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The death and life of Anime Con 2011

21 Sep
From CALF Short Films
The second animation convention organized by The Japan Foundation was held at Marwah Studios, in the heart of Film City, Noida. Of course, where this is anime aplenty and the promise of manga and much more, Comic Addicts were bound to be present in force. 
My initial taste of the Anime-Con felt bitter, for I was expecting a slightly better infrastructure to be in place. Events were even as I arrived getting delayed and pushed back. The events that were occurring seemed to be competing for an audience that was mostly disinterested. I suppose the venue being in Noida took away a chunk of the anime fans from far parts of Delhi and Gurgaon. Add to that the rainy weather and it is understandable if many of the diehards chose to stay in.


Not.


Why are they still calling themselves diehards? An anime con touches down in your city, and you miss out on it? Poor form Otaku-wannabes. Poor form indeed! Genshiken a recently founded anime appreciation club was present, nice to see. Although the much publicized Gaming Arena was a damp squib, with one console, one TV and a perpetual line coiled around it. The workshops were useful, however imparting knowledge at a festival has always put me off. I want anime and manga around me and I want it in the bucket loads. Where is the cosplay? Where are the comics? Where is everybody? My spirits by this time were sinking fast. They sunk further when the hyper expensive bento available at the Ai cafe proved to be another disappointment.


Relenting to the energy that seemed nearly palpable in the very air around us, I too was about to write off Anime Con as a badly mashed together festival sorely lacking in its target audience, all in all a poor excuse for me making the two hour trip from Gurgaon to Noida. However at that moment something caught my eye, a hoarding for the Anime Theater and an arrow pointing inwards. Without a second thought I made my way towards this ‘Theater’ expecting in my heart another disappointment. The theater was in an obscure corner right near the entrance. A door ajar led into the darkness. With the promise of sound and light and perhaps entertainment.


It was in the darkness of the theatre that my eyes finally opened. I entered this place still every inch the cynic, I came here thinking about the same clichéd movies that are screened from time to time. I came here totally not expecting a revolution. But what was this? The movie in front of me whose title unfortunately I missed was a kaleidoscope of colors and music. As abstract art and designs melded on screen in a psychedelic extravaganza. Mesmerized I promptly found myself a niche and propped myself. My mind which had been stunned into submission by the film was regaining its voice. And once more I thought this was probably a short which would be followed by a Naruto movie or something. It was ten minutes into the short ‘Hand Soap‘ that changed all that. This is not your run of the mill anime appreciation festival. This is their best and brightest, this is the future of anime. Pure experimentation given life. Believe me when I say this to you, this is a whole new dimension in animated cinema. Leave behind the simple shackles that bind our reasoning, forget the Shonen playbook. This stuff, is art. The shorts I witnessed were the creation of Kei Ōyama. And they were each unforgettable.


My delight in the theater was marred only by the annoyance at the public around me. I dont blame them for not understanding, most of this stuff was abstract. I cant understand much out of it either, but its the imagery that counts and the impact it has on our mind. And impact both conscious and subconscious. What I do mind however is how they do not even attempt to understand. They shy away from the imagery and the rich sound. Hiding behind loud jokes and nervous laughter rather than admitting to themselves that this film for some inexplicable reason was making them uncomfortable. Look at it, not away from it. All around me were people who did not want to be here. Which made me question once more, where were the people who did want to be here.

The show was over soon. And the lights came on, much to the relief of the confused audience. I rose as if from a dream and walked on out. Mixed bag of feelings rattling in my head.

I had witnessed something extraordinary in animation. Something you do not usually see, and something any fan of anime would give and arm and a leg to see. Sad part was, I had witnessed it alone. Anime Con was indeed a badly mashed together festival sorely lacking in its target audience, the film screening however was a big fat diamond in its crown. A revolution in animation and cinema that has passed us by completely unnoticed.


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A look at the 2nd Anime Convention 2011

15 Sep

Being an otaku for several years and having visited several Conventions outside India, I went into the ‘2nd Anime Convention, 2011’ at Noida with few expectations but was extremely satisfied with the overall event. I really wanted to be part of this Anime convention so I flew down from Chennai to get some first-hand experiences of it all! 

Let’s start with the “EVERYDAY” Activities (stuff that was present on all three days):
The Manga Lounge
This was slightly Misleading !! The event schedule / information mentioned that, “Fellow manga enthusiasts can read a variety of Manga and Anime books throughout the course of three days” or something along those lines, unfortunately about 95% of all the Manga’s and Magazine’s on display were in Japanese and just a handful of them in English. Sadly even the English manga’s were incomplete volumes or random volume numbers + a lot of Pokémon stuff. That being said, it was still a lot of fun to look at and browse original Japanese Manga’s / Shōnen Jump and other Japanese magazines, I even got a bit excited to see one of my favorite Japanese Music Groups “SMAP” being featured on the front cover of a Japanese magazine. In short – if you really like Japanese culture, you would have enjoyed just browsing through them, recognizing stuff and going “Oh! I know this!!”
I feel if your proficiency in Japanese is excellent you would probably have enjoyed it a lot more. 

One really cool feature of the manga lounge was that it displayed truly mouth watering anime merchandise – key chains, figurines, posters, caps, etc. of many famous characters. Sadly they were all just to tease you and none of them for sale. (…at least not yet!)
Its-a me! Mario!
Ai Café (Japanese Restaurant)

Bento box – so very Japanese…

The Ai café (or Love café in English)  had a small variety of Japanese food like the Bento Box (Japanese lunch box), it had some rice, fried chicken and a type of curry (they had a vegetarian supplement as well) –  even thought it was priced at Rs. 350/- per box, it was tasty !! I felt it was not worth the money nor was it close to filling but that is to be expected as Japanese food everywhere in India is as expensive and about the same price. However, if you are in a mood of “Lets experience Japanese food”, then it would probably be worth it.

…almost as Japanese as Sushi!

They also served two types of Sushi, both vegetarian and non-vegetarian, priced at 150 bucks for eight pieces accompanied with garlic, wasabi and wooden chop-sticks. The sushi tasted amazing, though it’s not for everyone – it differs from person to person and only if you have a taste for it would you really enjoy it. I did in fact encounter some who did care for it much.
Overall the food was expensive but really tasty if you are into Japanese food – if you would like to try out Japanese food the Ai café is a great place to eat! (Or drink some miso soup or green tea which was great too!!)

Movie Screening
For all three days movies were being screened at a small screening room that seated fifty-ish people, which featured full length films and various award winning short films. The movies ranged from classic animation to modern animation including the ‘CALF Independent’ short films and also a few live action movies.  The room was dark and the projection quality was slightly dull though it was still fun to watch Anime on a big screen. 
Gaming Lounge
It was your typical gaming lounge as could be expected: 3 TV’s and 3 different Consoles (PS2 / PS3 / NES) where players gathered around to take turns to play various games. Some of them in preparation for the Gaming challenges / tournaments, others just chilling out in the AC lounge and chatting with new-found friends (a lot of time was spent hanging out there – definitely a fun place !)
No worries, ’bout a thing… just hanging.

Moving on to the daily activities, a few items mentioned in the event schedule never happened and a few events were shifted to the next day due to either smaller crowds or other complications.

Day One started off slow due to heavy rains and mass traffic jams across Delhi, I even heard that some Metro’s were delayed and the buses were stuck. As I entered the Anime Con it was quite empty and nothing had started due to the unfortunate weather conditions but not too long after reaching the place it was swarming with several school children who came to attend the various film screenings, the Anime Quiz and the Manga Drawing Competition 
The biggest highlight I found on day one was a Manga Workshop hosted by Nagata ken – it was pretty interesting and if you are into drawing or if you would like to learn more about how anime / manga style is drawn and made you would have really liked this workshop.  Nagata ken showed a variety of samples and several demonstrations and also gave away prizes for the drawing competition.
As day one had very few activities, we met up with other anime groups and otaku’s at the Gaming lounge and had our own little “unofficial” Anime Quiz with small give away prizes (I even won a Pokémon pencil!) it was a fun hangout with fellow otakus from other parts of India.
Day Two was a lot better – we actually saw a few people in cosplay. The day started off late but picked up with many activities, though there were a few activities that clashed with each other so I had to run between different Events and multi-task. Day two had the Anime Treasure hunt which was originally scheduled for day one, it was a fun event but fairly simple.
The Anime Treasure Hunt :
Everyone was given a piece of paper with a clue, each clue lead you to a location at the venue where you pick up the next clue and so on and so forth. The last clue was at the manga lounge with a list of Japanese names on a sheet of paper and we were supposed to find out that one of the names on the list is an author of one of the manga’s at the manga lounge in which the Winning Token would be present. But thanks to Mobile Internet + Google we found out the answer was the author of AKIRA – so all we had to do was find Akira manga which had the winning note inside it. The Overall event lasted to about 10 minutes but it was fun seeing people running all around the venue and searching through every manga at the manga lounge.
Day two also had the Marvel vs. Capcom 3 Tournament and that was very exciting!! (even for the non gamer crowd), it had a lot of participants and a lot of really good players. Though I was eliminated in the 3rd round, I still had fun cheering on all my new-found friends.
Game on! It’s clobbering time!
Day 2 also featured a workshop about the Japanese animation called This is not Anime but Animation by Nabuoki Doi – co-founder of CALF animation, an independent DVD label. It was a look at the independent animation industry scene in Japan and though I didn’t attend the full workshop, it was quite interesting.
Day Three was a lot of  fun – it started off with a sushi-making workshop from the Chef from Ai café, a very interesting workshop that demonstrated the art of sushi making and we also leant about the misconception that “sushi = raw fish” and about the different types and variety’s of sushi. It was very interesting and we even got to sample some free sushi!! (They were Yummy)
Immediately after the sushi making workshop was the Cosplay Competition. Even though the competition had only a few entry’s it was a very exciting event to watch with a lot of cheer’s and screaming! (Always fun to see people imitate your favorite anime characters!!) The winner was a guy name Gyelek who played Ichigo from bleach (more pictures of the cosplayers can be seen on our FB page). Every participant did an exceptional job and they were all fantastic and great fun (including the very original Professor Bumblebee).
…Scared yet?…
I killed a Decepticon THIS big!

With a 5 minute break and no time for lunch – the Next workshop started called “Finding Mario” – it was a very interesting talk about the gaming industry and Japanese pop culture in India, it featured a talk about the “Finding Mario” survey in India and also a Q&A section for various gaming /Japanese pop culture references etc. A really informative workshop.

After a Quick Bite the Next Work shop started called “Making of CALF, A Master Class by Nabouki Doi” – A very interesting look at the Making of the CALF short films. It was cool and very informative to see the steps involved in making the different styles of animation for the short films, followed by Q&A sessions at the end. This event was also followed by an Anime Quiz to give away gifts and goodies to everyone who participated, it was a fairly simple quiz that showed pics of popular anime’s and if you answered right you get a prize. A great fun little mini-event and by the end of it everyone who attended was given something! Nobody was sent home empty handed (a variation of manga or a poster or stickers, Pokémon cards etc).
The final highlight of the whole Anime Con (that I found highly amusing) was that after the final event was done, the organizers announced that “You can grab anything here… we are not taking back anything with us”. You could see mobs of people ripping banners, fighting for posters, mangas – even the backdrop on stage was ripped and taken away! It was a crazy yet fun sight to see that shows the true dedication of true otakus! 😀
CHAAAAARGE!! NO POSTER LEAVES ALIVE!!

Overall the Anime Con did fall a little short of its expected footfall and most of the events were not on schedule, so if you would ask me, “How was it?” – I would say “it was good but not amazing however we had a Blast!! We had tons of fun, met some really great people, made loads of new friends, had some amazing food and overall just hanging out with fellow otakus and connecting with people similar to you was all worth it!
The workshops were fun and I did learn a lot from them. I would definitely recommend everyone visit the next Anime Con, even if it’s not as grand as you may hope it to be – anyone with an interest in Japanese animation and Japanese culture would enjoy themselves at the event.