Sunday, September 1, 2013

Nate Reports: Japan Expo 2013

You would hear about Japan Expo around areas in Europe as it is one of the biggest conventions in the area. Just last year, they have held a record attendance of 208,000 attendees! Wow even Anime Expo can't beat that! It's so big that they would put a subsidiary convention in the United States. And wouldn't you know it, Japan Expo's first US convention was located here in the Bay Area. Of course I would take advantage and planned to attend this convention hoping for an awesome time (before school begins for me.....)

Day 0

FYI for people seeing this report, apparently there was a day 0 for people to pick up their badges, but this was only for those with V.I.P. privileges for Japan Expo. That means anyone who works as staff, those who worked in the panels, and apparently Press. I did receive my email about picking up my press badge and it did say on the email that you can pick up your badge earlier than the other attendees as it does say a specific timeline where you could pick up the badge the day before con doors open. So I would take advantage of that. I would follow the signs that would lead me to an upstairs room at the Hyatt where I would get my badge. It only took me a minute to get my badge that I decided to wander around the convention area to see what I would expect to see at this con. I would be in there for about 30 minutes before heading out for the night. My badge is picked up and I'm ready for the first day of Japan Expo!

Day 1

Day 1 started off really late for me. I was actually out taking a morning jog with my friends who would not go to Japan Expo this year. I would not arrive until around 10am where I would get into my cosplay and headed out to the entrance (I was cosplaying Death the Kid from Soul Eater on this day). When I entered the con, the first thing I see was that it was mostly empty. At first I was shocked. I mean Japan Expo has been promoting their con in many events like J-Pop festival and Anime Expo and I end up seeing that there wasn't a big crowd that met my expectations for the crowd. Then again it was a Friday morning and most people have work or heading back to school around this time so I guess that was the reason why. With nothing planned up, I would wander around the exhibit hall for a bit which apparently has Dealer's hall, Artist Alley, Autograph sessions, Cosplay Stage, and a panel in the room. It kind of reminds me of Anime Expo's exhibit hall only a little bit smaller. I would be called for a photoshoot that took about an hour. The photographer was a good friend of mine that I met recently in a gathering in San Francisco. I was impressed with his photos that I decided to have a shoot with him. And the photos turned out great.
A pretty awesome photo of me as Death the Kid from the photoshoot I was in. Photo credit to Toshityasu Morita

Afterwards, I would check out the Crunchyroll booth where they would have their livestream up. I would be in front of the camera to have comments rolling around the screen saying how asymetrical I was. There was one time where I was with a Crona cosplayer and viewed us as a Yaoi couple saying "Crona x Kid." Oh the Yaoi fandom... But my time in the livestream was amusing. It was fun seeing all the comments about all the cosplayers in the livestream that I just wanted to stay, but there was more things to do. I would get a break and ate food at the convention which was the worst mistake I've ever done at a con. I would spend $9 for a pizza that wasn't even made fresh and a bottle soda. It wasn't worth it. After lunch, I would meet up with a friend of mine who I would help dress up as the Space Marine from Warhammer 40,000. I would help him walk around the convention as he was in a giant mech suit for the day that it was pretty tough for him to be walking around in.
My friend as a Space Marine from Warhammer 40,000. I had to help him get in his cosplay, whom he did a really good job with!

I would leave him to meet up with Robbie where we were making a mocumentary about a certain cosplay show airing right now. I would go and do my parts for the film as well as help others in their parts as we all together make this film work. Afterwards, I would check out the concert that featured an idol group. It was my first time seeing them and they looked like they were high schoolers as they danced with joy and sang in very high tones. It's like seeing a live version of the girls from Love Live or Idolm@ster. I had a pretty good time at the concert as it was just only one of the many bands that would perform at this weekend's Japan Expo. The concert would end as while I was about to leave, another group came on stage. It was a group of guys called Gamushara OENDAN and they were a motivational group. They didn't really sing songs, they just shouted for inspiration. I was quickly amused to their chants and I was rooting along with them. They are a group to listen to when you need a prep in your day. perform at Japan Expo 2013
Gamushara Oendan preps the crowd for the next performer

I would head back to the Exhibit hall to get an autograph from Bones president, Masahiko Minami. Now getting autographs here isn't as it is at other conventions. We have to line up at one part of the convention called the autograph desk to get a ticket for an autograph session. When I went to the desk, I would discover that I cannot get an autograph. Apparently since people who are VIP cannot get autographs. That was surprising to hear. Luckily, my friend was with me and I used his ticket to help me get a ticket for Minami's autograph session. I would go to his line to find out the line wasn't as packed as I thought it would be. The attendance count was still pretty low and I guess that may have led to the availability of more autographs. I would see Minami as he was impressed to see me as Death the Kid, even saying his name in Japanese, which was pretty cool. He would sign my Soul Eater Blu-Ray cover and even gave me a poster for the company's new work, Space Dandy which will debut this Winter.
Guest of Honor Masahiko Minami signs an autograph for me

I would wander around for a bit before the con closes for the night. Japan Expo does not have any night time events since the con closes around 7pm. So with that at hand, I would head out with a couple of my friends to a Ramen place around the area for dinner before heading back home to call it a day. Well the first day was alright. The only thing that lacked was the people. There was a really low attendance rate throughout the first day and I was thinking that the con didn't do well promoting their first impact. But it could be a different story the next day. With day 2 being a Saturday, there's a possible chance the attendance rate would go up significantly. 

Day 2

After picking up a few friends, I would make it to the convention around 9:30am where at con registration was about to open. The friends I picked up did not pre order their tickets so I had to guide them where to stand in order to get them into the convention. While they were waiting in line, I would get into my cosplay as Aladdin from Magi. There is a gathering planned up by the people of ACParadise that I decided to cosplay him for the day because of it. I would arrive at the Exhibit hall early to visit my friend who would help me get an autograph session with Ian Sinclair, an english VA for many animes. The one I find most notable was Chuck from Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt so I brought over my PSG wall scroll for him to sign on Chuck. I would get a friendly chat with him during the autograph session. Ian does not live in California so we pretty much talked about what's good in the area including the Bay Area and Los Angeles. His line wasn't that packed so we chatted for quite a bit. Afterwards, I would head over to the Viz Animation panel where I would attend my first industry panel at the con. 

Viz Animation's panel has already started when we got in. They have already announced their streaming service Neon Alley as well as DVD and Blu-Ray releases. Some of them were announced at Anime Expo so I decided to not give info about that. But what I want to share was the special announcements that Viz announced first hand at Japan Expo. Now I did not hear about this from Viz but they did pick up a great title that aired this spring season and it was Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet. That news surprised me as it was a show I really liked and seeing that Viz has streaming rights as well as DVD/Blu-ray distribution, it was something I didn't expect and I'm so glad Viz did that! Now on to another title called  Blood Lad. The show is currently simulcasting on Hulu and, but they did announce at Japan Expo that they have all the rights, which means they will have an English dub for the show, a DVD/Blu-ray will be coming out in 2014, and other things relating to Blood Lad. Now they did have one more announcement and it is a pretty big one. For those who have missed Ranma 1/2, it's coming back! That's right Viz Media will be releasing the classic Ranma 1/2 on DVD and Blu-Ray. It will also be streaming on Hulu, Neon Alley, and Now Viz will be at NYCC (New York Comic Con) giving a special about Ranma 1/2 so for those fans who are dedicated to the show, might as well not miss out on this! 
Ledo from Gargantia of the Verdurous Planet

The panel would lead to a Q&A where I would leave. A person who worked at Viz would give me a survey which I could fill out and give back to the Viz booth at the Exhibit hall where I would receive free swag from them just like what happened at Fanime. Viz just loves to give stuff away. I think I have a liking to them now. I would head back to the Exhibit Hall to try and get an autograph ticket for Yoshiyuki Sadamoto who was the character designer for Evangelion and Wolf Children. But unfortunately, those tickets were sold out! So with nothing to do until the gathering, I would hit up with a couple of my friends and drove to a Carl's Jr. restaurant that was down the road from the con. I would pick up food and eat it at the con since we were limited in time. After lunch, I would head over to the cosplay stage to attend the Magi gathering which upon arriving there, it was less than expected. Out of all the cosplayers at the gathering, there were only 6! It was really small but we try to have fun while we're at it. After all the pictures, I had to sign a paper. Apparently all of us Magi cosplayers are actually going to be on Neon Alley! The head of Viz Animation would come up to interview us in front of a camera that would record us for a future airing on Neon Alley. Looks like I'm getting the subscription now. 
The Main 3 (Aladdin, Alibaba, and Morgiana)
Viz Animation's manager interviewed us for a future showing on the network. We're gonna be on TV!

After the gathering, I would head over to the Hatsune Miku panel where I would see two people on the table pretty much explain how they were able to get Project Diva F to the United States and how they were able to satisfy both the fans of Vocaloid and new gamers to enjoy what this game has to offer. What I've heard for the most part was some significant changes from the original game like translating the songs to English and other things. I was only there for a couple of minutes before heading out to the 1000say concert. I went inside the main stage to a convenient place in front of the stage. The first two rows were reserved for Press and VIP attendees so I took advantage of that and had a great view of the performers. The keyboardist of the band 1000say would come out in front of the stage unveiling a sign saying "Hello" to the crowd whom cheered when they saw that. The rest of the band would come out and they would start performing their songs. And they really rocked the house down. Although most of us here have never heard of this band, I believe after this concert they became big fans. The band really performed well showcasing their talent as an electro rock band. The crowd was really into them as well as I. 1000say was in my opinion the best concert at Japan Expo. The next concert after that was Noriyuki Iwadere. Him and his band would perform music from famous video games like Ace Attorney. I would be able to stay for one of his hit songs before cutting out to help a friend in his cosplay. 
Two staffers from Sega talk about Project Diva F
1000say says Hello to the Japan Expo USA crowd!

Noriyuki Iwadere's band performs Objection! from Ace Attorney Dual Destinies

I would help my friend get out of his mech cosplay (yes my good friend in the Space Marine cosplay) as he was going to call it a day as well as I. I would spend the rest of the day looking at the remainder of the Masquerade which had a couple of awesome skits from the cosplayers at Japan Expo. Then I would venture around the convention chilling with a couple of friends before heading out for the night. The crowd was definitely bigger than yesterday and I had a lot of fun this day. I had a couple of autographs and attended a few panels to keep me entertained. And the concerts this day was amazing. The last day was upon us and I was hoping yet again for it to be another day like this. 
Attack on Titan cosplayers in their Masquerade Skit
Static Shock is ready to shock up the Masquerade Stage

Day 3

I started out Day 3 early to try and get autographs from people I could not get on Day 2. And yes I brought my friend again to help me out in this process. I would be able to get a ticket for Yusuke Kozaki for his autograph session at a later time. Although I would not be able to get a ticket for Yoshiyuki Sadamoto since his line was very long! And it was expected coming from the person who was involved with Evangelion and Wolf Children. Should have planned to get his autograph back on day 1 (Seriously, there wasn't much autographs going on Day 1 due to the low attendance count). So I had an hour of open space before attending the first panel of the day so I helped out my friend again get back into his Space Marine cosplay for the masquerade today. Wait, there are two masquerades at Japan Expo? Apparently so. 

The Dark Horse panel was the first panel I attended to this day as they were celebrating their 25th anniversary in the business. They explained the history of how Dark Horse comics began from its origins to what is now a big distributor to comics and manga in the United States. Did you know (so I'm gonna put up some important parts in Dark Horse comics' history at this point):
  •  1995- Published Ghost in the Shell
  •  1996- Started release of Blade of the Immortal (Their 2nd longest running series, ended in 2009 due to sales)
  •  1999- Premiered the Star Wars manga 
  • 2000- Lone Wolf and Club released (Their best selling title), Akira released, Debuted Super Manga Blast (to compete with Shonen Jump, only lasted 5 years)
  • 2002- Released Astro Boy
  • 2003- Trigun and Berzerk released
  • 2005- released Vampire Hunter D (First Japanese novel release)
  • 2008- released Gantz
  • 2009- First CLAMP release, Clover (It was also the company's first shojo manga release), began the Evangelion Program (Has the rights to all Evangelion spin off mangas including The Shinji Ikari Raising Project)
  • 2012- Released Oreimo
Carl Horn (who was MC for this panel) also made announcements for current manga titles like Oreimo's last volume (Sept. 11), an Omnibus of Trigun and Lone and Wolf club out soon, and the latest volumes of Evangelion spin off mangas to be released soon as well. He also would announce first hand to Japan Expo that Shirow Masamune's Battalion artbook will be released by the company and would be out next February. So keep an eye out for that comic book fans. 

The panel would end there as the room would close for Masquerade practice. And it was at good timing too because the Type Moon gathering was up next! I would meet up with Robbie dressed up as Kariya from Fate/Zero along with other servants and masters from the Fate series. The cosplay crowd again wasn't that impressive as there were about 8-9 cosplayers in the gathering. But either way, we had a fun time at the gathering.
Masters of the Fate Series

The gathering would end and I would head back to the main stage as the Sunday Masquerade was about to begin. The MC who was the same from last night came out cosplaying Tamaki from Ouran High School Host Club thinking that it was a show from the club. That got some laughs to me. The Masquerade was introduced by none other than Gamushara Oendan who were prepping the crowd and the cosplayers of the masquerade. Their performance got us all hyped for this masquerade and we were ready to see some awesome cosplays. Two other singers dressed as maids also performed after Gamushara Oendan as they sang a song from who sang the song really well. The singers were cute in their outfits but what I was most amazed was that the crowd was really engaging that they even dance in the middle of the crowd.
Gamushara Oendan is ready for some cosplays!
Two maid performers sing to prepare for the Masquerade 
The maids' performance even got some of the crowd dancing!

And now the Masquerade was ready to begin. All of the cosplays in this day were actually pretty impressive. There was a skit of a fight between Female Ezio (Assassin's Creed) and Mikasa Ackerman (Attack on Titan), a skit of Miku Hatsune giving a slap to Sanji (One Piece), of course my friend and his space marine cosplay, and a lot of other awesome cosplays in this masquerade. The masquerade would end with a performance from two sword wielders in training cutting up a piece of bamboo. They were also featured in the Dojo area of the Japan Expo floor. We would have to wait for a couple of hours before we would hear the results in the cosplay stage. So I would help my friend get off his Space Marine cosplay in order for him to relax and enjoy the con before the results are posted. 
Mikasa vs. Female Ezio
Even Miku Hatsune isn't a good catch for Sanji
A cosplay made entirely out of duct-tape. How impressive! 

After the masquerade, I would switch out my cosplays to Aladdin and grab a bite to eat at the con again. This time $5 for a hot dog. Still not worth it. I would not be able to see the results of the masquerade but I would hear that my friend would win an award and he would get a bag full of swag from the anime companies as well as an certificate for Masquerade Laureate. I would meet up with my friends who were also cosplaying from Magi and just hanged out with them for the rest of the con until the con closes. And when the con closes, it closes. The staff would lead us out to the front doors of the convention center as they were effortlessly getting everyone out. In the end, the con would be empty leaving only the staff left. I would say goodbye to my friends before heading out to the parking lot and headed home. Japan Expo is over and it's first impact in the United States was something I would never forget. 


Well the first problem I must address is the advantages of being VIP. When you are VIP, you get these special advantages like having that easy access to the parking lot instead of walking around the hotel to get there. And there is also the advantage of getting front row access to shows like the Masquerade and the concerts. Unfortunately, there are some disadvantages and they are pretty notable. One of them is getting autographs. Usually conventions would give autographs to anyone out there, even for press. But to Japan Expo, we would not be able to get autographs from the guests of honor and that isn't right to me. Sure get all the attendees to have autographs of awesome people and not us. It's really unfair and they should probably look into that for next year's Japan Expo.

Now what really bugs me was the crowd. Where was everyone? Friday didn't have much people but I was happy that it picked up on Saturday and Sunday. But still, it wasn't as crowded as what I thought it would be. The concerts did not really hold much of a crowd as about half of the entire room was filled leaving so many opened seats. Cosplayers in gatherings didn't come up either as the gatherings were pretty disappointed. Was the promotion not enough? Did the promoters of this con didn't do a good job getting attendees to join Japan Expo? It was pretty sad to see but I hope that there will be a bigger crowd next year. For the biggest con in Europe, we aren't doing a good job being a big con as of yet. 

Now for the attendees. Some of you may be complaining about the scan in, scan out process that JX used. I would find it annoying. Every time we leave, we have to be scanned. If we don't, we might be in the process of losing the ticket. That isn't how I saw from other cons. What's worst is that they have to go out from one end of the convention, not from the main entrance of the con which would get an attendee confused. I must say this process of registration with the in and out policy must be fixed. Usually at cons they give each attendee a badge and upon entering, they must show it to the staff before going into the con grounds. Sounds more simpler than the system they're using right now. So hopefully next year, this sort of registration can be fixed. 

Although I am very impressed on some notable things around the con. The panels were very entertaining, the staff was very friendly, the exhibitors showcased some awesome stuff, dealer's hall and artists alley were also impressive. What I really like as well is the Japanese booths showcasing some awesome stuff from Japan as we get to understand the country and its culture. I would find that to be pretty useful as I do plan to go to Japan after I graduate from college (Summer 2014!). Also the Gaming Room was pretty cool as they had consoles from every generation (SNES to PS3) and even had arcade machines too like DDR and Pac-Man. There was also an artwork showcase in the hallway of the con which showed some awesome artwork from the guests of honor. 

Overall, this convention was very fun. Even if it had a slow start, it started to pick up after that and I would start to have a good con experience. There were a few problems that I had to face in this convention, but I still had an awesome time. Next time I have to plan ahead and try to stick with the schedule I have because I really missed out on some awesome panels and movies that I kind of regretted missing them. But that will be for next year. 

Anyway.......I guess this is it for me and cons this summer. Sad I know but until the next con hits (possibly Otakon Vegas 2014) , I will be posting up another review. Thanks everyone for reading my review! Till next year, Japan Expo! 

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