Since 2009 I’ve been going to Anime Expo. Considering I live far away in New York, it’s something of a special occasion for me. Specifically, vacation time. In general I’m a workaholic, so it’s very rare for me to take any time off. (Of course, I was there as an encubed reporter/photographer, so it’s like 1/4th work).
For a more impersonal report of the many things that happened at AX, take a look at the encubed article. Instead, I’m planning on just reporting on the various things I’ve done the 5 days I was at the con. (Days 0-4).
Visual Novel related activity
Every year, Anime Expo, happens to be one of the biggest industry gatherings of the visual novel industry. The event draws in industry people not just from the West, but also people from Japan. Here’s some of what happened in 2011.
AX is important to me because it’s one of the few times in the year that I can actually see the faces of people in the industry without traveling all the way to Japan. Much as I’d love to visit Japan more often, it burns a ton of cash.
Sadly, the earthquake had a huge effect on the VN industry in Japan, Sales have apparently dropped %30, with stores being extremely picky about buying extra stock. In fact I’ve heard they try to only order as much as is pre-ordered for games. It used to be they’d order a bit more “just in case”, but that practice has been severely limited it seems.
You can see the effect on the overall prices for used games. It used to be you can find new games selling for around 3-4000 yen the day after the release date. These days, only the really horrible games drop to low prices quickly. Better games take more time to drop in price, and even then it’s not nearly as much of a drop as it used to be.
Thanks to what’s going on int he industry, Mangagamer’s booth – the megabooth in 2009 and 2010 w/ concerts and things – was only half the size as it was last year. There also weren’t any singers performing. Many of the companies that had wanted to come just before the quake were all focused on simply surviving in Japan right now. Hopefully, as the situation improves over in Japan in the next few years (and it certainly will take many years), more and more companies will start coming over again.
According to bamboo of Overdrive, having a company come overseas is one of the best ways to convince them that there actually is something of a market in the West, esp. when they see the enthusiastic fans.
Represented this year at the MG booth was Overdrive’s bamboo and Katakura Shinji, Tororo Dancho from Circus (everyone else was busy at home working on Da Capo 3), the CEO and assorted staff from Clochette, Artist Yamamoto Kazue of Debonosu Works, Akabeisoft2’s CEO and their artist Alpha, Nexton, w/ their tons of staff (one almost wonders if it’s a company-sponsored vacation for them), and a couple of miscellaneous staff.
Despite the reduced size of the booth, that’s still a pretty huge gathering of industry folks.
(For more pictures of the Mangagamer booth, check here )
I wound up spending quite a bit of time at the MG booth, despite there not being any concerts this year. For one thing, I wound up getting shikishi boards from both Yamamoto and Alpha. Yamamoto was gracious enough to draw me a Debo for one of the boards I bought. I had dug out my old stuffed debo toy that I bought over a decade ago to show her, and she was surprised to see someone having one in the states. Apparently some new ones might be coming out for winterket this year… I’ll have to think about having a friend get one for me.
The panel was also fun, even though the room was insanely hot. After taking tons of photos of the panel, which were pretty boring, towards the end. bamboo wanted to take a picture of everyone doing an “Ahegao double peace” a.k.a. AWP. (make 2 peace signs, and make a face like you’ve been f***d silly) As soon as I heard him mention AWP, I ran up onto the stage next to him so I could take shots w/ my wide angle lens.
Now I have a large, rather awkward, panorama of about 700+ people posing for the picture.
JAST Booth and Panel
To a lesser extent, I talked to my friend Shingo over at the JAST boot. Overall they were busy selling their various products during the con, so I didn’t get to spend a huge amount of time talking to hem, but overall they seemed to be going through all of Nitro+‘s catalogue and will eventually bring over a bunch of games to western audiences.
Most of the people who went to the panel happened to do crazy stuff also got a high quality artbook from Nitro+. Normally it would be a book that you’d pay at least 3000 yen for, but apparently Nitro+ came with a whole pallet of the things, and almost 500 people got copies.
As usual, the panel was mostly just slides w/ product announcements. So between shots of slides, I just tried to collect as many amusing shots of my friend Shingo speaking as I could.
The Epic Dinner 2
Last year, in 2010 we held the first Epic Dinner by bringing a bunch of the people that had come over to the Mangagamer booth to dinner. That year, it was chaos, w/ almost 40 people crammed into a room in a korean bbq place (Tahoe Galbi if memory serves me), and in many ways it almost killed me and my co-host from the stress of coordinating.
This year, we managed to have a much smaller, more intimate Epic Dinner 2. This time, the guest list had more industry people, bamboo, Tororo, an OEL VN author from Canada, a Doujin VN maker from Japan, Shingo of JAST, a couple of support staff for MG. This time, instead of Korean BBQ, which, while good, was something that could be gotten in Japan. We went to a Brazillian BBQ place, M Grill. It was extremely expensive (I have a $1044 charge for a party of 16 to prove it) but the food was wonderful.
The guests were extremely impressed w/ the night, so we can call it a success. Woo. Here’s to Epic Dinner 3 in 2012. Hopefully there’ll be more industry from Japan, and possibly more fans, though the bigger it gets, the more insane the planning has to be. We had to be VERY strict w/ the guest list this year, and I’m already worried for next year.
Also, it was that night that I learned what bamboo called Ahegao Double Peace. And from then on, I knew that this AWP term would be causing trouble throughout the con in later days.