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To be honest, it took a long time for me to get into the No Brand hype. Some people are psyched a week after the previous one ends. Most start to feel it a week or two beforehand. Thanks to Detour three weeks earlier, it was a little slow to click in that this wasn't just any convention on the schedule- this was f-ing No Brand Con! Finally, while doing my mid-week preparations, my default "Yay! Convention Time!" mode kicked in, but that happens before every con. This was the excitement level I settled for, with only one major event this year that was going to set No Brand '09 apart from any other convention:
I might just run into Tiffany Grant.
"But Adam..." you say, scratching your head, "Don't you run into Tiffany Grant at every convention?"
Precisely. As anyone who has read my recaps through the ages, any time Tiffany Grant and I are both at the same convention, we will end up running into each other somewhere. At no point do we actively seek each other out- attending her panels does not count. Let's take a moment to get you caught up:
My program book from ACen '02. While attending a panel on directing dubs, moderated by Melissa Williamson and the late Jeff Thompson, there was a lady in a red plugsuit signing programs. I heard a whisper that this was a voice actress named Tiffany Grant. The story unfolds:
Anime Central '02: "My program, after it was defaced by Tiffany Grant. I was simply holding my program out to see who the hell she was and she grabbed it, asked for my name and signed it. Apparently, she does the voice of Ryoko on Nadesico, Becky on Gunsmith Cats... and I heard somewhere that she had a role on Evangelion, which I should probably watch some time."
No Brand Con '03: "After the DDR contest, I was looking for a place to sit down and catch my breath when I see Tiffany Grant out in the commons doing a jigsaw puzzle. An Evangelion jigsaw puzzle. I still need to watch that. Anyway, I sit down and we ended up having a nice conversation about random stuff, not necessarily about anime. At least until my friend came along and gave her a massive spoiler about what happens to her character in Noir... which she hasn't finished dubbing yet."
Anime Central '03: "[The vendors room] was also the location of my second run-in with Tiffany Grant of the day. She was at the 'how to explain Evangelion in thirty minutes or less' panel. After that was Nick and his fansubbing panel. Naturally, they crossed paths. It was very interesting seeing Nick, who makes fun of dubs more than anybody I know, chatting with her while he set up. Anyway, the second run-in was indeed in the dealer's room. She was at the ADV booth when she bumped into me as I was making a purchase. She recognized me from No Brand Con and asked what I bought. She immediately complimented me on my purchase of GoldenBoy, as she was the voice of Madame President. I was just trying to make sure she didn't get a hold of my program again (as she did last year), but I did realize something... I may be the only person in history to have a woman commend me for purchasing GoldenBoy."
Otakon '03: "Next up was the industry panel. After the panel I go up to talk to [ADV co-founder] Matt Greenfield. Guess who's there!! This time, since I was about to talk to Matt, I didn't even acknowledge Tiffany Grant (Greenfield's wife), until she walked up to me and said, 'I remember you!' I believe I started crying... mentally at least. I don't know if it's considered good or bad to have Asuka's voice actress recognizing me." (The most amazing thing about this one... Tiffany Grant was not even a guest at this convention!)
No Brand Con '06: (This is 2.5 years later, and this time I was actively trying to avoid her to see if it was possible.) "On my way out, I made eye contact with someone. She looked at me for two seconds and said 'You look familiar!' Objective 8: Avoid Tiffany Grant. Mission... FAILED. Sigh."
No Brand Con '07: "In the front row [of a Lisa Furukawa panel], singing along and doing the cat ear choreography, is you-know-who. I didn't even try dancing around Tiffany Grant Run-In #6, partially because I knew the effort would be futile and partially because we're getting a pretty good streak going here and it would be a shame to defy nature and break it up. Anyway, between shows I was making some stupid comment about the lavish use of toilet paper to designate reserved seating for guests. She turned around to respond, did a double take and said 'Jeez, I turn around and there's all sorts of familiar faces. How's it going?' To quote our foes on the south side of Chicago- you can put it on the board."
Anime Central '07: (After a fire alarm forced an abrupt ending and evacuation of Opening Ceremonies.) "[Whitewater] Nick and I notice that all of the guests (who, naturally, had all been in one place for Opening Ceremonies), were all gathered around together, chatting with each other and happy to get some fresh air during a weekend of panel rooms and autograph lines. I spy Greg Ayres and since my impeccable logic states that I'm not bothering guests if I know them already, we mosey on over and say hi. In the span of about ten minutes, I had chatted with the four guests that were also at No Brand this year. Just minor "No Brand, yeah!" chatter with Kyle Hebert, Lisa Furukawa and Spike Spencer. Tiffany Grant saw me and waved. I waved back. Brief chat- not much to write home about. Notice how we're getting the obligatory Tiffany Grant run-in over with sooner and sooner every year?" (As I did not see her for the rest of the con, this is a testament to the "run-in of destiny" nature we have: had it not been for the fire alarm, the streak would have been broken.)
Ohayocon '08: (Tiff and I actually had a more mundane run-in in the hallway, but this is the better story.) "Richard and I returned to the bar in time to catch the second half of the football game. Now that I had my Devil Bat hat, I could concentrate a little better on the football, even as Bryce walked by. Then Dani. Then Cassie. Then Matt Greenfield from ADV. Matt headed over to the table behind us. We turn around and who should be sitting there but his lovely wife Tiffany Grant. You know, in case the first one wasn't good enough for you. She was as shocked as I was, and my Devil Bat hat put in overtime following the game while partaking in the conversation at their table (which also included Mike McFarland and a couple other industry types). Once they left for dinner, I turned to Richard and said, 'Yeah, that was a good one.' He just nodded in stunned silence, now starting to appreciate the magic of these things."
Daisho Con '08: "Soon as I pick up my badge from Scooby I am greeted by the familiar faces of Zack and Tiffany Grant. Yeah, Tiffany Grant Run-In #9 sets a new speed record. In fact, Zack just kinda left her with me for a few minutes while I signed my badge and we got caught up on things. Next one is convention number ten. We'll have to make it a good one for you."
So there you have it. Somehow, even though I have no control over when or how it happens, this was going to be a good one.
The first familiar faces I spotted upon arrival were actually Jasmine, Theresa, Tyler and Tiffany, who were in the other parking garage elevator that reached the lobby at the same time as mine. Convenient. After the initial hug and "how's it going" and "give me money for the hotel room," I ditched them. I had work to do. As a Geek.Kon staff member, my only duties for Milwaukee and Detour were to observe and report. No Brand was different, as I was one of the organizers of the Geek.Kon room party, which meant advertising it whenever possible, putting up flyers and all that good stuff. No better time to start than the moment of arrival.
Look! Vinnk's back in the flesh! His inflatable replacement last year came close to filling in for him, but his presence brought so much to the con that he was brought in as a guest this year... and still spent much of it at the Rising Stuff table. While sampling their wares, I noticed a chibi-fied Evangelion comic and started joking about it. Vinnk, in his infinite wisdom, gifted it to me. Oh joy.
And just as soon as we get the first sighting of strange Eva merchandise, Tiffany Grant graces the floor with her appearance. The convention's stopped, fireworks go off, we get a few congratulatory handshakes and a certificate authenticating convention number ten... or not. Actually, it was pretty general chit-chat at first. As punishment for trying to re-gift the Eva comic to her, Vinnk slipped me another treasure: a Morning Musume promo VHS tape. Double joy.
Eventually, the conversation segued to a point where I could explain how this was run-in number ten and it called for recognition. In honor of run-in number one, I thought it appropriate to turn the tables. Rather than receiving her autographed unprovoked... she was going to receive mine.
The circle is complete.
This feels like the logical conclusion to the "Tiffany Grant run-in" meme that perpetuates through these recaps. Now we're at the point where she's in that category with Roku & Drazz and Greg Ayres: bumping into each other isn't as comical now as it is desired and sought after because she's another convention friend to catch up with. So don't be surprised if I go with that from here on out. Although the streak counter is still ticking upward, of course.
By the way... that "good one" I promised you? This wasn't it.
The other major event in the vendors room was getting a huge favor from John. Remember at Detour when I bought Box 2 of Gurren Lagann? Well, I coulda sworn I did, but after taking it out of my bag last week I saw Box 1. I already have Box 1. I have no idea how this mix-up happened, but as it was still in its packaging, John was kind enough to exchange the two sets straight-up, even though I didn't originally buy it from him.
One of my rare visits to the No Mercy Room, where Harley was showing the original Casino Royale movie- more of a send-up of Bond movies, with a campy Monty Python-ish spin on things. With Woody Allen and Orson Welles just as you remember them... caricatured on reruns of The Critic. Sadly, I had to leave for Opening Ceremonies and missed the ending sequence, which I am told is the best part.
Opening Ceremonies was nothing to sneeze at either. The theme for this year was No Brand Con In Spaaaace... hence the red shirts staffers like Katie wore. The space mummies from last year are invading, and Duct Tape Boy is sent to investigate. Instead, he kicks one. New Greenboy (with lowercase q... which still stands for Greenboy) discovered the shocking truth: the mummies were just on vacation to Disney World, and very upset at Duct Tape Boy.
So Duct Tape Boy went into the past to stop past Duct Tape Boy and... well, there was likely a time paradox as two Duct Tape Boys showed up, but one gave the other a piggyback ride and all was resolved.
This is actually a more logical conclusion than the ending to Casino Royale.
Time now to head to my room, where I discover two things. The bad news is that Theresa and Jasmine picked up more strays and that the room is now holding nine people instead of the usual six. The good news is that coincidentally, our room is right next to the Geek.Kon party room, which saves me a ton of leg work shuttling between the two... and likely guarantees that my lodging room will not be able to turn in until the party is over.
Someone had Princess Jasmine's tiara, so we put it on Dr. Jasmine. Speaking of which...
It's a plushie of Dr. Jasmine's familiar Rat Cat. The cat that looks like a rat (but it's not a rat it's actually a cat). Next to it is a set of bearnoculars. In certain hands, they can become the Pedo Bearnoculars.
Food followed. Another run to the Acoustic Cafe, where we supped before the AMV Contest. You've Got A Friend was a last-second entry after Detour, because if I went through the trouble to make it, it may as well break as many people as possible.
But with any AMV Contest (except Detour's) comes technical difficulties. This was not related to the computer or the sound system, however. This time... the lights wouldn't turn off.
As the organizers tried frantically to keep the crowd entertained as a barely-discernable Orihime stared back at us sadly, the minutes rolled on in one of the more surreal technical problems. It sounds so benign: flip the light switch! The problem boiled down to the convention center's lights not being programmed correctly to correspond with the way the room was divided. It wasn't so simple to turn the lights off, as they also had to make sure the adjacent Gaming Room didn't go dark... which allegedly happened later that night. After about half an hour, the correct lights dimmed and Orihime was allowed to continue.
Additional points lost when the entertainment, AMVs off YouTube, were allowed to continue for a few minutes after the problem was solved. You're behind enough already- start the show!
The Bleach video was quite good, setting up for a very competitive contest this year. A pre-title screen announced my video and I quietly went yay. Then the actual video played and it wasn't mine. But it was Otaku No Video so I loudly went yay. That AMV was set to a lovely anthem about geek pride. My video played last and received a mix of wild applause and frightened silence. Perfect.
Since my computer and YouTube are having a lover's spat right now, here's the direct download for You've Got A Friend.
All three of the aforementioned videos won Judge's Choice awards, each earning $10 worth of No Brand Bucks. I took my prize with pride, headed back to my seat and expected that to be it. Each of the arguably best three videos earned recognition and all was well. So let's go play football.
Then it was time to award the top three. The hell? Third place went to a Pokémon video. Um... nothing wrong with that one, but among the rest of the field, unless we were destined to get Hell'd again, it was hard to objectively put anything else above what had already won.
Second Place... You've Got A Friend. Okay, problem solved! So I get another $50 of No Brand Bucks. Yay! Otaku no Video video wins first, earning money and some sweet video editing software. Double yay!
Seriously, I'm still not sure what that Judge's Choice bit was about but hell, I'll take the extra Bucks.
The one drawback was that the delay ended any hope of the No Brand Bowl starting on time. With the principle organizers delayed a half-hour, if anyone was waiting to play, they had surely left by the time we arrived. It was also windy, starting to rain, and we saw lightning in the distance.
Better make this quick then. Just a simple 2-on-2 game this time, with Harley and I beating Richard and Paul 14-0.
While I dry off, it's as good a time as any to go to page two.
On to Phase Two!