Better Fan-Made Convention Panels

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Honestly, I'm surprised at how crappy fan-made panels are.

When I go to a panel about a certain series, I want to come out of that panel more informed, more intrigued, and more in love with that series. Sure, I want to be entertained, but I don't want to sit through 90 minutes of meaningless crack, yaoi jokes every other sentence, and kids goofing off. If I'm at a convention, that's 90 minutes that I could spend doing something else.

A great deal of the panels that I have seen and been to have been awkwardly bad. The 'Yaoi 101' panel at Fanime 2010 was a huge waste of time. Instead of actually discussing the history of yaoi, cultural aspects that led to its creation, common themes, related terms, famous series and shows, famous authors and artists, and the reaction to yaoi in Japan and abroad, the girls who ran the panel did nothing but flip through pictures on someone's laptop, and played some episodes. They didn't even watch the episodes before hand, and were constantly fast-forwarding to find "the good stuff". It was awful. For a panel that called itself "101" it was anything but.

If you just want to goof off, you can do it during the rest of the convention. Do a respect to your fandom and educate and inspire. Learning something new about your favorite series doesn't have to be boring. Instead of focusing on a summary of the series and the characters, try to offer guests a view of the series that they usually would not have - the "special features" if you will.
If you or your friends are planning a panel, consider adding these aspects to your presentation:

-History: How did this series start? What was going on in Japan at this time that may have influenced it? Discuss any influences that author may have had, or admitted to having.

-Culture: Probably what interests me the most. What cultural influences are in the series? In case of European influences (like in Black Butler, Princess Tutu, Chevalier d'Eon, or Emma) are these accurate at all?  Be sure to include photos of any landmarks, costumes, or buildings that appear in both the series and in the real world. If there are behaviors, gestures, sayings, or actions in the series that are culturally specific, explain these (you can also make it a sort of game).

-A Face to the Name: Include photos of the manga-ka, director, producer, and voice actors (both American and Japanese). Be sure you know how to pronounce their names correctly. Also include what other series they have worked on in the past.

-The Soundtrack: Is the soundtrack noteworthy? Did it win any awards? Are any unique instruments used? Do you think the soundtrack enhanced or burdened the series?

-The Costumes/Fashion: Are the clothes worn by the characters based off of certain cultural or historical garments? If they are modern, what decade do they most closely reflect? You can also compare and contrast the costumes with real life - for instance, in a Princess Tutu panel you can discuss how real ballet bodices always have straps and fake nude inserts - Kreahe's bodice is almost an impossibility.

-Pop Culture: Did this anime influence anything on it's own? For instance, Ghost in the Shell inspired a few scenes and themes in The Matrix

-Cosplay: If you have an experienced cosplayer on the team, consider doing a small section on cosplay from the  series. Spotlight a few well known cosplayers (with their permission, of course), and do a short "Do's and Don'ts" list. You can also involve the audience. 

Also be sure to:
-Echo audience comments and questions: Especially if you are in a large room. Repeat (and elaborate or clarify) any questions or comments from the audience. 

-Be prepared: Do a run-through of your entire panel before you go to the con. Make sure you fit in the time limit. Better yet, do it infront of some non-otaku friends so you can get some honest critique...Which leads to our next point:

-Accept critique: Someone who critiques your panel is not a villain. Every crit you receive can be helpful and useful to bettering your panel. Do not take critiques personally, but never ignore them. If you are involved in the art world at all, you will know how integral constructive criticism is to improving your work. If fact, you may even want to consider having a little feedback session at the end of the panel.

Also, DO NOT do these things during your panel:
-Constant yaoi/shota/sexual references: Believe it or not, some people find this rather insulting. Plus, it's cheap, base, and caters to the lowest common denominator. You're better than that. Anime fans deserve better. Don't give the audience junk food - give them a gourmet treat that they would not be able to get anywhere else. 
If you want to include yaoi stuff, have a damn good reason for it. Better yet, present evidence from the series. Keep it short.

-Pairings: If it is not canon, leave it out. Pairings, quite honestly, are stupid. These days every hormonal teen can slash anyone with anyone else, so why even bother?
-Voice your personal opinions: Really, we don't care which pairing you personally support, or if you don't like a certain character. Keep it to yourself and stay professional.
-Too much goofing off: A little bit is fine, but please, GET ON WITH IT. A good panel presenter will be able to drive the panel with good speaking skills, appropriate jokes sprinkled in with the dialogue, and discussions that are truly interesting.

-Don't eat food during your panel: Even worse is chewing right in front of the mic. Drinking water is fine (and good for your voice).

-Crappy Images: Make sure that every image you use in your presentation is clear and sharp. This will be tricky if you are working with an older anime, but if you have a Photoshop or GIMP savvy friend, you can have them enhance the images for you.
 -Watch more than a few minutes of footage at a time: Only include clips that are relevant to the discussion, and let them be short. Encourage people to rent or buy (never download) the series if they are interested. Remember - support your fandom and the industry.

-Screech or shout: Please, for the love of all things holy... Keep it together. Keep it professional. Do not bring yourself down to the level of the masses. If you lose it and start getting crazy, you have lost your authority as a panel leader and you have lost your validity. Never shout orders. If people in your panel room are getting too noisy, quietly ask a fellow panel leader to go outside and find con staff to come in and quiet them.

Panels do not have be terrible, they do not have to be free-for-alls. If you consider yourself a dedicated fan, you can help educate and enlighten your fandom by hosting panels that are well thought out, well-researched, orderly, and professional. 

"Swan" One of the Best Mangas you've never heard of...

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Swan, by Kyoko Ariyoshi. Published by CMX Manga. 15 volumes.

I have never been a huge consumer of manga. In truth, there have not been very many titles that truly intrigued me. However, there is one series that has taken my heart (and my bookshelf).
I first heard about Swan from the Princess Tutu community. I didn't know very much about it, save that it was an older shojo manga about ballet. I finally found the first issue for sale at Wondercon, and I was hooked.

User ImageThis manga is beautiful. Each page is an artistic delight as characters dance across each page, their emotions and feelings beautifully penned in a 70s style that is very appealing. The main character, Masumi Hijiri, is a very aspiring character. She struggles to succeed in a prestigious ballet school, even though she is from the country and does not have the best technique. However, she has a deep passion for dance that will be familiar to anyone who has ever felt the desire to make their dreams a reality. She has has believable flaws - no Mary Sues here!

I was surprised by how well researched this manga is. It is thick with ballet technique, famous dancers, and classical ballets such as Sleeping Beauty, Little Humpbacked Horse, and La Sylphide. However, even a non-dancer should enjoy it, since it does provide helpful notations on more obscure subjects.

~Where to Buy Swan~ 
Swan can be difficult to find. I have picked up most of my volumes at conventions and at Kinokuniya book stores. If you local bookstore doesn't carry it, you can always try requesting it. It is currently out of print.

Here is a collection of quotes about the series from different reviews. They capture the feeling of the series perfectly!:
I fell in love with Swan not because it’s about ballet, but because it’s so hardcore about it. The dancers sweat as hard and compete as ruthlessly as any athlete in a sports manga....Swan is the tasty manga equivalent of gritty American films from the 1970s. It is the Taxi Driver or the Apocalypse Now of ballet manga...The art of Swan is freaking amazing. During ballet sequences Ariyoshi illustrates time in gorgeous cinematic sequences, following the dancers’ movements in trails across the page. Drawn in the experimental 1970s, Ariyoshi experiments with panel layout. Masumi’s worries and fears break out of square borders into explosive layouts. Even through the psychedelic sequences, everything stays legible. Reading across a page of Swan is much less confusing than picking your way through the randomly scattered dialog bubbles of modern shojo. ~ Erin Finnegan

Incidentally: The real tragedy here is the fact that CMX still had six volumes to go in serializing Kyoko Ariyoshi’s ballet drama, Swan, quite conceivably the most formally daring children’s comic ever drawn. Working hot on the heels of the revolution in shojo manga in the early 1970s, Ariyoshi’s daring page compositions skillfully blended imagery and structure to evoke mood, motion and emotion like few other cartoonists before or since — I can almost picture sweat flying from her brow as her pen leapt across the board, setting new benchmarks for innovation that cartoonists would spend the next three decades trying (and failing) to match. These days, we in the West lionize Bernard Krigstein and Jim Steranko’s all-too-brief bodies of work for things that artists like Ariyoshi did as a matter of course for thousands of pages at a stretch. Every practicing cartoonist should own at least two volumes of Swan. - From, commenting on the demise of CMX.

Swan is a series so packed with drama, beauty, pain, and art that you'll wonder why today's shoujo stories feel so bare. Full of the blood, sweat, and tears of both success and failure, it's a sports manga dressed in a tutu and draped in glittering, syrupy romance. The theatrics are big, but so is life. Swan is more than just ballet; it's a rich narrative that defines classic shoujo. An unfinished run is a devastating hit to my bookshelves. - Julie Rosato from

Some additional sample pages - I love how dynamic this manga is!

This is why I love thrift stores....

Monday, January 10, 2011

My mother and I donate a lot of things to Goodwill. Not only do we get a tax deduction (which can be quite beneficial during tax time if you end up donating a lot of stuff), but we get clutter out of the house. Whether Goodwill actually helps out people in need can be debatable, but I know that our local Goodwill has prices low enough to service the people who really need it.

I don't purchase many items from thrift stores, but I enjoy browsing. The trick with thrift is to browse often, and buy little. It may take a while to find something really good, but if you have a good eye, you can find some real treasures. I try not to go overboard at thrift stores - I want to save money, so I only tend to purchase really special or unique items.

I was very, very lucky last week. I was browsing the dress racks, and I flash of black velvet caught my eye. I pulled out a gorgeous Scott McClintock short party dress from the 80s. I immediately fell in love and bought it on the spot. It has a beautiful shape and fits me like a glove. The off the shoulder lace collar has thick, gorgeous lace. I was greatly attracted the to the design, since it echos the Victorian dance dresses that I'm so fond of. It has silk covered elastic straps that help keep the dress in place and a delicate tulle petticoat with decorative lace edging.

I will most likely be wearing it to the social dance parties that my dance partner and I have been planning on going to, like Swing Goth and Friday Night Waltz.

Size: 4
Total Cost: $7 (Not a typo!)

A Beautiful Strangulation

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Happened to see and fall in love with this Alice and the Pirates necklace, "The Queen Elizabeth Pearl Choker". At 9,345 yen or roughly $114, it is certianly out of my reach. However, being able to one day make something like it (or finding a cheap alternative) isn't out of the question.

I have always liked these types of chokers, but for some reason this one just struck me for a few reasons. It's powerfully substantial. The pearls are that perfect size, and the sturdy gold fastenings in between each pearl keep the design "airy", yet luscious. The color is also very attractive - not a cheap off white, but instead a rich, warm cream.

It has a beautiful shape here, but I wonder what it looks like on a real neck...

Having Compassion for Compassionate Eaters

Monday, January 3, 2011

    Quite simply, there are a number of animals that I would never consume. While I am not yet a vegetarian, I’m conscious about my meat intake and I am working to limit the amount of animals I eat (I can’t remember when I’ve last had a steak). I have had a great deal of love, compassion, and empathy for animals since I was very young.
    I refuse to consume duck, goose, deer, and lamb/sheep. I just love these animals too much (and have known many of them personally), especially ducks. Anyone who knows me knows that I LOVE ducks. In having such a love for fowl as I do, I have encountered a good deal of rudeness concerning my interests. Some of the comments that I have received have been downright cruel. I don’t deserve this kind of treatment, and neither does anyone else.
    No matter who you are, what you eat, or what your beliefs on animal welfare are, you need to be compassionate and polite to people who have different beliefs than you do.

    More often than I would like, the first time I tell someone that I don’t consume ducks, I almost always get some comment about ducks being eaten/hunted/killed. This is rude. When someone tells you that they don’t eat an animal, you do not return the conversation by talking about how delicious that animal is. Firstly, it’s cruel, insensitive, and rude. Secondly, it shows your poor conversation skills. If you someone tells you that they don’t eat an animal, and the first thing you say is “Oh, I LOVE eating [insert animal]!! They are SOOOOO yummy!“, then you have a lot to learn about how to carry on a polite conversation, and quite frankly, you are rude and insensitive.
    Do not talk about how someone you know is a duck hunter, how you ate duck last night, how your dog is trained to retrieve the dead carcasses of ducks, how you LOVE to eat ducks, how stupid it is not to eat ducks, how yummy ducks are, what balut is, or anything related to the destruction of ducks.
    Instead, you need to find something nice to say to carry on the conversation.
    “Oh, that’s really sweet. I’ve never met anyone like that.”
    “Do you have a pet duck?”
    “I used to feed ducks at the local pond when I was a kid. They had really wet bills…”
                                    “What is your favorite kind of duck?”
    Remember Thumper’s famous words: “If you can’t say nothing’ nice…don’t say nothing’ at all”. The same holds true when you encounter a compassionate eater. If you feel something insensitive and mean welling up in you, do these two things: First, realize that you have compassion issues to work on. However, be proud with yourself that you were able to catch your impulse and hold your tongue. Second: smile, give an interested “huh!”, nod, and change the subject. “What kind of foods can you eat?” is a good way to steer the conversation in another direction.

    If you encounter some one who has dietary practices that you are not sure about (such as a vegan or someone who follows Kosher practices), you need to curb the desire to approach something you don’t understand with aggression, fear, or hostility. Instead, politely ask some questions. What does keeping Kosher entail? If you don’t eat animal products, what are some of your favorite foods to eat? Are your parents the same way? How long have you been eating like that, or have you been doing it all your life? Make sure you ask these with a smile, not a smirk. Don’t be haughty or confrontational. If you are afraid that your question might be rude, either don’t ask it, or start off with a disclaimer - “Oh, I hope this isn’t rude, because I’ve never known anyone like you, but I’m really curious…”
    I would advise against drilling into someone about religious beliefs, if they have any. “Why do you believe this? Are your parents forcing you?” are questions better left unsaid. It can cause tension!

    When eating out with friends, keep their dietary choices in mind. Make sure to choose restaurants that have something for everyone, and don’t stupidly point out, “Oh they serve DUCK here! Look!”. Strangely, some people almost impulsively begin to point out every dead duck in the vicinity after they learn about me. They don’t seem to mean to be cruel, but it’s almost like an impulsive reaction that some people tend to have. Someone once even ordered roast duck during my birthday dinner - when they knew very, very well of my sensitivities. Always try to check yourself - are you feeling urges to hurt someone based on their interests?
    Should you refrain from eating a treasured animal in front of your friend or loved one? In my personal opinion, if you genuinely care about them, yes. You can eat baby puppies on your own time, but when you’re with your best buddy, spare them the discomfort, and spare yourself the chance of an argument or a tense day.

At the end of the day, remember that your Compassionate Eater-friend is probably refraining from eating certain (or all) animals because she has a love for life….And what could be wrong with that?

Ballet Polyvore

Sunday, January 2, 2011


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