Friday, December 30, 2011

A Farewell to Anime

In the last piece I wrote I explained partially why it took me so long to write an article talking about building a better anime con here in El Paso. I already had a pretty good idea what to say but I was hesitant to finish it, until I got some positive impromptu feedback from my friends. Given that the people I was driving home with back from EPCON were saying essentially the same things as I intended to write, I was re-assured and I was able to continue finishing the article you had just read.

However, even THAT re-assurance was not enough to finally get me writing that article. As I’d mentioned I received that encouragement driving away from EPCON, which was in September. I still spent the whole month of October not writing this article. There was a reason for that too, and the reason I continued to procrastinate also speaks very clearly to the problem of anime conventions in the area.

I was afraid of the fallout.

The anime community in this area has a nasty habit of ostracizing people who have differing opinions. That’s the simple truth of it. Don’t believe me? Well, let me tell you how I come to this conclusion.

I first experienced this phenomenon the very moment I got involved with the community through UTEP’s Anime Appreciation Society of El Paso, who at the time was having a feud with the Anime Society at the University. The whole time I was there, I was scratching my head and wondering why these two groups didn’t get along for the benefit of one another. The response to my incredulity was answered simply to me by the then-president: Those guys were ‘just jerks.’

I was upset by this, but I let it slide since it seemed to be just an incident between these two clubs. Then a third club, The Videogame and Anime Committee, sprung up a year later. The founders were close friends of mine who had long since been suspended from the ASU, who at the time were having problems with their own officers. I stayed with that club for about two years while still maintaining a relationship with AASEP.

Around this time we got our first convention, the El Paso Anime Con, which took place at the UTEP Union East building in the summer of 2007. The event was put on by some officers of the ASU who had left the club to prioritize the founding of the event. The general opinion of EPAC was that it was mediocre. It was highly limited by some restrictions that UTEP generally puts on people who run events in general, the largest of which was that they did not allow outside vendors. People reacted to the “meh” that was EPAC in different ways. Lots of people still supported the event for its remaining two years. Others left it in hopes that something else would come along, but the remaining minority did something terrible: something that would shape the climate of local anime conventions for the worse for the years leading to today.

They formed a convention of their own.

Now, I can’t be counted on as a reliable resource when it comes to the reasons why the officers who eventually formed Wintercon, broke away from the founders of EPAC. I simply don’t know anything about it except that the lack of ability EPAC had in providing vendors had something to do with their decision. I also know that in some ways it was personal, as I’d attended a couple of developmental meetings for Wintercon and some of the founders mentioned the foundation of Wintercon as “sticking it to” the founders of EPAC. I rolled my eyes at that, relating it directly to the problems I had with the UTEP based clubs.

So Wintercon happened. It was a good event, not great. In fact I dare say it was pretty mediocre. Very few of the vendors or staff was shared between Wintercon and EPAC, even though they had some of the same artists. Now there seemed to be two large entities responsible for anime in the area. No big deal. It could still work.

Wintercon had moderate success, and the founders of EPAC found themselves a new niche by moving their convention to the NMSU campus and changing their name to “Las Cruces Anime Days.” EPAC was unceremoniously dropped without even an announcement, leaving many local fans to wonder whether it’d come back for about a year before realizing it was gone for good. We were all aware that the two parties were not associated with one another and were competitors. Any dialogue between the two of them was….unpleasant to hear, but at least things appeared to be stable.

Around this time was about when Ruben Rascon and I started working together on “The Captain_M Show.” We were both aware of the rivalries between both conventions and for a while we wondered which ‘side’ we’d take. We ultimately decided to do an unbiased evaluation of both conventions.

During our attempts to build the show Ruben and I had a falling out with one anime group for personal reasons and we simply stopped attending AASEP because we were so busy with our videography that we let a lot of our extra-circulars fall by the wayside.

We began our coverage of the company with the first LCAD, which took place in January of 2010. I had already purchased table space as I’d intended to attend as an artist. Ruben and I filmed our first on location video there where we limited ourselves to talking behind the table to fans. It wasn’t anything too fancy, but it was a start.

Immediately after LCAD, however, we struck our first major coverage deal with EPCON 2010. We rode the EPCON wagon, securing interviews with supporters both old and new and came up with our first full set of videos, essentially learning how to put together our humble little online show as we went along. It was a terrific experience, even as we got to the convention proper.

After the better part of the year was over, though, the anime convention season was coming around again, and we were eager to get back in with the crowd that we believed helped us start it all. To make a long story short the contrast between working with EPCON and working with LCAD and Wintercon was obvious from the start. Working with EPCON we entered into a mutually beneficial partnership which yielded us interviews with a large part of the conventions artists and participants with full support from the staff, who also participated in the interviews. Working with the staffs of the anime conventions was a lot more difficult. We were met by a lot of suspicion, and at times were outright ignored because we weren’t part of anyone’s staffing inner-circle, and we were often told we wouldn’t have the same level of access we would at EPCON because we “weren’t trusted.” Now, I say “weren’t trusted” as a way of keeping the civility of the argument. A few times we were met with responses that were a lot harsher than that.

Despite the cold reception though, I was positive that given enough time and exposure, Ruben and I could eventually get passed the initial impressions set about us and still become a working part of the community. However, not soon after I made that decree did something happen to me personally that permanently cemented my attitudes towards the local anime con scene as negative ones.

As a communication minor, I eventually found my way into UTEP’s online journalism course, and as a result of that, I became an editor for Borderzine, which is UTEP’s online magazine. Borderzine is a blog, much like the one I was already developing, but it is also an extremely well read blog that is often used as a new resource for other big name news blogs. I needed something to write about as my first story, and I was already dedicated to going to Las Cruces Anime Days that weekend, so I decided to write my story about that. While I was at the convention I interviewed writers, cosplayers, and club presidents, but I had also made several attempts to contact LCAD founder Andy Castellanos for a comment. Andy, possibly assuming that I was working on a personal project, though I told him several times it was actually for Borderzine, ignored my every attempt to get a comment were it via e-mail, phone, or even face-to-face contact, leading up to a moment where I discussed the wide scope of Borderzine’s influence to him while picking up my badge for the event, and he dismissed the importance of my school assignment by saying “It [LCAD] is only a small convention.”

Though I spent my two days at the Las Cruces event talking to anyone who was actually kind enough to give me an interview, I had taken Andy Castellanos’ comment to heart: It was only a small convention. I realized with that statement how I looked to them. I was a meaningless little student of journalism making a bigger deal about the wonder that is local fan coverage which, compared to the opinion of the founder was really not a big deal at all. I went on and finished the article for Borderzine using whatever comments I managed to get from attendees, but once the curtain was drawn on that event, I felt my admiration for the anime community fade to black as well.

In the following summer, I eventually negated a major criticism often put upon me by becoming a staff member at FAL-Con, another convention involving individuals who split from another anime convention due to personal disagreements. Unlike other conventions, FAL-Con founder Zach Chenowith, showed right away he wanted to have a working relationship with the blog and all of the members of the blog pitched in where they could to make it a meaningful event. I couldn’t help but notice, however, that of all the people attending the event, there were very few people on staff from other conventions. I had written about the overall effectiveness of FAL-Con in another article, so I won’t go into it again, but as I staffed the event it generally saddened me that once an individual as inclusive as Zach got an opportunity to throw his own convention, very few of the community at large even went to see it.

Not long after FAL-Con, I took a decision I made on the floor of LCAD and I made it into my own personal law. Up until this writing I’ve followed it to a tee, but I’ve never made a public declaration of it, until now.

I, Mike Cervantes, promise never to set foot in another El Paso-based anime convention or event ever again.

Now, this is not to say that Augmented Reality may never be at an event again. In fact as I’ve been writing this Ruben had already been to Wintercon 2011 and he’d taken some wonderful video of it, and we’ve also got some fine video on the way from our good friends at Sexy Taco Productions. I, however, did not attend Wintercon and I do not intend to go visit this year’s LCAD in January either.

This isn’t a boycott. This isn’t a protest. The only reason I’m staying away from those conventions is that I’m personally very tired. I’m tired of the infighting. I’m tired of the elitist attitudes shown by members of this particular section of the fandom, but most importantly, I’m tired of being looked down on when my only real crime is having enough interest in these conventions to write about them. The attitude put towards me is one of both disdain and concern. Disdain because I am not close personal friends or obviously aligned with any particular group, and concern because as a result of that, nobody knows what my intentions are. Well, now that I will never go back, the heads of the individual anime communities in this city, don’t have to worry about that anymore.

Before I’ve put it to writing, people have heard about this resolve of mine, and they’ve responded negatively towards it. They make the same claim that I once did, that I should ignore what peoples individual attitudes are towards me and just enjoy the convention for the pure and simple fact that it’s an anime convention and it should be fun. I agree with those people. I SHOULD simply be able to enjoy the conventions because they’re fun. The problem is in all honesty, I can’t. I’ve dealt with this dimensionality on some level or another since I joined my first anime club way back in 2004, and as far back as I go into my mind, I can’t take away from it that pure and sparkling gem that was my meager enjoyment of these events, and I’ve decided I’d just be happier staying away.

I know in leaving the conventions I’m leaving behind a few friends. I’m making it so I won’t see one or two people who really did make my early excursions in El Paso anime truly worth doing. People like Jorge Santiago, Yamel Beltran, Michelle Morris, Edgar Morales, Stephanie Mendez, Shonen Neko Takaya, Zach Chenowith, and many other truly great participants of these events. All I can say to those people now is to keep the faith. Someday if you continue to stick with these events something truly special will be there for you, but as for me, I just can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Someday, all that has gone wrong will be in the past. I will be waiting until then.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Sexy Taco Productions at WinterCon 2011



The Epic adventures within El Paso WinterCon 2011, taking over dance floors, panels, and living things up all around. (or just being as awkward as your face!)

Also this compilation includes a sweet song that appears on DJ Howie's set!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Sonic Man Presents... "On the Road to Winter*Con 2011!"



Sonic Man shares his first video log about his time at Winter*Con 2011, at El Paso's most historical hotel, the Camino Real.



(c) 2011, Retro-Cam Productions. All rights reserved.







Well, Winter*Con came and went, and while I wasn't originally there to shoot an episode of Aspect Ratio, interview convention guests or the general public, I did manage to videotape my time at Winter*Con and had a great time, spending a Saturday, with friends at the Camino Real Hotel, while donning my Class A Orkan Uniform and attending a convention for the sake of just hanging out with friends, and being greeted by fellow cosplayers.



Photo taken Thursday, December 8, 2011.



Although we were running just a little bit late, that didn't stop my friends, Jessica, Desiree and I from enjoying ourselves at this year's Winter*Con. It reminded me of the last anime convention that I truly enjoyed: EPAC '09, at the UTEP Union East Building for the simple fact that it was a mini-vacation, time away from home and a good excuse to put on a spandex-based outfit and have people say how cool I looked in my original creation. However, this does not mean that I do not like covering conventions for the blog, after all, I have added this article as a tie-in to my video log.

However, I can safely say that Winter*Con is evolving into a better event. For one, badge pickup this year didn't take long, the game room was hosted by the 8-Bit Fix team, and I was pleasantly surprised to be greeted by Salvador Arellano, Andy Lawless, (Frank N'Con) Jon and Hugo of Project 4 Studios, Kevin Smith and Andy Castellanos (Las Cruces Anime Days) at Winter*Con for the simple fact that there was a time when having outside organizations like these at an anime convention in El Paso didn't happen at all.

Although Castellanos and Arellano were promoting their events, it warms my heart seeing them together at a local event, like Winter*Con because whether you're an artist, or the head organizer of an event, everyone has their place at an anime convention. Heck, it was even sweeter seeing local comic book authors selling not manga, but western comics at this year's Winter*Con!

In summation, Winter*Con was both a delight and fun, and I hope to see everyone again at next year's Winter*Con!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Damn Dirty Apes - Frank N' Con 2011



Wrapping up our coverage of Frank N' Con are Cris, Alex, and PJ, the Damn Dirty Apes, who we've let loose on the con to jest with cosplayers, chat with the El Paso Ghostbusters, and admire the craftsmanship of one of our many local indy filmmakers.

Monday, November 28, 2011

[Anime of the Week] Cromartie High School (11/27-12/3/2011)



My best buddies the Damn Dirt Apes (Alex, Cris, PJ) wouldn't shut up about this show so I had no choice but to watch it not that I had been planing to for a few years now but just never got around to it or had someone tell me it was good. Boy oh boy am I glad I did. This show was freaking hilarious and I wish there was more but alas there is just a live action movie and a manga but no more of the anime. I am sad. Yet not cause I could watch this one again and still laugh.




Runtime: 12min/ep


# of Eps: 26


Type: manga adaptation


Rating: T


Synopsis:


Meet Kamiyama, the only non-deliquent at Cromartie High School. Thusly he should really be the toughest guy in class because of the logic that only a lion would lay down with a bunch of rabbits. This story follows as he meets quirky characters and goes through his days as one of the toughest (and most logical) kids in class.

Mike Cervantes at Frank N' Con 2011



Mike Cervantes hits the floor at Frank n' Con 2011 and interviews Vaboom Studios, Project IV Comics, Authors David Corwell and David Saunders, The Shrills, Andy Perez, Area 51 collectibles, and Andy Lawless.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Building a Better Anime Con

Okay, after so many months of waiting and anticipation, I am finally publishing my promised article about building a better anime convention for El Paso.

I wish I could tell you all that the reason I took so long to write this was because I was busy with other projects, or I was swamped down with articles I had to do with other websites, or even that I was occupied with my schoolwork or the general management of the blog. However, that’s not the reason I’ve put off writing this. I admit I’ve been apprehensive about writing this article. For a long time I was apprehensive because I thought nobody would support my opinion. After all, I’m just this guy who manages a modest little blog, and my word is nothing compared to that of a dozen people who’ve really gotten their hands dirty putting on these events every year, or even the loyal fans who yearly patronize the area’s three major conventions, Las Cruces Anime Days, Wintercon, and Fal-Con.

But then, something miraculous happened. I was driving home from EPCON 2011 with a car full of friends, and as we were chatting, the conversation turned towards the anime conventions. Now, my friends know this is a sensitive subject for me, so I opted to stay out of it. But, even though I didn’t say a word, my friends all volunteered ideas that were incredibly similar to mine.

Without me saying a word they said that they wished there wasn’t so much animosity between the three groups who facilitate the conventions in the area. Without me breathing a single ounce of dissent, they mentioned they wished the anime groups in the area would do better promotion, have better guests and, to my great surprise, someone even mentioned having similar ideas to mine when it came to who should be the manager of the convention. In that moment I was re-assured that my opinions about the anime convention scene were not just my own: people besides me are at least aware of these problems with the anime cons, and I should ultimately write this article to respect these opinions.

Let me re-iterate the point one more time that these are the opinions of someone who has pretty limited experience at running a convention. I admit I’ve done very little of this, and what I have to say may not at all times reflect the reality of managing such a large event. These are just observations I’ve made.

To start with, the founder of the convention needs to be an individual who has run a successful organization or business. The reason for that is these events require large amounts of organization with a wide variety of people, some of these people can be well known to the founder, but some of these people can’t, some of these people will really be associating with the convention head for the first time ever. Real, working management skills are key in a position like this because, even more important than the role the manager plays in booking guests, rallying local organizations and shop owners, the founder also has to be able to handle money. In the end, after the venue owner, the sponsors, and everyone to whom compensation is due gets paid, the convention has to turn a profit, if only so that there’s money left over to throw the convention next year and not have it be a financial loss for the group that’s running it.

I’ve made this argument to people before and I’ve had quite a few people counter me, saying “But Mike, anime conventions were originally founded by fans. How can you say they now have to be run by business owners?” The reason I say that is that once upon a time, anime conventions HAD to be founded by fans because not enough people actually knew what anime was. It was necessary to start conventions in a grassroots manner when certain conventions were founded. This is no longer the case. Anime is a mainstream media. It airs on Television all the time, and there are corporations in America like Funimation that manage the rights of the industry here in the United States. Anime is a business, so when it comes to conventions, the people involved with the conventions have to know how the business works, just so they can stay competitive with other conventions.

This brings me neatly to my next point: guests. All conventions need guests. It shouldn’t be treated like an accessory. It shouldn’t be an afterthought; it shouldn’t be a commodity that is too rich for the convention to afford. Guests. YOU need THEM. The reason for that is that guests are the main draw of any convention. That’s what brings people to your convention, and by that I mean even people who weren’t originally intending to go to the convention. There’s even the possibility that you can use guests to attract people with only a fringe interest in anime and a bigger interest in other aspects of a convention like gaming or American comics. Or you could possibly use a guest to actually draw NEW people who have never been to a convention before.

When it comes to Anime, it’s a bit tougher than a comic book or film convention to get the right kind of guest. The guests at anime conventions don’t often have the star power to pique the interest of people who aren’t already anime fans. However, the possibility for having a guest as a draw is still a possibility. While I was discussing anime conventions with an associate of the blog, he had mentioned that at one point he was in contact with a PR group that was promoting guests for various conventions in honor of a Robotech anniversary. Now, mind you Robotech isn’t something the mainstream anime fans are appreciative of. Naturally they’re gonna whine that “This part of the series came from Macross, and this part of the series came from some Tatsunoko production…” But that’s not the reason that those guests are there. Those guests are there to support longtime fans of anime who are still interested in Robotech. The guests are not there to support people who are honestly gonna be at the con anyway. The guests are there to help attract new people to the convention. After all, there’s a reason video game voice actors David Hayter and Nolan North keep getting invited to Anime Expo.

So you’ve got your businesses working and the guests booked. What about the convention itself? How do you pick a model for a convention that is successful, guaranteed to draw a crowd and assure your return in investment? The answer to that is simple: you research. This is probably going to be the most controversial thing I say in the article, but it really shouldn’t be. At this point there’s dozens of successful anime conventions all over the country. Do what they’re doing EXACTLY. At least for a start. Then you can figure out what you can do to make your own convention unique and special. You gotta know how to bake a pie before you can take a slice out of it and dump the cool whip on top.

A little warning here: this is where it’s gonna get really scary for a current anime convention staff-member or founder, so if you’re reading up to this point, I will once again make the point that this is NOT an expert opinion, it’s just my opinion as an observer, okay? Take a deep breath, pull your pants further up your waist and brace yourself. This one ain’t pretty. Here goes.

Here in El Paso, unlike the period of time when LCAD and Wintercon was first founded, there are now two very successful conventions run locally: EPCON and Frank N’ Con. In the past both of the founders of these events have reached out to the current founders of anime conventions for possible aid and partnerships, and they’ve been either put aside or rejected. Without naming names I am aware that one founder even intended to loan money to a convention, but was turned away. The reason for that is he had asked the anime convention founder for a return of investment. For giving them this amount of money, he expected more back, and the anime founder rejected the offer because they couldn’t afford it. This idea of making MORE money off of a small initial investment was an alien idea to them. Without getting into the sticky personal elements of this business exchance, which I honestly shouldn’t because I don’t have a full idea about went on, the convention founder who was turned away didn’t expect that he would have been turned away, because that’s the way he always did business with people when he was running his own convention. Which, I may add, is a successful one.

I’m aware this may potentially hurt my reputation among anime groups for years, potentially forever, by my saying this but it needs to be said; more than anything else I have to say in this article. You need the help of people like this. These are people who started up conventions within two years and made them the most successful conventions in the area so far. Hell, when it comes to Frank N’ Con, they had a successful turn out in their first year, mainly due to the long list of celebrity guests they had there, so I’m not speaking entirely out of experience when I say you want their opinions and their advice. Associate with them, network with them. Make sure they play a role in helping bring your convention to the next level.

The definition of a convention, according to the Mirriam-Webster online dictionary, is “an assembly of persons met for a common purpose.” What’s most important about a convention of any subject is that as many different people are involved from as many different disciplines. You got some people who work in the industry? Great! Some people who run a local shop? Awesome! Some guys…who know how tor run a live action roleplay? Sweet! Some people who….write a local blog? Impressive! Do you have people who are there to help even though they may potentially be direct competitors? Well…if they want to help. That’s what a convention should be about. All of us. Together. To celebrate a common goal. That goal being a mutual love and respect for this art form from the east.

But there’s still one more issue when it comes to accomplishing that in this particular anime fandom. One distinct obstacle towards us having what could potentially be the creates anime convention here or anywhere.

I’ll discuss that in my next article.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Robo Gato Button Art Show THIS Sunday!

Looking for a unique holiday gift for an anime-loving friend? Robo Gato will be bursting with buttons featuring original anime artwork starting 4PM this Sunday, November 27. Come out and meet some of El Paso's finest anime artists, and support them by purchasing fan and original art in circular-aluminum form. Wear your anime pride on your sleeve, or your lapel, or your backpack this Sunday at Robo Gato, 3006-B Lee Trevino!

For more information visit Robo Gato on their Facebook page.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Daxie Boy Toys - Black Friday Sale!!

Thanksgiving is over, the turkey's been stripped clean, you're stuffed beyond belief and the football game was lousy. But before you start thinking that the holiday was a total waste of time, cheer up! Daxie Boy Toys is having a Black Friday Sale tonight from 11pm to 4am! Get Heroclix boosters at 10% off, Barbies for 30% off, Wrestling figures at 35% off, Uglydoll plush at 50% off, plus lots more sales and surprises. For more info, visit their webpage, and their facebook page...Or just come on down to Daxie Boy Toys, 126 shadow Mountain! The savings are excruciating!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Aspect Ratio - Frank N'Con 2011 [Day 2]



Join Ruben Rascon, as he interviews Frank N'Con's special guests on day two of Frank N'Con 2011

(c) Retro-Cam Productions, all rights reserved.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Augmented Reality Podcast #5 - "Brovember" (11/12/11)



This week, Ruben Rascon, Alicia Bracken, Alex Galindo, Cris Enriquez and PJ Moreno discuss upcoming events for the month of November. Special guest, Mike Cervantes.

Skelli-Bella: A Breaking Dawn pt. 1 review


The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn part 1 opened this past Thursday to screaming fans as all the other movies in the series have... but for some reason there seemed to be more people this time around as well as some 3am showings which I have never seen for a movie before. If this wasn't dangerous enough, I ended up having to park in the dirt outside of the theater I choose to go to 30mins before the movie opened (I admit to forgetting the movie was even premiering this week), yet I still was able to get a ticket. That was pretty shocking. Either way, on to the review!!

Image copyright Summit Entertainment.



<><><><><><><><><><><><><>
Specs:
Studio: Summit
Director: Bill Condon
Theater Premier Date: Nov 18, 2011
Runtime: 117mins
Genre(s): Vampires, Supernatural, Romance
Synopsis:
Basically Edward and Bella finally get married and have their honey moon with a few surprises in toll. Jacob lets Bella go with almost no fight, and Rosalie becomes buddy buddy with Bella after the honeymoon.
<><><><><><><><><><><><>

I've always gone into each one of the Twilight movies knowing not to expect perfection. These movies were never meant to be blockbuster hits, as well as were they never meant to be dead on adaptations of the original source material. Despite this, I have always enjoyed them as their own entities. A good example of this would be the Harry Potter adaptations. They were never exact adaptations and this was fine with me because I like to enjoy movies based on books or comics or even real life events to be different enough to be enjoyed as their own piece of entertainment.

Yet in Breaking Dawn's case for the first time I did hope for a closer adaptation. I wanted Bella at that gas station being embarrassed about having a tanker equivalent of a car. I wanted Jacob to continually try and convince Bella that she could have a regular human life rather than live for eternity with an unchanging vampire. Most of all I wanted Bella to have a strange craving for eggs, but that seemed no where to be found. Even though I was disappointed in how different the movie was from the book, I thought "hey it's only the first part. Maybe part two will have more from the book." so I was able to still enjoy the movie... yet I raged on knowing it was more different than the other adaptations had been to their respected volumes of the series.

Now now now understand this is a movie for people who either have been a fan of the movies from the beginning (and plainly don't care about the movies making any sense) or those who have read the books and can understand what's going on without all the details being slayed out for them. It's a movie for people who are fans already, not for people who are just watching this one. It'll make next to no sense and a lot of the jokes could be considered inside jokes and you need a lot of the back story to understand what's going on. There's this one scene in particular where the attendees of the wedding are giving small speeches; just about everything they say are inside jokes or references to the other movies so it's best to have seen Twilight, New Moon and Eclipse before watching this one.

Possibly the best part of this movie is a mixture of the music and the effects (not the wolfs though, that effect has gotten a bit old). The soundtrack not only has new tracks but some new versions of old ones, which is pretty neat because this is a good way to tie in the first few movies to this one despite the major change of. And the effects were breath ta-kingly good. I have no idea how they had the time to get these effects cranked out and I wish I could talk about them more but in a way I'd be spoiling the movie.

The acting was much better this time around. Kristin Stewart plays the part of Bella really well in this one, but hey that might have also been due to the amazing (insert spoiler) effects. RPatz is the same as always, not much has changed in his acting. Same with Taylor Lautner and just about everyone else. Ok, so the acting is pretty much the same. And the makeup wasn't much better. Most of the vampire character's hair were darker this time around and their eyes were almost never golden, except when there were close up shots.

Hmmm, there wasn't much story wise either. Just the wedding, honeymoon and a pretty significant event afterwards but other than that this movie feels more like a filler episode of some anime than a solid silverscreen flick. Even so, I did really enjoy this movie and I just don't know why.

The final verdict is that if you have read the books and pay less than full price for a ticket I say go see this one. Seeing a few of the scenes from the book on screen has helped me visualize more so than before. Maybe I'll do a full comparison review to the book one day. Maybe. No promises.

Review: Warlord of Mars Vol.1

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Zumbathon is Today!!!




















Don't forget! Today is the day for Show your Heart! Japan Relief Zumbathon's big event on the UTEP campus. Join us at UTEP's Thomas Rivera Conference center, 3rd floor in the Student Union for two Zumba sessions, one at 5:00 and the other at 6:00. Bring a $5.00 donation to join with 100% of the proceeds benefiting Japan Tsunami Relief.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Secret World of Arriety coming to theaters Feb 17th


Arriety will be seeing an English language release thanks to Disney during February of next year. Be sure to check it out in your local theater.


Aspect Ratio - Daxie Boy Toys



Join Ruben Rascon along with the rest of the Augmented Reality crew as we take a look at El Paso's premiere independently owned toy store, Daxie Boy Toys.

Check out Daxie Boy Toys, 126 Shadow Mountain Dr. Suite D. El Paso, TX 79912. Or e-mail at daxieboytoys@gmail.com

Also check out their page on Facebook.

Zumbathon for japan Relief - At UTEP


Do you want to do good, feel good, and look good doing it? Our friends at Show your Heart! Japan Relief Zumbathon are hosting 2 Zumbathon events this Thursday, November 17th at UTEP's Thomas Rivera Conference center, 3rd floor in the Student Union. One starts at 5:00 and the other starts at 6:00. Bring a $5.00 donation to join with 100% of the proceeds benefiting Japan Tsunami Relief.

Want to see how fun these events are? Check out these videos we shot for Show Your Heart! At their Zumbathon event this past summer at the Bowling YMCA.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Aspect Ratio -- Frank N'Con 2011 [Day 1]



On Day 1 of our coverage of Frank N' Con, Ruben Rascon speaks to some of the faces behind the masks of your favorite freaky films, such as Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, Ghostbusters, and Return of the Living Dead.

Featuring Bob Elmore (Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2), Mark Bryan Wilson (Ghostbusters), Mark Christopher (Return of the Living Dead), billy Bryan (ghostbusters), Scott Tepperman (Ghost Hunters International.)

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Chihayafuru. Imma slap that card from your reach!

I've decided it was time to talk about something important to me- how anime about games usually only popular or strictly played in Japan pretty much SUCK TO NO END. I mean, there's like this big boom of anime about card games in general, but there also way too many about games that I don't even care about. I mean even when Hikaru no Go was coming out I was like "blah no thanks" because the manga was good but the anime made me want to throw my DVD player across the universe. I tried out Saki before with not much more luck, I didn't get past the first episode. Basically, Japan's animation studios need to stop with the game anime. I know you want to sell more toys, and any other merch you can to young children, but please stop it japan.... because a lot of those toys come out over here T_T

Chihayafuru Pictures, Images and Photos
Image copyright goes out to Madhouse.



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LinkSpecs:
Studio- Madhouse
Director- Morio Asaka

Series Information:
Year- 2011
# of Episodes- 12
Genre(s)- comedy, drama, karuta
Synopsis-
Chihaya Ayase is a frank and ebullient girl who becomes fascinated by the obscure world of competitive karuta, a card game based on Japanese poetry. Introduced to the aggressive style of the game by a quiet and thoughtful elementary school classmate named Arata Wataya, the two quickly become close friends. They start playing as a group with Taichi Mashima, Chihaya's smart and athletic childhood friend, until they have to part ways during their middle school years due to several circumstances. As their high school life begins, they meet once again.
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Let's get something straight, I really don't like anime based on games. A lot of them are made to sell toys rather than be a good anime so there are too many of them out there. Setting that aside, Chihayafuru isn't really based on a game directly- but on a manga that is based on a game played only in Japan. I've decided for this anime showcase to go ahead and let you know some details on the particular game played in this anime.


This game is karuta, a poem based game about "slapping" cards out of the way from your oponet. These cards containe lines from 100 poems, so in order to play this game you have to memorize 100 poems. That may sound easy but after watching the first 4 episodes of this anime, there's more than just initializing memorizing them- you also have to somewhat memorize the cards in front of you.


The main appeal of Chihayafuru isn't the gaming aspect; it's the main character Chihaya. There has not been an anime with such a fabulous main female lead in a long time, so watching this anime is like a breath of fresh air in a world of anime where %75 are about harems with main leads.


I can't say much about this show because it's one you need to watch rather than be told about but if you must be told here are some links about some other opinions on Chihayafuru:

Link 1 - this first one also has some nice comparison between PhiBrain, another game (more specifically puzzles) based anime

Link 2 - check towards the bottum of the page for some MAL user reviews

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Journey into Mystery #629-#630

Oh hey there feeble Midgardians , tis’ another time for one of Alex’s dumb ass reviews. Today we will have a gander at the most recent issues of the ongoing series Journey into Mystery 629 and 630. The first of the two this is all I have to say…..The art gave it no justice, it was very uneventful art wise (which is my opinion don’t dispute it)

Kieron Gillen wrote this issue and the art was done by Whilce Portacio….Remember my last review? Well Loki did it! His rag tag team was successful in helping to bring down the serpent, in the most bad ass way possible too. Also remember when I said he stole the shadow of Surtur’s sword? Well they made a deal at that time, If Loki can use the sword, Surtur would be freed (keep that in mind). Loki and his team (Loki’s Magic Secret Action Squad as he called it) Snuck into Dark Asgard aka the giant floating island of evil. Loki then proceeds to release Surtur into the bowels of Dark Asgard where he would consume the energy of the isle (damn Loki will you ever stop being so magnificent?).

As they get out of the island, Loki watches to his dismay that the prophecy has come true, Thor has lost his life protecting Midgard (not without making the Serpent his bitch first) .
The whole plan was just wishful thinking, Loki just wanted to try out the WTF plan just in case it worked.
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So with that Fear Itself (the main issues anyway) has winded down, but it is not exactly finished because there will be more tie ins than people go through toilet paper at a Mexican Restaurant. In Journey into Mystery 630 you will hear how Fear Itself has transpired…..Volstagg the voluminous’ version anyway (AWWWWWW SHIIIIT) And the art from Richard Elson just accompanies this so well, like an actual storybook!

Just in case you don’t know Volstagg, he is the portly (fat) one from the awesome trio that is The Warriors Three, essentially the coolest motherfucker around.

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FUCK YEAH VOLSTAGG



Issue starts with Heimdall waking up to see the Destroyer armor outside as if no one took it (TOTALLY LEGIT GUYS). Then it cuts away to Loki and Toothgnasher and Toothgrinder, Thor’s mystical goats (that could totally kick your ass). Loki has a magic chain attached to them and he is luring the goats away from the roots of Yggdrasil as if pulling something from inside the tre- OH FUCK THERE IS SOME SORT OF HEAVY ASS ARMOR COMING OUT. When the goats finish the job Loki checks in the armor, who is in it you ask? MOTHERFUCKING VOLSTAGG . He and Loki were in cahoots to help Thor…..He was controlling THE FUCKING DESTROYER ARMOR! (It’s magic, I don’t gotta explain shit).Volstagg tells Loki he don’t want to see him anymore because he feels he helped Loki kill Thor (No, man NOOOO! It was for the greater good!). So with that he leaves Loki be.

This is when the story makes you DAWWWWW, Volstagg barges into his own house surprising his kids (who all pile on to him at once). He tells them to gather ‘round for he has a story for them (at this time you get your ass all sorts of comfortable). The way Volstagg sums up everything is like one of the best children’s stories ever and it’s filled with….You know when your dad/caretaker would do a self insert story and they would be all strong/brave/perfect? This story has just that

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Notice how he is all buff and shit.


I mean you know how The Worthy all had hammers in Fear Itself? LOL Oh Volstagg you so crazy

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Then the kids find out about Thor’s demise, but they take it so well;_; i mean they are sad that he is well, dead. But they know he fought to save everyone. This whole issue was really touching (again, my opinion) and while Volstagg’s story isn‘t completely canon it is a really fun read…..This issue has become one of my personal favorites artistically and story wise. I REALLY recommend Journey into Mystery #630, so get your ass into a comfortable fuckin’ couch and put dat Snuggie on and read this.



Saturday, October 29, 2011

Going to Frank N' Con

We're heading to the El Paso Wyndham Inn for Frank N' Con. Look forward to our coverage of the event in the next couple weeks.

If you'd like to join us, tickets are still available at the door for the same prices. Also, keep an eye on the Frank N' Con website and Facebook page for updates from the convention as they happen.

Enjoy the convention, and have a safe and Happy Halloween from all of us at Augmented Reality!

I'm a Drac - Wild Night Out



This is the last Mac Parody video for this season. It was a lot of fun to produce and we hope you enjoyed it as much as we did.

In this one, Drac and Zombie discuss what they do in their spare time. Sounds like fun.

In Memory of Steve Jobs.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

FAL-Con Halloween Spook Fest and Dinner

Frank N' Con is just around the corner, this Saturday and Sunday, October 29th and 30th, but the day before, don't forget to stop by the Major Players 1580 George Dieter, Friday October 28th from 4 to 8 pm for Fal-Con's first annual Halloween Spook Fest and Dinner. There will be a Zombie Walk, A Costume Contest, Face Painting, Trick or Treating and other Halloween surprises. The event is free, but dinner will be sold for $5 with all proceeds benefitting next year's Fal-Con event. For more info, visit Fal-Con's event page on Facebook.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

DRRRRRRR! dat gang violence

in honor of finishing Durarara, here's a picture of my new hat.

I started Durarara back in January of 2010 when it was having it's original run but ended up dropping the show after a few episodes due to disinterest. The owner of Robo Gato has this habit of mentioning Celty any chance he can so last week I was going through anime I had downloaded but hadn't watched only to decide to watch Durarara. I ended up having a marathon of episodes 7-24 (I had watched 1-6 the day before) while working on a scarf for a friend of mine.

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image copyright goes out to Brain's Base



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Specs:
Studio- Brain's Base
Director- Takahiro Omori

Series Information:
Year- 2010
# of Episodes- 24
Genre(s)- action, romance, supernatural
Synopsis-
Ryƫgamine Mikado is a boy who longs for the exciting life of the big city. At the invitation of his childhood friend Masaomi, he transfers to a school in Ikebukuro. Masaomi has warned him about people he doesn't want to cross in the city: a champion fighter, an informant, and a mysterious gang called "Dollars." Nervous from Masaomi's stories, Mikado witnesses an urban legend on his first day in the city, the Headless Rider astride a black motorcycle. From then on, the existence of supernatural cases and a gang called the Yellow Scarves will rise to the surface, and Ikebukuro will pushed to the breaking point.
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I believe more people have heard of the Baccano anime verses the Durarara one, which is understandable considering Baccano was released by FUNimation before Durarara was announced in Japan if my mind serves me that memory correctly. My good friend has been practically begging me to watch Baccano, and he constantly mentions how good of a story it has. I should get around to watching it considering there are only 16 episodes, a whole 10 less than Durarara... well my rebellious nature took over telling me to "watch Durarara first!" even though it takes about 3 hours longer to watch.
I mention Baccano because the same author who wrote the light novels also wrote the light novels Durarara is an adaptation of.

If you like fast paced anime, then you'll probably enjoy this one even though the fast pace doesn't seem to go anywhere for about 10 or so episodes. There is plenty of action, and there seems to be a story developing but by the time the story is revealed (I believe around episode 11) you feel like you just may have wasted your time; but bear in mind these first 10 episodes were to let you get to know the characters, to get attached to them whether they were main characters or side characters. A really good point about this anime is that the side characters get a pretty good amount of screen time, and get their shining moments just about as much as the main cast. This isn't usually done in anime, but with a 26 episode series it's entirely possible and executed appropriately. Characters I didn't really much care for from the first few episodes I honestly became attached to; by the end of the show I didn't have any real favorite characters nor particularly disliked any as well.

One of this shows highlight is the very catchy opening and endings. All of them are easily recognizable as being "that music from Durarara" instead of generic poppy sounds like a lot of anime have these days. The background music isn't all that memorable because I honestly don't remember any of it... but I hardly ever remember background music >.<

Animation is fairly straight forward, but thanks to the character designs and city like feel of the show I feel in love with the style. Fight scenes are smooth, and ones where Celty is chasing down vehicles on her "horse" (it's her black motorcycle) are believable despite the fact she can leap extreme distances.

Overall Durarara is very action packed, but it takes like 10 episodes to reveal any real plot which makes this a show you have to have patience with. It's not like Inuyasha where the plot goes off track just about any chance it gets, but once the plot is revealed Durarara has one of the best reasons for being animated that I've seen in a long time. Light novels are a big source of adaptation these days in the anime community, but a lot of them are about getting together with a tragic moe girl verses a good story. Good thing Durarara decided that it was going to be kick ass verses another reason for me to go "awww, you're just like all the other light novel anime out there"

Did I mention that this anime is about gang violence and Valkyries? No, well shame on me.