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Anime Expo 2013 July 10, 2013

Posted by coolmikeol in Anime, Events, Otaku.
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This year’s Anime Expo experience was a mixed bag because of a lot of things, things that well… should of gone a lot better. This post will allow me to vent a bit of how I felt during the event. If I do sound mad or annoyed at any particular person (which I won’t name obviously but they may notice anyways), I just want to be honest about it, please don’t take it too seriously.

Day 0

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I woke up at around 6:00 AM after getting about five or so hours of sleep. I was pretty much preparing stuff to pack in the morning before I went to sleep. I double checked my checklist that I wrote up since I was bringing so much stuff before having a quick bacon and eggs breakfast before leaving to go pick up the four others (friends and acquaintances) a little after 7:30 AM to bring them back to my place before ultimately leaving for LA. I arrived with everyone back at my house at about 9 AM and it took an hour to pack the car with my stuff. Between everyone who had stuff to bring, I had the most: My clothes luggage, bringing an additional luggage for Wii U (friends wanted me to bring it), cosplay, cosplay fixing materials, sleeping bag and pillow, and a whole bunch of snacks and waters complete with a big cooler. I rented a 7 seater minivan, but even with just 5 of us, we were much more cramped than I thought we would be. We left at 10 AM and made our way to our first stop at Gilroy which was brief. We made a second stop at Kettleman City, an exit on the 5 Interstate that I always go to on these kind of trips. I was planning to get gas here, but it was expensive. I decided that we’ll try for gas at the Grapevine exit, right before the mountains leading up to Los Angeles, hoping it was less expensive. We ended up going to the exit right before Grapevine because I was unsure for a second about where the exit was. The gas there was a bit cheaper, so we filled up there before going up to LA. We got into the LA area at around 4PM , but we got lost because of the GPS. Apparently when I input the address of the Los Angeles Convention Center, I put “Figueroa St” instead of “S Figueroa St”. I did not know that there was another Figueroa St. that was located near the coast. Luckily we figured it out before we actually got to the wrong destination, but it took more than an hour out of our way to get back to the downtown LA area, as we took side streets that were extremely slow to navigate. At this point I was getting really irritated due to the fact that one of my acquaintances who was older kept bugging me about the time and stuff. We finally got to the hotel at about 6PM or so, checked in, brought some of our stuff into the room, and got to the convention center at about 7PM where we proceeded to wait in line for our badges for about an hour and fifthteen minutes. The line for pre-reg badge was not bad, it was long but there was barely a time longer than a minute where I wasn’t moving. At Fanime 2013, I waited more than double the time here so I wasn’t complaining. By that time we got our badge, it was around 8:20 PM, so we just explored the convention center. Since it was my friends first time to AX or any anime convention for that matter it was a good way for them to get familiar with the area. (My older acquaintance has been to AX many times so he went his own way for a while.) While we were wandering around, I got a call from a friend I met at AX last year. I made arrangements for him to stay in our room for Day 0 night only so he was calling to let me know he was at the hotel. (We were staying at the Westin Bonaventure.) We returned to the hotel at about 10:30 PM where we welcomed my friend who was staying for the Day 0 night. We were too lazy to go out for dinner so we ordered room service, mainly burgers and fries and stuff. Not too expensive…. well actually it was. Whatever. Anyways it was nice chatting with my friend who was staying with us. He had a busy schedule for AX as he was one of the staffers for Danny Choo, who I am a big fan and follower of. He had to leave early the next morning so we went to sleep before 2AM for the first day of AX.

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Day 1

I got up when my DC staff friend woke up. He left when he needed to so I saw him off. Took a quick shower and got ready to get to the convention center for opening ceremonies which were to start at 10AM.  I came to AX Day 1 dressed as Seiun Eiji’s Summer uniform. There was some conflicting information about when it was to start though. The Anime Expo programs said it was to start at noon or something, while the AX program on their website said it started at 10AM. To my knowledge at the time, I knew that the online ones would be more accurate than the printed ones, but I checked with the info booth who confirmed the time for me. We all headed to the Main Events hall which was now located in the West Hall area for the opening ceremonies, which was delayed by about 3o minutes. Most events at anime conventions I’ve been to don’t really start on time. Throughout the entire opening ceremonies, it was obvious that the hosts did not rehearse (as they even kept mentioning that they did not rehearse throughout the ceremony.) All the guests of honor was announced, but I already knew that this year’s GOHs were not as fantastic as previous years. It seems that the west coast cons are lacking in good GOHs and I don’t know exactly why. The only notable GOH I wanted to see was Danny Choo as usual, but there was no real good music guests or seiyuus. I was still satisfied though because it gave me more time to focus on Cosplay Photography which is always my main concern at a con scene.

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After the opening ceremony, we got back to the Main Hall area (South Tower Lobby) where as expected, hundreds if not thousands of people were eagerly waiting for the Exhibit Halls to open. Normally I would wait for a couple to a few hours to enter the Exhibit Halls to let the surge of people dissipate a bit, but I ended up getting swept in after going around and taking photos of the crowds. I met up with my friends who were also in the Exhibit Halls and we proceeded to explore what we could in the crowded aisles. After a while we exited the Exhibit Halls where me and my friends split so that they could go around on their own and also so I could work on taking photos.

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I ended up leaving earlier than I would because I wanted to return to my hotel to finish working on my Seiun Eiji Solar Marine cosplay before tomorrow’s Danny Choo panel. I tried to finish it when I was back home, but I ran out of time so I had to work on making the shoulder armor parts throughout the night. It came out well enough at least. I decided to put on the finishing touches when I wake up the next morning.

Day 2

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I woke up super early, about 6 AM to start getting ready, cosplay too. The Danny Choo panel was starting at 9AM so I planned to be at the convention center at around 8:30 AM or earlier. When I got there, a line had already formed which irked me a bit. We entered the panel room pretty much on time and I was able to get a seat in a decent location on the right side. I set up my video camera as usual to record his panel, but it wasn’t the same as it was in previous years. Normally he would go through his talk about  how he got to where he is now from his humble beginnings back in the UK, but this time it was short. I could tell that time was quite limited for him even though he had three hours of panel time. After that he did some Q&A session, and then he did signing sessions which pretty much ended the panel. It wasn’t like previous years where he did like Rock-Paper-Scissors, giveaways, or the big group photo at the end. It just started and ended in low key. I kept my optimism as high as I could back then, but right now writing this from home remembering back, it just really didn’t do it for me. I kind of felt that Danny is more so at AX for promoting his Culture Japan than ever. Of course that’s not a bad thing and I do like seeing more exposure for it, it’s just that it felt that he was more here for business than for his readers and followers. I know that’s what a lot of people admire about him, his ability to connect with his readers personally and on a larger scale, because he was just like one of us, regular avid anime fans. I know he also has limited time too, and that the stuff I mentioned that he didn’t do this year in his panel that he normally does in previous years he might of phased out because it became old. I don’t know… I have mixed feeling about what I was expecting from the panel, it just wasn’t as great as I remember it would be.

After the panel which I felt early (about 11:30 AM), I got word that a fellow Mirai Millennium cosplayer was at the Mirai Mart booth, so I headed in that direction. After a quick hi to her at the booth, trip to my car to drop off a bunch of stuff, I headed back  to the booth again with just my cosplay and camera. We had a quick photoshoot before promptly returning to the Mirai Mart booth for Danny’s return.  I stayed there for a good few hours cosplaying for the booth with her while she was donning her Mirai Suenaga Solar Retrograde Suit cosplay. Her’s was pretty well made, despite the lack of time she had to make it and it being incomplete. Makes me feel that I should keep working on mine too, since I won’t be cosplaying for a while. That way next time it will look better than ever and it won’t keep breaking apart like it was during Day 2.

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By 2:30 PM, I left the booth and headed back to my car so that I could take off my exhausting cosplay. It was the first time I wore such a thing in a con so it was tiring. Even more so that the weather was warm (of course its LA). I went in to pick up a quick lunch at the convention food court and set out to do some cosplay photography. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was shooting at 3200 ISO which made my photos a bit grainy. I was wondering why I was getting such a high shutter speed but didn’t realize it was because I was using a much higher ISO than I should of been using. I noticed only once I got back to my hotel room. The photos were OK, but I told myself after that to always check my camera settings so that I wouldn’t do something like that again.

Day 3

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Unlike Day 2 where I felt that I was rushing to get to the convention early with cosplay, Day 3 was more chill. I got to the convention center via shuttle this time versus driving all the time and paying for parking at around 11AM. I only events I had planned to go to was the Culture Japan x FAKKU meet up at 5PM followed by a Culture Japan Night at Kinokuniya Bookstore in Little Tokyo at 7PM. In the meanwhile, cosplay photos.

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My friends and I started going back to the hotel at around 4PM, but stopped by the new Target/food area for a late lunch. After that we headed to the hotel where I rested a bit before returning pretty late to the CJ x FAKKu meetup at 5:45PM. It once again was not how it was like last year, it felt like another panel than just mingling like last time. I left shortly after it ended, took a few more cosplay shots, then headed back to the hotel again to prepare to go to Little Tokyo by car for CJN.

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I got to Little Tokyo before 8PM, but I got a bit lost while trying to find Kinokuniya by foot. I ended up running around the wrong block. By the time I made my way to Kinokuniya, there was a line of people waiting to talk and meet Danny. I wanted to wear my Solar Marine cosplay so I went back to my car which was not too far away, put on what I could without the body suit, didn’t bring out the sonic naginata due to me not being in a con scene and not wanting to bring out too much attention on the streets, and headed back to Kinokuiya. The line for Danny, while it wasn’t long, still had a decent wait time because it was here that Danny was taking more time to talk to each person, something that makes him feel more down to Earth than most high profile people. While in line I realized that I didn’t have much to really talk to him about besides my cosplay and stuff. Before that happened though we had a quick group shot with everybody which was cool. When it was my turn to talk to Danny, I kind of jumbled for words as usual. I should be used to meeting with Danny, but it’s just a natural reaction I end up having. He asked a bit about my cosplay and how I made it, I also told him ( as I’ve and many people told him before) that his Culture Japan brand is a wonderful way to spread Japanese culture and that I would always support it. I also brought my Mirai Suenaga Nendoroid that I won in the Mirai Suenaga Nendoroid give away a while back. I told him my quick story about how I thought I wasn’t in to win (because I entered late), then got an e-mail saying I did win, saw pictures of signed business cards of winners which did not have my name on any of them that made me think I did not win and that it was a mistake, then getting an e-mail before AX saying that it was sent complete with a picture of the package, then receiving it before bringing the Nendoroid back for him to autograph. Long story short: I won, I lost, I won, I got autographed. I left just around the time it was ending, about 10PM. I didn’t get a chance to go browsing Kinokuniya because I was in cosplay, I didn’t feel like walking around in there in costume. Got back to the hotel at 10:30PM where we started to pack up for home the next day.

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Day 4

Day 4 was suppose to be a chill day, but my nerves with my friends and acquaintances were starting to get to me. After we checked out of the hotel and had breakfast, we headed to the convention center for the last time, mainly for last minute shopping and cosplay shots.

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While I would have liked to stay until around closing ceremonies, because stuff likes to happen then that I like to photograph and be a part of, me and my group ended up leaving as early as 2:30 PM because apparently they wanted to go home already. Once everyone was in the car, we rushed out to head back to the San Francisco Bay Area. After traffic and stuff we arrived back in San Francisco close to midnight, right around when I estimated we’d be back. I dropped off everyone at their own homes and I got home at 12:30 PM where I just ate a bit before going to sleep.

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Overview

Throughout the trip, I kept a flexible, optimistic mind about things, but by the end of it I had to face facts: Things just didn’t go as I expected. One of the main reasons why this trip didn’t go so great was the fact that I brought along an older acquaintance who pretty much annoyed the shit out of me. He was like a damm backseat driver the entire time, always reminding me of the time which made me feel that I had to rush when we didn’t need to. I ended up speeding almost the entire trip because of it, putting my other friends in danger when my nerves were on the brink of breaking. Just thinking of it now just makes me want to regret letting him come. Luckily the person I’m referring to here doesn’t have regular access to the internet, nor does he know about this website, so I think I’m safe from him figuring out that I was annoyed with him the entire trip. I was nice to everyone on the trip, but I could only maintain that persona for so long. Once I dropped him off on the late night of Day 4, I sincerely apologized to my other three close friends who came on this trip. It was their first time really going on a trip of this scale and I felt that I made it a pretty bad experience. During a convention, I always see them sort of like a business venture. It’s a place where I can network and do work (photography). Since I’m on the move all the time, it’s hard to keep watch over my tail (my friends) who at times would become bored or tired of the convention and would end up splitting up, going back to the hotel room early, etc. I’d feel bad for them, but at the same time I warned them that this would be the case as this is what I do at conventions. After driving back two of my friends, the last one who I was to drop off had it rough during the trip because he rarely gets out much and the trip itself was like a total culture shock to him. He also got a bit of motion sickness because of my rough driving going back home. As I drove gently back to drop him off at his place, I cried a little. I felt so bad that I brought them along, for their own sake. I felt that when the idea of them coming along came up, it was half-heartily thought of. I felt I convinced them to come just because I thought  things would be good. I was wrong. I learned that for theses trips, it’s best for me to go alone. I don’t want others to be affected by my faults or unexpected events. Anyways, photographers are almost always solo right?

The convention itself was not as great as the previous couple of years I’ve been going to it. For starters, as mentioned, the GOH list was not impressive. It seems to be the case for the Fanime as well. Danny Choo seemed busier than ever which made his my encounters with him not as fun as it was last year. The cosplay at AX at least was pretty good, so at least we had that.

In terms of how much money I spent for this trip, I can tell you I spent much more than I estimated. What really was off the charts was how much I spent on parking. I estimated $60, I think I spent almost $200 on it alone. I wasn’t keeping track of food costs or how much I spent on loot because those were for necessity and enjoyment. The hotel and car rental was the majority of the costs of my trip, but those were partially recuperated by the split playing from the friends and acquaintance.

Conclusion

While it was a pretty crappy trip, I did learn somethings which is always a plus from a failure. Don’t bring people along who are bugging you about every little thing and others who you have to keep watch over all the time. Babysitting is not my thing during a trip like this, or any trip for that matter. Also, watch the amount of things I bring on a trip, because a car can fill up very fast. Try and scout the area a bit more from home so you know where cheaper parking is. Stuff like that.

As for Anime Expo, this year was my worst experience with it out of the three times I have gone. Would I return to Anime Expo again? Probably, because there are still friends I meet at conventions, and cosplays to take photos of. The guest of honor list really needs to improve next year with some notable Japanese voice actresses or something like that. I know I need to expand my list of conventions to go to, as I really only go to AOD, Fanime, and Anime Expo every year. If I had my own car, I’d go to more cons around the Bay Area like Daicon or Anime Destiny. I’d also like to go to ALA, Sakuracon, and PAX Prime as well.

The next couple of events I’ll be attending will be the J-Pop Summit Festival in San Francisco’s Japantown on July 27 and 28, and Japan Expo which is at the end of August.

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