Shuto Con 2018 Review

Lansing’s annual anime convention, Shuto Con, descended upon the Lansing Center again. For the last three years, I had a good time experiencing this convention. How did my fourth visit to Shuto Con compare to last year?

The road to Shuto Con 2018 was not an easy one to travel. If one read the opening statement in the program booklet, they would see that the con chair, Stefanie Shall, stated that 2017 was not a good year for Shuto Con. A few criticisms voiced by attendees (regarding 2017’s event) included overbearing security that yelled at patrons during badge checks, props being zip tied tightly enough to damage props and photography equipment, indoor paid photo shoots being cancelled by security, and dance groups not allowed to perform in the hallways during the event without prior permission. After the event, unexpected bills from the Lansing Center threw the future of the event for 2017 into jeopardy. However, loans and private donors provided the money to pay off the debt and continue the event for 2017.

The theme for this year was based on Yokai. Demons, supernatural monsters and spirits for those unfamiliar with Japanese mythology. I really liked the cover for the program booklet. Nancy Sue Elena Frey, of Lucky Squid Studios, knocked it out of the park with her artwork on the cover. The incorporation of Shuto Con’s mascot, the Sumi-jaki, thematically belonged on the cover. If you flipped through the booklet, you would see various yokai pop out amongst the pages. The Kasa-obake (or hopping umbrella) would denote which page of the booklet you were on.

In keeping with the supernatural theme, past guests such as Monica Rial, Ian Sinclair, Lauren Landa, and Tyson Rinehart returned. Chris Patton, SungWon Cho, and Charles Dunbar made their Shuto Con debuts. Even though he is not known for working on shows with Japanese supernatural themes, the last minute addition of voice actor Jason Marsden was a welcome surprise too. All of the guests that I interacted with were pretty cool and down to earth. I even got to do an interview with three of them (Monica, Tyson, and Ian) at a bar.

The Lansing Center Security issues of overbearing badge checking and excessive (sometimes damaging) zip ties on weapons/props, from the previous years, were addressed. Their security team was drastically reduced. While still present, they maintained a backup only presence with Shuto Con’s security team. Shuto Con staff were checking badges at all entrances. I didn’t hear of any incidents of yelling or grabbing attendees to check their badges this year. From my observations, staff were pleasant towards attendees. Zip ties returned this year to mark props or weapons. However, they were not placed on too tight to cause damage to the prop when removed. Overall, a better experience than last year. If this was to be the security set up for years to come, I wouldn’t have any issues with it.

This year, photographer badges were introduced. Unfortunately, last year, photographers were not able to conduct proper photo shoots on the premise due to Lansing Center’s security and other issues with the Center. Photographers conducting paid shoots were charged an additional $20 for a photographer badge. Provided they were not blocking off areas for photos shoots, this badge would help in avoiding any issues with security. Plus, it granted access to the Live Events room for shoots during select times. The additional fee was not bad by any means since it was a sum that would be easy to make back from photo shoots during the weekend. To be honest, this badge was pretty slick to look at. The black and red colors (of the Shuto Con Sumi-jaki logo) really popped on the shiny metal badge. The photographer badge was a good solution that looks like it will be implemented from this point out.

Con Cash was a new addition too. These chips were a gift for those who donated money during the summer donation drive. If one donated over a certain amount, they received $10 worth of con cash to spend at the Shuto Con merch booth. Selected artists and vendors would also accept the con cash for wares and art provided. The chips could be traded in for $10 in real currency too.

The layout of the convention was the same, as the previous year, with a few minor tweaks. The parental lounge was replaced with an additional room for table top gaming. Outside of the battle arena, a space was designated for dance groups to perform. I believe this was instated to appeal to the previously mentioned criticism. Outside of the tweaks the video game hall, battle arena, artist alley/dealer’s room, and panel rooms were the same.

I walked around in the gaming room and it was the same setup as last year. That’s not a bad thing, to be honest. Gaming was provided by Dead State, Tokyo Attack, and Kdog’s Arcade again. I was able to sit down and try out the new Dragon Ball FighterZ on an arcade set up. I am not good with a Hori stick and 6 button combo. Defeat came easy to me while I attempted to play against another person. Fortunately, I was able to try a console version of the same game and I faired a little better against the CPU. Cuphead came back into my life to destroy me once again with it’s brutal difficulty. I’m happy to say that I was able to finally defeat the duo Frog boss (Ribby and Croaks). I finally got the chance to try out Nidhogg 2 on the PS4. It’s basically a tug of war with weapons to see who can reach the final screen on the opposite side of the level. Who ever makes it to the other side “wins”. By “wins”, I mean  a one way ticket to being devoured by the Nidhogg itself. It was nice to revisit the series since the last time I played Nidhogg, was in 2015 at Random Battle Con. The gameplay remained the same but the updated graphics were a very nice touch. Check it out, if you are interested.

Chris Patton Aimlessly Talks About Roller Coasters was the first panel that I attended. Initially, when I checked out Chris Patton’s panel on the schedule, I thought it was a joke topic to draw attention. Apparently he is an enthusiast because he, legitimately, talked about roller coasters for the duration of the panel. It was interesting to learn about his thoughts on the various roller coasters out there. Since I’m afraid of heights, I took his word on which rides were good or terrible.

Charles Dunbar’s Go to (Numerous) Hells was the other panel that I checked out. Mr. Dunbar is an anthropologist who presents fascinating examinations of Japanese mythological cultures. I’ve attended a few of his panels in the past, and this one did not disappoint either. In this panel, he discussed the various hells and characters of the after life found in Japanese religions. The actions you accomplished in life would determine your fate after you’ve passed from this mortal coil. For example, if your family didn’t pray for you enough or perform the proper burial rites, you ran the risk of turning into a wayward ghost. Fun fact, Charles discussed the Wanyūdō, which was a former corrupt daimyo who was decapitated and his head was placed on a burning wheel. I was familiar with this character because he is one of the bosses in the Muramasa: The Demon Blade game. If you have an interest in yokai, please make it a point to check out a panel by Charles Dunbar.

The Charity Ball featured music for You Bred Raptors? and Professor Shyguy. You Bred Raptors? are a post-rock trio. I had never seen an 8-string bass used live before. They were a pretty cool band. Longtime guest Professor Shyguy, brought his chiptune pop songs to the dance floor. The charity for, this year, was EVE (End Violent Encounters). According to the website, the goal of the organization was to “provide supportive services to survivors of domestic abuse and sexual violence, while empowering our community through education and awareness”. A worthy cause to support.

The Pillowcases returned to Shuto Con, this year. For those unfamiliar, they do great covers of songs from the Pillows. The Pillows are a Japanese indie rock band who provided the soundtrack to the FLCL anime. With the second and third season finally announced, it was fitting that the Pillowcases returned to perform songs from the show. I was happy to hear Riding on Shooting Star, Crazy Sunshine, Bran-New Lovesong, and Come Down, since I probably will never have the chance to see the Pillows in concert. The Pillowcases provide a more than adequate substitution for the real deal. Seriously, go to one of their shows. They are worth it.

Fun fact: The band asked me to introduce them to the audience before they went on stage. I asked them if they wanted me to do it like the stereotypical goofballs who go into character with a cheesy voice whenever they introduce a rock band of any sort. The Pillowcases were on board with it and I hammed it up for the crowd. Oddly enough, I wasn’t nervous in front of the big audience.

My favorite nerdcore rap duo, 2d6, returned to perform this year. I’ve always enjoyed the high energy and hilarious shows that they’ve delivered in the past and this year was no exception. Their setlist included fun tracks like “Number 8 Will Blow Your Mind!”, “Cease Your Flavor”, “How Will I Ever Explain To My Friends Why I Have Tire Tracks Down My Back?”, and “The Horse Rapsterer 2k14” . They performed some tracks off of their latest album, Bottomless Fries and Other Reasons We Hate Ourselves. I was happy to hear my favorite track “Tickle Tastement” from that album. Professor Shyguy even performed “This Will Never Be A Title” with them too.
My one complaint would be that 2d6 was placed in the Main Events room instead of the Live Events room. From what I understand, the VIP mixer was at the same time as their concert, thus relegating them to the Main Events room. The concrete spacious convention room did not serve well as an area for musical performance. I was close to the stage and 2d6 was not as audible in comparison to the groups that performed in the Live Events room. Other than that, it was a good show.

Another Fun Fact: I had a fun train wreck of an interview with them, which you can check out HERE.

I must give a shout out to the sound technicians during the various musical performances throughout the weekend. The sound tech services were provided by On Stage Visuals, who did a great job. There were a few times that the sound would go out during performances and it would be fixed within seconds. Every band/musician in the Live Events room sounded great.

As usual, wonderful displays of cosplay permeated throughout the weekend. While I’m used to seeing Midori and Todoroki, from My Hero Academia, it was nice to see Present Mic and Mt. Lady cosplayers. I was introduced to Bendy the Ink Demon, from Bendy and the Ink Machine. Overwatch characters were abundant. In keeping with the yokai theme, one cosplayer created an interesting spin on a stereo deck. Shuto Con also served as a US qualifier for the US team in the Clara’s Cow Cosplay Cup. The winner would win the chance to represent the US team at Animecon in the Netherlands. That’s quite a prestigious opportunity.

Three interesting costumes stood out to me. The Super Mario B-Boy Crew, while not popping and locking, did a good job of representing break dancing versions of the beloved video game characters. The mAd RabBit was a steampunk amalgam of Alice in Wonderland’s White Rabbit with the Mad Hatter. Bubbles were coming out of this individual’s hat. The one cosplay that made me super excited was the apostle, Rakshas, from Berserk. I have not seen anyone attempt a Berserk themed cosplay besides Griffith, Guts and Casca. Considering that I’m a huge fan of the manga, I had to tip my hat off to this individual who based their cosplay on Rakshas. Unique takes on cosplay always catch my eye. Good job, everyone.
For more photos, check out the galleries found HERE and HERE.

Overall, I had another good year at Shuto Con. I don’t know what the future entails for Shuto Con. Personally, I don’t want it to go away and I don’t think it will. As it said in the program booklet, the motto for this year was to “Keep Moving Forward”. The staff made some good progress to address the criticisms of the past two years. Should 2018 be the last year of Shuto Con, I’d say that it was a nice send off to this convention.