I have been to a number of anime conventions in my four decades of life.  Most of them have gone the way of the party scene; a lot of drinking and standing around.  The material often gets lost under the noise.  However, I found a couple of events that may have me back on the path of fandom.


On September 15, I went to the Montalban Theater in Hollywood for the two-part premiere of Sword Art Online – Alicization.  Aniplex has the right idea with its premieres.  They set up a mini-store in the upper mezzanine with items from the series in question.  I think they could probably bring more.  They sold out of keychains and cheaper items before the event and reopened the store after the event to sell box sets and vinyl figures.


Aniplex brought a lot of posters from the series!

The anime itself has an intriguing start, although it is a bit slow moving.  The first part of the premiere focused on the new digital world the main hero, Kirito, is testing.  There’s minimal context to a lot of what is happening and no resolution.  The second part of the premiere catches you up on the activities of Kirito’s paramour, Asuna, and their circle of VR-gaming friends.  In the last 10 minutes, you are given a lot of exposition dialogue on what Kirito is testing, however there is still little clue on what is happening in the digital plane.

Like most good premieres, this one ends with a cliffhanger.

Finally, the only part of the premiere that was rough was the crowd.  They tended to give loud cheers at the first appearances of characters.  A few would yell odd heckles.  We spent our money to see the anime, not hear a cut-rate MST3K episode.

Overall, this is a positive event experience.


Whispering Pine Tea House

While in line at the Sword Art Online premiere, my phone reminded me I had a screening of the heralded anime film Your Name (Kimi no Na Wa) at Brand Park in Burbank on September 16.  I signed up for those tickets so long ago, I forgot I had them!

After finding a friend to watch it with me, I made my way to the park.  Brand is a sprawling park taking up hill space on the northeast edge of Burbank.  Meanwhile, parking is readily available and there is a small Japanese tea house in a walled-off area called the Whispering Pine Tea House.  This is where the screening occurred.  In fact, this is the first time any outdoor screening has happened here.

My ugly face in a pretty place.

This is a great venue for outdoor screenings.  It is relaxing and quiet in a residential neighborhood.  Moreover, if you bring a date, this park can be downright romantic.  Whispering Pine provided snacks, water, and bug spray for a low price for our convenience.

The staff set up a screen, projectors and speakers.  They are very well prepared and the screening was well run.  Although, not everything was perfect.

The background of my screening was very soothing!

About 40 minutes into the screening, I heard a familiar hiss behind me.  Sprinklers went off on the other side of a chain link fence, making several people need to find a new place to sit to watch the movie.  My friend asked if that would happen to us.  I assured her they knew we were coming and now they can fix the problem.

About 20 minutes after that, I heard another hiss.  This time, it was in front of me and to the left.  Water was jetting straight up about 18 inches underneath the bar of a lawn chair.

“Oh… they didn’t fix it”, I said.  Before my friend could ask what I was talking about, a small jet of water passed in front of my face, hitting my picnic bag instead.  We scrambled for a minute, saving our blankets.  However, my bag was wet, as was my shoes.  In the end, we laughed a lot and reset our items in a drier area.

It certainly made the night memorable!

The screen was perfect!

Events like this make me wonder if conventions are even necessary.  Conventions have become very rowdy affairs where underage drinking and sexual aggression are becoming strangely common.  Additionally, at these events, there is cosplay, films, things to buy and ways to catch up with friends without the stress of a large schedule or companies pushing their advertising.

With these events… I might become a fan again.

In the meantime, you can find links to our latest reviews below, as well as the latest episode of our comic book news and reviews podcast, the Part Time Henchmen!


Long Beach Comic-Con 2018 Review