Anime Expo 2010: Convention Cantabile Finale

I should have mentioned this in the previous post, but I had (loosely) set some goals for this convention trip.

  • Explore. See what’s up. Get a feel for it.
  • Attend the exhibit hall and panels.
  • Don’t die.
  • Take a few photos with my DSLite
  • Have fun!

Alright, and now back your regularly scheduled post~

Let’s get down to the meat of Anime Expo, starting with the exhibition hall. IT’S HUGE. To put in perspective, there are about 300 active booths that take up the majority of the space; there is still enough room to add a couple dozen more on each end. That doesn’t even include the artist alley in the back, which hosts about 50 artists tables- not accounting artists that shack up with their friends displaying their own art.

Commission done by woofycakes.
Commission done by woofycakes.

Since the hall is a big attraction to the con, it would do good to space the aisles a bit. It isn’t too much of a problem to go in the direction you want at any given point among the crowd, even with people occasionally stopping to take photos (oh, man, Haruhi help you if there’s a group photo shoot, though), but it would help to keep a better controlled flow for people who want to take time to check out some of these booths to shop or just gander. Maybe they keep it close-knit so they can build attraction to the booths that are handled by a lesser known company or group? There are a few that seem completely absent of any interest (lookin’ at you, robot-who-never-seems-to-progress-outside-of-a-foot). There are small areas on each side of the hall to sit and even eat- but oh god, why would you ever want to eat anything made in there? Oh, and this was the year where there wasn’t carpet, so you’ll feel some sores on your bunions when you get back to your hotel room~

As the hall takes up roughly half of the activities at AX, there are panels that occupy the other. I actually like how they set panels up- for the most part. Big attractions, like industry panels (usually anime companies like Funimation, Aniplex, etc.), guests of honor, and batshit crazy panels (Mega 64, annual magic show) takes up the petree hall, as it’s the largest room in the LACC. It can hold just over 2,000 seats. I can’t recall it ever reaching full capacity, but damn it came pretty close on a few occasions. The other rooms in the halls can hold anywhere from about a hundred to several hundred, probably averaging around 400 seats. Some panels do get packed, but for the most part I was able to attend all the panels I wanted to see in 2010. If you’re interested in panels take a moment and put an asterisk on the ones you want to see the most. That way if you miss one or attending one already in progress, you can time yourself to make sure you get a good seat for the ones you’re really looking forward to seeing.

Yuu Asakawa (Sakaki-san from Azumanga Daioh) shikishi.
Yuu Asakawa (Sakaki-san from Azumanga Daioh) autograph.

Now, for the staff. Oh, you cheeky bastards. Wait a sec, to be ab-so-lute-ly fair, they put in a hell of an effort to keep things moving. That goes for lines and panels. I can tell ya, I handled a similar crowd at The Honda Center, and it’s no cakewalk. However… There are times when you are misguided as to what lines connect to what (if there are even lines being manged). Shit happens. Not too often, but maybe enough to dampen the mood a bit. Actually, part of the reason why panels run late is because the lines are so overbearing to manage. After four years of going to AX I’ve seen lines go every direction they could. No bullshit. Protip for AX; if at least a couple people had walkie-talkies that managed these endless streams of otaku, things would at least seem like they are, well, being manged.

If you want to want to talk about some disasters that happened at AX10, I can share a couple. First being the Manga Gamer panel. It wasn’t bad, but… Let me try to explain. As you may or may not know, Manga Gamer was actually an idea created by Bamboo, a rocker dude from Japan who simply wanted to expose more visual novels to audiences outside Japan, on top of being the big cheese of the visual novel company Overdrive. So, I suppose naturally, most of the staff appeared to be Japanese with little to zero English speaking experience. There was one American staffed with Manga Gamer who knew Japanese (translating the visual novels, at least), but he was mainly doing presenting duties. So, that left about two or three interpreters and a crew of Japanese speakers (Overdrive and staff from different VN companies) who outnumbered them, totaling to about eleven people speaking at this panel. It seemed odd enough at first when there were this many people on hand, but maybe they got a good grip on this?

Nope. I’m not sure where Manga Gamer got these interpreters, but things got real shaky real quick. There were fumbles and mistakes every other sentence. It was just awkwardly phrased and interpreted. Think of that scene in Lost in Translation where Bill Murray had to take directions on how to “drink” for a Suntory commercial. If their goal was to give us the Manga Gamer experience with garbled translations, then it was a smashing success, ’cause it felt like I was really part of their visual novels (sans nudity)! Okay, maybe I’m being a wee bit hyperbolic, but the Japanese staff looked just as confused as the audience, so at least we were on the same page there. It finally took someone seated in the audience to take it upon herself to translate after she caught an error on one of the announcement dates from one staffed interpreters. She may have actually been part of the staff, but it begs the question of WHY WASN’T THIS LEFT TO SOMEONE WHO KNEW WHAT THEY WERE DOING IN THE FIRST PLACE? It was one of my first panels I’ve attended during my first convention visit and it was already the most bizarre thing I’ve witnessed.

It was still a lot of fun, though. I have to admit, they pulled through and it’s one of the reasons why Manga Gamer still stands today after being in the red for so long. Also, they held a mini concert that I mentioned in my previous post. The staff even handed out glowsticks to fans who got up close to the platform to do their wotagei thing, or move around like spastic maniacs. I was also amused at how they wanted their glowsticks back after the concert was over. Oh, and the raffle at the end was a nice way to bring it to a close. It seems to be a Manga Gamer tradition now to raffle off the raffle box, too. One of these years I’m gonna win that damn box. Then, I’m gonna get the crowd to chant “Moe! Moe! Moe!” along with me, while I hold the box above my head, then shake it violently until other attendees grab ahold of it, then we tear it apart. I want to see the look on Bamboo’s face when that happens, but until then, wait for me raffle box. Your cardboard ass is mine.

Picture 257
Swag acquired from the Manga Gamer booth.

 

I’m going to take a break from talking about panels and mention a bit about my  state of health during this time that overlaps a bit with horror con stories (horror if you were me, of course). You see, I don’t vacation much at all. I’ve only been out of the state of California a handful of times and they’re mostly spent in Las Vegas. On the night of Day 0 I took a shower and pretty much remained nude until morning. Sleeping naked isn’t strange at all (it’s actually good if you’ve had bed bugs), but perhaps I went a bit overboard in the hotel experience and took advantage of not footing in a bill for the AC. I woke up on Day 1 with a sore throat, and let me tell you, having a sore throat in the hot summer sucks shit through a straw. And for some reason Downtown L.A. is completely void of any convenience stores, at least, it sure as hell tries its damnedest to appear that way. So, without medicine or cough drops on hand, I had to settle on Carl’s Jr. breakfast burritos to sooth my throat. I guess I was sleep deprived having so much fun that I would just forget about it. That is, until I got a minor stomach flu on Day 2. And the sleep deprivation that finally caught up to me on Day 3. There are only so many ways the universe can tell you that you would be dead if you were born in any other circumstance.

Going back to panels, as noted earlier, I had a bad case of green apple splatters on Day 2. I only planned to be back at the convention center for one last panel for the day; Mirai no Neiro – VOCALOID: The Sound of the Future (2010). My stomach wasn’t having it, though, and I’m not taking second measures. Once I felt …stable, I made my way to the shuttle bus, and rushed to the Petree hall. I was a good 20 minutes late by the time I sat down in the back, thinking they already went through introductions, but it seemed liked the hosts were occupied with something else. I asked one of the attendees sitting nearby what I missed and he replied that the panel hadn’t even started, yet. It seems I didn’t miss anything, which is cool! Then nothing much progressed from there for about another 20 minutes… I got a raffle ticket that they were passing out in the meantime, as well as a short survey, asking what Volcaloid we liked and such. I would have filled out more of the survey if the panel picked up and explained what some of the items on the surveys were, but it seems all they could manage was show a few music clips and talked for a few minutes. The host (a gentleman donned in the red hat) looked distressed enough as it is, and I even overheard him tell the staff that they started late when they told him the panel’s time was up. No dice. He and along with his guest were very apologetic for the delay and the near nonexistent panel. As for what those raffle tickets would have given us, the world may never know.

Exiting the panel, a few Vocaloid cosplayers gathered, so that kind of made up for it. My stomach was a waterbed for all I knew, but I wanted to check out the midnight anime movie madness screening- or whatever the hell it was called (2010 seems to have been the only year they openly held midnight screenings. I wish they brought it back for us insomniac folks). It was held in one of the halls at the JW Marriott Hotel (just a few steps away from the LACC), and gotdamn, it looked pretty inside. Maybe I’m just used to discount motels, but I was under its chic and trendy spell. Anyway, for a place so close by they couldn’t have given any more fucks about mapping out where exactly the screening was held at. I asked around, and people were kind enough to point out for me towards every corner. I must have fit right in with the local bar hopping locales.

The screening setup was cool. Two huge screens and a lot of space for viewing. Too bad it was for a series like Girls Bravo! I guess that’s why they had I.D. checkers by the entrance. There were surprisingly quite a few people there. What’s great about screenings like this is that the crowd that usually go to them are a rowdy nutty bunch. I just wish I was in better condition for it. I only made in one episode before I started nodding off. It’s one thing to be caught fallen asleep out in the public, but I didn’t want to became a myth of anime conventions of the dude who was found sleeping in his own shit during a screening of Girls Bravo. My memory is fuzzy around this part, but I think I walked back to the hotel. The Millennium Biltmore Hotel was part of the Anime Expo booking block, and is the farthest hotel away from the convention center. I can’t remember how late the shuttle buses were active, but I decided to walk eight blocks through the dark streets of Downtown L.A. Cold, hungry, dizzy, bellyaching; if a pimp just happened to walk by and recruit me, well, I would have said I had a nice run in life, but if it meant being able to take a shit on a clean toilet, then I could do worse.

I also remember attending the Right Stuf & Nozomi Entertainment Industry Panel that day and, while it wasn’t what I would call a disaster, it was definitely verbally-abuse-Shawne Kleckner-hour in that panel. I don’t recall buying anything from Right Stuff, so as to what I was there for is beyond me, but I was amused at how many attendees just dished out any sort of complaint towards Shawne. It wasn’t anything too intense, but there was tension I felt from both Shawne and the fans. Pretty much the same atmosphere you’d get from customer service at a big retail store, filled with anime nerds. I don’t know what made people so confrontational towards the company or the man or what. I think I recall some commotions being brought up on internet forums about something, but as I mentioned, I don’t know much about the company or the situation. It was funny seeing Shawne hand out Right Stuff merch to smart-ass fans, though.

Panel highlights:

JAST USA Bishoujo Games Panel – You’d think a panel involving anime BOOBs would be a little more exciting, but all we get is a very exhausted Peter Payne making announcements. Boo!

Geneon Universal Industry Panel – ADV was before my time at anime cons, so I think this is closest I’ve experienced to seeing an end of era first hand.

Anime Studies 2010: Reading, Writing and Thinking about Japanese Popular Culture – Fantastic insight into anime that isn’t about “tropes” or “hot issues.” There’s usually a panel each year at Anime Expo exploring culture shown in anime in some form, so check it out to see some of brightest thinkers in the field.

The Japanese Exchange and Teaching Program – Charismatic hosts explain a bit about the program for teaching in Japan. I’m always interested in hearing different and similar experiences these people have, and is a must for fans who are interested in staying in Japan for at least a year (particularly, in rural areas of Japan).

NicoNicoDouga101 – There was only a beta site at this time that many people probably weren’t aware of. It was quite interesting seeing them there at all at that point. Of course, I was only aware of NND because of Idolm@ster MADs!

Gundam Model Building Seminar – Wish I had taken notes to use for reference now… You’ll see why in a future post soon…(!)

How to Report Anime Conventions – I don’t know who the hell this kid was, but he had no business hosting a panel, let alone on how to report on one (lol)!

Ren’ai Video Games/Shira Oka Preview – I really wish the studio behind these panels were more active, especially now that visual novels are a lot more exposed to fans. I even got a chance to talk to Stephanie Sheh (eeeeeeeeeii!)

Anime Podcasting for Beginners – My dude from Twitter hosting his own panel. He was able to call someone live using a video program. Just wished he podcasted more!

I wish I had time to catch The Psychotaku’s panel. I became aware of him when Jew Wario teamed up with him in a video. He doesn’t seem to make videos anymore these days, which is a shame. He has charisma that the That Guy With The Glasses crew he hosted under severely lacks.

Day 3 (Saturday) was really the end of the convention for me, and for a lot of people. I think by then I realized that the shuttle buses were an ongoing thing throughout the night, so once I was done with panels I was done. My body had went through enough. My vision was a blur and my stomach was eating itself alive. I remember I rested against a palm tree by the bus stop and it was the only thing holding my body up until my ride was there to take me back to the hotel. I didn’t feel sick, but my body was somehow telling me, “Screw you, I’m going to sleep,” then shuts down until what was left of my conscience directed my feet towards my hotel room. I was trashed and I didn’t even drink any beer!

Seeing how my brain was the only thing on my side by then, it was a nice moment to digest some thoughts about the city, and the whole experience. It really wasn’t bad for a first time con goer. Usually, I’m the one who spearheads the group at Disneyland or some event, but I’m not an itty bitty matty who gets a kick out of riding Mad Hatter’s spinning teacups anymore. Coming to this event was something that I wasn’t sure about, but was able to take in as much as I was able to at any moment without having to push myself. Sure, my stomach and limbs would say otherwise, but it was a reinvigorating thing to happen that I didn’t know I had in me anymore- or not yet known. I can see why people would develop post-con depression; once you realize how much fun you can have it’s really hard to let go. At the time, I was in my mid-20s, and like what seems like most people that age go through, I was unsure of my future and the idea of staying in a dead-end anything was terrifying to me. Going to Anime Expo was a shot in the arm, or a way for me to realize that getting older doesn’t mean you have to do or be anything other than what you want. Eventually, I’ll feel the need to move on, maybe away from anime entirely, but for now, this will do. I sort of need this because I love it. I know, I’m being a complete emotional knob! I was just thinking what I would be thinking in that moment four years ago. For better or worse, some things don’t change.

Phew! Well, that concludes my what-would-have-been-then post on Anime Expo 2010- or at least something close to it. I guess it’s okay to allow some time to pass to settle on some thoughts (just not stretching out to four damn years!). If not just to serve as some nostalgic fluff for myself, then I hope at least you were able to get some sense out of it, especially those who are thinking about attending your very own first convention. Believe me, I only just tipped the iceberg to this whole wackiness. With about 40,000 fans turning up for the event there’s no doubt they each would have their own experience to tell; just consider mine to be a coin dropped into the convention cup.

If you have your own con tales, I’d be interested in hearing about those as well! As for my own future con reports, they’ll more focused on specific events, if not much shorter.

Until then, bye-ni~