Japanese fashion and music took over the Garden State Exhibition Center from June 8 to 10. In it’s 11th year, AnimeNEXT kicked off it’s next decade of con greatness with popular, musical group, Berryz Kobo and the latest from leading lolita fashion h.NAOTO with GRAMM designer, Z8. Visual kei artist from the disbanded RENTRER EN SOI, Satsuki returns for his second AnimeNEXT visit, promoting his latest single, Romance and collaboration project, Moon Stream. Chief editor of Weekly Ascii, Fukuoka Toshihiro returns to the East coast cons with his first visit to AnimeNEXT. Stateside guests, we have varied voice actors including Leah Clark, Michelle Knotz, Kyle Hebert and Kara Edwards. Add in a healthy mix of cosplayers, artists, dancers and singers, we have ourselves a fantastic weekend!
Friday: June 8
I left the hotel around 11am and headed to the con center. There was already a line forming in front of the con. There was a line for the artist alley as well which opened at 11am, but since lines are not a big deal at AnimeNEXT, we were quickly ushered in.
The layout of the main con center is about the same as last year with the artist alley, main events and autograph area to the left side with the dealer’s room to the right side of the hall. The main difference was how to get to the dealer’s room and the main events…since the middle corridor was closed off to regular attendees. The setup to go into the Dealer’s Room is that you have to leave the building (taking the exit towards the DoubleTree) and than you turn left, go around the building and than enter through the side door. I can’t imagine it to be that convenient even if it frees up the space in front of the Main Events. Turns out, the fire and safety warden stated that the middle corridor was a hazard and requested it not be used. I’m curious to this decision since the layout hasn’t changed since the con moved to the Garden State Exhibition center. I’m also curious to see what will happen next year since many people (especially cosplayers,) was not thrilled with the prospect of stepping outside just to go to the dealer’s room.
(I doubt it affected the sales in the Dealer’s Room since it was packed on saturday…)
I headed into the artist alley and found myself in front of the Visual kei artist, Satsuki-san’s table…with the man himself behind it. Satsuki was very open to autographs at the table as well as photo requests and questions. Throughout the weekend, he updated his twitter (in English) constantly, twitting that he was at the booth or at panels. It was wonderful to see him reach out to his fans.
I spoke with the marketing director of Vertical, Ed Chavez and discovered that they have two series under wraps (which I’m not able to share officially) but commented that Paradise Kiss promises to have more colored pages. Turns out, Vertial was at TAF this year with Konami Kanata-sensei promoting Chi’s Sweet Home. It is amazing to see a US publishing prescence at Japanese conventions. (Though not a publishing company, one year I even saw Otakon there as well.)
Opening Ceremonies fun
AnimeNEXT takes opening ceremonies for a twist with cosplayer, Euphoria hosting, singing and introducing guests. The random questions bit prompted some hilarious answers, but most of all, many fans came to see Berryz Kobo….
Satsuki Q&A – Friday
The panel itself was good, except that being on friday, barely half the room was filled. Satsuki-san has always had a ‘cute’ and ‘pretty’ persona. For some reason, he decided to go for ‘dark’ and ‘vampirish’ look this time. The panel began a bit late with the interpreter being in the restroom…but Satsuki knowing a bit of English decided to forge ahead…. He began by first turning down the lights. XD
just a bit of the concert
The concert for Berryz Kobo started at 7pm. The Japanese fans in the back were dancing the infamous fanboy dance. It was amusing to watch. As promised, their encore piece was the song voted the highest by the fans on the AnimeNEXT site.
Yuujou Junjou Oh Seishun
Koi no Jubaku
Ai no Suki Suki Shishuu Joushouchuu
Otakebi Boy WAO!
Jiriri Kiteru (most voted)
The crowds that left the main events area gathered in the back of the con center chanting ‘Berryz saikou! and ‘Momoko kawaii!’ for quite some time. I’m not sure if they were expecting them to appear through the back doors, but they had fun doing it.
Saturday: June 9
taking to the catwalk
One of the main events of the weekend was the GRAMM Fashion show. The show began with the story of GRAMM. As with the fashion of h.NAOTO, each designer has a style and a story, Z8’s is based on the fairy tale, ‘Wonder Trip of Alpuuro and Roque’. In English, the story was told at the beginning and than the models appeared. The models were volunteers chosen prior to the con. Makeup as well as hair stylists were also volunteers. Amateurs or not, the results were striking as they took the stage.
There was a short Q&A after the fashion show that had Z8 describe her designs. A model came on stage and Z8 went through the thought-process of the outfit, including the special points which includes the hat design that is made from vegetables and feathers.
- Q: Many of the designs are very ‘natural’, taking elements from nature. Do you like wandering around in the woods to get your inspiration?
Z8: I do like to take walks.
Q: Where did the inspiration for the original story of GRAMM come from?
Z8: I actually got the inspiration from Grimm’s fairytales. When I was younger, I imagined the different sides of the fairytales.
Q: With the increase of popularity in fairytales in pop culture, do you get inspiration from films like Disney? Do they influence your designs?
Z8: I actually get inspiration from Japanese manga.
Due to time constraints, Z8 closed the Q&A with a message to the fans.
- Z8: Today and tomorrow I will be at the booth and I want to coordinate outfits for people. So please drop by!
Satsuki Q&A – Saturday
After the fashion show, we waited until close to 3:40 for the Berryz Kobo panel. They took alot of time setting up the stage and testing out the mics. Rules were given in English and than in Japanese for the fanclub that came with Berryz Kobo. Gifts can be given during the Q&A session…but the person cannot also ask a question. They opened with special video of the group followed by them coming on stage for a photo session. Than they vacated the stage so chairs and tables could be set up for the Q&A session. Unfortunately, I didn’t stay for it since I wanted to go to the Satsuki panel held at 4pm.
Prior to the masquerade, the amv winners were announced. Below are the youtube links to some of my fav entries and winners.
- The Kingdom of L.F.S. – Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children – Runner up in the Trailer/Parody and Coordinator’s Choice. lol I love the scene choices that makes it a good ‘trailer’ and a humorous parody.
Stay – 5 Cm Per Second – Romance/Sentimental winner! It’s dramatic and beautiful instead of simply being sad. The lyrics and music pair so well with the series.
The Beauty and the Poet – Various – Romance/Sentimental entrant. Instead of a simple couple, the beautiful mix of various girls and their loves. Awesome editing.
A few wrong notes… – Nodame Cantible – Romance/Sentimental runner up. A beautiful song to go with the melodic series such as this. A profile type of amv for the headline couple. Such a romantic….
Fairytale of Lies – RomeoxJuliet – Drama winner! The action scenes are also beautifully added to add to an already beautifully tense story. Immediate fav of the entries
Abduction – Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko – Drama entrant. I’m not familiar with the series so perhaps the drama is lost on me. But the amv is editted very well.
Starcraft – Cardcaptors Sakura – Action runner up. It’s rare to see a classic series as this one get such a wonderful action treatment. But that’s not why I fav it. The edits are so wonderfully done, highlighting several scenes in the many fights that Sakura endures.
Pop Culture – Various – Artist winner. It takes the dance category and turn it around. There are so many classic series that it appealed to everyone. And the fujoshi with the Gravitation scenes.
Without You – Various – Artist runner up. Heavily editted with so many action scenes. Almost like an MEP but done by one person.
She Loves That Rock and Roll – K-ON! – Dance/Fun runner up. What a perfect profile song for Yui.
Hands up! – Dragon Ball Z – Dance/Fun winner! The entire audience laughed when the chorus came up since it truly is the perfect song to a good portion of the series. Hercule also had an awesome reception.
A Brainless Video – High School of the Dead – Comedy runner up. I wonder if this was censored during the showing. ^^;
Text Me – Steins;Gate – Comedy entrant. lol This is such an awesome song that is perfect for this series…and Durarara!!!. XD
Unlinked, but the Action winner, ‘Put Ya Guns On!’ from Sengoku Basara was also very good. I’m also interested to see ‘Rebirth of a Dream’ from Uragiri wa Boku no Namae wo Shitteiru in the Artistic category.
After the amvs, the masquerade opened with the judges and Euphoria (who cosplayed Hikaru yesterday) as Aerith singing ‘Be a Man’. All their voices were in tune and the opening was wonderful. Aerith was a great addition to the girl who usually host the masquerade. There was the usual puns, but there was a ‘side story’ with Aerith dying every once in awhile by various props and being revived by phoenix down.
The masquerade itself was a vast improvement over last year. Almost all the entries had a dance theme to it, with Girls Generation music being the focus of two skits. I felt that the judges wasted some of the prizes since there were several entries that are worthy of mentioning but didn’t get any recognition. But that is my opinion. The one that I thought most appropriate as an exhibition skit was ‘Pedobear’s Final Attempt’ done by the Long Island University anime club. It was such a great skit on so many levels. A definite fav.
Other choice skits was ‘The Madness of Duke Venomania’ with Vocaloid which won 1st Place in Novice Craftsmanship as well as 1st Place in Performance. The Sailor Moon ‘Gee’ dance also won a Judge’s Award as well as a performance award for beautiful coordination and cosplays.
The Black Butler/Vocaloid skit, ‘Fatal Attractions’ which won a Judge’s Award had a surprise when the hair pieces come off…. An interesting mix. Crowd pleasers included ‘A Very Ouran Surprise’ which was hilariously done. There was problems with the lights at the beginning but they were able to restart.
My fav solo skit was ‘Let Me Dance For You’ from Durarara!!! with Celty dancing.
The end of the skits also marked the ‘death’ of Aerith. Interestingly, the ‘corpse’ stayed on stage as the walkons for cosplays took place. Some of the cosplayers attempted to ‘revive’ her (like Lulu from FFX) to no avail. Finally, Aerith was woken as an undead by Gladys from Portal. This promted a concert with various songs including ‘Melodies of Life’ and ‘Rhythm Emotion’. The songs really continued the stage story and was a wonderful touch.
After the concert, the winners to the hallcosplays were announced, followed by the winners of anime karaoke. For some reason, everyone left after that. When the masquerade winners were announced, there was very few people left in the audience and only the press was left. ^^;
Sunday: June 10
Cosplay chess was well underway having began at 10am. I watched the end of the game which was very interesting. Through the years that I’ve seen this being played, I feel the players are purposely pushing to allow both sides to showcase their attack and defense so that each ‘piece’ can have a moment in the spotlight. That’s always fun.
What I noticed this year that the some of the pieces who had partners that jumped in…had partners who were also pieces on the board rather than additions jumping in from the side. The two kings at the ended up playing rock-paper-scissors to determine the winner…with the Girl side losing (Uranus.) They had a battle anyway…a real free-for-all with all the pieces jumping in trying to pin Uranus down. Of course, the girl side ultimately lost but it was fun watching the chaos.
last minute shopping
During my last perusal of the Dealer’s Room, I chatted with Funimation for a bit. I asked about their Case Closed licenses since they haven’t gotten more episodes past season four. Unfortunately, most of their licenses have expired though they still have some hold on that particular season. However, there has been no news or even thought to license even more which is very unfortunate.
As promised, Z8 was at the h.NAOTO booth coordinating outfits. Fashionable, stylish and beautiful. The staff noted that the black outfits were going out fast. There were many sales even close to 3pm.
The highlighted item that was sold that weekend would be the Nekomimi ears: ears that move to the emotions of the wearer. It is priced a bit higher than those sold online at $120, but that didn’t stop the casual attendee or avid cosplayer. It is sold in two colors, black and white with 4 hours usage with replacable batteries. Cosplayers noted that the ears actually can come off and can be replaced with handmade ones if they felt that they’re too big. Or need a different color.
Despite the changes with the entry way to the Dealer’s Room and the line confusion for the masquerade on saturday, the con was an improvement to last year for me. Most of the panels were packed (even on sunday) and press had clear instructions and seating area which was sorely lacking last year. It’s already Saturday on the east coast and AnimeNEXT had just ended their earliest pre-reg for 2013 at $35. It’s so far away but people are still sharing their memories….