Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Anyways, I shall start with a general overview of the conventions and gatherings for this year, starting with ALA. This was my third con I did, but I was starting to get into the swing of things.
What I look for at a con are several factors. I look at the cosplay, and how well done they are, the general feeling of the convention, if I was bored and didn't do much, what kind of venues they had, and what guests they have. At the end of each con, I ask myself the question, is this con worth going to next year, and what would I change about it? Depending on what the answer is, that's how I rate the cons.
Now for my individual analysis of each convention.
Anime LA is one of my favorites in the sense it's a great con to relax and meet with friends and do shenanigans. Although I wasn't officially part of the blog yet and not quite understanding of the convention culture and norms, it was a fun con where I got to meet several of the other cosplayers that I hang out with occasionally at later cons. Anime LA doesn't have the big venues like Fanime and Anime Expo, and its more about everyone just hanging out and having a good time. Overall, this would be tied in third place with Anime Expo, which I will explain later.
Fanime had met my expectations and then some. From what I heard from my contacts in Nor Cal, it was one of the best, if not the best in the northern half. I had the chance to finally go this year and it was really fun. Partially because this was the only con that explicitly stated that they had events and arcade that went 24 hours non-stop. There was so much going on at any time but I was not necessarily in a hurry like I was at AX. All the venues they had, from the Artist Alley to Game room and Dealer's Hall, had excellent merchandise. Fanime definitely ranks as one of my favorite cons of this year.
Anime Expo, the big venue. Unfortunately, after Fanime, it didn't seem as fun and was more tedious because Matt and Ryan dragged me around to do signings and such. I found out that next time, we wouldn't we able to do those signings again because it was simply too much work. I didn't even know some of these guests and while I said I would help them out, I found out that sitting in the panel for an hour and then having to run over to get two signatures and waiting in line for so long didn't seem worth it. While being the largest con, it is by no means my favorite nor one that I truly enjoyed. The main thing with Expo was of course the new leadership, but also the feeling that this was more tedious than Fanime, even though Expo is only two minutes from where I live. Plus the staff was much more strict as the feeling stems from the fact that Expo is more industry based while Fanime is more about hanging out with friends. Overall, while the first time it was good, second time around wasn't as fun and next year is still a toss up.
Anime Vegas was really fun for me considering it was one of the conventions on my list that I had to do. I noticed that a lot of the FUNimation voice actors was going to be there and Johnny Yong Bosch was going to be there as well. This was the first con where I really wanted to do signatures and meet Voice actors because I haven't done it yet at any other con. While the location was a drawback as well as the heat, being able to get the signatures from all the people that I wanted to made the con for me. There was some drama towards the end from what I've heard, but it wasn't anything big. All else being equal, Vegas has got to come in as second place.
PMX was also a small little con that was more of a 'cool down' than anything else. Since I wasn't planning to do much other than take pictures and hang out with friends, I don't really expect much and wasn't expecting much to begin with. I was asked to take pictures and help organize an impromptu Touhou gathering and take pictures which was sorta cool. The only thing that stood out was of course Hetalia, in which Tally and some of her friends practically begged me to run the gathering to which I reluctantly agreed. Afterwards we got together a small group of friends and started just chatting about Hetalia, which was pretty nice as a cool down. PMX is there as just something to take my mind off things, but that's about it.
And now, I will announce my favorite convention overall this year. Taking all the factors into account, cost, the general feeling of the culture and the other attendees, the cosplay, and panels and the concerts, my favorite con for this year has got to be......Fanime. Fanime just had everything I wanted. It was the convention that we spent the most time preparing for and the most time we spent at any convention. I bought my tickets a bit late, but that doesn't matter. On day zero alone, we were already getting pictures and hanging out with the other cosplayers. On the first day, we did everything from taking photos to doing a chess tournament and of course, the FLOW concert. That alone made the convention for me. If only Anime Expo got Orange Range then it may have been on par, but since they didn't, Fanime ranks as my favorite con because everything was as perfect as it could be.
The general feeling of the staff was that they were not as stuck up and strict as they were at AX, the panels were fairly decent, the cosplay was well done and I felt that I could really enjoy the con.
This was my first year where I've gone to almost all the major cons around the So Cal area, and its definitely something that I want to keep doing if I can for as long as can.
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Longevity runs in my family, it seems. Maybe that's why through the entirety of the crazy roller-coaster that was this past year in my life I still haven't offed myself. Brushed with death a couple times, but nowhere closer than that. Plus, that bus came out of nowhere so fast not even Spiderman couldn't have seen it!
Joking aside, I started dabbling in Numerology a little while ago, simply because there are some weird coincidences in life and sometimes I pick out numbers or other things that can be applied to them. For example, this is my twenty-second year. The number 22, when applied to tarot cards and the major arcana, represents The Fool. From this, I've tied in a fandom I got into just before the end of 2009--Shin Megami Tensei and more specifically, Persona 3.
I find it both ironic and meaningful that I'll begin the new year by unveiling my first female character cosplay in a long time, and that she happens to be the female protagonist of Persona 3 Portable who is represented by The Fool arcana and has the Roman numeral for 22 pinned up in her hair.
Wikipedia's article tells us that the symbolism of The Fool is the search for new experiences and "the childlike ability to tune into the inner workings of the world" and many pictures drawn of The Fool show him preparing for a journey.
This past summer I woke up one morning and decided to buy a passport and by mid-August I was on my way to British Columbia, Canada in search of the answers to countless questions within myself. It was my very first time outside of the United States and I can tell you that I'm definitely gonna go back for Anime Evolution again and again. In Canada, I saw more trees in one square mile than I had ever seen in my entire life! I got to nurture my inner cowboy-nerd at the BC Cowboy Hall of Fame, took a day trip in Barkerville, a historical town on the Yukon Gold Rush Trail, discovered what it truly meant to do something I wanted to do for myself because I felt like it.
And before the summer, I did a lot of other things for the first time. Going backwards from August, I worked at the SoCal Host Club for the first time at Anime Expo. In May, I attended FanimeCon and had my own hotel (to share) for the first time, took Amtrak to con for the first time, cosplayed as a Steampunk variation of a character I liked, made new friends, collapsed from fatigue and had an air tube shoved up my nose by a paramedic on-site, took initiative, told someone off, made someone cry, started a fight, got really really close to punching somebody...
While some of these weren't very positive experiences, that was what the spring and summer of 2010 were like for me. The beginning of the year was equally full of new experiences, what with the Olympics taking place in Vancouver, world records being broken all over the place, making a few new friends here and there, voice acting and writing crack fan fiction simply because I could. Anime Los Angeles was my first time staffing the graveyard shift, my first time being a karaoke jockey, my first time having a panic attack in front of people, my first time being interviewed for television in costume (not that they ever actually posted that video clip...) and my first time realizing that most of my friends still think like middle school students despite being 20-somethings.
So at the tail end of 2010, in which I turned 22 years old and experienced all sorts of new and exciting things, I can honestly say I learned a lot. These are lessons I'll keep with me for a long time, even if I don't cosplay when I'm middle-aged. I think I'll still be very interested in the Blogosphere, since the media continues to lean more and more toward digital. Someday maybe I'll be a professional journalist, but right now I'm perfectly content writing a blog together with my friends here at CaliConBlog.
I'm so grateful to Matt, the website founder, who invited me to join the staff after I did a satisfactory job at the SoCal Host Club panel at Anime Expo 2010. I owe him a lot for rescuing my Fanime group in May, offering us rides and some extra food and being a really nice guy. But before that, I'd been talking to him and Ryan online, long before I was able to remember which cosplayer was HeeroYuy135 or RyuSon777. I was just Cosplay Cyborg to them at the time. Some really enthusiastic girl that Matt just so happened to take a picture of at Anime Los Angeles 2010, I guess.
It was entirely by chance that I stumbled upon the photo from the blog by doing a google search of the character I was cosplaying as. I don't even know how I wound up in a search engine what with how popular Canada-san from Hetalia is nowadays, but that photo led me to this blog and from there I was able to get Matt's contact info.
At times like this, I don't proudly claim that I'm lucky and that my impulsive decisions are what make me who I am and all that other glorified nonsense I tend to spout when I'm excited about something. Instead, I turn to a wise woman from the CLAMP universe:
"There are no coincidences in this world. Only hitsuzen."
Yuuko Ichihara is one of my all-time favorite characters, and I bet you readers can already see why. The concept of hitsuzen is simple--everything is predetermined, and it is so for a meaningful reason. You might not realize it right away, but that reason will someday become more than just a reason. Coming full-circle from Yuuko's favorite saying to Persona 3's favorite theme, the butterfly effect, the choices I made in the last year were all fairly risky, even sometime rash and not very wise at all. But they are what brought me to this moment today--December 28th, 2010--when Matt asked me to write about this past year in conventions.
The Fool is also represented by the number zero. Rather than looking back at what I did last year or the year before or any year previous, I like to start each new year with fresh white sheet of paper, so I will start 2011 not by looking back at what I've done anymore, but by looking toward what I want to do, what I can do and what I will do someday very soon.
Let's begin again~
I never thought that I would have staff members in 2010, but I added five new members and I'm always finding people who are interested in joining the California Conventions Blog staff. I was hoping to find more artists that can "brighten up" the blog and unfortunately the Banner Contest did not go as planned since no one submitted for the contest. So for now positions for artists and designers (especially web designers) are open, and if anyone is interested my e-mail is on the sidebar.
I said in my Con Year In Review 2009 that "this was a 'year of firsts,'" and I was right - I would say that again next year. From staffers to new conventions to full-blown video coverage, there is always room for new experiences that me and the staff can take away as the blog moves along.
I'll be honest: there weren't as many "at the con problems" as much as there were "real-life problems and issues that became at the con problems." As much as we want to ignore the outside world and all our problems at con, we have to deal with mistakes that we make and issues that we have with one another. I wouldn't say that this alone put a damper on the 2010 con season, but again it's those new experiences on how to handle things so that when it happens in 2011 it can be quickly diffused and the convention can go on without a hitch.
What will the 2011 con season bring? Well, I hope more conventions for one. There are prospects of Sakura-Con in Washington and Otakon in Maryland in addition to the many cons in California and Nevada - maybe even Arizona and Oregon? Adding more staff will be a priority as the blog continues to expand, and I can foresee a huge overhaul of the blog in 2011 especially if I add staffers who are experienced in web design and coding. The big thing in 2011 though will be the California Conventions Blog entering its 5th year, and FanimeCon 2011 will be the 5th anniversary. I don't know how I want to celebrate at FanimeCon 2011 but I know for sure I want to make it big.
That does it for my Con Year In Review 2010. From all of us here at the California Convention Blog, have a wonderful new year and a successful 2011!
Monday, December 20, 2010
We are also in the last two weeks of 2010, and soon we'll be in 2011 and a new con season. This means the staff here at the California Conventions Blog will be rolling out their End of the Year Reports. I will be rolling out my report next week, and from my colleagues they will be rolling theirs out soon. Keep an eye for everyone's report and have a safe and happy holiday!
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Well, here's that key chain on top of a Starbucks cup that has Junpei's name on it. OK, I asked them to put his name on it when they asked for my name. The sad thing is when I got to school I washed it out and when I got back home put it on my anime shelf as a sort of testament to my cosplayed character.
Sunday, December 12, 2010
Thank you for your understanding.
I also bought a custom Junpei key chain from one of the local artists that were outside. On the front it has Junpei and on the back it has his hat logo. It cost me $4 and I threw in an extra dollar. Thanks for the folks over at Digital-Love for making it!
Over at the Games Room, the people in attendance and I had discussions about last night's Spike Video Game Awards show and the video game industry in general over the pickings of Street Fighter, BlazBlue, Tekken, and Super Smash Brothers Brawl. I also had the first people who recognized me as Junpei from Persona 3, and I talked to them for a bit about the game. I would frequent the room throughout the day.
I was in and out of the Laura Bailey Q&A, but I caught a few of the audience's questions. She said her favorite character was Shin from Shin-Chan, and provided a couple of quotes from that series. She also mentioned work on Street Fighter 4 as Chun-Li and was surprised that she was auditioning for that role because she didn't know originally what she was auditioning for and that she was the only one who recognized Chun-Li from the provided artwork the auditioners provided. There were discussions about how voice actors in original animation like The Simpsons and Family Guy get paid than their anime counterparts because of syndication & the fact that they get paid more for each episode aired in syndication, and how she wanted to be BECK and Mass Effect 2 with a mention that she loves Dragon Age alongside the Final Fantasy and Mass Effect franchises.
During the Laura Bailey Q&A, I caught up with Hikaru Kazushime of Run Around Kazu, another person that I met back at Sac-Anime Summer 2009 and most recently at the FanimeCon Staff Meeting back in January. It was nice catching up with him, and like the cosplayer I mentioned before he told me that a lot had changed.
I went back to Laura's Q&A to hear about accent training and doing research for accuracy before taking off for lunch. I thought there was going to be food available like most Sac-Cons to pair with my one sandwich and a bottle of Gatorade, but there was none so I stuck with what I had. I also saw Team LoveHate's cars outside.
By 3pm the con was already slowing down, and I wanted to see the Masquerade which was supposed to start in an hour. But in fact, it had already started and I got there late.
This has to be the shortest Masquerade that I've ever been to with only 5 entries.
With the con almost dead and done, I went back to Laura Bailey to jokingly ask if she was going to invite me to their wedding since she's engaged to Travis Willingham, and we again shared a couple of laughs. Then I got one last signature for Zanney as Minako before saying good bye for everyone and calling it a day.
It's always fun to come back to where I first started all of this, a laid back and relaxing con where I don't have to worry about running gatherings and Host Clubs and juggling more while hanging out with people that I've grown to more. I wish I could come back to more Sacramento conventions in the near future, and that might me a possibility starting with Kintoki-Con in June 2011.
I asked Laura what it was like working on both Persona 4 as Rise and Persona 3 Portable as the Female Protagonist also known as Minako - the same person Zanney is cosplaying. She said that it was really cool to work on such an awesome franchise. She mentioned that her work on Persona 4 got her the role in Persona 3 Portable, and after meeting the producers behind the games they felt that she fit the role as the character. It was noted later in her Q&A session that it was interesting to do Rise and that she was reprising her role as Lust from Full Metal Alchemist. I told her that Vic Mignogna was also in Persona 3 Portable as Junpei and that added to her list of games that he didn't know he was in that she's voiced in, the other being Disgaea 3. I told her that if Travis Willingham was in Persona 3 Portable that we'd have a Full Metal Alchemist reunion, and we both shared a laugh.
As for Jason, it's been a year and a half since I talked to him at Sac-Anime Summer 2009. A lot has changed as he has established a number of milestones. He has completed the Caffeine Poisoned series, and he established the Sacramento Comicbook Creators Group, or SCCG for short. As of now there are 150 members within SCCG, and they meet once a week. The members come from all walks of life to the point when art teachers are joining the group. Originally it was three people at his house meeting once a week, and after a Craigslist ad the group attendance doubled it all went North from there. All of these people have a common goal: to succeed in the industry and to give back to the community. Twice a year they have a comic book jam, which is a collaboration between all the members of SCCG. They are also raising money and toys for Toys for Tots by holding an art charity auction and toy drive at Empire's Comics Vault on December 18th from 11am to 8pm. People who cannot make it to the event can go to the Livestream feed that day and bid as if they where at the event. I mentioned some of the charity that cosplayers has done such as NYC Hetalia group and UNICEF, and he told me that they are cosplayers in the group who draw comics and want to give back to their communities.
I would like to thank Laura Bailey and Jason Dube for taking their time out during the con today to answer my questions, and I hope to do more interviews in the near future.
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Which brings me to the APHWorldConference, which recently opened up more characters for cosplayers to fill. As of now, they are taking auditions for a number of characters, one of them being Canada.
This is Zanney's audition.
Wish her luck as she attempts to join the ranks of the APHWorldConference!
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
I'll probably start off my convention experience this year with the theme from the opening credits of Casino Royale since I plan to be everywhere and nowhere for Anime L.A. this time--like any good spy.
This one goes out to any and all convention drama-related anything. Just as a precautionary method. Personally, I like this song in general for simply being what it is--oh so cheerfully pissed off!
And because no con can ever be completed without the regularly prescribed dose of Lady Gaga tunes, I like to keep this remix at the top of my playlist. It's so upbeat that I really CAN'T stop dancing to it.
And those are my three song picks for Anime L.A. 2011!
Enter Paul Oakenfold and M-PROJECT.
Monday, November 29, 2010
On the convention end, I just bought my ALA badge so all that's left to buy is my round-trip train tickets down to LA. I also need to know the schedule for which everything is supposed to take place since I'm taking over the Anime Conventions Reporting Panel. My ideal plan is run that panel and the SoCal Host Club/Mochi Cafe Informational Panel back-to-back on Friday. But for now, I can only speculate as ALA staff continue to work on the schedule of events.
Unless something happens, I do plan to attend Sac-Con two weeks from. I have some plans on interviewing some of the local artists that will be there on Sunday, as well as random cosplayers and the gaming staff. I don't want to wear Philippines from Hetalia because my flag pole is with Ryan down in SoCal, so odds are I'll go as Junpei or no cosplay.
One more month, then we get to do this all over again in 2011.
Friday, November 26, 2010
Monday, November 22, 2010
Entries must be submitted by December 26th, 2010 at 8:59PM PST/11:59PM EST.
Sunday, November 21, 2010
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
And now, the moment you've all be waiting for!
But before that, I must apologize for how slow my updates have been. I intended to post these live, and before I know it the clock had moved well beyond the goal time of midnight on November 17th. Hopefully I can do this faster next time. I kept having to go back and fix some general errors that are non-spellcheckable, so I'll quickly point out that the Boutique was listed on the incorrect side of the elevators in my post previously, but it has since been revised to tell you its correct location. Sorry for the confusion!
Overall, this convention was pretty evenly matched by the other events we've attended here at CaliConBlog. Since this was my first official assignment, I was really excited and planned a complicated schedule that I definitely could not stick to, so I'm really grateful to have had co-reporters Avi, Ryan and Lucas with me for PMX 2010. Without them, this would hardly suffice as full coverage of this con. There's probably going to be a few more things we'll need to cover, but in the meantime I hope the first-ever web version of the Tsunami Scoreboard is enough to tide you over (again, surf puns totally intended).
As a convention attendee of only two years, I will admit I have not seen the very best of a majority of anime convention in my area. I am unable to vouch for the preference of Anaheim over Los Angeles for Anime Expo, and a lot of the time it makes me sound a bit a like a n00b, but I figure this is also where my true strength as a convention reviewer lies. I'm able to wrap my head around quite a few different perspectives of convention attendees, and I think it would be helpful to have a guide written for the average Joe from the point of view of an average Joe who's been surviving at these things for a couple years or so.
PMX this year totally surprised me. I'm used to seeing a complete meltdown in the con staffing field when it comes to "Oh my god! New location!! Whatdowedo!?" but this year's staff at PMX was ready to grab the bull by the horns and flip it over a table, and then flip the table too. Masquerade especially proved to me that if a convention staff works together and organizes accordingly, anything is possible. It was almost like being at the old location with all the same stuff, but having moved around slightly like a rubix cube--only this time, everything fell perfectly into place WITHOUT painting over the original color of the squares. They didn't cut any corners, and I anjoyed the actual con itself most of all.
As for hotel staff, I would like to say I'd give them the benefit of the doubt next year if I had the money to do so. Unfortunately, that kind of hassle isn't something I'm interested in wasting any more money on. I'd rather not let them have the whole, "Oh, we're new at this" cop-out I'm used to hearing. They really, really dropped the ball here--inexperience or no. The service provided was absolutely dismal, and I often wonder why the bellhop expects a tip when he came up to my room two hours earlier to tell me that I was being loud when it was actually the noisy college guys across the hall who threw a party anyway. And they weren't even connected to the con!
My tips for next year, if anyone's planning to use my review as reference material are these:
1. Be a Boyscout--always be ready for ANYTHING! This should even be a standard rule of thumb for any convention of any genre, not just anime and not just in California. Like any trip you would take for leisure, always expect that 50% chance of rain on your parade and bring an umbrella, just in case. My old Band director used to tell us, "It's better to have a coat you can fold and place on your lap than a pair of sweats that you left out on your bed because you thought you wouldn't need 'em after all."
2. Don't be afraid to spend that extra $5 for comfort. I had a couple issues in my own room in which the hotel wanted more money for a deposit because we decided to pay in cash, and there was this whole mess where a lot of people wound up paying for each other and covering each other for money that went missing, and miscommunications and everything you could possibly think of, and then some brave, brave heroes appeared and offered to spot money until everyone else was settled. However, I was a bit weirded out by some of my roomies being very, very opposed to chipping in $5 more. Why dispute $5 if you're gonna spend maybe six times as much in the dealer's room anyway?
3. Communication sense is key! The buddy system. I really, really should have set that up this time around. Seriously. Especially when the security guys were carding us at the elevator--I almost got stuck outside because I was loaning my key to Avi who went back first because she wanted to get some rest for the action-packed events crammed into Saturday's schedule.
4. Save the drama for your llama. The easiest way to ruin con is to let the things other people do or say effect your enjoyment of the event. They way I see it now is that con is my vacation, and if you're gonna try and ruin my vacation, I don't have to talk to you. I can just walk away.
5. Have fun! A lot of people tend to forget this, even bloggers like me. Sometimes cramming a schedule chock full of events you wanna see or write about to take pictures of takes away from fun when fun becomes work, so spreading out the tasks between the four reporters we had was a pretty good strategy. I think I'll stick to general convention review. I like doing it, mostly because it requires being observant, and con is a very good distraction.
I hope everyone who we saw at PMX enjoyed themselves, and for all of you readers still paying attention to my walls of text, I offer up the Pacific Media Expo 2010 Tsunami Scoreboard's fourth number for THE MOMENT OF TRUTH (which is what I call the overall con rating).
Drum roll, please!
6.5 out of 10
And so, PMX somehow managed to keep the exact same score I gave it last year, but the momentum is good, so I expect great things in the future. I personally would like to see more J-Rock if at all possible.
Post comments to chat with us about what you hope to see at PMX next year and we'll share our opinion with you too!
Masquerade was the bigger event I chose to cover for PMX this year due to the fact that none of the bands particularly interested me. I opted to cover the dances instead, and to be perfectly honest, those were also pretty lame. The DJs from Tune In Tokyo had great tracks lined up, but I can definitely say I have heard better set lists—even from Tune In Tokyo themselves. I was pretty disappointed in the DJs who did show up from other groups as well, since I guess maybe I’ve been spoiled by one too many good convention raves (and those are few and far between, mind you) so when I actually bothered to show up for the dance this time, I think shocking the regulars who I know personally was the only thing that really stuck with me that was positive for the dances.
I also learned the hard way NOT to go to the con dance in platform boots with fur lining. Not only did I have a few close-calls with stepping on people’s toes (despite getting a lot of strange compliments about my style, which somehow resembles a cross between Riverstomp, Salsa and Shuffle) but I also dehydrated faster than you can say Aquaman. I also discovered a new addition to the lovely list of “1,001 Ways to Catch the Con Plague”—when cups are scarce at the dance, people drink straight from the water pitchers.
As for Masquerade, I spent my free time watching rehearsal on Saturday since I entered a skit in “Exhibition” which is basically a skit for the sake of doing a skit and you don’t really get anything—just bragging rights and some really nice photos of your cosplay. That’s what I liked best, aside from having the chance to watch the other participants practice. The staff who worked with Masquerade and tech for LP 1 were very helpful and cooperative and best of all—super organized!
I happened to run into the Masquerade department head before I went home myself and made sure to tell him what a great job they did. They worked really hard to put on a great show with all of us, and they were very accommodating to all of the participants when the hotel staff was not. The two stage ninjas I worked with were cheerful and supportive when I was nervous about my skit, and the MC was absolutely hilarious—he IS Johnny Yong Bosch. The halftime show was super cute with the Idolm@ster dance group and I gave away my purple glowstick to a friend I made backstage who entered a lovely cosplay from Romeo x Juliet—the Red Whirlwind.
The only sound system issues that were had are the kind you get no matter what you do for a show because the laws of physics do actually exist outside of anime. Getting too close to the speakers on stage while holding a cordless microphone means really loud feedback no matter where you’re presenting. There was a minor problem with the stage during rehearsal but it was quickly dealt with in a timely and well-organized fashion. Kudos to the skit who mentioned it after nearly break the stage in half with dance moves that were so awesome that they shook the very earth!
You can watch that very same skit at American Cosplay Paradise!
The dealer hall was satisfactory, but that’s really only word I have for it. Very plain. The same stuff you see at every convention forever. Although, one of the stores I see at almost every convention in California was present as usual and kept to its steady momentum of updating their stock to fit the trends in anime merchandise sales—an overabundance of Pokemon does not exist for Toy Manadala! With the upcoming new video game releases from the Nintendo franchise, that was a pretty good call. I was unable to get myself that cute Zorua plushie I wanted, but since I live near their Van Nuys location, I think I can live an extra couple weeks while I wait for my next paycheck.
Also, as expected of PMX’s dealer’s room, I saw a lot of fashion booths set up this year. I was a bit bummed to see that Jun Planning was not there this year. I had hoped to see some Pullip/Dal/Byul/Taeyang stuff one last time, but alas! Luck was not on my side. I think I might have seen Hangry and Angry when I squinted really hard, but a lot of the time all the fashion booth looks exactly the same the others do to me.
Something recent I have seen as well are small wig shops, and I happened to run across two of them at this con. One was run by some sort of slightly larger company and had a small table piled high with fliers and two pretty sales girls wearing their product and brand Lolita fashion. Their set-up was nice and they were in a larger booth close to the front of the hall. However, the wig they were selling is what I'd describe as an overpriced product meant more for maid cafe girls and Lolita stylists. Cosplay, not so much. Rather, the teeny tiny booth that was squeezed into a tiny space at the back of the hall and shared with Cosplay in America (a big ol’ book of wonderful cosplay photography that I really think you should check out, by the way) had much better quality and more easily affordable prices.
While the fancier booth in the front was charging $60 or more for what felt like thin, heat-resistant plastic when I touched the fibers, the smaller booth's sales girl let me hold the wig in my hands and suggested a few ways to pull back the curly locks in the back of a chestnut brown wig she had on hand for a more natural looking ponytail like the character I was planning. The example wig at the front of the small booth felt like real hair, too. I was really glad to chat with the girl at the booth for five minutes on Sunday afternoon before closing. She knew what she was doing and was very helpful when I asked a seemingly endless amount of questions about wig care and styling and showed her a reference picture on a friend’s smart phone. She gave me a business card and wrote down the style, length and color for the wig I looked at as listed in her own shop notes so that I could purchase it when I could.
By the way, I had gone to both booths to ask the exact same question:
“How to I add a short ponytail to the back of my wig?”
The guy at the company booth wound up attempting to sell the wrong style and color to me, and ran around in circular reasoning for what seemed like maybe twenty minutes before I took a business card and walked away. I think I liked the service at Epic Cosplay’s booth. The best part about them is that they’re local to California, which means shipping is cheaper and easier for me, yay~!
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Tsunami Scoreboard Part Two - The Hotel
Let's start with the layout, first and foremost.
The lobby floor looked very nice. Swanky is the word I'd give it, what with the mod theme they had going on. They had some comfortable couches surrounding a cozy fireplace, a bunch of armchairs with small coffee tables, taller chairs and taller tables for the bar area that we wound up using for socializing anyway and very shiny tiled floors. There was also a set of glass sculptures arranged in the lobby right in front of the elevators, and I remembered saying to a friend that all it’d take was one ill-placed cosplay prop for the whole thing to come crashing down. (We all had a good chuckle and carefully skirted the display from there on.)
The lobby floor was where everything went on. Aside from the main area, where check-in and check-out took place, there was a small outdoor patio with wooden lawn chairs and tables and one of those heating lamps like you might find at Universal Studios Hollywood during the colder peak season months. There were also two hallways on either side of the elevators.
To the left was the ballroom area, where the live programming rooms were crammed into the biggest back rooms available (and still barely managed to fit anything). The Dealer’s Room and Artist Alley were also located back here in smaller conference rooms, along with two video rooms that doubled as panel rooms. Farther back was another conference room that was set aside to be used as the fashion boutique for the Lolita-related goods. A Starbuck’s café area could also be found just around the corner back toward the patio area on the way back to the elevators, along with a grand piano which the photographers spent most of their time lurking nearby. I spent about 20 minutes here with Lucas, who was cosplaying as Austria while performing a short concert featuring selections by legendary composers such as Nobuo Uematsu, Yoko Kanno and Taku Iwasaki and others, as well as the trademark Hetalia theme song, “Marukaite Chikyuu” before we were asked to pack up and leave the piano alone.
On the right, was a series of winding hallways that reminded me of the puzzle rooms in The Legend of Zelda. These were dotted here and there with small conference rooms and offices for use by convention staff and panelists. Con-Ops, Registration and the room where I received my press badge were all located in the first part of the hallway, and then when you made another left turn you would find the CosFest lounge (for all your Masquerade check-in needs) more staff-related offices, some panel rooms and at the very, very end, the room in which Karaoke took place.
It seemed as though things would be going quite smoothly until around the latter half of the evening when I noticed a scary-looking security guard hanging around by the elevators. Upon closer inspection, I discovered that this fellow was positioned here to remind everyone of a strict “No parties” policy and to ask for proof of a room key before allowing anyone past him to the elevator doors themselves. For me this was reasonable, and I assume there are hotel policies for things like this, but having to run up and down from the room to the lobby over and over to bring my roomies the extra key or to say “They’re with me” or pretend they lost theirs or something else that was equally ridiculous became too much of a hassle for me. I’m probably not sharing my room next year if I can help it, especially when the people I chose to stay with me this year deliberately caused more and more friction with the hotel staff anyway.
Another security guard was placed on our floor, I noted later, and his job was apparently to intimidate us when we spoke above a whisper and threaten to have us evicted if we were causing disturbances of this sort after 8pm or before 10 am. I experienced two incidents when I was falsely accused of causing a disruption on my floor as well. Both times I was completely alone in the room changing my costume or adjusting my wig or putting in my contact lenses when there’d be a loud rapping at the door and Mr. Security Guard was standing there, glaring at me through his dark glasses and telling me to keep it down or else, and I would say, “Okay” and close the door.
After asking around, I heard from other PMX attendees that this seemed to be a similar case for most of the floors on which “convention block” applied. However, on Sunday when I asked at the front desk about what defined “convention block” and offered a friendly suggestion, I was handed a business card with a general toll-free number and told to ask for someone named Thomas Lee. I have yet to actually attempt this, but if I do, I’ll let you know how it turns out.
From all of this information, I can get a basic grasp of how this hotel handles conventions—they've never done it before PMX 2010. I kind of feel a little bit guilty, since anime conventions are similar to prom, but with maybe five times as many socially awkward teens. I had a buddy who worked at one of the hotels near Universal before and he used to tell some pretty grizzly tales of Prom Night at the Universal City Hilton, so I do know that most of these policies are in place to protect hotel employees. (Plus, it was an anime convention of all things to be the very first big event at this location.)
However, the mere inflexibility of the Pasadena Hilton’s staff was astonishing. Some of the conflicts I witnessed or heard about later on went well beyond the “this I the first time our hotel has dealt with this situation before” excuse. On Sunday during check-out, I’m pretty sure the bellhop and the young lady and man who were behind the front desk were smiling so cheerfully was because they were so glad to see this con go away.
Swell Points Earned: 2.5
Tsunami Scoreboard Part One - Location, Location, Location!
Upon arrival at Pacific Media Expo 2010, which was at a new location this year, I noticed that the surrounding area was much nicer than last year's. Then again, we were in Pasadena this time as opposed to the area by the LAX airport. After noting the fact that we had really nice weather for the first time in years as well as cleaner air to breathe and lots less traffic on the freeway (all related to the location switching from LAX), my inner penny-pincher alerted me to a small, yet crucial issue of the weekend: What am I gonna do about food?
On one hand, we had more choices available in terms of local eateries—the nearby Paseo shopping center housed a variety of chow ranging from the quick-and-easy to the one-hour-sit-down-restaurant to the I-really-shouldn’t-get-ice-cream-in-this-cold-weather-but-I-reeeeeally-want-it-anyway. I myself made a point to hit up my favorites out of the bunch (Cold Stone Creamery and Islands, not necessarily in that order) due to low funds, but I did hear that there was a great Korean barbecue place nearby and rumors of a California Pizza Kitchen floated about, but the actual location of said establishments eluded me and my poor sense of direction to the very end.
On the other hand, the old location had a Carl's Jr. that I, like so many other PMX attendees in years past, would rely almost completely upon in order to get at least SOMETHING in my system—even a small order of fries—so that I could keep pushing onward through all the obligatory convention craziness. Carl's is cheap fast food, and when stacked up against a bunch of high-end restaurants in a sea of smaller shopping center eateries two blocks down the way in an unfamiliar neighborhood with my not-so-brilliant internal compass, I tend to find the odds stacked in favor of the burger joint next door—but that's just me.
The word on the street at con was that PMX moved to Pasadena because the majority of its attendees are locals to Pasadena and the surrounding neighborhoods. Even for me, a native of the San Fernando Valley, Pasadena is a hell of a lot easier to travel to than LAX, especially so close to the holiday travel boom. Traffic to any area near an airport this time of year is a major hassle, so to be able to hop in my buddy’s car and take a 20 minute freeway cruise over to con was music to my ears! Plus, I discovered that I might even be able to commute from my apartment if I can afford the gas next time and just eat at home and sleep in my own bed. This is all purely situational though, bit it definitely was a great strategic move on the part of PMX’s organizers in my personal opinion.
Aside from the local atmosphere, it was probably the "Normie Factor" of Pasadena that surprised me the most. Generally at the old location we'd get a few curious inquiries from other guests at the hotel and the folks who worked at Carl's Jr. remembered us and asked what costumes we were wearing after a while (which was really funny, especially if you were a crossplayer). In most cases, you wouldn’t really give that a second thought since most people keep to themselves around there, from what I’ve seen. This year I got maybe three times as many questions in the hotel lobby, and while I was cosplaying as Canada from Axis Powers Hetalia, I happened to get quite the amusing response in the form of a few supportive honks on the road while walking to Islands for dinner one evening, a thunderous cry of “GO HABS!” from across the street and a lovely chorus of drunk guys who sang the national anthem to me and clapped when I replied with the next stanza and a jovial wave of the Canadian colors—all this because I was borrowing a friend's flag pole and carrying an over-sized flag around with me.
However, knowing that the locals enjoy a good costume party is reassuring to the average cosplayer, who might feel just a bit nervous parading around in brightly colored fabric on a busy street. I didn't have any run-ins with rude people, and the only obnoxious drunks I found were other attendees at con—a MAJOR step up from most of the conventions I've ever attended as a whole. If I had a score in this system for local people being friendly, Pasadena definitely scores way up towards the top ten. At the very least, brownie points were earned.
Swell Points Earned: 8.0
Time to bust out the board-shorts, boogie boards and beach towels, anime fans--the first official Tsunami Scoreboard is here, and we're about to get righteous!
The Tsunami Scoreboard is a concept I came up with two years ago but mostly kept on paper. I've never been able to post it to a blog before today, so I'll admit my update was later than planned due to some attempts to tweak the system to better suit Webzine journalism. I need to re-learn everything about Microsoft Excel to give you better charts of the Anime Los Angeles Tsunami Scoreboard, so hopefully you guys can get better coverage from me next time around. I'm still just getting my feet wet, haha. No pun intended (maybe).
In any case, the Tsunami Scoreboard works like so:
I choose to cover some of the bigger events that your average convention attendee would look forward to, like Masquerade for example. Hall cosplay is touched on as briefly as possible in order to discourage the ever-present need to rage at various things, and the quality of merchandise in the Dealer's Room and Artist's Alley get a blurb or two. I also go into everyone's favorite three words: "Location, location, location!" which pretty much means I gab about how the hotel looked, how long security lasted without having a miniature World War Three erupt over small issues, convention staff, and other smaller effects that really do influence the general convention experience.
All of these elements are then divided up into three numbers from which I draw an average score, and this gives us the scaled-to-anime version of a seismographic measurement of the convention if it were a tsunami, also called "Swell Points." Like surfer culture, the better the swell, the higher chances of catching a good wave.
Also, for anyone curious, the reason for the surfer theme is mostly because I grew up spending a lot of time at the beach for vacation when I was a little tyke. Now that I do cons for vacation in my early-twenties, I figured this was a fun way to reconnect with my inner beach brat.
So was Pacific Media Expo the long-awaited end of summer surge, or did it turn out to be nothing more than a really big drip? Stay tuned to find out!