Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Anime Weekend Atlanta Report 2012


[tab:Kaitlin's AWA Report]
Anime Weekend Atlanta 2012, nicknamed AWA, started off with a bang on Thursday, September 27. While the convention technically began on Friday, I arrived early to beat the long lines for badge pickup that Fridays bring. The convention was clearly as busy as ever! I had never arrived this early in the past, but I did not want to miss a thing! The lineup for this year’s convention was thrilling with musical guests, voice actors, exciting panels, and more! I had a feeling this would be the best Anime Weekend Atlanta yet!

Thanks to all the convention had to offer, and my amazing friends, it definitely lived up to my expectations.

This was my tenth consecutive year at this particular convention. I must say that Anime Weekend Atlanta has a history of quality musical guests. With Moon Stream last year, they set high expectations for themselves once again this year. They certainly delivered, inviting four-man visual kei band, heidi., to rock the house. The panels were interesting and plentiful! Cosplayers were amazing with some of the classic costumes in addition to new and intriguing ones!

Anime Weekend Atlanta went all out with Voice Actors this year with several returning guests, including Amy Howard Wilson and Vic Mignogna. In addition to these returning guests there were; Suziko Mimori (who did a concert), Trish Nishimura, and Ryo Horikawa who is the Japanese voice of Vegeta. They also had voice actor and musician Johnny Yong Bosch, who came alongside his amazing band, Eyeshine.

But let us not forget the manga industry, with guests such as Fred Schodt, Ayumi Kino, Jennie Breeden, and Dark Horse editor Carl Horn. Others included Marie Claude Bourbonnais, and Tim Eldred! Rounding out the guest list in a big way was fashion favorite Naoto Hirooka.

The autograph lines were long as ever for the ever-popular voice actor, Mignogna. I had the opportunity to get Johnny Yong Bosch’s autograph after his Saturday panel, which made me extremely happy, as well as Eyeshine’s CD “revolution airwaves” autographed by the entire band. Throughout the weekend they took extra measures to ensure that fans could receive autographs, despite a continuous line cap, and on Sunday they were kind enough to sign until they had to leave. That was super cool! On Friday I managed to get heidi.’s autograph; that was one I had been waiting for since I found out they were coming. The only other autograph I wanted was Japanese pop idol You Kikkawa. She was incredibly kind and happy to sign things for her fans.

During the weekend, I had the opportunity to interview both Edge Rock band Eyeshine and singer Kikka. They were all a pleasure to meet and speak to.

Then there were the costumes! Though I’ve seen a broader variety in past, the selection of costumes this year was undoubtedly cool. Some people chose to dress up as classic characters from older animes, whereas others opted for newer ones. I think there was a good balance of both. One thing that I was surprised by was the sheer number of Korra cosplayers that I saw, this just proves the popularity of the Avatar: The Last Airbender sequel, The Legend of Korra. That was one of the most popular cosplays I noticed at this convention. I also saw the usual costumes of the Sailor Scouts, Naruto characters, and also quite a few Alucards. I can’t forget the Lolitas either!

Overall, not a bad selection. Hopefully next year there will be an even wider variety! Only time will tell.

Panels galore existed at this year’s Anime Weekend Atlanta! The only problem was picking and choosing. This year I felt it was more difficult than in the past with more offerings, all of which seemed exciting. They had practical panels on cosplaying, how to turn hobbies into professions, do-it-yourself panels, and more! Besides the practical, they had fun gaming panels and anime quiz panels. There was one panel with a line all the way around the hotel lobby area - that would be the “Ouran Host Club Murder Mystery”. I did not have the opportunity to go due to attending the concerts, but I heard rave reviews of the panel. Way to go!

While not a panel, a favorite of mine has always been the Con-Suite. It’s always in the same room on the twelfth floor of the convention’s hotel, the Renaissance-Waverly. It’s a fun place to sit down and meet new people while grabbing a bite. You can also watch some fun Anime Music Videos.

Speaking of AMVs, Anime Weekend Atlanta managed several AMV related panels this year including the traditional “AMV Hell”! There was even one that paid tribute to the band Queen. In addition to fan made videos, the convention also played various animes throughout the weekend. That is always a great way to see a favorite or learn something new. Anime Weekend Atlanta did a great job of making sure there was something for everyone.

My favorite panels were definitely the musicians’:

Eyeshine’s panels were quite memorable. They were one of the highlights of the convention for me. They did a musical Q&A of sorts, answering the questions in song form most every time.  Johnny took point in responding to questions directed at him or the band. But he seemed happy to involve his bandmates and pointed out, on more than one occasion, that this was not just a Johnny panel, but Johnny and Eyeshine. This made me smile because it shows how down-to-earth he is despite being well known. The entire band seemed that way. Their fly-by-the-seat-of-their-pants, improvisational, musical Q & A panels were the funniest out of all of the panels I went to over the whole weekend. They not only improvised their music, but some of their answers too. You could tell because of how silly the answers were to some of the questions. Johnny in particular also had funny stories about throwing money, cars, and the formation of the band. Having attended all three of their panels throughout the weekend, I can say that no two where alike – it was definitely a great experience.

You Kikkawa, more commonly known as Kikka, is a Japanese pop idol and former member of Hello! Project. She was very genuine and nice, and her panels were very sweet.  Unfortunately I didn’t get to attend either of her panels in full, but I enjoyed what l managed to see. The fans were eager to know about her, asking things ranging from her career, to her sightseeing while in Atlanta. She responded to the second topic I mentioned excitedly. Kikka greatly enjoyed The Cheesecake Factory while she was here. It was very interesting to learn such a fun little thing about someone so famous.

Musical guest heidi. did a great job of psyching up the fans with their Friday afternoon panel! They actually had two panels while they were there, one Friday, and one Sunday. They needed Saturday to prepare for the concert of course. The Friday panel was a question and answer session. The fans knew what they wanted to know and asked eagerly, heidi. answering honestly. It was a very lively, and enjoyable panel.

However it was the second panel that stuck with me more.

Sunday afternoon brought a bigger crowd to the panel than the previous one! I was surprised at how the attendance seemed to have at least doubled, if not more! They made a lot of new fans with their concert on Saturday night. Their music spoke for itself and it spoke well. The original intent of the Sunday panel had been to be more industry geared, but due to the increased attendance it ended up being a more traditional Q & A session. The band, however, still seemed happy to comply with their fans wishes. They were so much fun and very informative. I hope they come to another convention soon; I want to see their panels and concert again!


Another panel that was a heavy focus was h.NAOTO. Naoto Hirooka is the man behind the h.Naoto clothing brand. He is a Japanese fashion designer with S-inc., which he joined after graduating from Bunka Fashion College. His panel was an informative question and answer session. He answered each question with what seemed to be great thought and consideration. He seemed genuinely sincere and happy to be there. Despite a busy schedule, after the panel Naoto-san stopped outside for a moment for a photo opportunity. This gave me the opportunity to briefly meet Naoto-san. That was certainly a special treat.

As fantastic as the other activities were, the best part of the convention for me was definitely the concerts on Saturday - they were AMAZING! There were wild and fanatic crowds of loyal fans who knew each song by heart and lines that stretched on for longer than I have ever seen before. Due to all the wonderful events, unfortunately I missed most of Mimori’s concert. Luckily the timing for Kikka’s concert was ideal and I managed to see all of it. It was one of the major highlights of the weekend! With Mimori and Kikka’s wonderfully contagious energy, I was helped to get in the mindset for the evening festivities! Eyeshine and heidi, completed my Saturday concert experience with a bang!

I was so excited and I was not disappointed. I would not have missed them for anything. The experience; being able to see them, hear them live - it was so much fun.

I only caught the end of voice actress Suzuko Mimori’s concert before Kikka, but I loved what I saw. I thought it was cute and lively. I wish I could have seen her entire performance. She was very upbeat and energetic! I hope to see another concert of hers in the future. Kikka’s concert was next and I was ready for it! There was not much of a delay between the two and Kikka came on, beginning with a bang and ending with one. She did a terrific job of interacting with the crowd, some of who flew all the way from Japan to see her! Kikka also had dance routines for most of her songs, which she performed with ease. Even if you aren’t familiar with her dances, the songs were easy and fun to dance along with. The concert flew by far too quickly, but I enjoyed every moment of it!

There was a gap between concerts, as Kikka ended hours before Eyeshine, but there was so much to do that the time passed quickly. Eyeshine’s concert began at nine o’clock, but the dedicated fans got there early; some arriving more than two hours before the concert. Once the doors opened, they were rewarded for their patience by rewarded for their patience with an excellent view of the stage. By being up front, I had the chance to see Eyeshine up close and personal. They were spectacular! They gave it their all and put on one hell of a show! It ended before I knew it; and while that made me sad, I couldn’t deny that I was excited for the next concert too. (To read more about Eyeshine’s concert: CLICK HERE )

‘Mesmerizing’ is one of the best words I can use to describe heidi.’s concert. Language barriers were transcended, as fans understood the meaning of the songs even without speaking Japanese.  The concert came to a close after an amazing performance and an epic encore. I checked the time upon getting out and it ran later than planned. But the funny thing was it still felt like no time at all! That’s what happens when you are lost in the music. (To read more about heidi.’s concert: CLICK HERE )

This year’s Anime Weekend Atlanta was definitely the busiest and most scheduled I’ve ever had.  But it was probably one of the best, if not the best one, I have been to yet. I am already anticipating the next Anime Weekend Atlanta - too bad that’s almost nine months away. Until next time!

[tab:Rita's AWA Report]

Even after going to AWA for the past 8 years, I was surprised at how jam packed it was compared to previous years.  As with most years, I became more excited as the con drew closer. This year, however, I was thrilled that h.Naoto, heidi., and Eyeshine would all be there. I had a feeling that this year was going to be amazing. I didn’t know what to expect and even if I had, they surely surpassed any expectations.

Before the convention officially started, I arrived early with a few of my friends on Thursday night. I couldn’t wait for the convention to start as I waited in the already long line to get my pass. As I waited, I was excited that I already saw a number of amazing outfits and cosplays. This marked the beginning of a great convention.

On Friday morning, after we managed to leave the hotel, we headed over to the convention where I managed to catch the end of the Opening Ceremonies. I was just in time to catch the introduction of Vic Mignogna, noted voice actor composer and singer.  He introduced himself in character as the audience went wild. As the opening ceremonies came to a close, I felt the energy in the entire ballroom explode. This explosive energy carried on throughout the entire convention.

With the energy of the opening ceremonies still in the air, I couldn’t wait for the Johnny Yong Bosch/Eyeshine panel. In all honestly, before the convention, I didn’t know that much about Johnny or Eyeshine. I didn’t know what to expect. But as their panel began, I soon found out that a Johnny Yong Bosch/Eyeshine panel was an experience in itself. Taking the form of a musical Q & A session, they allowed fans to ask questions, singing back the answer whenever possible. And the responses were nothing short of awesome in themselves, sung or not. They improvised responses to questions of what it was like to be a Power Ranger all the way to his experiences as a voice actor. Needless to say the variety of questions, and interesting responses, was quite large. One of the best answers/stories that they sang about was a story about Johnny trying to give money to a homeless woman, at a street corner, while driving his car. I couldn’t stop laughing throughout the entire panel and I didn’t want it to end. After the panel ended, I realized that I didn’t want to miss any of their panels that weekend! I made sure I didn’t, going to both their Saturday and Sunday panels as well.

After the Johnny/Eyeshine panel on FridayI had some downtime and so I wandered I saw some awesome cosplays just walking through the con. When I arrived early at the h.Naoto panel, there was already a line. Being a fan of the h.Naoto brand, I was already excited for the panel, but the line just fueled it.  During the course of the panel Naoto-san spoke of the concepts behind some of his designs, what inspires him, and how he has collaborated with so many different artists. In my opinion, one of the most interesting things he talked about was how he wishes to expand his line beyond the conventional by possibly designing school uniforms or airplanes.

After the panel ended, a few lucky ones, including myself, managed to catch Naoto-san and take pictures with him. He was very kind.  After the panel I had some time before I headed to the Dealer’s room in order to get in line for the heiidi. autograph session. However, when I arrived I found I was early, so I stopped by the h.Naoto booth in the meantime. I had already wanted to buy the band’s merch (sold at the S-inc booth), as awell as a couple of piece from h.Naoto’s sixh, and Blood lines. While choosing which items to buy, I managed to have a brief conversation with Naoto-san about fashion as he stood by his booth.

The autograph session started a little earlier than scheduled when the band arrived early themselves. They signed autographs briefly at first, but shortly thereafter they were told they arrived ahead of schedule. The boys took that opportunity to do a little shopping around the Dealer’s Room before they returned to sign more autographs. So, they ended up having two autograph sessions instead of one.

About a half hour before heidi.’s panel started, I waited in line with a stream of other fans. We waited anxiously as the doors finally opened and the fans rushed in to make sure they got the best seat. After all the fans settled down, heidi. entered and everyone cheered.  The band had a very playful air about them as they answered questions through their two translators. They talked about anime, how they came together as a band, and many other topics. One of the funniest stories they told was how Kohsuke came to play the bass guitar instead of the bass. He said that when he started he didn’t know the difference between a bass guitar or a bass. At that point, all he knew was that his friend would be able to give him advice. Kohsuke and Nao have been friends since they were in kindergarten so he went to him. His question was simple: “What can I play?” Since Nao was already playing the guitar, he chose the bass. Also  Another deciding factor was when he heard J from Luna Sea play. It really struck a chord with him and he said “Oh, whatever that is, I want to play that!”

Overall, the band seemed genuinely surprised that they already had fans; and that people already heard of them. At the end of the panel, everyone in attendance sat and had the opportunity to watch their PV for “Landscape” as it finished up. It clearly got everyone excited for their performance on Saturday night, following Eyeshine’s concert. Before we left, the translator spoke to us and said that on their Sunday panel, heidi. wants to hear what their fans (us) thought about their concert. They were described to us as the “best live band.” And in short, they surpassed all my expectations. (To read our live reports and staff impressions of heidi.: CLICK HERE )

As the day came to a close, I couldn’t wait for Saturday.

After experiencing Johnny Yong Bosch/Eyeshine’s panel on Friday, I was excited to see what was in store for their panel late Saturday morning. As expected, I couldn’t stop laughing  through most of the panel. Just as they stated on Friday, no two days were the same. One of the most memorable stories they told that day was about Johnny and his wife poking fun at each other in a church parking lot. The only issue the band had during the panel was a little mic trouble; but even with this, the band managed to laugh about it. Their panels on Saturday and Friday truly got me fired up for their performance later that night.

The panel ended too soon and afterwards I had time to relax for a while. I took this time to wander around the Dealer’s Room and Artist Alley for a little while before I remembered the line from last year's fashion show. Last year another member of the kincs family held a showcase at AWA. It was none other than Sixh. The event had such long line that it crawled around the corner of the hall it was located. With this in mind, I headed over around one o’clock to wait in line for the Frill show that started directly before h.Naoto's fashion show. The Frill show was supposed to begin at one-thirty, followed by h.Naoto at two o'clock.

However, the show started about ten to fifteen minutes earlier than originally planned. Frill, which showcased local Atlanta fashion designers involved in the Lolita scene, opened for h.Naoto at this year’s fashion show. It was a fantastic way to start things off, as it set the stage for the general theme of both shows.  I saw some amazing original designs. The details in some of the designs were very clearly thought out and just incredible. My favorite design was an elegant Gothic Lolita styled dress. The dress had an elegant sheer blouse and a royal crest motif that highlighted the elegance of the piece. I truly enjoyed the way it gave the model an hourglass-figured shape Overall, the piece looked effortless.

Once Frill ended, the lights turned on and the crowd waited eagerly for the h.Naoto fashion show. When the lights finally dimmed down, the crowd cheered. Before the show itself began, music started playing along a small picture video that showcased the many different styles that h.Naoto has become associated with. This created an air of anticipation before the first model even walked on stage. As the models came out, it became obvious that there was a clear theme to the fashion show. It started out with a very detailed and beautiful all white, Lolita dress. Though as the show moved on, the designs slowly shifted as they began to showcase his more gothic, darker styles. This was evident not just in what they were wearing; but also in their make-up. (To see pictures of the h.Naoto fashion show: CLICK HERE)

Once the fashion show came to a close, I had a few hours of downtime before I met up with one of my friends to wait in line for Eyeshine and heidi. Even though we waited in line for around two and a half hours, it was well worth the wait. Both bands delivered beyond my expectations. (To read about Eyeshine’s concert: CLICK HERE) After the concerts I was exhausted from all the head banging, screaming and singing but I don’t regret any minute of it.

The next morning, despite feeling some after effects of rocking out so hard from the night before, I still had a lot of energy going into Sunday.  In previous years I never had that much planned on Sundays. There wasn’t much that appealed to me. But this year was different. This year i planned on attending two panels: the last Johnny Yong Bosch/Eyeshine panel and the second heidi. panel.

After watching Eyeshine’s panels on both Friday and Saturday, I was very excited for their final one. I didn’t want their panel to end on Sunday. Although Johnny’s voice was hoarse from the concert, he still tried his best to continue with their musical Q & A style panel as before. Despite his voice, the band performed an acoustic version of “Jumpstart”. That made it one of my favorite parts of the panel. It was a great way to start the rest of the day.

As two-thirty drew closer, I headed back to the Dealer’s Room to wait in line to take a picture with heidi. In order to get the picture, you had to spend a certain amount at the Kincs booth. As I waited with a few other fans, I couldn’t wait for the band to arrive at the booth. After only a few minutes, the band arrived and waved happily at all of us. When it was time to take pictures, the band was very kind and somewhat playful as they waited for each fan to take a picture with them. In the end, they truly felt like down-to-earth guys that I am glad I had the privilege of meeting.

After leaving the photograph session, I had a little downtime before heidi.’s panel at 4pm. When I walked to the panel room there was already a line. This happened on Friday as well, but the line this time was much longer. Originally, the panel for Sunday was supposed to be more of an industry and mentoring based panel. However, due to the increased volume of participants, that did not happen as planned. It became a mixture of a normal Q & A (like Friday) and an industry panel all in one. After the band arrived, they sat as they first asked the audience for their thoughts on the previous night’s live. The responses were overwhelmingly overall positive and the band seemed to be overall honored in regards to the audience’s feelings.

The funny question and response on Sunday was when someone as the band what type of girl they liked. The band looked at each other and Nao looked straight at the girl who asked and pointed, responding with one word: “You” in English.  The girls in the audience giggled and laughed. Then it was Yoshihiko’s turn,  he was sitting next to Nao. He just looked at him and said through the translator “ What am I suppose to say to beat that?” The band laughed and he answered differently than his friend, saying “ I like girly girls.” Kohsuke picked up the microphone next and said, “I’m hopeless, so I just want a girl to not be mad at me when I mess up.” Then finally, it was Kiri’s turn to speak. He looked into the audience and said, “I’m shy, so I like a girl with a strong will.” This response created quite a frenzy in the audience, then after a while the band looked around the room and suddenly pointed and said, “like you” (in English).

Overall, AWA was quite awesome this year. In all the years that I have been to AWA, this year has by far been the most memorable. By bringing over an amazing band in the form of heidi. an inspiring fashion designer known as h.Naoto, and the funny yet passionate band of Eyeshine-- it was truly an AWA that I will never forget. That is for sure.

[tab:AWA Photo Gallery]
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Anime Weekend Atlanta Official Homepage

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These articles were written by Kaitlin Maginnis (Rain) & Rita Nokkaew (Ayva Trance) edited by Alicia R. Thomas & Kaitlin Maginnis


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