Con Report: MTAC Odyssey (2010)

Friday

As I mentioned in my column Zippy Lately, MTAC is a con that holds a special place in my heart due to the continued enjoyment I have had for these past couple of years I’ve attended MTAC. With that in mind I was particularly eager on Friday to get up to MTAC and enjoy a full day of con activities. Thankfully that eagerness translated into a timely exit with fellow contributor Nick and The Cay, co-host of Tokyo Tower, leaving Chattanooga extremely early only to still find that MTAC’s main parking lot was near full by 10 AM Eastern. Thankfully we were able to get a spot, and being press, we got our badges fairly quickly and prepared for the day’s events to come.

My first activity for the day was, as to be expected, one of the highlights of the con. Largely because, jumping into my press role with Nick, we waited for the appointed time, found Spike Spencer (Voice Actor), and had the pleasure to interview him. The first interview I do at a con is always nerve racking right until the moment it starts, but Spike’s ill-at-ease demeanor made the butterflies in my stomach disappear faster than ever before. While we’ll play the full audio interview on Tokyo Tower (Wed. 9-11PM 5/05/10 via www.WAWL.org), I’ll also be sure to put a written transcript up here on the website for your reading pleasure. In summary, Spike’s certainly a diverse and creative guy, and his laid back, live life to the fullest atmosphere is not only refreshing but inspiring as well.

Following that I decided to head to the courtyard for The Man Power’s concert, where unknowingly at the time, I enjoyed MTAC’s few moments of sun. I’ve known of The Man Power, and have been friends with their lead singer Chris Sexxx, for some time now; however, except for a very brief portion of an acoustic performance I’d never been able to see The Man Power for more than one or two songs. While their delayed start of their concert did limit my time alas, I did get to see the band play several songs including one of my favorites ‘Fujiko’, their ever popular ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Hobo’, and ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Time Machine’. Being that the concert started around 2:20PM the courtyard had the full force of the heat bearing down on it, but in my successful attempt to take pictures I was able to avoid the heat for the most part. Sadly I was not still able to avoid leaving their concert a bit early, because at 3PM my friends and I planned to head to the AMV contest. Final word on The Man Power though is that they are certainly an awesome and entertaining band, and I’m excited that at JAMPcon, one of the cons I work on, will be hosting them at the end of May 2010.

I love AMV’s, making them and watching them, but due to some issues with last year’s contest I was wary about entering MTAC’s AMV contest for 2010. I realized later that needn’t be a problem, as the process went much more smoothly. Thinking on the AMVs, then and in hindsight, nothing truly blew me away but at the same time I thought they all began at a high level of quality. I learned later during the Costume Contest that the AMV featuring Shinkai, my favorite director, won an award so I was certainly happy about that. Otherwise, again I may just be jaded my Anime Weekend Atlanta’s AMV contest, but nothing much struck me to the point of ‘must download now’ / ‘must 5 star now’.

Immediately following the AMV contest was Opening Ceremonies, which I knew I wanted to check out. As usual for me the biggest highlight is the introduction of the guests; however, even after sometime at MTAC, I think I just appreciated the Opening Ceremonies in the same way that football fans appreciate the first kick. Sure there’s all that pre-show or pre-game beforehand; however, with the opening kick you know the game is on! perhaps ironically, I ended up doing no panels after the Opening Ceremonies, so after an early morning maybe the Opening Ceremonies were merely the beginning to the end for my Friday night. Either way I always appreciate the good show MTAC puts on at their main events, Opening & Closing Ceremonies, Cosplay Contest, etc.

My final activity for the evening was representing the ConNooga / JAMPcon booth with Thom, Jaziel, and Nick. In this capacity, we spoke to quite a fair number of folks about both cons while generally just serving the general public’s questions and curiosity. As I believe Jaziel pointed out, we had more questions about the pizza we ordered than our table items; however, to be quite clear our pizza was delicious! Apparently it was so tasty that Thom was offered 50$ straight up for both mediums. Due to extreme hunger we passed on that opportunity. Anyways after a couple hours more of booth duty I called it a night and slept in preparation for what is traditionally the busiest day of a 3-day convention.

Saturday

Come early Saturday morning I woke up way too early, thanks to my roomies, and heading down for a delicious breakfast. Very rarely have I ever been awake at a con before 7, so to see the lobby, gaming room, and everything else so calm was quite surreal. Anyways with such an early wake-up I felt invigorated to get on with the day only to discover the first activity I had planned to attend didn’t start till 1PM. I ended up not even attending that panel and instead started my day off at 2PM with Vic Mignogna’s concert.

If you’ve read the interview I posted with Vic and The Cay and I you’d know that I am certainly a fan of his music. However, aside from maybe singing a line of a song during a Q&A panel, I never had the pleasure to see a full Vic performance. Thanks to Vic’s showmanship, and MTAC’s nice AV setup, the concert was very fun. Aside from a glitch in the ‘Soldier A’ AMV everything went quite smoothly and the crowd and I certainly had a blast. Vic also took this opportunity to show Fullmetal Fantasy, a live-action mini-film featuring many of the Fullmetal voice actors recreating their roles in a modern day setting. The film is fantastic, and while it’s a con favorite for many that was my first time seeing the video. Anyways an hour of delight as all things must the panel came to an end.

After a couple hours meandering the Dealer’s Room and Artist Alley, in what seemed like no time the Cosplay Contest was upon us, as indicated by the immense line. Shortly after getting settled in to cover the event the crowd swept in and the event began. Thanks to the time allotted for each cosplayer to be on stage we were able to take several pictures. Following the procession of the cosplayers, as mentioned earlier the AMV winners were announced. Additionally the four Con Kitty finalists, first introduced during Opening Ceremonies, made their way onto the stage again. Con Kitty herself, who is retiring to assist the GMX Girls, also was on stage and Lucas presented her a plaque featuring all of the programs representing her time as Con Kitty. In addition to that touching moment, MTAC also took the opportunity, knowing this is the most popular event, to present next year’s theme. Several clues had been given away leading up to the video, but the AMV spoke for itself and truly ‘turned it up to 11’, as Nerima Daikon Bros., Beck, Detroit Rock City, Metalocalypse, South Park, and more shows were mixed brilliantly to “Through the Fire and Flames” to hype the audience up for MTAC ‘11. Perhaps the biggest surprise, and something we subsequently announced via Twitter, was that MTAC was choosing Easter weekend for MTAC ’11. Lucas spoke about the choice and mentioned a) room rates were going down to 90$ thanks to the switch and b) while this will obviously conflict with some folks, staff and attendees included, that the cost decrease was essential especially since MTAC is thinking of adding on part of a 2nd hotel. Personally Easter weekend is just as fine a time for me to go as any other weekend, but I know for my friends and many people this will be either an immediate ‘can’t go’ scenario or a tough decision. All in all though the Cosplay Contest was very well put together, and I’d love to describe the great cosplays for you but I’m going to strive for brevity and instead direct you to the pictures we took via this link.

After a break for dinner I returned energized for Quaff, MTAC’s first J-Rock concert (since Peelander-Z is from another planet). I had traversed Quaff’s MySpace page, and aside from discovering they are really good at using MySpace to promote themselves I didn’t learn enough to know what I might think ahead of time. Anyways although I was late I am certainly glad I attended because the brief bit of Quaff’s concert I was able to see may have been my favorite part of this year’s MTAC programming! Quaff is a true neo-Visual Kei band, especially seen in their flashy dress and 80’s hair. Their music style I felt was actually much more unique than most Visual Kei bands, partly because Quaff has a rapper in their group. Aside from just the music and their style what truly won me over was Quaff’s excellent showmanship. Much like The Captain’s performances, Quaff is able to mix fun with professionalism, and most importantly interact with and pump up the audience. There have been far too many concerts at cons that I have regretted missing. I am so thankful Quaff was not one of them.

After ducking out of the Quaff concert a little early I waited for the J-Drama panel. For those who read my Zippy Lately columns, you know that J-Dramas are my latest passion and aside from the panel I hosted at ConNooga ’10, I’d never been to a J-Drama panel. While the panel ended up being as much of a mix and match affair, where we watched various funny scenes from J-Dramas, I appreciated the interaction and the enthusiasm of the host and my fellow panel attendees. Likewise, in her introduction piece the host confirmed information about J-Dramas that I had been wanting third party confirmation for, so that was nice to have. Ultimately I had a lot of fun at the panel and I’d definitely attend next year as well.

Following the J-Drama panel I had hoped to stay awake for a little more con. However with the rain pouring all day, and the increased number of people having to fit in the cramped spaces of the hotel, I think I simply became exhausted dealing with traversing the con. Therefore, I headed to my room, hung out with friends briefly, and then slept the night away.

Sunday

By late night Saturday we knew that Nashville had some floods and possible tornadoes, but until Sunday morning we didn’t truly appreciate the gravity of the situation. From about 8AM to 11AM my friends and I watched the weather and news non-stop, not only to see all the flood damage but to ideally plan our route home. Between my friends two rooms one began to consider leaving ASAP while the other was considering staying an extra night. Even as the main highways headed back home cleared up slightly the local roads around the hotel began to flood, so we made the decision to stay another night.

Now realizing that our con experience was to be extended, many of us decided to take full advantage of the time we had left at MTAC. Therefore, I headed back to the main room with Thom and our friend Matt for some Kaiju Big Battel! Kaiju Big Battel for those that don’t know is an organization that mixes Japanese monsters, i.e. Godzilla, with wrestling. Two years ago when they arrived at MTAC for their first visit I checked out their DVD and really just found myself overwhelmed by both the creativity and production value behind the matches and of course the DVD. To my surprise, their live performance was just as good as I’d hoped! The host was cool and crazy, the monsters were cool and crazy, and I think the fans really got into the whole experience. Sadly, perhaps because I was having so much fun, the time flew by and before I knew it Kaiju Big Battel had finished.

After resting in the room for a few minutes I returned to the main room yet again to catch Spike’s “How To Be A Frickin Genius Voice Actor”. Due to severe delays in the schedule at first I was told the panel wasn’t even going to occur, but thankfully there was some behind the scenes work so that Sonny Strait (Voice Actor) was able to still host the “Alchemists Assemble!” panel for about 45 minutes, sans Travis or Vic, and then Spike was to follow for about 45 minutes. Sonny, known for voicing Krillin and Hughes from FMA, was as hilarious as I remembered him from MTAC ’09. Aside from just being funny though Sonny likewise added some insight into the new FMA: Brotherhood experience, since FMA: Brotherhood was still unannounced as a licensed product during MTAC ’09. All in all, I enjoyed getting to hear Sonny again, and I only regret that the flood and scheduling prevented some of the other FMA voice actors from sharing the stage.

Following Sonny was Spike who was as kooky, and as cool, as he was Friday when we had the pleasure to speak with him. Spike spent his time first discussing some of the finer points of voice acting and then, prompted partly by questions from the audience, delved into his own career and experiences. While many voice actors emphasize many of the same points, and rightfully so, I think Spike mentioned more than any other I’ve spoken with the breadth of the voice actor’s opportunities. We may know in the back of our mind that our favorite anime voice actors do more than just anime and games, but I think many times we forget that there is so much more to voice acting. Spike detailed his experiences in commercials for instance, radio and TV, and emphasized that this too is where voice actors find their work and money to live by. Of course, as is especially true with Spike and Travis, many of these voice actors work in live action projects too. While that’s not to say all voice actors do everything, or even try to, but the more acting work one finds the more consistent ones living might be. I thoroughly enjoyed the panel and thankfully, for anyone unable to attend, many voice actors now have written books about their work including Tara Platt and Yuri Lowenthal, as well as Spike himself, whose book is aptly titled “How To Be A Frickin Genius Voice Actor Part 1”.

Following these two great, albeit abbreviated panels, I stepped outside briefly only to return to a packed room prepared for the Closing Ceremonies. Closing Ceremonies at most cons I’ve been to traditionally have low attendance; however, with little else to do I think many of the flood victims saw this as an opportunity to go to an event they may not traditionally attend. Those were certainly my thoughts. As expected the Closing Ceremonies was much like the Opening Ceremonies; however, with few guests left the emphasis was placed much more on the staff of MTAC, the 10 year celebration of MTAC, as well as MTAC ’11. Many thanks from Lucas, Con Chair, and the guests were given to the staff and volunteers, particularly those from the start of MTAC. Likewise, for those who hadn’t yet seen the video, Lucas played the MTAC ’11 AMV and again provided an explanation for the move to Easter weekend. Interwoven with the sadness of a year passing, and the happiness of a year progressing, we saw MTAC’s long standing Con Kitty retire and pass her tail and ears on to a new Con Kitty, announced during the Closing Ceremonies. That moment I think impressed upon me not just the importance of Con Kitty as an icon, but also the great love the fans have for MTAC as they gave Con Kitty an standing ovation. I was already impressed by MTAC’s staff at this point, when yet again they rise to the occasion and Lucas announces that for those flooded in MTAC would prolong their hours by re-opening the main room at 8PM for more fun with the big screen, possible watching anime or playing games. Alas instead of participating in the 8PM fun due to a headache, after Closing Ceremonies I retired first to hang out with friends, and then to my room to pass out after an extended weekend of MTAC excitement.

Summary

While MTAC certainly had its share of issues, highlighted by long lines, delayed starts, and of course the unavoidable rain and flooding, I can say that in my opinion MTAC ’10 represented the best of what MTAC has to offer – a con large enough to deliver quality programming, guests, and overall entertainment – yet small enough. Having worn three hats this year, presenter, press, and fan, I saw many facets of MTAC and I was impressed at every turn. Lucas and the staff deserve great appreciation for what they have put together time and time again. I look forward to coming back to Nashville next year for MTAC ’11.

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One comment

  1. I’m glad people caught the "Peelander Z are from another planet" thing. I love Peelander and wanted to be sure they were recognized by having been at MTAC before.


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