I don’t know how I managed to wake up before 8am on Friday, but I did and it allowed me to attend the JManga panel at 11am. JManga is a portal site where you can buy and download translated manga, legally, from a consortium of Japan’s biggest publishers. I haven’t gotten around to checking it out because I buy plenty of titles in print to keep me occupied, but the variety and breadth of titles featured on the site is impressive by any standard. There’s even a title called “Anesthesiologist Hana” about an anesthesiologist named Hana. Only in Japan, people! The fact that such a title exists intrigues me, as does the fact that it’s apparently one of the better sellers on the site. Still, the best news was the announcement that came towards the end of the panel as the spokesman was sent an e-mail with the news that JManga would be publishing several titles from Tokyopop and Del Rey that have since fallen into limbo. No specifics were given, but I’ll bet money that we’ll finally see vol. 3 of “Moyasimon” appear through this service. They’ll have my money then, if not sooner.
After that was lunch with friends, and some wandering through the show floor to kill time before the next panel. That was “The Writer’s Room” which featured British talk show host/comic book writer Jonathan Ross interviewing (at first) Robert Kirkman, (and then) Ed Brubaker and John Layman. The panel was easily one of the highlights (if not “the” highlight) of the show for me as Ross proved to not only be a very funny host, but one that was capable of getting good insights out of his interviewees. Though Kirkman got the lion’s share of the hour, all three hosts acquitted themselves well and the end result was a panel that could’ve easily gone on for another half or even full hour.
Dinner was next and we all managed to make it back in time for the “Making a Living in Manga” panel, which turned out be a bit of a misfire, from my perspective. I was expecting something more along the lines of moderator Deb Aoki’s look at the Global Manga business, but this panel catered towards a very specific portion of it. Namely the “how to make a living” portion of it, which comes off as utterly unsurprising in retrospect. As cool as it was to see creators like Adam Warren and Becky Cloonan in person and to hear more from Comics212’s Chris Butcher and Aoki herself, most of it just wasn’t for me. There was a lot of nuts-and-bolts talk about the work necessary to succeed in this very, very niche field, but unless you’re an aspiring creator you’ll probably want to skip this if it returns next year.
Then it was off to the “Worst Cartoons Ever!” screening/panel which certainly lived up to its name. A collection of shorts from the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s which showcased bargain basement animation that was created only to fill gaps in TV programming schedules. That means it was of the lowest technical quality, which in this case also meant that the storytelling was complete and utter rubbish as well.
It was only the lead in to the main attraction, “Spike and Mike’s Sick and Twisted Gauntlet of Animation” which was equal parts entertaining and infuriating. This was my first time attending the “gauntlet” though my friends told me that last year’s was particularly excruciating in terms of the subject matter covered in these shorts. This was to the point where people started booing the shorts just after they started and the people in charge kept showing them to (ostensibly) infuriate the crowd even further. About the booing: the way it works is that if a short is “booed” enough, they’ll skip to the next one. However, the impression I got here was that if a short started to bore the crowd, they’d start booing it anyway. This meant that several good shorts, including the fantastic “Paths of Hate” about two WWII pilots in combat which takes some very surreal twists halfway through, were cut off before their end. I would’ve gladly put up with the sub-par or terrible ones, even “Hot Shit” the only one I actively booed, if it meant we could’ve seen everything in its entirety. The whole process left such a bad taste in my mouth that I’m not sure if I’ll be coming back next year.
Anyway, the side effect of the booing was that we all got out of the convention center a little before 11:30pm. As we walked back to the bus, my friends and I couldn’t miss the long line of people camped out already for Ballroom 20, the main room for the TV panels (of which the “True Blood” one was scheduled to be held last on Saturday). I’m fairly certain that if we had walked around the corner to Hall H, there would’ve been an even longer line there. The dedication and preparation of these fans is impressive, but the only way you’d get me in that kind of line is if they were selling tickets for next year’s con (like they were last year).