Sunday, July 13, 2014

Lucas Reports: Anime Expo 2014 Review

Now that AX is over, and have had some time to think, reflect and gather feedback from others, I want to say that it’s hard to say whether AX has improved or not.  Without further ado, let’s take a look at how this year went!

Day 1

I was still working today and did not get to the con until about 5:00pm.  Originally I had planned on going to just the Anipiano concert and head straight out afterwards.  In actuality, since the Anipiano concert did not start until 7:00pm and the doors opened at 6:00, I walked back over to the West Hall to see if any good panels were going on.  Sure enough, there was!  The voice actresses of Ryoko Matoi and Satsuki Kiryuin were in the Main panel room and I was able to catch the second half.  They were already on the Q and A part and it was really interesting to hear the different questions and their reactions and answers. 

The panel ended at 6:30 and I headed over to the Club Nokia for the concert.  This was my first time in the Club Nokia and it’s very different than the Nokia Theatre.  It’s much smaller, so I sat about 30 feet from the stage, and it was much more intimate.  The concert was not actually sponsored or affiliated with AX, but it was still really cool to see the various bands play, including the main pianist whom played songs from Code Geass, Angel Beats, Attack on Titan and Haruhi.  It was a very amazing performance and I even got to see Steven Blum and Mary Liz McGlenn on stage as well when they performed songs from Cowboy Bebop. 
Afterwards I headed over to the Gaming Hall to duel and to check out the cosplay setup area.  It was actually a very good setup with the Arcade games in the front and everything set up and divided into sections.  I dueled for an hour before heading back home, but it was still a fun half-day of con. 

Day 2

Day 2 was arguably the highlight of the convention if for only one reason: the Kill la Kill Special Event.  Today was basically ‘Kill la Kill’ day as almost every single picture I took or that I’m in, was KLK related. 
I started off in the Exhibition Hall, and browsed to see if there was anything I really liked.  There was an ACP KLK gathering over at the Daisuki booth hosted by none other than Mario Bueno, AX idol winner of 2009 I believe.  After that gathering, was the fan ‘mini’ gathering before the main event which was held outside the West Hall.  Again, I went to grab my megaphone from my car to help the hosts and that seemed to make the gathering run very smoothly. 

After the ‘mini’ gathering, we lined up for the event at 2:00pm.  Although it was supposed to start at 3:00, we already lined up and started heading in about half an hour early.  The event itself was absolutely amazing!  They started exactly on time, they had the AX staff (one of whom I know) cosplay as the Elite Four to announce the event, they showed the first episode of the Kill la Kill dub which was pretty good in my opinion, and they had Eir Aoi perform some of the songs. 

They even had the voice actresses cosplay their respective characters! And they brought the KLK team out for a Q and A session.  The interaction and reactions to various questions between the VAs and the little things really made the show, not the concert in my opinion.  For instance, after we were shown the dub, we were told that the Japanese cast was allAlso during the concert you received a special glowstick as according to them, are the first set to ever come to the USA.  In my opinion, the KLK event was even better than the Miku Concert 3 years ago.  If nothing else, the event made AX for me this year. 

After the concert, I took a break, ate a slice of pizza for dinner because I was way too tired, and just browsed around and took some more pictures.  I was lucky enough to run into ore KLK cosplayers and they thought about getting dinner.  I thought sure why not and hung out with them for a few hours, chatted, exchanged info before heading back. 

Day 3

The biggest things I had planned for today were two gatherings and that was about it.  Again I did a sweep through the Exhibition hall, and I bought 2 drawings from the Artist’s Alley.  I noticed that since I haven’t been into a lot of the new series, or that I’m not into the more mainstream stuff, I wasn’t interested in buying a whole lot.  I also noticed that with or without cosplay, it still takes a very long time to carefully browse through all of the Exhibition Hall and you almost have to pick and choose which ones you go to and such.  And almost too soon, the gathering came around for Tales of, so I had headed to the spot and grabbed the megaphone my sister and I bought a while back.  The Tales of Gathering was ran ok, it was much larger than it was in previous years.  However, the gathering I felt was ran ok, but not great.  After that gathering, I had to run back to my car and get changed for the Touhou gathering.   We had more cosplayers this year than the previous year and according to some of the feedback that I got, it was ran well, but I need to keep up my energy for the whole gathering.  Afterwards we all split up into our various groups and just hung out, got dinner and went to a Touhou panel, a similar one that I went to at Fanime. 

I noticed again that I was much more tired than usual for this convention and I didn’t get to do as much as I would have hoped.  Part of the reason it seems is the sheer size of the convention and that everything is much more spread out and it takes longer to get to places.  The heat did not help either and I didn’t have that much downtime.  It was an enjoyable day, just very tiring though. 

Day 4

Not much for me on the last day of AX.  Basically got to the convention center at 10:00am and browsed the Dealer’s Hall/Artist’s Alley the entire time, buying only one more item.  After browsing through, I met up with my Touhou friends and they decided to go to Little Tokyo for lunch.  Since I have the Metro Monthly pass, getting to the LT was actually very easy for me, and I wasn’t cosplaying that day.  Considering that I’ve heard the shuttles were only ok and that staff had been rude a few times to some of my friends, the subways were pretty un-dramatic and no nonsense.  Lunch at LT was very nice because I had yet to have a good lunch at con and by the time we had finished and went back to con, everything else was closed, meaning the Dealer’s hall and Gaming Hall had closed and when I met up with my sister not long afterwards, we decided to just head back home. 


To conclude, I wasn’t expecting that much out of AX, but it was a surprisingly decent con.  Had it not been for the logistics nightmare, it would have come close to being a really good con.  To be fair to expo, there were quite a few things that it does well. 

Let me first go over the Pros:

The Kill la Kill event.   That was an absolutely amazing experience!  Everything went perfectly, and I definitely felt it was the con’s saving grace.  Because as the con dragged on, it started to get more stressful and seemed much more chaotic. 

The Cosplay area and Gaming Hall.  That was an excellent setup, with a logical and simple setup, the cosplay repair station in the back near the Cosplay set ups. 

The food trucks and barbeque areas.  Food can be hard to come by and now it seems that’s no longer an issue. 

And here are the cons:

While I didn't see a lot of the 'horrors' of anime expo, when I spoke to other con goers and attendees, it varied quite a bit.  One of the biggest issues of anime expo this year was the length of the lines and how they did not do much in the way of helping attendees with heat and hydration until day 3.  In terms of logistics, I noticed that many lines had to be routed outside and occasionally had to stop foot traffic which was bad if you had to get from one hall to the next.

Heat.  AX didn’t do much to try and relive it, though I did notice they started to hand out waters and set up tents, but only on Day 3.  Again, there’s not too much they can do about it unless they decide to change the date which won’t happen. 

Once again, I always like to do a comparison between AX and Fanime.  Fanime did not have these big events and guests, but it was much more relaxing and fun.  The overall atmosphere was more chill and laid-back and staff really wanted to help out the attendees.  AX has the good events, great guests and great setups, but the ok location combined with the heat and the overall rushed and chaotic pace I felt did not make this a great con.  AX I will go to for events and gatherings, but I would still recommend to step away from the convention and go elsewhere every once in a while to get away from the hustle and bustle and take a breather.   For all its mishaps and such this year, it was a decent con, one that I would continue to attend, but maybe not wholeheartedly as I used to.  

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