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Anime Boston 2016 Recap: Growing Pains

There was much fun to be had at Anime Boston this year, including some major series premieres, but notable frustrations put a damper on this celebration of Japanese pop culture.

by hoyvinglavin64
Mar 27, 11:45 PM | 6,383 views

Attack on Titan family
The family that slays Titans together stays together!

Anime Boston has hit the big leagues. For the past two years it was the fifth largest anime convention in the United States and the second biggest on the East Coast, and this year's attendance could turn out to be even higher when the numbers are released. The programing this year provided plenty of reasons for people to show up: advanced premieres of new spring anime, Japanese guests from Trigger and MAPPA, a launch party for the Your Lie in April dub, the first ever Love Live: School Idol Festival live competition in the US, concerts by ALI PROJECT and Nano.Ripe, special perks for Crunchyroll subscribers.

Pokemon Snorlax and Dodrio
A wild Snorlax and Dodrio!

So why was it that once people showed up to the con, it felt like the excitement was muted? It wasn't the convention programming that was at fault; the wide variety of panels and events had something to appeal to every otaku. The problem this year was lines. This wasn't exactly a repeat of "LineCon '08" (the year Anime Boston got a huge attendance boost due to The Pillows' concert and also had the registration system malfunction, resulting in registration lines with wait times of 8-9 hours). Registration ran smoothly. The problem was convention security and the layout of the convention center itself. It's understandable why security was heightened this year, given the attempted mass shooting at a Pokemon tournament in the same building last August. But what's reasonable in theory can be a hassle in practice. To fit all of its events, Anime Boston uses both the Hynes Convention Center and the Sheraton Hotel next door. But anyone who wanted to go between the Sheraton and the Hynes had to regularly reenter long lines often stretching outside in cold and, on Friday, rainy weather. A shortcut between the two buildings confusingly opened and closed to the public on no clear schedule. And security acted in questionable ways. Saturday morning in line waiting for the shortcut to open, I witnessed a clear policy violation (a security guard grabbed prescription medication out of the bag of the man behind me; guards aren't supposed to touch people's medication and must call police if they have any suspicions) that was likely a case of racial profiling (the man behind me was black, while I, a white guy, didn't experience the same treatment by the guard even though I also had prescription medication in my bag). Policies on prop weapons were inconsistently applied (a friend of mine had his lightsaber prop confiscated while others with identical props were seen throughout the con; given what I saw in line and that this friend is black, I suspect this could also be a racial profiling issue). One woman has reported on the forums having a metal detector put between her legs. Maybe these problems are more the fault of the Hynes than Anime Boston (at a "Cons and Gender Identity" panel, one panelist noted that while Anime Boston staff has been extremely friendly to transgender congoers, Hynes staff is "a different story", which could be the case regarding other marginalized groups). In that case, looking for a new convention center might be the key to keeping Anime Boston great.

Magic Knight Rayearth group
A Magic Knight Rayearth cosplay group with an adorable little magical girl

If you were actually able to get into events before they filled up, there was a lot to enjoy at Anime Boston this year. I was crowded out of some things I wanted to see (an academic presentation on "Anime and Surrealism", the excellently-titled psychology panel "My Waifu's Not Weird!"), and I missed some late-night events (I heard great things about the "Black Nerds Matter" panel Friday night), but was able to see a number of panels in addition to running my own ("Anime Directors: Names to Know", which had a full audience that seemed to enjoy it). On the fan side of things, there was "Heroic Trauma and Anime" (analyzing Eva, Utena, FMA, and Madoka), a fun look at otaku history in "A Brief History of Anime Fandom", the ever-reliable "Judge Anime By its Cover" panel, and some in-depth commentary on "Protector of Smiles, Mari Okada." The industry events, meanwhile, presented the anime and manga industry in a much more optimistic light than the doom and gloom panels were seeing not too long ago. Dark Horse, a comic publisher that had backed out of manga for a while, is now back in full force with their first panel at Anime Boston, while the International Otaku Expo Association presented big hopes of international cooperation between conventions. Crunchyroll, the con's sponsors, put on a very enthusiastic panel announcing their upcoming Spring season simulcasts, while Aniplex, FUNimation, Pony Canyon, and Sentai Filmworks were also present at the con.

Undertale group
The game Undertale inspired many of this year's cosplays

The AMV contest this year was a mixed bag. I found the Fun/Comedy, Other, and Upbeat categories (I had a Space Dandy finalist in the Other category) to be much stronger than the Action, Drama, and Romance categories, which had a few too many videos that felt miscategorized and others that were a bit too similar to ones in previous years. Adding Trailer/Commercial as a separate category freed up the Fun/Comedy and Other categories which such videos would clog up but I personally find that category kind of boring most of the time and was shocked when one of those won Best in Show (Editor's Choice, meanwhile, went to a Baccano video that was by far the best video in the Action category). I also saw some of the videos in the "Win, Lose, or Troll?" selection, a mix of good videos that didn't quite make the cut for the contest and some of the most baffling pieces of crap ever seen.

waifu/husbando trash
Anime Boston's trash collection

Saturday nights at Anime Boston are pretty much divided into two different tracks. There's the "official" major event, the Masquerade, which is fine entertainment for kids who enjoy the skits and serious cosplayers appreciating the costumes, as well as those who sit through it grudgingly to see what AMVs win awards. Then there's the event I went to, which is where almost everyone else goes and fills up almost as much as the Masquerade does: "Bad Anime, Bad!" There's something incredibly satisfying about watching and mocking a terrible movie like Vampire Wars, preceded by the aborted American Gundam pilot Doozy Bots and followed by incomprehensible scenes from Garzey's Wing and Stan Lee's Governator pilot, alongside a thousand other geeks. After that, the thing to see on Saturday night is "Anime Hell", an assortment of clips which aren't all anime-focused and are less "bad" like the "Bad Anime, Bad!" content but rather just really entertaining. The so-bad-its-good plays side by side alongside some genuinely great content, but the overarching connection is that they're all crazy as hell. I was there for an hour and if I didn't have to check into my hotel I'd have stayed for the second hour.

Monster Musume
A stunning Monster Musume costume

I didn't get up early enough Sunday morning to see Crunchyroll's biggest special event for the weekend: a livestream of the AnimeJapan panel on the upcoming Trigger anime Kiznaiver followed by an advanced screening of the first two episodes. I did, however, get to see the encore showing of the first episode, and if the rest of the show lives up to its promise, anime fans have much to look forward to. The first episode sets up the premise: six kids have been subject to an experiment where they made to feel each other's pain and possibly receive other powers. Think Sense8 streamlined and set in a Japanese high school, with Mari Okada's emotionally direct writing and Trigger doing beautiful animation work. I also saw part of the Anne Happy episode 1 world premiere, which was enough for me to decide that show's not for me but it's cute enough that I can see others liking it. I missed the Space Patrol Luluco preview.

Bernie Sanders
This guy was popular this year #FeelTheBern

Even if you didn't get into the events you wanted to see, there was still much fun to be had shopping in the dealers' room and hanging out with your fellow fans. There were cosplay gatherings, impromptu sing-alongs, and mercifully no screams of "MARCO POLO" this year as far as I'm aware. I just hope it's better organized and that we don't experience the same problems with security in the future.

It ain't Easter Sunday at Anime Boston without Jesus!

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