Anime North 2013 - Days 0 and 1

Posted on May 31, 2013

Erikon 2013…I-I mean Anime North would be my first ever anime convention experience and perhaps my most expensive one to date both in time and in funding. With over 8 hours of travel by car to some foreign land that charges a generous rate of 13% sales tax (I’m spoiled by 3 - 7%), it begs the question as to why anyone in their sane mind would ever contemplate on visiting.

The reason, of course, is none other than 中村繪里子. Needless to say, Toronto has temporarily become the North American Mecca for those of us Idolm@ster Producers and/or die-hard Eriko fanatics. There’s simply no way I can let this pass…and I sure am glad I didn’t.

Day 00

I arrived in Toronto around 3PM just in time for check in. A bit later, I rendezvoused with Exciel and Neo (my then would-be roommates) who have been standing by in the airport since their arrival at 6 AM. As the room was under my name, they were unfortunately left to wait for our arrival. Once we secured the room, a tweet was sent out, they hopped onto a shuttle and I was finally able to meet them for the first time.

Not long after that our party of five (myself, my two close friends from home, Exciel and Neo) immediately hopped on the car and set course for the nearest flower shop we could find. I’ve done some preliminary searching beforehand and it seemed like we would be able to secure our bouquets for Eriko very easily as there allegedly was such a shop near the convention center itself. A few runs on the same parking later and much to our dismay, we concluded that Google Maps could be a big jerk in that it can teach you a few things about Murphy’s Law when you least expect it. We then set course for alternatives. By the time we exhausted a couple of miles, the list of things we went to that our guidance system thought was a flower shop included a random house in a quiet part of the suburbs, a strip mall/supermarket that seemed to have everything but bouquets, and a shop that sells garden supplies. Fortunately we found the jackpot the third time around.

Exciel and I eagerly awaited the resident florist who was very helpful with that we needed, particularly my needs. Exciel went for a bouquet of peonies (I think). I went for red (for obvious reasons) flowers that could be anything but roses. I also gave them specifications in that the bouquet cannot be more than 20 cm long as I had to fit it in a certain special box which up that point was unknown to anyone.

We left our names and we left with great spirits with the guarantee that our flowers will be ready by 3 PM the next day. We then headed downtown to the closest Bier Market for dinner where we wound down over some great food, and better yet, great beer to match. We picked up our badges after some considerable time on line in the cold drizzling weather and then headed back to our hotel to well, indulge ourselves via intoxication. Kurotsuki joined us later that evening and we had a rather interesting time.

It’s amazing how alcohol can let loose one’s moral inhibitors. I kept mine fortunately. I couldn’t quite say for the rest of us.

Day 01

We woke up with a sense of urgency as we frantically attempted to call the flower shop we visited the day before on numerous occasions only to be greeted with the lack of response. Our breakfast was rather unusual as it was comprised of Shawarmas and rice platters of Mediterranean origins (there was no way I’m eating Subway in Canada again. 12 CAD for a foot long, chips, and drink?! COME ON!). We then scuttled back to our hotel room which was literally a couple of feet away, attempted several more calls in a span of an hour or so to the flower shop (along with a short game of Card Against Humanity) and decided that it would behoove us to inquire in person. It was around 1 PM.

Our party of six split up as half of us drove to the flower shop and the other half went to the convention. Kurotsuki being a later comer, had to pick up his badge that day. We arrived at the flower shop a little before 2 PM. We picked up our flowers and was rather impressed as to how they ended up, even satisfied my specifications. I brought my ゆうパック box and my teddy bear to prepare it for packaging. And although there was a slight problem in fitting all the contents in the box, the florist was nice enough to help me somehow fit all of it together. Once we acquired our goods, we went to meet up the rest of the party back at the convention center. We decided to leave our presents in the car as the parking lot was between the venues for Eriko’s panel and autograph session that day. That way, we can pass by the car to collect them as we rush from the latter to the former in the most efficient way possible both in time and in motion.

A bit later, we finally met up with ザク shortly after we started our late lunch at Swiss Chalet by the convention center. Somewhere along the way, we bumped into who would be the first ever JP Producer I’ll meet, SIGEさん, to whom we exchanged Producer 名称 with. I must say, the exchange of business cards was a very gratifying experience. I have never ever felt more of a Producer than through this simple gesture. I originally printed out business cards for the lulz but now that I think about it, I sure am glad I did.

In any case, we then started lining up for the Opening Ceremonies with hopes of being able to see Eririn at the risk of losing the first few rows of seats in her panel. We were in a bit of a tight spot since both are back-to-back in schedule. By the time we realized it, we have spent over half an hour at the ceremonies without ever seeing a well-awaited appearance and thus decided to leave and dart for her panel venue where a lot of people have already started to line up.

Meanwhile on the line, we met eternal and fnzna who was kind enough to let us in a spot behind them. Not long after, we met the rest of JP Producers. We exchanged business cards and talked for a little bit. A couple of minutes later, the line started moving and we were finally in the room.

Along the first few rows of chairs closest to where Eriko was going to be were a group of attendees who joked around by asking if anyone had a ゆうパック box. Everyone in my party looked at me, and I in turn had a heart-attack. “What if they had one too?”, I asked in my head. At that point, it seemed like my only sure-fire way of pulling the stunt was to be among the first few in line for her autograph session. This train of thought was then slightly derailed as Eririn entered the room. She’s was finally there and we were very very happy.

Eriko, if not an accomplished jokester (or troll, as many of us would agree) is a very clever person. She was able to dodge nonsensical inquiries while simultaneously putting a humorous spin on her responses. Perhaps this is a trait many seiyuus share that I’ve never really paid much attention to until that very instance. Whatever the case may be, I was very impressed and entertained.

I later asked her if there are any traits she shared with her Idolm@ster character, Amami Haruka. I have to say, while the response was unexpected, it was very pleasant and rather touching.

“Is being cute a trait?”, she asked jokingly. Everyone laughed.

We then later found out how her view of Haruka transitioned from being just a character to almost an entirely separate person altogether. Boy was that deep. Not quite the answer within my expectations but I thought it was very touching. I almost wept a little inside.

There were many interesting questions, some of which I took note of by tweeting. In any case, as I felt the end of her panel approaching, we rushed as fast as we can to our car, obtained our presents (both mine and Exciel’s) and ran towards the autographs section. Needless to say, we were the first ones there….that is, if there was a line. We were 2 hours early.

Alas, the long awaited moment came. We finally got to see Eriko again, this time for autographs as well as the chance to pay our tributes with petty presents. I was nervous.

I approached Eriko holding my ゆうパック close to my chest. She saw the box, realized what it was, smiled and wagged her index finger as if I’ve done something mischievous. She even re-enacted how her head met the lid of the box, as seen from one of her sessions with Imai Asami. I almost died of happiness.

She then discovers the box wasn’t quite empty. I urged her to open the box completely to which she was greeted with a bouquet of reds and this little guy.

“For me?”, she asked. I nodded my head in response. She seemed quite delighted I would say, though not as delighted as I am.

[caption id=”” align=”aligncenter” width=”445”] Image courtesy of Kurotsuki[/caption]

Mission accomplished? Peharps. Did I get our feelings of admiration and support accross? That’s for you to decide.

At that point, everything else that happened became of relatively little concern…okay maybe not quite. I was happy when she signed my Shiny Festa Tapestry after all.

I do want take note of the unparalleled generosity the JP Producers (particularly Kabura-さん, wagi-さん, Crys-さん, kkkciyan-さん) displayed as we regrouped after the autograph session. For circumstances I did not understand, we ultimately ended up with Idolm@ster swag we couldn’t easily procure in North America. I for one obtained a Million Live clear file. Others obtained a commemorative pamphlet when Eriko became a Train Station Master for a day.

We then bid our gratitude and goodbyes for the day and proceeded out of the autograph line for a hanchan of riichi with a very eager and excited stranger (who apparently has been looking for Riichi players for a long time). Later on, we headed out to Pizza Boston for dinner with a couple of Aniblogosphere citizens.

I’ll probably post the rest of my stay at AN if I feel like it. Until then, there’s this.