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Zig's Amazing Fanime 2004 Notes

Memorial Day Weekend
May 28-31, 2004
San Jose Convention Center


Maria-sama ga Miteru (Saint Mary is Watching)

Half the reason I go to Fanime is to see random shows I might not otherwise ever discover. Maria-sama ga Miteru is exactly that kind of show. With heavy French references, a private academy, female protagonists, and plenty of roses and a domed rose garden, Maria-sama ga Miteru carries several touches reminiscent of Shoujo Kakumei Utena (Revolutionary Girl Utena). Beyond such reminders, the show is its own, focusing not on princes and duels, but on relationships between big and little sisters in a more ritualized sempai/kohei system. Maria-sama ga Miteru is dramatic and charming, and exactly the kind of show I wish we'd more frequently see.

It's a 13 episode TV show from 2004. DVDs are still coming out in Japan, won't completely available until late 2004. I hope somebody picks up the license for this and releases it on US DVDs with subtitles. Looks like manga is also available in Japanese.


Yeah, this guy. I love this guy. For years, he's been carrying the same "I Love Schoolgirls" sign to Fanime. Funny man. He even took a picture of me, just to have a shot with one of his fans.

Here's Paulo in 2003 (left), and 2004 (right).

Ramen & Rice

These two musicians have shown up at Fanime (and many other cons), playing music and delighting audiences. I still remember when they played for us at Fanime 2002, while we attendees were stuck in line for the dealers room. 2 years later, and I still can't get that dang Zelda tune out of my head.

I'm sorry we only caught them once this year. I would have loved to hear more.


This year felt like the Fanime staff had really moved the production up to a whole new level. The facilities were bigger and better suited to the convention size. A wider and more central concourse created a great place for meeting folks and admiring costumes. The A/V equipment worked better. Monitors were placed higher so everyone could read subtitles. Not a single frame out of focus. When sound flaked out, somebody fixed it. Short shows filled the gaps between scheduled viewings. Everything started on time.

Was it all the years of practice? The change in venue? Perhaps enough registration fees to fund some new level of professionalism? Whatever it was, Fanime 2004 is proof that a fan-run convention can also be a well-run convention.


I noticed a distinct change in cosplayers this year. No more crowds from Utena, just the occasional Sailor Moon, and few folks had the ambition to attempt Belldandy. Even Dejiko was barely represented, not a single Puchiko, and only two Rabi-en-Rose costumes. This year's popular show for cosplay was Naruto. It seemed like every other face wore a Naruto headband. Even more popular than Naruto was Final Fantasy. Lots of Rikku, plenty of Yuna, and a couple Paines.

Sunday morning, many anime costumes had been replaced with rocker and goth outfits, presumably in preparation for the evening's music fest.

There was also a Klingon, and three Star Wars cosplayers: a stormtrooper, a tie-fighter pilot, and (kinda stumpy) Darth Vader. The costumes were perfect. But Trek and Star Wars at an anime con? Did we miss a memo? Were we at the wrong con?

Photo Gallery


This little Ohmu from Nausicaa was crawling around the convention. Only a meter tall, it contained two tiny people, hunched over.

Haibane Renmei

Nemu, Kuu, and Reki from Haibane Renmei. Nemu falls asleep so often.

Windows Application Crash

The hotel had these flat-panel displays mounted all over the lobby and convention areas. They ran scrolling lists of rooms, events, displayed a TV news/entertainment channel, and so on. Except when the application driving this display crashed. iSchadenfreude.

EMTs In Action

A girl passed out on the convention floor Sunday afternoon. About a dozen EMTs showed up and helped her. She eventually was rolled out of the convention on a gurney. Every year, the show guide admonishes attendees to eat, stay hydrated, and get some sleep. I hope that's all it was.


When we originally booked our hotel room for the 4-day convention, we had planned on coming down Friday afternoon. A month before the convention, we changed our mind and decided to not to burn up a vacation day for Friday, so we'd come down after work Friday. One week before the convention, we learn that Fred Gallagher will be there Friday afternoon, so I guess it's back to the original plan: vacation on Friday. But Carolyn really needed to be at work that day, so I went down solo, and Carolyn would drove down later after work.

Public Transit Actually Works Sometimes

Carolyn dropped me off at BART, and I took BART down to Fremont and then the 180 bus to downtown San Jose. I've done this run several times in the past, and it always seemed to take forever. This time, though, I managed to make every connection, and the whole trip took about 90 minutes. Sitting on a train or bus, listening to anime episodes on my iPod, I found the experience to be quite civilized and relaxing.

Maria-sama ga Miteru (Saint Mary is Watching)

Like I mentioned in the highlights at the top of this page, Maria-sama ga Miteru was my best discovery of the show. Two episodes were shown each day of the convention.

Lillian Jogakuen is the official website for Maria-sama ga Miteru.


Dom, Fred, Sarah, and Scott all showed up for an entertaining panel discussion on Megatokyo. Fans filled one of the convention's largest rooms. Megatokyo has quite the following out here in California.

Dom tried and failed to get his Alienware laptop computer to connect to the internet so that he could download some games that would do the hardware justice. He finally gave up and settled for Minesweeper. After much heckling from the audience, he finally blurted out "Hey, Minesweeper Pwnz j00!" Heh.

Fred had brought a PowerBook with some prepared slides. But somehow could not get it hooked up to the projector, probably due to Apple's lack of SVGA jacks on PowerBooks. Who wants to be bothered to remember to pack an adapter dongle? "Here in the heart of Silicon Valley!" quipped Dom. Fred frequently wondered aloud why he kept Dom around. Fred ended up facing the PowerBook to the audience so that we could all see the screen. See, yes. Read, no.

Fred's slides were a list of frequently asked questions. Some he actually answered, most were mocked by panel members or attendees.

There was time left for some Q&A with the fans.

AMV: Animix

Across the street in the Civic Auditorium, a 60-minute music video track ran. It was pretty well edited, and with good music.

Studio Sokodei: EVA: ReDeath ReDux

This was absolutely hilarious. The room was filled to capacity, and laughing riotously throughout the showing. This dub is generally only available for anime conventions, and not downloadable off the internet. There really is something magical about being in a room with 400 other otaku, laughing at Gendo's theme music.

Gunslinger Girl

I only caught a few minutes of this show. It appeared that a young traumatized orphan was raised by some secret society to be an assassin, and became very good at her job, if a little mentally unstable. I didn't really catch enough to get into the show.


Angel Tales

A series of several angels are sent back to Earth to protect a guy. This variation on the typical harem/moe formula has all the a harem of angels, reincarnated after a previous life as a pet, all previously owned by the central male character. So you have prior-life cats fighting with prior-life birds, and hilarity ensues. Kinda cute. Carolyn enjoyed it.

Maria-sama ga Miteru

Another double daily dose of Catholic High School Girls in Trouble.

Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex

Highly anticipated return to the Ghost in the Shell world, and it lived up to the hype. Spectacular animation, interesting plots, and riveting action. Little tank omake after each episode, too. Might have to buy this one.

But could somebody please buy Motoko Kusanagi a pair of pants? Yeesh.


On a spur of the moment decision, we snuck away from the convention for a little side trip to San Jose Japantown. Japantown is a 5 minute ride on the light rail, plus a short walk. We figured we'd have just enough time to eat and return for Der Cosplay. We barely made it back in time, but it was worth it.

We got to Japantown too late to pick up some manju at Shuei-do, which of course broke my heart, but saved my waistline. Sure you can buy the packaged stuff at Nakayama's or Mitsuwa, but it's never as good as the fresh stuff from Shuei-do.

So we crossed the street and decided to try a dinner at Hukilau. We walk in, and who calls out to us but the shopkeeper of Shuei-do! Surrounded by a half-dozen gentlemen callers, she seemed happy to be done with work and enjoying her evening.

Dinner at Hukilau was great. We're definitely going back again. Spam musubi as an appetizer. Plate lunch for dinner. And the macaroni salad was nice and peppery. But bring your appetite, because they give you plenty of food.

Der Cosplay

Ah, Der Cosplay. Certainly the highlight of the convention.

Brian "Dieter" Doan once again reprised his role. Fans shouted at chairs. No Jerry this year, so we didn't get to shout his name.

The show was really rather well produced this year. The Civic Auditorium was a fantastic venue. Plenty of seats, no bad views. The A/V crew got a picture up on two projection monitors, and kept it looking good. The acts themselves were good. Very few folks just walking across the stage in a costume (yeah, I know costumes are the whole point of cosplay, but costumes alone grow tedious when watched in silence on projection monitors). Some acts, especially the 15+ person Sailor Moon act, were obviously well-rehearsed, and the audience benefited from those hours of labor. And the disco-dancing mechas shaking their groove thing were priceless.

For intermission, we were treated to a couple songs from a singer whose name I didn't quite catch. Mayu, she sung at Reccacon this year, maybe Mayu Kitaki? Good singer, but painfully shy.

Then intermission brought out some guys who know karate. Wow, they were fun to watch. Lots of flashy flips and jumps.


Breakfast in Bed

Der Cosplay was a late night for us two old fogeys. So the next morning we splurged and pampered ourselves a little bit. We ordered a big room service breakfast. We got to sleep in, eat breakfast in bed, and have a leisurely morning. We didn't get downstairs until 11 am. Judging by some of the bleary eyes in the elevator ride down we weren't the only ones just getting up.

Maria-sama ga Miteru

Episodes 5 & 6. Almost halfway through the TV series and I'm still not sick of it.

Tenchi-Muyo: Ryo-Ohki! 3rd OVA

Another trip to the well for Tenchi. Will this be yet another continuum like Shin Tenchi? Will it be a Tenchi-less excuse to drain fan wallets like GXP? I have a lot of fondness and expectations for the Tenchi franchise, I hope they don't mess it up.

With the 3 episodes we saw, it looks like this OVA series will hold up under fan scrutiny. It seems placed in the original OVA continuum (I'll miss Kiyone, though). Ryo-ohki switches between cabbit and furry kid. The first couple of episodes hammer you with new character and plot introductions, quickly setting up the rest of the series. A little jarring, but so far it's all fun. I guess has a guaranteed sale with this one.

However, as much as we appreciate the fansubbers who brought us this preview of this disc, a big fat raspberry goes out to whoever thought it was a good idea to place yellow subtitles on a yellow background, with no black border around the letters. Several times during the show the subtitles were completely unreadable. The audience was loudly booing the subtitlers during these times. I could see that the fansubbers were trying to match the text color to the speaker (often by hair color: clever!). But without black borders, the light-on-light lack of contrast was unreadable.

Comic Party

Zig to Carolyn: "Are you as bored as I am?" Carolyn: "Yep."

Not our favorite show of the convention. Amusing, just not riveting.

Chibi Maruko-chan Movie

We were introduced to Chibi Maruko-chan by our Japanese language sensei, whose daughter sometimes watches the show during my lessons. We really looked forward to watching some Maruko-chan with subtitles.

The movie was very much like several Chibi Maruko-chan episodes stuck together. A lot of fun. A touch of sadness.

A Side Note

I just want to mention that earlier Sunday, Carolyn and I were discussing how impressed we were with the manners of all the folks at the convention. People had brought their best behavior with them, and the convention was a great deal of fun because of that.

However, at the Chibi Maruko-chan Movie, there were a couple groups of kids who did not live up to the example set by everyone else. Sitting in the back of a viewing room, having a loud conversation, is quite inconsiderate of those sitting in the room trying to watch. If you don't want to watch the current film, there is plenty of space in the hall where everyone meets, chats, and has a boisterous good time, all without detracting from those viewing a show.

Thank you to the majority of Fanime 2004 attendees who were fun and polite. You made the weekend fun.

Early Departure

Yeah, we left a day early. The convention continued through Monday afternoon, but honestly, we'd seen everything we wanted to see. There wasn't much on Monday other than another couple episodes of Maria-sama, and I could get those from the net. Closing ceremonies would probably be fun, but so would be a night in our own bed. So happy in the knowledge that we've already purchased our registration for FanimeCon 2005, we left for home. See you next year.

The Schwag

Dealers Room

A big part of going to Fanime is the dealers room. Often it's filled with aisle after aisle of various anime stores selling the same old stuff. This year it seemed like there were fewer stores, and yet greater variety.

A couple weapons vendors were selling swords, wooden practice swords, and all sorts of other various costume accessories that pretend to injure. The wooden practice swords were quite popular: I saw many newly purchased ones throughout the convention.

There was a booth with Asian porn actresses selling and signing 8x10 photos. Somebody knows their audience.

This year I really tried to reel in the purchases. Anime DVDs, manga, and magazines have completely swamped my bookcase at home, and I just don't have room to store any more. I actually intended to bring some of my older DVDs and books to the convention to trade/give away at the swap meet, but I forgot. It kind of broke my heart to see a little kid reading a newly purchased Marmalade Boy manga, knowing that a complete set costs over $100, and that I would gladly give my complete set to anyone who would enjoy them. Oh well, maybe next year. Thanks to GreenCine's amazing selection of anime DVDs, I was able to completely resist all anime DVDs. But GreenCine doesn't rent manga, nor does my public library have the space to stock it, so I caved in and bought some Azumanga Daioh.





CDs & DVDs



I cannot say enough good things about GreenCine. I learned about them from one of their flyers at Fanime 2003. They have a fantastic selection of DVDs for rent, far wider and far greater than any other online DVD rental company (yes, far far better than that other company that rhymes with "icks"). I've had a few interactions with their customer service department, and they are always quick to solve problems. I live 1 day away from their San Francisco distribution center, which means I usually get my next movie 48 hours after I return one.


Bringing Akihabara to you.

As I walked the dealer room floor on the first day, I drifted by this booth. Thanks to Di Gi Charat, "Akihabara" caught my eye. Spending a few minutes looking over the table, a hardbound Haibane Renmei illustration book called to me. An 80-page Haibane Renmei book of Yoshitoshi Abe's rich paintings was just too good to pass by.

Tofu Records

Bought some J-Pop CDs there, at nice $13 US prices. They shared a booth with good old Amoeba Records ( They threw in a DVD sampler with some music videos of T.M.Revolution and Nami Tamaki.


"It's like porn, but with kung fu instead of sex."

With a tagline like that, I was hooked.