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Panels Galore!

Adam's amazing adventures at Anime Weekend Atlanta...ten!

by Adam Arnold

When is a weekend not just a weekend? Well, it's when you pile the family into the ol' mini-van all ready to enjoy a nice relaxing time at "The Down The Street Bake Sale" and end up seeing tons of people dressed up in weird cartoon outfits acting like its Halloween or something. Yes, all those soccer moms and dads dressed in their Sunday finest must have been in for a rude awakening when they realized Anime Weekend Atlanta 10 was going on in the same location.

All joking aside, Anime Weekend Atlanta 10 was the most uneventfully pleasant and most event filled con I've had to the pleasure of attending. Nothing out of the ordinary happened that put a damper on my weekend (well, I did have to pay for my hotel room all by myself because two people bailed on me, but no biggie) and I managed to not spend more than one paycheck worth of money in the dealers room. That counts as a win in my book, but seriously, I don't think I've ever done so much at a con before that I've forgotten to actually eat before. And believe me, I forgot to eat at this con. Don't believe me? Well, you're in for a treat.


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My latest con adventure began at 8:15 AM on Friday, September 24 when I awoke realizing that I had slept through not just one alarm clock, but four! I made a dash for the shower and quickly gathered my luggage and was in my car and on my way at exactly 9:00 AM. An hour and a half later, I made a quick pit stop in Macon, Georgia so I could stock up on some anime at the Best Buy and then was on my way again.

I reached Atlanta around noon and checked into my hotel and set-up my DVD Player and stocked up on the free peppermint the staff had left by the fridge and made a quick mental note to make use of the free bag of pop-corn later when watching Azumanga Daioh.

I then hurriedly rushed over to the Cobb Galleria and found my way to the Pre-Registration Line. See, I'm not one of those bossy press guys that will demand stuff. I'm pretty content to stand in a line, because that can be a pretty interesting experience in and of itself. And judging from the bizarre conversations I heard in this line--one of which was from a guy who could talk your head off about how Shadow Hearts and Persona 2 are the best RPG ever created--I would say it was time well spent, but so was the visit to the dealer's room afterwards.

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Ah, the dealer's room. It seemed a tad smaller this year, but at least it never seemed unwalkable. My first visit netted me a TON of manga from Sasuga's booth ( I bought the four volumes of R.O.D., the two volumes of R.O.D. TV, two volumes of Azuma Kiyohiko's latest series Yotsubato!, the four volumes of A Little Snow Fairy Sugar and the first volume of Evangelion: Girlfriend of Steel. There really was not any real method behind my frenzied manga buying madness at that booth though. I just stood there and went shelf-by-shelf and box-by-box (honestly, you had to since the books were not in any kind of order except by series) and picked out titles that I wanted. My number one rule at a con in regards to decision making is either buy or don't ever buy. There is no "maybe" when it comes to dealer rooms. That's why I also left the con with a boken.

After dumping my stuff in my trunk, I caught the last half of the "Totally Lame Anime" panel. The very sight of the Starship Troopers anime, with its butt-ugly females, would make even a sane man turn to Yaoi in a heartbeat, but nothing can compare to the monstrosity that is the animated Titanic. Sure, it wasn't actually anime, but it gives episode four of Cool Devices a run for its money for worst thing ever animated. Take any the villains from 101 Dalmatians, the cast of An American Tale and The Great Mouse Detective and then throw them all together in one movie (with tons of other copyright infringing properties for good measure) and have a boat sink and tie it all together with some weird scene of a dog rapping and you have Titanic in a nutshell. It is that painful.

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To unwind from the taxing experience of "Totally Lame Anime" I bolted for the arcade in the Main Video Gaming room (there were four total!) where I spent some coinage playing some Keyboardmania and Dance Maniax. There were also machines for Para Para Paradise, Dance Dance Revolution 5th Mix and Extreme, Pump It Up and Initial D set up in the room as well, but I never I got around to playing them. Of particular note were the overwhelmingly loud Guitar Freaks and Drummania machines that were linked for session mode play. Pop'n Music was also set-up on a TV for people to play on Friday and Saturday (it was replaced by Taiko no Tatsujin on Sunday). Obviously, I had to test my ever improving Pop'n skills, but the one round was all I could ever muster, as the wait times (and heat!) in the room were pretty extreme at times.

At five I sat in on the panel "Dubs: A Fan's POV" where I not only got to hear the panel host's thoughts on Super Milk-Chan's dual dubs, but where I also lucked up and nabbed a free DVD for answering a trivia question right. I believe the answer I had to answer went something along the lines of "name an ADV voice actor who worked on Aquarium Age" and after no one else raised there hand, I raised mine and said the first thing that came to mind...Monica Rial. Safe answer, but good enough to nab me a copy of the show's first volume.

Obviously by the end of that panel, I was feeling the urge to eat something more than peppermint and those free hard candies they had sitting in the tray by the rest room exit. So I went across the street to the mall and had two slices of cheese pizza and then left because the mall didn't have a Suncoast.

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I made it back to the con a little after seven and caught the majority of Studio Gaijin and Lostcrack Productions' panel where I saw some nice AMVs like "Here Comes the Sun" and then stayed through all of "Ten Years of AWA AMV," which had a presentation of some of the videos from each of the proceeding Anime Weekend Atlanta AMV competitions. Maybe it was late, but I decided to just enjoy the show and not worry about writing any of the titles down. Big mistake. I have been scouring's message boards for days now trying to figure out some of the videos so I can try and download them.

I called it a night at ten and found a Walgreen's to stock up on some supplies...namely food and drinks. Since one cannot live on Diet Pepsi and Gobstoppers alone, I decided to get something for breakfast. As luck would have it, they were out of Smores Pop-Tarts and I was forced to rekindle my age-old Quaker Chew Granola Bar addiction by purchasing a box of Chocolate Chunk. As you can probably guess, those little 100-calorie bars became my main sustenance for the weekend.


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Much to my shock, I awoke late again. This time it was 9:30 AM and I wanted to catch the FUNimation panel at ten. Luckily, they were fifteen minutes late so I was safe in the end. FUNimation's panel had one major high point and that was the announcement of their acquisition of the Seven Samurai anime. It looks to be a very interesting series if you like mecha and the Akira Kurosawa revival. I'm personally still holding out for Kodocha though.

Cartoon Network's panel was at eleven and they showcased all of their awesome Adult Swim series spots and hyped up the upcoming airing of the Read Or Die OVA and how they are going to have a movie block. Yes, Cowboy Bebop: The Movie won't just be shown on Stars, it will be on Cartoon Network next year. They also touched on how their upcoming Adult Swim DVDs are going to actually have decent extras from now on.

It might also be worth noting that since I did not have someone I could force photography duties on, I spent my time between panels snapping pictures of cosplayers and the scenery. I may just have to invest in a new digital camera at some point because I constantly found myself having to retake pictures. Even so, there were a couple of really interesting cosplayers this year. The trio of Tetris blocks (yes, they ripped off, but who cares?) constantly caused a large mass of people eager to see them form something. And then there was the Asian guy who dressed up, or rather dressed down, to imitate one of the Yatta! singers. As you can guess, the guys' costume consisted up a pair of underwear, a green leaf, a mic and a little word balloon that said "Yatta!"

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Also in the vein of Cosplay was a cool room set aside as a Cosplay Gallery. In this room, several mannequins were set-up displaying some very lavishly detailed costumes ranging from Iria to Captain Harlock and Emeraldas. A very interesting addition and one that I think a lot of other cons should try and mimic as it adds that little something extra.

At one O'clock I attended the Bemani! panel--Bemani being the Konami's music games--and got to see some a trio of guys really go all out on Beatmania and Pop'n Music. However, the real star was when they set up the home version of Para Para Paradise and had a few of the ladies in the room actually do a Para Para routine to show that the arrows on the screen do in fact match the movements of the dance.

After wasting some more time, I took in AN Entertainment's panel and sat next to Mike Toole of Anime Jump! ( That was kind of interesting in and of itself because he would constantly flick between typing notes and playing Solitaire on his laptop. Not much new from AN Entertainment though other than Jungle+Guu is now going to be called Hare Guu and that some unnamed publisher has the rights to the Miami Guns manga. It was also mentioned that ComicsOne is looking at possibly licensing the Risky/Safety manga, but they may need to be persuaded by the fans to actually pick it up. The company also screened a fansub of the first episode of Hare Guu to help build a little buzz until they can actually get their own version put together for next year's release.

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And then came Iron Editor: The AMV Challenge. For some reason I had avoided Iron Editor (formally known as Iron Chef) at the past AWAs because it was just too long. True, three and a half hours is a long time to sit in one place, but some of the best AMVs are played while the two combatants flex their Adobe Primer skills. It was also at this panel that my favorite video of the con, Lee "Lostboy" Thompson's Happy Tree Friends video "Nature Trail to Hell." Sure it isn't actually anime, but who cares? The video is just so twisted.

Anyway, Iron Editor this year pitted the unbeatable Hsien Lee of Kusoyaro Productions against challenger William Milberry of Aluminum Studios and threw them a slew of weird footage including MTV's Liquid Television, Memories, Neo Tokyo and Robot Carnival. The thing about Iron Editor though is that the AMV creators have to use at least a full frame of "the secret ingredient" in their video and this year that ingredient was 1979's Animalympics. And guess what? Hsien Lee won again! But because of this, he will have to go up against two people next year.

Naturally, three and a half hours in a packed room can get to you. So at 8:40 PM, I rushed across the street to the mall to eat--you guessed it--cheese pizza again before heading back to the con to catch episode two of the awesomely cool Re: Cutey Honey.

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My travels took me to Jeff "Gambitt" Heller and Ian Roberts' AMV panel next--the first and only panel I've ever gone to where an experimental, five-minute Serial Experiments Lain video garnered a lighter, cell phone and glow stick vigil. Sure the bizarre student films were interesting and AbsoluteDestiny's "Magical Dreamer," a Little Mermaid music video set to music from Card Captor Sakura, was fun, but Gambitt's "The Azumanga Boogie (or Some Girls Like Crack)" absolutely stole the panel and made the song used, Elbow's "Independent Women," stuck in almost everyone's head long afterwards. There was also an extremely short preview of one of the "AMV Hell 3: The Motion Picture" segments that featured the cats from Azumanga Daioh.

After some minor technical difficulties, the fourth and, sadly, final DDR Project commenced...and it was awesome! It's hard to pick out a single segment from DDR Project 5th Mix that was the absolute best because they all were superb, but I'd have to say the Jubei-Chan video set to "Matsuri Japan" was my favorite simply because that's my favorite DDR track.

Shockingly enough, Saturday at the con wrapped up for me at 11:30 PM! I chilled in my hotel room that night with volume three of Saikano and Chrono Crusade volume one, but sadly couldn't finish the later before conking out.


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Sunday was pretty much just panel, panel, panel. I did head to the dealer's room at one point and found a dealer that had put out all of the next weeks titles early. Maybe getting Azumanga Daioh Vol. 5 from them on Friday should have clued me in to look at what else they had, but c'est la vie (or as I say it, "Sailor V").

All the main panels that I wanted to go to did not start until one, but once they did, they went right on through to the end of the con. First up was "Editing Manga" with Carl Horn and Jonathan Clements where the topic was how manga gets into English and the various different polices that companies take in regards to sound effects and how unflipped manga came about.

At two was a very insightful panel by Animerica's review editor, Patrick Macias entitled "Anime City." The panel was dedicated to Mr. Macias's trips to Japan and him giving a behind-the-scenes look at his upcoming book Cruising The Anime City: An Otaku Guide to Neo Tokyo from Stone Bridge Press. One more interesting stories told was about this guy in Japan who has nothing but unopened model kits stacked from floor to ceiling in his house. Overall though, the panel made me hyped for the book, so it was an effective hour.

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Next up was "Writing About Anime" where Jonathan Clements, Helen McCarthy, Fred Patten, Patrick Macias and Carl Horn all took to the stage and talked about what life is really like for a writer. I kind of all ready knew about most of the topics they were talking about, but I was amazed to find out that the reason there are not more books on anime is directly attributable to the fact that Japanese companies refuse to let publishers use artwork from their shows. I kept thinking to myself, "man, that must be why we have such a hard time finding full-size artwork for Animefringe's covers!"

Wrapping things up was "The History of AWA" at four and the Closing Ceremonies at five. The history had the key staff telling the trials and tribulations of getting the first con together and all the various hotels and convention center problems they have had. They all seemed to agree that the Cobb Galleria and Convention Center is the perfect place for the con and I actually have to agree. It's in the best location and it is more than big enough.

AWA wrapped with the Closing Ceremonies with the guests being seen off and a tally of the con's pros and, well, cons being made. Honestly, nothing overly bad was said. In fact, there was more praise than anything else and that has to mean something: AWA got this one right.

Sadly, it had to end. And by ten that night, I was safe at home and ready to write this bad boy up. Hmm, I wonder where will my next con experience lead me.

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