Sunday, July 13, 2014

Ray Reports: Anime Expo 2014 - Prologue and Day 0-1

This was my second year attending Anime Expo, the largest anime convention in the United States. It wasn't as fun as last year, probably because the charm of being at a long-distance con for the first time wasn't there, but nonetheless I had my share of fun.

Convention Prep:

Getting to the con this year wasn't going to be as easy. Since Matt, Nate, and company couldn't make it this year, I was on my own with regards to finding a room; this also left me as the sole NorCal representative for California Conventions Blog for AX this year. A friend referred me to a group that needed roommates for their room, so I took them up on their offer.

As for transportation, driving all the way to LA and especially parking has their issues, so I chose to take the bus again. Unfortunately, I wasn't as lucky as last year when I was able to snag a Megabus round trip for $35; even a one-way trip would cost me $40. I compared BoltBus and Megabus; BoltBus proved to be the slightly cheaper option. I ended up paying around $75 for my tickets.

To save money on food, I went to Safeway and stocked up on sandwich rounds and meats like last time, as well as peanut butter. Food trucks are expensive and afffordable brick-and-mortar food options are few and far in between at the LACC, so I wanted to bring my own food. Overall, I bought four nights' worth of food for only $50.

To keep in touch with friends during the convention, I created a group on the mobile instant messaging service LINE for AX-attending friends, which we would make generous use of during the convention.

Day 0:

Like last year, I stayed up all night packing up out of fear that I would oversleep and miss my bus. My parents took me to the Diridon Station around 8, and I got on the bus around 8:50 AM. Unfortunately, I saw very few AX-bound passengers, so the ride to LA was fairly lonely. There was one stop around noon for food, before we continued on down I-5, arriving in LA around 4 PM.

Using Uber, and a coupon for it, I had myself escorted to my Day 0 hotel, the Rodeway Inn, a 20-minute walk from the convention center. After getting myself settled in, I went over to the convention center to line up for the press/industry/media registration line (henceforth referred to as "industry registration" for simplicity).

It appears I lucked out, as I was told there were logistical issues that forced delays for industry reg, and they were mostly fixed up by the time I lined up. Still, it took me an hour to get to the front of the line and pick up my badge.

Industry reg extended around the corner from the door and then some.

Not much else happened, so after getting my badge I wandered around for a bit before retreating to my room.

Day 1:

My group and I needed to transfer our luggage to the JW Marriott, so we got up quite early, had our luggage stowed in the room host's car, and then walked together to the convention center, me throwing on my cosplay of the Persona 3 protagonist in the process. I had a two-part breakfast: One consisting of a chicken sandwich with the ingredients I brought, and another at McDonald's after we had packed our luggage into the car.

Not much happened as I had arrived around 8:50 AM, shortly before the convention center opened. When the doors did open, I went in, and met up with a friend of mine around the Oculus VR booth, which I took note of but didn't really pay attention to just yet.

Dealer's Hall wouldn't open for a while, so I managed my Nintendo 3DS StreetPasses among other things for a while, before heading over to the Press Lounge to relax for some time, grabbing a few cups of water along the way. Much thankfully, unlike last year, I was not harassed by confused staffers about being in off-limits areas.

I was rather tired, so I ended up dozing off a little bit in the lounge, and when I was recovered the Dealer's Hall had already opened and was swarming with attendees. After giving the hall some time to thin out, I made my way in.

View from the Press Lounge.

AX's Dealer's Hall is known as one of the largest in all of North American anime conventions, featuring not only the usual dealer's booths, but also many industry booths, including those for Crunchyroll, Bandai-Namco, Atlus, NIS America, and many other big names in the anime and video game industries. I made an initial sweep, not exactly going on a spending spree just yet, just to see what I should purchase later on when I'm better settled into the convention and can finalize what I want to purchase. The hall was ridiculously crowded, despite being much larger than even Fanime's current Dealer's Hall, but it was somewhat expected anyway with how populated the convention center was.

Exiting the Dealer's Hall, food options were just as tricky as last year. Across the street was a parking lot of food trucks--though a bit expensive, they did offer a variety of food options for congoers. For today's lunch, I bought a curry burrito from Luckdish--anyone who's known me for a while knows I'm a bit of a curry nut. It was good, although I was eating this in the vicious LA heat--shade was rather minimal in the food truck area.

Speaking of the heat, I did hear that an acquaintance of mine suffered heat stroke while waiting in line for registration. Seeing the line snake outside out in the open sun, in weather that easily broke 30 C, had me rather concerned, as I have only ever seen one convention force a large percentage of the line to wait outside, and that was the infamous "LineCon" incident at Fanime last year. This needs to be addressed, as not everyone can afford to wait out in the sun for hours to get their badges.

At any rate, I walked down the hall connecting the West and South Hall, and managed to catch the Shin Megami Tensei gathering just in time. The usual collection of Persona 3 and 4 cosplayers were there. Surprisingly, a few cosplayers of other Megami Tensei games were present, including one of Matador, notorious for his appearance as a "wake-up call boss" from Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne, and, more surprisingly, one of the protagonist of Shin Megami Tensei I!

After the gathering, I needed to head to my room in the JW to help my roommates with organizing luggage, so I took a couple hours out to assist, gave myself a chance to relax afterwards, and then went back down to the convention floor.

On my way back, I checked my LINE group to see if anyone was present to spend time with, and as if on cue, I encounetred two of them walking past the food trucks. I chatted with them for a while, some of us getting food from the food trucks, and then we went over to the gaming hall.

My friends were not particularly pleased with the gaming hall, and I had to agree. Many of the arcade games were overpriced--$2 for many of the dance games, which was a bit of a ripoff, when you consider that FanimeCon also has an arcade, but uses the standard price of $1 for their deluxe games. As a result, I never spent a single quarter in the arcade this year. And as usual, several games were broken in some way.

My favorite part of Ikaruga is when the Sega NAOMI hardware throws up an error.

I unofficially parted ways with my friends for now to visit the back of the hall, where I found several folks had set up a row for 2D shooters, which I played a few of. It was there that I caught wind of a flyer for STG Weekly's panel that was on Saturday morning. I stuck around a bit until the folks in charge of this section had to leave.

In the name of comedy derived from adult material, I decided to try to line up for the Learning Japanese with Hentai panel, an 18+ panel dedicated to teaching key vocabulary from erotic Japanese anime. Unfortunately, I wouldn't be attending this panel, as even though I had arrived at the line a good two hours in advance, the line was already maxed out. (Apparently, I could've attempted to get in using my privileges as a press member, but I was not aware of this possibility at the time.) This served as a hard lesson to me: To line up well in advance for the other panels I wanted to attend. Attending panels at AX has been historically difficult, in comparison to Fanime where I've been able to enter rooms for major panels even in the middle of said panel.

With not much else to do, I retreated back to the hotel room for now to rest up for what Day 2 would have in store.

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