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Anime Central 1999 — As seen from the Ucchan

Another con, and this one practically in the Ucchan's backyard. Gotta love it.

Actually, there are some unique wrinkles to being only the distance of a typical urban commute from the convention center, not all of them good. Sure, you get to go home in the evenings, and save money on the hotel bill (which you can apply to either more anime paraphernalia… or babysitting expenses), but you also have to go home in the evenings; you can't crash at the hotel after a late-night round of watching stuff, 'cause you're not staying there!

Then there are some more unusual aspects of this, uh, benefit…


Gotta get signed up to go… last time I went, it was on a lark (hey, I'd only gotten a week's notice, sugar), but it's cheaper to sign up earlier. Hmm… Midwest Anime Promotion Society's mailing address is on Emerson Street in Mount Prospect. Why, it's only two blocks away from our local library. Next time we're by, we'll just drop off our payment and maybe chat up a few of the M.A.P.S. members, ne?


Didj'all know that, when you see a suite number in a mailing address, it could be just another term for a P.O. box? We didn't. We do now. Just a tip for the rest of ya. I doubt that any of the members of the Society coulda fit in there. Guess I shoulda known; as a volunteer staff, why would they have a full-time office, ne? Live and learn… so we mailed our reservation in, just like everyone else.


Sent out invitations (with Konatsu-chan's assent) to my fellow 'Pencils' staffers: any of you wanna come to ACen, you're welcome to stay at the Ucchan. As far-flung geographically as we are, I guess I knew it was a long shot; only JD Farber was able to take me up on my offer (Zen was coming, but had already made other arrangements), and even then, he had to back out a couple weeks before due to unforeseen circumstances. Pity… it'd've been quite an outing… anyway, JD, this report's for you.

Okay, okay… enough grousing (or bragging). Gotta get ready to go, after all… it's…

FRIDAY (April 23)

Managed to talk Kunou-kouchou into giving me Friday and Monday off from Furinkan (didn't even have to cut my hair for the privilege, either! ^_^), so I'm looking at a four-day weekend. Plenty of time to take in EVERYthing…

The day opens grim and rainy. Well, it IS April in Chicago, after all. Still, it's worse weather than I've seen at any of the cons I've attended to date (not that you can blame the organizers for that). If it's any consolation, JD, what with the rain and wind and fog and all, it might have been pretty touch-and-go for air arrivals, especially from the east. Not that driving in this stuff would necessarily have been any better…

I should mention at this point some more disadvantages to proximity. We stay at home, and Dan-chan stays here too. Wouldn'tcha know, he'd decide to sleep in this morning, of all mornings? I sure hope we can make the opening ceremonies, but it's gonna be a close call…

Oh, and one more thing; since we're not staying at the hotel, I've decided it wouldn't be prudent to take my laptop with me, so this is being written longhand and retyped. Needless to say, that's gonna make this plenty disjointed. Just warning y'all… expect a lot of ellipses in this report, more even than I usually use in my fics, okay?

I hear that some of our guests at ACen include voice actors from Revolutionary Girl Utena. And right now, I could use Miki's stopwatch. It looks like a 16 minute drive from the Kuonji ancestral home to the Ramada, so that means maybe 20 minutes to the Ucchan. The place is considerably closer to home than the previous year's con. Cool… maybe I can persuade the other fic writers to head in our direction for this evening's get-together.

Registration is every inch the madhouse it was last year, even for the pre-registered. Gotta expect that with crowds like this (we had 1,200 otaku here last year, and all evidence points to an even larger crowd this year). And once that's accomplished, we get to queue up to get in to the main ballroom for opening ceremonies (and Konatsu-chan's nudging me as we stand and wait. "See? I told you we'd make it.")

Okay, it's eleven o'clock, open the doors already! Ah, there we go. The ballroom's a bit chilly; maybe they were having troubles with the thermostat before they opened the place up. We get some really nice seats in the third row, and begin an animated (ah, heh-heh) discussion with a relative newbie to the fanfic scene about various series, the merits of DVDs, and okonomi-yaki recipes (A girl sitting next to me recommends a mayonnaise-like sauce. I know that's Osaka style, but I just don't care for it personally).

The guest introduction sequence has its share of technical difficulties. Granted, the idea of playing clips of each guest's work before introducing them was an inspired touch, as it helps to tie the person to their work. However, it's preferable if the clips actually play when they're supposed to. One of the technical people mentioned on-mike that he was planning on decking Bill Gates at the earliest opportunity. I imagine he's taking his number right now…

Apparently, there were a few behind-the-scenes mishaps, too. Poor Tsukasa Kotobuki and his friends got a rather, uh, thorough greeting from U.S. Customs on their arrival in Chicago. It was enough that one of them simply stated to the con audience that "I haven't much to do with the manga/anime industry. I am a terrorist;" well, at least, that seems to have been what the government thought.

Is there some stigma to working in the anime/manga industry? As each of the Japanese guests were introduced after that, they all denied having anything much to do with it, insisting that they were either terrorists or dancers. Well, we'll find out tomorrow evening, won't we?

Well, Steve DeJesus is doing his little dance for us all right behind Lorraine Reyes' back. Wait till she finds out… he's gonna get smacked. Oh, Jason… not another Clinton impression!

First we had Amanda Winn Lee, now we've added Lisa Ortiz… gosh, it looks like we've got enough firecrackers here for a reasonable 4th of July bash. This should be interesting…

The opening ceremonies finished, we head for the dealers' room — along with the rest of the herd, it would seem. Sure, the place is bigger than the one at AnimeIowa; heck, the place is at least half again (if not twice) the size of last year's ACen dealers' room, but the place is still wall-to-wall people. It takes us nearly an hour to go through it to our satisfaction. Of course, that does involve three, four cycles around the room. You could really blow a ton of money in this place real quick. I find a good example in a rather professional-looking Ah My Goddess doujinshi — asking price $70. I think I'm going to despair of ever finding a decently priced Ranma doujinshi… especially if it were to have a scene with me and him in it.

Finally, the programs for '99 arrive (the information packet included the newsletters from the '98 con), but they still don't include schedules for the four(!) anime viewing rooms. Looks like we'll just have to head over there and hope that the schedule's posted outside of the rooms themselves.

But first… there's this girl named Margaret that needs our help. Seems she needs us to walk her to her room. Not that she can't find it (more on that later), rather, dressed as she is, she'd rather not have to fend off fanboys en route. Given that she's wearing a fur bikini and boots outfit, I can understand. We see her to her room… and proceed to have some difficulty finding our way back to the main lobby (well, it was bound to happen… I seem to pull a Ryouga at least once each con, and since it wasn't on the way to the place, well… at least it happened while we were doing someone a good deed). The upshot of all this is that, between this errand and the fact that the main ballroom is on the exact opposite side of the hotel as the viewing rooms, it takes us as long to get from the one to the other as it took us to drive here in the first place.

Since it's twenty to two, most of the series running in the rooms are running down, but I do catch a bit of episode four of Evangelion (Konatsu-chan didn't bother, and warned me once again not to get hooked on a series both so long and so grim), and then catch up with Konatsu watching a bit of Fushigi Yuugi. 'Natsu-chan thinks it resembles 'The Never-Ending Story;' I didn't think it was that long…

After that, both of us head in to watch Dragon Half. What a hoot. I don't think I've ever seen a feature that took itself less seriously. And I know that some of you are saying stuff like "Obviously, you haven't watched Slayers yet." No, we haven't. Unfortunately, we didn't see it listed on today's program. And hey… this was pretty darn cool, if you ask me. Good enough for us to go out and promptly get a copy.

On the way back from the viewing rooms, where we pass an enormous line of folks waiting to register, we encounter a family with mom and daughter dressed more or less identically. It turns out to be the Wildes, Jamie, Bridget and little Rachel. They're the vanguard of the fanfiction crowd that suddenly swells into the lobby from nowhere and everywhere. Sean Gaffney, Nick Leifker, and… Lara? Lara Bartram? Sorry, didn't recognize you ^_^;;

Everybody starts in about fics in progress and other ideas. The topic morphs to the ethics of fansubs when Rich Lawson and Mark Engles show up. Rich and Mark are checked in already, and some of the others have decided to wait until the line dies down, so we traipse off to Rich and Mark's to drop off luggage in the meanwhile. Well, all except Zen, who's put in an appearance as well, but has decided to lug his ichimonji with him into that massive line. We wish him luck before following the others, including the Wildes, who aren't staying at the hotel either — Bridget's parents live in Elgin, less than a half-hour away. As it turns out, so is Mark and Rich's room: they had referred to it as 'the end of civilization,' and in terms of distance, they aren't far wrong.

Once the others have unloaded their stuff, the general consensus points to the dealers' room. Meanwhile, Konatsu-chan's getting hungry, and we've got at least two hours before the fanfic panel even meets, let alone eats. This looks like a job for… Con Suite!

If we can find the place. At least it's on the ground floor this time, but honestly… it's a labyrinthine path. By now, only Sean is with us, but Gary Kleppe and Travis Butler have joined us (and Lara follows soon after, actually). Travis has his ubiquitous PowerBook with him, and this time he's got title themes from the original Dirty Pair series (the "real" DP, he insists), as well as a really funky pair of fan-created title tracks entitled "Kodocha no Evangelion" The sight of Rei Ayanami dancing… whoof. As Sean says, whoever created this must have had some really good drugs when they were doing it.

Most of the others take off, including Konatsu-chan, take off to spread the word about the closed-circuit channel. The con organizers have gotten permission to broadcast anime on a 24-hour basis on the hotel channel, and I turn it on (how better to advertise than having it going in the con suite?) to see. Whaddya know… Ah Megamisama!

Well… Chibi-megamisama, anyway. Little shrunken goddesses, and their rat friend. No Keiichi, though, and no subtitles. Wild.

A couple of hours later, we convene at the other end of the hotel again. Twenty fanfic writers in the space of a hundred square feet or so. Someone points out that "you'll never get this many egos in one place like this again" — I don't know who, but they're probably right. Not in this small of a space, anyway.

Of course, it's not like a clash of egos. There are a fair number of mutual admiration societies going around here, evidenced by a garage kit sculpture of Priss that Rich and Nick Leifker present to Jeanne Hedge.

Still, everybody has their opinions about everything… including dinner. It takes quite a bit of back-and-forth before we settle on a nearby Denny's (which disappoints me, in particular — as a local, I know a fair number of reasonable places for Japanese cuisine) Now that 'where' is settled, we move on to 'how'… are there enough cars? Yes? Maybe? Okay, let's load 'em up and move 'em out… I guess.

We do all make it there, eventually, with Zen and whoever was with him once again proving to be the exception. But we don't arrive all at once, and this is giving the Denny's staff fits. All of a sudden, I'm glad they didn't take up my suggestion. The folks at my favorite beefbowl place would never let us in again:

"Oh, you're the folks that brought that huge crowd? Get out!"

Anna Johnson, of Negaverse fame, talks about sympathizing with Saionji Kyuichi (from Utena). She *would*. Personally, I think he belongs with Nanami, and that way, justice would be fully served both of them.

Beyond that, I can't say as I remember much of the conversation. Real life isn't like, say, the MUCK, where you can tune into multiple conversations and save hardcopy logs for later. Bouncing back and forth between circles, I wound up missing a LOT.

I do remember Gary suggesting, when the bill came 'round, that we charge the lot to White Wolf.

And afterwards, someone gets the bright idea of getting a group photo for posterity. We catch a limousine parked outside the place (now, who would go to Denny's in a limo, tell me that?) and swarm into position around it. Two flashes later, and we're off, trying to make our separate ways back to the con.

After stopping at a convenience store for Anna and Nick to get film, we drop them off at the door and head off for somewhere else to park. At $8 a pop, the Ramada is no bargain. But all the other lots in the area either charge or threaten to tow, too. There had been some talk at the opening about how ACen attendees could get a discount on parking, but the instructions we were given told us to validate our ticket with the concierge, while the concierge insisted that we talk to ACen registration. So that story turned out false. But now, another rumor… next ACen won't even be in Rosemont, thanks in part to this parking schtick. One of the candidates for next year's venue? A Hilton no more than three miles from the Ucchan. I sure hope this turns out to be true.

Anyway, the upshot of all this for us is that we don't go back to the con, but head home. Pity, really… I'd heard that either Rachel Lillis or Leah Applegate (who do voices for both Utena and Pokemon) was going to sing the 'Jigglypuff' song in its entirety at the karaoke party. I'd like to have seen if anyone would stay awake to hear it all…

Still, speaking of sleep, it's probably prudent we got a bit. Same for Dan-chan. Tomorrow, as Scarlett O'Hara said, is another day, after all.

SATURDAY (April 24)

AnimeCentral's overarching slogan, not just for this year, but last as well (and presumably, next) is "got soap?"

Well… we do. And we know how to use it. Hey, a good hot shower is a great way to wake up in the morning, y'all. Of course, for those who never went to sleep in the first place, well… it's easier for us to get bed rest at the Ucchan, not having the anime rooms or closed-circuit TV. Besides, what with Dan-chan still sleeping, it's a way to kill time as well.

And maybe, with a slogan like that, otaku will make more of an effort to wash up every morning….


Once again, the timing of our arrival is a bit dicey; between dropping off Dan-chan with Jeni-imouto-chan and finding a parking spot at the Ramada (hey, what else are we gonna do?) we barely manage to roll in at 10 am, just in time for the live programming to begin. 'Natsu-chan is curious about an item on the schedule labeled simply "White Radish," so we jog up to room D-22.

Turns out, this is Shawn the Touched's anime production group, and he's going through how to use computers to create anime (as opposed to doing it by hand — which seems like an intuitive choice, if you ask me)

Still, with the antique computers Konatsu and I have, we haven't a prayer of creating anything of the sort… so we head out to see what the video rooms hold.

A few episodes of Vampire Princess Miyu later, and we decide to head back to the panel area: Anime On Line sounds promising…

En route to the D concourse again, we encounter a crowd swarming around what turns out to be the obligatory big bearded guy done up as Sailor Moon. Actually, though, his shield is the main attraction about him. The canton displays Pretty Sammy holding the severed head of Tsukino Usagi, and in the base, a mob of rabid carrots pursue a terrified Ryo-ohki. This man is sick and twisted, and I mean that as high praise.

We never make it to Anime On Line. We bump into Paul Corrigan (of recent Utena fic fame) and get to chatting, rather loudly I'm afraid, about Utena, Greenwood, Key, Ranma… well, just about every series we know in common. The discussion is animated (ah… heh-heh) enough that the panel closes their doors on us. Oops.

So while we cool our heels waiting for the fic panel, 'Natsu-chan plays solitaire with a new deck of AMG cards, and I fill out the ACen survey. It really feels like detention — right down to the fact that I'm doing homework in the hall. No water buckets, though.

The writers begin to trickle by. Gary, Nick, the Wildes… and we all end up sitting on the floor right outside the door for a while, discussing such profundities as egg sake, and Mike Loader as comedian. Travis vows to do whatever it takes to make Mike write comedy again… so Mike, if someday someone kidnaps you and starts beating you sadistically about the face and neck with a rubber chicken, don't say you weren't warned, okay?

Once in the room, the panel festivities begin with a couple flashbulbs in Nick Leifker's face. He proceeds to stagger around a bit, bumping into a plate glass window. He is offered the chance to buy some life insurance.

There are jokes about EVA-related merchandising related to their end-credits song 'Fly Me To The Moon': "The only thing that even makes sense is toilet paper."

Hey… where's Zen? We can't get started without him. Someone wanna go look for him? He should be at least easier to find than Waldo… oh, here he comes. Now we can get started, assuming we stop laughing about one thing or another…

First things first. Ryan Matthews, moderating the panel once again, has banned only one thread: "How did you get started writing fanfiction?" That's a lot fewer than the FFML has, for sure. Beyond that, anything goes. And just as Ryan states confidently that he never needs to use his pre-planned questions, the room suddenly falls deathly silent. There are no questions… but there is a fair amount of self-conscious laughter as the audience absorbs the irony of it all.

Nick relates C&C to the Hippocratic oath: first, do no harm. Never thought about the concept of critic-as-doctor, but it makes sense. This leads into MSTs, which, like the fics themselves, can be good or bad. Bridget speaks of the need to maintain a balance between the actual fic being MSTed and the characters' riffs — don't drown out the fic. Zen adds that not all MSTs trash a fic: in fact, none of his ever did.

Someone asks Jamie and Bridget, whose status as married fic writers renders them unique in the anime fanfiction world (correct me if I'm wrong about that, y'all) if they've ever collaborated on a story. Surprisingly, the answer turns out to be no, barring the 'sounding-board' method that produced "Reunions."

I have to ask about trying to get from one really good scene to another, a difficulty that appears common to all of us (Yay! I'm not alone!). Bert Van Vleit (sp?) states that he got around it once by posting his fic and the additional scene at the same time, with the gap between them intact. It wasn't particularly well-received. Ryan commented about the additional problems of syncing scenes occuring simultaneously in different places in a fic.

How about having multiple on-going projects? Bad news: (Jeanne) You never finish any of them. Good news: (Nick) You have different fics for different moods. Fair enough, but what if you're in a mood NOT to write at all?

Collaboration (with non-spouses, of course) brings out some consensus — "You need a LOT of patience" "Check your ego at the door" — before diverging into methodology. Some prefer MUCKs and 'acting out,' others just write their bits and bring it together, and so on. Bert points out the trepidation of letting someone else use what you feel has become 'your' character (which I suppose would be what Rumiko-megami-sama might go through if she ever came across this whole list).

Speaking of which, Bert… what about self-insertions? "Uh… check, please?" ^_^

Since character debates aren't banned in this room, Jeanne mentions how certain stories provoke the question of "who are you, and what have you done with the real Usagi/Ranma/Priss/(name of character)?" Nick does mention that the differences between the anime and manga will color a writer's experience and interpretation of a character, and slack must be cut. Conclusion? "Disclaimers are your friends."

Do any of you have any stories you regret writing? Oh, yeah. Of course, none of the panelists are willing to mention them by NAME…

On to different series. Yes, Ranma fics are nearing saturation point. No, there's probably quite a bit that can still be written about Ranma. Yes, we'd like to see other series develop a fic base of their own. No, we'd rather not see any more Pokemon fics. Especially hentai Pokemon fics (general shudder — believe it or not, there was a poster near the discussion room advertising hentai Pokemon showing this evening!). Titles like Utena, Silent Moebius and Sabre Marionette J were thrown out (I was disappointed that Key was not, but them's the breaks), so let's get cracking on 'em, whaddya say?

The panel over, we head back to the con suite for a quick bite and a long jaw with the Wildes. I didn't know this, but both of them are very good artists, judging from the graffiti they put up on the con suite wall (relax, it had been covered with posterboard for just this purpose).

A word: peanut butter & jelly can be spread with forks, but it's not easy.

This has been the weekend for changing plans. We never make it to the dealers' room today, as we get mixed up in a huge line for the main event of the afternoon: music videos. Ah… what the hell.

And look who we run into trying to find a seat for the show… what, did all the fanfic writers just somehow find each other like this? Can we smell each other out or something, or is it more innate than that, even?

Once again, there are technical difficulties, but once it gets started, the show is most impressive: Gendo Ikari IS "One Bad Mutha" (I thought he was one bad fatha, but hey…) Konatsu-chan broke down watching "War Child" by the Cranberries — somehow, I don't think we'll be renting Grave of the Fireflies any time soon. One video ends with a caption "The Anime Is Out There," which gets a big laugh.

Hm. Someone really likes the Cranberries, and WWII-based anime. Even I tear up at shots from GotF and Barefoot Gen. I gotta ask: why does Setsuko's death tear the viewer to pieces, while the planet-destroying antics of, say, the Lovely Angels elicit only amusement? Ya gotta know they didn't evacuate the planet beforehand (in "Project Eden," I think it was an accident); why is the large loss funny and the small loss tragic? Or am I just thinking waaay too hard about this kinda stuff?

Here's a hysterical tribute to the Inspector from Lupin III… we've GOT to catch Cagliostro tonight at eleven or so. Wonder how familiar the creators of Lupin were with Mack Sennett?

Now for a few videos to be shown out-of-competition, due to either subtitling or graphic violence or nudity. John Biles points out that at least one of the competition videos was based on Fist of the North Star: "Yeah, thank God for nice clean kiddie shows like that."

The big hit of the non-comps is a BGC crossover with the A-Team credits. HUGE laughter and applause; any fic writers wanna take on this combo?

We do a little bit of running around, taking down room party info for future reference, before settling back in for the game show. The category titles are worthy of You Don't Know Jack, but the questions themselves, well…

Ah, heck. How many times have you watched a game show on telly and wished you could heckle the participants, anyway?

Mercifully, a champion is declared, and prizes are handed out all around. No thimbles, though.

Despite the hectic schedule, 'Natsu-chan and I are still trying to get in two squares a day… even if that does mean McDonalds, for once. Ironic, then, that on our way out we should run across Shawn the Touched airing his parody fandub 'Fast Food Freedom Fighters.' Ooh, we've got to get our paws on this. How much? Free? You're kidding… well, what with copyright regs and all that, this is how it has to be, I guess. So we're to send him a blank tape, and he'll send it back filled. Cool. Just for that, we pick up a couple of his doujinshi, too.

Back from Mickey Ds, bag in hand, we encounter a worried-looking Ryan Matthews. Travis Butler's gone missing, and either Ryan has Travis' jacket or Travis has Ryan's — my notes are sketchy on that point. We promise to keep our eyes peeled. So much for that innate homing theory.

We don't find Travis, but then, we don't do a lot of searching. The line for the Masquerade audience is pretty long already; it's clear we're not gonna get very good seats when start letting us in. At least we may actually get seats, if we stay where we are. So we get in and plunk ourselves down for a meal. Hey, we won't be going anywhere for a while.

And actually, once the line does move in, it turns out that our seats are reasonably decent. Back couple of rows, yes, but right on the opposite side of the room as the main doors. We may get to watch the contestants enter… or rather, exit.

Once again, some difficulties in getting the first contestant out, but after that, things go pretty smoothly. Sailor Bubba is not competing, but shows up (without the shield, which is on display in the art room) A twelve-year-old in Sailor Moon garb enters and exits too quickly, earning her twice the normal time in the spotlight. A group does a sketch of Ryoga stumbling into the world of Ruroni Kenshin that degenerates into a fight that requires Lupin's Inpector Zenigata to break it up.

Some of the costumes and sketches leave us psyched to pull off our own cosplay at AnimeIowa. We could do this, and probably every bit as well as a good number of these folks.

Except for… Pen-Pen. This guy won last year as Genma-panda, and he's done it again. What a costume! The crowd goes wild, and Amanda Winn is down to her fire-red bra as she boogies with him onstage. Someone else nearby points out that this is Ayanami Rei getting it on with Pen-Pen, and I have to restrain my mind from running screaming from the room.

But we do have to run… the dance is scheduled elsewhere, and we gotta be there. But we're practically the only ones there! Well, the music is loud enough, it'll attract people eventually. But by the time the room starts filling up, we are exhausted. Besides, Lupin's running in the video room.

And it's every bit as interesting as the music video had shown. Pity I feel I have to duck out — one of the room parties is showing "Ranma like you've never seen him before" Maybe he'll be with me…?

While 'Natsu-chan stays for the ending, I speed across the hotel to watch Ranma 1/3, a parody fandub that basically states Ranma is gay, Ryoga is a drug kingpin (well, as many trips as he winds up making to Columbia and all, it was inevitable) and the guys' rhythmic gymnastic team are a bunch of Nazis who sell bad anime. Amusing, but no laff riot… and I'm not even in it.

We drop in on another party… no anime, but a number of writers… and quite a bit of sake, mixed with chocolate syrup. I've heard of chocoholism before, but really…

And even once we leave that, we still can't get away. The main ballroom is hosting yet another parody fandub, entitled "Koko wa Otaku," a fandub parody about making a fandub parody. This is just too funny… we stay for the whole thing. Trust me, sugar… when you're laughing this hard, you can't fall asleep, even at three a.m.

But once it's over, we resist the temptation to stay for more. We get CDS Productions' email address for future reference (it's Kotobuki@flash.net, BTW), and head out. Gonna need the rest… this ain't over yet.

Not by a long chalk.

SUNDAY (April 25)

This morning, 'Natsu-chan drops me off at the hotel. My kunoichi is going to pick up Dan-chan from my parents — in any case, 'Natsu's not as interested in today's programming as I, and as Iíve mentioned before, the parking fees are ridiculous.

Actually, I manage to arrive before the live programming starts in. So I head back to the dealers' room to see if there's anything I missed. There isn't, but I still drop a few Jacksons on a couple of tapes and a book on doujinshi (yes, it's the one they were touting in the opening ceremonies).

As I leave, I run into… what else? a clutch of writers, this time including Zen. And I get swept right back into the dealers' room on their momentum. I don't stay long, though. I've got a panel to attend.

I'm not alone, either, in waiting for the meeting room to open. I spend some time chatting with Paul Corrigan before a young woman walks up. Leah? Rachel? Oh, I'm so sorry, Miss Utena (she grins at this), I'm terrible at placing names and faces. She holds forth a one-woman panel right there in the hall, with Mark serving as 'moderator;' how she got into voice acting, life in New York City, and so forth.

Others finally arrive, but no one has keys to the room. So, we move to the empty room next door, along with fellow Utena actress Leah Applebaum. She leads off by explaining how little she knew of her character when she first started — all she'd been told at the time was that Nanami was 'whiny' — but time and experience with the character's nuances allow her to adjust her voice to fit her expanded understanding of the character. Rachel agrees — it's her contention that watching the characters give insight into their personality that allows for a better interpretation of the character.

One thing that surprised me was that voice actors rarely perform together. It's just one actor/actress in the sound booth, working on one line at a line. In fact, Rachel claims she's not even met the woman who plays Anthy. Leah points out that this solitude is a good thing, as it allows physicalization of the action on screen — running in place, or holding arms over one's head when a character does — that one might be self-conscious about in a clutch of actors.

Doug Smith, the voice of Kintaro in GoldenBoy, walks in, and begins by going through a typical day at the studio. He seems to have this special fondness for what he calls 'scream-and-die' sessions. Considering that's how he got discovered, that's understandable.

The three talk about the number of takes they usually do on a scene, and even then… Leah remembers at least once thinking "They used THAT take?" in horror at hearing the finished results.

Favorite bits? Leah enjoys the truly manic Nanami, planting snails and octopi in Anthy's possessions, only to find some already there. Rachel likes doing Chu-chu — especially since she usually does it at the end of the day, as a sort of free-form thing. Doug recalls a swimming scene where Kintaro practically drowned — though I can't imagine trying to talk while gargling to be fun, personally.

Lisa Ortiz walks in — apparently, she'd gone to the 'wrong' room for a few minutes — and related her favorite bit being a wildly varied interior monologue in the first episode. She's also carrying a cinnamon roll, and someone asks about food in the sound booth… especially since Lina Inverse eats a lot, and talks while she does. Nope. Water's okay, but food is not. She twists her tongue about in her mouth to get the desired effect.

Final question: would you like the stardom that seiyuus in Japan enjoy? Oddly enough, there is a general shaking of heads. Part of the fun to voice acting is not being recognized, they say. Well, all right… if you say so…

Now, it's the fans' turn, as Toshi Uchida sets up the 'dub your own' workshop. Three scenes from Ranma… any volunteers?

Actually, I didn't play myself, despite the fact that the role was pretty big. I took the part of Kasumi in the first scene, and I think I did pretty well.

I got a little jealous of the folks doing the second scene, what with it being longer and with meatier roles… but that's when the alarm sounded.

So, we had several hundred otaku crowded around the outdoor swimming pool (which was empty, more's the pity), waiting for the fire department to come and check out the place. Lisa Ortiz is protesting how she had only been trying to light a barbeque with a fireball…

Actually, it doesn't take long before we're back inside. Maybe it was just someone's way of telling us "look, it's a beautiful day out… why don't you enjoy it while the sun's out rather that sitting in that hotel all weekend?" But everyone picks up where they left off, and under the circumstances, it's not so bad.

Konatsu-chan and Dan-chan meet me in the game room; they hadn't been here for the alarm, but got here just as people were going back in. We head back to the dealers' room on Dan-chan's insistence, and deplete the last of our cash on pre-registration for AC2K — well, Dan-chan's already got a Pikachu doll. It doesn't occur to us until considerably later that we may have trouble getting the car out of the parking lot if we're out of money!

All the guests of honor have said their thank yous (and Yoko-o has made his apologies for failing at his terrorist mission to burn the place down. He'll do better next year, he assures us). I have to confess, I'm getting hungry and tired, and I'm having trouble paying attention. I think I'm ready to call it a con.

So until next year (or for the privileged few, until AnimeIowa), see you later!

Itsu mo,
Ucchan ^_^

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