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Monday, September 21, 2009

Anime Weekend Atlanta (AWA) 2009: Part 1: Anime Hell

State of the Manga Industry Panel with Carl Horn and Jonathan Tarbox

ATLANTA, September 18 – On a gloomy gray Friday afternoon, I attended Anime Weekend Atlanta (AWA) at the Renaissance Waverly Hotel. I started the convention by slowly browsing the dealer’s room looking over the latest anime and manga merchandise. I ran into Gerald Rathkolb, one of the Anime World Order (AWO) podcasting trinity. AWO is one of the most popular anime podcasts according to the recent Parsec Awards. He was accompanied by a dry witted Max as they were buzzing around some anime posters.

After some more dealers’ room reconnaissance, we went to the State of the Manga Industry panel which was being hosted by Carl Gustav Horn, Dark Horse Manga Editor, and Jonathan Tarbox, the former editor of Raijin Comics. They discussed some broad topics concerning the manga industry in America. Some of the more interesting points discussed were the production costs, market development, and the localization efforts. At the panel, we joined up with the remaining AWO trinity at the panel: Daryl Surat and Clarissa Graffeo.

AWO consists of the three persons in the one anime podcasting divinity

After the panel, I took a quick second to check into my hotel room and rejoined the AWO at Dave Merrill’s Western Influence on Anime panel. Merrill showed a variety of anime properties based on western literature such as Lensman, Superbook (アニメ 親子劇場), and Starship Troopers.

I was introduced to the amazing Tim Eldred, the creator of Grease Monkey and the biggest Space Battleship Yamato (a.k.a. Star Blazers) (宇宙戦艦ヤマト) fan ever. He was very cool. His knowledge of Yamato seemed limitless. I was a fan of the show and eagerly listened to his stories about Yamato fandom. He knew all the back stories about the production and the behind the scene details. I was captivated by the raw awesomeness of his Yamato knowledge. Tim runs the official Star Blazers website and does a webcomic of the show.

A bunch of us went to Marietta Diner for dinner. Daryl warned us that the portion were huge. I ordered a burger, and I got a huge plate of food. I only had few minutes to eat because Gerald had to get back to the convention. He was doing a panel on the History of Hentai. I ate very little of the burger before we had to rush back to the convention.

Gerald’s hentai (変態) panel was packed. At first he encountered a lot of technical problems with the projector set-up which really cut down on his presentation time. After Gerald got everything working, he went over a brief introduction of early hentai including Ukiyo-e (浮世絵) influences. He had to rush through many sections of his presentation.

He eventually got to Osama Tezuka’s hentai movies: 1001 Arabian Nights, Cleopatra (クレオパトラ), and Belladonna (哀しみのベラドンナ). This was the bulk of his presentation. I’ve seen stills and read about these movies on the internet, but this was my first time that I’ve actually watched the anime. The films were a bizarre alchemic mixture of bright colors, sex, and music. Being very trippy and experimental, they were quite a departure from Tezuka’s earlier works such as Astro Boy (鉄腕アトム) and Kimba the White Lion (ジャングル大帝). I highly suggest that any hardcore anime otaku must see these films. They are a fascinating look into the darker side of Tezuka’s genius.

Following Gerald’s hentai panel, I went straight to Dave Merrill’s Anime Hell. Daryl sent me a text message earlier stating that “Hell is where the heart is…” Therefore, I had to attend. Dave showed a hilarious mash-up of videos. I am legally prohibited from describing the panel. It’s just one of those things that you have to experience. However, there is one thing I will say… Dave played the opening sequence from Kikaider (人造人間キカイダー) and shouted, “If you know the words, sing-a-long! Switchy… On… 1… 2… 3…” I think only Dave and I were singing.

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