Saturday, June 7, 2014

Nate Reports: Fanimecon 2014 (Days 0-2)

Alas, the summer convention season has begun and what better way to start it with the biggest anime convention in Nor-Cal, Fanimecon! But before we get into my coverage of this con, I have to explain that I did miss out on one day of the convention and I will explain more when I get to it on this report. Now onwards to this year's Fanime coverage!

Day 0: 

Today was the day where all of the attendees would hit up Fanimecon and head straight to the registration line. Why? Well if you haven't heard by now, last year's registration was a disaster. I've heard many complaints of people waiting for at least 5 hours to get their badge before heading over to Fanime last year. Yeah, it wasn't good news. So how will Fanimecon respond this year to this? We'll have to find out ourselves.

Now most attendees at Fanime would drive or take a bus to the con. But no, I had another way to get there: by bike! Well that's mostly because me and my friend was cosplaying from the cycling anime, Yowamushi Pedal, and we wanted to enter Fanime in a great way to say: By biking to Fanime in our cosplays. I was cosplaying Onoda Sakamichi from Team Sohoku and my friend was cosplaying Shinkai Hayato from Team Hakone. And yes, they are rival teams if you watch the show. We arrived at my friends place at around 10 am and we would bike from Milpitas to the convention center. From our route information, it only took about an hour to bike 10 miles.
From my friend's house to Fanime: 9.6 miles, 57 minutes. We were able to accomplish this.

Now before started biking, I would see a whole lot of people continuing to wait for registration to open at its scheduled time at 3pm. Knowing that, my friend wanted to get there as soon as he can in order to have a good spot in line to get the badge. We arrived at Fanime around 11:30am and when we arrived at the con, we would already spot attendees already obtaining their badges. It seems that when we arrived, registration already opened, hours before its scheduled time! And best of all, the registration line is completely empty! Attendees who pre-registered before Fanime started would get into a line which leads them to a room. They would show their QR code that was emailed to them when pre-registering for Fanime and they would get their badge right then and there. The process was at most 5 minutes max! A whole lot better than waiting 5 hours last year. Fanime is already making a very, VERY good impression! So as my friends were going to get my badge, I decided to roam around con and check on what going on in the con. Well, nothing is open at the moment we got in on this day so I just chilled around with friends most of the time. I would get the call from the head of CaliConBlog, Matt, that he has arrived and has already checked into the hotel room. I would chill with them for a little bit until my friends got their badges. From there, we ate at one of my Fanime hotspots, Hydration Cafe which is a couple blocks away from con and serves really good bento meals and boba milk tea. If you were around Fanime, let this be a spot for you guys to grab yourself food during con. After lunch, we would head back and see our other friends that would be arriving at con on this day before heading out in the afternoon biking back to my friend's place. 

I would head back to the con to help out with some shopping for food while we're at the con. So We would go to the closest Costco Wholesale and end up buying a whole lot of food from water to chips, to cup a noodle soups, and beef jerky. Best of all, we would have to support anime's recent relationship to a certain food brand: Nature Valley. So we bought ourselves a box of that which contains 98 bars! How we are supposed to kill this off in 5 days didn't even pass our mind, but we still bought it nonetheless. Afterwards, I would head back home to get ready for a big day tomorrow. Overall day 0 doesn't really give out much until late in the night which I couldn't stay for due to the next day festivities. I heard that the gaming room would open as well as the dance and the first day of swap meet, where apparently line-con occurred. Uh-oh! 
Chiho Sasaki cosplayer from The Devil is a Part Timer!
Found Jesse Pinkman (Breaking Bad). Watch out, he got that meth in his hands! 

Day 1:
Well you wouldn't expect me to say this, but I wasn't actually at Fanime on this day. Why you ask? Well this day marked an important part in my life. After 6 years studying next door to Fanime at San Jose State University, I am finally graduating! It has been such a long 6 years taking so many classes from calculus to expert C++ coding. To hear that I'm getting my Bachelor's degree in Computer Engineering, I had to make this a special occasion. Yes it does stink that the graduation ceremony was happening during Fanime but I never regretted this decision. You never will experience a graduation like this ever again. 

The ceremony happened during Day 1 of Fanime in the middle of the afternoon. All departments of engineering were there celebrating their graduates as we declare ourselves alumni and would finally get our degree. The ceremony would last about 2 hours with a reception at the engineering building. 

The day has come where I am a college graduate. 
Me and my colleagues before the ceremony began (Photo Credit to Eriberto Velazquez)
 Me outside the SJSU College of Engineering building. I'll definitely miss this place. (Photo Credit to Monica Natividad)

My reception was taken place over at the city of Milpitas in the Great Mall where my parents and my sister would treat me and my guests out for good food at Outback Steakhouse. Thanks Mom! 

My friends and family who attended my reception. Thank you guys for making my day special!

With the reception over, graduation day is done and time for me to head back to Fanimecon. All of my luggage was with me when I drove around during my graduation day so the first thing I did was headed straight to my hotel and got the concierge man to place my luggage into the Caliconblog room. I tipped him nicely and parked my car at SJSU where parking was free throughout Fanime weekend so I went ahead and took advantage of that. 

It was around 10pm when I went back to my hotel room where my blog mates would surprise me and would celebrate with a popping of a champagne bottle and all of us taking a sip of it celebrating my big day. After that, I would head out into the late night of Fanimecon to see what's around. But this is where I will stop my coverage of Fanimecon. Wait, there was no coverage of me on this day of Fanime. Please go to my other colleagues reports as they talk about their day 1 Fanime experience. 

Day 2:
I would wake up around 9am to greet the morning as the 2nd day of Fanime dawns upon us. When I woke up, I was feeling a little sleepy so I would have to make a coffee run to Philz Coffee, a Fanime Hotspot of mine, to grab a mint ice coffee which are so good to have. I would also give Lucas a hot cinnamon flavored coffee where he really loved the taste of it. I guess we'll be coming here more often during Fanime. 

I would then dress up as my first cosplay of the day, dressing up as N from the Pokemon Black and White 3DS game. Matt would tell me about a massive gathering that was going on at the front of the convention so I would head over there as soon as I could and he wasn't lying. There were a ton of cosplayers out there taking a picture. This massive gathering was set up by Fanimecon as they were celebrating their 20th anniversary. And what better way to celebrate that having this: pretty much have all the cosplayers at Fanime come for one picture. That was a pretty awesome thing for Fanime to have set up and I was glad to be a part of it. 
The mass cosplay gathering of all cosplayers to celebrate Fanime's 20th anniversary (Photo credit to Fanime

I would meet up with a couple of my friends to grab an early lunch over at Baja Fresh, another one of my Fanime hotspots for some good mexican food. Although the prices may be high over at this place, they give you so much food. I couldn't even eat all of my meal. Right next door to Baja Fresh was Thirst Tea, a desert shop that specializes in drinks, snow, and toast. And yes it is another hot spot to check out at Fanime especially when you need to cool down. I would grab a boba milk tea before heading off to my first gathering of the convention: Pokemon

The Pokemon gathering was located in an ally way between the Hilton hotel and the new building. I would arrive late to the gathering and would find myself that the group was already doing photo shoots of anything based on the Pokemon fandom of Fanime. There were photo shoots of all the cosplayers that were dressed as Pokemon themselves along with a shoot of all the trainers. There was even shoots of all generations of Pokemon from the first (Red/White/Yellow) all the way to the current generation (X/Y). I would meet up with my friends who were also cosplaying from Pokemon and hanged out with them for a bit until the gathering started to die down, which wasn't long like around 15 minutes into the gathering (Note: I was there about 10 minutes late). When this happened, I decided to leave myself. Although I may have came to the gathering late, I really wasn't pleased. It looked like a mess and the organizer I think wasn't prepared or something. The gathering felt a little bland and I was just not in the mood. But I have to appreciate all the Pokemon cosplayers there. Everyone looked great in their cosplays! 
Generation V Pokemon cosplayers (Pokemon Black and White)
Generation VI Pokemon cosplayers (Pokemon  X and Y)
The Jenny's are bring Team Rocket to justice!

With the gathering done, I decided to look around the convention floor until Musicfest. So I roamed around with a friend of mine to the artist alley which featured many artists displaying their works to the Fanime crowd. Last year, artist alley was located off the SJCC at a huge hallway behind the building called south hall. Now with the new building open, Artist Alley was located right back at Fanime on the ballroom of the new building located on the top floor. I would roam around for a bit looking for great artwork and all of the artists displayed such great art. A few examples included one artist was a cup artist where he drew a couple of his favorite characters in glasses which you can drink from! Another artist had zipper bags made up to be Senketsu and Junketsu from the series, Kill la Kill. In fact, it was actually a Kill la Kill fest from the artists. Most of them featured their own artwork from the series and when this happens, you know this show is hype. I wouldn't be able to grab anything from the artist alley on this day since I decided to check the alley again on the last day of con. 

I would then check out Dealer's hall which was located right across from the ballroom to see that the whole room expanded. What used to be Artist Alley back before the construction of the new building now became part of Dealer's Hall. And it's because of this that the whole room was huge! There were so many vendors out there selling their stuff for the Fanime crowd. What I didn't expect to see was a huge bounce house at the back of the hall. It turns out that you have to pay to bounce in the bounce house and all benefits goes to the Make a Wish Foundation, the charity that Fanime was supporting this whole weekend. Not only that, but there were tables promoting local businesses and other conventions that are happening this summer. I wouldn't have expected J-Pop Summit and Sacanime to be there promoting themselves, as they are future cons/events that I plan to go to later this summer. And of course, there were the tables of the musicfest guests: Raj Ramayya and Home Made Kazoku. Unfortunately, they weren't there themselves at the table. They were probably at the Civic Center getting ready for Musicfest. I would just roam around the area and would not get anything as I do plan to visit the Dealer's hall again on the last day of the con. 

When 4pm hit, I would get word that my partner, Matthew, is in line waiting for Musicfest. With the weather getting a little warmer and me getting a little bit uncomfortable in my N cosplay, I decided to dress up casually for Musicfest. I would meet up with Matt where I would call up my friends who were planning to attend Musicfest as well. When most of the group came, I came to the sense that when Musicfest is happening, we might end up being hungry so me and Matt decided to go to the local McDonalds and bought 20-Piece McNuggets for everyone. For only $5, the deal ain't bad. It may not be as filling for a group, but we do plan to grab ourselves dinner after Musicfest. When the doors opened, we would rush into the front row of the concert hall to grab ourselves a good view of the main stage.

Now we just have to play the waiting game, and the cameramen of Fanime had a couple of things on their mind (see video below).

And at 6:00pm, Musicfest began. The first artist to open the event was Raj Ramayya. Now I haven't been really fond with his works but he has worked in the music business for notable animes like Cowboy Bebop, Wolf's Rain, and Ghost in the Shell. He has also worked with Yoko Kanno, a very famous music composer. He sang notable hits like the Pokemon theme song and the ending to FLCL, two awesome songs that I love. His performance was really good, but what I see from the crowd was people sitting down. He wasn't that bad, he was giving a great opening performance that we were off our seats singing to the songs. I wonder why everyone else didn't think so. They were probably waiting for the big act.
Raj Ramayya and his band
This guitarist knows how to shred!!!!!!!
Raj Ramayya singing one of his hits

When Raj Ramayya finished his set, the Musicfest crew were setting up for the headling band: Home Made Kazoku. After waiting for about another 20-30 minutes, the lights would dim and the crowd would be on their feet cheering on for the hip-hop trio. DJ U-ICHI would head out first placing himself on the turntables. And with his beats rolling, Micro and Kuro soon came out. HOME MADE KAZOKU IS HERE! 

The concert was absolutely amazing! The hip-hop trio sang through all of their hits and it's no wonder they were hits because I was just rocking to their songs throughout their performance. The notable songs I rocked to was the 2nd opening of Eureka Seven, Shounen Heart, where I totally shouted out the whole song out when they were singing. Best of all the opening itself was showing through their performance so it made this song so hype! They also did sing their two songs from Naruto Shippuden: Freedom and Nagareboshi Shooting Star along the 2nd movie ending, No Rain, No Rainbow. What I would really get from this group is that they are really awesome people who respect all of us greatly as being their fans, like we're part of their family. And that's what this group was focusing on. If you didn't know yet, Kazoku means "family" and hearing them saying that we're a part of their family just makes us feel really good inside. We love them and they love us. We were so glad to see them come and see them perform and to be apart of their family.
DJ U-ICHI setting things up
Home Made Kazoku to the stage!

Their set concluded with No Rain, No Rainbow which they would then leave making us think Musicfest is over. No, we really wanted an encore. So we cheered for Home Made Kazoku to come back and they would return a couple of minutes later this time wearing their 10th anniversary band shirts which are available at the Fanime Dealer's Hall. They would sing one last song called "Thank you" which is the 2nd ending song to the anime series, Bleach. I really loved this song a whole lot when I was watching the series so I totally rocked out to the song. It was that hype that they would jump off stage to give high-fives to the Fanime crowd. The crowd was really up on their feet for this song and everyone in the SJ Civic Auditorium was all hyped. The band did request for pictures of the crowd that they would like to take. One picture would be featured around the Fanimecon TV screens which can be seen here.

Overall this Musicfest was the best! Even in my 6 years attending Fanime, no musicfest was greater than this. Although it may have started slow with Raj Ramayya opening for Home Made Kazoku, this was made to be a great Musicfest and to me, it may have been the best one yet. And at a time where Fanime is celebrating an anniversary. What a way to celebrate! Below is me and Matt's review of Musicfest: 

We would grab dinner at Hogie's Steak Out, another hot spot for Fanime attendees where I would grab a Fish and Chips meal (wasn't feeling for a steak or a hoagie, but believe me they are so delicious!). After dinner, me and a couple of friends would walk down a couple of blocks to Amor's Cafe and Tea where we grabbed ourselves a milk tea with boba. Surprised to see that no one is here at this cafe even if it's a Fanime hotspot. I guess Thirst tea is getting everyone going there instead. 

I would go back to my hotel room to relax for a bit before heading into cosplay for the Persona Midnight Gathering. I would cosplay as Ken Amada from Persona 3 along with my group which we planned to have a shoot after the gathering. I would meet up with my group and would head over to the Hub where the gathering would be held. And the gathering only took about 3 minutes??? Our group was left wondering why is that? Apparently the host had so much happening during this day holding Persona related events like the Persona gathering held earlier in the day plus the midnight game which was scheduled at 8pm at the Fairmont instead of the Hub. To say the least, the host was tired and just wanted one photo shoot. 

With the gathering out of the way, I would be with my Persona 3 group and would have our photo shoot at certain locations around Fanimecon. You can see the photos from our shoot below (Photo credits to Ben Rogers Photography and 16:9 Photography): 
At midnight, the Fanime convention center became Tartarus.
Our Persona 3 friendship circle

Our group also decided to head over to the gaming hall where we would go to the Pika Pika booth and take ourselves some funny photos. 
Don't we all look so kawaii-desu in these???? Haha

At 3am (taking advantage of this 24 hour con!), I decided to leave my group and called it a night. Just when I started my Fanime coverage, I wouldn't expect all this excitement in just one day. Musicfest was amazing with Home Made Kazoku rocking out the night! I feel like grabbing some of their swag now at their table at Dealer's Hall. Plus it was really fun cosplaying today, especially with my Persona 3 group. Actually I haven't had this kind of fun in quite a while considering all the Fanime's I've attended. And it's just the 2nd day of con! I'm wondering if the next two days will be as fun as today!
More Kill la Kill cosplayers!
One Piece cosplayers
Toradora! cosplayers

Day 3 and 4 report of Fanime 2014 will be continued on my next post. 

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