The best part of Anime Boston is the killer location. Right in the middle of Boston’s Back Bay, the Hynes Convention Center is connected to an upscale mall in the Prudential Center, (called “The Pru” by locals), home to the only good mall food court I’ve ever eaten at, and across the street from a Trader Joe’s and an infinite number of restaurants and bars. The central location leads to a lot of hilarious scenes of cat-eared con goers mixing with the general public, many of whom have no idea what’s going on. Imagine a totally normal office worker commuting in when suddenly a girl dressed as YuGiOh gets on the train – with her real hair spiked and spray painted, not a wig – and the girl next to her is holding a giant key. 45 minutes outside of the convention center, I saw a Weighted Companion Cube waiting for a bus.
15,400 people attended Anime Boston 2009, topping out last year’s numbers. It’s one of the top ten largest anime conventions in the U.S.
In 2008 Anime Boston was plagued by a total registration meltdown. Paid attendees waited in line for up to eight hours. This year the con hired a different registration company, and everything ran smoothly – with a couple of bumps. They wouldn’t let in my podcast partner Noah until I smoothed things out.
Normally I record a lot of podcast material at Anime Boston, but this year my mixer shorted out before the first panel on Friday morning, which I was moderating. “Please Save My Manga” went down without a hitch, but I was unable to record it.
Anime Boston is not an industry convention. David Williams of ADV Films always attends, and he was there again this year. The ADV panel went straight to Q&A without announcements. Funimation had a big presence in the dealer’s room, heavily promoting Romeo X Juliet, and they announced they had acquired the Spice and Wolf anime series. Media Blasters had a booth in the dealer’s room, but had no new announcements and no panel.
I love Anime Boston – since it’s in the Northeast (the BAMA “Sprawl” according to Neuromancer), it’s easy to get to on public transit. It’s just four hours to New York City, about $30 roundtrip, which explains the presence of NYC locals Tom Wayland and “Misako Rocks!” as guests of honor.
More than anything else, Anime Boston is a great convention for panels. I took the name of my podcast from a Transformers joke in Neil Nadelman’s annual “Totally Lame Anime” panel. Daryl Surat and Mike Toole were on hand this year to run “Japanese Animation Hell” – with less anime than 3-D Bollywood films and gory industrial safety videos.
I like to think – and maybe it’s just my imagination – that Anime Boston is slightly more intellectual than other conventions. It’s not just the proximity to Harvard, there are more than 50 colleges in the area. You won’t find “Ninja in an Hour” at Anime Boston, but you will find panels like “Death Note – The Psychology of Solipsism.” Unfortunately I missed “The Absolute Worst of Osamu Tezuka” because it ran opposite my panel.
I did make it to Mike Toole’s “Panel to the West,” about the many adaptations of Journey to the West. Mike almost didn’t make it. His video files were stored on an external hard drive, and an hour before the panel he turned on the drive and nothing happened. He opened the case to find the circuit board had shattered, then sprinted to Best Buy, followed by Radio Shack, to get new parts. Mike arrived at the panel just 15 minutes late, and with the help of Daryl’s laptop, the panel was a success. The audience was partially filled with old men who had read more of the book than Mike and who were quick to correct him on the details. A group of fangirls in the back waited very patiently for the inevitable Saiyuki clip and then squealed.
Despite the high-minded panels, there are also plenty of 4chan-ers at Anime Boston. Pedobear was wandering around on Friday and a parade of people chanting something about Candle Jack on Saturday really ruined my argument that AB is the intellectual convention.
Honestly, I missed a lot of the convention because I was too busy adding slides of Legend of Koizumi, Saint Young Men, and Kishoku Hunter (Junk Food Hunter) to my “Manga Genre Madness” panel. The panel was well attended, and a couple of parents came up to me afterwards who were new to the whole manga scene. They found my slides of obscure badminton titles and manga about kittens really informative, much to my surprise. I quickly recommended Jason Thompson’s book as further reading.
Towards the end of the convention, the oldschool fan parody group PineSalad Productions gave a panel on how to do a parody fan dub. They played a clip of Dirty Pair set to the Laverne and Shirley theme song. I suddenly realized that almost no one in the room remembered Dirty Pair, Laverne and Shirley, or PineSalad. Only two 30-something guys dressed as their original RPG characters laughed with me.
On the way out of the con, I overheard one girl say, “I can’t wait until next year when we can afford to buy our own badges!”