I had to go back.
New York Comic Con 2022 is my second convention with Popverse. The first, Florida Supercon 2022, was a bit of a testing ground for me. And among all my trials by fire in that chaotic arena, the greatest by far was contending with the super fans of Trash Taste: a podcast about three ostensible anime fans who all live in Japan, but don’t really talk that much about anime anymore. The show is pure vibes. Pure vibes, and powerful brand synergy. Each of Trash Taste’s three members, Joey “The Anime Man” Bizinger, Garnt “Gigguk” Maneetapho, and Connor “CDawgVA” Colquhoun, each had sizable individual fanbases of their own as YouTubers, Twitch streamers, and other kinds of content creators before they formed into a fandom super group. Ask almost any Trash Taste fan how they first got into the show, and they’ll likely reveal that they were originally into one individual member’s content before following the Trash Taste collaboration into the ouvres of its other two members.
In Florida, most of the fans I spoke to were originally fans of Connor or Joey – which made sense, I suppose, because Garnt was the only member of the group missing for that particular panel. I already knew Joey’s fans as transgressive boundary pushers, Connor’s as mirthful pranksters. At New York Comic Con, I finally got a taste of what Garnt’s followers were like: actual anime fans. Very soon, it would become apparent to me that Garnt was still the most in touch with his anime roots.
I was pleasantly surprised to encounter a few familiar faces. The fans looked very different, but the staff was the same: Supercon’s DJ Atomic Blonde was once again staffing the turntables and keeping the crowd pumped. Popverse’s own Veronica Valencia, who put me on the Trash Taste beat on the first place, had ascended to the rank of panel moderator. This wasn’t just another job for Veronica, this was a passion project. When I see her at the convention tomorrow, I’ll have to remember to ask her which one in the triad first captured her attention.
Morning With Veronica
As the very first act to take the main stage at New York Comic Con on Thursday morning, the show I got was surprisingly tame. We got the usual tour jokes about how you’re not allowed to poop on the bus, and how it’s tough to sleep on the road. But the panelists were at their liveliest when they were razzing America itself.
“We’re on tour because we ran out of bad things to say about America,” Garnt explains. “So we’re looking for new bad things to say about America.”
Their biggest revelation this trip?
“Every state hates Ohio,” Garnt declares. The crowd roars in tacit approval.
“I don’t know what Ohio did to the rest of America,” Joey adds.
“When we went to Ohio, even Ohio hates Ohio,” Garnt says.
For Joey, the greatest challenge of touring is maintaining a healthy sleeping schedule. Connor struggles to stay healthy at all; every state they visit on their American tour, they feel compelled to try the local specialty.
“Philly, you have cheese steaks. Chicago, you have pizza… which state is famous for salad, please!”
“I know after this tour I’m going to be the fattest I’ve ever been,” Joey says.
Garnt just misses the sun. All day they go from tour bus to giant venue and back to the tour bus, and never get to see the light of day.
The three question each other on whether this tour, for all the work involved, was even worth doing at all.
“I hate past me so much,” Connor says. “I keep planning things like that’s not my problem. That’s future me’s problem," (in this moment, I can relate to Connor).
“I hate that I’m paying rent for a place I’m not using right now,” Garnt says. “I haven’t seen my bed in months.”
To unwind on tour, Connor’s been obsessed with Teamfight Tactics, a tactical spin-off of the video game League of Legends. Garnt has been hip-deep in Genshin Impact. Joey seems to have no hobbies whatsoever. “I’m a good Christian boy,” he insists.
Veronica can’t resist the urge to ask the guys one question about anime. Is there a show they think differently about now than when they first saw it?
Garnt is ready with an answer. “My opinion of [Neon Genesis Evangelion] basically changes based on my mood. I’ve watched it four times and came out with a different experience every time. First time it was my least favorite anime, second time it was my favorite.”
“I rarely rewatch shows,” Connor confesses.
“You rarely WATCH shows,” Garnt says.
Connor cops to that. “ I’ll watch a Netflix documentary that’s 10 hours long but I won’t watch a 20 minute anime. What’s wrong with me?”
“Everyone knows I don’t watch anime,” Joey 'The Anime Man' says. But he’s embarrassed at the idea of revisiting the edgy stuff he liked as a teenager.
“You’re saying Kiss×sis isn’t a masterpiece?” Garnt asks.
“I think that’s a masterpiece. I think School Daze is a 10,” he adds. This gets an incredulous reaction from the audience (I take it these shows are not very good).
The Boys’ Separate Projects
At this point, Veronica gets personal. She and Joey talk about Nonsense, his new fashion line inspired by the fresh looks surrounding him in Japan.
Garnt isn’t launching any apparel lines, but he has recently done something perhaps even more impressive: he’s begun legally streaming anime on Twitch for the first time in the history of the service.
"There was this Twitch meta where you would just stream TV shows. It was a young platform so copyright wasn’t a thing,” Garnt explains. “If I could convince the right people, this might be able to happen. I went to my manager Meilyne, and I tried to convince the parent company Katakawa. Luckily I built enough connections in Crunchyroll that I could stream for America too. It was mostly Meyline and Geeks Plus who worked it out. I just pitched the idea and pushed for it to happen. One day, everyone somehow, some way, said yes. Hopefully this is the beginning of a lot of anime streams on Twitch.”
Connor’s recent history has been the most physically challenging: he recently completed a special where he streamed himself while cycling for over a week.
“That was hard,” Connor says. “We did 8 days of cycling around Hokkaido for charity. That was a nightmare to arrange.”
The special raised 320,000 dollars for charity.
“It was a challenge getting a signal from a backpack, but we made it work. My ass was permanently in pain. My legs were numb all the time. It was worth it.”
Soon, the moment I’ve been waiting for arrives: the reason that this was the only panel I specifically requested to cover for my trip to NYCC with Popverse. The fan Q&A. I wanted to see just how rowdy this audience could get. Could they compare to the unbridled madness of Florida’s crowd?
As it happens… they could not. Other than a somewhat uncomfortable moment where a fan tries to corner Joey into collaborating with him on his own fashion line, the questions were relatively tame and respectful and not at all mentally scarring. How are they enjoying New York? It’s fine, they just got here. Favorite fast food chain? They love Five Guys. “Next anime figure special when?” Next anime figure special? As soon as they figure out how to up the stakes.
Uncharacteristically, the gang closes out the panel by gushing over this season of anime being the best one yet. They sing praises for Cyberpunk: Edgerunner, Chainsaw Man, Mob Psycho, Spy x Family, and the triumphant return of Bleach.
“It’s a good time to be an anime fan,” Connor admits.
Even Joey, retired anime watcher, agrees. “I might get back into watching anime.”
With that, the panel closes, and everyone leaves in an orderly fashion, happy to have spent an hour with some of their favorite internet personalities. Me, I can’t help wondering what was different this time. Maybe it was the fact that it was still early on a Thursday, and everyone had yet to unleash their feral energy. Maybe there really is something to the 'Florida Man' mythology, and the people from my home state just get rowdier. Or maybe it was Garnt bringing the energy down, with an aura of authority influencing everyone to be on good behavior.
Yeah, I think I’m going to blame Garnt. It’s what Connor and Joey would do.
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