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Ikkicon 2010 – New Years Anime Style

9 March 2011 by

Celebrity Anime Designer Yaya Han at her finest.

I attended Ikkicon in 2010 for the first time due to it’s location (Austin is one of our favorite towns) and the fact that they agreed to present the new award winning short film, Nickel Children, that my performance art troupe agreed to promote at various anime festivals due to it’s high quality use of Steampunk as art, and it’s underlying message intended to raise awareness of critical social problems.

The realism in acting class (presented by our acting troupe – Kali’s Hourglass) itself went fairly well.  We gave a general introduction to classical acting methods using identifiable stereotyped characters and the reasons for using them, then gave an introduction to “method acting” which has largely replaced other approaches by using real emotions from within to cause the body to present the body language that is most realistic.  Where we went that was different than a typical acting class, was that we also gave an introduction to relaxation breathing exercises to “ground, center, and let go of stage fright” followed by self hypnosis (we actually gave a guided light hypnosis, but later advised how to DIY it with a tape of their own voice giving the commands) to help them get fully “into character”.  The obvious problem doing this as a group class is that everyone in the room pretty much uses a different character, so it had to be a bit genericized.  Just the same, they seemed to find it interesting and a good way to put stage fright and nerves out of the mind before a performance.

Mock Combat class given by Chris Ayers

After this it was our turn for a real treat!  Chris Ayres and Carli Mosier gave a professional grade acting class on introduction to “mock combat”.  That is essentially like being trained to use various tricks to simulate beating the snot out of each other without actually causing any harm. This ranged from using positioning on stage to block the view of observers from the stunt tricks to make sounds like bone hitting flesh without actually connecting to using a very relaxed fist to strike just in case you goof and actually hit them.

One other common technique involved pulling instead of pushing or vice versa in holds that would cause harm used normally, but were harmless with pressure in the opposite direction, yet that isometric tension made it appear athletic resistance was occurring.  Confused yet?  OK.  To make that clearer, imagine one person appears to be attempting to strangle another, but in reality the “victim” is pulling hard to force the “attacker’s” hands onto their throat while the “attacker” tries to pull them away.  As a result the struggle is real, but the outcome is that the “victim” can loosen the grip any time they wish by simply not trying so hard to force the hands around their own throat.  The grip used also blocks any actual contact on the “windpipe”, so view of the wind pipe must be obstructed so the audience is unaware of this.

Carli also does an incredible (and beautifully creepy!) job of making it appear she is terrified and being murdered before your eyes, then suddenly relaxes and says something totally outrageous or just plain funny as soon as they break from the stunt.

The safety issues in this are so complex, that it was broken into a 2 hour class the first day and a 4 hour class the second just to get us slowly (repeated movements in slow motion were the operative word!) worked up to where we could film a brief “fight” that looked believable, complete with sound effects (mostly created for you by the victim or some joint effort of the two) without anyone getting hurt.  You should definitely attend this class if you get the chance, but wear loose comfortable, non-fragile clothing, wear something underneath your clothes that won’t look immodest as you may be wrestling on the ground, and advise the instructors if you have any medical or movement limitations before hand.

When people think of a New Year’s Eve event, they think of the actual celebration for that night.  People were dressed in finery, and the line was long as is to be expected.  I would love to report on the dance itself, but unfortunately, our first panel was scheduled for 10 am that morning even though we were driving from 200 miles away to the event.   As such we were so tired from leaving Dallas at 3:30 am that morning that by midnight that we finally gave up and went to bed.  In short, I feel  you deserved to know why I am  writing a review about a New Year’s Eve event with no real information about the ball itself.

We ate a good breakfast nearby at a wonderful restaurant (slow service, but great food and décor) called El Luna y Sol, then went early to set up to screen Nickel Children. Unfortunately the film projector equipment had been disassembled the day before by another panelist who wanted to move it and didn’t know how to reassemble it, so we had some difficulty the morning it was scheduled.  In fact all of the after the film discussion had to come before while the technical crew frantically tried to re-assemble this very complex professional grade A/V system.

We finally got the film running only to find that we had video and the soundtrack, plus special effects like the sound of gunshots and fist fighting, but no dialogue at all. It was suggested by the audience that this made for a very interesting art film kind of experiment. This was very big of them considering that only a few brave souls even managed to show up to any panels that were scheduled early, like this one, on the morning after New Year’s Eve. Actually, it is a great credit to the short film that it works and works well, even without dialogue, but I was still glad when we got an adapter that allowed the audience to see it again (the real advantage of “short films”) with the dialogue available.

The dance the second night was hosted by DJ Greg Ayers who is no newcomer to throwing a party. We found the dance to be a very active, high energy, lights and electronica rave style event. As such, it was very popular with the teens and younger convention goers, but naturally less so with the over 30 crowd.

Rehearsal for Cosplay

The cosplay is what Ikkicon is best known for and they certainly did not disappoint! The costumes were outstanding!  I do not consider myself an expert in the anime cosplay arena, I but must say they were the most beautiful and elaborate I have seen. While anime costuming is a far cry from Steampunk design and tailoring (my own costuming area of expertise), any costumer can see the quality and complexity of the work of another, and I must say I was impressed!

Unfortunately the venue was too small for everyone to even enter the performance hall, large as it was, to see the actual presentation. I got the chance to see most of the costumes while they were practicing their walk on, pose, and walk off, in the gaming room next door. There did not appear to be much time for anything more than presenting the visual appeal of the costumes, usually presented in groups of people that came together costumed to show several characters from a particular anime adventure, but realistically there would not have been time, if that had been made available because there were just so many total entries. People lined up well over an hour ahead of time just to enter the room to see them displayed, and there seemed to be almost as many presenting costumes as viewing them!

Airship Isabella was present and highly visible, but their most note able event was the “Airship Isabella Birthday Party where they celebrated the first anniversary of their coming forward publicly as a Steampunk Performance Art Group.  They discussed struggles along the way and how far they had come in that year.  I must agree that moving from relatively unknown individuals that were first really introduced to Steampunk only one year ago (at this same event!) to what is easily the most recognized Steampunk performance group in The South Central region of the US in such a short time is impressive!  As they described the sacrifices made to go from starting to give panels to becoming fairly sure of “honored guest status” at most events certainly required hard work, commitment, and a definite plan.

Exhibit Hall

The vending area was large, well stocked, and very active in trading!  Some of the vendors attending had the most interesting, well made, and reasonably priced items we have seen at conventions, so we wound up leaving ourselves with a new “Pirate cutlass”, a set of octopus fingers (latex of course), and some various bits of clothing and accessories as well as an eye toward interesting leatherwork, that we had to resist purchasing this trip.

One other area that really needs to be mentioned, is the “Gaming Room”.  Inside there were multiple rows of computer screens with Halo players immersed in an alternate universe mostly playing against one another.  Naturally there were competitions in a number of different games, and multiple types of platforms in use.  Outside the door, Sleeping Samurai had set up a large arena where they provided an excellent and well attended service in running an almost constant series of padded sword classes and competitions.

Cracked Monacle staff hosting a game of "Tephra"

What interested us the most were the gaming tables where the “Cracked Monocle” group introduced people to their new “Steampunk Role Playing Game” called “Tephra”.  The game is played similar to other table top RPGs, but the races are pretty unusual and even the various human cultures listed are so distinct that they might as well be different races as well.  As a result, this game is very slow in building characters and adjusting to all the new information, but once that was accomplished, the play was fast, exciting, and enjoyable.  Having such distinctive characters actually increases overall play for serious gamers, but is simply awkward in this sort of time limited setting, so if you make a character for this game, try to bring it with you each time.

Unlike many other adaptations of RPGs to the Steampunk world, this is truly a Steampunk game with only a bit of “Gaslamp” thrown in as it focuses much more on technology based devices than psychic or spiritual based powers, and the design encourages adaption and modification of machines including robots.  The game emphasizes technology abilities in that almost anything with gears, electric wiring, or mechanical parts can be modified if you have the right skills.  The backdrop to this, however, includes many races that are so effective with more primitive weapons that they stay a serious threat.

What struck me the most about the game, when I read further into the book, was that a fairly low to mid level character could develop surprisingly powerful weapons fairly early, but then so could their opponents which actually just translates into a certain amount of fatalistic realism in the game.  Characters take damage fairly easily, but are resilient enough to survive for a while and dish it back out against surprisingly tough opponents if they work well together and use their heads.  This is an essential aspect of this type of gaming, so I rate this new product and the group that developed it highly.

Parking for Ikkicon was a serious problem due to location and the date of the event.  Parking was so bad on New Years night that we had to pay $5 to park at a paid parking lot, then were told to come back and pay another $7 at six pm or our car would be towed even if we left it in the same slot of the paid parking lot, and this was just to get something within a few blocks walking distance.  What was worse was that cars were endlessly circling like sharks begging for and fighting for spaces even in these paid lots.  We had to use bodies to block traffic to pull out in order to leave and others used the same tactic to fend off all the competition for the privilege of paying for our space.

Ikkicon has been in downtown Austin, Texas at New years for some time, but crowded parking conditions (especially at major holidays like New Years) and crowded downtown in general is making it likely that it will continue to be a new years event for 2011, but move to a different time slot after next year.

Rehearsal for Cosplay

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