Friday, July 29, 2016

Nate Reports: Anime Expo 2016 Part 1 (Day 0-2)

Next con on the lineup is Anime Expo 2016, where it will be my 3rd time attending the biggest Anime convention in Los Angeles. Last year, I wasn't able to go as press so I had to go as an attendee to this big event and it was still pretty fun. This time around, I've gotten the pass and I was hoping for something better than the last time I got Press back in 2013. During that year, there was so many issues with me and LACC staff or AX staff back then that I was just really confused about what was going on, I mean I didn't even go to many of the things at that AX because of restrictions even if we were staff. Now I'm hoping this time around, there will be more leniency towards us and that we can actually have access to things. Nonetheless, I just hope for a very fun Anime Expo this year!

Before we get into the breakdown of what happened at Anime Expo this year, let's look back at how this trip happened because I was actually thinking about NOT going to this year's Anime Expo. It was during Fanimecon where Anime Expo made the announcement that they were going to bring in the AniSong World Matsuri and the lineup was such a strong one. JAM Project, Eir Aoi, Luna Haruna, FLOW, OldCodex, Yoko Ishida, Minami, sphere, and the kicker TM Revolution. I've been waiting so long to see TM on stage and this is one big opportunity to see the band on stage! Not only that but more and more guest announcements came out after memorial day weekend for Anime Expo like Suwabe, the English cast of Sailor Moon and Cowboy Bebop, Sushio, Teddyloid, amongst other big names to be released after Fanime. But with hearing that lineup for AniSong World Matsuri, that was good enough for me to buy my badge and tickets to the concerts. It wasn't until a week before con that I was also approved for Press as well. I was able to give my badge away to my friend who is having her first time at Anime Expo so all is good! And with that in mind, it's time for Anime Expo!

Day 0:
I went to sleepover at a friend's place because we were planning to leave early for Los Angeles in the morning, but instead we overslept and left around noon. We weren't really complaining anyways, there really wasn't a time limit coming into Anime Expo unless we wanted to get our badges early since registration closed around midnight during day 0. We did leave the bay area around noon and on the way we were able to grab lunch at Chick Fil A (since there isn't one at AX). Then we were on the road to AX riding through the hills of 152 to the farmlands of highway 5. We did make a couple stops for rest and to check out #TruckStopCon in the Tejon Area before we went to the grapevine which led us to the Los Angeles area. Now we were already in cosplay as Persona 4 but we had to make a quick stop at a mall in Burbank because we found Yosuke's shop, Junes!!!
Guys, it's my store June's!
The Investigation Squad in front of the store

I really didn't expect Yosuke shop to be selling Women's clothes and Dresses. It was all for fun though, if you are a fan of Persona 4, you would understand the reference. We at least were able to grab a photo in front of the store before we left the mall and headed to Downtown Los Angeles. We pulled up to the JW Marriott where we were going to be staying for all of con, dropped off our luggages, and then park our car in a parking garage near con. We arrived at Downtown Los Angeles around 10pm so the registration was going to close soon. Press registration ended for the day so I was planning to grab my badge early in the morning. Although my friend's badge is what I had to pick up since she picked it up from me. So I quickly ran from our hotel room to the LACC reg line and it went by pretty fast. No holdups or stops in the line, we just followed through their maze that they set up with ductape and was able to enter the convention center where I was got my friend's badge. The convention center was closed off to everyone except exhibitors and those who parked at the con grounds. So with nothing else to do, we went back to the hotel room to relax after our very long adventure down to Los Angeles. Tomorrow begins Day 1 of Anime Expo 2016 and it's going to be huge!
Los Angeles is in sight! We're so close to Anime Expo!
Our room squad for this Anime Expo!

Day 1:
I went to the con early around 9am after a good night's sleep to grab my press badge which was upstairs on the top floor of the convention center West Hall. In there was the press lounge along with rooms for industry, exhibitors, and con staff. I would check out the press lounge and was able to see the Exhibit hall which looked empty at first. When the doors open at noon, expect craziness from people around the con rushing towards these booths.

It's calm for now......

With a couple of hours left till the cutting of the ribbon and the opening of Anime Expo 2016, I was wandering around seeing what has changed since last year. There wasn't much of a big difference except that the Artist Alley is not in exhibit hall, it has been relocated to the Kentia hall down on the bottom floor of the convention center along with Table Top Gaming and Autographs. The South hall that used to have table top gaming has now been replaced with showcases from the companies that are here at Anime Expo like P.A. Works whom is showcasing artists works from its history in the anime business, Bang Zoom! was doing auditions there, and a couple of Itasha cars were showcased as well in part of Good Smile Racing. South hall had more movie layouts for cosplayers to take pictures in, video gaming area, and what's new was the purikura booths. Next to the south hall is the main events hall which held all the major events for AX as well as Petree Hall which held the industry panels.

A Girls dead Monster Itasha car (Anime: Angel Beats)

Psycho Pass cosplayers in the Apocalypse film setting

After exploring the con, I would head back to meet with Ryan from the blog to meet up and enter the Exhibit Hall an hour before entering since we've always been able to do that for so long till we got denied by the AX staff. Unfortunately this year, Press had to be waited just like the other attendees to enter in. It was news to us because we never had any notice about it or anything so it didn't start off well for us. Fortunately, we were able to be behind the scenes for the ribbon cutting and seeing everyone rush into the Exhibit Hall. Video of that are below:

As we entered into the Exhibit Hall, we were able to get through the big crowds to get to a couple of booths to get some free swag. Crunchyroll was giving away free bags for those who have a Crunchyroll Premium account, Aniplex was giving away free buttons for their #SAOVote2016 campaign for Anime Expo (I voted Asuna!!), next to them was Sony who was showcasing their headphones and if you were the first 50 people to take a selfie on Instagram with their headphones, you get a free poster as well. Me and Ryan would go around for an hour or two before I had to leave and go to into my first cosplay for AX.
I voted Asuna!

Trying out Sony Headphones in the Aniplex Booth

Today I was cosplaying Hayato from Fire Emblem Fates for the day as part of a group shoot that I agreed to be a part of. Unfortunately, the times were confusing for meeting up with each other that day. We were supposed to meet up around 2pm for the shoot, but it kept on being delayed by the leader who organized this shoot. So it was pushed back by a couple of hours till 5pm since she was busy doing a shoot a couple of minutes before 2pm. Till then, I hanged out with a coworker of mine that I haven't seen in a while since Fanime. We both checked out the food truck area that was giving away good foods for the Anime Expo attendees. We grabbed poke and a milk tea for lunch. Then we explored Exhibit hall a little bit more seeing that there was a Neko Atsume booth that had a big Tubbs plushie! We were able to grab a photo of both of us with Tubbs, The VIZ media booth had a 30 year anniversary wall for Shonen Jump that included autograph boards from the many artists that have contributed to the comics including Haikyuu, Detective Conan, Yo-kai Watch, Pokemon, and many more. Bandai/Namco was there too showcasing games coming soon to the states. What I really wanted to check out was Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization that was having a demo for the Anime Expo attendees. Atlus USA was also there but this time there was no store! They were just there to showcase their upcoming games as well like Persona 5 and SMT IV Apocalypse. So we both checked out the front area of the Exhibit Hall that had all of the industry showcasing their products and they all had a lot of things that would interest me a whole lot.
Toei Animation booth includes a welcome sign promoting One Piece: Gold

Photo with Tubbs in the Neko Atsume Booth

Viz Media had a wall full of art boards from manga artists celebrating its 30 year anniversary. Here's one from the Yokai Watch creator! 

When 5pm hit, I would meet up with everyone from our Fire Emblem Fates shoot and we would have our shoot there. Unfortunately with the confusion that occurred with the time changes, some of the cosplayers decided to drop out. But we still had a big outpouring of Fates cosplayers that came to this shoot.
Our Fire Emblem Fates group

There was a shoot after this meetup at Little Tokyo but I decided to not go to that. Instead, me and my Silas friend went to grab drinks at Yard House and decided to relax after a pretty busy first day of Anime Expo. He treated me to drinks and appetizers which I thanked him a whole lot for. I did owe him a hangout since I wasn't able to meet up with him at Fanime. Then I went back to the JW Marriott to relax for a couple of hours. There, I would meet up with everyone and then head back to con for some night time activities.

It was around 9pm when we went back to the LACC and the only things open now is the South Hall. So it was our first time checking out Entertainment Hall. We would take advantage of the background stages, since they were empty when we arrived at the hall and did our own photos while there really was no one around. Some pictures we took can be seen below:


Sailor Moon Motorcycle Itasha 

There was also Purikura machines so me and my friends wanted to do some photos in the booths since Fanime didn't have theirs this year. So the tradition of us at Fanime taking purikura photos took a side track, we now took some at AX. That counts to me!
Purikura with me and friends

As we were decorating our photos in the purikura machine, we would notice it was almost closing time and the volunteers has told everyone to leave. We would get our photos before leaving and then we all headed back to our room to relax after a memorable day 1. Some of my friends who came to this trip had their first taste of what Anime Expo has and they have really liked it so far. In my end, this is always a good startup to the con. Start off small before going big these next 3 days. And tomorrow is one I can't wait for!

My Hero Academia Cosplayers
Funimation is promoting big with My Hero Academia
Sword Art Online UI used for one of the Itasha cars 

Day 2:
I would wake up early around 7:30 am to head over to the autographs line and try to get an autograph ticket for Mr. Naoshi Arakawa, the author of the hit anime and manga series, Your Lie in April. Luckily a friend of mine was able to save a spot for me because when I went to see the line, the end of the line went around the building! Everyone was all for one person, Mr. Junichi Suwabe. He is known for his many roles in voice acting, most notably Archer from Fate/Stay Night, Daiki Aomine from Kuroko no Basket, and Ren Jinguuji from Uta no Prince Sama. The people in front of us was MOSTLY for him. We would go around the line and then reach the start of the line where my friend was heartbroken to hear that Suwabe's tickets were sold out right when he was next in line! I felt so sorry for him about that, but dang all the attendees want his autograph! I was able to grab a ticket for Arakawa for later this afternoon. 8:30 am and I went back to my hotel room to freshen up and get ready for the day. For day 1, I was going to cosplay Nico Yazawa from Love Live! School Idol Project because this day begins with this.
Me as Nico Yazawa while getting into the West Hall

There are a lot of big things happening on this day that includes one of the biggest concerts this weekend and the matsuri that we all were getting ready for: Aqours! The next generation of idols from Love Live Sunshine! has brought to my attention and all of us in the room were mostly Love Live! fans. Although we are now moving past u's, it's time to welcome Aqours into the Love Live! franchise and what better way for an introduction to us is having them be guests at Anime Expo! We have already planned this too where we all group ordered our tickets so we can all sit together for this big event! 6 of the 9 VA's of Aqours are in attendance that includes the Voice Actresses of Chika, Riko, Ruby, Hanamaru, Kanan, and Dia. The 3 that couldn't make it were You, Yoshiko, and Mari. The event started off well as we were able to see the VA's up on stage and each of them introduced themselves and the characters they are going to voice as. After that, the two full MV's of Aqours was then showcased. The two videos can be shown here.

Aqours MV- Kimi no Kokoro wa Kagayaiteru kai

Aqours MV- Koi ni naritai Aquarium

The MC would then ask the VAs about the MV's and where it was located and all the facts about the videos. We would then see their live performances of their first CD after that.

And then the Aqours VAs would come out in their dresses from the kimi no kokoro wa kagayaiteru kai MV. They looked really cute in their outfits! The MC would ask them more questions about their live performances and then the biggest thing we were eager to see in this event! No it's not a live performance, the first episode of Love Live Sunshine! And with the VA's saying "Love Live!" the audience screamed "Sunshine!" and the episode would air which was a really good introduction episode as we were able to see all the girls of Aqours, although no group has been organized as of yet. It's the first episode, do you think Aqours would be made in just one episode? And it was also here where I became a big fan on Yoshiko Tsushima. If only her Voice Actress would be there for this event, I'd be so pumped! The first episode of Love Live! Sunshine can be seen on the Funimation Now App and the Daisuki App.

When the episode is over, the VAs would get questions asked from the Anisong World Matsuri web page. If you didn't know, fans would ask questions from the site to ask for any of the 6 members of Aqours and if they were lucky enough, their questions would be answered from the members live at the event. The VAs would answer about 10 questions that were picked out randomly from the page and then it was time for the raffle! We all were hoping to grab one of the signed items that were given away for this event but unfortunately, we weren't the lucky ones. The event was almost over, the MC would give out news about Love Live Sunshine! that the anime will air every Saturday on the apps and that the mobile game, Love Live School Idol Festival! will be updated this fall to welcome Aqours into the game. And on that note, the event was over! As a Love Live! fan, it was totally worth it! I was able to see the members of Aqours in this event, was overjoyed with everything that the event had, and I was able to see the first episode before everyone in the USA did! Overall, it was worth the ticket!
We couldn't get great seats, but this was the only good shot I can get from the event.

With the event over, I would head back to the hotel room to change out of Nico Yazawa into Hayato again for a Fire Emblem hangout that I was planning to attend later that day. So with my free time, I would check out Artist Alley for a bit in its new location down in Kentia Hall. But it looked like the hall was used for so many things! There was Artist Alley, Table top gaming, and autographs. So with a little bit of time that I was there at Kentia Hall, I would check out a couple of tables in Artist Alley before heading to the autographs line for Naoshi Arakawa's autograph. I would pick up a signed board from the Your Lie in April booth that was located behind the Kinokuniya store. Besides the scavenger hunt that they were having that Anime Expo, they also had exclusive sign boards for those that were attending Mr. Arakawa's autograph sessions during Anime Expo and I was lucky to pick one up before his session on this day. I was able to get the signed board autographed and was able to thank him wholeheartedly. It seems that he's been loving his fans here in the states from what I've seen and that he was very happy to be here at this convention.
Naoki Arakawa signs my signboard, even places my name down!

After autographs, I would get an alert from Ryan saying that we may be able to get an interview with one of the bands playing at Anime Expo, FLOW. So I met up with him in the press room as fast as I could hoping we could get an interview. The problem is it's with their manager and the band themselves. Will they have time for us to interview the band? So we both waited patiently hoping for the best. 30 minutes have passed and I can see our chances for an interview windling away. Ryan was doing his best to get their attention about an interview and the staff was not giving us much information about our interview chances. We waited for a little bit longer until someone said that we couldn't be able to get an interview at all. That was a bummer to hear but what can you do? It was the band's decision so I respect their decision for not giving us an interview.

I would say goodbye to Ryan because it was almost time for the big concert of the night: Anisong World Matsuri's Japan-Live! So I quickly returned to my room and changed out to my Anisong shirt that I bought at the booth along with one of the concert light sticks and went across to the Microsoft Theater. From there I would wait for my friend who had my ticket for the concert. She made it on time and we would quickly go through security and bag check and would go to our seats. While we were finding our seats, Jam Project was up as each member sang their hit songs. They would then leave and soon Eir Aoi would perform her hit songs that include songs from Sword Art Online and Kill La Kill. After her would be Luna Haruna who came out singing her hit songs to the Matsuri crowd. And then the unthinkable, Luna Haruna would introduce Eir Aoi back out to the crowd and to our surprise, they were gonna collaborate on a song for us! What song? Porno Grafitti's Melissa! The crowd went crazy when they were singing the song. Some of you may know it from the hit anime, Fullmetal Alchemist. Who knew it was just a couple of years ago in AX that I heard this song and rocked out loud to it. I'd never expect these two talented artists to sing this song and I was hyped up after that!
Eir Aoi on stage with a crowd on their feet
Luna Haruna
Eir Aoi

Eir Aoi and Luna Haruna singing Melissa, OP from Fullmetal Alchemist

The two would leave the stage for Minami to perform. Unfortunately, I don't much about her songs but she did perform really well to the Matsuri audience. When her set was done, Yoko Ishida would come in and sing her hit songs. She actually speaks pretty good english that I was able to understand her pretty well. She did say she did perform in Los Angeles before and that she's glad to be back for this convention. Once her set was over, Minami comes back out! Another collaboration? It would appear so as they both sang another anime classic that freaked me out so much: God Knows from Aya Hirano. Oh my gosh, so much memories from this song from the hit anime, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. From when I memorized the song for Fanime Karaoke one year to now! I cheered on as well as sang the song as well to their lyrics. It completely wowed me, I was so pumped after that! I can't wait to see what's next in the Matsuri lineup!
Minami and Yoko Ishida on stage performing God Knows.

DJ Kaze would come out as like a halftime break for the Matsuri as he would mix hit anime songs that the crowd was hype about. He would put up songs from animes like Haruhi Suzumiya, Madoka Magica, Love Live!, and many more that I can't recall. He did end his set with the ending to Anohana and we all waved our hands to his like seeing a farewell to him for the night. His set would be done and the next artist would come out, everyone is waiting for him: T.M Revolution!

He'd come out of a shadowed stage and would appear our in a spotlight singing one of his hit songs. And then he would sing my favorite song, Resonance from Soul Eater, and I was rocking to that song as he sang it! He then would sing the two openings from Valvrave the Liberator with Nana Mizuki singing in the background (unfortunately, she didn't come to AX) and again I was rocking to the songs! His set would end after that and I was just pleased to hear him sing. I've been longing forever to see a T.M. Revolution concert and I'm so happy he came to Anime Expo this year! This band was one of the reasons I came to AX for and he rocked the house down! I was so happy with his performance, he always has a great show and I'm so glad to be a part of it!
Stage was too dark, this was the only good shot I can get from T.M. Revolution

T.M. Revolution would finish his set and then this idol group called Sphere would come on. Now this group interested me because they are Voice Actresses themselves. Away from the studio, they would become Sphere and they came out in really cute dresses and their voices were cool that I soon became a fan for them. Mostly because Minako Kotobuki and Aya Toyosaki were members of the group and you may recall them as Tsumugi and Yui respectively from K-On! and I was a fan of them when they were on the show. Also Haruka Tomatsu who voices Asuna from Sword Art Online and Keita Amano from Yokai Watch. I like the fact with this group, it shows that voice actresses are not only great behind the character they portray but they also showcase it in music as well. And what better way to do it than in a group like this. They sang a couple of their hit songs which I greatly enjoyed and they would soon be a group I really supported. After their setlist, they would leave the stage. But it wasn't over yet. Everyone has performed, who else was there to perform left?
Sphere takes the stage

The videos would introduce Jam Project back on the stage! Now they were up first but they didn't completely finish their set list. Remember it was only the member performances first, not the whole group! So when they all came back out, their first song was one everyone should recognize: ONE PUUUUUUNNCH!!!!! They first came out with The Hero!!, the opening of the hit anime, One Punch Man. The whole Matsuri crowd got very excited with the song and it's with that hype the crowd would rock on with their other hits especially their #1 hit song, Skill. That song ended their setlist, but I saw the crowd being so into the song after what they have played, it was mesmerizing. Jam Project never fails to impress. I saw their performance front row when I took coverage last year at J-Pop Summit and I was pumped with seeing them on stage giving all they got for a great show! And now at Anime Expo, they had such an awesome show! I was just so hyped after seeing them perform! Like it got me the jitters after the show!

JAM Project is back on stage to close out the night!

The Matsuri would end there, and everyone who performed would come out for one final bow. The show was surreal, like I didn't want to leave for a couple of minutes. I was so glad I came to this show, it was one of the best concerts I've been to and props to Anime Expo for putting this up. It was definitely worth the night!

Everyone came out for one final bow

It was 11pm and I was craving for a bite to eat. Actually, didn't even get a lunch either. But some restaurants would in LA Live close and the only things I would grab would be at Yard House for a little appetizer and a drink. I would then head back to my hotel room which would then be invaded with Persona cosplayers. The person who was running the room (our Chie) has her birthday on day 3 and since it was past midnight when I arrived, technically it was her birthday so we celebrated the night away by partying in our room. This party took over from midnight till around 4am where everyone decided to head back to their hotel rooms and crashed. But all I remember was drinks and Uno Dare. Overall the day was great! Aqours, Arakawa, and the Matsuri were amazing! And a great birthday party was a good way to end this day. What will day 3 bring us?
All the Flashs
Microsoft Theater is ready for us!!
A Love Live Flash mob was happening outside of AX.

Part 2 of this report will cover day 3 and 4 of Anime Expo plus #PostAX and the full review of Anime Expo 2016. Stay tuned for more of my report of Anime Expo 2016!

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