Anime Expo began this year on the 4th of July. I don’t know if it was because of the holiday or because I got there later than usual, but the line for badge pick-up was crazy. I waited three hours for my badge, twice as long as I ever have before. People in line are excited and goofy and there are cosplayers mixed in and we’ve all got our smart phones so I wasn’t too miserable until the start of the third hour when the line was losing its charm and there was a long stretch in the blazing sun. Rather than looking forward to the con I was just looking forward to getting to the shady part of the line that was near the end. I literally threw my hands of and yelled “Yes!” when I stepped into the shade.
Since I had to get back home for the 4th of July party I was hosting, and I wasn’t anticipating a THREE HOUR line, I essentially had to drop off my entries for the Gunpla Builders World Cup, say “Hi” to the guys at Bluefin and then turn around and go right back home just in time to be late to my own party. So much for Day One…
The next day I carpooled with Clem, Angel and Clem’s wife, Yuki. After we got there and they got their badges (thankfully they didn’t have to wait in line with Clem’s presenter connections) Clem and Angel set up their entries in the Bluefin booth for the GBWC. While they were doing that I took photos of the entrants with my new Canon Rebel SL1 camera.
Next we walked the exhibit hall for an hour or so comparing prices and stock at the various Gunpla booths and sometime around this time we were joined by Dave. Next it was off to Clem’s G-Rated Gunpla panel. Due to past complaints about Clem’s completely disrespectful sense of humor, last year’s panel was late at night, poorly advertised and poorly attended. This year he requested two, one in the daytime, where he promised to be on good behavior, and one at night for an 18+ crowd where anything went.
The G-rated panel was pretty boring. Not that it wasn’t interesting and informative (for new model builders), but model building is kind of a dry topic when you take away Clem’s equal-opportunity racist jokes and sexual innuendo. There were a lot of set-ups for jokes that were left hanging there as Clem chanted to himself, “G-rated, G-Rated, G-Rated.” I got lots of progress done on the HGUC Sinanju I brought to snap. There were about 170 people at this panel and Angel and I stood by the exit door and passed out flyers for this November’s Southern California Gundam Model Contest to almost all of them.
Next we crossed the street to a welcome parking lot full of food trucks. Back in the bad old days you had to eat whatever you could carry around all day in your backpack or eat the overpriced crappy food inside the convention center. Last year a few food trucks were scattered in the streets around the convention center, but this year they were organized and there were a dozen or so trucks parked in the lot caddy-corner from the front entry of the convention center. The first day I got Philipino-style nachos with Adobo chicken and the next day I got some really good Indian butter chicken and samosas. So much better than cheese and crackers.
The last big event of the day was the Gundam Unicorn Episode 6 screening. However, it began with a panel by the director and Clem got disgusted and left. Angel, Yuki and Dave went with him back to the exhibit hall but I stayed because there was nothing really for me in the hall and it’s always more fun to watch anime in a crowd of nerds.
After that I caught up with the guys in the hall and then we pretty much took off. I was home in time for dinner.
The next day was Saturday. Saturday is always the big day of the convention with the best events and the largest crowds and this day was CROWDED. It felt like the most crowded AX day I’ve seen but maybe I’m biased by the memory of the three hour line. We carpooled again (with Sue Yin playing the part of Yuki) but I went off on my own once I got there to see the Attack on Titan panel and screening. I got there almost a half hour late (a dog loose on the 60 freeway and lines to park held us up) but the panelists were late, too (probably as stuck in traffic as we were) so they hadn’t let people in yet. Unfortunately about 50 feet in front of me they cut off the line saying the room was full. Oh well, back to the hall.
We walked the hall some more and hung out at Bluefin. We were talking to Casval so long that Steve asked us to get out of the booth. Heh…
We hit up the lunch trucks again and then went to the Production I.G. panel. I was anxious to hear about the new Ghost in the Shell OVA. About half way through, we got a text from Casval that they were going to announce the winners of the GBWC. So, after deciding it would be rude not to, we got up and sneaked out of the panel to return to the hall. But then when we got there, somebody from Bandai had disappeared. Then Xavier was gone… We totally could have stayed, lol.
Clem’s Nu box art diorama didn’t win. I kind of thought he would but I think the Japanese judges just didn’t go for the concept. The winner was a nicely done Zaku Cannon in a really nice and uncharacteristic flying fight pose. I never caught the name of the winner since Xavier never really threw it (he said it was probably Thai and he didn’t want to butcher it, so he just kind of mumbled it). Clem’s Nu got best diorama, a guy named Mai who we didn’t know got best 1/100 for his up-armed Duel Gundam. A kid got the well-deserved Junior award for his large Zeta-Gundam hangar diorama and I got best 1/144 for my Rick Dom and GM “Ambushed” diorama. I really expected Vin to win 1/144 with his really nicely-built GN-X variant but the Japanese judges… they weren’t so much into basic modeling skills. One of the winners’ kits featured prominent gouges around the nubs and unfixed seam lines. It kind of took the wind out of my sails to win a contest where the judges awarded a model that looked great from two feet away but had issues on closer inspection. We asked the guy who built the model in question, and his response was, “I don’t do sanding.” Haha, to me that’s like a pilot saying “I don’t do take offs.” Maybe we can get him to our build gatherings and brainwash him into a case of Advanced Modeler Syndrome.
While this was going on I was missing another panel (the Japanese voice actor who voiced Jerid in Zeta Gundam). I wanted to go up and ask him how it felt to play the guy who loses over and over throughout a 50-episode series.
Anyway, once the GBWC hubbub was over and the hall was closed we wandered a bit and settled at the Lounge 21 (I think that’s what they call it) where you can relax and have a drink. Brandon popped over for a while and it was kind tense since his girlfriend and Clem had recently decided they don’t like each other. Awkward…
Finally, it was off to Clem’s 18+ panel. It was more fun than the G-rated version and I learned something. Not about models but about something really horrible that can happen to the female anatomy. Shudder. I ducked out a bit early to go the “Ghost in the Shell: Arise” screening. It was awesome. I’m really glad they’re making new GITS works and this one’s a prequel so you get to see how the team forms and Motoko’s teenage years.
And that was it. I skipped Sunday because there were still lots of things to do at home (that garage still isn’t clean yet, ugh, but there’s nothing to stop us now, I will have a car parked in there in the next week, I swear). I had a nice mellow Anime Expo. Last year I ran from panel to panel trying to absorb every bit of AX (maybe trying to recapture the magic of the first few years I went) and came away tired and a little disappointed. This year I spent less time planning, more time with my friends, went with the flow and left wanting more instead of burnt out and maybe that’s the better way to do it. I think I realized this year that while each guest or event might be the only time you’ll get to ever see them or it, you’ll probably be able to see something like it the next year.
October was a heck of a month. It was the busiest October I’ve had since I got married 13 years ago. Knowing it was going to be busy my wife and I got together mid-September and planned/negotiated the weekends so we could try to get everything done.
The first weekend of October was the Build Gathering at my house. I hadn’t hosted one since my 6-month-old daughter was born and it was time to get back in the game with Clem getting married. If you read Clem’s blog, you might have missed the fact that he got married. About 10 sentences in he made some obscure reference to extra weight on his left hand. That’s the wedding ring he’s wearing cuz HE GOT MARRIED.
So back to the Build Gathering… I’m not going to sugar coat it. It was pretty sad. Most of the regulars didn’t show up. Clem was too busy with his family because HE WAS GETTING MARRIED, so he just dropped by long enough to say hi, and “Wow nobody’s here.” Brandon’s got a new girlfriend so he was a no-show. Terry had to go to a family dinner or something like that. I don’t know what happened to Dave. Angel was the only really OG member to show up and I guilted him into sitting next to me the whole day so I didn’t feel like such a loser. Xavier and Ed showed up and Ed brought enough ice cream for 25 people. I’m still eating it. Xavier let us know about the upcoming MG Tallgeese which was still a secret at the time. I can write about it now that the whole world knows.
I had the next Monday off and so did my older daughter so to be a good dad and proactively make up for all the time I’d be gone, I took her to Disneyland. We spent the bulk of the day there and then dropped her off at my mom’s to go to my daughters’ parent conferences and then picked her up to go back to her school for Back-to-School night. Busy day.
A few days later I took off fairly early Thursday morning to go to Las Vegas. I was going to meet a bunch of the guys and their significant others for a kind of Bachelor Party trip because CLEM GOT MARRIED. The drive to Vegas was great. On a random Thursday morning there was no traffic headed out to Vegas and relatively few big trucks and campers. There was a bit of rain at the beginning and end of the trip but not enough to have any impact on the drive and the weather was cool (as opposed to our trip in August where outside temperatures reached above 110). Since I was by myself I drove my TSX (usually we take my wife’s Camry on trips) and just enjoyed the hell out of driving it at speed and taking advantage of the bit of extra power it has to take the hills and pass vehicles with authority. I love my car. Oh, and I just paid it off. Wooo!
I got to Vegas and got settled just in time to go with Clem, Angel and Dave to the Gun Store. Now I’m a peace-loving Democrat and all but my mom’s family is from Kansas and they like their firearms. When I was a kid we’d go to my grandparents out in the desert outside Barstow and shoot target practice from inside a reservoir they dug out but never filled with water. Still, I hadn’t fired a gun in about 8 years when me and my dad went to the firing range with his neighbor, a police reserve officer.
We get there and they’ve got a menu of different guns and gun combos that you can try out. We’re thinking of guns we want to share but come to find out that everyone has to buy their own combo. We thought we’d a couple combos and all get to try out 5 or 6 guns. Sadly we had to all more or less buy the same combo and use the same guns. You could pick whatever guns you wanted, but ordering a la carte got really expensive. I was leaning towards the WWII combo with the 1911 .45, the Thompson submachine gun and the MP40 but I didn’t really want the MP40, I would have preferred and M1 Garand. I didn’t want to pay the higher price for that combo and not get the guns I wanted (don’t wanna shoot no gott-dang Nazi gun). So I went with what everyone else got, the modern gun combo. We all shot the 9mm Sig Sauer and the MP-5 submachine gun (and at $100 that was enough… ouch). Clem got a more expensive combo and also shot the M4 as well.
Anyway after paying and waiting in line we get our guns. Actually we don’t. The way they run it to maximize the number of people they can put through the range and I’m sure for safety reasons and their insurance policy’s sake is that one of their staff keeps the guns and clips and loads everything for you (I also noticed the staff is packing, not a bad idea when you get a hundred or so armed strangers a day through your business). When it’s your turn, you get handed a loaded gun in battery so all you have to do is point and shoot. Clem was kind of annoyed by this. I didn’t really care. I’m a tourist, just let me shoot.
Speaking of shooting… I’m a pretty dang good shot. I was clearly the best shot of our group and the guy managing our group even commented on my shooting. Not bad considering Clem is ex-military. Of course, as he was quick to point out, he was Air Force. Shooting a gun is lots of fun. It’s just undeniably macho. There’s no way to feel like a wuss with a loaded gun in your hand. Some of the group next to us were firing .45 automatics and a .44 Magnum and even with the ear protection you know when those things go off. You can literally feel the concussion in the air. Lots of grinning going on. Also, for an OCD kind of guy like me shooting accurately I kind of like model building. It’s a skill I enjoy practicing. Firing the MP5 was a new experience. They have you start with short controlled bursts, two or three rounds at a time for about half the clip, and then have you squeeze off the rest of the clip in full auto. I definitely wasn’t leaning into it enough the first time I did it and I literally scooted back about two feet from the recoil. Rather than try to outmuscle the recoil I just kept the red dot on the target and went with it. If I had tried to lean harder into it or changed my footing I would have gone completely out of control. And in a couple seconds the clip ran out and after a lot of laughing (okay, maybe you CAN feel like a wuss with a loaded gun in your hand) I got a new clip, leaned in a lot harder the next time and did better. One thing I’ll say for the MP5, it kicks pretty straight back. Even when it was pushing me backwards I was still able to control my aim. All but a few shots out of the 75 I fired (3 clips total) were reasonably well grouped and not a single one was outside the outer ring.
One piece of advice I’ll give if you ever go do this and want to actually shoot accurately is select a light-colored boring target to shoot at (I mean a paper target, not a politician. Can I get a rimshot?). You can’t see the bullet holes in the black parts of the black and white target (like say, the inner rings where I counts the most…) and you really can’t see them on the cheesy garish targets with pictures of zombies, terrorists and clowns. I picked two light targets but somebody took one of mine so I fired the MP5 at the dark ringed target. I was shooting a bit low (overcompensating for recoil, I think) but couldn’t tell until I got the target back.
Shooting was pretty much the highlight of the trip. We agreed we’d all do it again. It’s expensive, but you could easily lose as much in Vegas in the same amount of time. I’d like to go with my dad and do it sometime.
After shooting we all headed back to our hotels and got ready for dinner. We hung out in Clem’s big-spender suite for a while and then went to Caesar’s Palace’s Bacchanal Buffet. I looked it up, Bacchus is like the god of wine and orgies. I had neither with my buffet.
So I’m not a big spender when it comes to food (or almost anything else…) so $50 was quite a lot for me to spend. Was it worth it? Probably not for me. I have pretty simple tastes when it comes to food so I’ll take some of the blame (like a lot of buffets, you’re penalized for not liking seafood). I really got the feeling that their approach was to go all-out on the fancy stuff and make the basics, well… basic. About 70% of what I ate was typical meh buffet fare. So for $50 I was pretty ruthless about leaving food half (or quarter or eighth) finished and moving on to something else. The real highlight for me was the lasagna which tasted like the Cannelloni that Olive Garden hasn’t served in at least 10 years. They had something they were calling Machaca (I think that’s what it was supposed to be, the people putting the food out were having trouble getting the nametags aligned with the proper foods across all ethnicities). It was kind of a mexi-souflet. Whatever it was I liked it. They also had little cheesecake lollipops and the chocolate one was fantastic. The desert bar was pretty impressive. But still, no orgy.
After most of us were done eating we left to head back to Clem’s suite. Yuki and some relatives stayed behind, getting their money’s worth (and probably my money’s worth) of crab legs. We were going to take a cab back but the line was crazy so we walked. On the way we stopped at a CVS for booze. Angel and Nikki went in and disappeared for a long time. Too long. While we were waiting Clem and I got to talking to a girl selling from the carts in the middle of the mini-mall. While we were talking to her I got sexually harassed by a group of gay guys, one of them brushed up against me as he walked by. Seriously, I checked to make sure I still had my wallet. It was karma working in advance though because a few minutes later the girl said something about cleaning hotel room floors until you saw yourself on them that got me and Clem looking at each other and grinning (see, she slipped and said **on** them not **in** them). Being Drunk Dan I had to go and make some stupid comment and so I paid the sexual harassment forward. Sometimes I’m an ass… but WTF it was Vegas and I was drunk and did I mention I had just been brushed up on by some guy. That was just a bad 5 minutes.
Anyway, once Angel and Nikki finally appeared (we were too distracted at the time to wonder too much, but what WERE they doing in that little CVS for so long???) we started walking back to Clem’s hotel. Again. There was this little bar that looked like it had been made from an abandoned mini-mall store. It was gore themed (I think it was actually called Gore) so they had a lady above the bar that looked like she had been cut in half (and her blood was supplying the bar), a midget in a coffin with fake body parts around him (why???) and a guy out front who was really missing an eyeball and had stuck a little LED light in there so light up his socket in flashing red and blue. WTF?
After walking in some rain we finally got to the MGM Grand and got to Clem’s suite. It had a panoramic view so we turned out the lights and watched the lightning. I know, WOOOOOOOOO!!! Nobody does bachelor parties like Those Gundam Guys. Just 4 guys in the dark. Watching the lightning. Oh wait Nikki was there. Thank God somebody was there to bear witness that nobody took advantage of the romantic sausage fest. All corniness aside, it was the most relaxing thing I had done in months. I sent Vanessa a couple texts along the lines of “wish you were here.”
With our fill of romance it was time to go find some strippers. I mean, we’re in Vegas for a bachelor party, there’s got to be strippers, right? Well, no. We got a bitchy PaiGow dealer instead. Fortunately she kept all her clothes on and the only boobs I saw in Vegas were on those cards on the street that those guys hand out. We checked out gambling in the MGM but Pai Gow is $25 a hand there (on a THURSDAY) so we moved on over to New York New York and played there for $10. We had 2 dealers trading off but as the night wore on one of them started basically insulting us because we weren’t tipping enough. She said MGM had better players. At first I thought she meant we sucked at the game (me and Dave are new to it) but it turns out she meant we were cheap. The high rollers are better tippers. That may be true but with your shitty attitude you’re sure as hell not going to make it to the MGM.
About 2:30 we called it a night. Dave and Clem had been ahead in the chips but were back to even. I had been down to almost nothing of the $60 I started with (I was down to just my active bet at one point) but then rallied to be down by just $14 so I was glad to leave with ¾ of my money.
The next morning I got up too early, as usual. I think I was awake by about 7. I read for a while and then when I couldn’t stand killing time anymore got myself all ready and packed up. I texted around 9:30 to see if anyone was up for breakfast and when I didn’t get a reply in the next 10 minutes I headed down to my car to put away my suitcase. Then I headed back into the hotel for some food. Dave texted me that he was already at the airport (I guess he was as ready to go as I was) so I just grabbed some Quizno’s and then checked out. I’m not one to hang around and gamble in the daytime in Vegas and I wanted to hit up some local hobby shops and then head home so I could be there during the evening with my family since I knew I’d be off again the next day.
On the way out of town I stopped at Hobby Lobby. They’re a large Mid-West-based craft and hobby chain that has recently started popping up on the West Coast. They’re like Michaels but with a better supply of kits and accessories, and like Michael’s they have a 40%-off coupon. The one in Vegas didn’t have more kits than Michael’s but they did have a bigger variety with a smattering of kits from Tamiya, Trumpeter, Academy and of course Revell and Testors. I found a Trumpeter 1/72 F-100D on clearance for $11. I also grabbed a circle template for painting tank wheels and a couple other odds and ends. I was impressed that they carried Vallejo paints and Iwata airbrushes and parts. After leaving I decided to just head home rather than go to another shop.
The next day a bunch of us (Clem, Angel, Brandon and myself) all met up again for Orange Con, the local IPMS chapter’s model contest. Brandon’s girlfriend Jackie joined us (poor thing, Orange Con is not so interesting for the non-modeler) as did Clem’s friend Brian from the East Coast, who was in town for Clem’s wedding, because CLEM GOT MARRIED.
It was a pretty good Orange Con this year. I was disappointed that my Valkyrie only got 3rd place (probably because I was rushing to finish it, along with bases/diorama for three other entries), but I was really happy that my little OOB Airfix 1/72 Spitfire Mk. IIa got first place. Incredibly, that’s my first 1st place finish at an IPMS competition. In previous years the GP01 Hangar diorama that got me to Hong Kong only got 2nd place at IPMS and my Hazels that got 3rd place in the then BAKUC didn’t even place at this local IPMS show.
I also got 2nd place in dioramas with a few of my GMs from the Those Gundam Guys GM Assault diorama. I used the 4 GMs and 2 tanks I had built for it and split them up between 2 different dioramas.
Clem got 2 first places in Gundam and Sci-Fi Dioramas (bastard beat me in both categories). How his OOB Zaku he threw together in a couple weeks beats the Valk I massively modified and improved over the course of 2 years… oh, wait, it’s IPMS, don’t even wonder. It’s OK I beat him the other year with my dumb little 1/144 Enact from 00 (it beat my own massively-modified GM Custom that year as well). I think the lesson at IPMS is go with a simple kit and build it simply thus reducing your chance of creating any imperfections. IPMS doesn’t really give you credit for modifications and improvements (especially in Gundam/Mecha, where they aren’t familiar with the subject matter), but they deduct like hell for imperfections.
Angel got 3rd place in dioramas with his Duel Gundam attacking the ship bridge. I want to say he won something else but I can’t remember. Of course, what Angel really cares about is that the same model won this year’s North America Gunpla World Cup qualifier and he’s going to Tokyo. Congratulations, Angel! Brandon got kind of shut out on the trophies this year, although he did win one of the major prizes in the raffle, a Wingnut Wings WWI aircraft kit. All the reviews I see of the Wingnut kits are that they are excellent and I know they’re all worth in the neighborhood of $80 to $100 so that’s not too shabby. At the vendor room I scored an Accurate Miniatures 1/48 B-25G and Hasegawa 1/72 F-18C from the same vendor for $20 (those kits are worth $50 to $60, easy) and a set of decals for my future F-16C Block 42. Now I just need the F-16… (edit: picked one up off eBay) So yeah, good year at Orange Con and we managed not to get into any shenanigans so we can show up again next year in our Those Gundam Guys shirts.
The next Saturday, the 20th was Clem’s wedding dinner. He had already been MARRIED to Yuki on Friday and Saturday was the big dinner. Since it was within a few miles of the Macross World Con event the next day and since my wife and I just needed to get the hell away we got a room in a little motel in downtown Alhambra. Since we were going to split up the day we decided to bring two cars. This turned out to be a problem as this motel was tiny and had about a dozen parking spaces for its 50 or so rooms. Wow, you should really mention that before somebody books… We managed to get Vanessa’s car in but we had to leave my car out on the street AND I had to hike down to the police station to go buy an overnight parking pass. Fucking retarded. Good thing we got to Alhambra early with the idea to have a relaxing late afternoon before heading off to Clem’s dinner. Instead it was a hunt for parking followed by a hike to the police station. Fun. We showed up to Clem’s dinner frazzled and I was burnt out from being pissed off most of the last two hours instead of relaxed. I walk in the door and Clem’s like “DAN!” and we’re taking pictures and he’s talking 100 miles an hour and I’m kind of shell shocked and I’m walking away and he’s like “Aren’t you gonna congratulate me, you bastard?!!” Yeah, I will, let me get a drink and sit down for 5 minutes, crap I should have worn that tie I brought… Shit like this is always happening I’m always hustling to take care of X, Y and Z and then I get to where I’m going I’m just a useless stressed out stupid zombie for a while until I settle in and relax.
Those Gundam Guys and their significant others filled out most of a table at the wedding although Terry was promoted to a family table because his girlfriend Christiana is Clem’s cousin. She’s fun. She’s like that commercial for that place in Vegas, just the right amount of wrong… Angel meanwhile wasn’t at our table because he brought the whole famdamily and they filled out a table of their own. Angel’s family remodeled Clem’s house; it’s like a hobby for them.
So I did manage to get a drink and sit down for 5 minutes and had a good time. Our table was filled out with Clem’s East Coast friends so we all had a few drinks and BSed all night. We were served plate after plate of various Chinese food and there was just enough Duck and Chicken in there so I didn’t need to hit up Jack in the Box afterwards :). Clem made the rounds and came out at one point in some traditional garb. We were next to Brandon and Jackie and we found out Jackie is a teacher and so she and Vanessa (and to some extent myself since I was a teacher for 3 years) started teacher talk for most of the rest of the night. Vanessa really liked the Moscato and I managed to get Clem to liberate another bottle from a table that wasn’t drinking it. That’s cuz they were pounding he hard stuff, Clem’s family REALLY parties! Heh, just kidding. I was kind of surprised to see things winding down by 10:30. The friends hung around longer but by 11:30 we were singing a bad country song (Hey, Clem, WTF are you doing singing country songs, you’re CHINESE! Hahahaha) and it was over.
The next morning we packed up and had IHOP and then Vanessa went home and I went to the other end of Alhambra for Macross World Con 2012. I’ve never been to this event and as kind of a Macross fanboy I was excited to go, although I didn’t really know what to expect. Once I got in I more or less went straight to look for the Customs contest so I could display my Super VF-1D and not have to worry about getting bumped and breaking it. Unfortunately I broke it anyway. Taking it out of the box I was transporting it in I snagged an outboard drop tank on the T-shirt I had it resting on and broke it off. Shit, and I didn’t bring glue so out comes the smartphone. Luckily there was a Jo-Ann’s nearby and I figured they’d at least have super glue. I eventually found Jo-Ann’s (the entrance is upstairs and you come in through the parking structure, not easy to find) and got some Krazy Glue and got the drop tank back on.
After that I was free to roam around and take the whole Con in. All three and a half rooms and one hallway of it. The hallway was full of glass display cases and one of them was dedicated to 80’s-vintage Macross, Orguss and Mospaeada toys. There was one of every 1/55 Valk I’ve ever heard of and one I even hadn’t (I never knew there was a 1/55 VF-1D, unless you count the Super Ostrich). Cool stuff, definitely worth a few grand, even after all the re-releases brought down the prices of the originals.
The first small room was a dealer room. One guy was selling decals and posters (forgot to get a decal for my spraybooth) although he had annoyingly put Robotech logos on a bunch of it. Pfff… Robotech. I mean, I wouldn’t be an anime fan if not for it, but there’s been so much drama in the intervening years around the whole Macross/Robotech thing I’m done with Robotech. Let’s do the math: Southern Cross + Mospaeada < DYRL + Macross Plus + Macross 7 + Macross Zero + Macross Frontier. Can I get a US license, please?
The other guy in that room was selling a good collection of Hasegawa kits. VF-1s in every variety, VF-0, SV-51, YF-19, YF-2, the stands, the weapons sets. Some prices were really good (Super VF-1A for $25) but others were just OK. I almost picked up either the YF-19 or YF-21. Almost… but not quite.
The next room had a couple guys who were mostly selling toys but nothing that interesting to me. The half room was the Anime book store that was at AX. I had already bought two Macross books from them at AX (the only two I could stand the price of, damn, Japanese books are expensive).
The last room was the big room. At one end was a display of Macross memorabilia, several large personal collections, and then the Customs contest entries. At the other end of the room was a small impromptu stage that for the moment had a TV airing Macross footage.
And that was it. It was all very cool stuff but there was nothing planned until 1pm and it was now probably 10:30 and I was starting to wonder what I was going to do until then but then people I knew started to show up. First was Jordan and we went round the whole thing together and then Mike, Yuki and a couple other guys showed up and we went around again and then… Jeff showed up! Jeff used to be a regular at the build gatherings but disappeared about a year and a half ago after he got a girlfriend. I had to poke him in the arm to make sure he was real. After every group of people showed up and we took another lap through the place it was still only about noon so we wandered to a local Rite Aid to get some drinks.
We got back about in time for the Mari Iijima concert. She told stories, sang a few songs, answered a few questions and dropped a couple hilarious F-Bombs. It’s funny to hear a Japanese lady with a cute little voice say Fuck. After the concert an autograph line formed which I got in. Once I got nearer the front one of the guys held my place so I could get my Super VF-1D. For $20 I got a signed CD, my VF-1D base signed, and a Destroid monster kit signed. I’ll probably sell that one.
After that, it was back to waiting. It was now about 3pm and the Customs contest was scheduled for 5. There was an art contest, a cosplay contest, and a 1/55 transformation contest (for speed and accuracy, I would have been really good at that back when I was 12). That contest went on and on as it was sweet-sixteen style and so they didn’t even get to the Customs contest until 5:30, just after the last raffle of the day and by then everybody was streaming out. Wow.
I took second in the Customs contest. I was happy with that, the guy who beat me had taken a 1/48 Yamato Valkyrie, put a resin conversion on it to turn it into a VF-1D, ripped the arm off and scratch built little Hikaru and Minmay figures to make the famous scene where Minmay falls out of the Valkyrie’s hand mid-air and Hikaru dives down and saves her by pulling her into the cockpit. It was very cool and I didn’t mind losing to it in this take a Macross-related toy or kit and make something cool out of it contest. Part of me thought, “My God, just because they’re toys doesn’t mean you don’t have to fix the seam lines!” I’ve been in the world of competitive model building for 5-6 years and it’s hard not to look at a contest and expect all the entrants and especially the winners to apply all the modeling skills to their pieces. But this isn’t a model contest and model contest rules don’t apply.
So ironically even though I got second place, I got a better prize. The winner, EXO got a Ranka Lee figure that I think was probably worth about $50. I got a vintage Nousjadeul Ger (male power armor) kit and a poster. At first I was thinking, “A poster, cool.” I figured it was one of the ones the vendor was selling. Maybe it was one of the ones where they took the nice Tenjin Hidetaka artwork and slapped a Robotech logo on it. But then EXO was like “I wanted the poster.” At this point I unroll it a bit and it’s a black poster with a cutaway of a Super Valkyrie drawn in white on it. Wow, it’s pretty nice.
Exo asks if I want to trade the poster for the figure. Since I have a Ranka Lee Deculture VF-25 that it would go good with I’m about to say yes but I can hear people in the crowd saying, “Don’t do it!” At this point the contest organizers ask Exo if he wants to trade the prizes by his rights as winner. He’s nice enough to ask if it’s OK with me and I’m fairly agreeable to that when the crowd is like, “Nooooooooooo!” I turn and look at them and ask, “Should I do it?” Again, “Nooooooooooooo!” I looked at Exo and shrugged. Obviously I’ve got something good in this poster. Sorry, man.
The contest organizers explain the backstory on the poster to me. These posters were printed to go in a book printed in 1984 to go along with the release of Do You Remember Love? It’s known among Macross fans as The Gold Book. The poster were folded up and placed in the back of the book along with a film strip and the book is now rare and worth a lot. Somehow some of the posters made it out of the printers on their own, in unfolded condition. These aren’t worth as much as the book but they’re also pretty rare and I’m guessing worth somewhere around $30-40. Looks like I’ll have to get it framed.
So with that, the show was pretty much over. I went home and the next day was family photos. The next weekend I took my wife out (belatedly) for our 13th anniversary. We went to the Circle (downtown) in Orange for a Halloween event (horrible parking, not a lot of fun). On Halloween we carved pumpkins (I did a Mono Eye, lol) and then we took the girls to downtown Brea on Halloween for their trick-or-treating event (good parking, good time) and with that the very busy month of October was finally done.
So… 24 hours to go. Let’s take an inventory.
From the left we have 1:48 mega Zaku parts that have to be shaded and then brought up to various points in the clearcoat/decals/panel line wash process for my demo at SCGMC. Then there’s the orphaned HGUC Zaku that needs panel lines and paint chips and assorted clearcoats. Then there’s 4 GM’s that are mid-paint-chipped (3 more to go) and then need some pastel work, lenses painted and battle damage painted. Then I have to go to Robot4Less to get my models that I’m taking tomorrow and pack up all the models I plan to take. then I’m gonna go borrow my parents’ minivan and swing by Clem’s to pick up stuff to take tomorrow morning.
Holy crap it’s a good thing I don’t work today!
It’s another busy time as Those Gundam Guys prepare for the first annual SCGMC next weekend, November 12th in Fullerton, CA. We’ve been emailing each other back and forth and making plans. We’ve got the plan pretty much set, so go check it out:
We’re having categories for Gundam UC and Alternate Universe (each split into small- and large-scale) as well as non-Gundam mecha, anime figures and dioramas. We’ve put together an impressive raffle including a massive 1/144 Dendrobium, 4 MG kits (at current count) and a bunch of other kits.
Last night we got together to organize for the event. Clem and Dave prepared the trophies and award coins. We also tried to finish our massive group project, a six-piece diorama of several teams of GMs assaulting a Zeon remnant base circa UC 0083-4. The dio is pretty much done, but the GMs still need some work. We’ve got an orphan corner that’s been through two TGGs that have given up on it, so we divided up the kits between us to finish off. At least I got the Zaku, and not another GM… ATM I’m waaaaay GM’ed out. Here’s some not-quite-finished shots of my section:
Well, this year was definitely the most interesting OrangeCon ever in the years I’ve been going to OrangeCon. Those Gundam Guys had a pretty good showing, we filled out our category pretty well:
There should be 2 more Gundam kits in the first picture and another piece of our crazy diorama to the left of the one above but somebody left early. We’ll get to that.
Roy from Robot4Less also had a couple of tables and while I don’t think he sold a lot of Gundam kits I know he did sell a few and seemed pretty busy selling paint and tools. I haven’t talked to him since the show, I’m curious to see how he did.
I set up my models and then left the show room immediately and spent a lot of time in the vendor room digging through photoetch parts and decals for my airplane and tank models (didn’t find much but got a couple things). When I got back everybody had set or was setting up their models. Me, Nathan (Pascalior), Angel, Clem (Gamerabaenre), Manny (mbizzle), Brandon (bhop), Casval (Sid R’icel), and Sean (Grand Admiral Shawn) had all entered models. It was fun to see Nathan there shaking as he set up his model, because he was all nervous. I remember being that way several years ago. Now I just throw the models in the box and go…
Before lunch I actually took some time to walk around the show room. I had to laugh when I got to this one:
Not that there’s anything wrong with the model, it’s very well done and I think it even won a prize. But since this is a Striker, a modern armored fighting vehicle and it’s in the desert, there’s the automatic assumption that it’s got to be Afghanistan or Iraq. Now, look at the cactuses.
They’re Nopales!!! WTF are Nopales? They’re Mexican cactuses! Nopales are a pretty big part of Mexican culture. If you’re really Mexican, people joke that they can see the Nopal on your forehead. They’re even on the flag, the eagle is sitting on it:
Okay, so maybe the Strikers on maneuvers stateside in the southwest somewhere… But what about this WWII era British 25-Pounder? lulz
Hey, when I put a haystack in my Mustang vs. Citroen diorama, I researched European haystacks, because different Europeans make different-shaped haystacks… I can laugh at somebody putting the really really wrong kind of cactus on his diorama. Especially one that screams, “Viva Mexico!”
Anyway, a little before lunch I got a douchebaggy idea… What if we all pooled our People’s Choice Award votes and agreed to put them on the same Gunpla kit? The few of us that were right there did a little huddle and agreed that Angel’s The O was the most impressive. We even got Angel to vote for his own without knowing, we just gave him the number and didn’t tell him which one it was. We imagined the judges counting the ballots and rolling their eyes at all the votes for the Gundam model but then some other model winning. There were at least 40 or 50 entrants, and there were just six of us…
Anyway, after that the show room closes for three hours for judging. Normally we hit up a sit-down restaurant for a long lunch but Nathan had to go teach a class so we just went to Chipotle. We then went and killed some time at Brookhurst Hobbies. I spent some time following him and got some tips on Vallejo paint and pigments. After that we hung out at Clem’s for a while. About 3 we headed back and the drama began…
So Clem entered his Asuka bust in the contest. The contest rules state no nudity, but while Asuka’s new plugsuit is opaque:
Clem painted the lighter parts in a skin color that made it look like she was strategically “you could get away with it on TV after 10 pm” not really naked.
The head judge saw the bust and disqualified it for nudity. Clem had one of his classic freakouts. Sean tried to explain it and calm him down and I tried to remind him that we’re trying to get these people to come to our contest next month, and this wasn’t the time to make a scene and alienate the IPMS crowd but he pretty much said “Fuck it” and packed up and left. Oh boy…
Anyway the rest of us shrugged our shoulders and hung out to get the contest results. I got third place with my Rick Dom:
Angel got second with his O and Clem won in absentia with his Sazabi. Clem also placed in the diorama category and in the humor category with his Bearguy. We all looked at each other like, “You gonna pick up his trophy?” but nobody did.
I was a little disappointed that Casval’s RG Zaku didn’t win but a few minutes later they called “Casual” up to get his best Out-of-Box prize so that was great! Later on, Brandon placed for his US tank crewman figure.
Overall, this was the best-judged Gundam category I’ve seen at an IPMS event. The three winners at Anime Expo all got prizes here, and my Rick Dom got one, too, so aside from the drama I was quite pleased.
The real sore spot was what happened in the 1/48th scale tanks category that Brandon had entered. While Brandon didn’t necessarily expect to win, he was “surprised” by the winner they had picked. I went over a bit later and looked, but forgot my camera. The winner was an OOB Tamiya Sturmgeschutz in desert yellow. It wasn’t a piece of crap or anything but it definitely had some issues. There were some parts of it like the cupola and a rail behind the “turret” that were clearly a lighter shade than the rest of the kit, the kit had a slight sheen to it, and the cupola’s sheen was a bit glossier. As picky as I think of IPMS modelers being, this didn’t seem right. On the other hand 2nd and 3rd place were a pair of Marders with a lot more going on in them.
So we’re standing there talking, they’ve announced all the awards in our categories and we’re just waiting for them to stop calling out awards so we can pack up our models and go when I hear over the PA “…Angel De La Cruz for his The O.” By this time I totally wasn’t paying attention we were mainly talking about Clem so I asked Nathan, “What was that for?” He said “Something about People’s Choice.”
What??? Really? Yep.
I have not laughed so damn hard for so long in YEARS. And I’m trying not to because I didn’t want it to look like we’re all busting up because we had punked OrangeCon. I mean, we had… but we never meant to, nobody thought it would work. it was just SIX VOTES!!! I guess everybody else must have voted for themselves… and we were like the dogs that had caught the car.
Anyway, after I went away and made a couple texts and could stop laughing I went back and packed up. I took Angel back to Clem’s because he had stormed off and left Angel stranded without a ride. We didn’t have Casval’s big ‘ol trophy or Brandon’s figure trophy for his tanker, but otherwise here was the TGG take:
I haven’t put up a post in a really long time but there hasn’t been one big thing to post about, just little things and some slow progress on my kits.
In late July I took a road trip with several of Those Gundam Guys to ComicCon. I had never been before so it was a novelty but I didn’t really care for it. There was a good panel on resin casting but aside from that the most interesting thing that happened was that I went to go geek out on Scott Hards at the HLJ booth but when he saw the vendor pass I had from Bluefin and went totally cold on me. That was awkward. I didn’t try to explain anything because I wasn’t going to throw Bluefin under the bus, but I like HLJ, too. It made me reflect on the state of the hobby. At least here in Southern California we have this great Gunpla store (Robot4Less, no I don’t work for them… but they are kind of my buddies since I’m there a few times a month) and we want to support it, and Bandai is really pushing to get Gunpla into America via American-based sellers so that’s great. Anime and Gunpla seem to be solidy on the rise here in America. But as much as things have progressed, we still don’t have everything. While Scott Hards was giving me the cold shoulder at ComicCon I had a couple kits on the way from HLJ. Earlier in the year I had ordered some Macross items from them because nobody “legit” in the US carries it because of the whole Harmony Gold Robotech/Macross licensing debacle. I wonder in time if gunpla will become so mainstream in the US that regularly checking out the Japanese vendor sites will become a thing of the past?
Anyway, here’s Gamerabaenre’s account of the day:
Comic Con 2011
August included a family camping trip and a build gathering at my house.
It was pretty uneventful except for the part where Clem hit one of the neighborhood kids with his car. Actually, it was more like one of the neighborhood kids hit his car. I was at Robot4Less with a group of people when it happened but when Terry called me and said the street was swarming with cops, firemen and ambulances, I was pretty sure I knew which group of kids the “victim” came from. They’re about 7-11 years old and play back and forth across the street with no parental supervision. It was a matter of time… And what have the parents done since then to deal with the issue? They got some cones to put up in the street when the kids are playing. Still no adult supervision. Nice.
I’ve been working on the GM Team diorama group build thing with Those Gundam Guys. I’ve spent plenty of money locally on that project (I bought 4 of the 6 kits I’m using in it from Robot4Less). We’ve got a pretty good start on the group base and I’ve worked out how it’s all going to look. We got together a couple weekends ago and worked on the base in a coordinated effort to get it… closer to done.
At the last official build gathering a group went to R4L and I worked out a deal with Jeff and we split a pair of the HGUC/UC Hardgraph Ground War sets so that we could each get one MS and one each of the tank, hovertruck, Wappa and troops/accessories. I later sold of my MS kit to another member, so I managed to just get the vehicles for about $13.
I put these little kits together at the build gathering. They’re pretty impressive. The tank and hover truck are each about 20 pieces and despite being only 2 inches long have some really great detail. The Wappa isn’t quite as good but to be fair it’s probably not even an inch long. I’m putting some work into replacing some of the stowage rails on the back of the tank with actual metal wire. On the kit it’s just solid plastic slabs and it’s the only bad part of the kit. The bottom of the railing is mesh on the “real” thing and at that scale I’ll accept solid plastic, but the top is open railing and really has to be replaced (at least according to my AMS). The Wappa has similar issues where solid slabs of plastic are supposed to represent railing. I may fix it or I may just leave it out. The cost-to-benefit ratio is not that great for the Wappa.
The rest of the project is primered plastic. Between these GMs, the not-Rick Dom II and my Super Valkyrie (officially shelved until the group build is done) there is a LOT of primered plastic around my workbench…
Surface prep on the GMs is almost done and after that I’m looking forward to really finishing this build quickly and maybe getting the Valk done by the SCGMC.
The other news is that I’ve given into Roy’s requests and prodding and put some of my kits up for sale at Robot4Less. I have mixed feelings about selling my stuff. On the one hand after going to all the contests and then sitting on my shelves for a couple years, what am I getting out of them? On the other hand, I spent months on these projects and the 6 or 7 models I’m selling represent about 2 years of work and half of my total collection. I’m hoping to make enough from them to buy a DSLR camera but who knows…
Ahhh… the last day of Anime Expo. This time I went with Juan and Lucio since we were going to meet up with the rest of the family at the 4th of July Angels game after we left AX.
After we got there we split up since they wanted to see an early movie (The Girl Who Leapt through Time, it’s excellent but I had already seen it) and then take one last pass through the exhibition hall and I wanted to do the hall first and then watch a movie. I went back to Bluefin, of course. Steve wasn’t around, which was too bad because I wanted to work out a deal with him. I took some time and packed up my models. Most had left on Sunday night after the competition since most people had a 2-day pass for Saturday and Sunday. Once my models were gone, there were only a couple of kits left. By then Steve was back so I popped my proposition on him. He owed me money for purchasing supplies for the Unicorn Gundam, and, of course, he had a kit that I wanted, so I traded what he owed me for credit toward a Megasize Zaku. Yeah it’s got seamlines (they’re not as bad as the ones on the Gundam) and ratchety polycap joints but it’s HUGE and in 1/48 scale, my favorite scale from my old airplane days so there will be plenty of to-scale diorama material out there. I’ve already got a few ideas for this kit and if I pull them off it could be a real show stopper. I get kind of giddy thinking about the hugeness of that kit. It’s like when I was a kid and I got that Monogram 1/48 B-29 for Christmas.
With everything packed up I headed back to the car to drop it all off and then made one last trip through the hall. Since I was alone and it was much less crowded I could really check out what people had for sale, but I still didn’t find much. There was an Anaheim Electronics shirt just like one I had seen and passed on in Japan. There were some Haruhi shirts, but I was really after something either Gundam or Macross. So for the first year, I left AX without a shirt. But I did talk to Brandon about getting me a VF-1S shirt like the one he was wearing when I saw him earlier at AX, so maybe I’ll still get a shirt from AX, just kind of indirectly. And that was it, I was done with the hall, and except for this goofy wooden moustache I had picked up for my daughter, the only things I took home were from Bluefin.
Usually I tell myself not to come home with nothing but Gunpla, but this year there wasn’t too much else I wanted from AX. Just 6 months ago I was in Japan, so I guess I was good on Japanese culture for the time being. I’ve got plenty of Anime to watch, so I’ll just watch it and build and have more things to be into next year. It’s kind of a bummer that found so little to buy this year, but it’s nice to come away from AX with a good chunk of money. My birthday is always right around AX so, I go there with birthday money. I always say I’ll spend my money on tools and equipment when I have a chunk of Birthday or Christmas money but I always end up buying kits. This year I’m actually going to spend my money on tools for my models (resin casting, here I come).
After giving up on the Exhibit Hall, I headed off to room 309. It took me a while to find (it’s two levels up just outside the Hall) because I never knew it existed. It was HOT way up there but I found it and settled in with a good-sized crowd to watch Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro It’s only the second Lupin anything I had seen and it was great. Another good movie to watch in a crowd.
Next I had a decision to make. My original plan was to go see One Piece, since I’ve never seen it at all, but I was just coming off Lupin (from thieves to pirates?) and so I went to go see Final Fantasy Advent Children instead. Another reason I went there was because that’s where Juan and Lucio were going, so afterwards we could all take off together.
I wish I had gone to see One Piece. The room was packed and they kept squeezing people in. They even stopped the movie and turned on the lights at one point to do it. Even after that, people kept shuffling people in and out, so people were wading through my row and the row in front of me half a dozen times. I ended up behind this couple with the BIGGEST heads I’ve ever seen. Of course all of them was big. Roundboy had the nerve to shout out “You should get taller!” when people complained they couldn’t read the subtitles. I thought, “You should get thinner, and then get a younger girlfriend.” I said it quietly to the people behind me who had complained, but Clem would have yelled it out, I wish he was there. This guy’s girlfriend was like at least 15 years older than him. I had seen them in line on day one and it’s one of those couples where at first you wonder, mother and son, or couple? Shudder.
But then it got worse; the last guy who settled in next to me was an ultra-fanboy who immediately asked me if I knew who so-and-so Flynn was. I didn’t care, so I guessed it was the guy from Tron but that didn’t stop him (I wish I had come up with the guy from Tangled, that would have freaked him out even more, because he probably wouldn’t have known who it was). He informed me it was the voice actor for some guy in the movie and it was the same guy who voiced Raiden in Metal gear Solid.
Yeah, I still don’t give a rat’s ass. Then he asked me if I knew what some other thing was and I told him I was just TRYING to watch the movie and I think he sensed that my next response was going to be STFU so he then turned around and started explaining pretty much everything to the people behind me.
Maybe it was the circumstances, or maybe Pixar movies just own on whatever Sony and Square/Enix have got going in CGI (even back in 2005 when FFAC was made, Pixar was between The Incredibles and Cars). The characters were flat (and often annoying), the animation was jerky, and the dialogue (much of which was over cell phones) was corny and didn’t make a ton of sense. It was kind of like a Transformers movie. I guess I should blame myself some, lots of people there obviously loved the movie and I DID go to the movie that followed up on a videogame I never finished playing…
Sadly, on that kind of low note it was time to leave if we were going to get to the Angels game. We took a slow stroll out through the LA Convention Center and I soaked up the last bits of AX.
Looking back, I’ve completely changed my outlook on AX. The first few times I ever went were back in the 90’s or early 2000’s when it was still at either Long Beach or Anaheim and I went by myself just to buy the pass to the Exhibit hall so I could buy things. I bought my Perfect Grade Gundam and my MG Sazabi from HLJ back when they used to go to AX. And then I stopped going for several years because the lines were so chaotic and you had to pay to park and pay to get in and it wasn’t worth it just to shop. One year I went and couldn’t figure out which of the massive lines I was supposed to be in (and none of the staffers I could find seemed to know either) and left in complete frustration.
The last 4 years I’ve started hanging out with Those Gundam guys and I’ve purchased a 4-day pass and now I look forward to Anime Expo every year for the experience of being in the nerdy fantasyland that Anime Expo is. It’s fun running into people I know and just hanging out and soaking in all the energy and excitement in the crowd. Being around all those young people is fun and makes me feel both young and old at the same time. As the years go by I’m more and more glad to just go and be in the middle of it all. It’s like a vacation.
And so finally… Cosplay!
Anime Expo 2011 Day 2
Saturday was Gundam Day! I knew I was going to be there late so I didn’t even get to AX until about 1pm. I spent the first few hours hanging around the Bluefin booth and walking the exhibit hall with a group of Those Gundam Guys that ranged at times from 3 to 10 people. I was kind of disappointed by what was on sale in the rest of the hall. There really wasn’t anybody else to compete with Bluefin in terms of a mostly Gunpla or Gunpla and figures vendor. I saw very few mecha-related items like Revoltech figures and just about nothing related to Macross anywhere (I have to look elsewhere since Bluefin doesn’t distribute Macross merchandise, thanks again, Robotech). The good news was that the display case for the contestants had really filled out, and the Unicorn was still getting a lot of attention. Now that I mention it, I’ll post up my Unicorn pics here:
The work we did on the Unicorn is patterned on the Katoki version, and all of its dozens of decals:
And I HAD to put an Easter Egg:
Oh, and I remembered to get pics of the other new products, The GM III is half super cool and half retro-dorky. I think the extra equipment would look pretty awesome on a GM Ka or Custom, or maybe just swap out the head and give it a more modern paintjob:
After the general disappointment of the rest of the exhibit hall I headed off alone for the Bandai Entertainment Panel (the few people I was with at the time went to go see Escaflowne). There was no line, oh, no, wait, the line is outside and it’s MASSIVE. Fortunately Petree Hall sits a lot of people and again I ran into some people in the line and then some more people inside and we filled in some seats around them and ended up about ten rows back.
There were some technical difficulties which caused about a 20-minute delay. One guy from the audience (yes, ONE guy out of HUNDREDS of people) just couldn’t contain himself and tried to insert himself into the situation despite the Bandai and AX people that were already on it. They sent him away, but he came back. And I know he wasn’t some staffer because, well, he’s one of Those Gundam Guys…
The Bandai panel was basically Bandai’s chance to plug everything they either had just put out or were about to put out. They showed a lot of trailers and that was fine with me. With the delay it only ran about 40 minutes and I enjoyed either watching trailers for stuff I hadn’t seen or cheering for the trailers of the stuff I had seen and liked.
Then the panel segwayed into the first official Bandai Gundam panel in the USA, so that was pretty cool (it’s also the main reason I was there). They started off with a Gundam video montage and the big news was that Bandai will FINALLY release the Original Gundam series in the Anime Legends lineup. It will come out this September and come with Japanese and English audio, so WOO! Bandai also announced that they will bring Turn A Gundam to the US, that was unexpected, but I say bring it on!
Bandai also introduced Gundam AGE and that they will bring it to the US very soon after its release in Japan this Fall. They were also very frank about this series being aimed at what they called the “younger brother”, like ages 7-14.
The one other bit of news that came from the Q&A session was that Bandai/Sunrise do officially plan to animate Gundam Origin (I think they even said they’re beginning to work on it), but they aren’t sure if it will be a series or OVA.
And then came Q&A and the third person in the questions line was that one Gundam Guy again (the AV guy from the beginning of the panel). So almost the first question Bandai and Sunrise get at their first official American Gundam panel is basically, this:
“When are you guys going to stop making series just for the sake of selling merchandise and make one with a better plot and characters?”
Of course coming from that guy, the question was a lot less succinct, it was more like, “Hi, uh, rawr, rawr rawr … Do you think rawr rawr rawr… I mean rawrawrawrawrawrawrawr? Or maybe I should say rawr rawr rawr rawr rawr rawr.. and so… rawrawrawrawrawrawrawr, rawr. Rawr rawrawrawrawrawrawrawrawr rawr?”
I guess to be fair you hear complaints like that about Bandai just being in it to sell Gunpla on the forums and blogs, but is this really what you want to hit these guys with the first time they come to your con? Do you really need to insult them to their face because you wish their heroes were better so you could like the model of their mobile suit more?
So the translator takes a few uncomfortable minutes to translate this messy insulting question. People in the audience are kind of murmuring and the guy, maybe sensing what he’s stepped in, adds, “I mean, I know you guys are in business and all, but rawrawrawr…”
So then there’s some more translating and then the panel member basically says, “Gundam is a diverse universe where we target different audiences but we always try to make good characters and good stories. We know not everybody liked SEED”
Anime News Network said this about it:
“A press member complained that he felt some shows were more geared towards merchandising interests than strong stories, and asked how Sunrise maintains a balance between the two. After a lot of discussion amongst the panelists (and, separately, the audience), Sasaki responded that the universe is diverse, so there are a lot of different target audiences. Gundam Seed was made for a younger audience, for example, so a lot of Universal Century fans have not come to accept the show yet.”
So what do you expect Bandai to say? “You are right, oh gravelly-throated American, we will make Gundam series from now on with a lot more character development and a lot less mobile suits. And we will still make models of those mobile suits, and we will give them away for FREE! Thank you for showing us the error of our ways.”
I really felt the urge to apologize to Kojima-san and the Bandai Hobby contingent afterwards. I saw the guy on Sunday and Monday and both times he brought it up and was doing spin control, asking if I had written my post about it yet. I talked to him about it, basically saying that I know people feel that way, but to ask that question was kind of rude, and especially tactless at Bandai/Sunrise’s first ever official US Gundam panel.
Once the awkwardness was over, it was straight to the 00 Movie, Awakening of the Trailblazer. We ran back into Clem, Brandon, Angel and my Brother-In-Laws and I think we had the whole Gundam Guys contingent in attendance. The movie started late since the Bandai panels had run late (and they gave you the impression that the disc was being carried around like the nuclear football) so several of us made the dash back to our cars to get our kits to work on during Clem’s Gundam Model panel.
I hadn’t seen Awakening of the Trailblazer yet and had no idea what to expect, other than some really ugly Gundams (the Braves were nice and there were some pretty sweet-looking GN-X variants flying around, but those new Gundams are fugly IMHO) and a fight against aliens, a first in the Gundam world. The movie starts off REALLY cheesy and then it’s kind of shocking when they show all the Gundam pilots and they’re, um diverse. But then you realize that’s because it’s really a movie within a movie, and the cheese is intentional.
So I’m not going to do any spoilers other than to say that the enemy was completely faceless so that wasn’t very interesting and the ending… oh, the ending. It was 100% WTF??? It’s pretty Char’s Counterattack, you know, giant sparkly rainbow, except worse than a rainbow. There’s kind of an epilogue that saves it a little but the general impression was, “Whaaaa?” Sometimes those are really good endings but this movie didn’t have the emotional weight to make the WTF ending seem profound, so it just came off a little silly.
I felt like the Gundams had become so powerful that they were all super beam-spammers (except for the QAN(T) which pretty much shows up late as a plot device). I don’t normally make this kind of complaint, but I was disappointed that the Gundams had lost their Sniper/Heavy/High Mobility/Melee specialties. I guess as the technology advanced, the Gundams became multi-role mobile suits.
But the movie had its moments and it’s always more fun to watch a movie like this in a crowd where people can cheer for the good stuff and laugh at the cheesy stuff. Watching anime in a big crowd is always one of my favorite parts of AX.
After the movie, with a lot of tanks on empty, people then head to Clem’s panel. I think all the tired in the room made the crowd a little dead. I know I tried to make some smartass cracks but I think they just came out grouchy. Clem managed to plug our upcoming Southern California Gundam Model Competition several times, as well as the Robot4Less store, which came pretty naturally since he’s like, “I use this product to do this thing.” And someone in the crowd asks, “Where can you get that?” And for a change instead of, “You have to order it from Japan.” He can say “You go to this store off the 91 in Fullerton called Robot4Less.” See, I just did it myself.
Clem’s panel ended and I hung out a bit and answered a few questions and gave out a couple of cards then we said our goodbyes and I left with my brothers-in-law.
At first we were freaking out because the line wasn’t moving, but it turned out that our line wasn’t moving. It turns out they had subdivided the lines into three parts and so once one section finished the next section got to move. It actually moved along pretty well, but we were still in the blazing sun for an hour. Good think I’m Mexican. I saw a poor Gurren Lagaan Yoko who was a very uncomfortable shade of pink. Who would expect to get a sunburn at Anime Expo?
I really wanted to do something like this with Megumi Nakajima (voice of Ranka Lee) and the Ranka Edition VF-25 last year at AX but I was too disorganized and indecisive. I learned from that and this year I was ready!
I went to the exhibit hall but I actually never made it past the Bluefin booth. Between talking to Steve and Xavier and Casval and Jordan and Travis, and James and Kojima-san from Bandai and setting up my models and checking out the new kits I had plenty to keep me busy. It was VERY cool to see some preview models of kits that aren’t yet right here in the USA. I only got a picture of one, the MG Delta Gundam:
I forgot to take pictures of the HGUC GM III, HG Master and Shining Gundams and RG Zaku (Green). I’ll get those tomorrow. On a much larger scale, the Unicorn seemed pretty popular, there was a crowd around it taking pictures every time I looked.
I took a break from lunch and was joined by Jeff and Eun (I think I’m spelling that right…) from the gatherings and some of there friends joined us and we had a nice little lunch group. It’s nice to be part of Those Gundam Guys and be able to just go to AX and meet up with people like that. After lunch we went back to the exhibit hall, and ended up at… The Bluefin booth!
Then I finally got around to some shopping. In the corner, right after you look at all the displays of the built kits, there’s the “bargain section” where they have some kits in bent boxes (I got an HGUC Sinanju, the box was smooshed but the parts were mint). Then there was a funny exchange where Jeff and I were standing there with an MG ReZel (only $34!) and an MG V-Dash Gundam (only $55!). He had the ReZel, and I had the V-Dash. And we were drooling over the kits and then convinced each other that we each wanted teh other kit. So we swapped. Then we drooled some more, and swapped back again and then finally decided we both wanted the ReZel and they only had one!
Xavier let us know he’d be getting more the next day and I hadn’t even checked out the rest of the hall so I let Jeff take it. By then it was time for Furukawa to do autographs, so I got that and went to go see The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya. It’s LONG, like 3 hours and I missed the beginning because I was getting Furukawa’s autograph, but Jeff let me know that the beginning as just setting the mood and he was right. Kyon even tells you about a half-hour into the movie, “That’s all just prologue…”
I really enjoyed the movie. Nagato gets to really break out of her Rei-like zombie girl schtick (kinda like Rei does in You Can (Not) Advance, now that I think about it) and the story really makes the most of the characters and their personalities so I totally dug it. I’ll have to see the interveneing episodes between season one and the movie some day.
So anyway, by then it was 7:30 (the movie is three hours long) so I headed home, I’ve got a loooong day tomorrow with nonstop Bandai panel, Gundam panel, Gundam 00 movie, movie panel and Clem’s panel from 4:30 to midnight and before that I’ve got to check out the exhibit hall! I didn’t even go through it today!