Date: 2012.02.18 (Sat) to 19 (Sun)
Prior attendances: 2011
Relevant links: Tweets from morning of AoD to "going to bed soon" on Sunday | Most photos
After attending Sac-Anime W'12, going to Animation on Display (AoD) is a breath of fresh air.
To get an idea of why I was hyped up for this con, let's start with its location. AoD is located at the Hotel Kabuki in San Francisco Japantown, a neighborhood of SF with many Japanese shops and restaurants. As a result, food is plentiful (and desirable for those who like Japanese cuisine) and there's many great locations for photoshoots. For those into purikura, there's a store on the side of the Japan Center opposite of the con with many booths.
It is a short, two-day convention, but this also makes it cheaper and more convenient to attend than, say, Sac-Anime--less money being spent on food and lodging, for instance. Initially, it was just me and a good friend rooming at the con for $110 between the two of us, and quite frankly I prefer my rooms smaller and more peaceful.
Cosplay diversity is a few notches higher than that of Sac's--in addition to the "big three" (Vocaloid, Homestuck, Hetalia), I also saw cosplays of Panty & Stocking, Touhou, Madoka Magica, amongst a few other series. I even saw Castlevania cosplay, as well as a cosplay that, due to my choice of cosplay on the day I saw it, was a pleasant surprise :D However, it seemed like the ratio of cosplayers to non-cosplayers was a bit low this time around.
In addition to cosplays, I also saw a fair number of folks in lolita fashion. A friend of mine recently sorta got me into it, and it is very pretty anyways.
Attendee maturity, on average, was adequate. Drama and mental facepalms were pretty low.
Unlike last year, in which it rained mildly during the con, weather this year was nice and sunny. A bit cold and windy, but bright and blue nonetheless.
With all these qualities in place, did my experience of AoD go as smoothly as expected?
Preparation for the Con
Jaidin and I had, since November, had a room booked for the Kabuki, and a few weeks prior we started scouting around for rides.
Megan also wanted in on a ride for Saturday, with the intention of going back on her own the same day.
Russell was originally going to take us, but he had to give his AoD-attending classmates priority, which forced us to change options, possibly having to take BART. However, our other friend Mystic offered to take us directly from his house so we could bypass public transit altogether, and this was only made possible at the last minute.
However, our friend K also needed a ride from BART, so we planned to accomodate him as well.
I woke up around 8 AM, with plans to pick up Megan around 9 AM and Jaidin around 9:30, before meeting up with Mystic at 10:15 AM. Having done much of my packing the night before, I did my morning routine, slipped into my cosplay of Yukiteru Amano from Mirai Nikki, finalized my packing, and...hit a snag, so to speak.
Around 9 AM, I realized I couldn't find my keys. I had to spend about 5-10 minutes searching for them, before deciding to screw it and take my dad's keys to my car (with permission of course).
Running late, I put my junk in the trunk, plugged my phone (which I've lately been doubling as a music player) into my car, and took off, grabbing a snack along the way.
I picked up Megan around 9:20 AM, who was dressed up in a rather...interesting version of Greece. I went on to get Jaidin around 9:45 AM.
Traffic was mostly clear on 280 Northbound, my preferred route for taking Daly City, even if it's a bit longer than 101N->380W->280N. We arrived at Mystic's house, a good half hour after our planned arrival time. :/
So we got into his car, luggage and all. Four people is crazy enough, but with us having to pick up K, it was going to get even more packed.
We went into San Francisco to pick up K from Powell BART, crammed all 5 of us in the car, then got going to AoD, arriving at Japantown garage around 11:40 AM.
Jaidin and I went to the front desk, asking if our room was ready yet and if we could check in early. Not surprisingly, no. So we just left our bags at the bellhop to pick them up later.
We then got in line for registration. About a couple minutes after lining up, I caught sight of someone cosplaying Yuno Gasai (also from Mirai Nikki), which totally made my day. After the initial fangirling and fanboying, we arranged to get a few photos in later.
So I got to the front of the line and it turns out according to a staff member that I didn't need to be in this line for press registration; I go to Con Ops for that. I went down to Con Ops and got my badge fairly quickly.
I also took a glance at the gaming room. Mostly fighting games and Rock Band. Anyone who knows my taste in games well knows what this means: PASS.
I decided to get to grips with my surroundings, so I explored the con area for a bit, including the artists' tables and the dealer's halls--nothing of interest at the time. So, I stepped out into the mall and plaza, which were teeming with cosplayers, not surprisingly.
There was a toy store across from May's, so I went in for the hell of it. I spent about 20 seconds staring at the Takoluka "calm face" plushie, the only Takoluka plushie remaining at the store.
I made my way past On The Bridge when Alex called me from the distance. Our friends, including Max, Kaela, Daniela, et al. were at OTB, so we went inside. I was planning on waiting until dinner to go get some mid-tier dining, but Katie wanted to get lunch now, so I decided why not, head over to Mifune, where I got myself a nice plate of katsu curry.
Katie and I left and went out to the plaza, where we regrouped with Alex and company and also ran into Julia, who I rarely see at cons anymore.
It was nearing 3 PM, so Jaidin and I regrouped and checked into our room. At the front desk, we were offered a complimentary upgrade to a suite. After asking questions about it, making sure there wouldn't be any silly charges, I accepted, and we got our room keys.
We checked into our room, on a floor only carded guests can enter by swiping their card through a reader. Presumably unlike other rooms, our room had a living room, followed by the bedroom.
The bathroom had a soaking whirlpool tub / shower and a sauna, the workings of which I unfortunately couldn't figure out for now (in fact I thought it wasn't working!), so I decided to take up the tub instead. Things seemed to be going fine, when suddenly I heard additional voices coming from outside of the bathroom.
I got out of the tub, to find Robbie, Natalie, et al. in my room. At first I thought they were just visiting, but it turns out there was a more pressing reason for their visit: thanks to an error in scheduling, they lost their reservation for the weekend, so now they were asking us to stay in our room, to which we accepted.
Because we had more roommates now, that brought Jaidin's and my shares of the hotel bill down, leaving each of us with about $40-50 of extra cash to spend.
This business done, I went back down to the lobby to enjoy the con some more.
I went down to Belly Good Cafe & Crepes, where I got a crepe with vanilla ice cream and various fruits. Yummy, but so sweet I get prone to a sugar crash.
I eventually found the Yuno cosplayer from earlier, so we went to the photography stage in the Dealer's Hall for some shots. We had some decent shots, although I wish I had called over a friend to help us pose and take photos.
At some point, I came across Elvira, Kimi, and Nikki, and chatted with them for a bit.
Sleepy, I started to head back to the room to take a nap, but K called me asking if anyone could give him a ride back to BART, because Mystic had left. I called Russell, who told me to call him back around 6 so we could better arrange things.
I went back to the room and dozed off for a good hour and a half.
As I woke up, I started attempting to negotiate K's ride back to BART, but some problems happened, so it took longer than expected to arrange for K's ride back.
To let out the stress that had accumulated over today, I went to the gaming room to play some beatmania IIDX. I got in a few songs before the game started to glitch out and mute audio.
Camille, one of my rare cosplaying-and-shmup-playing friends, popped in during my turn of IIDX, and we talked about various shmups as we walked around the area. Eventually, it was time for me to get my laptop out of my room and prepare for my panel: STG 101: Intro to Shoot-Em-Ups.
The panel itself went okay, but I finished with 30 minutes to spare, so I showed various shoot-em-ups, offered the audience a chance to try out a few of them, etc. While I feel my performance this time was fairly sub-par, it did inspire me to play Cloudphobia again. One of the attendees, who knew a lot of shmups and helped me out a bit with my presentation, announced that he would be setting up a 360 with shmups in the gaming room--why didn't I go to that? >_<
After the panel, I met up with Keiji, who I had only known through Twitter and Skype conversations up until this point, so we talked about various things, and then split off.
It was 9 PM when all this ended, so most places in Japantown were closed at this point. I went to the opposite end of Japantown to get a crepe for dinner, at Sophie's Crepes.
Servce was quite slow--it took me about 20-25 minutes before I finally got my crepe. Then again, it was crowded and almost closing hours. I ran into Trina, Yvonne, et al., although I didn't talk much with them.
I checked the rest of Japantown and the con to see what was going on, but the place was mostly emptying out at this point; most of my friends had gone back to their rooms or wherever else they were staying for the night. Disappointing, because I had friends around as late as 11 PM last year; I just wasn't having as much fun as last time. Sure, my friends were here, but they were all busy in their own circles for me to want to stick to them for long. I went back to my room.
Some additional friends had come into our room for a room party, which, despite one person getting a little too drunk to feel good, went mostly smoothly, with some conversations here and there. I played a few shmups, unfolded out the sofa bed, browsed the Internet, took a shower, and went to bed.
I woke up around 8:30 AM, about 3 1/2 hours to go before checking out. Thankfully we had incurred nothing beyond the ~$110 charge for a single night.
Turns out we were able to get the sauna going, so I sweated it out in the sauna and took a shower. I ate a bagel for breakfast, slipped into my cosplay of Persona 3's male protagonist, and since everyone else was stepping out of the room for now, I went down to the con to walk around for a bit.
I had a good feeling about today. Presumably because I went for the sauna earlier as mentioned, but that was only part of it; part of me was telling me that today was going to be great and full of energy. :D
As I walked in the general direction of Nijiya so I could get myself some green tea (since there were no drink cups back at the room), I ran into Tari, who was cosplaying Panty from P&SwG. She asked me for a photo, and also asked to have a photo with her.
Hell, throughout the day, I just attracted attention from fellow Persona 3 fans, with some asking to take photos of me. :D Definitely an incentive for me to cosplay him again.
After getting some green tea, I doubled back to the room since it was almost 11 and I still needed to pack.
On the way, I got a chance to finally meet Prima, a friend who I know on various social netwokring whatevers (particularly Facebook and Foursquare), yet had never met in person. She seemed like a cheerful and fun person to talk to, although I had to leave so I wouldn't be late for checkout.
I packed everything up, checked out just fine (despite being late by about 10-15 minutes), and dumped my bags at the bellhop.
I met up with Alex, Max, et al., and we had some photos of us taken for a cosplay contest. Afterwards we decided to get lunch at Sapporo-Ya, a restaurant on the far end of the mall. I myself got tempura ramen and natto (fermented soybeans), Michael got curry rice (which I unfortunately overlooked on the menu), Alex and Max got soba, etc. I personally didn't like the ramen all that much (soggy tempura that I didn't eat fast enough doesn't help), and the natto tasted more bitter than the natto I've tried at this other place. Overall, a poor food experience.
Although the location of the autograph was awkward and prone to jamming up the halls, the line was surprisingly small; presumably everyone who wanted autographs got them yesterday. At any rate, I got Cristina Vee to sign one of my Madoka Magica doujins, and I also complimented her on her cover of "Bad Apple!!". Prima came in not too long after I got Cristina's autograph, so we talked for a bit while she and Cristina had photos together.
I then met up with Sarah, who I hadn't seen since Anime Destiny and mostly only know through Tumblr, and her friend Andrea, who I was supposed to have an interview with for one of her projects last week, but couldn't do due to a communication error. The questions mostly consisted of things like "what do you see cosplay as", "describe cosplay in one word", etc--thought-provoking questions, though I had trouble answering them. I'm the kind of person who sometimes can go on for paragraphs or minutes answering one question, yet at other times can't find the words to asnwer the same sort of questions. Regardless, it was nice to see them, even if only for 20 minutes. ^^
With my main objectives for the con completed, I went back to randomly wandering around the area. I encountered Kevin, who always makes for an entertaining conversation partner. :D
I decided to get a crepe, again.
Bad idea. Again, sugar crash. The energy I had going into this second day of the con just randomly faded out.
I went down to New People, since I hadn't had a chance to go for the weekend. There wasn't much to do or buy, the art gallery was closed (as usual), and I was too embarassed to go into the lolita store alone.
Now I felt like it was time to buy stuff. I mostly stuck to the artist's alley--the dealer's room tends to be overpriced and not have budget purchases I'm interested in. I mostly ended up at one artist's booth, which was selling artwork for $10 each, or 3 for $20. I ended up getting some of Reimu, Len only (seriously, there needs to be more Len-but-not-Rin fanart, as much as I like Rin too), and a Pikachu ladder.
The con at this point mostly started to die down--I tried looking for some of my friends, but I couldn't find them--presumably they had already left. Time passed, and Jaidin and I regrouped and Russell took us back to Daly City, where I was still parked. Brilliant start to a final day of the con, but a somewhat lackluster end.
I needed to use the bathroom, so Jaidin and I stopped at a McDonald's not too far down 280 Southbound. We talked about upcoming cons, like Kin-Yoobi Con and getting a hotel room for that. It is interesting that KYC is finally going to be getting a hotel for its convention space rather than a college cafeteria, although I hope its scheduling will remain the same as previous years, in which even on the last day events ran until late.
In a scenic mood, I decided to take 280-S going all the way back to San Jose. It's rather dark after hours due to the lack of street lights. It took longer than expected, but we got to San Jose around 8:30 PM.
After parting ways with Jaidin, I went home, and nailed some shut-eye as soon as possible.
A few weeks before Sac-Anime, I talked with a few friends about how Sac was simply a "filler" con for me until AoD, which I was more hype for. Then came the flurry of Fanime-related posts, what with registration and hotel reservations opening up.
I dunno, I'm slightly disappointed with this year. I usually expect to be doing much more than just aimlessly wandering the con looking for interesting cosplays and hoping to make friends, but not enough happened for this con to meet my expectations. Maybe I just set the bar too high because of last year? It also doesn't help that I tend not to associate with a lot of convention attendees, especially with the surge of Homestuck and My Little Pony fans--two fandoms I don't partake in--at cons over the past year.
Normally, in times of "filler" I just hit the gaming room, but this isn't Sac's gaming room. I don't play fighting games.
Regardless, it was still a decent convention--good crowds, awesome location, pretty cosplays, but my experience had the potential to be even more enjoyable. There's always next year, I suppose.
Overall, I give this con a 3/5.
To those I had the fortune of encountering or meeting at the con: See you all at future cons and cosplay gatherings!