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Saturday, September 8, 2012

Fanime 2012

Fanime has been and probably always will be one of my favorite cons to attend, and not just because it’s in my hometown. Fanime is known as the con by the fans for the fans and pretty much runs on just volunteer help. Yet it still pulls in thousands of attendees year after year and just keeps getting bigger.

T1nk & H4773r (aka Red Bird and Kotetsu) Photos belong to T1nkC0nFairy
Fanime started out as a small, free convention in 1994 at Cal State Hayward. As Fanime continued to grow in popularity it changed venues several times before finally coming to the San Jose McEnery Convention Center, where it still continues to reside today. There is no official documentation for overall attendance but it's estimated around 20,000 people attended this past year. (Info taken from Wikipedia.)

One of my favorite parts about this con is you can still "attend" without having a badge. There are several areas in the "concourse" that are free to the public. Here you can see some events at "Stage Zero" or just people watch.

Hotel accommodations: Fanime works with both hotels connected directly to the McEnery Convention Center, The Marriott and The Hilton. They also partner with the Sainte Claire and the very posh Fairmont. Of course favorites are the The Marriott and Hilton because they have direct opening right into the con center, but the St. Claire and Fairmont are within very short walking distance. There is also the DoubleTree which is farther away but runs a shuttle to and from the con. Of course, book early! I believe announcements for reservations went up in early February on both the Fanime twitter site and Facebook page and rooms were booked within hours. The hotels are very used to being invaded by Fanime and while it’s frowned upon I have known people to shove upwards of 6+ guests to a room.

Parking: If you’re staying at one of the hotels listed above there will be valet parking offered. I honestly don’t know what the rates per days are, but it certainly isn’t cheap. There is also parking at the McHenry Convention Center, but again, not cheap. For “cheaper” parking there are a couple of options. First are two lots on the west side of the con center. Both lots are available for about $7 a day and the lot on Almaden Boulevard also offers overnight parking. I ended up parking at a lot off of Azuerais Avenue near the Children's Discovery Museum. It was within walking distance and only $5 a day with in and out privileges. There are a lots on 3rd and San Carlos and 4th and San Fernando that have pay by the hour parking until 6pm and then it becomes a flat rate, but they are not overnight. And of course many parking lots for various prices in-between these streets.

Food: There is plenty to eat at very reasonable prices around the con center. I never recommend buying food at the con itself, but there are a few exceptions I make. One, Psycho Donuts! There is a location on 2nd and E. San Carlos but this year they actually set up a booth to sell Psycho Psushi and drinks. Within the con there was also Tengu Sushi (I think), which sold bento boxes, and Sweet Breams, which sold taiyaki. Within reasonable walking distance you can find plenty of fast food, favorites beings McDonald’s, Jack in the Box, and Pizza My Heart.  If you’re willing to walk a bit further not only will you find more great restaurants, such as Gordon Biersch, but also the local downtown Safeway. I can cannot tell you how thrilled I was that the Peet's Coffee within the convention center stayed open 24/7 all weekend long; it was such a life saver.
(Notes to my veg foodies: my favorite recommendations are Psycho Donuts, which serves vegan donuts, and  the Pita Pit, which has late hours.)

Psycho Psushi (photo belongs to T1nkC0nFairy)

What I did at Fanime this year: Fanime offers a wide variety of panels and I had promised myself I would try to attend more of them this year, alas my personal life didn’t allow me to. So I only ended up at three panels this year.

Viz Media: presented by Viz Media to discuss upcoming Viz Media releases. A very informative panel on upcoming manga and video releases and where to buy them as well as some nice prizes offered for answering some very simple trivia questions.

Is It Real?: presented by Armor-Geddon and the Twilight Knights. An informative panel, that I actually assisted in, hosted by my fiancé, Tony “H4773r” Elfson Sales. He discussed what makes a knife/sword practical vs. non-practical, how to maintain your weaponry, and different styles of weaponry.

H4773r educates (photo belongs to T1nkC0nFairy)

Geeky Networking 101: presented by Venus De Coy of Goddess Productions. Again, another informative panel, complete with handout, on approaching fellow geeks for networking purposes. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to stick around for the entire panel so I don’t know whether or not her techniques were put to practical use at the end of the panel.

Costume Masquerade: I did not wait in the uber long line that went around 3 blocks this year. Instead I waited until about an hour after it started and then was able to just walk in and get seats, albeit in the nosebleed section of the auditorium, but seats nonetheless. I caught the end of the walk-on costume parade and the first 15 skits before I realized I need to leave and catch a panel. The masquerade is full of hits and misses as one would expect. Some skits are hilarious even if you've never seen the anime and others are just lacking. But I still enjoy trying to catch it for the amazing gems that show up. Also our MC was great at keeping the audience fairly occupied.

New Anime I Caught

Avatar the Last Airbender: Abridged
I've seen the entire Airbender series, which makes watching the abridged version that much more enjoyable.
 It's just absolutely hilarious, even if you've never watched the anime before. In general, I think the abridged series does well to summarize the episodes.

Space Battleship Yamato 2199
Fanime presented the first four episodes of this new series. I'd love to see the rest. I'm not the biggest space anime person, but I really got into the characters and storyline.

Revolutionary Girl Utena
I keep catching the first few episodes and really need to find the rest of the series. I find the plot intriguing and the implications of a relationship between Utena and Anthy so dreamy.

Things I missed out on that I hope to catch up on next year

Black and White Ball
The Black and White Ball is considered a formal, dress-up event. There are several dance classes held throughout the day that teach you the basics of such styles as the Waltz and Salsa, etc. I had heard from different resources that the enforcement for attire was hit and miss with con staff. Some staff members got super picky about certain outfit aspects and let other aspects slide. While the guidelines were very clear the consensus was that Fanime staff wasn't. Last year there were no in/out privileges; if you left the ball you had to wait in a very long line to get back in. I'm not sure if they had this same rule this year. Perhaps next year I'll actually be able to attend and enjoy a few dances. The ball was also scheduled the same time as Cosplay Spectacular. I'm not sure if this was done to prevents both events from being overcrowded, but since I usually attend the Spectacular I decided to pass on the Ball.

The Raves aka Fanimecon Dance
Fanime brought back their raves with a vengeance. In the last few years the raves had fallen to the wayside with very light attendance. This year Fanime brought in several D.J.'s and rotated them throughout the weekend so there was something new every night. Again, long lines to get in and I heard staff was being strict on things like bag checks. I haven't been to the rave since my first Fanimecon, and back then it was quite so-so. If Fanime continues to bring in the rave D.J. rotation I'm going to try and make time to go next year.

Gaming Room
I didn't stop in at all this year. Fanime does a great job of offering several different gaming platforms and the room is staffed 24/7 throughout the weekend. As well as offering a few tournaments. I just didn't have the time or desire to go in. But I will hopefully be learning Magic: The Gathering soon and be able to join in the fun next year.

Every year I tell myself I'm going to at least stop in and maybe one year convince myself to participate and yet never get around to it. Although I can usually hear them as I wander the video rooms area. The great thing about the Karoake contest winners is they get to perform during the Masquerade. I caught this year's winner, a sister duo (Astro Ninja Fruits) that did an excellent job.

Here they are performing at the Masquerade.

Fanime association with Clockwork Alchemy
This was something very new for Fanime this year. San Jose normally has a small steampunk convention hosted through Nova Albion. Nova Albion was cancelled this year and I heard that Fanime had agreed to host Clockwork Alchemy as a way to still celebrate a steampunk con. It was an interesting sort of setup. Clockwork setup at the DoubleTree Hotel and a shuttle ran between the two cons to transport attendees. If you bought a pass to one con you were able to get into the other con with your pass. I was unable to attend the Steampunk con for various reasons. I heard that it was fun and everyone I talked to who attended seemed to have a good time, but there was an overall complaint on the lack of organization. Fanime puts out a convention guide with summaries of all the panels and main events as well as a pocket guide with all the times of events. The Fanime Guide also doubled for Clockwork Alchemy. However the Clockwork side seemed terribly lacking in panel descriptions and the pocket guide was very late to upload onto the Clockwork site. I'm very curious to see whether this partnership continues.

Of course despite the fact I missed out on much of the con due to being a theatregeek I still had a great weekend, and as always, plan on attending next year. In fact, my goal next year is to not be a theatreg33k during Fanime and actually enjoy the entire con. Look for me and H4773r panel hosting next year.

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