Thursday, February 13, 2014

Nate's Report: Animation on Display 2014

This month of January has been quite epic. Already I've been to two conventions far from home, which was Otakon Vegas and Anime Los Angeles, both of them occurring during the first two weeks of January. Now to end this grand con adventure, I'm heading back home to the bay area for San Francisco's anime convention, Animation on Display (AOD). Last year was my first AOD and it was a great convention for me that I was up to go to this convention again. With the already looming changes to this year's AOD (mostly change of venue from SF to Burlingame), I was going into this convention with hope that the con will continue to leave me a very good impression.

Day 1

I would arrive at the convention at noon due to arrangements that I have to make before heading over there. Instead of driving over to the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Burlingame (where the convention was held), I would take the alternative route that AOD listed on the website. Apparently, there was a free bus that would take us to the hotel from the airport. So I would instead take BART from my house to AOD, but I wasn't aware of what it costs to use BART. From my place to SFO, the cost of a one way route was over $10! Not only that there is no straight route from my place to SFO. Instead I had to disembark at the Balboa Park station where I had to wait for the train that would take me to the airport and it took over 20 minutes for the train to get there! I would arrive at the airport and waited for the bus, which would take another 10 minutes to get me to the hotel. Also, I was carrying a heavy bag of cosplay and other necessities for the con so it was not a light ride for me heading over to the con. So yeah, instead of an estimated time of me heading over to the con in an hour, it took me two hours to get there.... Yeah, never again.

When I arrived at the hotel, I would meet up with Ray who would give me my room key to our hotel room. I would then take a rest from my "ride" over to AOD and would then dress up into my cosplay. I would dress up as Death the Kid from Soul Eater for the day as it is one of my favorite cosplays to wear. I didn't get my badge yet so I would head straight to the registration area where I would grab my press badge. The other attendees didn't seem to have a hassle with registration since the lineup wasn't that long to get their badges for the weekend (or wristbands if you are going for one day). I would head to the Dealer's Hall where I would head straight to Christina Vee's table for her autograph session. Apparently, there was no line in her table so I was able to get her autograph on stuff she was a part of. She was the VA for many anime characters like Morgiana from Magi and Homura Akemi from Madoka Magica so I had her sign a writing board with Morgiana on it and a Weiss Schwarz card with Homura on it. As a fan, I was really glad to see her. She is a really nice person and really appreciated the things I wanted her to sign. My fan moment haha (unfortunately no picture with her though)

I would roam around Dealer's Hall to see what each dealer has to offer. Some of them had things that I wanted to grab but with the Dealer's hall closing at 6, there is no rush to get things just yet. Just roam around and tomorrow, I would grab my swag. And there was also panels to attend to as well. At 4pm, I would leave dealer's hall to one of the Panel rooms where I would check out the Crunchyroll panel hosted by Sailorbee and DarlingDaniChan. The presentation pretty much showed all of the animes that they are showing this season which include the new idol anime, Wake up Girls!, the new show from Shaft, Nisekoi, and every otaku's idol, Super Sonico: the Animation. They also did discuss about animes from previous seasons that are showing new episodes into this winter's season. Notable shows include: Magi: The Kingdom of Magic, Kuroko no Basket 2, Kill la Kill, and Samurai Flamenco. Then the big announcement! Crunchyroll just picked up a new series that will be airing this season called Robot Girls Z. It's as it sounds: Girls as robots. It looks pretty appealing, I'll probably check it out.

The panel would then be a Q&A where fans would ask questions about Crunchyroll. Some fans had some interesting questions like its affiliation with its new Manga section, how were they able to get the rights to these shows, and a question about why we have to pay while anime is out for free! The ambassadors had a tough time answering that one haha. But these fan questions has taught me a few things about what is happening inside the famous anime streaming company. After the Q&A, it's giveaway time where the big prize was a Gundam model. Other prizes include Crunchyroll t-shirts and wristbands. All you have to do is answer one of the host's questions and you would get a prize. I would be able to answer one of their questions:

Q: "Name 3 idol animes that Crunchyroll is currently streaming"
My Answer: Idolmaster, Love Live, and Wake up Girls!

I would get the question right and they would give me a t-shirt. They even recognized me as Death the Kid so that was cool. Someone would get the gundam though by answering the question, "Name 5 mech animes currently streaming on Crunchyroll." I don't even know 5 mech animes that they are streaming so I didn't even try to answer. I would have said Eureka Seven but I believe I would get that wrong since they don't stream it anymore. The panel would end where attendees would go up to the front to grab themselves wristbands and lanyards. Overall the panel was very informative as we get to see how the winter season is looking to be for Crunchyroll. With over 20+ animes currently streaming new episodes every week, this is probably the biggest anime season they have had yet and it looks to be a bright future for them so I can't wait to see what they will have upcoming in this new year.

I have yet to grab lunch so I invited as many friends as I could and grabbed lunch with them. The options of food around the area isn't much. There was a diner in front of the hotel with many restaurants around the area. The only food place that is for cheap would probably be at the Shell station down the street. So we tried the diner across the hotel and I ended up picking an omelette of more than $10. I wasn't expecting to buy that much for lunch but it's the only "affordable" eatery around AOD.

I would head back to the con with my friends to watch the screening of Wolf Children. This film was created from the director of the hit movie, Summer Wars, and has recently won many film awards. That enough wanted me to see this flick and it was a really good movie to me. For those who haven't seen it, I highly recommend everyone to see this film. If you loved Summer Wars like I did, then you are going to definitely love it!

After the movie showing, I would head to Masquerade already in progress. There were many entrees that came up on stage. Wouldn't you believe it that an Attack on Titan group would resemble the music video of Shinhwa's This Love? Well it happened! You can see the video here. There were other entries that had very great skits but most of them were there to show their cosplays which all of them were really good to see. We would go into halftime where we would watch a performance from Angel Hearts. When their performance was done, judging wasn't done apparently. So we were stalled with watching episodes of Crunchyroll shorts like Chi's Sweet Home and Poyopoyo. We actually watched many episodes of those shorts that it even got us getting the theme songs stuck in our heads. How long does judging really take? When it's all over, we would get to see who would be going home with awards. The Attack on Titan group would get best performance, some cosplayers like an Aladdin cosplayer from Magi and an Ana cosplayer from Frozen won awards for best costumes. Crunchyroll and Viz Media would sponsor a couple of awards to some of the winners as they receive prizes from the companies. But the top two would be the Love Live! idols taking home the runner up prize and the Princess Jellyfish skit would take home the top prize. Congrats to all the winners! They all had great outfits and skits that they greatly deserved each respected award.

The con would wind down for me but the night is still young. I already planned up to meet with my friends for a birthday party in San Francisco. I would get a ride with my friends from the con to the city of San Francisco for a night out in the city. The party would last me until 3am where I would arrive back to the con calm and quiet as I returned to my hotel room for some needed shut eye. Already a lot of things have happened with a lot of interesting panels and an exciting masquerade show. Let's see how everything goes on the last day of con.

Sayaka Miki about to kill Kyubey
The Tooth Fairy about to provide a good show for Masquerade
Princess Jellyfish cosplayers in as skit for Masquerade

Day 2
Sunday morning and as usual, I don't really get up early during these mornings. I would wake up at 10am which wasn't a good thing because I missed out on Christina Vee's Q&A panel. This is probably punishment for staying up all night out in SF. Well I would wake up and start packing up my stuff because our check out time was at noon. I would dress up as Makoto Naegi from Dangan Ronpa and would bring all my stuff down to Ray's car which he would drive me back home when the con is over. We would then go our separate ways as I checked out Artist Alley and Dealer's Hall for one last time. I would end up seeing a Magi t-shirt with Aladdin on it since he is one of my favorite characters in the show and I even cosplay him too. It's a no-brainer for me to pick that up. I've also managed to get a Kuroneko keychain from Oreimo and a few pins from the artist alley. I would then roam around the con and checked out the arcade room which had many arcade machines even a few machines from Japan. This was also the place where were streaming the speed runs that were happening on that day. I would be able to catch a speedrun in action as one person would speedrun through the classic SNES game, Yoshi's Island, in a notable time. But after that, there wasn't really much to do afterwards. There weren't any good panels that I wanted to attend to and I ran out of money for me to spend on anything else but food. I would just chill with my friends out on the lobby, making it another lobbycon like ALA. It wasn't until 4:30 pm that Ray would call me up and we would head back home, but not before grabbing some grub at In and Out Burger. Finally some good, affordable food! I didn't have lunch during this day and I really craved for a double-double burger at this point. Ray would drop off the other roommates that were rooming with us this weekend before dropping me off at home ending coverage of Animation on Display at this point. 
Mitsuru and Yukari from Persona 3
Aomine Daiki (Kuroko no Basket) spending time at Artist Alley
Dim Sum.........WHAT?????

Well the necessity of the con moving to a new location is a good move to say the least. But somehow, I just don't feel the same atmosphere like it was last year. Probably because it isn't located at the heart of San Francisco or that there isn't much Japanese culture that is around the area. Either way, the AOD staff tried their best to give each attendee a really great convention experience like previous cons before. And they've done a pretty remarkable job. They have used the hotel facilities quite exceptionally well with a big hall room to take in the vendors and artists that were selling things at the convention. It was better than having an artist alley outside of the hotel back at the Kawada. The new room made things more spacious and convenient for everyone which I really liked. The panel rooms were ok to say the least. The main events got more room while fan panels get smaller rooms, which by the way could not take in a lot of people so that's a setback. Same goes to the video room and table top gaming where a couple of people had to sit on the ground since there were no seats available. 

Although I like the ideas of how they were able to use the new facilities to split the arcade games and the video games into two rooms. And they have even used the Gazebo outside really well as it held their concerts and masquerade in there. So to say the least, the move wasn't that bad. It pleases me that I have more walking room to roam around the con and that there's just a lot more space to facilitate everyone that the cluster of attendees that were blocking hallways back at the Kawada Hotel in San Francisco. 

Speaking of the hotel, the hotel overall was nice. I had a great stay at the room as it met up to par to my needs when it comes to hotel rooms and faculty. The only thing the resources that they give because there isn't much food places around the area for cheap. So if you want to get a cheap burger around the area, you'd have to drive across the freeway to get one. It's either that or take a restaurant for a meal around $10 which isn't bad for a meal, but not everyone can get something like that. 

The convention overall wasn't that bad. It felt like there was less attendees attending this convention probably because of the space the hotel provided for the convention. It was a pretty chill con though. There wasn't really much going on for me at the con besides panels, concerts, and masquerade. Not as exciting as last year. But to say the least, AOD has done a pretty good job with the move and I believe they'll improve from this year's expectancy and will make the con better next year.

Next up for me is Fanimecon 2014, where they will be celebrating their 20th anniversary! Can't wait to see what they will have up in stores for us. But for now, it's farewell to San Francisco and AOD. Until next year! 

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