Anime LA, a con local to folks who live in the greater Los Angeles area, takes place over the second weekend of January every year at the LAX Marriott hotel. Most notable for being geared towards cosplayers, this con also features a relaxing, friendly atmosphere, a hotel that's used to anime conventions, well-organized staff, and my personal favorite--the beanbag pile!
Features of note: Night Zero Ice Cream Social & Dance Party, AMV Hell Morning Madness, Scarlet Rhapsody's Convention Reporting Panel and the Parents' Lounge.
Cons: The only problems that I feel are worth mentioning are that the pool deck is much too small to contain multiple cosplay gatherings at the same time, but that's not exactly the fault of the convention organizers so much as the folks who organize the series-specific gatherings themselves. I've had my fair share of war stories in past years, and the only hiccup I noticed this time around was that a lot of the more popular series all chose the same day, time and location for their meet ups. That's a little discouraging to see, especially because it starts to seem like everyone is competing for attention. Hopefully people will realize that there are more places to hold photo shoots at this con in time for next year, which will alleviate the pains of overcrowding.
Pros: While some conventions are known for fandom wank or bitchy hotel staff or have some kind of speedbump that takes a lot of effort to get over in one piece, the one thing you will always hear about Anime LA is that it's relaxed and friendly and it feels like home. Whether you're a cosplayer that needs to dart back and forth from hotel room to photo shoot at the drop of a hat, an Artist Alley addict who blows a hard-earned paycheck no later than lunchtime on Day One or a photographer with a penchant for panel-hopping, there's never a huge rush to get from one event to the next. Everything is planned smoothly and set at an easy pace for a comfortable convention experience like nowhere else.
About The Location
This is the part where I've finished singing the high praises of a con I actually work for and I prove that I am unbiased. Time to sink my teeth into this steak and really rip into some of those grizzly flaws!
First off, I think that the location is too small. My first Anime LA was at the old location--the Marriott at the Burbank Airport--and that was smaller, if memory serves. That year was also pretty crowded, but at closing ceremonies, convention chair Chaz Baden announced that we would be moving to a better hotel with more space and hotel staff that wasn't constantly PMS-ing at the attendees.
While we're not experiencing a hang-up with the hotel staff anymore, we are getting some overcrowding and I really hope this will be taken into account for future years. I didn't make it to the wrap-up panel this year because I had to leave early, but I'm pretty sure some others might have raised the same questions that I have--those being along the lines of, "Will we be able to get more space next year?" and "Is there another move in our future?"
On the staffing side of things, I am proud to say that we opened Registration early this year, and when I say early, I mean we broke records! I printed the very first badge of the weekend at exactly 2:15 PM, which means that we had the computers up and running right on schedule. That's a first! Usually Registration opens an hour behind, maybe between 3 and 4 PM.
The reason for the sudden breakthrough? A set-up assembly line organized by veteran staff member Romy Meyerson. Volunteers would form a single file line, grab a bag and move ahead along the Registration table to place items into the bag each in succession, then deposit the goods in neat stacks at the end of the table. When the stacks were large enough, a different team of volunteers would put the bags into cardboard boxes for storage. At one point there were two separate assembly lines running simultaneously with up to ten workers each. The smallest number of people doing this was five. Thanks to Romy's innovative design, we had enough supplies ready and waiting thirty minutes before the department heads started unpacking the computers!
About Nearby Hotels
I actually stayed in a hotel next door to con, and it wasn't the Hilton. Aubrie Hollands, one of our fabulous photographers here at CCB, discovered a Four Points by Sheraton at the very last minute and invited me, Jackie and a friend of ours to stay with her and Bryan, her fiancee. According to Aubrie, the rates were $75 a night and she booked Thursday, Friday and Saturday. That's not too shabby!
Four Points is walking distance from the Marriott and also has free internet. There's also a Burger King across the street, which is perfect for early-morning coffee runs--I know I certainly needed that when I had the early shift at Registration. Mind you, I don't use hotel rooms at con for much besides sleeping, so if you need something more luxurious as opposed to my practical stance, this location may not be for you. However, if you are a boyscout like me and you like to save your money for convention swag and an occasional meal, definitely consider this hotel.
There's also a Motel 6 in the area, and I have stayed there before. Lots of people tell me they like Motel 6 better than other cheaper hotels, and I can respect that opinion, but I really didn't have a great experience at Motel 6 when I stayed there for Anime LA 2010 and I ended up wasting most of my money on bus fare back and forth the whole weekend. I suppose this is why the discovery of a new option was so awesome to me.
This year there seemed to be a chaotic scramble for hotel space, I noticed, and it could have been due to a business convention that was happening during the week leading straight into Anime LA, so if anyone needs a backup plan, I recommend Four Points.
About Nearby Eateries
I'm a fan of Denny's, and I make a habit of going to the one near the convention hotel when finances allow. I was very surprised at how quick and efficient service was this year. I didn't go last year, so I can't really compare a past experience to this year's, but then again, I may be biased simply because I love the food there.
The value menu is great for con-goers who want to save money AND eat something tasty. I've got nothing against Carl's Jr. or anything, but sometimes I want real pancakes, eggs and hash browns and you just can't get those from a fast food place.
Con From MY Perspective
This year, Anime LA was very good. It's a great way to kick off a new year and I will never miss this con if I can help it, but for some reason, I felt like something was missing. Anime LA 2012 was slow for me, and that's just not normal.
Perhaps this could be something only I noticed because of how turbulent it was for me in years past and how much more CCB was doing at con last time, but I still feel like my convention experience was incomplete. It needs something more, but I can't quite grasp what that something might be.
I'm also a tad frustrated with some personal issues. I was asked to take over the organization of a gathering that Matt and I usually co-host, and since it was such short notice, I really wasn't prepared.
I asked a lot of friends for help with this, but I guess I should have made absolutely sure I wasn't late to my own gathering because I was trying to get my co-workers out of bed. I should have set my alarm properly, too.
In the end, mostly due to my inexperience and the fact that I basically stumbled the whole way, we had a not-so-awesome spot on the pool deck with an abundance of glare from the sun before the Naruto gathering started complaining that we were in their spot which prompted us to move locations. We wound up freezing our butts off on the ballroom level patio, but it was still fun. Aubrie did a mini photo shoot with her professional camera and everything turned out alright in the end. I think I'll keep all of this in mind for next time, and cross my fingers that Matt can make it down here to help me out.
SMT/Persona Gathering Photo Shoot by Aubrie