Anime Expo 2015 July 9, 2015Posted by coolmikeol in Events, Otaku.
Tags: 2015, Anime Convention, Anime Expo, Los Angeles
This year marks my return to Anime Expo after taking a one year break from it. If you don’t know what Anime Expo is, it is a anime convention that takes place at the Los Angeles Convention Center around early July. It is North America’s largest anime convention known for bringing the best of the industry to the fans.
In this post I will be talking about my experiences of my Anime Expo trip as detailed as possible, both what happened and what thoughts were running through my mind at the time. An overview will be posted after the Day summaries.
I didn’t take as many photos as I would have liked to at this year’s Anime Expo, but please check out my 400+ photos here at my Flickr set Anime Expo 2015.
Day 1 – July 2nd
Our trip starts technically the day before, but I’ll just call it early Day 1. At about 10PM on July 1st, my three friends and I met up at my place to take UBER to the station where our Megabus was going to be. It was my first time taking UBER and it was a pretty enjoyable experience. It was quick and inexpensive, especially when you can split the cost with others. We arrived at the Megabus station at about 10:40PM, about a 20 minute ride across the city. You could already see some people who were obviously going to Anime Expo as well, from their cosplay props and the like. About a half hour later we started to board the bus. I was originally worried that my luggage was going to be too big based off of Megabus’s policy (It was pretty much at the limits of the policy stated on their website), but they just put it in with the rest which put me at ease. I even brought a tape measure in case they wanted to contest my bag which I measured at their 62 inch size limit. With a group of four, I reserved the second floor front row seats, the best seats of the bus in my opinion. It cost a little extra, but worth it for the trip. Leaving on time at promptly around 11:30PM, we tried our best the sleep throughout the bus trip, but it was a little hard with it bouncing frequently and sometimes strongly. Whenever I fell asleep, I tended to wake up gasping for air in a somewhat noticeable way. I don’t know why that was so, but I felt a little embarrassed about that.
We arrived in LA’s Union Station at about 6:30AM, a bit earlier than the original arrival time of 6:40AM. We used UBER to take us from the station to our hotel, the Millennium Blitmore Hotel, where we left our big luggage with the Bell Desk until check in time. (The standard check in time was 3PM, but the hotel receptionist told me that my room would be available at around 11AM.) Anime Expo has shuttles that takes attendees back and forth from the main hotels, but I think that only applies to people with badges. Since we didn’t have ours yet, we walked over to the convention center which took about half an hour. While I didn’t go to AX last year, I heard of the stories about the long badge pick up lines, and heat, and overall displeasure. I was pretty sure that AX was going to step up their game, as hinted from AX assuring people that lines were moving efficiently and people reporting much shorter lines, from when I was monitoring social media on Day 0 from home.
When we got the pre-reg badge pickup, I never stopped walking until I got to the staff who were scanning our reg confirmation. Virtually no wait time this year for getting our badges. It’s like how FanimeCon has done the same now that they have the dedicated convention space to do it. It seems that FanimeCon and AX have finally killed Linecon for good, but only time will tell if it will stay as good as it has been. While I did say that I didn’t have to wait for picking up my badge, actually getting into the convention floor is another story. There was a lot of people lined up in front of the main doors, waiting for 10AM when the show floor would open. I never remembered the convention being closed until a certain time, but maybe that’s because I haven’t really been at the con as early as this year. Because it was only about 8AM, we decided to head back to the hotel and check in first before going back to Anime Expo when it was open. We walked back instead of taking the shuttle to pass by Target to grab a pack of water bottles and other supplies.
I was able to get the hotel room keys at about 10:30AM, much earlier than I thought I would of gotten them. Our room was on the fourth floor, so close enough for us to walk down the stairs if the elevators were crowded. Our hotel room was much better than what we had two years ago; it was bigger which was our main problem when we had almost six people at one point in a room about half the size of this year’s. The only initial issue we had was that there was a mosquito on the ceiling which we dispatched by throwing a magazine up at it. We made sure to close the window to prevent any more bugs from potentially getting in.
After settling in for a bit, we headed back to the convention via shuttle at noontime where we waited in line to get into the convention center. The sun was pretty strong once the overcast skies cleared, but after 10 minutes of the heat, we finally got in, that is after a quick bag check. Security was more present than I’ve seen before at AX, and while it was welcome for Anime Expo’s safety, I can imagine how much of a hassle it would be for smaller conventions like FanimeCon, where going in and out of the conventions at will is something that is convenient for everyone there. We headed immediately for the Dealers Hall where it was packed with people trying to get stuff, stuff that was free, exclusive, and limited in quantity. It was already announced a few weeks before the convention that the Dealers Hall would be bigger than previous years, and so the first time going into there we just zigzagged around to get a general feel for the expanded area. We also went to the Entertainment Hall which housed the video gaming and cosplay areas, alongside the Nendoroid 500 showcase and Little Witch Academia 2 keyframes and artwork exhibit. After touring around this area as well, I split up from my friends and headed off solo to check out the Dealers Hall and Entertainment Hall at my own pace. It’s hard to take your time at times when you’re with your friends because sometimes they can get bored or uninterested in what you’re looking for, especially when I’m taking photos of seemingly random things, which is why I tend to split off when I can so that I can get my own objectives done.
The only event I planned to go to at Day 1 was opening ceremonies (titled Guest of Honor Welcome Ceremony in the schedule), which was to start at 5:45PM, pretty late when compared to other conventions. I wasn’t complaining as it allowed me to take everything in before the event that was to start off the whole con. I got into line at around 5:15PM, which wasn’t too long considering the time. They let us in a little late, at about 6PM, and didn’t start until almost 6:30PM. Danny Choo and another person was the MC for the ceremony, which has been the same for at least the past few years, and just like then they announced each guest with an intro, with the guest coming on stage to give a short speech to the audience. As the guests went on, you can tell that the energy of the room was pretty low the entire time. I wasn’t surprised as this year’s lineup was not too great, but I guess it’s also because we haven’t had a really big popular anime come out in a while. It didn’t help that Danny’s humor felt rehashed from previous opening ceremonies he has been a part of for AX. I left after the surprise mini concert by a upcoming Japanese musical artist at about 7:25PM, which was already running past its scheduled time. It was suppose to end at 6:45PM, but since it started late, I wouldn’t have been surprised if it ran until 8PM.
My friends called me up and let me know they were in tabletop gaming, apparently in the parking garage? I went to where they said they were and low and behold, they converted a in-convention parking garage into a tabletop gaming area/autograph line area. This was a first for me and don’t think I would have found this without my friends calling me to there. I guess since the cosplay sets are now a thing at AX, it displaced the board games to the garage, which actually was a nice area. With lots of space, food vendors, and enclosed with air conditioning, it was a side area that added much needed space to Anime Expo. We headed back to our hotel via shuttle, and had dinner at the nearby Westin Bonaventure, the hotel we stayed at the last time we came to AX, as there was not really any other options we could think of that was easy to get to at the time. Got some pretty pricy Chinese food, ended up not getting what I ordered but ate it anyways, then headed to the hotel for some sleep we haven’t gotten for some time. ————
Day 2 – July 3rd
Woke up at around 8am to an alarm I set for myself before the trip began. After a quick shower, I changed into my Kaizuka Inaho cosplay, which I kept secret from the public eye until then because I wanted it to be a surprise to my friends, as they might of found out if I announced it on my Facebook page. I didn’t want them to bug me about it too much. Had breakfast at the Westin before taking the shuttle from there.
Once we got to the convention center, we entered the dealers hall to look around again. After touring around with my friends for a couple of hours, I split off and did my own scouting of the dealers hall for photo opportunities of anything interesting. Leaving the hall at about 1:45PM, I made my way to LP3 where supposedly the panel for seiyuu Tomoyo Kurosawa was being held. According to the original schedule in the program guide for AX, it was going to be held at 11AM, but the online schedule showed 2:30PM so I went around that time as the online one is up to date. Arriving at LP3, the schedule for the room didn’t show her panel so I asked the staff there about it. Turns out that they knew nothing about it, as they were strictly following the posted schedule of the room. Figured that it got cancelled or something, I decided to leave to go check out what was going on around LP1 where Main Events takes place. On the way there I passed by another room, LP4 which had a long line, which I found out was for Tomoyo Kurosawa’s panel on the schedule board. I followed the line to the end, only to shortly be told that the room was capped, maxed out its capacity.
After the confusion and disappointment, I continued to head to LP1 to see when lines would start forming for the Little Witch Academia 2 Premiere. Staff guy at the front door said that lines for that event would start at 3:30PM and also confirmed with him that no official line would begin until then. As it wasn’t too long until that time, and walking back and forth to the main area would be inconvenient, I decided to wait it out in the neighboring Entertainment Hall. (I started writing this post during this time, only writing some of the Day 2 stuff, on my phone to later transplant it here.) Soon after I met up with my friends there as they were in the area. At around 3:15PM we went towards the area where the lines would form for LP1, outside right next to the room with shade. The line for the event before the Little Witch Academia 2 Premiere, the Funimation Industry Panel, was still there, but started to move into the room as we and others around us for the premiere watched and waited for our chance to line up. One of the staff members holding us back from the lineup area was trying to say something, but most of us couldn’t hear him as he didn’t really yell or use a loudspeaker. Turns out he was just saying to wait until they were ready; I thought he was saying some special rules for the lineup. With people in anticipation, already holding the duck tape that acted as a stanchion over their heads, abruptly someone gave the signal and everyone just rushed into line. Everyone tried to get into the first row of lines, because of that it was not a single file line as I knew the staff would try to fix. At first they told people to stretch the line backwards so that we could achieve the single file, but the people behind us were not moving, even with everyone yelling to do so. The solution was to move the line forward, into the LP3 Main Events room, into the Funimation Industry Panel before it started. I was worried as we entered the room because I recalled that they usually cleared out the panel rooms entirely before letting people in. I didn’t want staff to think that we were in there for the wrong panel, even though they were the ones who brought us into there in the first place. Because this panel was not something I planned to go to, I tended to do other things as the panel went on: Check my 3DS for Streetpasses and nap. There were some interesting things to see, but for the most part it was just the announcement of new dubs of animes and business stuff related to Funimation. After the end of that, we moved forward to get a better seat as people exited, sitting close to the front and middle. When the premiere event started, we got a short message from the Trigger staff before starting the show. From the get go, turns out that we were not close enough, as I couldn’t read the subtitles from the main big screen because it was too low and peoples’ heads were covering it. I ended up watching the right side screen more because it was raised higher in comparison to the main screen. As for Little Witch Academia 2, it was fantastic. (SPOILER ALERT!) Sure the beginning was super loud that some of us had to cover our ears, but after getting used to that, it was pretty good. What bugged me during the first half of the show was actually the main character, as she was pretty childish and clearly at fault for not listening to her friends. I’m pretty sure that was the feeling the producers wanted us to feel, because as the story progressed, she eventually realized that she was to blame for her friends actions towards her. Besides that, I liked the new characters, the way the show sort of spoke to us when asking to applaud or cheer, and the quite obvious Gainex/Trigger trademark stars and transformations. For example, when *don’t know her name* danced on her broomstick in an attempt to show what she can do and finished, we (the audience) all automatically applauded, but the other characters didn’t, in which she asked them to applaud her, which sounded like she was talking to us in a way. While it doesn’t sound like it here in writing, the experience in person was pretty funny because of the blend of the audience’s actions and the dialog of the show. At the end of the screening, I can say that it was the best event for me so far, a major highlight that made me feel quite happy inside. I feel bad that I didn’t write down how exactly I felt back then, but the memory still lingers with me, that good feeling, that I’ll remember. Afterwards we decided to have dinner at Little Tokyo, Los Angeles’s Japantown. It was my first time really exploring the area, and it was quite packed even at 9PM. Because of that, it was hard finding a place that didn’t have long wait times. We did eventually find a place that was on the edge of Little Tokyo, a Japanese place that had a diner feel to it. It was pretty good for what it was. Didn’t get a picture of my food though.
Day 3 – July 4th
Day 3 started off similarly to the previous day, getting dressed in cosplay and eating breakfast at the same place as yesterday, after finding out that the other place we were planning to eat at was closed for the weekend. Upon arriving at the convention, we quickly split up to do our own things. I decided to go and catch up on my deficit of photos, mostly of cosplay shots. The only thing I planned to go to was the Culture Japan Night with Danny Choo, an event I always have gone to ever since I started going to Anime Expo back in 2011.
Since I knew that we could stay in panel rooms even after the panel ends, I entered LP2 near the end of the Mega64 Panel where my friends were. They didn’t stay for the Danny Choo event, so I moved as much forward to have a better seat for the event.
The first half or so was Danny’s usual panel with him talking about what’s currently going on in his life and career. This year it’s mostly focused on his Smart Doll product as well as production on Culture Japan Season 3. Unfortunately, Danny has also mentioned that his spinal hernia now causing his pain enough to put him in a wheelchair, though during this event he was able to do without much sitting. After the talk, we had a group photo with everyone who was still around, also recording a couple of shots for shoutouts for Culture Japan Season 3. Anyone who wanted to speak to Danny and/or get autographs, etc. had to line up for it, and it was quite the long line. Since this was Culture Japan Night, it was an event that was meant to network like-minded others together, and I tried just that. While waiting in line, I decided to try and talk to people I didn’t know. That’s how I got into conversations with the guy in front of me and behind me. It was enjoyable to talk to people about Danny Choo, Anime Expo and other anime related stuff. Even though I’m not really a social kind of guy, this event made me realize that maybe I can try doing this more, doing networking. I recently graduated college with a degree based on media production, specifically for me video production, and it’s very beneficial to have connections in the industry in order to make your career thrive. That’s how I was able to meet and befriend new people a few years ago at the exact same event, and I feel that it makes anime conventions more satisfying. Causally talking to people, interested in where they’re from and sharing my own experiences with them, it’s what I strive to do when it comes to my own content I put out. When I go to anime conventions, I aim to take photos that illustrate my own experiences of the event with the intent that others who see them somewhat feel like they’re there as well. Of course I can’t be everywhere to capture all the highlights of the convention, but I do my best to go around to as many places as possible.
Time flew by and before I knew it, I was already at Danny. As I noticed that it was reaching the 8 o’clock hour, the end of the event, I decided to keep my conversation with him short and somewhat simple. I didn’t actually know what to talk to him about besides saying hello again (it was my 4th or so time meeting him), and repeating the same stuff I think I’ve told him before, like about how he’s inspirational to me and how I’d hope to be able to help out his company in the future. I didn’t think about it then, but now I feel that I’m all talk with nothing really changing about myself, like I’m wasting my chances of talking with Danny about things that would be more worth talking about, for both of our sakes. Like I mentioned, I pretty much repeated the same things I’ve talked to him about in previous events, and I feel bad about that. I know that I’m somewhat in the comfort zone, and that in order to proceed in life I need to move forward out of that to achieve greater things in life. I know that, and I’m determined to do something about it. Because I want to combine my media/video production skills with my love of Japanese Pop Culture, the first steps I want to take is to work at anime conventions, starting off with volunteering. This year would have been an excellent year to do so as I feel that I wouldn’t have missed much because of the combination of two things: The first is that there hasn’t been any one super popular anime that creates a theme for this year’s anime conventions, and the second thing is the lack of notable guests of honor. If one of these things was flipped, then I feel that the convention would have been more exciting. This year’s Anime Expo just felt like an upscaled version of FanimeCon, and that’s saying something about North America’s largest anime convention. Next year I’m planning to become more involved with volunteering at cons and events to build up my experience towards the industry.
After the Culture Japan Night, I returned to my hotel room and started writing this post, only writing part of Day 2’s events before heading out again to pick up dinner at a near by Subway’s. Before sleep time, my friends and I played some Sushi Go and Once Upon a Time for our last night of the trip.
Day 4 – July 5th
Day 4 can be pretty much summed up as “last couple hours shopping and going home”. After packing up our stuff, checking out, and leaving our stuff with the Bell Desk, we headed out for breakfast. Our original plan was to go to a place called Eggslut at the Grand Central Market located nearby at the Historical Downtown LA area, but since it was busy we looked around at other places in the area. We decided to go to Jose Chiquito, which was a place that served breakfast dishes all day. I got myself a breakfast wrap which was a bit small but good with the added mild salsa-like sauce.
After breakfast we headed back to the hotel to catch the shuttle back to the convention center to do some last minute shopping at the Dealers Hall for gifts for people at home and anything else I happened to spot that I wanted. While I didn’t buy anything for myself on the last day, I did nab an Aldnoah.Zero Artbook from the Aniplex booth, and some Super Mario World bead sprites from the artist alley on the days before.
We left the convention center at around 2:20PM and got back to the hotel area to get food to bring for the bus ride back home. I bought a water bottle and another drink at a Famima!! convenience store for pretty cheap compared to prices at the con or anywhere else, a dollar for a 23.7 oz Arrowhead. Also picked up a footlong Chicken & Bacon Ranch Melt sandwich at Subway on the way back to the hotel, where we proceeded to chill until it was time for us to head back to Union Station for the Megabus. At about 4:10PM, we sent a request to UBER which came in about 15 minutes. After a bit of confusion about exactly where we were suppose to be dropped off, we arrived at the station at about 4:30PM. I had to look at the map of the station to realize that we actually were on the opposite side of where the bus depot was. Luckily it was easy to figure out how to get from the front entrance, where we were to our bus. There was a straight path that passed under the trains with branches on the left and right sides leading to them. At the end of the tunnel we reached the familiar sight of the transit plaza, where our bus was already awaiting passengers. The bus departed on time at 5:10PM, with us arriving in San Francisco at about 2AM, an hour and a half late due to traffic on Interstate 5. I got home at 3AM and went to sleep shortly after, ending my LA/AX trip.
This year’s Anime Expo trip went way smoother than it did the last time I came back in 2013. The main differences that made this trip better was that I didn’t have to drive the long distance/pay for a expensive rental car, and also I didn’t have that one annoying person on the trip that had issues, for the most part. Getting from home to LA and back was relatively easy, credit to Megabus and UBER being fast and cheap.
The convention was good this year, but Anime Expo’s lack of notable guests of honor, in combination with no major overarching anime/theme for the anime convention left more to be desired. If anything, as I mentioned before, this felt like a medium sized convention like FanimeCon inflated to fit the LA Convention Center. I think of myself as able to read the energy of the room or situation, and overall, it was chill in the a couple of ways. It was a nice casual year for anime fans, but at the same time didn’t ignite hype or energy that usually Anime Expo is known for; it’s even more evident when I look back at the cosplay at the convention. At Anime Expo I’m used to seeing a large amount of cosplayers dress as characters from a few popular animes series, like how Sword Art Online and Attack on Titan were dominate in their particular years. This year I felt that there was less notable cosplay, and more of casual and broad varieties of cosplay from the last few years, evident from the lack of cosplay of recent animes this year. It was very obvious to me during the convention as well when I didn’t feel like taking as many photos as I would normally would try to take, the lowest amount to the size of the convention ever for me.
One other aspect of the trip that had influence on how well it went was the presence of my friends. While it pains me to be brutally honest, it is something I feel I need to address for the sake of covering all my bases when it comes to writing a complete post about my Anime Expo trip. Personally for me, it’s harder for me to have friends along for the ride than it sounds, especially when they’re not into the same things about anime and Japanese pop culture as you are. As I don’t see myself as a full fledged otaku, but still knowing of a lot of the broader topics within the culture, it’s hard for me to translate that to my friends who are semi-casual at best when compared to most of the average anime convention attendee. Sometimes I feel like I have to tone myself down because it may look embarrassing to my friends and whatnot. While they probably would be somewhat understanding, I still avoid becoming overly enthusiastic in case they think I’m strange for doing so. It’s a sad thing for me to do, especially at a place that suppose to be the center of it all, but by habit I do it anyways. One improvement from the previous years of going with friends to anime conventions is that I don’t feel like I needed to babysit them like I did a couple of years ago. I could split off from them without worrying that they would become bored and feel lost, and that I abandoned them. I think they understand that I do things in a certain way when it comes to these events, and they allow me to do so. If I was asked if I would let my friends tag along for my future trips to anime conventions, I would almost always be glad to, as long as I have my freedom to do my own things as well without being questioned or pressured out of.
The fact that the convention center is almost maxed out its space illustrates the dire need for the Los Angeles Convention Center to expand. Just like how the San Jose Convention Center expanded and now FanimeCon has much more room to breath, the LA con center needs the same. At AX it’s pretty hard to get a quick break by sitting where you are. For me I can only really sit in the West Hall, as it was the place with the most space and less people. At FanimeCon it used to be the same kind of, but with the addition of a couple Halls there is plenty of space to work with, whether it’s for an exhibit or people space. Also with the addition, it allowed more rooms to handle more events and the expansion of the Dealers Hall. Anime Expo needs just that: besides the Artist Alley being cramped and needing its own space, major panel rooms would benefit from this as well. There have been many times I tried going to a panel and the lines are so long to the point of it being capped because of maxed occupancy. I also feel that the cosplay sets and related should have their own area, as well as the video gaming which should be re-combined with the tabletop board gaming. This would require at least another two halls to make my idea work, but seeing as how FanimeCon has made this work for the most part, I think it’s definitely possible for AX. Throughout the convention, I kept saying that an expansion over the area where the shuttle buses were would make sense, as it would shelter the buses from the sun and add at least another Hall above the area. This was before I found out that plans for expanding the LA Convention Center was already in the works. Looking at the proposals and renderings of them makes me very excited for the future of Anime Expo. Besides the added space to the inside of the convention center, it would breath new life to outdoor areas of the center as well, perfect for cosplay gatherings and the like. One thing that I enjoy at FanimeCon over Anime Expo is the cosplay gatherings. At FanimeCon, almost all of the major gatherings occur right in the front, which has the space, shade, and nice settings for the groups to have great photos by photographers. Whereas at Anime Expo, first off I don’t even know where they are, let alone if there is any official gatherings at all. Even if they are they might be outside in the sun or in places away from the major paths of the convention only the gathering cosplayers know about. I know there are no gatherings inside the con as I’ve walked back and forth countless times just see people and cosplayers just strewn about. With new areas in the outdoors within the convention center area, I feel it would become a new area for gatherings that would be more accessible and noticeable for all, a win-win for the cosplayer and photographer.
Overall, Anime Expo 2015 was fine, and just that. Because I already knew that this year is an off year for popular animes, I wasn’t expecting too much from AX, so at the very least I wasn’t too hyped to disappoint myself. As mentioned, this would have been a good year to volunteer as I would not felt that I would have missed too much while working at the con. Any other year and I would feel I’d miss out on things. Another thing that this year’s AX did for me was make me think a lot about what I want to do in the future in relation to my own field of media and video production. AX marks the end of my anime convention season for the year, but I’ve already started mapping out what I may go to next year. Definitely looking forward to seeing what’s in store for the future.