The presented critic on Frostbite and on its elder brother Desucon has caused sort of a small uproar locally, which has caused this blog to gain five times more visitors than usually, more spam and somewhat more uncivilized comments than usual. Well, good. It’s publicity and the word gets out there, even thou it ultimately gets on my own conscience and nerves. Still, a review of the event itself is in order, and if you found yourself getting mad at me during the previous posts I doubt you’ll like this either.
I admit that I came out in a very hostile manner at start, but everything still applies. Naturally, things change in the light of new information. I love how professionally both the main organizer and main programme executive took so (intentionally) overblown critique. Desucon even has an English and Japanese language versions now. It’s a change for the better and a lot of information I recommended having there actually appear in the English site. Then again, the design is questionable as the left-hand panel has English menu while the Finnish menu is still above. It’s unnecessary clutter. Things like this are small but important details, but I’m sure the staff is going to work on the site in future and renew it from time to time.
I went to Frostbite with a hopeful set of mind. It might be cool, I can meet new people and perhaps make some new contacts if needed. There are clearly people who know their subject and are willing to put their best effort to bring out the best showcase possible. The organizers themselves seemed hopeful enough, so it can’t be all bad, right?
I won’t go through the whole event, but I’ll talk about few key points that really stood up to me, because they can be applied on the general level as well. All the points are not negative, but there are some big issues here that need to be addressed.
The overall event is as with any event really. The opening came and went. Since every event is handling their openings well enough, it was expected for this to be without any difficulties. During the opening you could see that there was nice selection of people of all ages, and in the hallways I caught some English, Russian and Swedish. During Wakamoto’s event there was a French guy, but we’ll come to that later on. I met a lot of familiar people and all that, but sadly I was unable to greet a newfound friend at any point. Oh shoot.
Speaking of languages, all the signs within the event parameter lacked all sort of English text. I see no reason to not have English text when you know that there will be foreigners.
I contacted the main organizer Mr. Myyrä in order to get some hard facts. He was most helpful with my inquiries. One of the things I wanted to know was the overall visitor amount and the number of foreigners. Please keep in mind that these are loosely translated from Finnish.
– Visitor amountThe number of visitors was the maximum amount of tickets we sell for Desucon Frostbite, which is 2700. This was too much, as the visitors tend to stay inside during winter, which makes the Sibelius Hall rather tightly packed.
To last summer’s Desucon we sold 2900 tickets and this seemed to work for the space we had. This is why we will sell the same maximum amount of tickets this year as well.
– Amount of foreign visitors
The number of foreign visitors was around 20. When you count the visiting Swedish convention organizers and the likes of Russian Pro Cosplay magazine’s journalists, this rises to around 35. This is about 1% of all visitors.
While wandering the hallways and checking everything through, a friend of mine heard a couple of youngsters asking each other Why won’t they get a bigger place? The question is valid. There clearly is demand for a larger event. Of course, there are numerous problems with this, starting with first finding a bigger structure to house the event, the higher price of the event which would most likely be seen in the price of the ticket at first until proper visitor numbers are listed and the general increase of certain workloads would be somewhat significant.
Desucon, as well as Frostbite, has room to grow. However, as evident from the plans the organizers have for the summer’s tickets, it’s clear that they have no intention to allow these events to grow.
– The amount of cancelled tickets and how fast they were resoldThe amount of cancelled tickets was around one hundred and they were resold in less than 10 minutes. This sort of system where we sell the returned tickets is not functional, thus we will most likely refrain from selling cancelled tickets in the future, unless something strange happens.
Speaking of the space, there was a strange design decision to attach balloons around the guardrails in the stairs, which effectively prevented from using the said guardrails and there were few people who got caught into in them. Attaching them outside the rails would’ve been a better bet, and better for the overall safety of the event.
Question of space also became evident when visitors began to loaf around, blocking the hallways. I would have wanted to see the patrolling security to separate these blocks and instruct the loafers to move into somewhere they have place to do so, like the cafeteria or the main hall. Naturally, this is because of the aforementioned amount of visitors. Naturally, the security guards there were pretty chill people, laughing and joking with the visitors.
The ongoing stuff, like the games room and such, were somewhat higher in quality than standard, offering more consoles than some other events, but the overall selection of games seemed to be somewhat limited. Only a certain selection of consoles had a large selection, while others had distinctly scarce. They had a damn PC-Engine there, which I gladly tested through and through in every occasion I could.
I need to do a design review on game consoles some day.
There was also a small incident with the ongoing traditional games on Saturday evening, where the players were promised continued light, but due to the evening party all lights were cut down, effectively preventing these players from seeing what they were playing.
But let’s get to the programme itself. It’s apparent that the staff aimed for variety, and in that sense they did succeed. It’s not that easy to juggle different programs so that they do not overlap with the same theme and that they offers options for the visitors. However, all of this is for naught when the programs themselves are lacking in content and quality. For example the Sunday morning’s Gundam show was rather awful. Ville Siivola, the presenter, seemed to spend one year watching through all of Gundam metaseries and not getting but parts of it. While Gundam shows do repeat their certain themes, the UC and Seed series are the only ones that truly share solid common elements. Comparison between Wing and 00’s themes is a bit amiss because they are vastly different as well, but I guess it’s understandable for a person who didn’t really give a damn about the franchise and missed pretty much all the important details that were on the screen. The programme was lacklustre because it was just an opinion and not worth a programme block. Loads of the arguments presented there as well as overall knowledge of the franchise and on the overall era of each series were pretty baseless. While it’s good to see new people watching old shows with open eyes and with no knowledge of the situations surrounding the series, for a presenter to completely dismiss them is just plain stupid. This is a problem, because it’s a controlling element, and can be weeded out if the organizers keep the presenters in a short lease and edit their programs to a point, much a book editor edits a writer’s book. You can have a subjective show for sure, but that’s not an excuse for ignorance. I find it laughable that Siivola recommended the Gundam Crossbone comic, but said soon after that he only knew of the animated works when he was inquired about Gaia Gear. Good thing nobody brought other side-materials out then. The things would’ve gone even more awkward.
This is a problem, as from-users-to-users, or user created content, rarely produces good content without a harsh screening.
While other programmes were much more knowledgeable on their subjects, majority of them fell into the same pit of having a subjective view of their own; a zero facts show, where everything is assumed. To some extent you’d think that they were paid to advertise products, but I’m sure this wasn’t the case. I only know one event where a presentation was made to advertise a product, but less said about that the better. On top of that, all the classical errors you could do in a presentation appeared from talking over with your host, turning your back to the audience and reading what’s on the screen. Perhaps all people who are admitted to have a panel or presentation should get a some sort of memo from the main staff what not to do during their show.
The main stage also was almost completely empty of programme, which is really strange. It’s a shame that a large stage like that was mostly ignored when it could’ve been put to good use. While it is known that the main stage needs to empty for rehearsals and walkthroughs, that’s not reason to leave it completely useless.
In short; despite the efforts put in the quality and variety in the programme, the results could’ve been much better. Not to say that there was no good presentation or panel, like the Invitation to Japanese comic studies, but we can all agree that two or three pearls doesn’t make the overall schedule shine as it should. In the end, it’s up to the main programme manager keep up the quality of the programme. It’s not enough just to take people in and have them do content, but this content needs to meet certain standards, and it appears these standards have never been set.
It’s also a fault that from-users-for-users format never really works when aiming for high quality. This user generated content is always a finicky thing. You get one or two decent results through that, but on the long run the system becomes abused in a way where the user comes in with content that is basically worthless and still gets a free pass. In this case, a lot of people make content for conventions just to get in free and don’t care if their program is good or not. What I’ve gathered was that Desucon was made to bring high-quality events and programme into Finnish convention scene, but as they are now they’re just as bad as any because of the system abuse. While the concept is sound at the base level, it falls apart when you take into account how little your run-of-the-mill person cares what he puts up.
However, the main event itself was Wakamoto on stage and you really can’t screw this kind of thing up. Except, y’know, when it comes to translating audience’s questions to him.
I’m glad they set the rules before anything else; taking photos are OK except when video footage was on, and taking video was banned altogether. I should’ve taken sound next to my photos. This is completely understandable as Wakamoto’s voice is his trade. The footage they showed had original Finnish subtitles, which is a great way to circumvent some licensing issues, thou the footage itself might’ve had some issues, but I’m sure the staff managed to get around that as well.
However, when it came to the second part of Wakamoto’s stage show, where he answered to questions from the audience, the translator was really struggling with some of the questions, and few questions were poorly translated, which led into Wakamoto misunderstanding the question. This is unavoidable to an extent, but noting that the translator lacked certain knowledge and finesse tells that either this person had a huge stage fright going on or wasn’t really up for the task. In situations like this it’s completely acceptable to hire a professional translator with proper experience if possible. Considering the translator himself was most likely a fan, I find it stupid for him not recognizing M.D. Geist, not even from the context of the event. I could’ve expected that from a translator who isn’t accustomed to talk about the subject, even when from the context it’s damn clear that it’s something to do with Wakamoto and anime scene.
Now, there was this competition between artwork and Wakamoto impressions. Two best artworks would win and so would the best impression. Sounds good. There was a relatively low amount of contestants in the artwork side, about thirty, and knowing the level Finland has with its fanartists it most likely yielded something exceptional.
Now excuse me for being coarse the next paragraph but what the hell is this shit? THIS is the winning piece of fanart? If you allow this piece of plagiarism win a contest, what the fuck were the competing works? Put up a damn gallery on your website so we all can see them. This is not fanart, this is a bad trace of an existing comic panel and it’s bad at that. Who the hell was in charge of this contest? It doesn’t help that the second place was won with a picture of Cell from Dragon Ball Z that looked like it was made with fucking crayons in ten minutes. Where’s all the awesome artwork we usually see? The level of the contest shows that people didn’t give two damns about it. God, I wish I had participated with a screenshot from Gunbuster with some new rasters. It would’ve been the same damn thing. This is just bullshit. I’m not even going to criticise the Wakamoto impression because it was horrible and embarrassing to listen to. I’m addressing this critique to both the staff and to Isoaho himself. Letting a tracing to win an art contest is a mistake, but Isoaho also managed to screw the picture. If you compare it to the original panel, you can see every little and big mistake he has done. Either Isoaho can’t draw or he sucks at tracing. On top of that, as a separate artwork the picture is dull as hell in contrast to the original. Good job at fucking up a good comic panel. I really want to see the other participants’ works as well, and they could put up a gallery in Frostbite’s page. They can’t be any worse than what this piece of crap is.
Beside that, the prices themselves were pretty damn near; an alarm clock with Wakamoto’s voice recorded in it, and his autograph as well. The audience who sat in certain spots with numbers was were in a lottery of who would get the remaining two. To my happy surprise a French person won one of those, and the other was won by a random Finnish guy. Kudos to that guy.
Speaking of Wakamoto, it seems that he only stayed within the country for three days from Saturday to Monday. I really do wish that he had as fun time as claimed, and to see him here for a vacation rather than for work like this.
It had escaped me until that point that the whole show was in Finnish. If it had been an option, some sort of translation for them would’ve been really damn awesome, but as it was now I can’t help but to think how indecipherable the whole event was for them. It’s a matter worth looking into. An English language leaflet would also be an excellent addition. Of course, this would’ve been in limited production and aimed only for the foreign visitors.
These things are rather small, but important. It’s easy to get blind at these things, and Frostbite showed that since their first years the staff have become a bit too accustomed to the way everything works to the point that they have become blind to the more intricate details that need attention, and to their faults that have risen. God live in the details after all, and while the overall frames might work without a fault, all the details are what builds what the customer experiences. I’m glad to see that the organizers are willing to take in harsh criticism and work to get them fixed.
However, there was one large point that I need to point and it comes to the porn sold there. The sales floor was basically a free-for-all zone, and certain sellers sold their pornographic fancomics openly for minors without checking IDs or similar. That’s practically illegal. I’d hate to think that the organizers are unwillingly to take part in sexual harassment of under aged people. As open as I am with porn, I recognize that in an event like this the R-18 comics, toys and so on need their own section behind the curtains with a guard to check IDs when necessary. I’m sure this sounds anal to most people, but I’d rather see Desucon and Frostbite continuing and possibly getting better (rather than worse) than seeing the people charged for breaking the law. I have no qualms for a young person to see porn on the Internet, as it is the parents’ job to instruct and educate the children with this matter, but allowing children a direct access to porn and even allow its promotion is going too far in doing nothing. It takes one phone call to local Police office and tell, that this event has sellers selling porn to children, and that the organizers are turning blind eye to it.
One thing that makes conventions like this what they are is the fellow participants. Everybody to whom I stopped to chat with were most helpful, interesting and honest. Even when I didn’t get to know these people, nor they got to know me, we enjoyed the new company and laughed at our bad jokes. Sadly, this can’t be attributed for the convention’s own positive nor negative, as this can be achieved in your local library as well. Your standard Finnish doesn’t really break their shells and talk to strange, unknown people. Within this sort of environment ,where you know everybody is just as loony as you, it becomes increasingly easier.
While I did not attend the lodgings provided by the local scouts, I did hear some negative comments on them. As such, the following criticism is mostly taken from discussion with three of my friends who did. According to them, there was a problem with water resources, as the water was cut at certain time, meaning that the use of restrooms and showers was impossible. There was only three restrooms for seventy people, which caused some serious commotions. The showers were also unisex showers, which caused some slight discomfort. Communication between the administrators and the scouts was also faulty, causing some chaos in their ranks. They did get a decent and cheap breakfast, so that’s a plus, but according to this set of people there wasn’t any choices for those with food allergies.
It’s kind of interesting to see that this kind of cheap lodgings provided by the organizers had these problems. Most of the time I’ve heard good things how things work, but it takes only one bad time to get a negative reputation to circulate. I wish things will go much better next time, and that the organizers will take do what they can in order to ensure the flow of water.
I don’t really have any proper closure. Depending on my work and life situation, I’d sort of want to participate to summer’s convention to see how it goes this time. They have time to change details for the better, and start checking the programming. I have been offered a chance to create program, thou that would mean that I have two programs to create for two separate conventions. Not a big job as such, but for a proper programme it takes six months to study and research the subjects if you’re unfamiliar with it, but seeing that I would make other based on brand management, the other would take considerably less time to make. I do understand the implications behind this tactic thou, asking a critic to take part, but I do believe we are not that childish to resort in actions or debate like that. If the organizers wish to comment on the presented critic, I will be publishing their responses as usual.
Events and organizers need criticism just as badly as any service field, and in their place building up proper criticism needs to be something they have to work with. In cases like this, where the event itself is an annual event, it would be good to introduce as much criticism in order for the next year to trump over the last.
Let’s finish this off with some music, shall we?