Thursday, August 5, 2010

Return to G-FEST XVII: The Panel Experience

Jay Johnson, Martin Arlt, Robert Dwyer, me, and Brett Homenick (l to r) discuss "Misunderstood Monsters" on Friday afternoon

Around 5:30 p.m. on Friday we headed over to Session Room 2 to make sure I was on time for my panel discussion. It was a diverting wait, because we were able to catch the second half of Stan Hyde's presentation on Japanese ghost folklore. Mr. Hyde is a gifted, humorous speaker, and it is no exaggeration to say that G-FEST would not be the same without him. Whether it is presenting a specialized topic or sharing tips in the Modeling Thread or rocking the house at the convention-closing Kaiju Confessions, Stan is The Man.
When his part was done, the other panelists and I moved up front and settled into our seats. I will admit to being excited to the point of nervousness--an unusual feeling for me, as I am a public speaker by trade--but this was a new context. My main concern was to have fun and not bring the panel down.
My fellow panelists and I (pictured above) were tasked with talking about "Misunderstood Monsters," defending certain Japanese monsters against unjust criticism and fan derision.
When I was introduced by Brett Homenick, I was rather surprised when he called Monsterland Ohio "one of the biggest up-and-coming blogs"--a bit of kind hyperbole on Brett's part, no doubt, but no less appreciated by yours truly.
Then the discussion began! Martin Arlt led off with a cogent and persuasive defense of Minya and "Son of Godzilla." Robert Dwyer sang the praises of Mothra. I had planned to bolster the reputation of King Seesar, but Robert had won the audience over with a remark about the creature looking like an "overgrown poodle," so I didn't even go there. Perhaps my most convincing remarks were made about Gabara, Minya's tormentor in "Godzilla's Revenge," whose appearance mirrors the intimidating yet ridiculous qualities shared by most bullies.
Overall, I would give myself a "C" for my first ever G-FEST panel. I'm glad I did it and had a lot of fun. What will be most memorable for me will be the young people who attended the panel. In my opinion, they stole the show. Their evident love for Japanese monsters and their mastery of kaiju knowledge was encouraging to me. It was proof that Godzilla and the genre over which he presides continues to create fans and bring people together.

The illustrious G-pardy trophy

After the panel concluded, it was off to the Main Hall for Junior G-pardy. For the uninitiated, G-pardy is Godzilla-themed Jeopardy, just like you see on TV, with J.D. Lees filling in for Alex Trebek. The junior (14 and under) participants dazzled with their kaiju competence, and the contest was up for grabs until the final answer, further pleasing the audience.

Robert Scott Field and J.D. Lees look on as Akira Takarada addresses the crowd

Soon after, it was time for the introduction of Mr. Akira Takarada. It was mind-bending to see this iconic actor in person, and he instantly commanded the attention of the room with gracious magnetism. It immediately became apparent that he was going to be a guest of special distinction. In word and action, Mr. Takarada was a consummate professional, yet it seemed as if he was genuinely moved by the reception he received here. After entrancing the audience with a number of compelling comments, mediated through Robert Scott Field, Mr. Takarada surprised everyone by asking for a group photo, coming down from the stage to pose with us fans. It was a heartfelt gesture that set the tone for his visit, creating an ebullient mood among FEST-goers.
It was striking, then, to observe Mr. Takarada at work that night in "Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster" at the Pickwick Theater. Enjoying his charismatic performance as the burglar with a heart of gold was a fitting end to another truly amazing day at G-FEST.

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