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Crunchyroll Expo 2019 September 8, 2019

Posted by coolmikeol in Events.
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Taking place on August 30th through September 1st at the San Jose Convention Center, Crunchyroll Expo (CRX) brings anime fans together for three days of exhibits, screenings, panels, premieres, and guest appearances by some of the biggest personalities in the US and Japan. I went with friends all three days for this third annual event.

CRX made a lot of announcements that interested me in the weeks prior to the con, so my schedule was quite packed when compared to other anime conventions I’ve attended. There were some consecutive days of announcements that made me excited for this year’s CRX. Most of them were premieres for future anime series or showings of anime movies, something I remember I enjoyed from last years CRX.

For all my photos taken from Crunchyroll Expo 2019, please check out my Flickr set Crunchyroll Expo 2019.


Day 1 – Friday, August 30th

I got myself up at around 7am to get ready for Day 1. The plan was to leave at around 9am and arrive in the area at around 10am. I had a friend meet up with me and we left on time. I knew that the con wasn’t really open until around 11am so it gave some leeway time to park and explore the area. We got to San Jose at the expected time and parked at SJSU’s parking lot, the cheapest one I knew about in the area ($8 for all day). It’s about a 10 minute walk away from the con and it passes some restaurants and the like.

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We arrived at the con at about 10:30am, where we could see a large crowd in front of the center. I assumed that they were waiting to enter through security, but wasn’t sure if they were even letting people in yet. I remember from last year that you could also enter through the side entrances so I suggested to try them. On the Hilton side entrance to the convention center, there was no one around besides the people working the security gate. I thought that maybe this was because this was a special entry for staff and the like, but as I approached them to ask it became apparent that it was a normal entrance that no one knew about. We got though no problem, and just after us was some more who followed suit.

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Since most things were still in the process of opening, we decided to check out the Dealers Hall which was accessible (though according to the schedule it wasn’t suppose to open until 11am). This was one of the things that my friend and I was hyped about when first hearing about the “New Crunchy City” theme. I had thought that they were going to do actual multistory booths to simulate a cityscape reminiscent of Tokyo. Maybe that was a little much for me to imagine, but the thought was cool. What they had actually did was put up giant four sided sign that extended from the top of the booths to the ceiling to simulate a tall building-like booth. In the center was an area designed like a street crossing like Shibuya Crossing, complete with the white lines on the floor and itasha cars. This space was shared by the Artist Alley which took up about a third of the room. The Artist Alley wasn’t open at the time so we would return to it later.

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We briefly checked out the Laid-Back Camp area, which was a quiet camp themed room to unwind in. Across from it was the Arcade area which was massively improved from last year. It had its own room with plenty of space and machines, unlike the small corner they used last year. It makes me feel like last year’s arcade was just a afterthought when thinking about how to use that space in the main hall. A couple of rooms next to the camp area was the Junji Ito Gallery which had a line to get in. I suggested to go to it tomorrow as that was when we would have another friend join us. At about 11:30am we split up to do our own thing. I decided to go around a take more pictures of the con before my scheduled events.

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The main events I wanted to attend today were all premieres in the same room, Cinema 1. While I was in line for the first one, I wondered about the room clearing policy, about whether or not they would clear the room after each screening. The staff wasn’t sure about it at first saying that they were basing their rules on what was written, and since apparently this policy wasn’t mentioned they said they weren’t going to clear the room afterwards. Upon entering the room, I was glad that the screen was much larger and in the center unlike last year’s screening room. (For these premieres, I will link their MAL.net page for info about it. I will only give a brief impression about them.) The first was at 1pm of the first episode of an anime series called “Somali and the Forest Spirit“, airing in January 2020 (Winter 2020 anime season). It was alright. I can tell it will be one of those father/daughter relationship shows. I’m definitely interested in the history of the human race’s demise, as I like shows and movies that deal with world catastrophes and the like.

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I stayed in the room after the first screening to wait for the next one at 2pm, so about a half hour wait. This one was called “The Wonderland“, but oddly enough when the title came up in the movie it was actually titled “Birthday Wonderland”. I guess one is the English title and the other is the original title. Why they had to be different I have no idea, as “Birthday Wonderland” makes more sense in terms of what the movie is about, and it’s not as if it’s not in English. This movie starts out slow, but ramps up with fantasy elements that is mostly for laughs. I enjoyed it for what it was, a silly adventure that grows the main character in some way. For all these premieres, I went in them with no expectations or research into what they are beyond their descriptions in the CRX program; in short, I like being surprised. There’s not a lot I hate in terms of anime, but for the genres I don’t have taste for I’ll avoid for the most part (extreme psychological/gore).

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The movie ended at 4pm and I needed a break in between screenings, so I left Cinema 1 for a restroom/food break. I got myself a con food sandwich and returned to Cinema 1 only to find a lot of people lined up in boxes. I guessed that they had changed their mind and start enforcing the room clearing policy. I had found my friend just outside of the line and we tried to figure out where we could wait for the 5pm premiere. After the boxes filled up, everyone was lining up behind box 1. Staff came out later and told us that as the waiting boxes were full there was no overflow line and that we should return later closer to 5pm. We were initially worried that we wouldn’t get in, but to our surprise when we were let in we still got good seats despite not being in the front part of the lines.

The 5pm premiere was for the anime movie BLACKFOX. Crunchyroll had released a trailer and 7min teaser on YouTube which I felt helped to grow interest in this premiere, hence the large amount of people attending. I thought that it had its moments, mainly in its action scenes and fight choreography. However I felt that the animation, especially in the background elements were its weakest parts. I also felt that this movie would of probably worked better as a anime series instead as the movie had obvious breaks in it.

After the movie we called it for the day and went back home to rest for the next.

 

Day 2 – Saturday, August 31st

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For Day 2, we left earlier at around 8:30am as we wanted to give ourselves time to eat breakfast at Peggy Sue’s (and get parking validation) before heading over to the con. We got to CRX just past 10am and went to the Junji Ito Gallery which we waited a few minutes to get in. We were allowed to take photos so here’s a few of what was there. Junji Ito was a very popular guest at CRX this year, and while my two other friends who came with me are fans of his work, I’m just not into his works’ genre. We only stayed in there for about 10 minutes before heading out.

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There was a couple of panels I wanted to check out at around 11am, so we split up and went off to do our own things. The first panel I wanted to check out was “So, You Want to Work for Crunchyroll”. I didn’t think there would be that many people going to it, but to my surprise it was a full house. There was even people sitting on the floor and in the doorway. I couldn’t hear anything from the entrance so I gave up and went up to see the Crunchyroll Industry Panel. Most of this panel was advertising their games and anime and the like. I didn’t stay long in this panel either and decided to wander the con until the next scheduled event that I wanted to see which was a 1pm premiere.

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The first premiere of the day for me was “Didn’t I Say to Make My Abilities Average in the Next Life?!” Yes it’s a long title and yes it is an Isekai (Other world anime). I was expecting some cutesy slice-of-life anime, and for the most part it probably will be. However what drew my attention was the humor, as this show seems to be a making fun at the Isekai genre, a parody if you will. It will be airing this October so I’ll be watching out for it.

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After the premiere I briefly met up with my friends again and we went to the the Dealers Hall for a lottery drawing for a chance to win prizes. Of course we didn’t win, but I wonder if a lot of people who got the tickets even came back. Crunchyroll was giving the tickets with free drawstring bags like they have given away at their previous events, and with everything else going on at the con I could imagine forgetting to return for the drawing. Since I still had time before the next thing I wanted to go to I headed back to my car to drop off some stuff and eat my leftover from breakfast.

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The final premiere I went to was Ep. 1-2 of “In/Spectre” This premiere was something that I was thinking I would skip if necessary for time as I wasn’t too interested in its premise. It turned out to be a decent show but quite dialogue heavy due to one of the character’s professions. I’ll probably watch this one when it officially begins in the Winter Anime Season.

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Afterwards I met up with my friends and we went out to dinner at the KBBQ/hot pot restaurant Q-Pot. You can tell a few people from con was also here as well, some in partial cosplay or with their badges still on. We had to wait a little over an hour for our table but it’s always worth it. Good food with great company goes a long way for a enjoyable weekend.

Day 3 – Sunday, September 1st

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Originally we were going to take it easy for the last day and come later than we have been for the first two days, but there was some stuff that my friends wanted to check out in the morning. We arrived in San Jose just after 10am and had a quick breakfast bite at the usual place before heading over to the con.

After wandering the Dealers Hall for a bit together, we split off. The first thing I wanted to check out for the day was a premiere at 1pm for Ep. 1 of “Ascendance of a Bookworm“. A while before I expected lines to start forming for this premiere, I checked out the front of Cinema 1. I found out that they had changed their mind again about the room clearing policy for Cinema 1. For the rest of the day they would no longer clear the room after each screening, which meant that I didn’t have to worry so much about being intimidated by large amounts of people grouping up outside the room. Even when Cinema 1 is mostly full there was always some good seats left in the middle as people usually left spaces between themselves and others.

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Since I knew I could come back closer to when the premiere would start, I went over to the Shield Hero panel next door. As I entered I saw MADKID on stage, the performers of both the Opening themes of the anime series. I was able to catch them performing the second OP “FAITH” which was cool. I left shortly after that for the 1pm Cinema 1 premiere.

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I was able to go in right away and get a seat in the middle per usual. As we were waiting for the time to start, I could still hear the Shield Hero panel next door, mainly from people cheering loudly. Close to the end of that panel and start of this premiere, I heard an especially loud cheer which I figured was something along the lines of a second season announcement. This information was confirmed later when I was wandering the Dealers Hall and overheard attendees talking about it. (I also learned later that season 2 and 3 of Shield Hero was announced. I’m thinking though this may mean that each season might be only 12ish episodes long rather than the 25 we got in the first, based on the fact that they were announced at the same time.) The Bookworm premiere was another Isekai type show, about a girl obsessed with books who reincarnates into a world without much books. You can figure out the humor from there, and it will be an anime I’ll watch when it starts in the Fall Anime Season.

I had some time before the next couple viewings I wanted to see at Cinema 1, so I took this time to do some final shopping and finish my breakfast leftovers.

I planned to see the “Sound! Euphonium The Movie – Our Promise: A Brand New Day” which was to start at 4:15pm, but as the room clearing policy was abolished I was afraid that some people would stay in the room after the previous premiering anime series “High School Prodigies Have it Easy Even in Another World” which would start at 3:30pm and end at around 4pm. I originally wasn’t going to see the 3:30pm premiere, but since I had nothing else I planned to do and wanted good seats for the Sound! Euphonium Movie, I decided it was the best course of action. HS Prodigies was the only Isekai premiere at CRX I saw that had blatant fanservice, as well as a unique (but ridiculous in a funny way) premise. The title pretty much sums up what it’s about, and I’ll see more of it when it airs in the Fall Season as well.

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Not as many people coming to watch the Sound! Euphonium Movie as I thought would.

After the HS Prodigies premiere, I was expecting Cinema 1 to be fairly full for the following Sound! Euphonium Movie, however that was not the case. The room wasn’t even half full, unlike every other premiere and/or screening I saw in this room. I wanted to watch the movie as I watched the series, as well as showing my support for the anime studio who worked on it, Kyoto Animation, who was going through bad times due to a recent arson attack about a month and a half ago. Maybe it was because it was close to the end of the con that not many people decided to go to this movie, deciding to do last minute shopping or going to other events going on at the time. Before the movie started there was a group of people who decided to leave, though one of them stayed a bit saying that he wanted to show his support for Kyoto Animation. He did eventually follow suit, but it was probably due to group mentality rather than what he wanted.

This Sound! Euphonium movie takes place during Kumiko’s second year, where she becomes a senpai to the incoming freshman of the Kitauji High School concert band. As usual mostly everything about this movie was fantastic; story, animation, music, etc. It felt like a condensed version of season 1, but with new characters and old characters in different positions. We even had some graduates make a cameo of sorts, which was one the highlights of the movie. I enjoyed this movie not only as an anime film, but also as a work of art by people who might have perished in the KyoAni Fire. Whether that incident will affect future works of Kyoto Animation to the point where we don’t have the subtleties that we see in their works like this one, I’m not sure. But you know, sometimes you miss things once they’re gone, which I hope will not be the case.

As I exited Cinema 1, it was already almost 6pm and the con was already cleaning up. The main areas like the Dealers Hall/Artist Alley was already closed so most people were on the way out. I met up with my friends in the still lively Arcade, and left the con shortly afterwards.

 


Extra thoughts and Conclusion

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Unlike last year where it was their first time at the San Jose Convention Center and I was actively comparing them with FanimeCon, this year I barely even thought about it. I can definitely say that CRX is its own thing now. I’m glad that they ran the con Fri-Sun rather than Sat-Mon, as it gave me a day after to rest up and work on posting stuff from the con before the work week begins for me (Monday is Labor Day). I’m also grateful that this con has good perimeter security, though mainly in presence. There was only one instance I heard of during the con that had me worried for a bit on morning of Day 1, something about restrictions on cameras. I think it got sorted out quickly as I didn’t have any issues with me carrying around my DSLR that day.

Another improvement over last year was the ability to use the CRX app. Last year it was unusable due to it crashing constantly, but this year had no such issues. I was able to use it to plan out my schedule, look up maps, etc.

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Program guide for CRX 2019 as a newspaper.

I definitely enjoyed myself at CRX 2019. I like the effort Crunchyroll did to visually theme the con as a city. The map looking like a big metro station, the Dealers Hall having those building banners, the Artist Alley having low key lighting and plenty of space for artist and attendee alike, etc. There was also a lot of events/premieres that interested me as well, so I didn’t have a lot of down time where I didn’t have much to do. There was also a decent amount of things I bought at this con, mostly just apparel and stuff from series I follow, probably spending about $75 or so, not including food and the like. Of course there are a few things that I hope will improve in the future, like line management for the premieres and autograph ticket options.

Overall I feel that CRX is moving in the right direction, and it definitely has potential to rival similar anime industry cons like Anime Expo. Crunchyroll Expo is quickly becoming one of my favorite anime conventions, namely for its home in Northern California (my home), power to bring Industry level guests and vendors, and lack of crowding. I also think that because CRX happens in the middle of the Summer Anime Season that we are able to connect together as attendees to talk about currently airing animes and stuff, instead of when Anime Expo happens which is just at the start of it. I also personally think that the people at CRX both staff and attendees are more chill and less stressed due to the reasons mentioned. Sometimes when I was in line or just waiting for a premiere to start, I would start a conversation with a neighbor quite easily and it was fun to just casually talk about anime and the like.

I will plan to return to Crunchyroll Expo next year, but either as a attendee or staff, that will remain to be seen. Either way I’m excited for what the new year brings.

FanimeCon 2019 June 2, 2019

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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.

Anime Expo 2018 July 15, 2018

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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.