Thursday, 30 March 2017

Anime North 2016: I

Well, this recap got away from me. For the record, the 20th Anime North took place from May 27-29, 2016, in Toronto, Ontario. I’ve been to all twenty. I’ve recapped since 2013, so you can see 2013, see 2014, or see 2015 at those links.

To start June 2016, in the midst of clearing out my desk (taking this year off), marking exams, snaring a guest post to publicize my serial, keeping up with my webcomic and the rest of “life”, this recap fell off my radar, and was even briefly forgotten. We’re back, as I try to use my notes and photographs to reconstruct this momentous event 10 months later. (Hm, the first thing in my notes is the Nanoha Figmas I already owned, so as to not buy duplicates. Good thinking, past me.)

In this post, expect art and vocaloid information. Also, kinks.


For the first time in years, Friday was possible, because they mailed the badges off to us in advance. So it didn’t matter that, after leaving school and getting to Toronto after 9pm, registration was closed. I had a badge! I could check online for what was happening, and go to panels! Like the 11pm panel “Your Art Doesn’t Suck”.

The panelists were Sofia, Emily and Kennie (apologies for any misspellings). One of the key things brought up was this “Art is a Cycle” graphic that I’d seen in previous months. In brief: As time goes on, your skill at making art doesn’t keep up with your skill at evaluating art. So while your art may seem to get worse, it may instead be steady, while your ability to evaluate goes up, creating more criticism. “We are our own harshest critics.”

There’s also the issue that practice makes perfect, while perfect is the enemy of done. Or we may be trying to live up to the expectations of others (or visions other people have in their head). Parents in particular may consider the work a “hobby” more than something to do post-secondary, and comic artistry is really hard (...and now I feel old). There’s also the need to be seen as an illustrator, and motivation (this is not seen as in “investment”). “Do something fun for you, it might lead to something better.”

In terms of actual drawing Watch-Fors: Children proportions are different (mathematically) as compared to teenagers or adults. Larger forehead, etc. “If you mess up your proportions, no amount of shading is going to fix that.” To add expressiveness, you can do things like put eyebrows on top of hair as a stylistic choice. (Personal preferences.)

One panelist mentioned a logo design story. You “must have a rationale, why is it appropriate to the target audience, what do you want to convey”. Make sure to have clear information up front, and to pay for work that’s done. There was also some discussion of handling trolls as well as criticism, like at booths. (“Do you think people are gonna buy that?” Maybe?)

The one comment we get from a stranger who “didn’t like” something tends to resonate more than all the support we’re getting elsewhere. It’s how our human brain is wired. (We focus on the different, which here is the negative.) Try to focus more on positives, and recognize good versus bad criticism. There may also be online groups for critiques (forums, mailing lists).

If blocked on art? For graphic design, there’s typically a problem to solve that draws the focus. Doodling in margins may help in concentration, things that get incorporated into figures. There’s random prompt websites. When starting out, don’t be afraid to copy (noting SOURCE) in order to learn (educational is “fair use”). And draw things from life. Maybe a dream journal. Can help to surround yourself with artists and art that you find inspiring. Art evolves too. Compare “Magic Knights Rayearth” or “X-1999” to what CLAMP is doing now (eyelash triangles, head sizes). 

When that ended (at midnight) I went to the AMV 20th Special for a while. (The Momiji Challenge and Judges Choice videos for the last 20 years.) Karl was there too! We chatted briefly, got a picture, then I went back to the hotel for sleep and such.


No need to line up at registration real early! But no breakfast in the hotel (closed), so subs en route. I started out with the 10am panel on “The History and Culture of Vocaloid”. (Could I get Miku to sing some of my song parodies?) In fact, the software letting you input voice and edit yourself originated in Spain in 2000. The first english version (Gen1) with LOLA and LEON didn’t do too well, though it was aimed at professionals. MIRIAM was a voice bank by Miriam Stockley, and MEIKO sold over 3,000 copies in Japan in late 2004.

Then, silence until 2006 with KAITO. Reference to LOLA singing in the 2006 Japanese film “Paprika”. (Here, have a movie opening credits link.) There were generational upgrades; V1 to V2 was BIG, V2 to V3 was more “bug fixes”, then V3 to V4 was BIG again, now capable of growl feature. We’re looking at 60+ voices/characters, 120+ voice banks, and 5 official languages (Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Spanish and English).

Hatsune Miku hit Japan on June 29, 2007, selling over 100,000 software; stores were told to stop selling preorders, they couldn’t keep up. Miku’s first concert was Aug 22, 2009; not as big back then (guest billing). Also Miku FES’09 on August 31st. Her TV debut wasn’t until Oct 8, 2014, with David Letterman.

“Sweet ANN” was released in English on the same day as Miku, and did not do anywhere near as well (marketing not the best). The only Korean voice bank is SeeU, who also didn’t make enough profit. (Though a second, ‘UNI’ is now set to be released later this year.) For China it was Luo Tianyi first, then 4 more (latest from March 2016). In Spanish there’s Bruno and Clara, joined in 2013 by MAIKA. Note there’s extra phonemes for other languages.

Monds (the panelist) played a number of clips from the various vocaloids in other languages. (Noting, “Don’t hate on the Engloids, guys!” when playing AVANNA. Part of the issue is we can be troubled by what we perceive as pronunciation errors. Except Japanese vocaloids don’t necessarily get that right either.) Of note, Miku has 15 voice banks, second highest in number of vocals. (I think Stardust is higher?)

Outside the original five languages, there’s Prima (for Opera) who can do Latin (“Ave Maria”). SONiKA for Mandarin. There’s even Portuguese. And my notes get cryptic here, something about marketing taking into account fans versus pros, and then collaborations with famous singers like Gackt and Megumi Nakajima. At the end, Monds had buttons!

At 11am, I went over to the Convention Centre area, to scope out all the artists and pick a couple of them to draw commission works for me; I wanted one of Alijda for my serial, as well as some of my math characters. (Ran into Travis while I was there!) I took a peek in the Dealer’s... City as well. Don’t think I bought anything at this point. Stay tuned.


I left at about 12:30pm, heading for the Radisson, curious about the the panel “Let’s Talk About Kinks (18+)”. But I got there early, in enough time to catch the end of “Lesbian Sex 101 (18+). Look, I’m a WRITER, get your head out of the gutter. (I went to the “Writing Sex” panel in 2015 too.) The “Lesbian” panel seemed to be answering questions which had been written on papers and handed in earlier, which was pretty clever, for anyone who might not want to speak up in person.

In brief: Communication is key, if you start something but then find you’re not into it. “If they respect you, they’ll understand.” Lesbians are not necessarily into penetration. Sterilize your toys (glass can be boiled) or use condoms. There’s a big lack of research into female sexuality in general (internalized misogyny in the scientific world).

Alijda by Shirochya.
She did another commission
(Expona) you can see here.
There was a whole powerpoint presentation for “Kinks”, but there were some technical issues at the start, prompting discussion. Note that “kink” and “fetish” are NOT interchangeable words. A fetish is something that is a necessity or requirement for enjoyment, while a kink is more of a bonus. Where is the threshold? (Who’s to say?) MS (Master/Slave) is a more severe form of DS (Dominant/Submissive).

There is special bondage tape which won’t rip skin; it only sticks to itself. It can even be rinsed and reused. Don’t leave batteries in your toys when you’re done, and note that (electronic or not) they have a life span (wear and tear). With gags, have an alternative safe word, like hand signs or a bell. “If you’re already embarrassed, it’s way too late for you.”

Key rules: 1. Know your limits. 2. Know your partner’s limits (physical & safety words). 3. CONSENT. Next, here’s a rundown on all the kinks that were addressed from the powerpoint, in alpha order, no value judgements.

Adult Baby (loss of control). Clothing (particular items or simply not naked). Food Play (food is not lube). Futanari (more common among bisexuals or lesbians). Growth or Micro (fantasy, psychological). Knotting/Tying (often connected to canine kinks). Plants (can’t be reasoned with, connect tentacles). Species (ghosts, monsters, angels, etc). Stomach Bulging (fantasy, animal play connections). Threesomes/Moresomes (watch weight limits, connects to voyeurism). Vore (and absorption sub-genres). Worship/Torture (two sides, one coin).

There were images. So yeah. Now you have a sense of some quirks to give the main character of your next story (protagonist or antagonist). The “Kinks” panel was in fact two hours, so there was later discussion too. For instance, vampires (likely fits in Species) and blood play being dangerous (diseases, for one thing).

Also, humans aren’t made to swallow significant amounts of blood without vomiting. And if you’re going to ingest alcohol, don’t do it by soaking something in alcohol and absorbing it! (Seriously, I’ve heard from my brother-in-law, a First Aid responder, that people do this.) It goes directly into your bloodstream and pumping your stomach becomes pointless (hello alcohol poisoning). The things you learn at conventions.

To keep this from getting TOO long, click here for recap part two. There’s less on kinks but more on art. Feel free to comment here first, if something jumped out at you!

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