Friday (One) | Friday (Two) | Saturday (One) | Cosplay | Saturday (Two) | Sunday

I've been to anime conventions before. You've probably read about a few of them. In all, they've been exciting, bizarre, and generally fun beyond all comparison. But I have never centered my life around them.

This year, No Brand Con was two weeks before Anime Central. This year for Anime Central, one of my bestest online friends, Star Otaku, is coming down from Edmonton. That's right- Canada. She'll be joined by Artful and Zach Kaiser, fellow Midwesterners but online friends nonetheless. In other words, ACen should be a big deal that I should be counting down the days to. Where room parties in Madison and weekday overnighters in Whitewater are just breaking myself in. Where No Brand is just practice.

I am counting the days to ACen, but it's on Day -12. I've already blasted off.

Firstly, No Brand Con this year was special because it was the first time I had full-time employment. Better yet, I have paid personal days! So not only did I request and receive a day off... I got paid $84 for goofing off Friday. I'll get another $84 for ACen, but meh.

Most importantly, however, where anime conventions are normally the place for letting hair down (or putting it up, depending on your cosplay) and letting loose for three days, I was on a mission. I was on several, in fact, and for weeks I had been plotting my way towards achieving these goals:

Convention Objectives:

  1. Secure Lodging with Tony and UW-Green Bay group. As I did last year, I was planning to crash at my friend's apartment, now only five blocks away from the hotel (new hotel, not a flying apartment). Unfortunately, he was destined to miss yet another No Brand due to family engagements down in Whitewater. Now I could have stayed at the apartment anyway, as I know a couple of his roommates, but what was the point? Instead, I decided to try crashing with Green Bay, who were again only putting four to a room (still haven't learned from last year's ACen, apparently).

  2. Defend AMV Contest Championship. After I finished "Forget Tomorrow" in February, there wasn't a whole lot more I could do, and another South Park/Miyazaki AMV to impress the judges would have just been overkill.

  3. Pull Off Name That Anime Opening game. About a week before the con, Tyler from 202 approached me about the idea of helping with his Name That Anime Opening in Room 202 Friday night. After explaining that I had 75 anime openings available, I was quickly swept into the contest and suddenly had to rush to get it all ready in time.

  4. Karaoke from the English Anime Lyrics Archive. With both the convention and 202 doing karaoke, there would be ample time to break out my English lyrics and overwhelm everybody with their astounding sound. My job was to make it sound good, and with the help of a few more karaoke versions, I was ready to rock.

  5. Make sure Digimon got represented somehow. With Savers available on AnimeSuki, I figured Digimon was ready to get back into the limelight. I wanted to see it happen, and playing "Butterfly" at Name That Opening wouldn't cut it.

  6. Hold my own in the DDR Heavy tournament. Once again, the master maniacs would be in full force. I just wanted to not look pathetic against them.

  7. Post-Con Moosejaw run. After hearing about a few groups that stopped at the Moosejaw restaurant in Wisconsin Dells, I immediately suggested stopping there again this year since the place has awesome food, and it's pretty close to home.

  8. Avoid Tiffany Grant. It's not like I have a problem with her... it's just that I can't stop running into her! At ACen '02 she signed my program book without my permission (or without me knowing who the hell she was). At No Brand Con '03 I actually initiated the conversation, but why does that mean she had to hunt me down and say hello at the next two conventions?1 Granted, she's never e-mailed my boss about finishing certain fanfics, but Waitohooru has never approached me in Baltimore, said "You look familiar!" and asked how I got all the way there from Wisconsin. This year, although she was present at a small convention where the guests are very fan-accessible, I was determined to pull off the impossible and get away without meeting her.

So there you have it. Thankfully, I have new tools to help me with my missions.

In other words... trying out the digital camera before I left.

Now see here, Agent001, this is Aurus. A 2005 Grand Am fully-equipped with working CD player, a head gasket that won't blow up once a month, and a Ryooki plushie in the backseat. Infinitely better than the Sunbird, and oy, what a deal we got on it. You will also receive a Kodak EasyShare Digital Camera from your father- don't break it bouncing up and down during the dance.

Using Aurus, I made it to Eau Claire in three hours, exactly the amount of driving necessitated by Mapquest. Of course, I stopped in Mauston to pick up some supplies for Name That Opening... and ate lunch in Black River Falls... but Mapquest accounts for all that, right?

Anyway, in no time flat I was there at...

Oh Yushi...you shouldn't have let me sit so close...

Friday- Part One
Agent On a Mission... or Eight

To unite all peoples in No Brand Nation!
This year's badge. You know it's going to be good when it has Team Rocket on it.

First thing's first- thanks to the Mauston K-Mart I had lots of stuff to deposit in Room 202 for Name That Opening. I found Jasmine rather quickly and made my deposit (I had a whole bag of 202 stuff; how crazy is that?).

Oh this won't last...
Room 202... So clean, so beautiful... so full of foodstuffs and Hello Kitty product.

With that deposit made, it was off to spend money in the Dealer's Room:

Best import prices this side of the Pacific Come on down to Crazy Cowboy's Pocky Emporium!
Three of our dear vendors. On the left, Vinnk sporting his goods from Japan and Kellin serving everyone's cosplay needs. On the right, GundamCowboy proudly displays Fast Food Anime's legendary wall of pocky. I quickly dropped $60 to finishing off my R.O.D. TV collection (making me even more upset I missed the book-shaped box set at Otakon '04) and claiming some Rip Slyme singles from Vinnk.

From here it was off to watch Gunslinger Girl since everybody says it's a most wonderfully depressing series. It was so depressing I almost fell asleep. I'm sure it gets better once they drop the Jose angst and focus on the girls, but the room didn't have enough episodes and I didn't have enough patience. So it was off to hunt down the Green Bay group, who should be checking in right about now...

Fresh off their red-eye from Green Bay.

Right on schedule! After stalking them back up to their hotel room, I brought the issue of lodging up with Tony...

Objective 1: Secure Lodging with Tony and UW-Green Bay group.
Mission... ACCOMPLISHED

So far, so good!

By now, actual event-like substances were starting to happen. Namely the vague little description-less panel that said Anime Trivia. With no description, I had no idea what it consisted of, or who was organizing it. But with a name like that, it has to be good!

KORfan wins again.

It was just as advertised- Cheryl asks question, you pose to buzz in, you answer question. Three rounds were held; thankfully I barely missed going up against KORfan, who doesn't seem to have lost his touch after Anime Password at ACen last year. After he swept through round one, I stepped up to the plate.

Um... 42?

After building an early lead with such questions as "Why does Chiyo wear that penguin suit?" and "What are Damaramu's famous last words?", Chad (on the left, the one that, judging by his mic, speaks through his badge) made a dramatic comeback by switching the category to video games. Funniest moment came in the middle when the question was "What sport do Sousuke and Kaname briefly join in Fumoffu?" After Chad and Player #3 guessed wrong, I had to decide whether to guess the most ridiculous sport that would never be featured in an anime... or guess American football and get a cheap plug for Eyeshield 21, the greatest sports anime ever made and the best manga that you don't have yet. (BUY IT NOW; JOIN THE DEVIL BATS FOOTBALL TEAM! YA-HA!!)

Giving in to my sense of humor, I went with option one and guessed Rugby...

 

...now I really need to watch Fumoffu.

Apparently early for Opening Ceremonies, Karma eventually strolled in and gave Chad a lightning-fast trigger pose to tie the game and eventually win, and naturally I knew every damn question in round three (setting up a lovely exchange where one of the contestants asked why I wasn't up there; I shouted back "I was up there last round... and lost!"). No matter- time for Opening Ceremonies, where everybody wins!

Have a seat!
Join the crowd to attend!

Footnotes

  1. She wasn't even a guest at Otakon '03! Thankfully, she was absent at the next three cons I attended.