I've been going to AoD since 2011, so I guess I'm one of the more "beginner" attendees here.
I looked forward to this con, more so than Sac-Anime, for a number of reasons. It's more local, which means less travel distance and more familiar folks. It's in Japantown, San Francisco, which is a very nice place for food and some shopping. Finally, I have fond memories of my first time here, mostly spending time with friends--small cons are "hangout cons" after all.
But it seems like I didn't really enjoy myself at AoD this year. There were some bad things that transpired, though my reasons for my lack of enjoyment are different.
(Caution: AoD is a FoodCon(TM), photos of good food will be in this con report. Do not open if you are feeling hungry. ;) )
Sadly, sleep was a thing that barely happened. I held off packing up until midnight or so because I was watching Konami's JAEPO 2013 Bemani event.
I tried to get some sleep, but because I had fallen asleep the early evening before, that didn't happen. Ended up with maybe 1 hour of it.
So I "woke up" around 7:30 AM, got myself breakfast, and went through my usual morning routine, picking up my necessary toiletries along the way to pack int my suitcase.
I headed off for Jaidin's place, arriving around 9:15-30 AM, Jaidin cosplaying as a Homestuck character. As I've discussed in this blog, I don't put on my Reimu cosplay at home, so I stopped over at her house to do it. We then went to the Wells Fargo a few miles upward before making the drive all the way to Daly City.
We went to the BART station, and much thankfully BART allows overnight parking on weekends for free so I took advantage of that. Both of us quickly experienced problems: The fare gate closed on Jaidin while she was trying to get her baggage through it, and my Clipper Card, which I was using for the first time, reported a balance of $0, so I had to load it with $3 just to be able to pass through the gates. Once we got through the gates, things went more smoothly. Jaidin and I decided she should use the double gates to avoid the problem of baggage not fitting, and my preloaded balance finally kicked in at the station, with the gate reporting my balance at $20.20.
Katie showed up, cosplaying as Yoshika Miyako, also from Touhou, with her friend driving 15-20 minutes later, signaled by a voice exclaiming "Look, it's a shrine maiden!" We got in the car and made for Japantown. We arrived around 12 PM.
"Yeah, we're at AOD. We can tell because there are Homestucks here."
Day 1 -- Shrine Maiden Shuffle
Of course our room wasn't ready yet, so Jaidin and I used the luggage service to file away our bags. My first order of business was to pick up my press badge, so I made my way to Con Ops, with Katie tagging along for the ride.
However, things took a turn for the worse when I showed my business card and was quickly turned down; apparently, CCB was declined for this year. What the hell? I contacted my colleagues Robbie and Nate, as well as my editor-in-chief Matt; Robbie was still en route, Nate showed up pretty soon, and Matt was not answering my calls (presumably due to work or other business) so that would have to wait. Rather than waste time, Katie and I decided to explore J-Town for a bit, hoping for some developments later.
We pretty much crossed the length of the two malls, making a quick stop at Playland Japan and eventually ending up at Kissako, a cafe on the other side that serves treats like dango (starchy balls containing red bean paste) and onigiri (rice balls containing meat, wrapped in seaweed). I got a few myself, and enjoyed a cheap lunch.
Matt called me back and told me Robbie tried to get a press badge as well, and told me to try getting a badge again. So I made my way back, conveniently encountering Robbie along the way, who detailed me a bit further on his attempts at getting a press badge.
Back at Con Ops, I decided to press further on the issue. It turns out apparently, one of CCB's staff--a female, no less--had gone around in indecent wear last year at AoD, prompting them to strike CCB down from applying for press this year. This claim made no sense on two fronts. Robbie and I were the only CCB representatives last year; we had no third member on our team for AoD, let alone a female one. Furthermore, there was no evidence of such an incident; no records and no photographs, so on what basis were they deriving their claims from? They told us that they would "look into the issue" but that it would be "an issue for next year".
I was very much displeased about this, but at this point there was nothing I could do but deal with standard registration.
3 PM came so I came to the front desk to check in. The room wasn't ready yet, so I went off to do other things, like signing up for at-con registration and exploring the artist's alley. Come 4 PM, room wasn't ready yet, and I needed to run the Touhou gathering in the main plaza. Fortunately, the hotel staff was really nice; as compensation, lowered our rate from $125-ish to $100, and gave us breakfast vouchers to use at the O Izakaya Lounge the following day.
The gathering...well, there wasn't much to it, as I expected judging by the total lack of activity on the FB event page. About 7 people, myself included, attended, and we mostly just hung out and derped around. About 30-40 minutes passed, and Katie was really hungry, so some of us decided to get food.
We ended up at Mifune, or rather, one of three Mifune stores in the Japantown neighborhood. Though, I was getting very sleepy and I think I fell asleep at the table a few times. Nonetheless I enjoyed the bowl of edamame that was set out on the table, and I ordered myself a nice katsu don bowl, what with my recent craving for Japanese rice bowls. Of course, the bowl came with a bowl of miso, as well as a small salad.
I pretty much had my way with my bowl of breaded-meat-over-rice goodness, taking my time so as to savor the meat and the glazed rice, while occasionally downing gulps of miso. I very much enjoyed my bowl; hell, I could argue that I liked it more than Mifune's katsu curry.
6 PM or so came, and Katie and I were finally able to check in. We had a room on the 8th floor, and while it wasn't the suite that I stayed in last time, the room was nice and comfy nonetheless; Katie in particular was just gushing over the various features.
Although our room was listed as having two single beds, I found that the beds were large enough to accommodate two people each, so we didn't need anyone (out of 4) sleeping on the floor after all.
I also hopped on the WiFi to do some whatevers, which was thankfully free and didn't even need a login page. Speed was pretty good too.
Now, I had come into the room to get some sleep, so I took off my wig and napped for about an hour or so.
I got up around 7:30-45 PM, and we had intended to get some groceries from Nijiya, but that ended up not happening. Oh well. At any rate, Jaidin came to the room, and I believe our other roommate joined us at some point.
I thought to swing by the gaming room, since it was being run by T_BAGR, the same folks who run Sac-Anime's and Fanime's gaming rooms. I got in a few rounds of Rhythm Heaven Fever.
I also wanted to check out the arcade one last time for the day, so I went over there, and had a few rounds of music games, such as DJMAX Technika (notably, the Japanese version rather than the international one), pop'n music 14 FEVER, and Taiko no Tatsujin 9.
After my arcade session, I decided to travel around and I ran into my music game friends and chose to tag along. We ended up at On The Bridge, and since it was closing, they were out of spiciness levels other than mild, which was amusing.
Nonetheless I wasn't in the mood to eat much, so I just got some chicken kara-age.
Since I wasn't gonna be driving until the day after, I thought to get some alcohol as well. I don't like beer all that much, the concept of sake doesn't really interest me (seems focused on getting the user drunk), and wine is expensive, so I got myself a cocktail. Though cocktails are seen as a "woman's drink", I'm pretty feminine anyway (not to mention I was dressed as a girl) so I pretty much don't care. Plus I don't like bitter kinds of alcohol anyway.
For some reason I was in a greens mood, so I downed a good chunk of the cabbage, usually between bites of chicken. I also felt some woozy effects, not sure if it's because of what I drank, my sleep deprivation, or both.
It was getting late--in fact, when we left On The Bridge, it was about 10 PM and already closed, so I split and made my way back to the Kabuki since everything else was closed at this point. Went to the gaming room and got in a few rounds of Pac-Man Championship Edition DX, and once the gaming room closed around midnight I called it a day.
I went back to my room, checked some things on my laptop, and had a nice soak in the tub before going to sleep.
Day 2 -- Persona 3: Real Escape Room
I got up around 10 AM or so, later than I intended. Debated putting on my Reimu cosplay again because I really liked wearing it, but one of my senses was telling me I shouldn't, plus I didn't bring any shaving equipment so I decided to just go with my original plan of cosplaying Minato Arisato from Persona 3 instead.
I threw my gohei prop (from my Reimu cosplay) in the trash since I figured I can just make another one. I didn't feel like lugging that around the con when it's not even an available weapon that Minato uses.
We left the room around 10:45 AM or so to check out, then went down to O Izakaya Lounge to redeem our breakfast vouchers. I got myself a heaping plate, as well as some oatmeal. In hindsight, I got more food than I needed, because I was only able to finish about 80-85% of it. Nonetheless, the staff was really nice, and didn't seem to mind too much that I had leftovers.
(Your Diligence has inc--whoops! You don't have a Diligence stat!)
So after that deliciousness, I had about 1 1/2 hours to kill so I went to the arcade, might as well get in a few rounds of music games, then went over to New People to get ready for Escape from the Mysterious Room, part of the Real Escape Game series.
Bonus Feature: Real Escape Room
So for those of you not familiar with Real Escape Game, the format, at least for this version, is as follows: You join a team of up to 9 other players (usually), and, after some orientation and such, are all locked in a room with 1 hour to escape.
To escape, you need to gather clues strewn around the room, put them together and figure them out, which will result in more clues pertaining to locating important tools and other clues necessary to make progress and eventually achieve the core goal of finding the key to escaping the room.
I was half-expecting some of my teammates to be AoD attendees, but I guess I rode my hopes too high since there weren't any. Without spoiling too much: We worked together, splitting tasks amongst us (i.e. one person looking for clues, another organizing them together, working on different parts of the room). Amusingly, one of the clues involved a manga book. Sadly, we were not fast enough to clear the game.
After we failed, the staff came to escort us out of the room and discuss the room with us, pointing out hints and the remainder of the solution. It wasn't surprising that we failed; the clear rate after all was only about 3.5%.
End Bonus Feature.
After leaving, it was about 3 PM. I went back to the Kabuki, where I met up with a few friends. We decided on getting lunch at On The Bridge.
I was gonna check out the Angel Hearts panel, but I was more in a social mood, so I tagged along with Katie and DaKree for OTB fun times; a good way to conclude the convention.
I was still fairly stuffed from breakfast, but I didn't want something small. I ended up settling for okonomiyaki. Or "Japanese pizza" as some call it.
(Very much enjoyed it, kinda reminded me of takoyaki.)
Unfortunately we forgot to ask for split check so we ended up in this situation where we had to calculate the hell out of who pays how much, and in the end one of us ended up owing money to me.
Katie's mom intended to pick us up at 5 PM so we could leave, but we ended up staying until 5:20 PM or so instead.
Katie's mom was generous enough to offer Jaidin and me rides back to the BART station. The ride back to Daly City went pretty smoothly.
We headed back, taking the 280, though I was getting sleepy D: Fortunately I made it back to Jaidin's safe and sound, before heading home myself.
I was looking more forward to AoD, but it seems like much was missing from this year's experience. Being sleep-deprived both days didn't help, and the Touhou gathering was quite meh; I'm thankful some people came out but there was almost no point to organizing an event page on Facebook.
In addition, AoD this year was quite hectic. I was scrambling all over the place--hotel room here, Touhou gathering there, taking a nap over there, etc. Especially on Day 1; I had next to no time to relax and appreciate my surroundings and my cosplay.
It should also be noted that I hardly found any cosplays to get photos of. I'm not into the big fandoms like Homestuck and Doctor Who, and a lot of the cosplayers I like are cosplayers I already know. So I took less than 10 photos of cosplayers throughout the weekend. (Not to mention I was cosplaying Reimu on day 1 so no pockets for my cameras.)
I also learned that REG and AoD don't mix very well; it just ended up feeling like a completely different event. While I certainly enjoyed myself, being in cosplay didn't necessarily make the experience special; I should've gone on a different day instead.
On the plus side, I got to try out several Japanese eateries, which is always a good excuse to come to J-town. It was also nice having a few friends to consistently hang out with, something I really appreciate at cons. Eating dinner with friends is always a nice experience, as it gives me a chance to just rest and talk to each other over delicious food. My room stay went fairly well; all of my roommates were pretty chill and nothing bad transpired. Especially in contrast to last year, when Jaidin and I suddenly had to accommodate 350% of our planned number of guests.
I'm still rather miffed over the press reg. issue. I really hope things get sorted out; $35 isn't exactly a trivial amount of money to suddenly have to pay and I would very much like to see some compensation come out of this.
Perhaps I should stop expecting a lot out of this convention, especially since who I consider good friends tends to change from year to year.
Next convention: Fanime 2013
Really, there's no cons in NorCal going on until Fanime, so I have plenty of time to prepare. I'm thinking of maybe sneaking in one new cosplay by then. I should perhaps focus on graduating first, because my graduation takes place on Day 2 of Fanime! Fortunately it's only from 9 AM to 12 PM so I'll still have plenty of time to do things.
I'll write more about Fanime as it gets closer. I already have a room, and I'm crying because of the $300 deposit for my room. I really hope that money gets refunded to me because I sure need those funds for AX!
Until then, this is Ray, purveyor of Japanese music games and danmaku shrine maidens, signing out.