FanimeCon 2012 May 29, 2012Posted by coolmikeol in Events, Otaku.
Tags: 2012, Anime Convention, FanimeCon, San Jose
This year I attended FanimeCon in San Jose’s McEnery Convention Center held during the May25-28 memorial day weekend. This four day con is known for being an anime convention that is by fans and for fans of Japanese Pop Culture. It’s one of the biggest anime cons in Northern California and it invites thousands of people to experience and enjoy the many aspects of an anime convention such as cosplay, panels, special guests of honor, artists gallery, swap meet, gaming, anime viewings, and more.
All photos of the con that I took can be found at my Flickr set: FanimeCon 2012
I arrived at Fanime at about 10:30 am on Friday. I was planning to first meet up with the guy in charge of our hotel room with to get my room key from him to drop off my stuff in the hotel we were staying at. (I stayed at the Fairmont Hotel this year, in the area of the convention center and a much bigger room than last year’s stay at the Saint Claire.) Finding him at the con didn’t take long, but what I also found was a massive line that wasn’t there last year. The line I’m talking about was the pre-reg badge pickup line. It stretched and snaked all the way out of the convention center and almost to the corner of the curb, making a 2+ hour wait for picking up your pre-paid badge. Last year I remembered it only took about 10 minutes or so to pick mine up, but this year it was almost like two and a half hours to get it. I got in line at a little before 12pm and I got it at about 2:15pm or so which got me slightly late for the opening ceremonies which started at 2pm. I think what caused the massive backup of people picking up their badge on Day 1 was the blackout that occurred at Day 0 where it disrupted the process of people picking up their badge the day before the con officially started. For Day 1, the line was like that all day. Luckily there wasn’t really anything important for me to see at the con until later that day so I didn’t miss much, and while I was in line I just played games and listened to music on my new iPod Touch 4th generation while sitting on my mini chair I picked up at a Daiso Japan store.
After getting my badge and watching most of the opening ceremony, I went around the con to get an overview feel for how things were set up this year. For the most part everything was in the same places, so that was no worry. The only real change around the convention center was a missing chunk of the area around the convention center, or rather will become more of the convention center by next year. Building is taking place for an extension for the McEnery Convertion Center which is expected to open next year. I don’t know whether or not Fanime will use the extension but it will be a new cool space none the less.
I scouted the swap meet and took a bunch of photos, but generally it looks like last year’s Fanime swap meet. I guess I shouldn’t expect changes in an annual anime convention, besides the guests of honor. Mentioning about guests of honor, there wasn’t anyone I was particularly happy about except for Mai Aizawa. Now in all honestly, I did not know about her name for her seiyuu roles of being Mio Naganohara from Nichijou and Murakami Natsumi from Negima!, but as I enjoyed those characters, especially Mio’s, I am a fan of hers now and now I’ll remember her name when mentioned. It’s like that with all stars I meet; you learn more about them when you go to their panels besides the reason you originally like them, and become a person who follows their future achievements. She had a Q&A session at 8pm on Day 0 and I was there. I got their quite early, so I left and went around the con for a bit longer, then returned to the panel room front door and found some people I knew and socialized with them. While talking with those people I knew, I realized that Mai Aizawa was also waiting outside the panel room with us as the panel room was being occupied. I took a quick shot of her pointing to her scheduled Q&A time on the schedule of the panel room. I was surprised that she was out with us other people quite casually, but I know that Japanese stars here are like normal people here. They are only bugged by their fans which there aren’t a lot of here in the US, especially for a seiyuu like her that doesn’t really have a big anime role so far. As an another example, when I was at J-Pop Summit in San Francisco’s Japantown last year, Danceriod performed which was really awesome. After they had their autograph session later that day, they simply left the place with their producer (or whoever helps them out on foreign trips) and no one followed them as if they were just like everyone else and no one famous. I guess I kind of like those kind of people; people who are known but only to a specific fan base and are popular to them, but are able to live their lives normally without people constantly bothering them like paparazzi. The Mai Aizawa Q&A was only an hour long, but many questions were asked, most were about either her roles in the animes Nichijou and Mirai Nikki, or about Mai Aizawa’s career as a seiyuu in general. I didn’t ask a question to her, but I was thinking about it. I’m a bit shy so I didn’t think my question was good enough to ask, but if I did I would of asked somewhere along the lines about what she thinks of Mai-chan from Nichijou or about Mio’s onee-san’s trolling and how would she deal with them.
I ended the day by enjoying some of the best of Angry Video Game Nerd videos. I stayed for the entire three hours of the showing, as I had enjoyed it from last year’s Fanime. You can watch a lot of AVGN’s videos on YouTube, just search for it. I also played some Super Smash Bros. Brawl in the game room, though I don’t exactly remember if it was after ACGN or earlier before, but I enjoyed it, though I was playing with some input lag because the game wasn’t calibrated tot he flat screen TV we were using. I did surprisingly well for the serious lag that I was playing through.
I returned to the hotel room at about midnight, though no one was there yet. I didn’t mind as I was only rooming with them, not really being with them as a group. The group I was rooming with were mainly experienced photographers much older than me. A bit intimidating for me being much younger and just getting into professional photography through racking up experience from snapping photos at cons. For dinner I had cup ramen soup, simple and cheap. Brought along a water heater to make it. I had brought along some food but not as much as I did last year which was troublesome in terms of dragging it around on Day 4 of Fanime last year waiting to be picked up. Besides the cup ramen soup, I had brought along some dried mashed potatoes and fruit cups, and some donuts and other snacks but it was planned to be mostly gone by the end of the con. The rest of the room crew came at about after 1am on Saturday, but I went to sleep soon after that.
Woke up in the morning pretty early, around 7:30am-ish. Took a shower and ended up falling back asleep, waking up just past 10am where I got ready in my cosplay of Seiun Eiji and left for breakfast. To keep costs to a minimum, I went to McDonalds to get a Bacon and Egg McGriddle Meal which comes with hash brown and orange juice. Not exactly healthy, but it was cheap and good enough for me.
The main events for Day 2 that I wanted to go to was Mai Aizawa’s autograph session and Musicfest, but those were later in the afternoon. I focused on taking as many photos as possible before I didn’t have the chance to when I were to wait in line and attend said events.
At about 3:30pm I went from the convention center back to the Fairmont to take a break and also go the autograph session for Mai Aizawa which was being held in the Imperial Ballroom of the hotel at 4pm. I got in line which wasn’t too bad and chatted with some other fellow con goers until it was time arrived to go get our autographs from Mai Aizawa. At one point, I was in front of the line after it shifted up from people entering the room where Mai Aizawa was, and I stated getting slightly nervous. I guess it comes from the thought that your meeting a “famous” person and that they are someone much different from you in respects of people they deal with, another being that she is a Japanese voice actress who brings life into anime characters that we all love. I recorded the encounter with Mai Aizawa, in a discreet fashion with my DLSR camera, recording it while the camera strap was around my neck while the camera looks like I wasn’t using it. I did it for sentimental reasons, as many people would do when encountering a unique situation.
Musicfest is Fanime’s own music event and it usually has guests that fill up the Civic Auditorium that is located right across the street from the convention center. This year, as I mentioned before, there wasn’t much in terms of popular or new guests of honor, and so that contributed to the lack of GOH panels and to Musicfest as well. Mai Aizawa was the opening act for Musicfest which was what I was looking forward to. She sang two songs, though I only remember the title of one of the songs she sang which was “Kimi ni Todoke” which was released on May 9th. She is just starting out her singing career and it looks like its future depends on how popular her new song does in terms of the downloads the song gets on iTunes. Apparently her producer (or so I assume) says that in order for her next song to be released, she needs at least a couple thousand people to buy her music on iTunes which costs only 99 cents per song. That’s kind of sad but understandable because her producer wants to see whether or not her music is marketable enough to make a profit. It’s a business after all and someone needs to pay the bills. After Aizawa’s performance, the main act for Musicfest was other GOH Igaguri Chiba, a literal clown artist/music performer. I didn’t stay for so much of that. Musicfest was a disappointment because of the lack of great musical acts like last year’s FLOW concert. I think Fanime planned to bring in three other musical guests to the con this year, because there were video messages that were played before the start of Musicfest from Japanese music artists telling the people of Fanime that they are sorry for not attending the convention due to schedule conflicts or other reasons. While I can’t quite remember who those people were exactly (you can tell I’m bad with names as I keep mentioning this) they looked like some real nice musical talents that would of been welcome to Fanime.
Afterwards I went back to the convention center to enjoy playing some SSBB again, this time on a TV that doesn’t cause lag. I didn’t do as well though as I did when I played the night before, which was surprising because I was able to win even with lag but not without? I guess the people I played the night before were not as good as the people I played on day 2 night. Went back to the hotel room before midnight and again ate a cup ramen soup for dinner. Some of my hotel room mates returned and I talked with them for a bit until calling it a night at about 2am. This was the night I started typing this post of my Fanime 2012 experience, as I didn’t have anything else better to do, and it would help me remember better for writing the post if I wrote it ASAP. If your wondering, I wasn’t using the hotel’s internet, but rather I brought my own. I use Virgin Mobile’s Mifi, a portable device that allows me to bring WiFi to any location that has cell service. I bought it last year for $150 but I think now its cheaper. The plans for the internet are quite cheap, but you get what you pay for I guess, as the internet speeds from this thing are not capable of downloading and uploading anything fast enough. I can’t even watch YouTube videos, though I guess its because I used the $10 plan which gives me internet that expires in 10 days but only for 100MB. I didn’t want to take the risk of losing all my MB of internet before the end of the con. Next time I’ll get the 500MB plan which is $20, much better that I won’t feel so restricted to what I do on the internet on my laptop or iPod Touch. Also that plan lasts for a month so time won’t be an issue too.
The only event I considered going to on Day 3 was the Masquerade, which is always debatable for me to go or not, but I usually do because I’m sentimental and I always feel that the Masquarade of an anime convention is a good way to end things off, as Day 4 usually lacks in interesting events. Since the masquerade was later on in the afternoon, I felt this was my chance to take advantage of time and take as many cosplay photos as possible. I was not disappointed, as there were a lot of photo opportunities. I’ve got to say, this anime convention’s quality of cosplayers was pretty much the best I’ve seen so far. The past two days I was not satisfied with the quality or quantity of photos I took, so I wanted to make up for it today. Check out a few of the many beautiful and hard worked cosplay photos below, of course you can check out more at my Flickr set, mentioned at the beginning of this post, or at my dedicated Cosplay Flickr set.
At around 5:30pm, I started to line up for masquerade which was held at the same place where Musicfest took place. Doors were to open at 6pm, but people always line up a few hours early. I knew that I didn’t want to sit in the seats on the ground floor, as I prefer to be above the stage on the balcony than on the ground where people can block you when they get up during a concert. The seats in the balcony don’t fill up that quickly so I didn’t have to waste time waiting in line for a seat I wanted. The line was pretty long, snaking all over the place where I was in line, behind the San Jose Tech Museum. What made the lines even more confusing was the fact that a different line for Black and White Ball was in the area as well. I got in the Civic Auditorium a little past 6pm and took my seat on the left balcony. While it gives a relatively good view of the stage, part of the left side of the stage was obscured by a wall, which became a problem while taking photos. I never take good photos of masquerades, because always too far to get a good shot. Makes me kind of wish I had a long lens like the one I borrowed before from a friend to try out a while back. (He was selling his 75-300mm lens for less than $100). Maybe next time I’ll try to get a better seat, maybe. I usually don’t like masquerades so much because they are walk-ons and skits, usually based on anime and game series, and most of the time those skits are based on a series I’m not too familiar with. This time however, I think most of the skits were pretty good. I stayed around for all the entries of the masquerade, but left before they announced the winner.
I went back to the hotel room early, at about 10pm, to rest and work on this post again. There wasn’t much I wanted to do out there in the con area, because everyone else was partying during the final night of the con. I’m not the kind of person to party hard, as I felt that also working on this post would be more productive. I also started to pack up a little bit already because tomorrow we were checking out of the hotel room in the morning. I went to sleep at around 2am, and no one still had arrived so I don’t know when my roommates actually returned.
Waking up at about 9:15am or so, I started packing up the rest of my stuff which didn’t take long to collect and put away. I wasn’t going to get a ride out of the con until around 3pm so I had to organize my stuff in a way that I could manage with while I waited at the con. I didn’t bring too much stuff so I was able to consolidate all my stuff into a easy to carry and pull system. At 10am I left the Fairmont hotel for the convention center where I found a cute Erio Touwa cosplayer I met yesterday that I first saw at the Cherry Blossom Festival in April. I had told her the day before that I liked her performance from the Cherry Blossom Festival, and that’s when she told me she had a performance scheduled for Day 4. When she had told me the time the first time I met her at the convention, I thought she had told me at first that it was to happen in the afternoon. I was mistaken as it was in the morning and I’m grateful that I got to the con when I did on Day 4. I arrived in time to see her performance at 10am at Fanime’s Stage Zero, where she did some dance covers, singing, and a combination of the two together. While I enjoyed the dance covers and singing alone, she didn’t do so well when doing both. I understand that it is hard to sing properly while dancing so I have her props for trying.
Afterwards I decided to take advantage of time and access to good quality internet to work on my laptop while waiting for my ride which was still hours away. I ended up just using the time to update my Left 4 Dead 2 game which took hours to do because of a 10GB update. I also started brainstorming on a future cosplay which will take me months to complete as I’m no expert at cosplay making, but I’m willing to learn and take the time to make my future cosplay look good, be durable, and be comfortable to wear. I hope to make a debut of this new cosplay by early next year. I won’t mention what it is for now as I have just recently thought of doing this cosplay, because planning stages are still in its infancy.
I didn’t take too many pictures on Day 4, because most of the good cosplayers had already left or was not wearing their cosplay because there wasn’t much going on today; not worth wearing it if there isn’t many people to be interested in it. At about 3pm I went to the closing ceremonies where it was just the convention chairs thanking everyone for their support as Fanime is a con by fans and for fans. I had to leave in the middle of it because my ride had arrived, but I don’t think I missed much.
Overall, Fanime 2012 was pretty solid in terms of cosplay, but lines were an issue especially with the pre-reg line on Day 1. I know that it wasn’t Fanime’s fault for the power outage that caused the problems of people getting their badges, and I also heard that Fanime staff put in extra effort to get as many people their badges despite the down computer systems. It just kind of reminded me of how I was in line for a long time at last year’s Day 0 Anime Expo pre-reg lines.
Another kind of issue I had was with my own photography. I wasn’t too satisfied with my cosplay photos during the first tow days, especially because I knew that I had better equipment and skills than last year. I always strive for the best I can do, but I felt that the quality and the quantity were both lacking at one point during the con. On day 3 of Fanime, I made up my loss for the most part, but I feel that it wasn’t the absolute best work I could of done. I hope that my Anime Expo 2012 experience will be better in terms of photography, and in overall experience from last year’s Anime Expo.
Well actually, on May 31st (or June 1st in Japan), Danny Choo reposted my photos on his own blog. To me, It’s like the biggest gratitude for all my hard work uploading photos and writing up numerous posts about Fanime for my readers and fans of Japanese Pop Culture. So in the end, I guess I’m proud of the work I’ve done and hope to bring great coverage of Anime Expo 2012.