out to be a high school teacher (and, if I understand properly, a drama teacher at that). The girl is a drama major herself at university, and would like to work as a voice actress. This causes the teacher to bemoan the way voice acting is done in the U.S., where only one person at a time records in the studio, rather than proper ensemble acting. He also adds that vocal direction is lacking in the U.S. as well; he compares most dubs to the high school approach to acting, where "loud is equated with emotion." I still think that's a generalization, though I don't argue the one-at-a-time recording process. Japan has Tokyo as a nerve-center for all this, whereas here, the actors a company wants may be on opposite sides of a continent. That's not something that can be changed, is it?

The would-be voice actress, Nicole, proceeds to wax eloquently about 'X'… turns out she's dressed as a character from the series, rather than as Azusa from 'Laughing Target' (heck, she's never heard of 'Laughing Target'). Apparently, anyone who thought End of Evangelion was sick and twisted hasn't read or seen 'X', if what she tells me about the series is all true. It's violent and gory, it's geared for young girls, and she loves it. Go figure.

Konatsu has gone back to the room to watch the episodes of Tylor we recently got, in order to get primed for this evening's showing. I don't figure it's that necessary, but I find myself back at the room in short order as well. Oh, well.

Say, there was supposed to be a wedding party on behalf of Kevin Bennett tonight… where the heck is everybody? The main ballroom is empty, so we look in the bar, where karaoke is going on… but it's not J-pop, and there's no sign of Steve Bennett. Maybe the con suite…

Nope, not here, either. It's nearly empty up there. Somebody guesses that they simply met in the main ballroom before heading out for some pub-crawling. Well, I was wondering about its entry in the program: it said the party would go from 8:30pm to 10am. Guess that wasn't a misprint after all…

We run into an Utena fan in the elevator bemoaning the fact that she's only seen as far as the Seitokai arc, so we invite her back to the room, and let her run a few episodes of the Black Rose arc. Hey, it kills some time before Tylor goes on.

The crowd for Tylor is huge (gee, I'm using that word a lot today, aren't I?), and we can't find seats that let us see the whole screen (it's kind of important that we see the subtitles, after all). So we wind up sitting on the floor. 'Natsu-chan is enthralled by one of the princess' outfits, but if we're gonna do a cosplay involving something like that, we're gonna have to find a pair of purple harem pants.

During the half-hour break between screenings, we drop by the con suite again. Since we never bothered with dinner, it seems only fair. Up there, my jacket draws a crowd. I had made a number of buttons with Utena and KareKano images back before AnimeCentral and pinned them on. And it's only now that they're getting noticed. Actually, it gets embarrassing, especially when someone suggests I could sell these things — someone's evidently trying to impress Nabiki. I do hand out a few name cards with my email address scribbled on the back, so if anyone wants any, it's up to them to contact me.

We head back to the same screening room for HyperDolls. It seems a pity that the only anime created by our guest of honor should be shown as late as midnight. And the crowd reflects that; we have no trouble finding seats for this one. Pity, it's an amusing show, if not a great one. The Pink Lady wannabes doing the credits are a little annoying, although their live-action bit at the end of the laserdisc is kinda cute. But when it launches into another music video, I'm bored — look, if I can't understand what's being said, it's dull. It's the same attitude I have toward heavy-metal music.

Of course, it might just be the fact that it's one-thirty, and no longer Friday, but…


You know, I'm so spoiled by the waterbed we have back at the Ucchan, whenever I travel, I usually wind up with a backache in the morning (Hey, I'm over thirty by now… these things happen). Especially on such a firm bed as this one. But not today.

Wonder if I just didn't have the time… five and a half hours is a bit short.

Why up so early? Well, we decided to check out some of the titles that were recommended to us yesterday, and the first of them, 'Mamotte Shugogetten' starts at eight in the morning. Surprisingly, there's quite a crowd here… and here I thought otaku were generally night owls. Between this and the Hyperdolls crowd, I'm starting to rethink my position.

Oy, vey… Belldandy this Shaolin chick ain't… although the other one — Ruann? Luann? — is kinda like Peorth… well, from what little I know about Peorth. And to think, Keiichi thinks he has it bad, having to deal with Urd and Skuld?

My kunoichi has slipped out to watch 'Chinese Ghost Story,' and I'm starting to wonder whether or not that might be the better course of action. After all, there's only so much of this goddess-created mass destruction one can watch before it gets old. So I slip in to catch the end of it. It's a Viz dub, which makes it kinda strange to hear Ryoga's voice (Mike Donovan) asking Ryoga's question ('Where am I now?') but not being Ryoga. Otherwise, it's certainly engaging… the CG stuff is impressive if disorienting (it switches back and forth between conventional and CG animation), and while the story tries a bit too hard, at least it does try.

Once again, it's up to the con room for breakfast: donuts, bagels, and… pancakes? Yup, there's a guy there fixing pancakes, and we chat as he set us each up with a large chocolate chip flapjack. He's not an anime con regular, as it turns out; he does this sort of thing for medieval re-enactments, mostly. We discuss okonomi-yaki with him, and he points out that nothing in his batter is perishable — which would be a concern for us, given the egg-and-flour concoction we use for batter. Still, if we brought a cooler…

Down in the Nabiki Zone (yes, we have a new pet name for the dealers' area) Anime Asylum gives us the bad news… there are no Babbit plushies available. Kodomo no Omocha, as far as Japan is concerned, is so 1996. Gee, and I thought it was still airing over there, too…

This pretty much puts the kibosh on this year's attempt at cosplay, too. We're not much for actual costumes — which is fine, as KnO, for all its insanity, is surprisingly normal with regard to such typically strange anime conventions as hair color and clothing. What we were considering was a sketch out of the KnO TV show within the anime, where Zenjirou tries to console Sana-chan on yet another year of being held back: "How do they expect me to understand math when they keep telling me sixth grade plus one year equals sixth grade?" Sana-chan wants to get into junior high: "That's when you can be a real anime heroine! <strikes a pose> In the name of the moon, I will—" "Ah-ah-ah, Sana-chan… there'll be no nude transformation sequences on *this* stage…" "Well, then, how 'bout <pulls a sword out of Zenjiro> 'The Power to Bring World Revolution!'?" And so on. Konatsu's relieved: getting on stage is a terrifying prospect, and trying to project that much energy… let's just say my kunoichi isn't ready to push the envelope. Fair enough… I hadn't scripted it out to my satisfaction, either.

Konatsu heads upstairs, and I detour to pick up some pool toys we'd left behind in the car. When I get back, there's the usual crowd waiting for the elevator. What comes out of the elevator, however, is not what I'd expect. I think the girl was dressed as a character from Sorcerer Hunters; I'm not sure, I didn't ask. Essentially, all she had on up top were the suspenders holding up her trousers. As Konatsu agreed when I mentioned it, wearing something like that takes real chutzpah. Not balls, mind you… that would hardly raise an eyebrow, now, would it?

We're not going swimming just yet, though, as it's time for the fanfic panel. They're giving us an hour and a half this time; not as much as last year, but more than any moderated panel thus far. There's not much of a crowd, though… we may be pressed for topics. Of course, it is getting started slightly ahead of schedule, and what with everything here tending to run late, maybe that's something that'll fix itself.

For the most part, the authors are a refreshingly self-deprecating crowd, although Kris Overstreet (aka the Redneck Gaijin) makes sure to put in a shameless plug for his White Lightning vendor booth downstairs ('The poor have no shame,' he grins).

Our fearless moderator, Jeanne Hedge opens up with a plea for better research for Japan-based stories (which most anime is, after all). Botching stuff like the beginning of a school year (it's March, not September, in Japan) is really offputting. And it's not that hard to get the information right, either. Greg Sandborn, who is widely respected for his well-researched fics, elaborates on how the Internet is covered with sources for information on the typical day of a Japanese student and so forth. He mentions something called Project 1000, which gives nearly every school in Japan an internet presence, but the webpage address is not discussed. The finale to 'Ill-Met By Starlight' is brought up as an example of a remote real-life place used accurately in a fic. And yes, for those who don't know where to start, his own webpage, http://www.microlink.net/~sandborn/ contains ample links to such sources (He can't confirm whether Project 1000 is linked there, however). He concludes with the observation that Japanese are convinced that we gaijin cannot possibly understand them or their culture, but that the least we can do is to make an effort to do so. The more accuracy, the better for all concerned. There is a brief mention of overkill, though, as well… the more details, the more likely for a mistake (or for sheer top-heaviness). The best approach is to pepper a fic with information, enough to show you know what you're talking about, but not enough to obscure the story itself.

I pose a question regarding philosophical research (as opposed to research of physical aspects of a story); has this posed difficulty for any of the panellists? Bryan Neef sidesteps slightly to discuss an issue he had once with the psychological ramifications of a Jusenkyou curse. Of course, there's only so far you can go with the accuracy tack… after all, if it finally comes down to an acceptance of his curse, you have no story, ne? Or rather, Rumiko has no story, I should say.

Tina Shaw, aka RavenFyre, of Gundam fanfic fame, segues slightly from research to characterization. Evidently, there is a character of Arabic descent in Gundam, and two factions within Gundam fandom regarding the impact of the character's ancestry on his actual lifestyle, as the canon does not make this clear one way or another. Pick one side in a fic, and you lose the entire other faction. And evidently, there is no way to avoid the issue (though it's not mentioned, ignoring the character altogether does not appear to be an option). Greg suggests that a logical explanation for the characterization you choose — in any situation, not just Gundam, obviously — is all that is necessary. A few people start looking at Zen at this point…

…before turning the topic to the gratuitous use of Japanese. The consensus is that honorifics, especially those without convenient analogs in English such as 'oneechan', 'sempai' and the like, are difficult to avoid using, and there is no reason not to, as most anime fans should understand to some extent the meanings of each honorific. But something like "Who the hell are you?", written in Japanese, is multiplying effort; first, having to figure out the Japanese phrase (and given the levels of politeness of Japanese syntax, one is likely to screw this up even with the correct vocabulary), and second, the Japanese will have to be translated for the typical English-speaking gaijin reader. And on top of that, gratuitous Japanese talks down to the reader: "I know more Japanese than you do, thppbt!" Not a good way to win a readership. For all that trouble, you might as well stick to English.

Jeanne decides to reroute the train of thought completely: Lemons… do certain series better lend themselves to lemonization? Kris suggests anything can be lemoned, if the writer is sick and determined enough: "Two words: Helping Paws" — yes, that's right, someone out there once wrote a Totoro lemon. When the howls of protest ("Let's NOT go there") die down, Tina asserts that the more character- or relational-driven stories tend to work better as lemons, with the makeup of the cast sometimes pushing it in a particular direction (Gundam to yaoi, for example)

The lack of strong female presences in Gundam leads to a discussion of the opposite phenomenon in Takahashi. It is suggested that her northern Honshu upbringing, where all the women are strong (no wait… that's Lake Wobegon), predisposed her toward the strong female characters that are a hallmark of her work. Others argue that the woman rules the house throughout Japan, and not just in the north.

This of course leads to the old canon debate. Brian asserts that anything not done by the original author is by definition not canon. The OAVs and movies are brought up, but answered in two-fold fashion: a.) they are licensed by Takahashi, and b.) several of the OAV stories were, in fact, done throughout the manga series. Let the anime and manga factions quarrel as they may… that whole licensing argument never occurred to me before. Kris defuses the debate by reminding everyone that fanfiction is, after all, written for our own personal enjoyment. If we, as writers, enjoy what we're creating, then that's really what matters.

Maybe that's why I haven't written much lately… it isn't as much fun as it is work these days… gosh, that's a depressing thought.

A question is posed about writing Ranma fics — how to avoid material already trodden on? Bryan asserts that there really are only 15 basic plots for Ranma (or maybe that's for any series — he doesn't go into details about what exactly these 15 are).

One fellow in the audience claims that plot is not essential if something is well-written. This is swiftly argued down by the panel, although I would have to admit to seeing (and writing, if memory serves) a few decent short character sketches. He has a point — up to a point.

One girl asks for advice on writing comedy, and suddenly the whole panel gets humble. Several panelists flatly admit to not being particularly good at comic writing. Granted, they're getting laughs here… but it is unanimously agreed that comedy is very difficult to write and sustain.

As if to argue the point, Kris reads a three- or four-page Slayers fic he had begun last night, and the audience is laughing uproariously. It probably helps that he's reading it aloud, complete with sound effects (and there are many — especially the 'boing!' of Naga's, erm, assets)

Once the laughter dies down, there is some discussion of self-insertions each have done — or been accused of doing. Only Bryan denies either statement, but he's using the stricter definition of SI, the presence of an author avatar. He saves me the trouble of bringing up my 'acting-on-paper' theory of writing by way of paraphrase: in essence, all his fics have something of himself in them. Speaking of denying things, Greg once again wants to make it clear that he is not Jeff Lawrence. Kris responds by saying that Ben Hutchins is not D.J. Croft, leaving the audience to interpret that one way or another.

Zen wraps up the discussion by bringing us full circle: research of external physical details is important, but consistency with your own story is equally important. Even if you create an alternate universe removed from the source material, there are ground rules that you as the writer lay down from the outset, and you must follow as you continue the story.

As the panel breaks up to make room for the next, Victoria, the girl who wants to see the Black Rose arc, pulls us aside. We agree to meet her back at our room, at which point we set her up again and go swimming. The pool's off to one side from the hotel, and there's no one else down there at all. So we figure we can do whatever we want to… such as our little duel game. Each of us have a foam noodle, and we have this inflatable ball between us. We each use our noodles to strike the other with the ball (which we can't touch). What's this got to do with anime? Well, my noodle is pink, and 'Natsu-chan's is orange… beyond that, nothing.

Four guys walk into the pool area, in jeans and T-shirts. We can only assume they're fellow otaku, but why they're at the pool dressed like that, we haven't a clue. And they don't stay long, at any rate. Konatsu jokes that maybe they wanted to swim, but didn't have suits, so they figured on skinny-dipping… which our presence put the kibosh on.

Do otaku really skinny-dip? Turns out my kunoichi does: "Could you do lookout duty for me?" "Huh?" And the next thing I know, 'Natsu-chan's nude. "Gyaaah!" Like I've always said, Konatsu's every bit as much a man as I am a woman, and it shows now.

Granted, it doesn't last long, and once I get Konatsu dressed, we get dried off and changed, and start to look up places to eat at. I mean sure, we could eat at the con suite all weekend (yeah, the food's that plentiful), but we'd like something a bit more substantial. And while we could go by ourselves, why not try to track a few others and join them?

We find Zen, Travis Butler and several others in the con suite, and much to my dismay, we get embroiled in the old sub vs. dub debate… am I not a true otaku if I have no problem with dubs? Travis is trying to hypnotize me into getting DVDs (which avoid the whole dub/sub argument by providing you with both) — and it's no good to argue I don't have a DVD player. Finally I fend him off by agreeing to get a computer with a DVD player and all the trimmings when I can afford to upgrade.

The word comes up that the piñata is to be smashed… odd, they usually do that right after the cosplay. Well, whatever. We agree to meet Zen and company for dinner at six in the lobby, and bolt downstairs to right outside the Nabiki Zone. The piñata — a giant Pokeball this year — is lowered from the second floor balcony, while we all count down like it's New Year's Eve. No luck getting anyone else to sing 'Auld Lang Syne' once it's in position, however.

Our intrepid batsman paid $55 (cheap!) for the privilege of smashing this thing, and he (and we) gets his money's worth. They've reinforced this thing with woodchips, so it doesn't burst open with the first smack — in fact, it barely makes a dent in it. The second swing, connecting in the same spot, makes a sizable dent, and the third swing is right on the money. The Pokeball cracks like an egg, and the batsman retrieves a large stuffed Meowth for his efforts. The rest of us, after letting a few younger kids grab first, stampede. It's like a Who concert, as everyone shovels candy into pockets and bags. I'm no saint either: I grab a couple of generous handfuls and drop them into my jacket pockets before escaping the melee.

By six o'clock, there's quite a group that's gathered for dinner. Zen, his friend Jerry(?), Travis and Jeanne are there, as are Victoria and Tony (who we met right at the end of AnimeCentral and has since provided me with KnO and the Chibi-Goddesses) and Ton-chan. And now the wrangling over where to eat. There aren't that many places in walking distance (I am not moving from the parking garage next door if I can help it) so that leaves us with a steakhouse (which Jerry states is very good, but very expensive… yeah, he and Zen had been there already), a Chinese place and a Mexican place. One of our number despises Chinese food (it's nothing like what you get in China… though from what I recall from my own experience there, that's a good thing), another does not prefer Mexican (mostly because it doesn't favor him, either). Someone else points out that the Mexican place wasn't open when he went by yesterday, so we decide to check it out first, and if it's not open, to head to the Chinese place.

Turns out, it's open. It's not an authentic place, which is fine by everyone. At any rate, it's no Otaku Bell. While we're waiting for a table, at some point I mention how Konatsu would rather I not try to get involved with Evangelion, or at least not shell out hundreds of dollars for such a downer series. It's at this point that Jeanne offers to sell me her own Eva collection that she's trying to unload. Now, she's been long known for an antipathy toward Evangelion, so I express surprise that she owns any of it, let alone all of it. "People kept telling me it would get better," she explains, "so I kept buying the tapes. It never did." She dismisses Evangelion as boring, and all the main characters as 'head cases'; she never found herself able to warm up to any of them.

She's no good at the hard sell, but I can't fault her honesty. And while getting anime secondhand is a tempting offer, truth to tell, I've never been a mecha fan myself. My interest in Evangelion has to do with some studies of the book of Revelation; I understand there are some parallels between it and EVA, and I'd like to see where they might be… especially since EVA essentially has the viewer rooting for the wrong side right from the get-go. All hearsay, so please, EVA fans, don't flame me if I've gotten it wrong… although if anyone's really well-versed (sorry, bad pun) in both texts, I'd appreciate being set straight. I figure my odds are better than, say, finding any Herman Hesse fans out here to explain Utena to me.

Dinner is a noisy affair, although the topic of yaoi/yuri is set aside quickly as inappropriate. Since I didn't have my notebook out throughout dinner, the conversation is lost to posterity; all I can say is, we had fun. And I probably ate a bit too much.

Victoria had planned on getting back for some other panel, but it's clear we're just going to make it back before the doors open on the cosplay presentation. We stand around for only about fifteen minutes, tops… but we sit around for another half hour after that. It's better than ACen's fifty-plus minute delay, but Konatsu once again expresses gratitude that I didn't push to get into the cosplay. Oddly enough, my kunoichi also expresses regret: "We do have to try it sometime… but this wait would give me such butterflies…"

Can't say as I can argue with that. The crowd in the main ballroom is huge; it's almost as large as the one from the first ACen a couple years ago. It's an intimidating prospect, especially since neither of us is good with a needle and thread (or a sewing machine). And while I could put on an act by myself, it's better in a group. Besides, no matter what Ranchan says, Konatsu's cuter than I am.

Anyway, enough of the theoretical. On to the real thing… like a six-foot-plus Hello Kitty, complete with an insulin hypodermic for the MC… like the Sorcerer Hunter group — omigosh, the one in the suspenders is a guy! (turns out, they wouldn't let the girl onstage in that getup, so the two switched outfits. He pulls it off eerily well, with an additional nod to MPFC: "I always wanted to be… a lumberjack! Whoops… wrong sketch")… like a guy dressed up as Sailor Uranus (and looking very much like Haruka, too)… like Juri and Utena, missing the Rose Bride (apparantly, Anthy's in the video rooms watching Card Captor Sakura), so she draws the Sword of Dios from the MC himself (Juri promptly tears off her rose, insisting she doesn't want to win him, leaving him sobbing "Always a bridesmaid, never a bride")… like Tatewaki Kuno walking in on a pair from Blade of the Immortal: "Pigtailed goddess!"… like Anna Johnson dressed elaborately as Lady Debonair… like the cast from Masters of Mosquiton mesmerizing a hapless hotel worker with a pimply voice… like the entire cast of Final Fantasy VIII in a return engagement from ACen, taking best of show. It's quite a crowd, and the MC insists they all come back in costume next year, "And the same goes for you all," in the audience. Does he really want to spend all night on stage?

As usual, the TCAAMS are having their after-cosplay party… what's not usual is that they're not showing any anime. Instead, they're playing some sort of anime card game: "It's like Apples to Apples," someone tells us. It doesn't clue us in.

So we go back to our room and play our collection of anime parodies: 'Ranma 1/3' for Victoria, the yaoi fan, and 'Neon Genesis South Park' to draw an impromptu crowd. NGSP has to be played twice, in fact, to compensate for some of the passers-by who arrived late and missed it the first time. The crowd diminishes with 'Roadbusted,' but it is well after one o'clock, after all, and I'm falling asleep watching it. Of course, I have seen it a number of times; I might have stayed awake if Zoogz Jamison's parody dub had arrived at the Ucchan before we left…

BTW, Zoogz, if you're reading this, we did get it when we got home… I'll have a critique for you in a few days, hopefully.

Anyway, the next thing I know, it's…


Okay, I guess my theory about spending more time in bed is correct: my back hurts a little this morning. It's nothing a hot shower can't fix, though.

Once showered, we check out a children's anime called PopoloCrois. It's cute, it's amusing, but I don't know if I'd go looking for it or anything. Even with the violence toned down as it is Dan-chan might still smack the TV set every time the evil wizard Gami-Gami shows up.

Afterward, Konatsu wants to go swimming and heads off for the pool, but I decide to check out the Nabiki Zone one last time… any last minute bargains on videotapes? Not really… in fact, as it so happens, there's only one dealer who's been selling videos all weekend. And while the prices have gone down 10% from Friday, the selection's down about 20%. Most of the dealers have wallscrolls, bumperstickers, cel paintings, garage kits, and so forth… all very nice, but I prefer something with a story. Oh well, yesterday's pickup of Evangelion graphic novels will have to do.

The con suite's kinda slow, too, so I head back to the room to pick up our things before checking out. The remote control checkout system is overloaded, so we head downstairs to handle it at the desk. We arrive three minutes after the deadline, but thankfully, we're not charged for the extra day ^_^

Zen and Travis are down there. Travis is trying to hypnotize me again, this time to get an iMac when I do finally upgrade. He also wants me to get into certain anime series, but he must have done too good a job of hypnosis… I can't for the life of me remember what they were.

We chat about the wedding reception that went on last night at the same time as the cosplay; Zen recalls a Star Trek con he went to where twenty guys dressed as Klingons inadvertently stormed the wrong ballroom — and wound up dancing with the bride and all the bridesmaids for 2Ĺ hours before extricating themselves.

Speaking of other cons, we admit to being of two minds about Ohayocon, coming up next January. It'd be great to get in on the ground floor (so to speak) of a new anime convention; the Midwest really needs more of these things, if you ask us. But there's these three little words that scare us: Cleveland. In. January. That, and the fact that Kunou-kouchou is only gonna excuse me so many absences before he hauls out his shears… we just don't know. Anyone wanna try and push us in one direction or the other on this?

As Zen and his friend take their leave (they've got a 10-11 hour drive home, poor guys), Tony joins us and we head upstairs to find out where they're screening the music videos. Turns out, they don't know either, and so a bunch of us simply hang out by the registration desk. Which is a good thing for the staff, as they get plenty of pre-reg business for next year, including us.

Victoria shows us her etchings (not like that, sheesh… she's into yaoi, not yuri); she's a rather talented artist. Her sketchbook includes a picture her mother drew, too… and you can see where she gets her talent from.

I hear rumors about other parties that went on last night: one guy claims a girl came up to him this morning, "Wanna see what Steve [Bennett] drew on me?" and pulled open her top. Another girl gives further details. Evidently, this girl asked Steve and Itoh-san to draw something on her chest — they got one tit each, apparantly. What Steve drew, she didn't say, but Itoh drew a caricature of Steve drawing on her… complete with drool running from his mouth. Now thatís a picture.

Wonder if it was the same girl with the Sorcerer Hunter costume…

We're finally directed to one of the screening rooms, where the first video is already in progress. Three more videos later, it's all over. Well, it's a small con, after all…

The 'gripe session,' or, as I prefer to call it, the 'was it good for you, too' panel, is sparsely attended. Aside from Tony and us, only one other person shows up to chat with head man Noel Burns. We offer praise ("Praise?" he half-jokes, "We're not used to that…") for the inclusion of synopses in the program guide; it's nice having a rough idea of what stories might be of interest (and which ones to avoid — which, given the fact that we have four choices available round-the-clock is equally important).

I express a certain amount of regret that there's no decent hentai (is that an oxymoron?) being shown here, and he smiles and demurs. This is a family-oriented con, he says, and that's not far wrong: I have seen whole families — complete with mom, dad and the 2.5 kids — wandering around throughout the weekend. Well, that's fair enough, and I certainly don't want to cause trouble by someone seeing something they shouldn't or don't want to. In any case, this means keeping mum about us in the sauna…

Nobody's thrilled with the layout of this year's hotel; Noel assures us we will return to the Collins Plaza next year, as they will hopefully be done remodeling by then. A couple of interesting things about AI: this may not be news, but it's not your typical anime con. Having been organized by a group of sci-fi fans, this is run more like a sci-fi con — which is to say, more for the fans. Hence, such distinctive touches as the copious con suite. And no corporate sponsorship — not that they haven't tried to get any.

Secondly, and this should put any fears of over-commercialization to rest, Noel states that AnimeIowa is not likely to ever grow much past the current 650 attendees. Why? Simply put, there are no larger hotels in all of Iowa in which to hold this event. There's no place to go from here. It's a pity that more folks won't be able to enjoy this show, but again, there are benefits to being small and cozy. It's the 'Cheers' of anime cons, where, if everybody doesn't know your name, they will by the time the weekend's out.

It seems a ideal note on which to close this report on, too. Cheers!

Itsu mo,

Ucchan ^_^

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