The 5th convention that I covered this year was Bakuretsu Con in Vermont during the listed dates. Presented by the Anime Society of Vermont, this 4-day convention included an amazing selection of import video games, several interesting and informative panels on a variety of topics, a rave that didn't suck (I know, I was shocked too!) and an overall sense of friendliness and fun. Follow me as the events unfold.
I arrived on Thursday at 5pm after a 5-hour drive from Massachusetts. I later found out that many other attendees and panelists (The Penny Dreadfuls) actually traveled in excess of 10 hours by car, so I have nothing to complain about. The Vermont scenery was very beautiful to look at, making the trip go by surprisingly fast. Having others accompany me would have no doubt been better for the trip and the con, so I hope to plan well in advance for 2010.
Setup was temporarily on the 1st floor of the center near Entrance B. Since I was not technically a pre-registered attendee, I was prepared with my paperwork and emails, just in case. Luckily, Todd Whitney, the director of programming, was as helpful in person as he had been in our email communications. Thanks for the hassle-free check in! I also met the first of the many relations of the con chair, Valerie Tataro, in Mr. Laban Tataro. He ran the video game room and was a great person to talk to about video games. Being responsible for Bakuretsu Con's superior import gaming scene, there were many interesting topics to discuss.
This retrospective will be organized into sections by each day, so as to allow readers to find what they may want to know about quick and easily. The sections are video games, panel discussions, and everything else. Let's begin with Day 1.
Day 1 (Oct 29th): Video Games
On Thursday, I saw the game room right away. Due to the weekend not yet upon us, limited events were scheduled, giving me plenty of time to check out the video game selection. There was a ton of systems, much more than are usually seen at smaller conventions. This was due to the efforts of the Head of Video Gaming, one Laban Tatro. He was a huge video game fan and a lot of fun to talk to, as he had a real passion for gaming history. Allen Krebser, one of the video gaming staff, was also helpful and made the tournaments throughout the weekend run smoothly. I couldn't ask for a better experience with video gaming at a convention.
Highlights included an import PS2, a Sega Saturn, and a Super Nintendo. There were another 3 PS3's, and at least 2 360's. The system selection varied throughout the weekend, so there was something for everyone. The import selection was AMAZING, with many games that I've never seen before, like Fate/Unlimited Codes.
Fate is a 3D brawler released in December 2008 and published by Capcom. Based on a hentai series (with all the hentai elements taken out), Fate plays similar to most 3D brawlers. Each character is either a summon or a character based on famous story figures throughout history, like Gilgamesh. You have your Hadoken motion special moves, super combos, and other typical fighting elements. Some unique aspects are the ability to heal your character when the grail below the time limit fills up. Overall, the game is fun, but a little cheap, as each character can seemingly spam long range attacks over and over. Allen dislikes this ability, so he mostly plays as the brawlers who must be in close to do damage. I'd have to agree with him, as some characters having basic attacks that are projectiles make them rather cheap. Then there is Caster, who if played properly at a distance, can completely hold off any offense throughout her various projectiles. It's not really a balanced game, but it was fun to check out.
Allen and his friend Kevin also had me check a demo of a PSP game called Half-Minute Hero, which is a RPG parody and send-up of the many cliches of the genre. In this game, you have 30 seconds to accomplish different goals in different types of games, like saving the world from the Evil Lord's just learnt World Destruction Spell. Classic humor, Internet meme references, and lots of RPG fanservice abound, making this definitely something to check out for gamers with a PSP. FOR GREAT JUSTICE!
Day 1 (Oct 29th): Panels
Thursday was something of a setup day, but still managed to find some excellent panels. 7pm was the Bakuretsu Con's premiere of Evangelion 1.0, the classic anime series redone with a new dub and CGI animation. This was a really special event as Bakuretsu Con was the first chance for many to view it before its November 17, 2009 release in America. Thanks be to Todd for securing a copy for this convention.
It was impressive and fun to watch. I'm not a huge fan of the show, but I enjoyed the new direction the show takes by revealing plot elements early on, like the nature of the EVA units. This version having a new dub gave me pause, but it was definitely higher quality than most I've seen; the new cast is better indeed. This showing was given an encore on Sunday at 12pm, for those who were unable to attend for various reasons.
The late night event was a Baku Horror Double Feature done in Mystery Science Theater style by the Penny Dreadfuls. The PD are a group of steampunk pirates and general scalawags who crash conventions when they aren't plundering airships or just causing havoc. They did a great job with the selections. My favorite was their fandom toward Tor Johnson. Tor is a former Swedish wrestler and a horrible actor, yet so charming at the same time. The PD bought new reverence to his character with their uproarish chants of TORRR! Whenever he did something cool (or just silly!) shouts of TORR Slap!, TORR Pattycake!, you get the idea.
The 2nd film being a great movie, it wasn't as easy to make fun of it or point out humorous parts. I viewed this more as a gathering of fans than comedy. Fun times.
Day 1 (Oct 29th): Miscellaneous
The rest of Thursday was spent familiarizing myself with the hotel layout, which would prove to be quite useful as the weekend unfolded. I also spent a great deal of time in the main lobby (5 AM Friday morning) playing card games, watching TV, and meeting people. We got into an epic discussion about the nature of the Kingdom Hearts series, played a card variation of Calvinball, and other fun stuff. Too bad I can't remember any of those people's names...
Day 2 (Oct 30th): Video Games
Aside from trying new games and idle conversations with equally huge video game geeks, Friday was pretty much like Thursday when it comes to video games. I urge you to check out the montage videos attached to this review to get a better sense of the presentation of the video game room and how so much fun could be packed into a relatively small room. Laban added Marvel Super Heroes VS Street Fighter to the Saturn. Unfortunately, it was hooked up to a small television with color saturation problems. It was more like playing Pastel Fighter, but Dan and Norimaro sure looked funny. Laban arranged for a lot of larger TV's later in the day, kindly donated by Connecticon for the weekend, so things got better.
Day 2 (Oct 30th): Panels
4pm was Transformers: The Panel of Awesome. The hosts lamented the poor attendance, commenting that there should have been more information about the panel in the con book. Perhaps but it still led to a lively discussion about the greatest cartoon-toy tie-in ever made. The panelists brought Unicron from Transformers Armada, G1 Optimus (worth $80-130 dollars, depending on box condition), the Japanese version of some figure I neglected to write down (still looked very sweet!) Lastly there was Primus from Armada and the G1 Constructions. Unfortunately two were missing, so Devastator could not be formed. Gosh darn it!
The biggest disappointment was that the hosts wanted to bring G1 Scorponok but forgot to ask his friend. Fortress Maximus (the rarest G1 figure, sold on Ebay in excess of $500 dollars usually) was too bulky to bring, due to his weight of around 45 pounds. I've seen pictures of him on the Internet standing at around 4 feet tall, so it would have been quite a sight.
We also discussed the music of Transformers, both the well-known heavy metal power ballads of the 1986 movie to the acclaimed score of Steve Jablonsky from the Michael Bay films. The hosts are fans of Michael Bay (don't hurt them!) and admire how he was working on Revenge of the Fallen until literally minutes before its world premiere in Japan. That's dedication. Remember if Bay was really just a fans of explosions, why was it his idea to bring in Peter Cullen as the voice of Optimus Prime? He did this because he knew what the fans wanted.
Despite the low attendance, the Transformers panel was a lot of fun, and one that I hope will return to Bakuretsu Con next year. It's always good to meet people who have come to view this classic cartoon as more than just the merchandising tool that it was originally conceived to be.
5 pm was a discussion from the anime industry voice actors, Leah Clark and Jamie Marchi. I always like to address the politics of the industry with any voice actor I meet, and the wide range of responses I get always make such questions worth asking. Unfortunately, neither Leah nor Jamie were well versed in the trials and tribulations many voice actors, like Michael Hollick of GTA IV, have encountered in the industry. Thusly, my questions couldn't really be addressed. Overall, they are happy with their situations in the industry, but they did comment that residuals for their work would definitely be a step in the right direction. On a more personal note to their work, they rarely leave honorifics (sama, san, chan) in their scripts. The same goes for cultural references, as many of these are limited in understanding outside Japan and would require explanation.
7 pm was the Yankee Battle Auction, an event made popular at Bakuretsu Con in 2004. In this auction, you pay 3 dollars to enter, but are guaranteed to win something worth at least 3 dollars (potentially a lot more!) so no worries. Numbers are handed out randomly, and each person picks a bag. The ideal number of participants is 34 or so to equal the number of paper bags. The idea is to form a circle so each person can see what the current prize selector obtains. The order is completely random to encourage fun and games, which include the ability to steal any prize previously uncovered. If your prize gets stolen, you pick another bag. Stealing can only happen once, or the game would never end.
There are good prizes in the bags, like Xbox Live subscriptions and video games) and bad prizes (paperclips, strips of cardboard, and plastic utensils). The best part is that even if you get a bad prize that no one will want to steal, you still have a chance of actually getting the best prize. This is because at the conclusion, people vote on the worst item overall and that person receives the $70+ item.
For this auction, I was close to getting an Xbox Live 3 Month subscription, but ended up with some drumsticks for Guitar Hero/Rock Band, which were to come in handy on Saturday.
The 9pm hour saw the attendance of the "Let's Talk about Evangelion" panel, which was a rather apt title. A small grouping of fans spent the hour discussing the complex and often convoluted story that is Neon Genesis Evangelion. Topics ranged from the nature of Adam and the Angels, Episodes 25 and 26, Rei Ayanami's odd fandom, and other bits. Having only seen the series once, I think it is a bit overrated, but was still glad to participate in the discussion and have a refresher of the series. This is the kind of panel that I can't imagine would work too well at a larger convention, as discussion really would not be as productive or viable.
10pm was the Very Penny Dreadful Halloween Party. Lots of free cookies and punch, so it was great for that. It was promised to be absolutely dreadful, and it was, mostly because there really weren't any activities. We just stood around for an hour talking to people. After Thursday PD's activities, I expected more. Too bad.
Day 2 (Oct 30th): Miscellaneous
Not as much random stuff happened after the video game room closed at 9pm. I met some roommates from Champlain College earlier than evening, but nobody wants to hear about them of course... Moving on.
I was glad to meet the head of Another Anime Convention in Nashua, New Hampshire, Lisa. I hope to be able to attend AAC later this November, so we'll see what happens. Matt Daigle from Connecticon was also there. Having previously covered this event, I was pleased to meet the person who makes it all possible. Matt was a very personable guy to talk to and I look forward to what next year's con will bring. Full color con booklets for the win!
Follow the link for Part II, covering Days 3 and 4!