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!
The next lolita events were the Innocent World panel, followed by the Alice and the Pirates panel. IW designer, Yumi Fujiwara answered questions about how she came to be a lolita designer, how she started off making and selling her designs from home, her inspirations, and her family life. AatP designer, Miki Nohmoto talked about her journey from shopgirl to designer, and spoke of the designs she's worked on with AatP and her own inspirations. Both designers were inspirational in their own way. For any lolitas out there who wish start their own label, try hard enough, and it can be done.
Metamorphose lucky pack. The dress was priced at $120, which was a pretty decent asking price. I also purchased a pair of Meta OTKs (over-the-knee socks) for $20. The swap meet had a nice mixed selection of clothing. It was like an in-person version of the EGL Community Sales on LiveJournal in a smaller scale. After my luck took a better turn, I was more excited about spending my money, and the next day I visited the boutique again. I bought a lucky pack from Baby and a couple cute accessories from IW.
Innocent World showed off their Autumn/Winter Collection for this season, and Baby, the Stars Shine Bright / Alice and the Pirates showcased their own new designs. The show was short, but everything was beautiful. Hopefully I can get my hands on something from either brand soon.
See more of my pictures from these events on my Flickr.
Monday, November 15, 2010
And again, this is before the PMX Coverage so odds are this cloud will change so I'll keep updating this as we go along.
Sunday, November 14, 2010
So while I wait for the PMX coverage to come in, I present the California Convention Blog's "World Cloud!"
Thursday, November 11, 2010
I can safely say that this is the first convention where I'm not there yet the California Conventions Blog is still being represented. The coverage for PMX is being spearheaded by Zanney and Avi, with additional coverage from Lucas and Ryan.
I'll be honest here: this is a much different con than what I expect. The Pacific Media Expo compasses all Asian entertainment from music to fashion to films, not just Japanese animation and manga like most conventions that have been covered under the California Conventions Blog. While me, Lucas, and Ryan don't have much background and knowledge on lolita fashion, Asian horror films, and J/K-music, this is Zanney and Avi's territory. They are psyched to be going to this year's PMX.
PMX is on my to-go list, but for now I have to wait until next year before we can get the full staff there for comprehensive coverage.
Until then, enjoy the PMX 2010 coverage!