Anime North 2011 from Toronto, Canada Con Report
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Posted 6/23/11
Anime North 2011 from May 26-30 - http://www.animenorth.com/main/
Hi folks, excuse the lateness of this year’s con report! This time around the report will be a slight bit different. As some of you know I took a tumble off stage (unplanned for those wondering still-it was dark with no railings but next year that stage will be addressed for better safety) during the Sunday 404s show and been recovering since, which has been a mix bag of results but I am mostly fine as I got check-ups. For that, Sunday honestly is a blur still at times overall so what I’ll do this con report is focus mainly on Friday and Saturday then, with some spot mentions at the end of the Thursday arrival day to check in and Sunday of course. I hope you’ll still enjoy my yearly report of the gigantic anime convention that is Anime North for 2011!

The 404s Improv Comedy Troupe did 4 shows and a special audition workshop at Anime North for 2011. They also did various other events including game show hosting like for Family Feud and Jeopardy as well as the AN Idol, an outdoors trial game for the registration line-ups, and helped out at events like the Charity Auction (which they donated signed mousetraps from one of their games and a cast signed tutu) and Otaku Fun Time Dating Game. The Sunday show was abruptly cut but most of that show was filmed and can be seen at the 404s Eastside Playlist at around the end of it at http://www.youtube.com/playlist?p=PLA0B3C6356020E27B&feature=mh_lolz along with other past shows. The focus now shifts to the 3 big shows on Friday and Saturday!

FRIDAY
It was a good opening show following the opening ceremonies where I first was on to plug the returning AN Idol and set up the 404s show. The opening ceremonies was quite a potpourri of events from an impromptu entertaining act from the 404s before it began that included the host’s baby getting easily the most cheers for being a new otaku baby. That was followed by introductions of the guests (glad John Swasey who was the one injured last year got to play it up this year with the “CN Tower” act-might have to borrow the idea or least the sense of humour next year myself!) who were welcomed by the maids of the Maid Cafe who bowed and beforehand gave their own little dance. Taiko drummers got the ceremonies going loud and exciting, while videos also were shown during it like a video from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3olen9q-fTM about how Canada is really big, to a video showcasing the many years of the convention’s existence and evolution. Henshin!

From there the 404s took over with their opening weekend show. Once again East met West, as 12 actors united from across Canada to bring the laughs to the hundreds of convention goers! Getting to know the cast came quickly from the 99 things pub jokes warm up and things picked up from there. From there the cast got going into scenes like Dead Bodies where 1 actor would be the puppeteer to various “dead” still bodies for a scene, to asking a 3 headed expert (yeah!). The audience got in their suggestions too for staple scenes done with Random Lines and the show concluding Scenes from a Hat.

There also had the first ever workshop panel which included an audition for eager actors to join the troupe in a set of tryout activities that were used for evaluation after the convention. Keep an eye out at future 404s shows for some of the potential invitees to continue their trials in hopes of possibly being a new 404s member.

SATURDAY
Another debut was the National Anime Improv League with the 404s. East met West literally as the two sides made up 2 teams. With a head ref, linesman (my duties in my Leafs jersey) and sound board/graphics man to handle the organization, it was like a set of improvised scenes done in a hockey game, for there were scenes given to either being done in turn by each team, or as one unit, according to a set time limit, actor number limit and a title. Sometimes there were categories added too if it wasn’t an open scene-my favourite being “Fish Story” involving 3 actors, each one doing a set timed scene to tell a story, but with the subsequent actor telling the same story with larger implications and exaggerations. One got so big I’m pretty sure a school got wiped out by a giant mecha (which is not new in anime of course!). There were so many awesome scenes from this linesman’s standpoint, maybe the best one a Michael Jackson homage duet in one of the mixed scenes. Scene varied from secrets kids hide from their parents, top 10 lists for video games re-enacted, to even huge armies with all kinds of peculiar characters. No Pokemon were harmed in any scenes...much. From dysfunctional families to informercial advertisers with giant items, it was quite a close match up. In the end it came down to a tiebreaker which gave the win to the Eastside, but the real winners were the voting fans with the cards they were handed to vote with throughout the show.

If you wish to learn more about League format, you can check a short English explanation here at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ligue_nationale_d'improvisation where at the end of it is the link to the official site for the Quebec French League (it’s in French only).

After a break the show moved from the Mississauga Room of the Doubletree Hotel to the Main Stage in the Plaza Ballroom. As in the past the 404s had a late night show there after the Masquerade, with an intermission for the Masquerade Award Winner announcements. For both improv fans and Masquerade participants they got to enjoy (and did as most who talked after shows love the idea instead of just waiting around for results) an impactful show which was called “Last Pants Standing”. In this popular late game format scenes are performed with various rules. After each scene the audience got to vote on who they thought acted best who had to then take their pants off (of course boxers underneath) with help from the awesome sound crew of AN with song selections. The last 2 actors left fully clothed did the Best 2 out of 3 Hat Challenge to act a scene then take a swing to take the opponent’s hat off. Eastside won this event again but again the fans won out as they were hugely into the act and post scene “dances”. One of the dance showing, the tutu, was signed and packaged for a donation to the Charity Auction. It was packaged with one of the late night show staples, the Mousetrap Game. Actors fearlessly put their bodies on the line (actually it was the 2 remaining actors with pants on who did it after their final dance) being blindfolded and led into a floor full of live mousetraps (trust me they’re real as a few snapped on our fingers setting up backstage) to act out for the audience a scene. There were tons of great scenes once more, including the ongoing debuting gag of myself as Totoro from the Miyazaki famous movie which I had fun being and laughing for all my antics from invading evil villains’ vacation spots to serving people at McDonald’s (whom in other takeoffs of the scene included Goku serving Saiyan style, CC of Code Geass betraying her Pizza Hut obligations, and Light Yagami taking people’s food order via his Death Note). There was an Arms Expert, special announcements and many more fun times had at the late night show, all to a full Plaza Ballroom of hundreds who came and stayed for the show! Thanks to all who came to any show who laughing along!

The rest of the weekend highlights:

-Got to participate in the Super Fun Otaku Dating Game as a contestant on Friday. It was cool to see some of the GCW wrestlers participated as well as one of the Basement Kids’ actors. I laughed when one wrestler thought he had won big when he missed out on a Lucky Star pillow that “has boobies” (well maybe Miyuki). They were all great sports though, and one of them with his date won the overall show (OK I’m not going to win a final flex off with a wrestler!), but my date and I got nice matching Wonder Woman/Donna Troy action figures for second place. Lots of prizes got given away during the proceedings and some unique dates were made, including 2 yuri pairings involving a female Miguel from the Road to El Dorado and Felicia from Darkstalkers. I had apparently 2 guys of my 3 choices, and went with the nice Meowth cosplayer lady. I hope her promise of home service in cat ears and apron is still available, that would be a welcome homecoming indeed. Thanks to the host and organizers for a fun night event!

-The Charity Auction for the Hospital for Sick Kids got tons of items and thanks to all who made bids. The voice actors who came to sign things they were in did their part too to aid the event. Thanks also go to all the staff that aided during the Sunday showing and the weekend gathering items to catalogue at the new location in the Clubs/Corporate Space where there was also some nice neighbours to talk to while getting donations from them as well. More info on results can be found again at the Anime North website noted at the top of the report.

-The GCW Anime Pro Wrestling Show was spectacular for the hundred plus watching and more passer-bys from the matches I could catch on Saturday. The opening Battle Royale featured the following: Fake O’Reilly who was hugely booed each time he was on the microphone, Kratos from God of War, Scorpion and Johnny Cage of Mortal Kombat, Mr. Atlantis, Homeless Bob, Deathstroke the Terminator (Slade from Teen Titans), Scarlett Spider-Man, SWOOSH, Joey King, Cowboy Nick, Bruno 2000, and even one of the referees. In the end it came down to Cage who was one of the opening participants that the fans really got behind, and Deathstroke. Fighting with his last effort he was able to duck a dash from Deathstroke to toss him over the ropes to win. Also throughout the show there was Shawn Spears, Harley Quinn, Tuxedo Mask with Sailor Moon who took on the Red Power Ranger, and Super Mario.

There were 3 more matches I caught that were highlights. From Quebec came the Super Smash Brothers, players Uno and Dos. They took on the team of Bastion Claw (a man-crab with sharp spines on his back) also from the Quebec feds and his new tag partner Wario. There was a lot of solid chain wrestling and tag psychology with the heels (bad guys) usually keeping one Smash brother on their side of the ring. Wario used all his signature moves like his fart attack and bites. Player Uno got double teamed a lot as Wario and Claw were managed by the always plotting to take over the world (or least at our event the convention) megalomaniac in Lex Luthor who was distracting the ref plenty of times. Finally a hot tag to Dos got the action going with a spin kick followed by a moonsault that knocked Wario outside which Dos followed up with a slingshot tope corkscrew cross body attack. Lex got in one more interference spot so Wario could finish off the match with his top rope Banzai sit down drop to sit upon Dos for the win.

The co-main event that day was the Elmo challenge for his Anime North Hardcore Title. Local heel Steve Brown got on the microphone and said he wasn’t falling for “The AN Streak” which is like the Undertaker’s undefeated streak which Elmo had going 5 years strong. So with Luthor in his corner as well and he wanted a handicap tag match instead for the title. On Brown’s side, Luthor got into the ring 5 Pac-man Ghosts (masked wrestlers locally, including one female for Pinky who had some nasty kicks). Elmo only got to tag with 1 person but he got someone good: Kung Fu Panda fresh off his movie sequel! Two of the ghosts, red Blinky and blue Inky, whom I knew as a tag team locally had great chemistry as always nailing moves like a combo backbreaker/running knee on Elmo. Elmo had to “Hulk up” to punch out of the uneven odds to do Stunners, Rock Bottoms and 2 Sesame Destroyers on each of Blinky and Inky. Elmo bit off a bit more than he can chew barely getting the huge Steve Brown up for a Samoan Drop, then hitting a better DDT. He got the tag to Panda who took to the skies to hit a top rope Sit Out Senton pin on one of the ghosts for the win and thus Elmo retained his title to go 6-0 at AN.

We got a treat as the ongoing 3 year feud at AN between Light and L from Death Note took place. “Kira” Light Yagami earlier in the show cut a promo about how the 7 Dragonballs helped him back to life this time (guess Canadian Health Care can only cover so much from last time with his cybernetic heart) and that this match will be a “Yaoi paddle on a pole, I Quit Match” where the paddle was on a pole (remember as the announcer said, only pros should use said paddles only at cons!), but to win you had to make your foe say the words “I Quit” no matter how you do it, paddle or not used. For such a match it made Cena/Miz from the WWE’s recent PPV look as silly as they had a great match with even better in ring psychology. After L got an early lead with some kicks, Light took control when L went for the paddle too soon. Light had tons of offense then like an Osaka Street Cutter (inverted suplex) and once he got the paddle down started smashing L’s face by holding him between his legs for a Shelley face buster. L fought back with his own version of a top rope Sit out Senton, and a running hurricarana from the apron onto Light who was on the outside. Light got back the advantage in the crowd using someone’s chair to suplex L onto it. L didn’t give up so he was rolled back in for a jumping Tombstone Piledriver which again the ref with the microphone checked if he wanted out but he refused. Light then whipped out a pen and a Death Note about to write L’s name in it to end the match but he left himself wide open for the Crotch Claw to gain the Death Note Light dropped. Light begged then asked for the microphone to say I Quit to end a stellar back and forth match! Post match Light tried to clock L with the paddle but L rolled under it and quickly wrote Light’s name in the Death Note after all. As the last 2 years, Light panicked, ran about until his time came to die from the Death Note heart attack as the crowd counted to 40, and he fell holding the pole and crashed onto the mat. L once again stood tall on top of Light to the adoration of the fans, capping off another solid wrestling show!

-Got the catch two series early on Saturday morning before the Momiji Awards Brunch in the video rooms. There was the debut episode for the Iron Man anime and Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal. The Iron Man anime done to MADHOUSE art was neat. Tony was his usual womanizing self though I noted Pepper Potts wasn’t there and when she did talk to him she was more cheerful. Between Dr. Chika Tanaka and Nanami Ota, Tony had plenty to flirt about even if he did get slapped. It’s intriguing seeing the Japanese in the show act both in awe but also worrisome of why Iron Man was there despite Tony wanting to retire while getting a new suit with arc station called Dio, which goes haywire to stop the retirement for now. The action was brutal as Iron Man had to fight a few times. The voice work was fine and felt like a Marvel series in anime form. I’d love to see more. I’d say the same to the next Yu-Gi-Oh series since I’m following 5Ds on TV still. Not sure it will get over due to the lawsuit issues with Japan and 4kids (gee shock) but I liked the premise this time even if they’re all kids. I thought the show had a Megaman NT Warrior feel which already in anime form could work well in America with kids. Zexal is about Yuma who is a hyper kid who loves to duel using the new system called a D-Gazer to imprint 3D characters in the real world for battle from the cards. He is a bit of a goofball but comes to aid his friends like Tetsuo and Kotori. He duels Shark to try to get back his pride after Shark smashes a key necklace which Yuma’s travelling parents gave with some great powers. He is aided by a Duel spirit named Astral in the end when Shark gets possessed mid battle. It’s a bit of a science fiction stretch but the show was ok too. What I liked is the return in its debut episode to explaining the game again, and keeping as close to game play as possible (even if you get the broken combos off the bat but hey it’s anime, they got to keep things moving since Mexican standoffs are only fun sometimes). I really like the new Xyz summons since they’re very unique to the game having to find summons of the same level to combine into a new unit, but instead of going to the graveyard the summoning parts go UNDER the new monster to be sacrificed in duel for special powers. Both were a fun watch that I’d recommend seeing.

-Speaking of the Brunch I also attended that to talk to the guests about the auction while just enjoying a fine buffet meal by the Doubletree Hotel cooks and enjoying the company of the guests and fans present while talking about everything from improv acting (which was neat to hear from others on the topic) to life stories and just fun talk in general that any convention goer would have. Mixing AN staff, the guests and convention goers young and old in an intimate setting was a great enjoyable time had by all at the brunch. Many thanks for getting to know the guests, from the Ayres and Dobson brothers to Kyle Colby Jones to John Swasey to Barbara Goodson and Robert Axelrod. There were some great cosplays from the MacDermotts and pirate Kaijugal as well as the fans who were dressed as Tsunade (Naruto), Sheik (Zelda), Italy (Hetalia), Roxas (Kingdom Hearts), Hatsune Miku (Vocaloid) and many other anime characters. I even got to get an autograph for my Rival Schools instructions booklet from the voice of Tiffany Lords, Miki Narahashi who was with the other Japanese guest of honour Kumiko Watanabe. Finally many thanks for the discussion with the Momiji Award winning author Helen McCarthy who gave me great advice on various topics as well and enlighten with some nice talk on British TV and customs.

-Finally on personal time, like on the Thursday as people were landing and coming in for a group meal at Swiss Chalet to get to know each other and share geeky interests like cartoons and TV shows, to Sunday once I was patched up as best as possible to attend both a dinner at Milestone’s with the 404s and other guests then a relaxing pool rest (even if I couldn’t go in I got my feet wet to try to recoup while chatting casually after a great convention), it was a nice time even then to chat with everyone from convention goers in the day to some of the guests casually at the hotel or on site to chilling with the actors of the 404s before or after shows.

Wow, the 404s got plenty of mentions in various media!

An article that included one of our performers:
http://www.thegridto.com/city/local-news/when-worlds-collide/
Canadian Animation covering the convention as a whole gives the 404s a mention:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mXcvfZ62Y3w
As did Momiji Award Winner for 2011 Helen McCarthy:
http://helenmccarthy.wordpress.com/2011/06/04/anime-north-2011-canada-is-big/
And various mainstream media covered the convention as well in general!
http://www2.macleans.ca/2011/06/01/photo-gallery-anime-north-2011/
AND http://www.anime-source.com/banzai/modules.php?name=Content&pa=showpage&pid=1388
Once again the playlist containing the latest 404s Eastside (meets Westside in this con) videos, check the playlist at http://www.youtube.com/playlist?p=PLA0B3C6356020E27B&feature=mh_lolz where
There are tons of pictures via my more often used CR account with some of the photos being posted at
http://www.crunchyroll.com/user/trigunkwan/photos under my con pictures album.

Finally here’s my Collection Count this year from AN2011:
*A framed photo of Rita Repulsa from the Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers personalized signed by Barbara Goodson (Empress Rita) and Robert Axelrod (her “husband” Lord Zedd) from the Charity Auction as a gift from a friend
*4 tiny buttons of Chi the cat from Chi’s Sweet Home from the Artist Alley
*An Ako figurine in her cat nurse Pactio Outfit with her Pactio Artifact, the Giant Booster Needle
*An Ame-Comi Heroine Series Mini-figure of DC Comics Donna Troy won during the Otaku Super Fun Dating Game (my date “Meowth” got the matching Wonder Woman Mini-figure)
*A Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG Structure Deck: Fury from the Deep
*A Pokemon Black and White TCG Victini Box
*A Bo-Bomb Candy Holder from Super Mario Bros.
*An autograph of my Rival Schools Instructions Manuel for Tiffany Lords who was played by Miki Narahashi
* A Capcom vs. SNK 2 Full Iori Action Figure
* 4 key chains from the Artists Alley: Kanon and Elsie of The World God Only Knows, and Panty & Stockings

Once again Anime North for 2011 was a blast and always looking forward to the next one! Hope you enjoyed the con report read!
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