I went down to Akihabara over the weekend for the first time in almost three months. The purpose: to obtain a catalog for Comiket 72, to hang out with a couple of doujin pals, and to meet up with EvoSpace of Beast’s Lair and Akiba Channel. Despite the sweltering heat all three objectives met with success. Trip report follows, along with some belated notes on AX and some not so belated ones on Satsuriku no Jango:

Living in Gunma it now takes me a good two and a half to three hours to make it down to Akihabara, and it seems that every time I make the trip they’ve segmented the line yet again – it’s a single stretch of track from Isesaki to downtown Tokyo, but since I arrived in this part of the country four years ago what was once a straight shot has been separated into three, sometimes four smaller shuttle runs between stations along the line. It’s not the convenient trip it once was, and as a result my trips have become more and more infrequent.

Comic Market 72 CD-ROM catalog

After bouncing through the various train connections I made it to Akiba around 12:00 and beelined for K-Books. I picked up the C72 CD-ROM catalog, for which the store was offering a box of cookies as a special extra. I usually don’t make use of extras like this, nor do I usually eat cookies, but I was determined to extract the maximum possible value from the darn thing.

K-Books cookies, came extra with C72 catalog

These were the most stunningly average cookies I have eaten in many years. The box could be useful, though…

After K-Books I met up with Animaestro, stalwart patron of the futanari doujin community, and Shimokata, a doujin artist friend. They stood outside while I raided Toranoana (thanks guys ^^;;) and then we went to a Turkish restaurant for lunch. It was delicious, the first kabob I’ve had in years. A great place to eat in Akiba (despite the lack of maid cosplay).

We then headed to Gamers, where we parted ways. I met up with EvoSpace there and we went back to his office, where we had a great conversation about fandom, approaches to blogging, the visual novel scene, and a bunch of other depraved otaku goodness. I got the impression that he’s a kindred spirit, and I look forward to the possibility of collaborating on some inter-site projects in the future. I recommend checking Akihabara Channel out, by the way – it’s a cool thing he’s got going on over there.

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Switching gears: I started playing Satsuriku no Jango on Friday night. It’s an interesting game; it’s very consciously mimicking the cinematic spaghetti Western experience in every way possible, from a wide screen panoramic display (letterbox, with text in the black bar at the bottom) to the title screen reminiscent of a DVD menu. I’ve played through what probably amounts to the prologue at this point (managing to BAD END at the first possible selection point, thank you very much) but thus far I haven’t been sucked into the story the same way I was with Jingai Makyou (the last Niθ-designed Nitro+ game and the first of their titles that I actively followed).

toy gun that came as an extra with the limited edition of Nitro+'s Satsuriku no Jango

I don’t know what the implied use for this is, but it came with the game for some reason…

It may be that my slow reading speed is keeping me from playing the game at the proper cinematic pace, but I think its biggest challenge at this point is to develop enough internal logic that I can suspend disbelief. I feel detached from the actions of the characters and it’s keeping me from showing more than a mild enthusiasm for them. A contributing factor to this may be that there is no central protagonist; instead as the player you view the action from an omnicient perspective (much like that of a movie) and occasionally choose the actions of whatever character is front and center in the narrative at that particular time (only the three main heroines have been featured in this way so far). I’ll keep playing and offer some final thoughts if/when I manage to finish.

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I’ve been half-assedly working on an AX report since I got back, but it’s not coming together very well so I’m not sure what, if anything, will come out in that regard. I personally had a great time at the event, though I wasn’t unaffected by the terrible incompetency that has been widely reported elsewhere; I waited for a couple of hours in the sun for the Haruhi concert (a wait that wouldn’t have been necessary if they had told us that assigned seats were to be honored), the concert started late and was an absolute train wreck overall (other than the seiyuu, who performed like champs dealt a very uneven hand to play with).

The Momoi concert on Monday was the polar opposite of the Haruhi concert in terms of professionality. From a fan’s perspective, THIS was what made the event for me. It’s hard to describe for those who weren’t there, but if you’ve seen the DVD of her final Under 17 concert that’s a bit of what it felt like – Momoi out there, center stage, communicating directly with the audience, singing her heart out. Manzo coming out in the middle to sing the Genshiken theme and Nihon Break Kougyou was icing on the cake – it was truly a magical hour, and it’ll go down in my memory as one of the top few concerts of my life. My only regret was that more people didn’t choose to attend, and in that respect I couldn’t shake the feeling that she’d been shafted by the AX planning committee. AX was a distressing experience for nearly all of the guests, it seems, and I hope they won’t let one fucked up event color their impression of American fans or keep them away from future conventions.

dinner after the JAST panel at AX 2007

Shana was the guest of honor at dinner following the JAST USA panel

From a social perspective the event was an unqualified success – I had the chance to meet a whole lot of people face to face who I’d only met online in the past, catch up with old friends, and make contact with a whole lot of cool new people from the west coast and beyond. This was almost too much for my poor jetlagged brain to handle, along with prep for the JAST a panel and working ten hour days, but I hope I didn’t insult anyone too badly (or if I did, I hope you’ll let me know so I can try to make amends). An overwhelming experience to say the least, but one I wouldn’t mind repeating next year now that I have some idea of what I’m getting in to.

More thorough coverage of the event can be found at InsaneLampshade’s blog, as well as at Advanced Media Network and VisualNews. If I met you at AX and you’ve written about the event, please let me know and I’ll add a link here.

Edit: I met dovac! It was his Shana that recieved the honors at Outback following the JAST panel. :3 His con reports can be found here and here.

Edit: I met The-O! We were able to grab a smoothie “lunch” along with CMWilly of Clockwork Machina on Sunday afternoon. His coverage of AX can be found here. I hope we get the chance to hang out at a more leisurely pace when he comes to Japan. ^^;

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I’ll try to work up impressions of some of the new shows airing this summer (Sayonara Zetsubou-sensei is absolutely brilliant and if you’re not watching it you should) in the near future, as well as some other general bloggish musings – things will be heating up steadily as Wonder Festival and Comiket draw near, but hopefully sanity will remain intact along with a steady flow of updates as we move forward.

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Shingo hails from the frozen tundra of the northern US, and no matter how long he lives in Japan he will never get used to its summers. Unlike the translator at the AX Haruhi concert he knows the difference between tundra (ツンドラ) and tsundere (ツンデレ): one makes your tongue freeze to a flagpole when you lick it, and the other smacks you across the face before kissing you (provided your tongue isn’t stuck to a flagpole, which is where, in his humble opinion, he believes that translator’s should be right now).