attie: Kagamine Rin & Kagamine Len standing back to back, the headphone cable encircling them. (vocaloid - kagamine rin & len 2)
Attie the penguin ([personal profile] attie) wrote2013-10-06 12:35 pm
Entry tags:

Con Report!

Yesterday I visited the Mega Manga Convention here in Berlin.

Got up "early" (for a saturday: i.e. 9am), yet somehow still managed to arrive 20 minutes late to meet my friends Yuko and Yuki at the train station near the convention location. Turns out, the U8 is really really slow. Once we managed to find each other and emerge out of the train station, none of us knew the way, but there was a conspicuous gaggle of two dozen fully decked-out cosplayers waiting at the bus station so we decided to discreetly follow them. This plan worked out perfectly; the way turned out to be relatively complicated so I would probably have taken a much longer time trying to figure it out by myself.

The location was a relatively large high school, which was already filled up to a large part when we arrived there a little shy of noon. We got in line and managed to buy day tickets after navigating the panicked security guard having trouble keeping the "pre-bought ticket" and "no ticket" lines separate. Apparently we were very lucky, inbetween shows on the main stage they later announced that they had had to close doors and turn people away shortly after twelve o'clock because the building was full.

Once inside we took a little tour of the building, having a quick look at the food hall (three stores: japanese-style filled crêpes, fried noodles, and bubble tea; as well as a stand with a sign saying "japanese housewives"), walking through the merchants' alley (lots of figurines, second-hand manga and dvds; none of us bought anything), the fan artists' corner (live action Sailor Moon fan film anyone?) and finally sat down at the main stage to watch the cosplay competition.

The whole event seemed very cosplay-centered. The main stage was basically non-stop cosplay group performances, interrupted only by the individual cosplay competition and the guest of honor event at the end of the day; a large part of the merchants were selling costumes; basically every bit of wall real estate in the corridors was taken up with cosplayers posing for photos... only the fan artists' corner had people selling their own art, although there were also several cosplay groups presenting themselves (cf. Sailor Moon fan film.)

After the cosplay competition we watched a little bit of one of the cosplay groups' performance, a piece about life-sized statues of characters from various canons on display in a TV studio that come to life every night and started a show out of boredom. Unfortunately we only knew less than half of the characters, and Yuko and Yuki were having trouble following the German dialogue, especially with the frequent microphone failures that were occurring, so we decamped after about 15 minutes and went to get something to eat.

Back at the food hall it turned out that one of the "japanese housewives" working the stand was Yuko's co-worker last year when she was working at a sushi restaurant, and she gave us lots of extra free food on top of what we bought. This means I got to realize my ambition to Taste All The Things (except for the curry rice, because we were already incredibly stuffed by that time and there was no way we could fit in a full bowl of rice on top of okonomiyaki, meatballs, curry bread, some kind of cake made out of vegetables and rice, and pancakes stuffed with red bean paste). We chatted a bit with Yuko's co-worker, and I was surprised at the low price compared to the large amount of work that goes into "handmade by japanese housewives" food - apparently her mother and the other ladies of the stand spent a full month in the kitchen preparing the humungous amounts of food for the convention, and they had started early in the morning to cook up the 40kg of curry for the day.

While we were eating, we were joined by a japanese event photographer who had heard us talking in japanese. She turned out to also be a previous acquaintance of Yuko's, because apparently Yuko knows every single japanese person in Berlin or something. It was actually her day off, so she spent it getting pictures of all the cosplayers whose characters she could name (and thus yell). It was fun talking to her, as it went roughly like this: "Yeah, I like One Piece a lo- Rin! Rin! Can I get a photo! - so, as I was saying, I'm really a fan of One Pi- Oh my gosh is that Russia? - anyway do you want to write in my conhon? I'll be back in a second I just really have to get a picture of these Sailor Senshi over there..."

She also told us about the Karaoke room on the top floor so we spent some time there. She and Yuki sang twice each, but me and Yuko held back (I'm sure all of the attendees would be forever grateful that I didn't sing...) And then it was time to go stand in line for the main stage for the big event of the day: Vocaloid Producer FuwariP! Yuki and Yuko had to go at this point because it was already 8 pm and they hadn't planned on staying so late, so there were only two of us going to the show.

The main stage had already started running a bit late when we were watching the cosplay competition at 2 pm, so it wasn't a surprise that additional delays had accumulated until the evening. There were apparently also some technical problems with setting up FuwariP's laptop, a missing adapter etc, so the time was filled by the MCs, consisting of the Anxious Security Dude we had met at the entrance and a Luigi cosplayer who had previously established a running joke where the audience went wild every time he turned his back. That game never got old but other than that they had apparently exhausted their humor reservoir by mid-day and fell back on tired sexist tropes and horribly racist jokes.

FuwariP's assistant then took over and filled a bit of time by talking about FuwariP's prodigious coffee consumption (3 liters in under 20 minutes), a story whose point became clear a few moments later as everything was finally ready and FuwariP shot on stage with the approximate velocity of a cannonball and then imitated a very excited bouncy ball for a good minute.

After a whole production about finally sitting down (most of the enjoyment of this session came from FuwariP's personality, rather than the content, which was pretty basic) he asked how many people knew Vocaloid, how many knew Hatsune Miku, and how many knew that there were other voice banks beside Miku; this served as introduction for Yume no Katachi, which uses 8 separate voice banks (Hatsune Miku, Kagamine Len, Kagamine Rin, Megurine Luka, Gakupo, GUMI, MEIKO and KAITO):

While the movie was playing FuwariP again resumed his impression of a kid on christmas morning, jumping and running so hard that by the time the song was finished he could barely breathe, and his translator had to fill some time with an anecdote about how all the Vocaloid Producers he had previously accompanied to Germany were quiet and reserved people, before FuwariP could continue his presentation.

The next question was about who knew about "append" or "extend" voice banks, this turned out to be only a few people. You'll guess where this was going; it was the lead-in for his latest work, Kyo mo Harebare, which is composed using all five GUMI extend voicebanks (Sweet, Power, Whisper, Adult, Native).

This time he didn't stand up any more, but still delivered a credible imitation of trying to catch some annoying mosquito while clapping with the rhythm and encouraging the audience to clap along. Unfortunately the volume was turned a bit too high for this song, so that at least at the front where we were sitting pretty close to the speakers, it was hard to hear the vocals at all above the din.

Then, having introduced Vocaloid to the audience, FuwariP played a short "thank you for inviting me" song that he had composed especially for the event, and was illustrated by pictures he had received at the con. This must've been only a few hours before, or the evening before at most, because the lyrics referenced the pictures he was given. The melody was very simple and he deliberately tried to keep the lyrics as simple as possible and wrote everything in hiragana so that maybe we'd understand a few words. I still only understood about half of it.

Using two passages from this song, he then taught us two "tricks" to use when composing songs with Vocaloid. The first was about the っ (small tsu) character, which introduces a sudden pause, which can be helpful when trying to reproduce another language, where consonants aren't always followed by vowels. The second trick was about places where two identical vowels follow each other, as in いい (good), or as in cooperation in English. When the song tempo is high, these places apparently turn out smoother if you use one slightly longer vowel in place of the two very short ones. He played an example with the two variants for us, but it was very hard to hear any difference...

With this, the panel was already nearing its end. FuwariP played the full thank you song again "so that you will invite me again next time!", and then bowed, took a moment to goof around with three flowers that some fans gave him, and left. We didn't get the promised Q&A, probably because they had to close the venue on time and there was still a cosplay group performance waiting, so the panel was absorbing the previous tardiness.

After the event I said goodbye to Ms. Event Photographer, nipped to the toilet, where unfortunately there were some fans making disablist comments about FuwariP's goofiness, and then went home. Using the S-Bahn, because no matter what the BVG Fahrinfo tells you, you will arrive much earlier, even if you have to wait 15 minutes for the next train.