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Conventional Wisdom

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This year I went to an overwhelming number of conventions.  A lot.  A total of 12 this year, with two falling on the same weekend.  Since I am wrapping up my convention season and I learned a lot from the experience,  I figured my blog would be the best avenue for discussion.

At the beginning of the year, I set a goal to visit as many conventions as I could.  I figured it would be a fantastic endeavor considering I’ve always enjoyed the atmosphere of cosplay, being surrounded by people with like minds and having the opportunity to travel.

And travel I did.  I visited Los Angeles, Chicago, Denver, Dallas, Tulsa, Oklahoma City and Kansas City – along with some common stops within Arkansas to watch my local conventions grow.  On average, I was in a different city at least once a month this year, and I couldn’t have been happier with the experience.

Company, Not Quantity

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One thing I made sure to do while traveling this year was to  visit cons both large and small.  I went to the largest North American convention, Anime Expo and likely one of the smallest, Anime Con Arkansas.  I had a blast at both.

In both cases, I enjoyed myself so thoroughly not because of the number of people attending (or lack thereof), but because I surrounded myself with quality people.  I went to Anime Con Arkansas with some of my best friends.  We sang karaoke; we hobbled around the convention hall after getting cut off of Fireball shots at the Flying Saucer –  we enjoyed ourselves despite having relatively nothing to do at the convention.

While the Arkansas convention scene was usual, expected and comfortable, I went to Anime Expo nearly blind of the territory and without really knowing the people I would be staying with.  I returned still blind, since I lost my glasses in the Pacific Ocean, but invigorated by having made new friends that share the same zeal as me.

Conversely, there were a few cons I visited this year that I observed mostly alone.  While I wouldn’t even begin to say I didn’t enjoy myself at these conventions, there is something to be said about having partners in crime.  Whether it’s helping a friend with his passion for art or simply contracting a solid crew for your convention, I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to have someone to share in the experience and make it all the more memorable.

Passion For The Community

Over the years I’ve been a cosplayer, a photographer with shaky hands, a dealer’s room enthusiast and an art salesman assisting a friend.  Next year, I plan on being a panelist.

The point being – whatever your convention passion is, live it and breathe it.  As a cosplayer, I strive to be a good representation of the character I am cosplaying as, even if it is obscure.  Especially if it is obscure.  As a photographer I took pictures of moments and not just costumes – some of my favorite photos and videos are from Nan Desu Kan, where so many random gatherings happened that I was able to enjoy despite flying solo.  At several cons this year, helping a friend sell art gave me unimaginable joy.  The short interactions with people, the enthusiastic remarks (even if some become predictable) and the knowledge that I am helping a friend while enjoying myself – I wouldn’t trade that for the world.

Learn your passions and explore them.  Then find new ones and enrich your life.

The Broadening Convention Demographic

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One of the trends I’ve noticed and celebrated over the past few years, especially after having visited so many conventions this year, is the widening of the age group considered acceptable at conventions.

When I visited my first convention (A2F in 2008), I thought my group of friends was an outlier in the convention scene.  College adults who enjoyed anime and wearing costumes.  But while that still is the case to some extent at A2F – to a fault since its demographic is aging past its target audience – it is certainly not the case for the majority of conventions I attended.

Most conventions are adopting more adult activities and I’m not just talking hentai night.  Late night readings of bad fan-fiction.  Lounges to drink and talk about anime.  There’s way more (interesting) things to do as an adult at a convention these days, and most conventions are beginning to follow suit with offering the expanded content.

Onward and Outward

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I’m not sure if I will attend the same volume of conventions next year, but I’ll definitely be a serial con-goer.

My goal is a little broader for next year – both in scope and in reach.  I’d like to visit at least the top 5 largest anime conventions in the United States next year, but also revisit Japan for Comiket.

One of the things I have learned about myself over the past year  is that I love travel.  New places bring life to me like nothing else – and the experience is energizing.  I would not have discovered this if not for the pull that conventions have had on me.

So get out there and live your passion.  Anime, comics, anything.  You’ll definitely learn something about yourself in the process.

Spring 2013 Wave 1: I’mma Chargin Mah Cell Phone

So far the Spring season has been entertaining, though in one case at the expense of the series.  So far, I’ve watched Devil Survivor and Majestic Prince.

Devil Survivor 2

 

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So far Devil Survivor 2 definitely has the feel of a Shin Megami Tensei game, which some might recall I had a problem with Persona 4 for that very reason.  Despite that, it seems to be providing a good enough premise without disjointing its view-ability by including too many elements from the game.  So far, all we know is that there are cell phone applications that both predict impending doom of characters and summon creatures that will protect you.  It’s not much to go off of, but the characters seem lively enough for me to keep up with the series.

Majestic Prince

immacharginmylasersI can’t believe I made it through an episode of this show.  I’m sort of glad that I did only because the above picture (sans paint editing) was hilarious after watching an already awful episode.  Seriously though, the characters are worthless, there seems to be no semblance of a plot and we get silly animation inconsistencies like the above.  The show has no hook – don’t waste your time.

 

Zetsuen no Tempest: Blast from the Past

“What’s past is prologue.” – The Tempest – William Shakespeare

Nothing could say more about Blast of Tempest than Shakespeare’s The Tempest which is heavily referenced throughout the series.  Blast of Tempest is a story about overcoming entrapment in the past, both figuratively and literally.

Story

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One thing that can be said about Blast of Tempest is that it follows a logical premise that manages to feel legitimately inspired despite its fair share of twists.  Even though the story involves magic, the series defines a strong logical framework that both empowers and entraps its characters.

Above all, our character’s personal history is a major factor in the series.  It drives Mahiro on a vengeful path to determine who killed his sister and weighs down Yoshino to the point of near-detachment.  It is only when these characters are able to accept fate and focus that they are able to allow a tragic event to become the means to a better end (saving the world).  Moreover, past as a general influence is extremely well-realized.  Events in the past, including Hakaze’s imprisonment, Aika’s death, and even further back to the formation of the Tree of Exodus as a means to end the Tree of Genesis’s purpose in resetting humanity are central to the plot.

Furthermore, the notion of order and chaos is thematically prevalent in the series.  Even though the Tree of Genesis represents order, it is only with the chaos represented by the Tree of Exodus that humanity can thrive and even exist.  Despite the resurgence of crime and inequality after the dissolution of the Tree of Genesis, it is easy to understand the necessity in the action and why the order imposed by the Tree of Genesis would eventually deem all of humanity unrighteous.

The only major flaw to Blast of Tempest‘s story is that it tends to use its characters as if they are actors in a play (perhaps intentionally).  Each character plays his part, often without question.  This is extremely noticeable in Aika’s casual acceptance of her fate despite what clearly would have been a difficult decision – but this may actually speak more to her character than to the show’s tendency to have its actors fill a role.

Characters

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Character development is very important in Blast of Tempest – and all of its main characters, Hakaze, Yoshino, Mahiro and Aika, are a strong basis to the show’s central themes despite their differing personas.  What enforces their strength is their intelligence – even in Mahiro’s case – the characters carefully and cleverly plan their actions.

Hakaze is a strong female lead that is open and direct, while sometimes being too upfront and occasionally becoming distracted by desire.  What defines Hakaze the most is that, despite her attunement to the Tree of Genesis, she is far from unquestioning.  Her actions are often fueled by her desire to seek her own path, even with opposition or without knowing the consequences.  It makes her into a character nearly embracing chaos despite the order surrounding her – which accentuates her foil in Aika.

Aika, though appearing frail, is strong to a fault.  Her character embraces the ideology of Exodus far too unconditionally which is but testament to her acceptance with being an actress in a play.  She often quotes Hamlet and The Tempest because she feels that her only goals have already been previously scripted and she must play to those ideals.

Mahiro, on the other hand, represents another extreme of chaos with his absolute path of vengeance.  His early ambitions are simply to avenge the death of Aika, but this actually drives him to greatness because of her involvement in much more crucial matters.  When he is freed from this path, his goal has actually become to enact a plan to save the world.  Mahiro is a renegade without being overly reckless and ambitious to a point where he is not clouded.

Yoshino, for a large majority of the show, is very detached.  Aika’s death had an opposing effect on him in that he nearly lost desire to function after her passing.  Even though he is tied down by her loss, he thinks clearly and keeps Mahiro in check when he is pushing himself too far.  It’s important to note that Yoshino is the last character to resolve his past as a lesson in history, because he is too entrapped by it.  Hakaze’s confessions to him cause him to break because he is not ready to continue his life until all others’ problems have been resolved.

Quality

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Blast of Tempest is breathtaking visually and its usage of classical pieces in its soundtrack is excellently done.  By now, this is what we expect from BONES, so it isn’t too unbelievable that this show lives up to BONES’s capability to generate quality in its production value.  Particularly of note are the show’s excellent action scenes that accentuate brilliant animation along with well-utilized classical music.

Closing

While Blast of Tempest occasionally falls short of absolute excellence in its willingness to allow its characters to fill roles, it presents a story of past entanglements that is very well-realized and non-contradictory with a cast that synergizes their differing viewpoints.

RATING:  9/10

I’m now cross-posting reviews over on Hummingbird!  If you liked my review, take a minute to vote up My Hummingbird Blast of Tempest Review too!

Anime Soul Gems and Grief Seeds (Fall 2011)

Anime Soul Gems and Grief Seeds (Fall 2011)

After 20 minutes of searching for something "Award" themed..."Just use something related to Madoka!"

This is the debut for another new column that I’m also going to try to keep up with on this blog  –  “Anime Soul Gems and Grief Seeds.”  The point of this column is to judge the good and trash of a season, though I may extend this to include more than just a season.  Grief Seeds are judged on Worst Plot, Worst Character Design, and Worst Animation.  Soul Gems consist of the opposites:  Best Plot, Best Character Design, and Best Animation.  Both categories will have a special Seed or Gem, as well to deter from stagnant categories.

So, since the Winter anime season is coming up fast it’s about time to issue out some Grief Seeds and Soul Gems.  Here are this season’s Grief Seeds:

Grief Seeds

Worst Plot

Phi Brain: Kami no Puzzle

While I thought that this series might end up doing something, it instead turned out to be pretty much a Yugioh rehash where people take puzzles WAY too seriously.  Major Grief Seed here because it could have done a lot more for itself.

Worst Character Design

Mobile Suit Gundam AGE

Honestly, the character designs for Gundam AGE really just killed the show.  It’s really hard to take 10-year-old boys seriously especially when they have ridiculous hair.  From what I saw Teal Boy is also a whiny bitch.

Worst Animation

Un-Go

Honestly this is a pretty hard category.  Most animation is pretty decent these days or it doesn’t make it on TV, but Un-Go had nothing spectacular going for it and the animation was kind of awkward.  So it’ll take this season’s “Worst Animation” Grief Seed.  Honestly, not an absolutely awful show.

Most Overhyped and Mediocre

Persona 4:  The Animation

I can’t stress enough how much the Persona series gets overhyped for purely mediocre story.  There were some neat “ideas” in this show, but they were so poorly executed that it just wasn’t worth wasting any more time on it than I did.  Sometimes I just don’t understand how some games and anime get their fanbase.

Soul Gems

Best Plot

Fate/Zero

While the beginning of this series was completely tuned to fans of the original series, as the show has gone on, it has really developed a lot on its own and really done well in presenting each and every Master’s unique ambitions and their interactions.  Very well done so far and it’s always at the top of my list of shows each week.

Best Character Design

Ben-To

I’ve debated and debated on this show because it really doesn’t feel like something I would usually like.  But overall I’m extremely happy with the show even if it decides it’s not going to go anywhere.  The characters are all pretty stereotypical, but clearly to the point of parody.  The show is ridiculous in every way and all the more fun.  I’d have to say that pretty much all the Soul Gems this season have great characters, though.

Best Animation

Guilty Crown

Guilty Crown is BEAUTIFULLY animated and, so far, has the story and characters to back up the animation.  Pretty much everything is vibrantly drawn with a lot of attention to detail and there is a lot of creativity in the series’ weapons and apparel.  Sometimes it makes it to the point of visual overload, but when it does, it really still looks nice.

Most “WTF is Going On?!”

Shakugan no Shana Final

No, but seriously.  What the hell is going on in this series?  It’s ALMOST to the point where I’m not liking not knowing where this is going because it’s getting really deep into the season and there still no clue as to why Yuji is with the Bal Masque.  I’m thinking it’s going to end up being a “We can live together as Crimson Denizens and Flame Hazes” piece of crap, but I think that the only reason I’m sticking with this show is because I’ve stuck with the previous two series and because I really want to know what’s going to happen next.  I don’t know how I feel about the series throwing the curve-ball that it did, though.

Honorable Gems:

1. Mirai Nikki (Really pretty good.  Yandere is super Yandere)

2. Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai (Relatively funny.)

3. Hunter X Hunter (if you’re okay with getting into a longer series)

Expendable Seeds:

1. Working!! (Moe shit.)

2.  Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon (Ecchi garbage.)

3.  Pretty much everything else this season…