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!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

ALA Review from Rukazu

Well everyone, I am back from ALA 2011, and holy crap that was an awesome convention!

I know this is a bit late, so sorry about that. I did so much stuff this year compared to last year! I did five cosplays, did four gatherings and got to do a concert as Austria and a small one as Lyrica. There is a reason why ALA is one of my favorite cons and its precisely the fact of how its run and the people that I meet and talk to. Unlike the bigger conventions where there is so much going on, ALA is a small convention where you can relax, take pictures and talk to friends and other cosplayers. It's this kind of laid-back feeling that I like every now and then and I think is why I really liked ALA.

Friday I was mainly doing Lelouch and Lyrica towards the end of the day. It was the more boring day because i didn't really have too much in mind and i wasn't doing a lot of stuff. The AMV contest later that day was okay, considering again that a lot of the AMVs I already saw before. I wasn't able to get into Cosplay Chess, but still fun as hell to watch. I pulled out my artbook variation, otherwise known as Mutuality and it was, a pain to wear. While it looks cool and is great for pictures, with that much weight on your head for about 6 hours, yeah, it gets painful after a while. I wanted to do Hitsugaya, but I decided to watch cosplay chess instead. I had a chance to see the Artist Alley and Dealer's Hall, and they were pretty much the same as last year, they were a good size and they sold decent stuff, which is fine as it is.

Saturday was the big day for me. I pulled out Naoi again, but I couldn't find any other Angel Beats! cosplayers so that was a bit of a let down. CLAMP was awesome as i debuted my artbook variation costume. It was very well received and i couldn't hold a conversation for three minutes without having somebody ask for my picture. I was chatting with the really cool Syoaran with the blue and silver costume and literally every few minutes around noon we would get requests for pictures. After that, i switched for Lyrica and a few hours to do Touhou and that was really fun. My friend Jay showed up as Aya and it was fun as this was our first Touhou cosplay gathering we did. The one minus side to that cosplay was the keyboard a friend of mine lent me. After that, i swapped for Austria because the dress got too cold and i had to run to do the HetaMUN panel with Jet, though i sorta missed it. The Masquerade was one of the more enjoyable ones as my anime club managed to do a skit and win a few awards.

Sunday was amazing and fun. In the morning of course, I had the Hetalia gathering which was loads better than last year. I want to thank all my committee members, Thia Fayne, Annalyn, Shokora, heeroyuy135, Ryusan, and MokubaKaiba for their help and everyone who cooperated to make this gathering work. Unfortunately we were pressed for time so we couldn't do all the pairings that we wanted. Nonetheless, it was a success in my book. After that, we had the Hetalia History panel which was very fun and educational and of course, i bought a few things, took pictures and I got to meet a lot of people. I had a fun time cosplaying as Austria that day because I got a lot of random hugs and when I went to the Artist Alley again, the America artist recognized me from Hetalia Day, gave me a free pin, and said that I was her favorite Austria. It's moments like these that makes me want to keep cosplaying as Austria and keep going to cons in general.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

California Conventions and In-N-Out

So as I was sitting down to eat at In-N-Out in Roseville next to the Golfland (1803 Taylor Rd.) (where they just got Initial D Ver. 5 and FINALLY I get to make a card) I was thinking to myself: "This has to be one of the best aspects of living in California and on the West Coast." Nothing else beats the legendary In-N-Out and all its stories especially the sought-out secret menu - from animal style to 3x3 and beyond. If you are someone who is not from the West Coast and and does come for a convention, you must try In-N-Out at least once.

Here's a couple of conventions that I really know in California and Nevada (surprisingly, there isn't one in Washington state for those who visit Sakura-Con) and its nearest In-N-Out location(s):
  • Anime Los Angeles - 9419 S. Sepulveda Blvd.
  • Sac-Anime/Kintoki-Con - 3501 Truxel Rd.
  • FanimeCon - 550 Newhall Dr.
  • Anime Vegas (Alexis Park Hotel location) - 2900 W. Sahara Ave.
  • Anime Expo - 6000 Pacific Blvd.
  • Anime Conji (Town & Country Hotel and Resort location) - 2005 Camino Del Este
If there's a convention that I missed that you would me to find, please leave a comment and I'll look it up.

On a side note, there are two that are worth noting:
  • The one that we went to after Anime Los Angeles 2011 was over back in Woodland Hills. That one is on 19920 Ventura Blvd. and to date is the best In-N-Out that I've been to.
  • After FanimeCon 2008 and 2009 (I didn't do it in 2010 due to taking the train, but I plan to do so in 2011) and dropping off Tom back in San Rafael, I visit the In-N-Out in Vacaville right off at I-80 at 170 Nut Tree Pkwy. often times sporting that year's FanimeCon t-shirt before going back home to Sacramento.
I hope this is a helpful guide to those who are coming from a state that does not have an In-N-Out. It's a must have whenever you visit out here.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Hey, We're On YouTube! ALA 2011 Edition

During the 2010 convention season, the California Conventions Blog staff were seen on a number of YouTube videos not filmed by ourselves, the one highlight being the Philippine rally run at the Hetalia Gathering at FanimeCon 2010.

ALA 2011 is no exception.

Keep an eye out on this post from time to time as I add in more videos that we find our ourselves from ALA 2011!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

ALA 7 (2011) Report: Part 6.5 - Epilogue

I really enjoy it here at Anime Los Angeles. Most of us are afraid that this con will get bigger than it needs to be, but I don't think it's going to outgrow itself anytime soon especially with the countermeasures set.

I didn't want to do the same things that I did last year, and looking back at this report and review I will say that I enjoyed the other aspects of Anime Los Angeles that I didn't experience last year, one of them being the Masquerade. Surprisingly no Cosplay Chess this year; that was replaced by the two panels that I did.

Conventions always have room to grow, and from what I hear it's only going to get better in 2012. I can't say how, but I just know that it will.

This convention will always mean to me as a convention where I can connect with people and hang out for a weekend. Like I've mentioned before I like conventions like Anime Expo and Fanime for the huge amount of people in attendance but need conventions like Anime Los Angeles and Anime Vegas to balance out. While these conventions are small they are usually the best and the ones where you get to know people the most.

I would like to thank everyone on my staff who worked with me over the weekend, and I hope that this will lead to bigger and greater things as a group. Also thanks to the ALA staff to worked with me over the weekend and everyone who I got to know over the weekend.

This concludes my Anime Los Angeles 2011 Report. See you all at FanimeCon and/or Anime Expo 2011!

私のレポートを 読むためにありがとう。
Thank you for reading my report.

-Anime Los Angeles 7 (2011) Report End-

ALA 7 (2011) Report: Part 6 - Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday

Despite the convention being over, I'm still in Los Angeles until Amtrak takes off on Wednesday. We were supposed to spend time with Zanney on Monday, but she developed con plague, so we would see her Monday. For the time being, we hit up K1 and the local Golfland to finally start my Initial D Ver. 5 career after another mini taco party over at El Torito. I tried to get one after failing to obtain one after Anime Expo but two errors and a hour-before-closing-take-no-cards feature for IDv5, I still don't have one. However, I did get a BLANK Ver. 5 card, which will probably come in handy for renewals when the arcade is out of cards.

On Tuesday we hit up the local mall for some anime bargains then go and visit Zanney to discuss what the rest of the 2011 convention season before heading down to Little Tokyo. By the time we got there mostly everything was closed on a Tuesday so our highlight of that day was Ryan attempting the #2 Ramen Challenge over at Orochon Ramen. You're given an half and hour to finish what seems to the spiciest ramen on record. I had one taste and both of us ran for the local grocery store for some chocolate. From that, you can guess that he never made it. And then we still had a late dinner after at Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles, a staple of my post-convention diet.

The last thing to do was eat at Spire's before taking off back to Sacramento on Wednesday. I find this to be another staple of my post-convention diet and something that I hope we can keep doing every time I'm down in Los Angeles.

-Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday after ALA 2011 End-

ALA 7 (2011) Report: Part 5 - Sunday (Day Three)

I woke up the same time I woke up yesterday - 8am - despite getting little sleep, around less than four hours. I take off to get a Burger King breakfast before the Hetalia Gathering at 10am. This and clearing out the room for check-out were the two more important events of the day.

I go back upstairs to clean the room up for a bit before heading back down to rejoin Ryan who was looking for some photographers. Eventually we took photos of ourselves.

Lucas already cleared out his stuff before check-out, and Zanney and Avi trusted our items because they were at the Hetalia History panel. So we hauled everything without a bellhop in time to beat out check-out.

For the time being we enjoy the last day of ALA 2011. I take one last look around the pool deck and hit up the con suite one last time. I also partake in the Masquerade Feedback panel and the Banzai Arcade panel which I got myself handed to by a game of Shaq Fu. I wish I had gotten Dig Dug II.

I also attend closing ceremonies since I didn't attend this year's opening ceremonies.

The only thing left to do was the Regency Dance where I learned some old-school ballroom dance. I also had the opportunity to pick up five of the six photos that were on the wall as I was ok with someone else who was in the cosplay chess photo to take it.

At this point we're a bunch of hungry attendees, so we take off back to Woodland Hills for some In-N-Out before crashing at Zanney's house for a night. I start to work on my photo coverage while we have fun tagging each other on Facebook.

-Day Three & Anime Los Angeles 2011 End-

ALA 7 (2011) Report: Part 4 - Saturday (Day Two)

With Day Two upon us, so is the SoCal Host Club/Mochi Cafe event which is the highlight of the day. Since my roommates needed to make another run, I decide to go back to Starbucks for an even bigger white mocha alongside some Burger King. I was really sad though that the barista at this Starbucks spelled "Mori" "Mory."

With the event about to start, myself and a couple of members from both the SoCal Host Club and Mochi Cafe take off to promote this event because we felt that no one was going to know that this event was going on. For the first couple of hours I'm actually out and about, using the megaphone to get everyone's attention (i.e. talking to certain gatherings before announcing the event itself) both inside and outside.

Eventually I get back inside and proceed to have a ton of fun at this event.

Photo credit goes to Aubrie Hollands
Meanwhile, Avi has my camera and takes some nice shots.

Eventually we wind down the event, and for some odd reason drama happens. Ryan elaborated on it in his review, but I will elaborate on it in a different section away from this report and review.

I remember that I have to cover Masquerade and due to this drama I have no one else except myself to cover this event. So eventually I get ready to film the Masquerade. In the meantime I remember that it's Wild Card weekend in the NFL Playoffs, so I turn on the TV to catch the end of the New Orleans/Seattle game where Marshawn Lynch had that 67-yard TD run to ice the game. Since I registered for press spots, I get to sit the left front row, prime seats to film such an event. I also had the chance to meet up with Michael Tang who sat next to me.

Despite some delays due to seating arrangements, the show goes on and I have a great time watching the skits and the Animaid Cafe performance. Besides, I had some time to listen to part of the 4th quarter of the Jets/Colts game before I decided to charge my phone back up in my room while I was at Masquerade.

At this point all the AMVs start to air while the judges deliberate, so I take off to explore the con more and to get something to eat. I come in and out of the main events hall a number of times, and I had more than enough time to spare to take some photos of the winners after the judges had decided.

Also Touhou plushies on the escalators.
However, this is still one thing to look forward to after Masquerade - Maguma's Taco Party. Long story short: we all chip in money to make a taco run at Taco Bell, person making the run orders 70 tacos at the drive-thru, and we receive 50 tacos as the other 20 goes to the runner's room.

This starts off Saturday night for me, full of parties and adventures. I didn't stay up all night, but it sure felt like it.

-Day Two End-

ALA 7 (2011) Report: Part 3 - Friday (Day One)

Friday started off for me at 8 in the morning, which gives me enough time to get ready and to head downstairs to scout the area before it got any busier.

Our view from the balcony
I enjoy my white mocha from the hotel Starbucks while exploring the convention grounds. Here I find one of my photos that I had submitted to be part of the convention wall. Overall, I had six photos that were featured.

Then I get some early shots of cosplayers.

Our first order of business is the Code Geass Gathering, the first gathering of ALA 2011.

During this time I also get in on a Vocaloid photoshoot in the hot tub.

By then the con is getting busier as everyone is coming in by noon time. This gives me the opportunity to hit up the con suite to compliment my ramen and crackers lunch.

The time is now 1pm and up next is the Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt Gathering.

By then it was almost time to run the two panels I was scheduled to run, so I take off to prepare for that. Unfortunately I missed Ryan's Haruhi Suzumiya Gathering because I was doing tech checks and revising the Powerpoints for the panels.

For the next two hours between three and five in the afternoon I run both the SoCal Host Club Informational Panel and the Reporting Conventions Panel. Thanks to LA Weekly for stopping by during our panel for insight. The numbers attended were around Fanime 2010 levels, but again it's the people who care that count.

There's only one thing left to do to call Friday a success: the SMT/Persona Gathering.

And with that, Friday was a success. Thanks to everyone who came out to all three gatherings - they were all great!

Friday night is now upon us, which features a huge nighttime gathering out on the pool deck, my second visit to Carl's Jr, and ordering Pizza Hut near midnight for the room. I wanted to stay up more but I needed to sleep to prepare for Saturday's SoCal Host Club/Mochi Cafe event.

-Day One End-

ALA 7 (2011) Report: Part 2 - Wednesday/Thursday (Day Zero)

I decided to come in on the Wednesday before ALA to allow myself time to spend time my friends and comrades of the California Conventions Blog. This would be my first time spending time with Zanney and Avi as true roommates for a convention and given what had happened with Ryan and his family I thought this was a good move.

I took Amtrak, taking the same exact train and bus combination that I took for Anime Expo 2010. The only major difference was that heavy fog blanketed the whole entire Central Valley and it was until I got past the Grapevine was when the fog started to dissipate. It was pretty cool though to look out the conductor's window to see the train traveling with almost no visibility.

I arrived at Los Angeles' Union Station at 2:30pm expecting to be picked up somewhere around 3pm. Unfortunately, Ryan's troubles ran into my time here in Los Angeles and I did not get picked up until around 7:30pm. I found ways to pass time though and was hoping that everything was going to be alright. Ryan already had Avi with him when he picked me up, and it was off to Zanney's house up in Woodland Hills for the night. We made a tiny food run and also went to BJ's for some dinner.

-Wednesday before ALA End-

On Thursday we visited the local mall and shopping options for last-second cosplay items before we took off to ALA.

Once we got there I was able to check-in and received a room that was literally lobby level with a poolside deck. I also got my badge and received my evoker commission from Maguma which completed my Junpei cosplay. Now that I think of it, it's one thing to see it played out over and over again on your PS2 or PSP but it's actually frightening every time you point that evoker to your head.

After another food run, it was time to party. The ice cream social was great, and the view out of our room was even better. I also made my first run to Carl's Jr where 2 Western Chesseburgers for $5 was all I needed. We had fun with G-Force and a game of Aye, Dark Overlord; thanks for bringing that up to my room.

We call it a night early to prepare for the 1st day of Anime Los Angeles 2011.

-Day Zero End-