Sunday, January 15, 2012

Anime L.A. 2012: Capacity Crowd

The eighth annual Anime Los Angeles convention took place January 6-8, and was sandwiched by two unfortunate news stories about the anime industry. The first was Bandai Entertainment U.S.A.'s announcement that it would restructure, shed jobs, and stop issuing new titles. The second was Media Blaster's post-con announcement that it is laying off 60% of its staff. Considering that Bandai and Media Blasters are two major players in the increasingly shrinking industry of American anime licensors, these two announcements suggest that the market for anime in the U.S. is waning.

But that sentiment was belied by Anime L.A. 2012. The convention had its largest attendance yet, hitting the 4,000 member cap imposed by the size of the venue. And the enthusiasm of the attendees indicated that American love for Japan's animation project is still going strong.

We attended all three days (albeit I missed most of Friday) plus the Thursday Ice Cream Social, and had a terrific time. The convention is one of the friendliest and best-run anime cons that we attend. The con benefits from a terrific venue (the staff is used to all of these folks in strange costumes, particularly since the LAX Marriott plays host to multiple SF/Fantasy/anime cons throughout the year) and from a huge turnout of folks in terrific costumes.

Here are some photos:

The One Piece fan panel featured some great costumes from that long-running series, including a depiction of sea cook Sanji, currently suffering from severe blood loss from nosebleeds whenever he sees an attractive woman. Hence the IV bag.
One of my favorite current anime TV series is CHIHAYAFURU. So I was delighted to meet an entire group of cosplayers who dressed up as the high school Kurata players from that series.
Steampunk and anime are intimately connected (particularly with all of the anime steampunk series and movies that have been done), and so Friday afternoon saw a steampunk costume gathering, in which Amy and I participated.
And, of course, the convention saw some crossover non-anime cosplay, from both DC . . .
. . . and Marvel.

We look forward to next year.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Tintin: Raiders of the Lost Comic

THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN, Steven Spielberg's and Peter Jackson's adaptation of Herge's long-running Belgian comic strip, marks both Spielberg's first crack at directing a comic book movie and his debut as an animation director. He succeeds on both counts. True, the Tintin in the movie is a virtual cipher as a character; he is defined more by what he does (go on adventures, investigate mysteries, work as a reporter, collect typewriters) than who he is. We have no idea why he enjoys adventure, what motivates him to buy a ship model for a pound in the opening scene and then refuse to part with it at any price, or repeatedly risk his life. We don't even know what he likes to eat (he doesn't eat at all in the movie). The actual characterization, such as it is, is focused instead on supporting character/sidekick Captain Haddock. But nevertheless, we like these characters enough to root for them. More important, Spielberg both avoids the creepiness of motion-capture films such as THE POLAR EXPRESS (Dead eyes. Shudder.) and brings back the kinetic excitement of his Indiana Jones movies, this time unfettered by those pesky laws of physics. (At one point, two ships on storm-tossed seas tilt until their central masts are touching each other, and pirates run across the masts and board the ship.) The result is a fun time in the theater -- one that shows that there is still life in this venerable property.

2012: More Fun at the Cinema

The leading entertainment story in the year-end post mortem of the movie biz is that the comic book movie doesn't have quite the box office power that it used to have. That's an odd sentiment for a year in which X-Men, Captain America, and Thor movies enjoyed good business (and sold a ton of merchandise on the way). But, the critics point out, those movies had solid openings but did not have lasting power.

If that's so, we'll have to see what happens this year. The fun starts early, in March, with Disney's adaptation of Edgar Rice Burrough's century-old science fantasy series JOHN CARTER OF MARS, which has boasted spectacular trailers. We'll get to see Christopher Nolan's final entry in his superb trilogy of Batman films, and find out if THE DARK KNIGHT RISES will have the same box office punch as 2008's THE DARK KNIGHT. We'll have a reboot of the Spider-Man franchise, and see if the new Andrew Garfield Spider-Man will do the boffo box office the Sam Raimi/Toby Maguire Spidey flicks did. And the summer will bring us THE AVENGERS, the first major superhero film to leverage Marvel Studio's ability to allow the various superheros that Marvel didn't license to other studios cross over into each others' films -- allowing us to see the movie Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Hulk, Black Widow, and Hawkeye all in one film. (By comparison, you won't see Wolverine, licensed to Fox, appearing in a Sony Spider-Man movie).

Are these movies following a trend whose time has passed? My prognostication is that once the cash starts rolling in on at least some of them, the naysayers will forget their nays. In any event, the films give us hope that this will be a fun year at the theater.