Saturday, January 29, 2011

[Tsunami Scoreboard] Anime Los Angeles 2011: No Longer A Bunch of Shoobies

Belated review is belated. Due to computer troubles, I've been forced to write a shorter review than usual for this edition of the Tsunami Scoreboard. Hopefully when Fanime roll around I'll have less to worry about now that I have a shiny new external hard drive and a working laptop at last!

To business.

Once again, it's time to see how a California Convention fares when pitted against the Tsunami Scoreboard in a duel to the death! Will CaliConBlog's "default" event continue to receive high scores due to its home team advantage or will this be the year Anime LA's game is called on account of the weather?

The Tsunami Scoreboard: Anime Los Angeles 2011 Edition!

Or alternatively, "No Longer A Bunch of Shoobies"

Anybody who grew up watching Rocket Power like my kid brother knows what a shoobie is--it's another word for outsider, tourist, or even a stupid n00b if we're talking gamer jargon. As we all know, Anime Los Angeles moved to their new, bigger venue at the LAX Airport Marriott in 2009. What most of the regulars probably didn't know is that this con, which runs itself like a well-oiled machine despite its not-so-long longevity and powder-puff physique when compared to some of the other "big" conventions like Anime Expo and Fanime, is that most conventions have a difficult time adjusting to a new location.

This year was the third year at the LAX Marriott and since it was also my first time staying at the convention hotel, I had a lot more material to cover. Last year I spent my sleeping hours at a Motel 6 two and a half blocks down the street and took the bus back and forth if I wasn't feeling excited (or impatient) enough to walk. Another factor I had to work with was the freak rainstorms we've been having in SoCal lately--it's not usually as cold as it's been down here, even in the middle of winter. Anime LA has a long history of being rained out for half of the weekend, which is why convention chair Chaz Baden often advises attendees to be mindful of weather conditions even though precautions have been made to keep things high and dry and indoors for the most part. My first Anime LA in 2009 was my first time cosplaying and I remember how uncomfortable it felt to be soaked to the bone in costume, so I'm grateful to the hotel staff, who are excellent at keeping things nice and warm on the ballroom level and in the rooms even when it's just chilly outside, and to Mother Nature, who gave us three straight years of sunshine!

It was windy again this year, but not as bad as last time. The CaliConBlog staff shared a room on the balcony level, which was a really nice upgrade from what I'd been doing in years previous. Ryan and Matt hung their big Philippines flags on the balcony on our first night there and by Saturday night, the pool deck was decorated on all sides by countless colorful flags and banners, mostly thanks to Hetalia fans who like to show off their favorite country's pride and the occasional Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann fan. Lots of photographers took advantage of the convention block hotel rooms and stood on balconies and took pictures from on high, others milled about even on Day Zero in the evening as hardcore fans lined up for free ice cream sundaes for those who pre-registered and came out to mingle a day early.

As usual, Registration was working quickly, efficiently and causing a knife cutting through melted butter look like a difficult task. On Sunday, I spoke to Martin who is the Registration department leader for Anime Los Angeles, who told me that next year he plans to have an even faster system working at full speed. For those of us who pre-register and folks who buy their badges at the door alike, this means something rather innovative and legendary--NO LINES!

I'm looking forward to seeing Anime Los Angeles make history next year, considering every single year I have attended this event there has been no longer than a five-minute wait when I was in line to pick up my badge. If that can be cut down to zero for everyone, not just the early birds like me, I think it would definitely be something for the books.

As for other departments I witnessed showing off bigger and better specs this year, Con-Ops and I developed a nice relationship over all sorts of issues including lost glasses and costume props, irrelevant conflicts with other attendees, peace-bonding and ribbon hunting. Robbie, the department leader of Con-Ops, is probably one of the best people to speak to at Anime LA if you need help. She takes a no-nonsense, no-tolerance stance and while she may be intimidating with her big black walkie-talkie at first glance, she'll definitely save the day for you if you need her help. (And I speak from experience!)

I think the MVP department this year was definitely the Costume Repair Station, which has evolved from a small office tucked away in a back corner near the Con Suite two years ago to a medium-sized conference room complete with tables, chairs and everything you could possibly need to fix a breaking prop, a frayed hem or a busted PVC pipe. Consultants were always standing by in case there was a job that needed more than just a quick dab of crazy glue, and I even watched one of the lovely ladies there fix up the clasp on my gun holster in a grand total of 45 seconds!

Anime Los Angeles 2011 is definitely a rising star of Japanese media here in my hometown, and I'm proud to call this particular event my "Home Con". I've had to make some major cuts to my schedule this year and when faced with a list of events to miss this year, I made sure to keep Anime LA close to my heart without question. I can only hope to expect bigger and better things from Chaz and his awesome staff members, from Con-Ops to Banzai Dan to Tech to Reg, you know you can expect a pleasant experience with the staff members who work for this convention.

Now that everyone's gotten used to the new location at last, the sky is the limit and I bet you anything Anime Los Angeles is aiming for the moon. Even if they miss, they'll land somewhere in the stars and continue to shine. My score for Anime Los Angeles 2011 breaks any records I've set in the past and smashes them up against the craggy cliff-sides of Zuma Beach like mere plankton in the Southern California surf and I can only hope Anime LA managed to hang a perfect ten next year.

The Tiki Gods have spoken, and they're singing their high praises of Anime LA on high:

8.5 out of 10

I look forward to a great convention season for 2011, so you'll be hearing from me next when I visit San Diego for Anime Conji in March where I'll be collaborating with fellow PokeNerd Corodo for the ultimate Pokemon Fan Panel. After that, I'll be on vacation in Seattle for SakuraCon over Easter Weekend and I'll be joining the rest of the crew for Fanime in May.

Last but not least, pictures!

I co-hosted the Shin Megami Tensei Series cosplay gathering with Matt, and I was super-excited when my friend Gaby showed us as Aigis!

Spent some quality time with my best friends Avi (genderbent!Stocking) and Rezz (Panty) cosplaying our latest Gainax obsession, Panty & Stocking With Garterbelt. I hosted the cosplay gathering on Day One at Anime LA and I'll be doing it again at Fanime with these two as my co-hosts.

On March 6, 2011 Pokemon Black & White hits the shelves of electronic stores and video game shops across North America, and you can bet a lifetime supply of Rare Candies that hardcore gamers like me and Corodo (shown above, cosplaying as Gym Leader Morty as he appears in Pokemon HeartGold & SoulSilver) will be first in line to pick up a copy of one or both games, which revolutionize the way we see the Pokemon franchise--the Unova Region is based on several location in the United States of America!

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