My lame but fascinating first anime convention, day 1

I was alerted to the existence of Anime Crossroads (in Indianapolis) less than a week before it began, and for a while I waffled on whether or not to attend. I still don’t know many people in town and none of them even know what anime is. So I would be going solo, which already didn’t sound fun. I myself enjoy anime, but haven’t seen many; most popular references are lost on me. I know even less about dubs, and as a convention in the middle of Indiana, naturally things would focus on what the English-language actors had worked on. AND as a primarily academic person, I had no intrinsic interest in the cosplay how-to panels and contests and such. But it would be a chance to listen to some voice actors that I respect speak about their experiences and their craft. (Plus there were dealer tables, so I could finally try to hunt down a damn DOES album.) So I decided to give it a shot anyway.

I got off work at 4pm, so after I finished my carpool and errands I had already missed quite bit. I arrived just in time for the panel “Women in Anime and Video Games” with Lauren Landa and Alexis Tipton. They started getting larger roles after the point I had broad access to anime in Japanese, so I was 100% unfamiliar with both of them as actors—but I was looking forward to hearing about their experiences in the industry.

Landa opened the panel with a spiel about etiquette—please no interrupting, don’t dominate the conversation because we’re here to speak to a room, etc.—and I found it a little sad that in a room without children she still felt it necessary to basically define “panel”. (And still her advice went unheeded.) They agreed that competition was greater among female voice actors because there are so many more women than men competing for roles. But they said that, while the range of female roles is less varied (Tipton posited two main types: the cutesy high school girl and the sexy mature woman), they also have the advantage of being able to play children or adolescent boys, thus broadening the sheer number of roles available.

They also spoke about their experiences at conventions. Fans can at times equate the character to the voice actor, and as people gendered such that they often land in fanservice roles, Landa and Tipton have been targets of inappropriate attention. Their descriptions of treatment and what people say to them unfortunately sounded like the general treatment of women on the Internet, just in person. The panel was derailed by questions unrelated to the topic, and then by the panelists themselves as they decided to call up Todd Haberkorn. Which was cute—I love the guy—but so irrelevant. Overall it was a valuable discussion.

The male guests were actually the main reason I decided to attend the convention. I watch anime in Japanese, but I consider Greg Ayres and John Swasey to be at the top of their craft. If I watch something in English, I watch it in Japanese as well. But these two have been in shows where I’ve only heard the English dub, because their performances (and those of their co-stars) are so good that I haven’t felt the need to seek out the original voice track.

I missed everything by Swasey Friday but I’ll catch him in a couple things over the next two days. Ayres’ 18+ panel was a lot of fun, just him in a tiny, humid room with maybe fifty people, standing room only. He was scheduled up against the burlesque show, so he thanked us for choosing him instead. (“How am I supposed to compete with titties?!”) He’s an excellent panelist and has huge stores of fun stories, mostly about how he shouldn’t be allowed to speak in front of children, how he spilled the beans in a room full of conservative parents and their teenaged yaoi-fan daughters, and how Chris Sabat is a dickhead prankster that nobody can ever prank back. (Quoting Colleen Clinkenbeard: “That man leads a charmed fucking life.”) He is an absolutely delightful speaker and it was the high point of the night for me.

So after that there was also a thing called “Yaoi Jeopardy,” so I just had to know. And it turned out to be exactly that. Three rounds of questions in categories like “dicktionary definitions”, “kinks”, “name that side woman”, and “things we all wish were gay”. It had potential to be fun but the hosts and some of the audience were overly obnoxious, plus I was starting to fall asleep and had a half-hour drive ahead of me, so I bounced early. Early being relative, since it was after midnight at that point. (I made it home alive!)

Thus endeth my Friday at Anime Crossroads. It’s a tiny convention—the “women” panel only had 20-30 spectators in the huge main room, for example—so it’s not as easy to be there alone than if it had been busier. So far I wouldn’t exactly say I’m having fun, but I’m looking forward to more panels and seeing people dressed like idiots. (So many One Punch Mans!) I didn’t have the foresight to bring a decent photo device because somehow I didn’t expect this to turn into posts. But I’ll make an effort going forward.

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