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18 May 2015 @ 06:18 pm
ACEN 2015!  
I mentioned before that I was a bit worried about going to ACEN this year. Last year had been a bit disappointing, and I was worried that this year was going to be a waste of time and money. It turned out to be a completely unfounded fear, and I had a blast. Read on for a recounting of our time at the con in nauseating detail.

I had originally planned to go in to work for half a day on Friday and then head out to Rosemont after lunch because my work provides extra half-days that we can use during the summer only. Sadly, the program this year started on the 18th for reasons that I can't fathom--it started on a Friday last year--so I took the whole day off, lounged around in the morning for a bit, ate lunch at home, then packed up the food, took the suitcase, and got in the bus.

I got there late enough that I could check in immediately, so I headed up to the room, checked out the con schedule, and entered all the events I was interested in into my phone calendar. There were almost a dozen, which was already an improvement over last year even if I didn't go to most of them (which would turn out to be the case). That done, I headed down to the dealer's room to drop off a room key with redpikachu, who was staying with us, then wandered around the dealer's room looking at the stalls until I got word that softlykarou had arrived and was waiting in the will call line, because while I had gotten my badge through the mail, she was worried about it getting lost and decided to pick it up. After fifteen minutes in line, we went back to redpikachu's booth for a visit, and then I made a beeline for a booth I saw that had an acceptable stuffed Kirby. softlykarou and I have been looking for one that I didn't hate for as long as we've been together, and I finally found one! It's currently standing in a commanding place in our apartment from atop the board game shelf, the dream-lord of all it surveys.

Anyway, having bought the white whale and run into a very fortuitous cosplay considering my most recent game review:

Not one of the ones with a powerup, sadly.

...we headed back to the room to drop off softlykarou's stuff and look over the schedule. I pointed out that one of the video rooms was showing Haiyore! Nyaruko-san, which is an anime I've always heard...mixed things about. Mostly that it doesn't live up to the awesomeness of its premise, which is that Nyarlathotep takes the form of a schoolgirl and hangs out on Earth to fight off other parts of the Mythos. And that is what happens, but we left after one episode because it's mixed with really creepy fanservice. Mythos deities fighting is great, but I can do without Cthugha creeping on Nyarlathotep and Nyarlathotep pulling weapons out from under her uniform skirt, with repeated upskirt camera angles. No thank you.

Instead, we went down to the game room. The console part wouldn't allow us in with bags, presumably so people couldn't just walk out with NESes or cartridges, so we went into the arcade room, used some of the cash that we had from softlykarou teaching a seminar a couple weeks ago, and played the X-Men arcade game. It's one of the few arcade games I've beaten in a native environment, but not here, mostly because we only allowed ourselves 50¢. We got through
Pyro, though, and while I died before we got to him, softlykarou beat the Blob before running out of lives. Having exhausted our credits, we played a quick game of Turtles in Time (again with 50¢) and I played a danmaku game called 19XX: The War Against Destiny, where I lasted maybe five minutes. I blame it on the joystick being unresponsive, but I would say that, wouldn't I?  photo emot-sweatdrop.gif

We headed back upstairs and went over to the coffee shop, since they had horchata frappuccinos and now that we both have jobs, softlykaroudoesn't have to sweat buying the occasional froofy coffee drink. What we didn't take into account is that our diets contain a lot less sugar now than they used to, so softlykarou drink maybe 10% of her drink, started feeling sick to her stomach, and we threw the rest away and went back to the room for a bit to rest until the first panel we wanted to actually attend.

Shadows of Animation was about the use of light and shadow in anime, and was the best panel I've been to in years (other than the one we gave last year, of course  photo 58-2nsylaw.gif). We walked in a couple minutes late when they were going over a history of the use of shading in animation, from the heavy black lines of something like Hokuto no Ken to the basically-uniform shininess of moe aesthetic. They obviously did their research--they showed a lot of clips to illustrate their points, like how Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex was one of the first anime to have lightboards in addition to storyboards, or how in Terror in Resonance apparently no one ever turns on the lights and all the light comes from windows, or how in Steins;Gate the sky is this BLAZING WHITE CORONA OF FLAME all the time.

It wasn't all just light sources, either. After a mention that anime uses a lot of twilight shots because they can, since twilight is difficult to shoot on film because of light source problems but no more difficult to animate than anything else, they got into rotoscoping and how often if a character--or especially, a character's clothing--seems to be moving too realistically, it's often because they're rotoscoped instead of freehand drawn. I'm really glad I went, and i'd happily go again if they had it other years.

During the panel, smtemp texted us to ask where we were, so afterward we headed back up to our room where redpikachu was working on a costume. She told us that smtemp had stopped by and was planning to come back, so we sat around and chatted until she showed up, then kept talking through through the traditional ACEN fire alarm. This year we were in the Hyatt executive wing, and for some reason, the fire alarm didn't go off there and so we sat out the false alarm, then headed back to smtemp's room for drinks and chatting with her, her husband, and ping816.

After that, it was bed time.

The curtains were a bit open, so the morning sunlight woke me up around 7:30 a.m., but perhaps because of the sunlight I wasn't actually that tired, so after a bit of lying around I got up, ate breakfast, and while redpikachu and softlykarou waited in the room, I headed out to the Beyond the Dream Diary: A Horror RPG Maker Panel panel. I'd heard of Yume Nikki before--it's been sitting in my Pocket links for a year now--and I figured that it'd be interesting to hear about some other games I could also try for someone who actually knew about them. I got a few recommendations, like The Mirror Lied by the guy who did To the Moon, or Kago to Torii ("Basket and Bird," though mistransliterated unless they intend the connection with shrine gates), and The Longing Ribbon, and then left once the panel shifted to how to make an RPGMaker game. Partially because what little I stayed for was more generic advice on how to bring a project to fruition, but mostly because I'm not going to make an RPGMaker game.

I headed back to the room, where softlykarou was getting dressed and after she left, I took a shower and headed down myself. Once I got to the hotel lobby, I immediately texted softlykarou and demanded she return to the lobby because she needed to go through customs. She came back quickly, and made sure to present her papers in accordance with protocol:

"Are you entering with the attention to commit acts of terror?"

Entry permit secured, we headed over to the convention center to meet up with one of her co-workers, who was escorting some students who wanted to come to the convention. After following them through the Will Call line and chatting a bit with the students, we went back into the dealer's room and I dragged her over to a booth I saw on the way the first day called the Angelarium, which had frankly amazing artistic interpretations of several traditional angels and of the sefirot. I got a print of Keter, and softlykarou got a print of Chesed, and our current plan is to hang them above the respective sides of our futon on our bedroom. I was very tempted to get more, but softlykarou correctly pointed out that our walls are almost full as it is, so we reluctantly left and wandered around a bit more before it was time for the next panel. Though not without a sinister encounter...

This shot was not staged.

Real Sword or Piece of Crap with Samurai Dan was...hmm. I feel like I'm being needlessly critical if I say that it's not to my taste, because judging by the crowd reaction, everyone else loved his presentation style. It was too jokey for me, though, and almost for the panel itself, since he ran overtime by ten minutes and barely managed to fit his points in, and since softlykarou had to leave after half an hour to get to a Marvel photoshoot, I'm not sure she got to hear any of the points but the first one. Fortunately, I can summarize the five criteria to determine a real Japanese sword here in much less than an hour:
  1. The inside of the saya is made of wood.

  2. The tsuka is also wood, and any metal is caps or plating.

  3. The nakago below the blade is long enough to fit one hand and at least three fingers of another hand.

  4. A paper towel or tissue used to wipe the blade will have oxide on it.

  5. The blade has a proper hamon which doesn't run in different directions (indicative of one added in post-production).
I haven't yet had a chance to check out our katana and see if it fails any of these points yet. I'll probably write up a separate post with pictures when I do.  photo emot-parrot.gif

I got a text from a friend during the panel, but I was really hungry afterward and softlykarou was still at her photoshoot, so I went back to the room and scarfed down some homemade beef jerky, olives, and almonds. Once she arrived and ate with me, we decided to skip Memoirs of a Six-Foot Blonde Geisha and left our bags in the room so we could get into the console gaming room. We didn't spend much time there, though, because most of the machines were full and most of them were also devoted to Smash Brothers, so we responded to our friend's invitation to meet up for gaming and headed over to his hotel room after a brief stop to buy bananas.

At the room, we drank some refreshing mugicha and sat down for a game of Sentinels of the Multiverse, which I'd heard great things about but had never had a chance to play. After a brief explanation of the rules, we set down to choose our heros. I picked Ra because mythology-themed superheroes are the best, softlykarou picked Wraith, and our friend picked Unity, and we set up to fight Omnitron. It actually played out perfectly from a dramatic standpoint, with Omnitron bringing out tons of robots early on that we had to fight until we were all on the ropes and Wraith was almost dead, but a couple lucky draws allowed Wraith to get some damage reduction up and Unity to get a robot army rolling, and when Omnitron's deck started pumping out more components instead of drones ("Phase 2," to my World of Warcraft-tuned brain), we were able to do more damage to him directly and managed to kill him off. It was incredibly satisfying and perfectly fit the ideal battle arc, where the heroes get beaten down and the villain seems unstoppable, but they manage to turn the tide an scrape out of a victory. I was sad to hear that games are usually not nearly that long, but it still made me want to get the game.

After it was over, we headed back to the dealer's room, where softlykarou finally bought the real, professionally-made corset she's been wanting for almost a decade now and where her keen ears picked up the sound of a young child on a Freudian quest:

I say "keen ears" because the costume included the basement theme.

Then we headed back to the room to rest until dinner time. In a tradition that began last year, we went to the hotel restaurant, which has a buffet option that was actually really good. Unlike last year, we didn't eat alone. We invited a couple people, and they invited people, and we ended up eating with smtemp, her husband, redpikachu, klenkers, starlet2214, siraris, and several other people. About halfway through dinner, ashiri_chan and her husband stopped by with their daughters, and made softlykarou's day by plopping their youngest daughter into her lap. She proceeded to try to eat softlykarou's glasses. Om nom nom.

After making sure to extend ashiri_chan and her husband an invite to dinner (she said she'd want us to make konju curry. Plug plug), we went back to the room for a moment. redpikachu and siraris came with us, and while softlykarou changed out of her costume and into her new corset, we chatted about A Song of Ice and Fire. After dropping a bomb on their understanding of the series, softlykarou and I headed out to the next panel.

We didn't stay very long at The Makings of Modern Day Youkai. Not because it was bad, but more because it wasn't for us. At least for the twenty minutes we stayed, it was mostly a general knowledge panel introducing different kinds of yōkai and Japanese cosmology, but for people who already know those basics or who know that Yokai.com exists, it wasn't quite as useful for us. So we responded to klenkers's invitation to tea and headed up to his room.  photo emot-sg.gif

When we got there, there were a bunch of people in the room, and so we chatted with them while I drank green tea that klenkers made us. After we had been there for a bit, stephen_poon and his girlfriend showed up, and then redpikachu arrived, and we were just missing ping816 to have the full quota for our book group. He was asleep, though.

We stayed for a while, then headed back to the room with redpikachu and several other people who were planning to head to the rave. The rave lost its appeal for softlykarou and I a few years ago when there was a line to get in, so we waited in the room to see if we were too tired to do anything else. While we were waiting, softlykarou fell asleep, so I figured that we should skip My Immortal: A dramatic Reading and go straight to bed like old people.

We left very early on Sunday. After waking up and helping redpikachu move her stuff down to the dealer's room, we went back to the room and cleaned it out. softlykarou drank some coffee and we did one final sweep of the room, where we found a couple things that redpikachu had forgotten and one mystery set of earbuds. When we got down to the lobby and found a checkout line extending past the elevators to the hallway on the other side, softlykarou took all the luggage and stood in line while I ran back to the dealer's room to drop off redpikachu's things. Fortunately, I found a summon sign on the way to help me out:

Praise the Sun!  photo Dawn.png

As tempted as I was to go back to the Angelarium again and buy out his entire stock, I resisted the impulse and headed back to the lobby, where softlykarou was waiting for me, and we left the hotel and walked to the train station.

So yeah. This weekend might not have determined whether we ever went to the location, because it's worth it to see our friends, but it probably determined whether we bought badges and attended the actual con events, and I had a blast. I even thought of another costume for next year--the pyromancer starting gear in Dark Souls, or possibly the Crimson Set + Crown of Dusk--and softlykarou can tell you that my usual response to anything involving dressing up is to look for the nearest exit. I'm very glad we went, and we'll definitely be back next year.

It even inspired me to download an app that keeps track of what shows I've watched. I guess that's not surprising since I'm so into the quantified self thing, but it did surprise me a bit since I barely watch anything anymore. I got a lot of recommendations at ACEN, though, so maybe I'll have to start.
Current Mood: excitedexcited
Current Music: .Hack//Sign - Obsession
Ashley <3: Kerriganashiri_chan on May 18th, 2015 11:30 pm (UTC)
dorchadasdorchadas on May 19th, 2015 01:51 pm (UTC)
 photo emot-3.gif
q99q99 on May 19th, 2015 02:26 am (UTC)
Haha, oh wow, fantastic space pirate!
dorchadasdorchadas on May 19th, 2015 01:50 pm (UTC)
It was one of the first cosplays that jumped out at me from the crowd, and I was like, "That's too perfect. I have to get a picture!"