Hamster Games

Just back from AnimeFest in the Czech Republic where, I taught my Storylining in a Corporate Environment workshop (the people who brought you Zombie Hitler, Choc Shock and Hattie Bast: Mummy’s Girl). The two teams of competing delegates digested the usual set of factors influencing animated TV shows, and then spat out ideas tainted with the usual degree of mentalism. The almost unpronounceable C<3R3 of Exe-CUTE-ors featured transforming mecha-students at corporate-sponsored high schools, leading a revolution against their exploitative masters after one pilot finds love in the locker room with a girl from a rival team. The other, the inspired Hamster Games, featured a gaggle of schoolgirls, unaware that their fluffy pets were in the middle of a vicious war against hellspawn, fought in the house at night with kitchen utensils and hamster superpowers.

As ever the victims teams had to battle against time constraints, corporate concerns and the everyday misery of having to run a team with no discernable leader. “Monoculture”, that perennial storylining problem, when copying other people means stuff just looks like everybody else’s, came to the fore, as did the perils of pitching. One team went in with a full-on movie-trailer for their concept, but forgot to use some of their best and funniest lines. The other team went for a more traditional approach, but fatally neglected to preface the whole thing with either their high concept: “CUTE + MECHA”, or their major inspiration (“Romeo & Juliet”) which might have saved them from a lot of abuse at the hands of their rivals.

cz legion armoured trainI also had the chance to drop in at the Bank of the Czechoslovak Legion in Prague, an intricate Rondo Cubist building like some sort of transplant from a world of steampunk deco, built with the spoils from the collapse of Tsarist Russia and the fall of the Far Eastern Republic, by the survivors of the army that fought its way across Siberia on an armoured train (^^ look! an armoured fricking train! ^^), in order to get back to Europe the long way round. But it’s not a tourist site per se, it’s an operational office building, so we celebrated by getting Mikiko Ponczeck to take some money out of the ATM.

Meanwhile, at the con proper, I was asked to sign copies of Schoolgirl Milky Crisis, Anime: A History and the long out-of-print Erotic Anime Movie Guide. And I was asked: “What is your favourite kind of meat?” Which has never happened before.

Zombie Hitler

I’m writing today’s post in Brno, the vowel-deficient capital of Moravia, where I’m a guest at the Czech convention Animefest 2012. We’ve just done my workshop on the way that anime are put together, adding two more bonkers ideas to the catalogue of previous pitches. As regular readers of this blog will know, my notorious hothouse rantathon, as seen at the Irish Film Institute and Media Academy Wales, as well as for numerous academic and private clients, dumps an unsuspecting group of creatives in at the deep end and forces them to come up with a pitch for a non-existent anime show.

In the past we’ve had Decontaminators, which sold soap to unwashed urchins, and the Egyptian-themed Hattie Bast: Mummy’s Girl, the post apocalyptic eco-drama Fallen Angels and the time-travelling Chronokids. Not forgetting Choc Shock, in which alien space pirates attempt to liberate Earth’s reserves of cocoa.

Today in Brno, the rival teams came up with Miracle Dance: Dimensions, in which feuding nobles control fighting robots through the power of dance, and Capek’s Machine, a steampunk time-travel epic in which two brothers square off against a zombie Hitler, with the aid of an Egyptian princess. And I think there was a pirate in there, too.

The finish was such a frenzy that I forgot to give them my usual speech about “monocultures”, but I think they had worked it out for themselves by that point. And then just a couple of hours rest before my big speech, delivered in the round, to a standing-room-only crowd of catgirls, Vash the Stampedes and Hollows.