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FanimeCon 2019 June 2, 2019

Posted by coolmikeol in Events, Otaku.
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FanimeCon 2019 took place May 24th – 27th at the San Jose McEnery Convention Center. FanimeCon is an anime convention “by fans, for fans”. I’ve been attending this anime convention since 2011, and I do intend to attend it annually as long as I’m able to, as it is one of my favorite cons around.

For all of my photos taken at the con, please check out my Flickr set FanimeCon 2019.


Day 1 – May 24th

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Day 1 started with me waking up at around 7am, a time I’ve been used to waking up to due to work. I aimed to get to the con by 10am, and since it takes about an hour to drive down to San Jose I planned to leave SF no later than 9am. I had all my stuff ready to go the night before, so after a quick bite to eat and putting everything in my car, I set off.

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Parking in the area has always been a thing of concern for me, since I commute back and forth everyday to the con than staying at a hotel. I had heard that San Jose State University’s parking was either cheap (or free from what I heard on FanimeCon’s Unofficial FB Page). Turns out that information was right as I was able to park without needing to pay, confirmed by some garage staff who I asked. Since SJSU was only a few blocks away from the con, it was definitely a good option to park at than paying $20 for parking at the convention center’s parking garage as I did last year.

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As usual, picking up my pre-reg badge took no time at all. No lines meant that in less than 3 min from entering the line area, I had my badge and con bag in hand and was already ready to go. As it was still fairly early on the first day, I walked around the con to scout the area. The only major area that’s open in the con at this time was the Gaming Hall, the Dealers Hall and Artist Alley don’t open until 2pm. And since not much changes year to year, it’s more so to kill time until Opening Ceremonies that happens at 2pm.

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After the ceremony concluded, I checked out the Dealer’s Hall. Besides the usual vendors of anime merchandise, towards the back were some food vendors. We had Okamoto Kitchen, Wild Bill’s Old Fashioned Soda Pop, and Psycho Donuts, a local specialty donuts shop. There was also Hirotako Co., a Takoyaki stand who also seemed to operate the neighboring Giant Baby Bottle, where they were selling 1 gallon sized baby bottles filled with organic fruit drinks that you could get unlimited refills for for $30. I saw that they lowered their price later on in the weekend to $25 because sales were probably slow.

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Most of the day I was either scouting around for photo taking, or taking a break at the anime viewing rooms. I picked up dinner at Okamoto Kitchen as I had a dollar off coupon for them. I didn’t know how much their bentos were until I got to the cashier. For about $15 you get this, which wasn’t too bad but the size is quite small.

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When things started to die down I called it for the day and went back to my car, which to my excitement seemed to duplicate itself, with someone else parking their same model same color car next to mine, complete with stickers and plushies. I left the con just prior to 6:30pm to get home and rest for the next day, knowing that it will be much more busier.

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Day 2 – May 25th

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For Day 2, I had a friend riding with me to Fanime. We arrived at the con area at around 10am. The plan for parking was to park at a garage located at the Peggy Sue’s Diner, as they had free parking with validation during the weekend. Unlike last year where (I thought) the garage was blocked by a running event called The Color Run, it didn’t seem to happen this year so parking there was easy. In case that the running event did take place, I found out that there are multiple entrances/exits to that garage that I could use, but luckily I didn’t need to go to those this time. We ate breakfast at Peggy Sue’s Diner and afterwards headed to the con.

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On the schedule only a couple of things piqued my interest, which were all cosplay gatherings. Those gatherings were the Azur Lane/Kantai Collection and the All Isekai Series groups. Talking about the cosplay gatherings this year, there was a lot that I didn’t recognize or think would have a lot of people to have a gathering. I was also surprised that series that usually has many cosplayers such as Sword Art Online was not even present as a gathering. It’s not like the series is not active, as we have Alicization that recently aired with its second part happening in the Fall. To be fair SAO cosplayers were very few this year, but maybe that’s because there was no gathering. Or maybe it’s because it’s the other way around. I don’t know, maybe I’m starting to get out of touch with the younger anime community, despite not really feeling old myself.

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Besides the gatherings, there wasn’t much I was planning to go to. Last year I went to MusicFest because they had a musical artist that I recognized, but not this year. I circled the front for shots of cosplayers of all kinds.

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Later in the day though I met up with my friend who was with one of his cosplaying friends. We had dinner together and afterwards accompanied them to a short photo-shoot (Not mine, I didn’t take any shots). After seeing her off, we left for home.

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Day 3 – May 26th

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Today my car was filled up by two more friends coming along for a total of four of us going to Fanime. The weather forecast for today had me worried because it looked like it would rain all day. It didn’t help that the commute to San Jose had on and off strong showers. After a bit of traffic, we arrived at the con area and parked at the usual place next to Peggy Sue’s for breakfast.

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Afterwards we split off to do our own things. I challenged myself today by not going upstairs (to the badged area), as most of the cosplay was either in the lobby or just outside the entrance. Because of the on/off rain, you could tell that there was a little less people around today. At least it wasn’t raining strongly or consistently. At one point I thought that the rain had stopped for good, but we got sprinkles every so often. I still was able to get some decent shots.

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We had already decided on where we were going to dinner, Kura Sushi in Cupertino. Because wait times there are usually very long, we put our names on the list at around 5pm, with a wait time of approximately 2 hours. (Kura Sushi has an app that you can use to put your name on the list, very useful.) At around 6pm we left Fanime for the restaurant, which was about a 15 min drive away. When we got there, we still had to wait about another hour until we were called. Overall it didn’t really feel that long to wait, compared to the wait time of approximately 3 hours that we saw at the restaurant if you put your name on the list at that time. I don’t think you could even get in if you did so as the place closed at 10:30pm. (It was 7:30pm when we were called.)

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The food was good, especially with great company. I think my friends are getting used to how I operate at anime conventions. Usually I feel obliged to show them around, but I guess the combination of them being at Fanime before and knowing that I do my own thing allowed us to enjoy doing what we want to do without having to worry about each other. They are casual anime fans at best, while I’m more into the “Otaku” level anime fan. Allowing us to enjoy the convention at our own paces I think is best for everyone.

Day 4 – May 27th

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The last day I went to Fanime solo. I didn’t know where cheap parking would be on Memorial Day, so I parked where I did last year, at the outdoor parking lot adjacent to the convention center. Surprisingly, the fee was $15 rather than $10 that I paid the same time same place last year.

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Upon arriving at Fanime at 10am, you can tell that the energy has died down. There wasn’t many people around, most of them in the Dealers Hall getting their last minute shopping done, me included. I also figured that people were also getting ready to check out of their hotel rooms by 12pm, so probably afterwards I’d see more people after that.

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Sure enough after noon the crowds started to come back. Oddly enough I felt that the protesters was helping in adding energy to the con goers, even if it was in a negative way (sort of). I was able to take a few decent shots of cosplayers before getting in line for Closing Ceremonies that was to start at 3pm. The theme for next year’s con was announced, which is food. I left for home afterwards at around 4pm. The next time I’ll be here will be for Crunchyroll Expo 2019 in late August/early September.

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Afterwords and Overall Thoughts

With FanimeCon 2019 being my 9th year attending the event, it seemed to come and go like the wind. Everything went more or less according to plan with no major hiccups. As such it was enjoyable to a certain extent, helped by the presence of my friends who came along with me on Day 2 and Day 3.

With that said, I’m starting to feel my age. As mentioned, I didn’t really recognize a lot of cosplay gatherings this year, and I feel that those groups are some sort of indication of what’s currently popular. I really started getting into anime probably around 2010, and with next year being the tenth year foe me attending FanimeCon, I feel that changes for me are necessary to move forward in life. Don’t get me wrong, I love this community and media, but just like a lot of people would say as they get older, things never stay the same. I’m reaching that point in life where I’m asking myself the big questions. I think Uncle Iroh from ATLA asked it best: “Who are you? And what do you want?” While this question is no easily answered, it doesn’t mean I have no idea what I want. At the very least I plan to work more behind the scenes at events like this, like staffing and such. I enjoyed doing work like that when I worked at anime conventions such as Animation on Display and Anime Expo. Besides being compensated, I felt I was also gaining new work experience which is valuable to me to apply to future work. It should also help with networking, which will allow for even more hopeful opportunities.

I’ll be at FanimeCon 2020, but I’m seriously thinking about applying for staff, or at the very least volunteer. Taking photos of the con is still something I’d like to do, but because things seem to stay the same year to year I want to do something different. I take my photos in a event photography style, to tell a story through chronological photos. To share my personal experience online to others who are not able to attend. I was motivated to do this back when Danny Choo was blogging regularly about his life in Japan, and I still do it to this day, at least when it comes to events and trips. I’d like to tell a new story, this time from working the con than just being an attendee.

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Crunchyroll Expo 2018 September 7, 2018

Posted by coolmikeol in Events, Otaku.
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I went to Crunchyroll Expo 2018 (CRX), Crunchyroll’s second year running the anime industry-focused convention, which took place on September 1st through 3rd at the San Jose Convention Center.

Unlike last year this time I went on my own, but just like last year I only went for the first two days as there wan’t much on the schedule that interested me enough for me to go back on the 3rd day.

For all my photos taken from Crunchyroll Expo 2018, please check out my Flickr set Crunchyroll Expo 2018.


Day 1 – Saturday, September 1st

I woke up at around 7am, which was normal for me as I’m used to waking up at that time due to getting ready for work on weekdays at that time. I planned to get to the con area by around 10am, so I got my stuff together, and left to drive down just past 9am. Because it was the weekend, I knew where I could get free parking with validation during the two days. There’s a diner I always go to called Peggy Sue’s that’s a block away from the convention center. If you eat there and spend at least $5 you can get your parking validated which can save you $10. For a breakfast that also counts as my lunch for just a little over $7, plus free parking, I think that’s a deal.

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Upon arriving at the convention center, you can see that the front was fully decked out in Crunchyroll colors and mascots. You could also see a bunch of security around, as well as lines from the front entrance. This is what I observed in comparison to when I come to this convention center for FanimeCon. I’ll probably be comparing CRX to Fanime every so often in this post, but in general they both are their own events, with their own vibes.

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After taking the first shots of the con from across the street, it was time to get inside. I already had my badge courtesy of CRX mailing theirs out to people who order theirs before a certain date. The only thing standing in my way of going in was a security checkpoint. This was a straight-up airport like security, with a bunch of security guards and metal detectors. It may sound like a lot, but honestly it wasn’t too bad. I didn’t have any bags on me whenever I went through these, just a couple cameras, my phone, badge, and coins. At least I didn’t have to remove my wallet, belt, or shoes, but I’d imagine if you were a cosplayer, getting through would take longer, especially if you had metal in your costume. After the security, you just needed to tap your badge to the Persona5/Cells at Work readers and you were in.

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The first thing you would notice in the main lobby was the giant “Welcome to CRX 2018!” sign alongside Crunchyroll Hime and cat. At the center of the lobby were the program guides and daily schedule, as well as Fate/Grand Order lanyards. Just beyond the lobby was an open area for photo ops, as well as the info booth. Going up to the second floor, there was a DJ playing primarily anime music at the balcony overlooking the convention lobby. There was a sign on the table which read “Song Requests”. Naturally I went up and added a song to the list, which was “GravityWall”, which was the first opening song for the anime Re:Creators. To my surprise, not long after I put it on the list did the DJ play it, albeit in a faster manner probably to match his music mix. I was happy none the less that a song from an anime I feel is relatively underrated was played for a large amount of anime fans at an anime convention.

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The main attraction on the second floor was the Exhibit Hall/Artist Alley which was all located in the same giant room. I liked that there was carpeting in the Exhibit Hall side, as it was pleasant for everyone walking around. Not just by its look, but also because it softened the impact for our feet as well. Notice I mentioned the Exhibit Hall side; the same was not true for the Artist Alley side which just had the cement floor. Not much of a big deal, but something I noticed none the less. The room was very big as it was a combination of the Dealers Hall and Gaming room of Fanime. Besides the Exhibit Hall and Artist Alley, the room also contained the arcade and autograph lines. The autograph line area was fine, but the arcade was really small, with only one way in and out. I feel that they should of used one of the other small rooms on the same floor of the convention center for the arcade instead. There would have been more room, for either people moving about or for more games or both.

The other rooms on the second floor was the Cosplay Repair, Manga Library, Quiet Room, Fulfillment Center (for getting CRX merchandise and/or stuff for being a Crunchyroll premium member), four panel rooms, and the Main Stage. I felt that the Quiet Room was unnecessary especially this year as there wasn’t too many people here this year, as well as there being a lot of space for people to rest on the side in general. (That room was probably a good room for the arcade, size wise maybe.)

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The planned to attend the Opening Ceremonies which was to start at 11:30am. After my brief touring of the con I headed to the Main Stage which was located in the area where Artist Alley is at Fanime. I liked how the stage looked, reminding me of how Anime Expo has their main stage usually set up. The ceremony started pretty much on time, and started with a video about how Crunchyroll aims to bring together people of all kinds, as a kind of advertising for inclusion. After that and a few cringy Crunchyroll shameless adverting later, the ribbon was cut and the con was officially open.

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At this point it was about noontime and I decided to walk around to see whatever else there was to do. I went to the Fulfillment Center and got some pins, as well as a DragonBall drawstring bag and additional mystery pin. (The drawstring bags and mystery pins were the same ones that I was helping Crunchyroll give away at Anime Expo this year.) I went back into the Exhibit Hall and did a more through look at whatever drew my interest, but didn’t buy anything. Shortly afterwards, I headed back to my car to take a break.

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I saw on the schedule that there was a premiere for the English Dub of an anime movie called Maquia at 5pm. I originally was going to leave early if I felt I was done for the day, but this peaked my interest enough to go watch it. I didn’t know anything about the movie, but I did remember seeing it before I think at Anime Expo being advertised. Before they started the film, the presenters of the movie mentioned something along the lines of “tissues not provided”, basically saying that it was going to be a sad one. On the schedule, it was noted that this film was by Mari Okada, and she has worked on a number of notable shows I recognized such as AnoHana (I have not watched this yet), Nagi no Asukara, Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans, and Toradora!

I’m so glad I decided to watch this movie, which is called Sayonara no Asa ni Yakusoku no Hana wo Kazarou, or by its English name Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms. Everything about the movie was great: The visuals, the music, the voice acting, the raw emotion. I could relate to the emotions the characters were experiencing, which made it such a compelling film. I teared up multiple times, but I tried to them back as I was in a room full of other people. Probably if I was watching the movie on my own I’d let the emotions flow through me to truly enjoy those moments from the film the way it was made to. I’m not going to spoil the film for you, so just trust me that you should watch this film if you enjoy a good sad anime movie. I also want to watch this movie in Japanese as well (English Subbed), as the English Dub did really well too (though there may have been some direct translation issues in terms of context). The English Dub will be coming to certain US theaters later this month, and I do plan to watch it with friends that haven’t watched it yet. Luckily it will be showing in my city, so I just have to watch out for the tickets when they start selling it. I may even try to buy the DVD/Blu-Ray of it, and I don’t even buy the physical copies of my favorite anime. That’s how much this movie impressed me.

After the movie ended, we were given a poster of the movie, which I actually have framed. I headed home on a good note, and prepared for the next day ahead.

 

Day 2 – Sunday, September 2nd

Morning of the second day started just like the first, though I didn’t feel the need to rush as much as the first thing I wanted to check out started at 11:45am. I figured that I’d aim to get to San Jose by 10:30am so that I could get breakfast from Peggy Sue’s again for parking validation, and get to the convention by around 11am. Everything went according to plan, and by around 11:20am I started to scout the line for the next event I wanted to check out. We were able to enter the room early enough for me to get a decent seat for the viewing.

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This was another anime movie premiere that I briefly heard about that sounded interesting enough for me: Penguin Highway. I only heard about it at the opening ceremony, but at the time I didn’t really pay much attention to it. Probably what got me to check it out was that there wasn’t much else to do besides it at CRX at the time, and a movie about penguins sounded like it was going to be a funny kind of movie. While waiting for the movie to start, I looked into the movie a bit on my phone, though not going further than a synopsis about a young boy figuring out the mystery of the woman who could summon penguins. I can tell that most people in the room didn’t know what to expect; the people behind me were joking around saying that the movie will probably be a funny one or a straight up serious one, either way they’d enjoy it. I honestly didn’t know what to expect, but I thought of it as a good thing, as I enjoy being surprised when watching a good film.

Penguin Highway was a funny, entertaining flick with some supernatural elements. I’m not going to spoil the movie so I won’t say much, but it was another enjoyable film that added another highlight to my CRX 2018 experience. It was quite a long movie, nearly two hours, but it was a fun ride. The room we were in (which was the big main stage room) was nearly full when I looked around towards the end of the movie, so you can tell that audience retention was there. This is another anime movie I’d like to share with my friends and family, so if I ever get the chance to show it to them I would.

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After watching Penguin Highway, I went back to my car to take a lunch break and afterwards returned to wander the con before the last event I wanted to see, which was a showing of the anime film Fireworks at 5:45pm. I already heard of Fireworks, first time was from some con friends who were going to watch it around the time of Anime Expo. I also saw the music video on YouTube which is probably where a lot of people first got a glimpse of it and wanted to see the movie version. I did hear that it wasn’t that great a film, but since this showing was part of CRX I thought to myself “Why not?” The rumors about it not being great were pretty much true. There was a few things that bugged me throughout the movie, but it was still watchable none the less. I wished that Fireworks was not the last thing I’d see/do at CRX because of its mediocrity, but that’s exactly how my CRX 2018 con experience ended. Before I left the area, I took a few photos of the con as the sun set for both the second day and my last anime con of the year.

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When Crunchyroll Expo announced that they would be at the San Jose Convention Center this year, it was something that many of us were interested in. Because of how much the SJCC is known as the home of the FanimeCon (Even one of the hosts of the CRX Opening Ceremony mentioned that it felt like Fanime 2), it would be an interesting experience going to another anime convention there that wasn’t Fanime. Even if we were all familiar with the area, the layout and conduct of everything would be alien. For example, CRX seemed to be limited to just strictly the convention center. I don’t recall seeing the connecting hotels being used like how Fanime uses them for panel rooms and the like. Security has been improving at the SJCC over the year, though they were in full force at CRX with their metal detectors and guards lining the entirely of all entrances into the convention center. That is one thing that I don’t think Fanime will force upon its attendees, similar full security checkpoints, unless more tragic events happen at similar venues that force safety over convenience. I like being able to go in and out with relative ease, especially when cosplay photo ops are quick to miss.

What was surprising was that I thought at first that I’d be feeling Fanime vibes from this con, because of how we’re used to the SJCC being Fanime, but it felt quite different in a good way. I already mentioned how the Exhibit Hall was, and it felt more professional than Fanime’s or other similar cons. The vast open spaces of the con had some seating placed more so for decoration in my opinion, which again looked something more from an exhibition than a fan con. The main stage room impressed me with its look, comparable with Anime Expo’s main stage setup. I guess the biggest kicker in this was that there was a lot less people than Fanime, which at first made it feel dead at times, but at the same time made it easier and overall enjoyable to not deal with massive waves of people blocking walkways and the like.

CRX also had an smartphone app, similar to what Anime Expo has where you could access con info like schedules, maps and the like. I do like the idea of conventions giving us the convenience of having everything we need to know in an app. I downloaded it ion the first day and it worked great…. for maybe a few hours before it crashed and never booted again. I tried to update it and stuff but it would always immediately crash upon loading up. At least there was plenty of paper schedules, but the point is that they should have stress tested it before using it at con. I do believe that CRX is aware of this issue and will fix it in their future events.

Overall I enjoyed my short experience at CRX 2018. It’s a shame that I didn’t take photos of cosplay during this con like I would Fanime, but because of difficulty of going in and out of con at will, as well as my focus of the new venue location, it was partly expected on my behalf. Normally I’d be bummed out that I didn’t take a lot of photos, but these days I’m also trying to balance my own enjoyment of the event as well, which is best experienced when not trying to photograph/record it. I also spent very little at this con, probably the least out of all I’ve ever went to. Not counting the cost of the badge which I bought months ago, I spent no more than $15, none of which was actually spent at con. All of my costs went towards food which was my all day meal, with the perks of also having free daily parking during the weekend. I got a bunch of freebie stuff, like lanyards, pins, and posters so it’s not like I got nothing material from the con. I’d be interested in going to Crunchyroll Expo again, as I do see it learning and improving in the years to come.

Anime Expo 2018 July 15, 2018

Posted by coolmikeol in Events, Otaku.
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Unlike last year, my friends and I planned to go to Anime Expo 2018 pretty early on, around Fall of last year. I don’t remember the exact reasons we decided to plan the trip, but I think it was a combination of me retelling my positive Anime Expo 2017 experience, with the wanting of returning to LA.

We reserved our plane tickets and I bought my AX badge on Black Friday to save money, and what was going to be new and different was that our badges would be mailed to us, something that wasn’t possible before. I think this was in response to how bad lines were last year for people picking up their badges, waiting outside for hours. I got mine in the mail a couple months before the event.

I was hoping to work for Crunchyroll again at AX, and sure enough the E-mail came around asking for people who could. I responded as soon as I got the message, which was right around the time of FanimeCon. Because of my positive experience from last year, and the financial benefits that come with, I felt that this is the way that I can enjoy Anime Expo, both from the inside and out.

For all of my photos from my Anime Expo 2018 trip, please visit my Flickr set Anime Expo 2018.


Day 1 – Thursday, July 5th

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I woke up really early, at around 2am to start to get ready for a busy day. Our flight from SFO to LAX was departing at 6:45am, so I planned to get there about two hours before. After picking up my two friends to meet at my place, we took Uber to the airport and went through security without problems. We boarded with others who were obviously also going to AX, and arrived at LAX early. From there we picked up another Uber from LAX to our hotel where we were able to check in quite early, before 10am to my surprise. Check in time was 3pm, but I know that in some cases if the room is ready we can already do so. It was good that we were able to get our room early because I wouldn’t be able to come back until night because my shift for Crunchyroll was from 1:30pm to 6pm, and I would of had to ask my friends to take care of my stuff during the time we didn’t have the room. We ate breakfast at the neighboring Westin Bonaventure hotel before taking the shuttle over to the convention center.

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Talking about working for Crunchyroll, everything was going smoothly for that, except for my Exhibitor badge pickup. My Crunchyroll contact was giving them out before I could arrive at the venue, so I quickly contacted him once I landed at LAX, asking for arrangements to pick mine up later. Since I did have my standard 4-Day badge, I could at least use it to go into the convention center before my shift started, to quickly check out what’s going on.

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Getting into AX was not as bad as it probably was for standard attendees last year. The security lines were not too bad, only waiting a few minutes to get to the doors where con staff quickly checked bags and had you tap your badge to a reader. Once inside, you can easily tell that the crowds were already quite bad. For example, getting into the Entertainment Hall took maybe 10 minutes to get into, but the line looked more intimidating than I explained. Most of the time it was hard just finding the end of one, because sometimes it continued outside. After checking out what I could, I picked up my badge from my Crunchyroll contact, and shortly after started my shift at the Crunchyroll station near the Entertainment Hall.

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My role at the Crunchyroll station was to give out anime themed drawstring bags and a mystery pin to premium Crunchyroll and VRV members. Because my shift started during midday, I pretty much had to hit the ground running. I made a few mistakes during my first day, but I was able to adjust and adapt accordingly. Thanks to my years of customer service experience, the task that was set up for me at the Crunchyroll station was going to be simple in the extreme.

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After my shift ended at 6pm, I met up with my friends for dinner and went to a custom burger place called The Counter, a place I didn’t go with them the last time a few years ago when I was busy at AX. Afterwards we stopped by a nearby Target to buy a case of waters for the weekend, and walked back to the hotel to call it the first night.

Day 2 – Friday, July 6th

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After a refreshing 6 to 7 hour sleep, it was time to get ready for the second day. For today and tomorrow, I had a 10am-2pm shift back at the Crunchyroll station, so I planned to get back to the convention center by around 9:30am, early but to be on time. The lines for getting into AX were much more longer than yesterday. Even the priority entrance for con staff, guests, and the like was long and in the hot sun. I was able to get in at around 9:30pm as planned, but that didn’t give me a lot of time to explore beforehand. I quickly went over to the Dealers Hall to check out the crowds of people waiting to get inside, as well as do a quick walk inside the hall before the mass of them storm the place. As the Dealers Hall opened about 10 minutes before 10am, I made my way back out towards the west hall for my Crunchyroll work.

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After my shift, which during I was able to get a bite of Subway to eat courtesy of my temporary employer, I headed to the JW Marriott for the Liz and the Blue Bird movie premiere that my friends were already at. Because it was to start at 3pm, I knew that the lines would be already long. When I was finally able to get to the line it was pretty massive. I talked with my friend a bit who was in line and initially decided that it was too long for me and that I didn’t want to risk waiting for something that I could potentially get barred from due to room capacity limits. As I walked away, I was at unsure if I really didn’t want to try and watch the movie. The line kept getting longer as I watched from above, and eventually changed my mind and planted myself into the line. I guess my uncertainty came from my experience of trying to watch an anime movie premiere last year at this exact room, only to be turned away when the room maxed out capacity. After a bit of waiting, the line started to enter the room. I started getting antsy the closer I got to the doors. At one point, we stopped moving for a decent amount of time, which worried me because a lot of people had already entered. Luckily the line moved forward and I was able to get in, even getting a seat with my friends who saved me a seat near the mid right area. I was glad that I decided to try again for this premiere, as I had found out only before the start of the movie that Liz and the Blue Bird was based on the Hibike! Euphonium series, specifically it takes place after the events of the second season of the anime and focuses on Nozomi Kasaki and Mizore Yoroizuka. The movie already came out in Japan, but will be in US theaters sometime in the fall. I might rewatch it again with friends as the quality wasn’t as great sound or viewing wise.

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Afterwards, my friend and I headed to the Trigger panel which had a line that was outside, but at least covered somewhat from the sun. My main plan was to see the SSSS.Gridman anime premiere made by Trigger, which was to happen right after the panel. I read that the room would not be cleared after the panel so I figured the best bet for having a seat was to sit through the Trigger panel which I didn’t mind seeing. There was still plenty of seats around when we got in, so we got a couple with minimal blockage from people in front. Even though the panel went on for a couple of hours, it was fun seeing the projects that they were working on, and getting sneak previews of them as well.

The SSSS.Gridman premiere was pretty cool. Trigger took the concept from the original Gridman tokusatsu series and created a brand new anime series based on it. The first episode can only be described as a classic scene from a tokusatsu series, a giant robot fighting a giant monster (kaiju). I’m looking forward to watching it when it officially airs in the Fall.

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We were going to meet some friends for dinner, so to wait the time out for when they were done with AX, we played some board games. Afterwards we got a Lyft and headed to Koreatown for a KBBQ dinner. However upon arriving at our destination, we saw that a blackout had hit the area. We looked for an alternative place to eat and took another ride over to it. The back up place we went to was called Quarters Korean BBQ, and the wait was about an hour. It was pretty late too, but the area was really busy with people. My friend and I decided to walk around for a bit to kill some time and check out what was in the area. Most of the places was closed because it was late, but we did stop by a 7/11 to grab a drink, as it was still like 90 something degrees out. By the time we got back to the restaurant, the wait time was only about 15 more minutes. During this time I had found out from family that a fire broke out in Goleta, CA, near UCSB where my sister was attending for summer quarter. I looked into it and the situation wasn’t too bad, so I kept it in the back of my mind.

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This place was really nice. There was options for which level of KBBQ you wanted, as in how much food you wanted. We went with the most expensive one I saw, about $30 per person, which is about standard for these kinds of places. What was great about this place was that the server also cooked your food for you as well. She was very fast and efficient, cooking not only for our table but for a few others as well. All of the meats were good, especially with the sauces and such.

We got back to our hotel before 1am and I promptly went to bed with a full stomach and another busy day ahead.

Day 3 – Saturday, July 7th

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Today started almost like yesterday, but I wanted to get to the convention center even earlier. My friend wanted to get something at the VIZ Media booth, but the lines were pretty long during open hours. I used my Exhibitor powers to go into the Dealers Hall early to get what he wanted to get for him. VIZ wasn’t selling anything when I got to them at just past 9am, so I decided to use the time I had to explore the Dealers Hall more. I realized that during the entire time at AX I’ve spent barely any time in here, which is usually one of the main attractions of anime conventions in general. At the same time, there wasn’t much things I wanted to buy as I was saving money for something even better in the future. By 9:30am I decided to get in line at the VIZ booth, and about 20 minutes later I was able to get what my friend wanted from the booth. I headed back to the Crunchyroll station at the West Hall for my final day of work with them for AX 2018.

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The only plan I had for after my shift was dinner with my LA acquaintances at around 6pm, so I decided to use the last few hours that I’d be at AX to check out the Dealers Hall and Entertainment Hall one last time. The reason I say last few hours is because our flight back home on the next day was leaving relatively early, so we wouldn’t be able to go back to AX on the last day of the event. Also I figured that once I left the area for dinner, I was going to head back to the hotel from there afterwards as I figure it was going to be lateish.

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While wandering the Dealers Hall, I met up with my friends. During this time, I got a message from my other group I was going to have dinner with. Apparently things happened which caused a couple of them to have to drop out last minute. It was at that point that it was probably best for me to drop out as well. I didn’t know them all that well, and the person who dropped out was the person who invited me in the first place. I felt that it would have been awkward to try and have dinner with them when I barely know them. I just told them that something came up on my end as well and left it at that.

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Because that cleared up my schedule for the rest of the night, my friends and I decided to try and check out the Cowboy Bebop 20th Anniversary event which was to start at 8pm at Lounge 21. We had a few hours to kill before that, so we headed back to the tabletop gaming area to play some. After enjoying a couple of games of DC Comics Deck-building Game, we went to check out the line for the Cowboy Bebop event, which we found out was really long and wasn’t moving all that much. Nearby was the Beer Garden so we grabbed a couple drinks from there to pass more time. By 9pm though it became clear that it wasn’t worth waiting anymore for it, and grabbed a Lyft for dinner. We went back to Koreatown for a cheaper KBBQ place. It was still pretty good; not a long wait, cheaper prices, but we had to cook it ourselves. Another quick ride back to our hotel called it for the night, as well as our Anime Expo trip.

Day 4 -Sunday, July 8th

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Upon waking and preparing to leave the hotel, we went out to get a quick breakfast back at the Westin. After returning back to our room and checking that everything was packed up and ready to go, we proceeded to check out at around 10am. Our flight was scheduled to leave at 1pm, so our target time to get to the airport was 11am. We took an Uber back to LAX, which took a while due to a detour and heavy traffic getting to our terminal. We got though security and to our gate with time to spare.

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I noticed that my plane ticket did not have a seat assigned, just reading “assigned at gate”. I figured that meant exactly that, that I’d have to talk to the people working at the gate for a seat arrangement. While waiting for boarding to start, I heard an announcement from our gate mentioning that because the flight was overbooked that they were offering $600 gift cards for anyone who volunteered. I thought that was a nice offer, but I didn’t think about it too much. As I looked at my ticket though, I decided to go up to the gate to ask about my seat. They told me that I did have a seat and that they would call me closer to the time of boarding for further information. After telling my friends about the situation, I figured that meant that I would probably be one of the last ones to board seeing as I didn’t have an assigned seat yet. I joked around about the offer the airline was mentioning, me saying that if they offered $1,000 that I might take it. For a flight that cost me only $50 each way, it would be worth it to take that kind of offer. Not long later was I called back up and was given my ticket with an assigned seat. Apparently I was sitting in row 15 of the plane, while my friends had seats in the mid 20s rows. Boarding started with priority people and so we went to line up with the others in the other groups. My friends were in group E, but there was only signs for groups A, B, and C. I assumed that meant that group C and above were treated the same. I was looking at my ticket to see what group I was part of, but I couldn’t find it on my ticket. During the last calls for priority boarding, I noticed that my ticket had the word “Sky” on it next to my seat number, as well as the priority line actually being called “Sky Priority”. I wandered up to the front of the line and low and behold I was part of priority boarding. I took my seat which was an aisle one this time as opposed to the window seat I had while coming to LAX, and waited to see my friends pass by, which when they did they had that jokingly jealous grin on their faces.

After a quick and smooth flight back to SFO, I called up my family to pick us up. It took them a while to come, but when they did they missed the turnoff for where we were waiting at and tried to cross multiple lanes of traffic to get to the side we were at. I knew that they were going to be in the way, so I tried telling them to go around again, but a security officer saw us and let us board where we were, on the grounds that he didn’t want us blocking traffic again. We left the airport without much to say and arrived home, happy but exhausted.


Overall Thoughts and Conclusion

This trip went very smoothly and was fun with the company I had during it. For me, having friends around during anime conventions tends to drag me down more than lift me up, but during this particular trip, it seemed to convince me otherwise. I think it’s because usually during these kinds of events, I’m absorbed in my own goals for the event. Taking lots of quality photos, seeing guests of honor, and going to panels and premieres, all of that was usually my priority above everything else for me to feel satisfied about the convention. But just like last year, because I was working for Crunchyroll, that became my priority, and because of it meant that I could not do what I used to do in previous years at AX. And while that may sound like a bad thing, that I couldn’t do what I used to do in the past, in retrospect I think it’s for the best. It’s allowed me to focus on enjoying the event itself rather than try and make it enjoyable for others besides myself. My primary objectives at anime conventions has mainly been to share an overall experience to people online, to allow them to see and feel through my thorough day-to-day diary like posts here on my blog Topic “Otaku”, as well as from the pictures I upload onto my Flickr. Of course there are many people like me who attend and report their experiences as well, but my story will always be unique to me. Maybe it’s me getting older and I’m seeing things from a different perspective, new generations rise and trends and interests change. I guess what I want in the future is to become a part of the industry that has had such a big influence on me for so many years, rather than just be another consumer in the crowds of people waiting in line for hours on end. I’ve always been someone who likes to work the back lines, whether that be post production video editing, or playing a support in Overwatch. If that is my path forward, I would not mind following it, even if it is something that pulls me out of my comfort zone of easy retail jobs near home.