Travis Touchdown - CosplayWith the end of the New York Anime Fest, convention season is officially over and things are starting to quiet down. Every year, I breathe a sign of relief, since I can actually get back to those projects I forced to the back burner (I actually have one in progress now – oops!). However, at the same time, I start to miss the hustle and bustle come the end of October. Yes, the holidays start hitting full force, but it’s just not the same.

Convention season to me, as a news writer, is probably the greatest experience anyone could go through. The hours are long, the workload is immense, but there’s always this excitement in the air. Mysteries and rumors about the next big license, or the what will be revealed at the next panel are common, and there’s always this enthusiastic buzz about everyone, from the reps, to the writers to, most importantly, the fans. It gets crazy, it gets wild, but it’s always a ton of fun. It’s always a shame to see things start to wind down. but I guess all good things must end, yes?

Still, it’s good to decompress once in a while. If you don’t mind my rambling, I’m just doing to look back at some of the fun experiences I’ve had this year.

This year, I was lucky enough to attend Anime Boston again, on a retail salary. For as long as I can remember, anime cons have always been a war of attrition, as well as a war of the wallet. Until a couple of months ago, I was slaving away at retail, making barely above the bare minimum wage as I struggled through college and worked Anime Dream on the side. So conventions were, well – they were like my Disneyland. An opportunity to just go wild, blow $500, and get all of the awesome anime I missed out on during the year. Next year, things will be different – I still plan to attend Anime Boston, but the whole thought that I won’t have to scrimp and save every penny to attend just, well… it puts my mind at so much ease.

Really, when I say “do without if you can’t afford it,” I’ve never gone back on my word. I’m not some hypocrite that downloads fansubs, I’m not some corporate tool that will support every little thing the R1 companies will do (Ask my colleagues at AD about some of the infamous grudges!). I just have strong convictions, and a strong moral compass. But I’m getting off track very quickly.

This year was particularly amazing for me since it was my first Anime Boston where I worked alone, and actually planned on working alone (I’m not airing dirty laundry here – got stood up by partners two years in a row, those people didn’t have long careers at AD). I went all out, getting photos, detailed reports, and even video digests of the festivities. It was our biggest convention coverage piece ever, and I got to work to sheer exhaustion doing it… but I loved every second of it.

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Anyway, during this year’s con, I was party to some truly amazing experiences. Seeing Nobuo Uematsu on-stage, performing with the VGO is something I’ll remember fondly for the rest of my life.

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However, I’d probably say the key moments were the interviews. Well, more like candid conversations with two people who have been through the wringer and came back stronger than ever in this industry, Tom Wayland and Greg Ayres. I won’t lie – I didn’t speak smoothly through either session. Rather, I fumbled through clumsily and made horrible gaffes in my questioning. It’s intimidating to be around people you respect so much! Anyway, both of them imparted wisdom that’s really shaped my views going forward, and really helped me realize how important it is to speak out against certain things in this hobby. After all – if we, those who inform, don’t speak out, don’t point the finger at the problems that be, who will? I still want to thank both Greg and Tom greatly for this opportunity, and I hope that next year, both will attend Anime Boston so I can thank them personally.

I promised Greg that I’d never take his stuff out of context. Also, posting only a short excerpt would do no justice to the message itself, so I’d like to just interrupt for a moment, and post an excerpt from our session:

Anime Dream: And on the note of piracy, you’ve always been probably the most vocal opponent of piracy I’ve ever heard. You always have bootleg panels, fansub panels, and I noticed that a lot of actors don’t have that same drive, that same focus. So, um…
Greg Ayres: Why?
Anime Dream: Yeah, why such a focus when the general feeling is, like “okay, this is a bad thing, but okay”?
Greg Ayres: Mainly because, like I said, I’m an anime fan, and the people that are around me in my life, from the person I’m about to move in with, to my friends, the person I call my little brother, the people that I bowl with every Friday, they’re anime fans. This is something that we all love and that’s, as long as I’ve been alive, always been there. It’s been there whether I knew that, whether, even my dad’s age — Speed Racer. Even if you didn’t know it was anime, it was anime! It has always been around and, the thought of it not being around, not being accessible to fans is terrifying to me. I also don’t think other voice actors understand the issues because, to a lot of them, it’s just a job. You get called in for a part, and you get the part, and you do it, and you get the money, and, occasionally, fans will find you and whatnot.

I am a fan of all of it – I’m a fan of the companies that work their butts off to get anime to American fans, I am a fan of the original Japanese creators, and it was an accident that I would ever start this journey against piracy. And I never mentioned who it was, but I met a creator and they were curious how I knew so much about their work, and I said “well, I have a friend that has read all of your manga online”. And that started a very interesting conversation, one which she didn’t look very happy to have. And it was very uncomfortable and weird, because she didn’t want to appear to be ugly with me, but she wanted me to know it was not okay for her to read that online, and it’s the first time as an anime fan that I even had to stop and think about it.

And so, from that point on, any time I met a creator, or a manga-ka, or script supervisor, or an animation director or character designer, I asked them how they felt about it. And, almost unanimously, without some concerted effort, they all felt the same way: that this was their hard work and that no one had a right to it for free.

And, as I started to approach anime fans to try to convince them, I found that they were indignant and disrespectful, and, from the generation of fans that I come from, the last thing any of us would ever do is be disrespectful to someone that created anime. And I understand that now we deal with a different breed of anime fans that, they are just in it for their own entertainment value, some of them. And so, it’s very much a point of making them aware that, hey, you’re hurting someone you claim to be a big fan of. I hope that one day, ’cause I believe this is a very tiny planet, I know I will meet this person again. And when I see them, I will say “You know what? I made sure to tell every single person I could your side of the story.”
And, I, it’s something I never thought I would be the person to do. (laughs) I never wanted to teach people to be good. Obviously, I’m a little bit of a troublemaker. But it’s a worthwhile fight, and I’m a fan of Apple Computers and Apple Computers almost died. And now, they’re everywhere! So I think anime fans are passionate and caring, and then, I think if enough people were aware of the issues, and enough people got behind it, we don’t have to worry about it.

But it did take somebody to, I remember when I first started doing this. Even the companies I worked for wouldn’t back me up on this, because nobody wants to say anything that’s an unpopular opinion for fans. You know, like ADV doesn’t want to say “hey, stop downloading,” ’cause they’re like “Ugggh, ADV is mean!” But I don’t mind being the bad guy. Very little of what happens on the internet affects me in real life. I have a group of fans that I love, I have a family that I’m close to, and I like the work that I do so I don’t care if people don’t like me. I just want them to do the right thing, and be respectful of people like Shinichi Watanabe and Daisuke Murayama, and god forbid, Kazuya Minekura and people like that, and people like Nobuo Uematsu. It’s the same thing applies to people downloading his music illegally.

I want people to have the same level of respect that older fans do, because it is an honor for us to get to meet people like that, and see people to hear their work. So, I don’t know how I ended up being that guy, but you just heard that journey!

And I’m happy to say a lot of fans have taken up the flag now. There’s a lady from Eagle Anime, that started a group called “fans against bootlegs,” which has set out to educate people on bootleg plush, and bootleg merchandise, and soundtracks. There’s a group, there’s an anime club at a high school, in fact, that made me really proud. They’re having a biggest anime fan contest, and the person who turns in the most receipts at the end of the year for the most manga and anime and T-shirts, they get this motherload of stuff they’ve been buying at sales and game shops and stuff. They’ll get this huge bonanza of a prize at the end of the year. But I’m very happy to feel like I’m not the only person fighting this fight now. There are lots of anime fans that are aware of what’s going on, and now we really reached the point that anybody that is disagreeing with us is kind of against us. And I really don’t have much to say to those people.

I’m about to retool the panel that got so much controversy because it’s really about us as fans doing the right thing. As far as I’m concerned, the anime distributors have done everything they can at this point to get it to us fast, quick, cheap. Anything less than us responding with applause and thank-yous is disrespectful.

Greg, if you someone ever finds this and points this out to you, I want to say “thank you.” A million times, thank you.

Anyway, I’m already looking forward to next year’s events. Maybe I’ll be able to hit more than one con, maybe I won’t. but either way, I’m looking forward to the craziness, the hustle, the bustle, and most important, the memories.