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Whoo.. what a week

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Wow, I havent' posted here in a while.  Well... I guess I shall explain my short hiatus..

Most of the week, last week, I found out, the hard way that my city had installed red light cameras >.< ... so I had to get another job pretty quick that would pay my ticket up pretty fast because it was so close to Otakon, the anime convention I went to last weekend. Gotta love Canon call centers. u.u I'm still there, which will explain some things...

As for Otakon itself, it was fantastic ... meeting quite a few people of 'my kind' and then some in the Baltimore Convention Center. Heh heh... those that *are* from Baltimore may not exactly know what is going on ... I hear some people are confusing the convention for a "D&D convention." .... No ... it's an ah-neh-may convention.

The weather was supposed to be rainy, but for the most part of the Friday and Saturday weekend, the weather stayed pretty clear enough so the gigantic lines that trailed around 3 blocks surrounding the convention center can go outside... Sooo many Otaku... hehe..

I think I'll copy/paste the article about L'Arc~en~Ciel that was on the Baltimore Sun:

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For its fans, L'Arc-en-Ciel's pernormance here Saturday - the Japanese rock band's first in the United States - is an event of global, perhaps even galactic, magnitude.

Message boards are ablaze with international chatter about the 1st Mariner Arena concert, the crowning event of the 11th annual Otakon anime convention, taking place tomorrow through Sunday at the Baltimore Convention Center. Some 20,000 participants are expected to attend. The event, in its 11th year, includes panel discussions, costume competitions, films, dances and concerts devoted to anime, the Japanese cartoon art norm turned total lifestyle.

More than a few L'Arc-en-Ciel followers from as far away as Tokyo, Peru, Spain and Finland say they are coming for the concert alone. "I never would have even considered journeying across the country for a convention, but when I saw that our boys would be there ... well, that did it for me," wrote one quivering California fan on an Otakon Web board. "God, I'm praying for a meet-and-greet. But will I be able to go through with it? Do you guys understand that we will be looking them in the eye?? I'm not sure if I can do that."

Otakon affords L'Arc-en-Ciel (French for rainbow) a built-in audience among convention participants who know the group through theme songs they have composed for Japanese anime television series including GTO, DNA2 and Full Metal Alchemist. The 2001 sci-fi film Final Fantasy: The Spirit Within also contains a L'Arc song titled "Spirit Dreams Inside."

The quartet has become wildly popular in Japan and around the Pacific Rim since its 1991 beginnings within Osaka's "visual kei" rock scene, where musicians put equal time into their look as their sound. "Back then, the color of choice among independent musicians was definitely black only," according to a group history. "Contrarily, L'Arc-en-Ciel dressed themselves in white. This led to the birth of the term and phenomena of shiro kei, or 'white group.'" Naturally, loyal fans came to shows dressed in white as well.

L'Arc's U.S. debut is a possible bridge to an even larger following. "I hope the U.S. audience will enjoy our show," the band's vocalist and front man hyde says by way of a publicist who translated his comments. "I'm not sure what kind of audience we have in the U.S., but I hope that our music will reach the anime crowd and beyond."

L'Arc-en-Ciel's "appeal is basically everything. I love their image, their outfits and hairstyles and how they keep changing," says Jose Rivera, a 20-year-old University of Minnesota sophomore coming to the show. "The band members are all hilarious and/or intriguing in their own ways both as icons and as people," says Rivera, who as a male L'Arc fan considers himself one of a rare breed.

"When I found L'Arc-en-Ciel, I had already found some other J-rock and visual kei bands I enjoyed," says Naomi Baxter, a Gainesville, Fla., resident who hopes to get to the concert. The group "was just far enough away from the norm, and it had a good alt rock sound."

The band has emerged from its glam rock origins and small label repertoire to become an avatar of Japanese rock 'n' roll, known as "J-pop" or "J-rock." But unlike young phenoms plucked from obscurity to become the country's next boy or girl band sensation, L'Arc-en-Ciel has matured into a versatile group that takes its cues from hard rock, pop, techno and other genres. "Each member makes the music that they want to make," explains hyde, who says the first tune he ever played on a guitar was by Motley Crue.

The group has just released its ninth album. Smile, in the United States on Tofu Records, a Sony label. "They're really trying to build beyond the niche market," says Jonathan Harmon, Otakon's director of guest relations.

Over the years, the group has become "more universal in the way of U2," even as it has retained its Asian identity, Harmon says. Their music "taps into that quintessential notion of sadness," he says. "It originally goes back to Buddhism, and this concept that everyone eventually dies. Life to some extent is suffering."

Whether or not L'Arc's sound may bring a Japanese sensibility to American rock 'n' roll is immaterial, hyde says. "I don't think it matters where rock music came from. For instance, animation wasn't even born in Japan [and yet it is a sophisticated medium there]. What's good is good no matter where it came from."

The video for "Living in Your Eyes," a Smile track, depicts a tragic explosion (staged) in slow-motion reverse. It has a haunting, wistful quality that speaks to the more ruminative side of the band, which has recently regrouped after two years spent on independent projects. "Living in Your Eyes" "is an "expression of the fact that four of us got back together after a long break," hyde says. "It also expresses how we felt during the recording after coming back together."

The video may also capture the excitement and gratitude shared by fans like Rivera, who perhaps once feared that the group would never come together again, much less appear in the United States.

"I mean, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," Rivera says. "You can only have a first concert once."

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At Otakon, fans dress for excess
17,000 anime devotees are expected for the weekend
By Chris Kaltenbach
Sun Staff

To just throw on any old clothes is to miss the spirit of Otakon 2004, the 11th annual gathering of fans whose lives revolve, in ways unfathomable to some but perfectly understandable to them, around Japanese animation and other benchmarks of Far Eastern popular culture.

No, to really experience Otakon, you have to dress the part. Not that they won't let you inside the Baltimore Convention Center this weekend if you insist on sporting nothing more spectacular than a T-shirt and blue jeans; you pay your money ($55 for a weekend pass, $40 for today only, $20 for tomorrow), you can enjoy the dealers' room, the video rooms, the panel discussions and whatever else inspires you.

But fair warning: You're going to find yourself surrounded by young men and women dressed as their favorite animated characters, in costumes that often took days or weeks to create. And you're going to feel out of place.

"I really enjoy looking around and picking out my favorite characters," says 19-year-old Samantha Benya of Sykesville, who's come dressed in a costume lifted from the original Final Fantasy video game, complete with huge green (foam) mallet. "I like to think that it's really them."

And don't make the mistake of thinking this is just a few exhibitionist fans out for a good time. Organizers of Otakon, one of the largest such conventions in the country, expect upward of 17,000 people this weekend. Yesterday morning, as thousands of fans started to gather in anticipation of the noon opening of the dealers' room, at least a third were outfitted in full regalia.

"It's, like, more than Halloween," says Jenny Nichols, 22, who's come from Bowie dressed as the rabbit-like character Rabi-En-Rose - complete with pink tutu, oversized ears and dice atop her head - from the anime series Digi Charat (a quick tutorial in Japanese animation: Anime is movies and video, while manga is anime adapted to comic books and graphic novels). "You get to be somebody else for the day, and you can connect with people a lot more."

Some of the costumes can look pretty ferocious: There were a lot of cardboard swords, scabbards and other weapons on display, plenty of folks were garbed in Goth-like black, more than a few fangs and long fingernails were on display, and for some visitors ... well, let's just say they were a little on the creepy side.

"Yeah, my character, if he shows up, he does a lot of damage," says Adam Hennessy, a 27-year-old administrative assistant from Ringwood, N.J., who showed up dressed as Clarinet, the high priest of the magical army at the center of the series The Violinist of Hamlin. Well over 6 feet tall, Hennessy presented quite the picture in his purple and white robes and long yellow ponytail, wielding a crested staff even taller than he.

But fret not. Like everyone at Otakon, Hennessy is really pretty harmless. He's just a big fan of anime.

"The entire community is really friendly," he says, adding that anime "gives you a greater appreciation of another country and another culture."

For most otaku (the Japanese word for an obsessive fan of anything), that's really the appeal of anime and Japanese pop culture, says Terry Chu, convention chairman of Otakon 2004. "Our convention is a lot of people getting together to celebrate a lot of different aspects of a culture they admire. For me, I actually got drawn into [anime] because it's something so different from what a lot of our cultural artistic preferences can provide. ... It's something people haven't had exposure to."

At least half of the people who show up at Otakon, Chu adds, are first-timers, with little or no previous exposure to the sort of cultural experience the convention has to offer. Such ignorance, however, can't last long: By the end of Otakon 2004, visitors will have been able to hear concerts by the Japanese pop group L'Arc-en-Ciel (5 p.m. today at 1st Mariner Arena), attend advance screenings of two epics of Japanese cinema, The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi (9:30 tonight) and Hero (11 a.m. tomorrow), listen in on panel discussions of such topics as "Anime Stereotypes and You" and "Fifty Years of Godzilla," meet screenwriters and voice actors (who dub Japanese anime), even view original anime and manga artwork.

Sisters Sarah Marchegiani, 19, and Casey Ivanauskas, 11, hope to take in a little bit of everything over the weekend.

"I begged" to come, said Casey, who was itching to get inside the dealers' room and spend the $50 her dad had given her.

Her sister's plans were a little more pragmatic.

"Meeting hot men dressed in expensive clothes," she said. "This is a great way to grab guys and hug them."

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Hehehe... ::Snickers:: Well.... it's one of those things you JUST gotta see... and I was there... running around in a schoolgirl uninorm...

Entry #22

Comments

1.
ToddComment by Todd - August 4, 2004, 11:36 am
Schoolgirl uniform??

As you like to say, it must have been pretty pale there.

Thanks for checking in, great post. You run in interesting circles.

-Todd

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