Thursday, January 23, 2014

ALA 2014 Review

ALA 2014 Review
By Lucas Chang

Hey guys, this is Lucas reporting on my experience with ALA this year.   Before I get into all the details of the convention, I like to remind people that Anime Los Angeles is not a big con and does not have all the big fancy events that the bigger ones have.  That being said, there are some great advantages to a smaller convention.

Day 1

I got to the Marriot around 8:30am because I was picking up a friend of mine at Union Station at 7:00 in the morning.  Already as I was parking, there were lots of people in cosplay going into the hotel.  But other than snapping a few pictures here and there, not much was going on Friday morning.  The registration was open so I could easily pick up my badge, but none of the booths and rooms was set up. 

I got lunch with Nate at Carl’s Jr., which was interesting because I had just met up with him about two weeks before in San Jose.  Still it was nice to see him here, and his first time here at ALA.  I met up with Tally as well and mentioned that although we’re not technically press, I still recommend them writing a review.  When I got back, I got in line for Cosplay Chess and I was really lucky to have gotten the last position. 

It was still fun to watch and play a position, even though I was a pawn.  There were some absolutely hilarious moments with the fights, such as Gary Oak losing a battle with a Magikarp!  And the Magikarp cosplayer was not even part of it! 

Afterwards, I met back up with my friend Sandy on the Pool Deck and we just hung out and took photos, looked around the Dealer’s room and Artist Alley when it finally was set up.  The minus side of having a small con is that if you’re into the more obscure stuff, it’s near impossible to find the stuff you want.  Still I was able to sell one of my props, and used the money to buy some scented soaps in the Artist Alley, something actually useful!

The main thing me and my friends did in the late afternoon was basically drink and chat before the AMV contest.  It actually ended up making the AMV videos that much funnier to be honest, and by the time the videos were done, we were all laughing our heads off.  We went for another Panel, the 18+ Anime singled out, and it was funny to watch.  But by that time, it was already about 1:30 in the morning and I was pretty much out of commission at that point. 

Day 2

Saturdays are always a big day for ALA and cons in general.  The room my friend got was facing the pool deck and it was crowded by mid morning.  By mid afternoon, there was almost no place for you to move around!  I mainly spent the day taking photos and walking around the hallways.  Unfortunately, there weren’t any panels I was super interested in, and was more content with just walking around and talking to people. 
Despite it being a small con, there were a lot of really good cosplays!  For example, I got a few shots of a Cosplayer/model called Crystal Graziano as Major Kusanagi from Ghost in the Shell.  There was also a really good group of Fate/Stay Night cosplayers and a huge group of Attack on Titan cosplayers, and so on and so forth. 

The main thing for me on Saturday was the Touhou Gathering and the Masquerade.  Come the Touhou gathering, it was very enjoyable since I got to see and meet people from AX last year and start talking to people and making friends.  Again what makes the cons and gatherings fun is the people you meet and the little shenanigans that happen.   It’s why I continue to go to cons.  Before the gathering ended, I announced that I was planning a Touhou themed, Cherry Blossom Festival around early to mid March and so far, it seems like a lot of people are interested. 

Masquerade itself was really enjoyable.  I noticed I typically enjoy the Masquerade at ALA more probably because it seems like the participants enjoy themselves more.  And probably because ALA has an excellent Master of Ceremonies, Tadao, who really tries to engage with the audience in between the skits and afterwards.  Also my old anime club always participates so seeing them on stage is always quite fun.  The only drawback is that after all the skits have finished, it does take a while for the Judges to make their decisions and by the time the awards are being handed out, almost the entire hall was empty. 

After the Masquerade, I headed up to my friend’s room for the party.   Pretty much it was just all of us drinking, talking about random stuff and so forth.  We had one small incident when one of the guests got really wasted but then again, we all were a bit tipsy after a few hours.  Still it was really hilarious and very enjoyable day. 

Day 3

On the last day of the con, there was not that much for me to say here.  I woke up about 10:00am in the morning, showered, packed up, checked out of the hotel and did a final sweep in the Artist Alley and Dealer’s Hall.  My one complaint was that there was a change in the parking policy and that I had to be out of there by 3:00pm.  In previous years, I remembered that I could park downstairs in the parking garage, pay the ALA rate once, and be out any time I want.  It is a minor complaint because I missed the DC gathering, but then again, I was already pretty tired and most of my other friends were leaving around that same time anyways, and there really wasn’t much else does to at the con. 

So now we come to the conclusion, how did I enjoy the con, and why? 

First, as noted before, the size of the con does matter.  Because it’s relatively small, it’s much more laid back and relaxed and most of the fun came from hanging out with friends, partying and drinking and just having a good time and making fun of ourselves.  The hotel and con staff was all pretty good and polite and I always thank them for doing the best job that they could.  The panels I did go to were okay, but it’s nice because it’s run by the fans not just by the industry, and the Masquerade was very enjoyable, with good skits.

I always recommend ALA for people who want a different feeling than the big cons, away from the politics and hustle and bustle, and just want a place to relax and enjoy themselves.   I started making new friends here and am starting to take time to meet with them outside of cons.  I want to show that for those of you who may not get out as often, but go to cons, it is a great way to meet new people and make new friends.  

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