Back from Shoujocon. Tadaima!
Executive summary: I hid in the video rooms.
Expanded report: I enjoyed it, despite not knowing anyone and being two to three times as old as the average participant. Maybe next year I'll get more into the swing of things.
Loot: Two SKU artbooks, the 'Newtype Illustrated Collection' for l'Apocalypse de l'adolescence, and Shoujo Kakumei Utena AX. Lots of gorgeous pictures in both. Got the entire Heroic Legend of Arslan, Geobreeders, and Tokyo Babylon from the CPM table for about half-off list. w00t! Oh, and picked up the first VHS volume of Tenshi ni Narumon from the Shoujocon table.
On Saturday the line to the dealers' room was long and painful. I got into it half an hour before the room opened Sunday, and it was still long, but I got in fairly quickly. Who knows how much stuff I missed out on because I waited until Sunday, but who cares. Standing in lines was not what I went to Shoujocon for. The dealers' room actually sold out of its space before the con opened. That, and the line says clearly: larger room next year.
Speaking of the dealers' room, I got to meet reene who was working the Shojocon table, and regyt who was working security.. Hi, guys! As they say in the ancient language of the elves, nicetameetcha, goodtaseeya. Be sure to read regyt's brief con report, it's really funny. A sample:
|There was a wedding at the hotel, in the middle of the main floor of the con... Some little girl went up to the bride and asked "Are you dressed up as a bride?" And a guy went up to the bride and said: "Are you from Wedding Peach? If so, your costume's kinda off, it should be like this..."|
Didn't go to any panels. Most just held no interest, and the rest conflicted with film showings I really wanted to see. Oh, well.
Most disappointing moment: The Oniisama E video was episodes 1-4. I had been hoping for episodes 29-32, which the TechnoGirls reported a month or more ago to have finished subbing, but which hadn't appeared on any fansubber's list. Last year I think they premiered episodes 25-28 at Shoujocon, and I was hoping for a repeat this year. Nope, didn't happen. Ack. However, browsing around the TechnoGirls' page, I see that a single distributor (!) Ken Hardwick, started carrying it July 8. Ken will definitely get a Paypal message from me tonight. I also heard at the con that the Technogirls have been having techno trouble with their VHS decks, which may have something to do with OE 29-32 not appearing. Still, if a distributor has had it since 7/8, it's a shame that Shoujocon didn't get it.
Most annoying opportunity lost: I was riding down on the hotel elevator, alone. It stopped at one floor, and a Utena cosplayer got on. And the chick speech went clean out my head. Damn. It would have been such fun.
Speaking of Utena cosplayers, they were everywhere. Mostly Utena herself, but there were more than a few Anthy's, and I saw some Touga's and at least one Miki. To my surprise, I think there were more SKU cosplayers than SM cosplayers. Maybe SM has peaked. There were also a few non-shoujo cosplayers. I saw one Lina Inverse, and one Vash. Both costumes were very good, which is, I'm sure, why the cosplayers wanted to show them off. But maybe they were inappropriate at a shoujo convention.
Rusu sokusu: there were a bunch of these, on non-cosplayers. Will they ever catch on in the US? They're definitely every bit as cute on real girls as they are on anime characters. But they've been around in Japan for almost half a decade, and that's a long time for a fashion fad. I wouldn't be surprised if they were already fading, and never make it over here at all.
I took the opportunity to see a lot of stuff I had seen on fansubbers' lists, but had no other knowledge of.
Kaikan Phrase: The trials and tribulations of a rock 'n' roll band. Bishounen, rock 'n' roll, angst, attitude, a little humor. I thought the music was only so-so, which is a real problem for such a music-oriented show. By the end of four episodes, I was about ready to club Sakuya with the Bunny Bass. I hate arrogant bishounen! Lots of women seem to adore them, though. <sigh> [Tove goes off to work on his arrogance.] Actually, what I hate is arrogant plot devices. I mean, you know from the start that Sakuya is going to join the goddamn band, but he has to play coy for four episodes. Join the fscking band and get on with the plot, dammit! No, wait, that is the plot.
Blue Green Years: Sweet, sentimental, and funny, a growing-up comedy-drama about kids who seem to be in 6th grade or so. The TechnoGirls have subbed this one through episode 12, and 13-16 scheduled for this year, and have vague plans to do more. This is enjoyable, not very intense or heavy, and I'll probably get more episodes.
Hana Yori Dango: I actually have most of the fansubs for this one, but hadn't watched more than the first episode; I got sidetracked or something after I got it, and never got back to it. I have to get back to it, it's lots of fun. Makino, the heroine, would fit into the Knight Sabers just fine. For anyone who hasn't heard of this series, it's a schoolyard drama-comedy about an unbelievably spunky teenager, Tsukushi Makino, and her struggles with her snooty and sometimes abusive classmates at an exclusive school. Sound like Oniisama E? It isn't. Makino has got ten times the energy and a hundred times the self-confidence of Nanako, and the show has a lot of humorous moments (which OE conspicuously lacks). It's a much-loved show, and very high profile among shoujo fans. Too bad it'll probably never be imported to the us, because it's long, shoujo, and I hear the rights are a mess even in Japan.
A HYD moment, which reminded me of why anime is so wonderful. As the closing credits of each episode roll, we get a shot of Makino standing barefoot in a large shallow ornamental pool. It's windy and raining, the raindrops make concentric ripples in the pool and the wind blows her skirt around. The shot is from the mid-torso down, we never see her face. As the credits close, she runs across the pool and stands in front of a boy who is at the other end. Probably it's Hanazawa, although we never see his face either. We get a medium distance shot of them, standing closely together for a moment, not touching. Then, as the credits close, the camera cuts to a close-up of Makino's bare feet in the clear, shallow water of the pool. She rises up on her toes (obviously to kiss the boy), as we fade to black. Oh, my god. It is so unbearably sweet and touching. It's a whole little drama, without words, without even seeing the participants' faces, just thrown away during the closing credits. Its power is that the entire story is told by implication, indirection, and metonymy. Everything is implied, nothing is shown directly. "Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard are sweeter." This little sequence would be admirable if it were done in film, but in America, it would be unheard of to do it in animation. "Metonymy?!? What's that? This is a cartoon! Let's get some brightly colored animals, put them on a rectangular stage, and make them sing songs and blow up each other with dynamite!"
Excuse me, I'm beginning to rant. "Why I love anime, #2: The Japanese take it seriously as an art form, and use the entire armamentarium of film techniques just as if they were working in live-action film."
Okay, end of gushing over anime and HYD, back to the reviews. Angel Sanctuary: Didn't see much of this one, it was pushing 4 pm and I was beginning to fade badly. (For anyone who doesn't know: I work nights, sleep days, and live on a reversed day/night schedule. 4 in the afternoon to you is 2 in the morning to me.) All I remember is that Angel Sanctuary seemed to be extremely bloody, and didn't make much sense, but I came in in the middle of an OAV, and was very tired, so it may have been me.
I sacked, slept for a few hours, got up, ate a rather good room-service pizza, and stumbled back to the video rooms. Blue Sonnet: this is a US-licensed (U.S. Manga) OAV series from the early 80's, and things like the character design and the use (or non-use) of shadow to give three-dimensionality to characters' faces look like stuff from that epoch. These seem to be OAV's. Psi warriors, an Evil Scientist who looks like he could have stepped out of DBZ, lots of techy sets with huge exposed pipes and computer banks with lots of flashing lights, and lots of Things Blowing Up. Sonnet, a female psi warrior who nominally works for the Bad Guys, is torn between love and duty, with moderate amounts of angst. Maybe too much Things Blowing Up for my taste. I've been spoiled by Things Blowing Up in Evangelion, in which they blow up much more impressively.
I had meant to steel myself and watch some of the Shounen-ai Love-in, but when I wandered into the room at 1 am, it was still packed—literally packed, SRO—with unruly and rowdy fangirls. In fact between their laughter and shouts of encouragement, you could barely hear the Blue Sonnet dialogue, two rooms away. Sheesh. They were intimidating. I waited a couple of hours until the crowd had thinned a little, then came back for the second half of Zetsuai/Bronze 89. Oh, the angst! Oh, the sensuality! Oh, the absurdly manipulative plot twists! Why does everyone in this series act like a total idiot? Izumi is only going to be in Italy for a week, you idiot Koji, there's no point in [SPOILER]ing your [SPOILER], winding up in the [SPOILER], [SPOILER], with [SPOILER]. Sheesh. And the character design is sort of the apotheosis of bishounen. I don't see how bishounen design can go any further in this direction without making the characters look like aliens. Although... I just realized that they already look suspiciously as if they were designed by Aubrey Beardsley.
By the time Zetsuai was over, it was already 4 am or so, the crowd had thinned considerably, and it was time for Boku no Sexual Harassment. This... is a remarkable series of videos. Just...remarkable. From so many perspectives. First, the video was possibly the worst video transfer I have ever seen, with huge amounts of chroma smearing and noise. Second, Shoujocon's copy was in raw Japanese, no subs. Third, it didn't matter, because Boku no SH seems to be pretty much of a PWP. Salaryman is seduced (without a great deal of trouble) by his boss, then by a series of other guys. Quite graphic, without actually showing genitalia. Lots of bondage, and other exotica, including vibrators, non-consensual sex, and sex with various inanimate objects. I guess this one is Cool Devices for girls. Most of the fangirls left in the room were unconscious by that time by the time the anal rape with an ear of corn came around—in fact, it looked suspiciously as if a few hadn't bothered to get a hotel room, and had planned on bivouacking in the video rooms all night—and I decided I'd had enough and repaired to my own room to read Neil Gaiman's Brief Lives, one of the 'Sandman' series. And a fine read it is.
One think I was hoping to see, and didn't, was new anime music videos. There were some old ones that are already on the net, such as Kusoyaro's riff on the Adolescence Apocalypse movie to Bjork's 'Bachelorette', and Kestrel's take on Touga/Saionji to Sting's 'Never Meant to Be'. Both of these are great, download them if you haven't seen them, but I was hoping for new material. Maybe I hit at the wrong time? Or maybe there weren't very many this year?
This post has gone a lot longer than I intended. To close: I enjoyed Shoujocon, will probably go next year, and may volunteer to man the video rooms in the wee small hours of the morning, when no one else wants to, and staff who keep normal people hours are falling asleep, just like the viewers.