ALcon 2008 Anime Convention Feature: Part Three

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Previously in Part One on eMagi we covered what ALcon 2008 was about, the dealers and screenings that happened and in Part Two of ALcon we covered the various panels like the Iron Artist and Charity Auction. In this final part of our ALcon coverage this will wrap up the remainder of events and what we thought of the whole convention and how it compared to last years.

The Masquerade
Every convention and expo tends to have a cosplay Masquerade and this was no exception. The venue was changed at the last minute so it moved to the Quay Bar of which was rather fortunate. I say this because the bar itself could accommodate all of the attendees easily enough and due to the open layout it was ideal for the cosplayers to pose and to do their skits. There were only a few skits at the Masquerade and love them or hate them, they play a part at such an event. However I do believe skits should have a time limit to keep things flowing and to maintain the level of interest from the audience. Since it was at a bar, some of the cosplayers did not speak loud enough so a lot of the skit was lost amongst the ambient noise.

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There was a good percentage of cosplayers at ALcon and most joined the Masquerade to show off their efforts. The best though was saved for last as a Soul Calibur group arrived to the stage with plenty of cheers from the watching crowd. You can see why!

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There was a delay to the Masquerade due to the late change of the venue and a few stumbling blocks due to the pronnounciation of certain characters and anime titles, but it generally went well with the cosplayers all upstairs to begin with and making their way down. The weather though didn’t help as all of them had to be outside of the Quay Bar braving the weather until they were called in. No prizes were given out to any of the cosplayers as it was all about the participation rather than the competition however many made up their mind as to which was the best of the bunch.

eMagi didn’t attend the Anime Karaoke event which followed the Masquerade as decided that having dinner was far more important! We headed off to the Polar Bear pub a short walk away from the convention for some food as there were offers on meals. Sadly no Fish and Chips were available along with the pies! Me and TaroTard made do with Chilli Con Carne while everyone else tucked into their respective meals. What was funny that all of us got ID’d at the bar (all of us are older than 18, most over 25!) but my friend Rich did also which made all of us laugh.

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Rich enjoying his supreme burger!

The Pub Quiz
After the meal we headed back to make it in time for the Pub Quiz, something I wanted to attend at Amecon but didn’t manage to. We joined forces with our friends who are webmasters of Animetion to form a team. Tom though decided to call our team Animetion instead to claim responsibility for it all, however we still worked as a team as we tackled the first issue – Dingbats. These were basically visual plays on words that can only be solved by thinking outside the box. Here are some examples.

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Can you figure them out? There were 12 of them in total for us to solve but we struggled on 3, so we decided to leave it and focus on the main part of the quiz. It was explained that there were two trumph cards that can be played, Joker and Batman. Joker would basically half the amount of points for that round while Batman would double it, both had to be used but only once for the whole quiz. There were five rounds in total ranging from Science and Nature, Videogames, Anime & Manga, Television and Music. Anime and Manga came on the third round and we thought we would play our Batman on that thinking it would be our strongest round… Yet it wasn’t! We did very well on the Television and the Music rounds and would have gained much more points if we banked on those. Halfway through we were 5th Overall I believe and then the final tally was made…

We came second!

All of us were pretty annoyed because we felt that we could have won if the Batman was played on a different round, however we all had fun and were dying to party hard at the AMV Party that was to follow. Tom however claimed all the points for his Clan (Pirates) when it should have been shared with the Vampires too. So all of us at eMagi blamed him for the final result!

The pub quiz did did over run and it was pretty difficult to listen in on some of the questions as well as there was too much small talk at times and not enough emphasis on the actual questions, especially over the ambient noise as many in the pub decided to shout and perhaps were over enthusiastic about it all. Also I thought it was slightly unfair when we were asked th cheer for our respective clans. For example the Pirates would have a hearty “Yo-ho-HO!”, Ninja’s had to shout “I believe it!” and rather pathetically the Vampires had to ‘Hiss’ as loud as possible! I mean, how can you hiss loudly?

It was then later changed to a “I want to suck your blood!” but said in a very Italian manner, of which I joked around quite a lot with Cam, saying Mamma Mia! amongst other things in a very bad Italian accent. Another slightly negative thing was that pretty much every round or more we all had to cheer to represent our clans which did wear out pretty fast since many were quite tired after a busy Saturday and just wanted to party soon after. After a small technical hitch the party began and was in full flow.

AMV Nights
I missed the Friday AMV Night however was told that it was basically the same. For those who don’t know what an AMV is, it stands for Animated Music Video. These are fan made videos based on their favourite anime or videogame which is then synced to a music song. Many of these are infamous or fan favourites as the songs could either be from anime openings or more often than not, some 80’s cheese. We love 80’s cheese!

With the music cranked up to volume 11, music videos playing on the big screen and drinks flowing, everyone got into the spirit of things on the dance floor. the party closed its doors though around 12:20am as people started to head off back to their dorms, ready for tomorrow.

Animation panel
An early start came for us on the Sunday as our friends had their own panel at ALcon at 10am, which was hard work after a nights partying and drinking! Before that though we had to check out of our rooms and return the keys to the accommodation offer and pick up our £10 deposit. Trouble now was without a room we had no-where to leave our bags for the whole day which would be troublesome. Thankfully a room was offered to store our bags for free so we left our items there, grabbed some breakfast from the local Sainsburys and headed off to the Animetion Panel. I helped Rich briefly to setup up his laptop with the projector as he played some Yugioh Abridged to fill in the time before the panel started.

Due to the early start and the various other panels on the day, the turnout was rather low sadly for our friends. Other than the eMagi Staff (myself, TaroTard and Ovii-Sama) were our friends Rachael and Jason that were in attendance. Thankfully later on two others arrived along with the lady that would be leading the BJD (Ball Jointed Dolls) panel after it.  Every attendee though had a ticket which enabled them to enter a raffle to win some prizes later on. The whole panel was about the history of Animetion, how it got started and the technology used to power the site. Rich also explained how they both managed to juggle writing for the site when both he and Tom held full time jobs and how they would like to stick to the HTML technology that has powered their site since 2002. After that, there was a quiz with a prize ready to be one. Rich brought up a screen of all the Pokémon and basically the first person to answer would win a prize. At random Rich picked one out and opened it to the attendees and Cam was first to raise his hand and got the answer correct first time. His prize for his efforts? A Pikachu plushie! Needless to say, Cam was rather happy with it!

The raffle was next up and the prizes on offer ranged from a Hello Kitty puzzle to small Gatchapon they had bought from Japan. Speaking to Tom and Rich soon after the panel they were fairly pleased about how it went, even if there were few attendees and came away with some good ideas for what to include for further features for their site.

So, you want to be a pro artist?
This was quite an insightful panel and I thought one of the more useful and interesting panels of ALcon because you got into the minds and routine of the professional artists. Taking part was Niki Hunter, Sonia Leong, Phil of Genki Gear and three smaller self publishers (of which sadly I have forgotten their respective companies! Please get in touch with me so I can correct this!). It started off with a brief history about each of the panel attendees and then it opened to the public to ask questions. Many proved to be interesting as someone asked how they got into the industry and indeed how they managed to get to a level where they could charge for their artwork. The academic backgrounds of the artists and designers varied greatly which illustrated that with enough dedication, hard work, talent and luck, you too can aspire to succeed in life.

What did come across though from the artists was that you do need to seriously put in the effort and time into the more realistic aspects of art, especially the human anatomy to keep things in proportion. Only then can you play around with the art style because it was stressed that consistency in manga is the key. Being able to draw well from one perspective might be great but once you introduce different angles and different scenes, many people can detect if limbs start to be of varying length and size. It was also stressed by Sonia that anyone can draw, ‘its just that people haven’t learned how to see correctly’. Sonia explained that if you are able to write out the alphabet then you are able to draw – You just need to be able to see things correctly to define the shapes required.

Other things hit upon were some interesting and insightful methods on self promotion, getting your designs out there to be published and how retailers can bite you with commission costs. There were many other things that some artists don’t think about as well in the industry, such as having written contracts for commission work, budgeting your money wisely over time and how difficult it is to get recognised in the industry. For example some valuable advice was that it is worth working full or part time while developing your artistic skills because you will not start to earn any money from it instantly. Even if you do, it does not guarantee that you will have a stable amount of income over the following months. All of them agreed that you need to at least budget so you can survive 4-6 months without any income if you want to solely rely on your art as the main source of income which might have shocked some. Sonia and Niki then explained their life stories about living on cheap noodles and beans and toast for months to live on as they were getting established.

It was also stressed that since you would be self employed and promoting your own work, you also have to carry yourself well online and offline to people. For example a spiteful remark can and often will come back to to haunt you once you manage to hit the big time. The advice given was that whenever you express an opinion, be cute about it and make sure that you state that things are just your own opinion and not law. Also when giving critiques to others about their art, always do so constructively and only on the technical issues. In doing so, you avoid being too personal about your opinions and avoid what could be an ugly flame war.

The huge importance of having a recent and high quality portfolio as well was stressed because it would give people and potential clients an example of what you are capable of. While having an academic background does help, in the creative industry it matters less because people just want to know what you are capbable of and what you have achieved, more than what you have gained through qualifications. It certainly differs from the I.T Industry for example where qualifications and real world experience counts for more than anything. In all, me and Cam came away from this panel full of motivation and drive to keep on improving, Cam with his illustration and writing skills and me to push eMagi forward.

That wraps up Part Three and yes I know I did say this would be the final part. However I still have more to come! With the Closing Ceremony, testimonials from the eMagi staff and final thoughts from me. I hope you’ve enjoyed the read so far and will look forward to the final conclusion of ALcon 2008!