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sd adventure

Of course, we don't quite mean super-deformed in this case. Instead, we are talking about San Diego, California, home to the largest convention dealing with comic books and science fiction in probably the whole United States.

One of our editors took a trip down to San Diego to see what all the fuss was about.

[ see the photo gallery ]

This year, the San Diego Comic-Con International 2002 convention (I will call it a convention and not a trade show, for the sake of convenience) played host to a variety of guests. However, at the top of my mind was the fact that ADV had invited Makoto Shinkai, the creator of a well-produced independent anime called "Hoshi no Koe", which translates to "Voices of a Distant Star". ADV had announced the previous weekend up at Otakon that they had acquired the rights to this short, 30 minute masterpiece. So, I put aside my original plans for the weekend, and instead took a 2 hour drive down south, not only to see the panel, but to also see the floor of this convention that gathers such a large crowd of people every year.

First of all, the parking around the San Diego Convention Center is horrendous. Many of the parking lots in the city were charging between $15 and $20 to park. Thankfully, I was lucky enough to find a parking lot that only charged $7 (it's sad that I have to consider that fortunate.)

And the crowds! Think about thousands upon thousands of people descending upon one relatively small convention center. This thing makes Anime Expo look like an empty space.

I was a bit worried when I noticed the length of the line to get badges on-site. It wouldn't be too much of an exaggeration to say that the line was nearly 1/4 mile long. When I got in line at about 9:40 AM, I actually worried a bit about not having time to do anything. (At that point, I was fearful that I would be waiting in that line for 4 hours ^_^;;). I was pleasantly surprised to find that it took me less than an hour to get through the whole line, get my pass, and get out to the massive exhibit hall.

Now, when I say massive, I mean massive. The exhibit hall was almost certainly larger than a football field. Filled with thousands upon thousands of people hunting around for information and deals from retailers and companies from all around the country, the exhibit hall was a hell of a place to be during the convention. Yet, the exhibit hall is probably the main reason that many people go to the Comic-Con, so I wasn't surprised by the crowd. However, considering that in walking around the floor for 3 hours, I hadn't looked at all the booths, I was definitely surprised by the sheer size of it.

Around the floor, I saw several companies familiar to anyone at Anime Expo. From ADV to Raijin Comics to Bandai to Pioneer, many of the familiar players were there. I also saw several other booths that had my interest, including Keenspot, which is a portal for web comics, and Park Sabers, which makes realistic looking light saber handles that look as if they could've been used in Star Wars.

However, the main reason for my trip to San Diego was not the exhibit floor, although it made a convenient distraction. My true purpose was to see exactly one panel: Voices of a Distant Star.

The panel started with my feeling like a complete idiot because I must've been standing outside the door for about 15 minutes before the panel, standing exactly 10 feet from Shinkai-san, not knowing who he was ^_^;;. I knew I should've taken the initiative faster. Well, at least I got pictures. ^_^

The panel started with the introduction of the 3 guests by John Ledford, president of ADV: Makoto Shinkai, who is the creator of Hoshi no Koe and also voices Noboru in the original version, Mika Shinohara, who did the voice of Mikako in the original version and is Shinkai-san's fiancee, and Noritaka Kawaguchi, who is the CoMix Wave Director and Merchandising General Manager.

The panel then went into the actual showing of Hoshi no Koe. There was much rejoicing, especially since many people at the panel hadn't seen it before. (For those who have not had a chance to see this, don't worry: Ledford mentioned that they intend to have this out within 6 months ^_^ .)

Afterward, Shinkai-san took several questions from the audience about the animation and his work. Included were questions about how he did most of the animation (a lot of work in Lightwave to do the mecha, and much of the animation done from sketches that were scanned in, then painted in Photoshop), questions about how he was able to work so hard on this project (his drive was for independence—to do something on his own, instead of working on something for someone else), and so forth. The questions gave an insight into the amount of hard work and sacrifice that must have gone into that project, and I'm sure that otaku around the world are quite appreciative for that.

At the end of the panel, they were giving away a few of the movie size posters for Hoshi no Koe, and wouldn't you know, I was lucky enough to get one. ^_^ I even got mine signed by Shinkai-san after the panel (double lucky!)

Overall, this mini-adventure was a success. While the drive was long and the parking was horrendous (note to self: next time, consider using public transportation to get to San Diego), and while the line to register was long (but thankfully fast), the exhibit hall and the panel more than made up for the problems that the convention had for me.

Will I go back next year? Probably not, unless I have some really good reason to justify going again. However, who knows? Maybe they'll bring Takahashi-san back. ^_^

jason