Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Nate's Report: Anime Expo 2013 (Day 0 and 1)

Ok, reflection time. The last time I visited the city of Los Angeles was with a group of friends with one of them having a birthday during that weekend. That vacation turned out horrible with me losing a whole lot of respect to them during that time. It was also then where I vowed never to return to LA. 

Well that was back in 2009 and I didn't have much experience attending cons. Fanime 2009 would be my first anime con I attended and it was amazing. From there on, I continued to attended Fanime as well as other anime cons around California like Sacanime and Animation on Display. Who knew that after 4 years of attending anime cons, the adventure would lead me back to the place I dreaded ever since that vacation. It has been quite a long time, but it's time to make amends. Anime Expo was destined for me and I came in determined to have an awesome time!

Day 0

Before going to AX, me and my blog partner, Ray, booked a bus that would take us from San Jose down to Los Angeles. Yeah, it isn't a convenient way to go down there but we were on a budget and there was no one that we know that could take us down so we had to take the bus. And luckily, we weren't the only ones that were going to LA for AX. There were some people that we met, even cosplayers, that took the same bus as us ready for AX. So we made some new friends going to AX. Things are already looking up for this con! 
Mawaru Penguindrum cosplayers are riding with us. Awesome!

After a 6 hr. 30 min. ride (with a pit stop) through the I-5 freeway, we made it to our destination: Los Angeles. We arrived at the Union Station where our other room/blog mates Matthew, Ryan, and Amanda would pick us up. We soon went to grab a bite to eat at Philippe's, a French Dipped sandwich shop very close to the Union Station. The restaurant was featured in the Travel Channel show, Man vs. Food, and I knew why it was. The sandwiches were delicious! Just don't put on that hot mustard sauce of theirs. It's like wasabi. Although to Ryan, he can handle anything. 
Ain't that a little too much hot mustard on that chili, Ryan?

All of us would go to our hotel room that we are staying for the weekend, the Kawada Hotel. When we entered the room, it was like Matthew said: A room that was a whole lot smaller than advertised. It was shaped like a studio room! Way smaller than an apartment, possibly smaller than a shack. How could we possibly fit 7 people in this room? Fortunately, though we were able to make it work. It was 3pm, the time where we could get our badges. But there was a setback. Apparently, the other two roommates were still at home during that time and it was going to take them about 2 hours to get to LA. We would wait for a little bit until we all decided to go ahead and went to Anime Expo to grab our badges. 

Now the system that Anime Expo has with registration is a whole lot different that what I've experienced with other cons I've attended. They have a scan and go system and it's a pretty effective system, especially for big cons like this one. What AX does is give an email to all attendees that pre-register which contains a bar code that contains their registration information. What attendees do is bring that bar code to the scanners at AX and all they do is scan their bar code while an attendee behind the scanner prints out their badge. The system makes registration easy as it will take an attendee a minute or two to get their badge. Plus the pre-registration line looked like it was running effectively, meaning no long waits in line. I really like how AX runs their registration. I wonder if other cons should imply this system as well? It would make cons run a whole lot better. 

After I got my badge, I would roam around the convention grounds with Ryan and Matt before taking off meeting up with other people. But I would notice that it's really not that big for a day 0. The con looked like it was just a usual pick up your badge and just head back routine. This was probably because there was nothing planned up on that day. So the attendance count was very low at Day 0. With nothing to do at the con, I went back to my hotel room to meet up with Hillary and her brother Alex, our other roommates who couldn't make it to Day 0 pre-registration. And we would end the day there eating food from our hotel room as well as getting a good nights sleep. The #HypeForAX is over. We are ready for Day 1.

It's pretty empty on Day 0 of Anime Expo.

Day 1

We woke up on this day at around 5AM!??!?! Looks like some of us are really hyped that we just want to be there immediately. But it was our two roommates who didn't get their badges at day 0 that they wanted to get there early. On this day were 3 gatherings, two from Magi: The Magic of Labyrinth and one from Soul Eater. Since both Magi gatherings were both first, I went as Aladdin from Magi with Death the Kid in my backpack. It does kind of suck planning to cosplay two characters on the same day because you're carrying a big backpack all around the con keeping your cosplays in there and you don't want to check in your bag at AX since they do charge you. On a budget and not planning to go back to the hotel till night, I had to suffer with it and carried a backpack of cosplay with me all along the convention on this day. 

I would check out the press lounge that was a room where people in press can chill with cool water, free wi-fi, and best of all: silence. The whole hallway for Press was quiet and peaceful. Really helps with people who wants to take a break during con. I would use this amenity throughout my time in AX because I know it is going to be one very busy con.

I would head down to check out the floor which was entirely packed with attendees and cosplays. I would tour around the con for a bit until I got a text from Matt telling that premier attendees, including press, can come into the Exhibit hall now, which was an hour earlier than the scheduled open time. I would get to the entrance only to be denied by the staffer working the line. I even showed them my press badge and they still told me I couldn't go in. I was forced to go outside and I told another staffer that I'm in press and asked permission to get in. I was again denied. This was very unfair. You would let other press and premier attendees come inside exhibit hall fine and dandy, and you would not let me in? Even if I was late only for like 10 minutes before they opened their doors to us. I got kind of mad here. So I told the staffer it is very unfair what they were doing. I even told them that a couple of my blog mates were in there already. Luckily, there were other staffers there guarding the line to talk about this problem. After their short conference, they would give me permission to go in. I was so glad this problem was resolved. 

I went into exhibit hall already amazed at what the floor looks like. So many anime companies were showcasing their products like Viz Media, Aniplex, NIS America, Funimation, Crunchyroll, and others. I would meet up with Matt and Ryan who were waiting at the Good Smile Company booth to buy figures. Of course, I was there myself to get a figure as well. The exclusive Madoka Kaname Maiko ver. nendoroid selling only at AX. I was able to get it with an exclusive shopping bag that came along with it. After I got my figure, I roamed around the exhibit hall seeing the industry booths and dealer's that were selling in the hall. Here's what I picked up on from each industry booth in my first visit:
  • Sentai Filmworks: They were mostly promoting 6 titles: Girls and Panzer, Bodacious Space Pirates, Tsuritama, Kids on the Slope, The Garden of Words, and Love, Chuunibyou, and other Delusions. 
  • NIS America: Promoting the new games and animes they have, including Daily Lives of High School Boys. That anime was in high promotion when I passed by their booth. You can also play a sample of their games when you are at their booth. 
  • Aniplex: High promotion for Blue Exorcist: The Movie, as well as other titles like Magi: The Magic of Labyrinth, Fate/Zero, and animes that they are streaming this season (Servant x Service, Monogatari 2nd season, etc.)
  • Crunchyroll: They've got stage set up for the Live show that they are going to show during their time at AX as well as giving out free t-shirts to those who are premium members or whoever signs up at AX for a premium membership. 
  • Aksys Games: You can play the games that are recently released from Aksys games as well as play new titles including Blazblue: Chrono Phantasm. Me, Matt, and Ryan tried out the game and we are already sold. Take our money now, Aksys! 
  • Funimation: From the posters they were showcasing, they were promoting new animes that they are about to release including Evangelion 3.0, Guilty Crown, Fairy Tail, and others. They also plan to have a live cast of The Funimation Show as their set was in their booth. They were also selling DVDs of their titles as well as showcasing the app which is available on all mobile devices. 
  • VIZ Media: Promoting Neon Alley, new mangas like Magi, and a big promotion for the anime, K. They do plan to have a K day where anyone who cosplays or is a big fan of the show will really like the events they have planned on that day. FYI that K cosplayer (Kaname) is the main guest ;) 
Ryan and Matt take a turn playing Blazblue: Chrono Phantasm

Funimation Booth 

The Crunchyroll Live Show isn't live just yet.....
It was 11:45 and we decided to go outside to where West Hall resides and it was all packed with attendees waiting to get into the Exhibit Hall! The whole West Hall was so packed, there was no room for movement. If you were there at day 1 of AX around that time, you couldn't find a way to get out at all! It was massive. When those doors open, it was going to be utter mayhem! I did record the whole entire event of the entrance into exhibit hall for all the attendees. You can check out the video below. 
AX Day 1: The rush into Exhibit Hall. Absolute Mayhem!

After witnessing that exciting moment, I would head over to my first gathering which was the Magi gathering held by AX. The gathering had a good turnout with many cosplayers who would be there cosplaying their favorite characters from the series. I'd say the gathering had about 40-50 people in attendance with cosplayers and fans from the show taking pictures of anything that was being showcased. I'd say the gathering turned out well. Although I wasn't familiar with anybody there since I couldn't recognize any familiar faces in the gathering. Let's assume the crowd was mostly from So-Cal, and are mostly females which let's face it, that's how the Magi gatherings are. 

There was an hour break before my next gathering which apparently was another Magi gathering again, but this time the gathering was held by Aniplex. What Aniplex? The big time company that has the release rights to the show? I was definitely not missing that! So after a quick bite to eat outside where the food trucks reside, I would return to the Exhibit Hall which would be packed with attendees and cosplayers. It was pretty busy sometimes that it would be hard to get through the walkways of the hall. I did manage to get to the Aniplex booth and attended the Magi gathering there. Held by Henry Lee of ACParadise, Henry would lead the cosplay gathering making up good photos ops of characters from the show and the cosplayers would follow along with them. Most of the cosplayers in this gathering were from the previous gathering with more that heard about this gathering. Again, another fun gathering to attend to with an awesome guy leading the gathering this time. The gathering was ran well and I really enjoyed it. Yet again, it's just awesome to cosplay from this show! 
From the gathering held by AX
From the gathering held by Aniplex. Looks like there was more here than the previous gathering. Then again, Aniplex held this gathering. Credit to Kei Tsubasa Photography

The gathering was planned to be over at 3:45 but there was a chance to get free Magi stuff from Aniplex just for participating in the game Henry was hosting. I would really love to join, but another gathering was coming up at 4pm! So I went to the press area bathrooms to quickly change. Oh by the way, the press room bathrooms are mostly clear so it was a good way to change into other cosplays. I would change into Death the Kid and went out to where the Soul Eater gathering was held. This gathering was actually held in some sort of corner where the escalators were and I didn't expect this sort of spot to actually be a cosplayer gathering area. Seems pretty bland if you ask me. Plus when I arrived, the head of the cosplay gathering wasn't there. So we waited for a couple of minutes before we went ahead and started the gathering. It was a decent gathering to say the least. We had the decent shoots of characters and then we decided to do certain scenes from the show, which was pretty cool actually to get shots of that. It wasn't really properly ran as I expected but it was still enjoyable to attend to. 
Maka chop!
Death the Kid with Liz and Patty. Our stance must be in perfect symmetry! 

After the gathering, I would head out to Petree Hall where I would attend the Aniplex of America panel. There was many things that they would announce at this panel. One big important news came when Charlie Ingram from VIZ made an announcement relating to Neon Alley. When the trailer came up, it was Magi! Magi is coming to Neon Alley! Also note, that Neon Alley is an English Dub only anime streaming app only for PS3 and Xbox 360. This does mean Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic will have an English dub! Bang Zoom Ent. was actually there for tryouts for roles in the show, but I had a busy schedule with me that I couldn't attend their tryouts (Even if I wanted to tryout so badly!) 

Afterwards they went straight to their streaming anime series that they will be serving to the fans this season. They showed previews of Valvrave the Liberator (Currently showing on Crunchyroll and Hulu, show plans to continue on this fall), Servant x Service (Now streaming on Crunchyroll), Day Break Illusion (Streaming on Crunchyroll), Silver Spoon (Now streaming on Crunchyroll), and Monogatari Second Season (Streaming on Daisuki). 

They went ahead and told the crowd animes that are now available on DVD/Blu-Ray. They first showed the Gurren Lagaan import blu-ray box set that includes all of the episodes and the movies, all in stunning HD! Mikunopolis in Los Angeles was talked about next which is a video of the Vocaloid concert that was held at Anime Expo back in 2011. Blue Exorcist blu-ray sets were announced with Vol. 1 now available with Vol.2 to be released on September 10th. 

The Aniplex panel would go ahead and announce things that are coming soon to stores. One was the Madoka Magica movies, which they plan to release on July 30th on DVDs that are both official imports from Japan! Sword Art Online will also be released by Aniplex on Blu-ray and DVD in both English and Japanese Dub and will come out in 4 volumes. Check dates at a later time to see when each volume will be released. And another thing, Sword Art Online will be airing on Toonami starting July 27th! So mark your dates everyone. Blast of Tempest will also be released by Aniplex and will be distributed in two volumes. No dates have been announced on when they will be released, but check the Aniplex site for official dates. They did have special announcements where they plan to release Fate/Zero again with both English and Japanese dub, but with the limit of time the staff cut the MC off and the panel would end there. 
Aniplex Channel is available for you to see the latest Aniplex shows
With all of that in a Gurren Lagann in a Blu-Ray box set, who wouldn't pass on that deal?

The panel was over and I had a good amount of free time before meeting up with the rest of the Calicon blog for dinner. So I roamed around the con with a couple of my Nor-Cal friends and checked out what's going around the convention. I did meet up with D-piddy in his Colossal Titan outfit while he goes around trolling cosplayers. Finally I get to see him in action! I would roam around the gaming room which apparently has preset settings that cosplayers can take photos from. There was setup of a school room, a Japanese arch with cherry blossoms in the background, a cemetery shrine, and other made up sets. It was perfect for cosplayers and photographers to have photoshoots in. I planned to take advantage of using these sets for shoots, but at a later time since it was pretty busy. 
The usual D-Piddy in his trolling environment. 

I met up with most of the Cali Con blog staff at Fatburger where I saw Ryan and Matt take on their "XXXL" challenge. What they had to do was eat the entire huge sandwich in under 30 minutes. They were able to devour the sandwich in less than 15 minutes. That wasn't much of a challenge, unless they didn't eat lunch or something like that. Then we saw a person in the Fatburger line that looked familiar to all of us. We looked closer to realize that it was Harley Morenstein from the online show, EpicMealTime! This was a total fan moment for all of us as almost everyone in our group took a picture with him. WOW! One of the highlights of AX right there. 
The bacon man himself, Harley Morenstein from EpicMealTime. My face shows my excitement. 

A couple of us would head over to the Luxe hotel and would hit up the bar that was located on the 2nd floor of the hotel and we would grab ourselves a couple of drinks before heading back to the hotel to call it a night. And wow, what a day it was! It's just day one and there were so many awesome things that happened. AND WE HAVE 3 MORE DAYS OF CON LEFT! It's already looking like this Anime Expo is going to be very fun! 

Well that was a lot writing I've just done so I'll stop here. This is just part one of my report. Part 2 will cover up the rest of Anime Expo as well as Post AX. 

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