UnCONventional: Fanime 2015

IMAG0889_zps3qhhu8a4Convention Review by
Mike Flores

When people think of Memorial day they usually think of the brave men and woman that put on the uniform and serve this great country.  But if you happen to be an Anime obsessed Otaku spending time in downtown San Jose for the weekend, your thoughts may focus on some other “brave” men and women who put on a geekier…more revealing uniform.  To some, Memorial day means there are families having fun taking pictures at the beach.   To others it means there are people that are having fun taking pictures of complete strangers dressed as such popular characters as Pokemon and Spider Gwen.  That’s right,  if it’s Memorial Day weekend in San Jose its once again time to bow down to your kawaii gods for Fanime 2015.

This year marks the start of a new leadership team headed by Chairman Will Warriner and vice chairs Eric Wu and Evan James.  They take over one of the most successful conventions in California. And I’m not just talking anime conventions. Fanime has become a must attend for cosplayers, gamers and anime fans.

While final attendance has not been released it has been unofficially mentioned by staffers to have surpassed the reported 27,000 from last year.  So this is currently the biggest annual pop culture convention in SJ.  I can just imagine Stan Lee and Steve Wozniak rubbing their hands evilly, planning ways to beat that with their upcoming con.  However Fanime just celebrated their 21st year and like Super Sonico’s boobs, they just keep getting bigger.  Seriously, have you see that show, its just ridiculous/awesome.

IMAG0904_zpswbucknvgSo what has changed since I last visited Fanime?  Well, nothing and that’s a smart thing.  This con has been one of the most fan friendly cons for years and they listen to what people want and they give it to them.  They keep what works, like the dealer’s room, the 24 hour video programming, artist alley, and the black and white ball. And they get rid of what doesn’t, like the complicated registration system people complained about last year.  I hear this year the lines to get your pass were significantly shorter.  This year, they made slight yet smart improvements, like an expanded dealers room and all night concession stands, so the kids didn’t have to bum rides off of strangers trying to find a place to eat at 3am. Sugoi!

IMAG0897_zpsmnmixr6iAs usual, cosplay is king at Fanime.  This year I found the cosplay to be a step up from other cons.  More people wearing elabrate armor and attaching themselves to massive paper mache contraptions to make them move.  Also the world of fantasy seems to be blending nicely with anime with far more comic book, video game costumes than last year.  As someone in their 30’s I’m glad to see kids are into things I liked back in the day like Ninja Turtles and Gundam.  You can always gauge what is hitting with the young fans these days from the cosplay.  I saw so many Spider-Gwens at cons this year it’s no wonder Marvel is planning to move her into the regular universe.  As far as anime trends in cosplay, Super Sonico is really big, not that I’m complaining.  If you are not sure what that is, Super Sonico is the busty girl with pink hair and headphones that you will see at every con this year.  For guys, the popular anime cosplay is Space Dandy.  He’s the guy with the huge pompadour hair and kakkoii two-tone jacket with sleeves pushed up and doing finger pistols at every kawaii girl he sees.  If you’re lucky as some of us were at Fanime, there will be a Boobies girl (think Hooters waitresses in Space in that anime univese) either with Dandy or trying to take a pic with him.  And of course Doctor Who is well repped at this con as he is at many others…unfortunately. Yamete!

How about the guest line up, has it gotten better?  Well that depends. For anime, most people love to hear the original Japanese audio and read the subtitles. I love the English dubs and always look forward to meeting English VA’s.   Fanime has never really had a big line up of English dub actors, not as big as say, Sac Anime.  This year they had Patrick Seitz (who’s done several of the popular Funimation titles), Christopher Smith (who did some Robotech and Captain Harlock back in the day), and Cindy Robinson, (who has done more video game and live action work than anime). They had huge crowds when they had more English dub actors last year, but they just don’t seem to give fans more of that.  Wakaimasen?

They do however step up with the Japanese guests. Director Hiroyuki Yamaga was there again this year and animator Kazuhiro Soeta was a nice addition. But the best of all was Japanese voice actress aka seiyu, Ai Nonaka.  She was very popular and her Q&A’s were inexplicably held in a small-ish room at the nearby Fairmont hotel.  Fanime always has at least one Japanese musical guest and this year it was Back-On who have done several anime and video game songs.  The Japanese guests are a a strength of Fanime and it’s kind of become a signature of this con, although AX seems to be trying to get in on the action now.

IMAG0899_zpsh7mlar7vAs for the other activities and panels going on, from what I saw there was a big variety of things to do and see.  This year they had an all ages casino night.  It was a hit and they may do it again next year.  The panels at Fanime are the run of the mill with nothing you wouldn’t see at any other anime con. Also there were unfortunately no k-pop representations in the panels or even a dance contest like some anime cons do. I feel that would be a nice addition and not as out of place as the My Little Pony or brony panels they already have.  They do seem to have more mature panels than most cons, which is nice for us adults.  The video programming is full of variety as it is every year, and no need to mention the after hours henti room, but yes it’s back as well.  I’ve said it before, but it would be nice if Fanime would have some premieres of new episodes or new anime movies.

Yes, this year’s Fanime was pretty much like last year’s, and that’s not a bad thing.  It works because it’s what the fans want. This is the first year I attended the closing ceremonies and I found out a few things. First off, next years theme is going to be martial arts.  Hopefully they will use this to put some variety in the screening rooms.  Some South Korean and Chinese action flicks would be great!  And when they say Fanime is “For fans, by fans” they really mean it. Nobody on staff gets paid except the legal council and accountants.  They do it out of love.  And they don’t have any sponsors, which I never noticed before but it makes sense.  In the mega sized corporate sponsored con world I find Fanime’s,  “We’ll do it ourselves,” attitude pretty refreshing.  Is there room for improvement? Sure, there always is, but I bet this con will try harder than any to make those improvements while giving the fans an experience they won’t forget.

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