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Storming the Sunshine State: A look at MegaCon 2016

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Fourth time is definitely a charm

Before I started my journey to this year's MegaCon, my previous visits to the event in Orlando, Florida. were alright. However, this was due to my friends and me spending most of our time inside of the event's dealer’s room.

The rest of my time went into hitting the rave, playing video games at the con’s gaming section, and chatting with various fans, cosplayers and dealers that we would encounter along the way. For the most part, these moments were the best part of my previous MegaCon trips. Hell, I even got to play Battle Stadium D.O.N., the party brawling title where you play as characters from Dragon Ball Z, One Piece and Naruto.

In my current MegaCon trip, I was able to check out more of event's offerings. Since this convention is one of Florida’s biggest cons, this segment shall focus mostly on the anime side of things. That, and this angle is mostly relevant to what we cover on Japanator.

Of course, this piece shall include some photos of the cosplays I encountered at MegaCon ’16.

Even though MegaCon’s big anime related events were mostly related to FUNimation’s voice actors, each panel had its hosts express their points in a way that brought inspiration and joy to the audience. Since the convention’s main content seems to focus on mainstream stuff, this choice benefited the con’s themes nicely.

One new thing that the convention did this year was that they got Ryo Horikawa (Dragon Ball Z’s Vegeta, Samurai Sentai Shinkenger’s Akumaro) to attend the con. During the first Horikawa panel, I got to ask him about his challenges that he faces in voice acting and acting, along with the differences between voice acting in anime, voice acting in tokusatsu, and acting in live-action shows.

“Acting and voice acting require the same type of motivation,” said Horikawa. “Having the same level of expectation for myself is the challenge I face in voice acting and acting.”

One of the most entertaining things about the panel was when he said Vegeta’s line from Dragon Ball Z: Battle of the Gods when Beerus slaps Bulma as a request to one of his fans. Overall, it was priceless to hear him shout “What the fuck are you doing to my Bulma” in his Vegeta voice in English.

Unfortunately, the folks at MegaCon couldn’t afford to have Horikawa do a concert at the event; however, they’re hoping to make that happen if they get him to come back. Either way, it was nice to sit through his panel while he answered his fan’s questions, along with talking about some of his future plans.

Among these plans is his goal to open branches of his voice acting school in America and other parts of the world. He also promoted the third season of the Rainy Cocoa anime, which they’re hoping to release this fall. To top it off, Horikawa talked about a Rainy Cocoa café that’ll open in Hawaii, and some of the title’s voice actors will appear at the place when it opens.

I may’ve not watched Rainy Cocoa or read the digital manga, but it was neat to see the folks behind the series doing their best to do neat things with the brand for folks overseas.

Aside from Horikawa’s panel, there was a Dragon Ball Z Mega Panel and a segment called “Viva Vegeta.” The DBZ segment had Horikawa alongside Sean Schemmel (Dragon Ball Z’s Goku and King Kai), Eric Vale (Dragon Ball Z’s Trunks) and Monica Rial (Dragon Ball Z’s Bulma) of FUNimation, which mostly focused on them answering a couple fan questions. A neat part of this panel was hearing Schemmel talk about his transition from Americanizing anime to creating a localization that does justice to the show’s original Japanese track.

“American kids don’t get anime— I don’t believe in that,” said Schemmel.

Another neat moment from the panel included everyone admitting that Goku is a terrible father, with the best parent award going to Piccolo and Vegeta. Then the Viva Vegeta segment had Horikawa hosting a segment with Chris Sabat (Dragon Ball Z’s Vegeta, YuYu Hakusho’s Kuwabara), which resulted in such neat exchanges, such as Horikawa being impressed at Sabat for voicing four or more characters since Ryo mentioned that he could barely do two roles at once in one title.

The other interesting part was when Horikawa talked about how it takes four hours to record a 30-minute anime, which lead to Sabat telling the audience that in the U.S. the recording time is 25 hours. This part gave the audience an idea on some of the differences between the Japanese and English voice acting process in anime. Just like the previous panels, it was interesting to hear about the various stories and experience that the voice actors went through in life. As a person who finds these kinds of things interesting, I ended up having a blast with the con’s segments with Horikawa and FUNi’s folks.

While MegaCon ’16 didn’t that many performance-themed events like Metrocon, I was able to see a show that was done by Noise Complaint, a tap dancing group that does performances themed around anime and video games while cosplaying the characters that correspond with the motif. Instead of dancing to the entire soundtrack from the medium their show is based on, they actually take the time to find well-known songs that’ll match the topic’s theme. For example, their Sailor Moon-themed show featured tunes that went well with the concept of girl power.

Overall, the group did a great job with matching their footsteps to each song that was playing during the show. The most impressive part about Noise Complaint's performance was when the group's Lead Dancer Jenne was changing her dancing stances while maintaining the rhythm that the rest of the performers were holding.

Even though I didn’t get to explore a lot of the dealer’s room at the con, the three places I got to check out resulted in some great times. One of my encounters was when I came across a booth for Ranger Stop, a Power Rangers-themed convention that’s usually held in the fall in Orlando, Fla. The person who was at the booth happens to be Jon, who’s also part of the group Toy Bounty Hunters, which had a segment about Marvel’s connection to the Super Sentai franchise.

As a person who kept up with his videos, it was amazing to get to talk to him about tokusatsu and the con, such as the benefits of MegaCon's growth on the sellers.

I also got to meet Careless of the Video Game Music Group Careless Juja and former member of the Video Game Music Band Random Encounter. He talked about Liberty Deception, an indie comic book that takes place in a colony that was the result of a terraforming project gone wrong, along with how he got to go to Europe with the Video Games Live group, a video game music-themed concert that occurs in various parts of the world. Since I got to see Careless perform at Video Games Live, in Miami with Random Encounters, it was a joyous moment seeing the guy in person.

The last place I got to drop by was Illustrator Travis Earls’ booth. While he wasn’t at his booth, I got to see his manager known as Donut talk about the guy’s latest comic book, Power. Based on what he told me about its first issue, Earls’ book is a horror take on the elements found in the Power Rangers and Super Sentai franchise.

Seeing that Earls is one of Ranger Stop’s featured artists, his armored suit designs for his heroes work well with the dark tone of his story.

In terms of the cosplays encountered throughout the con, it was neat to see a few folks who went as characters from the Danganronpa series. Among these cosplayers was a group that went as Yashuhiro, Nagito, Chiaki and Ibuki. On top of that, I came across a person that was wearing a Monokuma suit. Let’s just say that we made a deal to bring everyone on Japanator into a state of despair.

Surprisingly, I found some people who wore the Rathalos and Zinogre armors from the Monster Hunter series, along with a cosplayer who went as Haseo from the .hack//G.U. trilogy. Hell, I was even able to find someone going as Kamen Rider Stronger and Power Pool, a fusion between Deadpool and the Green Ranger; thus fulfilling my usual convention-related goal to find folks who’re cosplaying characters from tokusatsu titles.

Last but not least, I found a group that went as Captain Gundam and Shute from SD Gundam Force. This lead to me obtaining a meal called Captain Punch, which is the process of pouring Hawaiian Punch into a bowl of Captain Crunch. Overall, the combination gives the cereal a sweet fruity flavor that puts Crunch Berry to shame. Of course, it packed quite a punch.

As fun as my fourth MegaCon trip was, the event was far from perfect. Just like Former Japanator Editor in Chief Tim Sheehy’s experience with Sakura-Con ’14, the convention’s format hindered the folks of the press. Since the staff didn’t let the folks with the Press Passes enter the events before everyone else, this made it difficult for me to properly cover MegaCon ’16’s offering since I had to head to the panels before the lines got too big. While the badge did allow me to sit in the areas where folks with VIP tickets could sit, this only worked for me in one panel, as the con’s staff didn’t grant me this privilege in the other events.

Another problem was that there were panels that were happening at MegaCon that weren’t even listed on the schedule pamphlet that attendees pick up at the door. Sure, their time and locations were listed in the con’s Website, but it’s still inconvenient that these things aren’t listed in the event’s program book. For example, there was a panel about the growth of Florida’s anime community that was happening on Thursday; however, I couldn’t find it in the booklet for the con.

Seeing that this is the first time that MegaCon was a four-day event, I’m going to guess that this likely one of the sources of the convention's problems. That, and Fan Expo HQ, the current owners of MegaCon, were still trying to get used to the Orange County Conventions layout. While it’s understandable that most events could face some issues when the management changes, it’s unfortunate when they hinder the folks with press passes who’re trying to cover the event as much as they can, so they can provide coverage to their readers who couldn’t go to it.

Despite MegaCon ’16’s problems with how they managed the Press Pass holders’ privileges, I still had a blast with the convention’s panels and offerings. With Fan Expo HQ having a few conventions under their belt, they were able to bring in some solid guests (such as Ryo Horikawa, Stan Lee, Joe Madureira and David Hayter). To an extent, these segments warranted the $90 to $100 price tag for the events tickets— as long as you’re going for the full con experience. Also, it was neat to see Cosplayer PikaBelleChu's Pikachu Bug at the convention.

Even though my time with the con’s anime panels was mostly with the FUNimation ones, there is also a good chunk of events that covered other topics, such as the panel about How Watching Anime Might Lead To Better Grades and one that introduces folks to healing anime titles. Due to MegaCon’s large size, I wasn’t able to catch the other panels that focused on different aspects of the anime community. However, judging from their synopsis, they all seemed fun and intriguing.

At the end of the day, my fourth time with MegaCon ended up being better than I expected. While the con didn’t have that many performance-related events like Metrocon, the panels made up for it. Since the anime stuff was mostly catered to the mainstream audience and folks looking to expand their horizon what titles to check out, MegaCon’s anime offerings might not appeal to people who’re very familiar with the medium— unless if they’re a fan of FUNi’s voice actors and are interested in the anime panels that feature analysis on certain things. However, the convention’s large focus on Western films, TV shows and comic books might act as an extra layer to improve the experience.


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Salvador G Rodiles
Salvador G RodilesSenior Editor   gamer profile

Salvador's an average bystander who took his first steps towards a life-changing goal. During his journey, he's devising a way to balance his time with anime, manga, video games, and tokusatsu in... more + disclosures


 



Filed under... #anime #comics #Cons #cosplay #event #feature #gallery #megacon

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