Reactor 2007

My first out of province, full anime convention, Reactor 2007, held in Wheeling, Illinois between November 2nd and 4th, 2007.
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Anime Evolution 2007

Free parking in /b/ lot

Free parking in /b/ lot

I’ve never been to an anime convention before; I only heard about them from my friends who’ve attended some of the larger ones like Anime Central and Sakura-Con. After hearing about Anime Evolution, I was interested in attending to see all the cosplays and perhaps beef-up on some of my favourite series or perhaps catch something new.

The convention was hosted at Simon Fraser University’s Burnaby Mountain campus, which as the name describes, is on the top of a mountain. It’s a little out of the way, but isn’t too far from SkyTrain and bus service. The weather looked fairly gloomy, but fortunately the rain held off. Even if it did pour, it wouldn’t have mattered much seeing as much of the event space is covered.

Inside one of the buildings, the halls were lined with artists’ tables and displays of their work. I rounded the corner and wound up at registration where I had to fill out a form to get my badge. Since I arrived on the Saturday, I only got a one day badge. I was also given a bag with a guide, programming schedule and a choice of VHS tapes from a cardboard box. I skipped on the tapes since none of the series interested me and the fact I wouldn’t have been able to play them.

Akira Toya and Fujiwara-no-Sai pose

Akira Toya and Fujiwara-no-Sai pose

I went outside and wandered around for a little while snapping pictures of the various costumes that milled about on the concourse. It wasn’t hard to find the main stage for the walk-offs and performances since the covered plaza between the library and administrative offices was filled with chairs and a roped off platform. Just behind the rows of chairs, there was a fenced in area that was stocked with tables stacked with handicrafts. I didn’t go in seeing as it was closed when I arrived.

I went inside the building that housed offices to look for the dealer’s room, and was greeted with a line up leading into the room. After a half hour wait, I was finally able to enter a set of small rooms crammed with tables overflowing with boxes of models, figures, manga and DVDs. Fortunately the room after was a little larger, but still quite crowded with all the people browsing and making purchases.

Contestants line up for the walk-off

Contestants line up for the walk-off

Afterwards, I made my way back out into the plaza and grabbed a seat with some friends for the walk-offs. Teams of two contestants would appear on stage, emceed by G. I. Joe’s Cobra Commander and Mortal Kombat’s Scorpion; then make short performances set to music alternating between the participants. The contestants would then be judged on their act and then proceed to the final round which was to be held on Sunday. Apparently the winner would be proclaimed “King of Bishonen” Overall, the walk-off was pretty entertaining.

I returned to the hallway where the artist’s alley was setup, perusing the many tables lined up along the walls. It wasn’t too crowded making it easy for me to take my time and look through the various styles presented by the artists. I ended up purchasing some prints and a shirt as a gift for a friend.

Back outside, I met up with a few more friends and spent a good while taking pictures of cosplay in and around the quadrangle. I was surprised to see a few Zidanes from Final Fantasy IX amongst the crowds of characters from Kingdom Hearts, Naruto, Legend of Zelda, Bleach, Fullmetal Alchemist, InuYasha, Evangelion, Final Fantasy, and Invader Zim.

Scott Ramsoomair answering some questions

Scott Ramsoomair answering some questions

The only panel I attended was that of VG Cat’s Scott Ramsoomair. Scott shared a bit of the background behind the web comic, fielded questions from the fans and even put on a short concert for us with a piano that happened to be in the room.

Overall, my first anime convention was pretty cool, but way too short. Next time I will have to opt for the full three day experience to take it all in. There’s just so much to see and do that can’t be done in a single day.

Photos are available on Gallery.

Skateboards, anime style!

It’s no surprise that popular anime series have inspired various styles of merchandise, but skateboards? Yes, there are boards out on the street with a ninja design or a monster.

Naruto skateboard deck

Naruto skateboard deck

Viz Media had 400 custom-made, limited edition Naruto skateboard decks available for sale on their web site. Of the 400 boards manufactured, 200 were a yellowish base highlighted by an outline of Sasuke, Naruto and Kakashi with “NARUTO” written in the top corner. The remaining 200 featured Gaara in a stance on a brick red background along with his name in the corner.

The Yu-Gi-Oh! craze also spurred a variety of skateboards that featured the main character Yugi Mutou with a few creatures from his card deck. These decks (no pun intended) also came with their own trucks and wheels, with the latter often displaying the logo from the series along the edges.

There are a few other series that have boards out there, including Digimon, Bakugan and Pokemon. Just remember that these decks are aimed at a younger generation and may not stand up to the tricks of more serious riders.

Naruto

I’ve been meaning to do this for a while, but haven’t gotten around to it. Naruto is an anime and manga series conceived by Masashi Kishimoto focused around a young up and coming ninja struggling to be recognized. It’s a pretty cool series that has lots of potential.

Sakura, Sasuke, NarutoBasically, Naruto follows an air-headed, energetic, loud-mouthed ninja-in-training. The series starts off with him graduating from the Ninja Academy in the Village Hidden in the Leaves. The hyperactive blond is paired with the boy-obsessive Sakura and the secluded Sasuke under the watchful eye of the apathetic Kakashi as the newly formed Team Seven.

I’ll pick off the three main characters and give a brief explanation on them.

Naruto is dead set on showing everyone he can be the best ninja there is -even if there’s a prank or two involved. His yearning for attention stems from the fact that the villagers have shunned him from a young age. A violent nine-tailed fox demon is sealed deep inside Naruto making him an outcast amongst others. However, Naruto learns that others do put aside this stigma and work to teach him teamwork and friendship as he continues his journey.

SasukeSasuke leads a mysterious life which is dictated by his past and lives only for revenge as a result. At first Sasuke was not interested in being teamed up with Naruto since he considered him a loser until orange jacketed ninja saved him from a potentially fatal fight. Sasuke is an exceptionally strong fighter, trained in his clan’s ability to use fire and is not to be underestimated in battle.

Sakura is a smart girl with excellent control and an insatiable thirst for Sasuke, even though he blows her off. Sakura is good at controlling her chakra, but demonstrates an understanding in basic ninja skills. Sakura is known for one of her physical traits: an over sized forehead which garners many jokes, even from her closest friends.

Naruto's Clone JutsuThe artwork is outstanding. I love the details and designs used by Kishimoto. The story takes place in Japan, but features some modernistic styles along with contemporary Japanese architecture. Each character has their own unique look and feel. Naruto pretty much appears out of place because of his bright orange outfit. We’re all used to seeing ninjas as completely clad in black, silent and deadly, but Naruto and his teammates changes all that. Some of the designs are catchy such as Sasuke’s exam outfit (all black with white bandages) or Rock Lee’s green jumpsuit and 1970’s orange leg warmers. However, the classic ninja conception makes cameo appearances later on as the elite ANBU squad (sort of the CIA of the series).

I’ve been following Naruto since early 2005, a late start. Currently I’m watching the anime and reading the manga so it’s like a running parallel. There isn’t much deviation between the two, except that the anime has fillers. Lots of fillers, which is unfortunate since they were used to help keep new episodes from airing along with new chapter releases in Japan. All in all, it has room to grow and as the story expands, new situations arise and challenge Naruto.

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