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Anime USA 2011: Every Time We Say...Good Bye.....

So we’ve reached the end of another Con year, and the closing of a book, truth be told. 6 Cons, 4 full weekends, 2 day trips…and the final departure from the Crystal City Hyatt Regency. Starting in 2012 Anime USA will be housed at the Marriott Wardman Park in Washington, DC, leaving the Crystal City Hyatt Regency without an anime con for the first time since 2005, and low likelihood of another replacement in the foreseeable future. Change is obviously inevitable and usually for the best, but it’s still a bit hard to say goodbye to a hotel that has hosted so many cons during its existence. Anime USA, Katsucon, Otakon, T-Mode…., so many cons over the years. Thankfully, we go out on a high note.

Per the usual, AnimeUSA was 3…well, 2.5 days this year packed to the gills with panels, bands, anime, the dealer’s room, popup panels, raves, artist’s alley, maid cafe…and on and on and on and on to the tune of over 4,000 conventioneers and over 5,000 people in total. Friday opened with a wonderful run of panels a bit later in the evening. Among other snafus this year were some hiccups with the panel schedule getting out and some changes to it. Biggest issue was the videogame room having to be packed up and moved up 3 levels due to the fire marshal putting the kibosh on the room it was supposed to be in. Granted, that room was actually a portion of the parking garage that had been walled off so the space was odd to beginning with, but unfortunately the result was that the board gaming library went away completely.

That said, the night was fabulous once the panels I was interested in were rolling. “Spoiler! The Panel” is always a great time, and given that they had almost 3 hours in a theater style conference room they were able to go through an hour and a half of new material plus outtakes and previously unused material from years past and a few greatest hits as well. Following on the heels of that was almost 3 hours of “Convention Horror Stories” including previously unheard stories from this year’s New York Anime Fest/New York Comic Con/What The Heck Is Anime? Con. Apparently that was a real horror story. That also marked the end of the con for the night…being that it was after 1 in the morning. Sure, there was sit around and chat time, but that’s its own thing, usually.

And what follows Friday? Saturday…Saturday…Saaaturday, the big day, the big deal, the one where everything happens. And lots of things did happen, though so many of them were so late in the evening that I actually got to sleep in a little bit. Always nice to not be a zombie by the time the next 3 A.M. rolls by. Starting off the day with a touch of commerce in the Dealer’s Room, it was a little saddening to see only 4 tables with any kind of anime at all and only one with any manga. It was mostly faux-witty t-shirts, rave gear and non-media merchandise. I know anime viewers don’t have to go to Cons to get unusual anime, or anime in general, anymore but it’s still depressing to see so little anime at a convention that is supposed to be about it. Thankfully one of the dealers was the always reliable Sci-Fi Continuum, which made it very easy to pick up some things I was looking for at disgustingly cheap prices. I don’t ever want to hear anyone complain that “Anime is expensive!!!!!!” when you can stream tons of it for free, legally, and I can get the entire BECK collector’s box set for 35 bucks at a Con.

Paneling on Saturday brought out an interesting mixture of things to enjoy. The “Council of Nicea: an Eva Panel” got deep into the weeds of the various influences and production issues that made Neon Genesis Evangelion the show that it was and movie series it is now. “Kowai: Monsters and Fear in Japan” (Kowai, not Kawaii, a very important distinction) covered a portion of the more famous monsters and other fear makers in Japanese lore and legend, along with how Japanese monsters differ from American and European monsters. Unfortunately I did not make it to a regular screening of this year’s AMV contest, but I did see the winner’s wrap up. Decent list, if a bit derivative of other cons’ contests earlier this year.

The paneling got even better after the sunset, starting with “The Meta Panel”. A panel giving contest made up of a half dozen mini-panels dictated by the Meta Panel hosts and presented by audience members, with a little help from a group of “panel experts” who could be selected by the contestant to help them out. It may have been the funniest panel of the weekend. OK, no it wasn’t—that was the late night Anime Parliament session. Before that was some more background on the people behind Studio Gainax and Evangelion and the surprisingly loud Matenrou Orchestra concert. I didn’t know what to expect from their show, and I knew none of their music, but they put on a really good show. Very enjoyable if you like your music loud. And last but not least……Anime Parliament 18+! I can’t say too much being that we are a vaguely family friendly website…but….well…”heat seeking butt missile.” It makes sense when you hear the full Parliament case, honest! As does the idea for the “Heat Seeking Butt Missile Coalition” and the idea for a con on the Jersey Shore once you dig deep enough into the 3 A.M. rantings of barely awake convention panelists on a laughter high.

And that’s what it’s really all about, the laughter and the joy of being with your fellow fans. Finding out from them that Crystal City’s finest gay bar also has Crystal City’s finest Sunday Champagne brunch (Freddie’s on 23rd Street, you learn something new every year). Finding out that you’re not alone in your less than positive opinion on various things of note when it feels like you might be at first. There’s a measure of comfort in not being alone, which I suppose would be why we spend so much time and money on these conventions in the first place. So, we close out 2011 on a high note and prepare to say goodbye. But it’s not goodbye to the people who really make Anime USA the amazing event that it is. They’ll all be coming along for the next evolution of Anime USA, with its Carnivale Fantasia theme. Plenty of room for all now. Let’s make some more great memories next year.

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