Once again, Con coverage has turned into a recap, and I apologize. Unfortunately, I had to sleep at some point, and that left very little time to write. The kinks of Con coverage will eventually be worked out, but for now, more recaps.
Thursday, June 3rd
So, after a quick metro ride down to the Los Angeles Convention Center, I arrived at AX sleep deprived and headed for the ticketing booth with my hard earned badge. (Day Zero was a brutal slog of broken registration systems, poor line management, and general bedlam.) Most of AX’s main events require you to purchase tickets with one exception—the AMV (Anime Music Video) competition. People from all over submit their AMVs in different categories, vying to win recognition from the audience and judges. It’s a pretty unique experience to Anime conventions and a personal favorite of fellow contributor Keskel. Anyhow, AMV tickets are free, but one has to line up early, so I got in line and waited patiently until my efforts were rewarded with two tickets. Then, well, I waited some more, because other than a couple of random panels there really isn’t much to do Day One before about noon. This seems to be done so that people don’t miss too much when a lot of them are still trying to get their badges (unlike SDCC, which could care less about such silly things and instead just starts up whether you are ready or not). So I ended up sitting around for a couple of hours playing my Vita, and anxiously waiting for things to start and for those I was meeting to finish getting their badges.
Eventually, though, the time came and everything opened up. The floor is an intriguing mix of big and small booths. The NIS booth offered the first highlight as it gave out Daganronpa fans. (Daganronpa is a sweet visual novel game involving a great mix of story, animation, detective work, and a talking robot bear. I highly recommend it.) Once I had the fan, my task was to venture to different booths in order to obtain stamps that ultimately lead to a sweet Daganronpa print. This type of giveaway is one of my favorites at cons. It is simple, and can offer a guide for new attendees to various booths, and helps get them comfortable walking the floor. As long as the participating booths make getting the stamps as easy as possible, these stamp scavenger hunts always work out well. So I journeyed from booth to booth, looking at sweet figures and other merch and getting my stamps. Finally, I returned to the NIS booth for my final stamps, which I got after a nice chat with an employee about his job (he was an editor, so we had a fun talk). With all my stamps obtained, I flashed my completed fan to the pre-order section of the booth and received the print. With that mission done, I continued walking the floor, grabbing various free items and sticking by the big booths at first. Notable parts included Anniplex showing off this awesome Puella Madoka Magica print, Hulu having an AX presence at all (showing their love for anime fans), and seeing a person in a giant Teddy costume at the Atlus booth. In general, the floor proved to be a nice mix between the chill nature of Wondercon and the more frenetic nature of SDCC, and it’s too bad that AX’s hall closes so early in the day.
After my initial exploration of the floor, I was off to my first panel—The Abridged Series panel. The creators of both Yugioh and Free the Abridged series were there, and we got to watch new episodes of each (The Yugioh episode was an especial treat since it was the first new episode in quite some time). We got to watch a Dragonball Z Kai Abridged Series episode, which is an abridged series of the original Dragonball Z abridged series. Watching 100 plus episodes of content be condensed into six minutes is a wonderful experience, and the panel was a great start to my con. After that, though, things got a bit wonky. Since this was my first AX, I deferred to those with me on the best way to deal with lines and such (no need to go full SDCC line waiting unless necessary). The problem is that in the past, while large, AX has never been SDCC, and generally was more like Wondercon in terms of lines. That is one of the reasons AX does room clearing, which prevents people from camping in rooms all day, and is supposed to allow people to just have to wait in line for things they actually want to see as opposed to sitting through three other panels just to get into the panel they want. This can work with smaller numbers, but once a convention hits a certain number of attendees this practice is no longer effective. People begin piling up, and instead of thinning out crowds, room clearing just makes lines worse, as people show up early anyhow and just start forming their own lines. This clogs the halls, and makes it very difficult to clear rooms. Plus, people no longer have any idea when or even where they need to be in line, so the result is much confusion. (The implosion of the AX line system is going to be discussed quite a bit in these recaps, so bear with me.)
So, why am I bringing this up? Well, after the Abridged Panel we headed off to the Namco Bandai panel, but were thwarted by a capped line. Not wanting to risk this again, we were off to the Bushiroad panel (the maker of card games Weiss Schwarz, Vanguard, and Buddy Fight). Confusion was rampant, however, as a line had already started, and lines were forming even though a whole other panel had to be filled, run, and cleared before anyone could go to the Bushiroad panel. As people started massing the halls became flooded. The staff eventually figured out that everyone should be taken outside, but it was a harbinger of things to come. With that said, we did eventually get into the panel, and it was full of swag (promo cards and bags), announcements (Fairy Tale is coming to English Weiss), and giveaways (none I won, but there were loads). Then it was off to see Gen Urobuchi (writer of animes such as Fate/Zero, Psycho Pass, Puella Madoka Magica, and Gargantua) and Nitro+ speak. It was a fun panel, and listening to such a great artist was definitely worth it. The end was especially fun, as the entire room participated in group paper/rock/scissors over who would get some awesome posters. I didn’t win, but the experience was a lot of fun. Finally, the first day was capped off with the AMV competition. I didn’t know what to expect, but it was a blast. There were videos of all kinds, and though at this point the near 30+ hours without real sleep had finally gotten to me, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Highlights included a video that made Mahjong look like an extreme sport, others that transported you to a dance party, and commercial parodies with anime spins. It was a fun way to end the first day, and in that spirit I’ll leave you with two of the AMVs that I found quite enjoyable.
Friday, July 4th (Hope everyone had a happy Independence Day!)
The early theme of the second day was Artist Alley, Artist Alley, and more Artist Alley. As I said in an earlier post, I was really looking forward to what the Artist Alley experience at AX would be, and I was not disappointed. The amount of art is staggering, and the choices are vast. If there is anime you like, there will be someone there with awesome fan art for it. I scoured the booths, taking in the various works of art. By the time the day was half over I had purchased several pieces. Knowing how things had gone the day before, I planned to show up rather early to the Sword Art Online II premiere, as it was really the only thing I wanted to do that day. This is partially because I am a fan of the show, but mainly because I wanted the autograph board that was being given away. Only problem—everyone else thought the same thing, which led to probably the biggest fiasco of the entire con. Hordes of people crowded around wondering where a line was while the staff tried helplessly to maintain order. The staff kept telling everyone to disperse so that other panels could be let in, but no one listened, because everyone knew that if they left, those that didn’t would just get rewarded anyhow (they were right). Eventually, one staffer decided to take the huge group outside and try to make some sort of line, but that was also a failure, as the staff didn’t post enough people on the line to stop people from cutting, especially once other staffers started telling people the wrong information. Eventually, the huge throng was made into a single-file line and placed in the proper waiting zone. In a sign of how messed up things were, the people behind me were able to cut everyone else because they were told to go to the wrong area exactly as the line was forming, so they just got to slip on in. Still, at least there was finally a proper line, and the actual waiting game begun.
Confusion continued to run rampant. The staff had trouble at first determining when to cap the line, which is ridiculous, as they know the exact number of seats in the room and counting people is not that difficult. This led to a near revolt when after an hour and half or so of waiting, a line of tape was put up right behind my section of the line, the staff having just now decided this was the cut-off point. Understandably, people were quite angry. Eventually, the staff allowed most of those people to be in the standby line, but it was clear that no one really knew how to handle what was happening at AX this year. Eventually, though, the slog was over and we were let into the room. Even better, there were autograph boards for everyone (Sword Art Online had properly planned, it seems). After watching the three episodes voted most popular by the fans from the first season, we were finally treated to the world premiere of the first episode of the second season. Once again, I was amazed at how enjoyable a fan experience watching a show with a group can be. It was a brutal experience getting in, but in the end everything was worth it.
At this point, there was not much left to do, so I was off to the finals of the Last Comic Standing event. Some of the comics were meh, but a couple were quite funny. It was certainly a different experience than I normally have at cons, so I was glad I went. Then, for day’s capper, it was time to dance. AX has a dance every night during the con, and it is crazy. The dance floor was full of attendees dancing with reckless abandon while professional DJs played great music and created a clublike experience. I danced until it was time to go home. Anime Expo had proven to be a trying (but fun) experience the first two days. How would the next two days compare? Find out in my next recap. Until then, enjoy this video.