Back again with the second half of my recap of Anime Expo after a quick search for my costume.
Saturday, June 5th
After an action packed Friday, Saturday began with a journey down the CCG hole. One might wonder why I went to the Bushiroad panel on Thursday, and the answer is because, due to a variety of factors that I won’t get into/are Keskel’s fault, I am now a Weiss Schwarz player. (As a recovering/former Magic player, this is really not a good thing). So on Saturday, Keskel and I went to participate in the Los Angeles Regional Weiss Schwarz tournament. Now, I am not going to get into the exact rules and nuances of this card game (not in this post, at least), but I will offer information about the game here and here. In its simplest form, Weiss Schwarz is basically a card game that pits one anime show against another in an all out battle. It combines luck and skill into a rousing experience that generally gives both players a chance to win. Not surprisingly, this game originated in Japan, and most of its cards are in Japanese, but a number of sets have been translated into English. This tournament only allowed English cards, so I had cobbled together a janky blue/red Sword Art Online (SAO) deck.
I am not going to lie. I didn’t really want to do that well. For one, the deck I played was not one I cared that much about. Plus, I really didn’t want to spend all day playing card games. Still, I am not someone who would ever throw a match, so away I went to play in the double elimination tournament. Keskel plays a Bakemonogatari deck, so I was actually familiar with the first two decks I played. The first player was a nice guy that played a slightly more refined version of Keskel’s deck. I made a valiant effort against him after falling behind early on, but ultimately fell short, losing my first match. My second opponent played a different Bakemonogatari build that is probably not the most optimal one. After some early offense, his deck ran out of steam, and I finished him off quickly, putting me at 1-1. Though I was happy to win on some level, I can’t say I was happy to still be playing (Keskel lost his first two matches and proceeded to take glee in me having to continue to play). My third match came against a Madoka deck. This was an awkward match, since I don’t really know any of the cards from Madoka, so I had to read a lot of the cards. Still, after the opponent played a big wall of creatures, I realized defense was no longer an option and just went all out. After a little luck, I eeked out the last damage and won the match. My journey would unfortunately continue. My fourth match was against someone playing a Mono Red SAO deck, and luckily, this was the end of the line for me. I put up a valiant effort once again, but my last ditch attack came up just short and allowed my opponent to win. In the end I finished 2-2, which I am fine with, as it is a respectable showing for my first tournament and I didn’t have to keep playing all day. Plus, my last opponent was the right person to lose against, as he really took the game far more serious than I did, and I would have felt bad about beating someone that really wanted to win while I was just playing for fun. There will be more on my journey down the Weiss Schwarz hole in the future with a bit more detail on these events, but that’s all for now.
After finishing my card game excursion, it was back to the floor. I explored it thoroughly, looking from booth to booth and enjoying the awesome figures, art, and cosplay. Eventually, the hall was about ready to close, so it was off to try and get into the Dungeon Master’s panel. In this panel, a comedy troupe does a sort of live action DnD show with people from the audience selected to be players. It sounded like a lot of fun, so Keskel and I went to get in line early. Our reward was the back of a huge line: this is the day AX broke. See, with something like 100,000 badges bought at AX, and Saturday being the most popular day of the Con (since everyone can go), doom was our destiny. First off, the cap for people in the Los Angeles Convention Center is 85,000 or so, and AX totally blew past that. Generally, one can get away with such a thing if the fire marshal doesn’t show up, but he did, and he was not happy. At that point every line (except for the one we were in for Dungeon Master) had now been moved outside in order to clear enough people out of the convention center so that the fire marshal wouldn’t shut AX down. Now this didn’t affect our line as much, except that with so many people at AX there was just not enough things to do, so every panel was packed, no matter what it was (at least until later that night, when the Con simply died because people were tired of dealing with how crowded everything was). This proved to be the case for Dungeon Master, as the room capped just as Keskel and I got to the door, but with nothing else to do, we both just waited to see if anyone left.
This is a thing.
After much time playing Daganronpa, someone finally left and Keskel was able to get in. Then it was just me, so I waited and waited before finally getting to go in myself with about thirty minutes left in the panel. I entered to find an awesome mix of attendees and actors roleplaying on stage with a “voice of God” Dungeon Master helping to keep the story going and finish on time. There was Alice in Wonderland fighting alongside Sora from Kingdom Hearts while Deadpool riffed in the background. It was a fun experience that I wish I could have seen all of, but even just thirty minutes was worth it. After that, I simply left the room, and got in line for the next panel—Black Spiderman. Part comedy show, and part advertisement for a new web series, the show was a funny and chill way to spend the next hour (until the Q&A, which proved that attendees just can’t be trusted with nice things). Then, with all the panels done it was off to the Entertainment Hall to play a board game. The decision to play Smash Up was made, and along with some nice random fellow congoers who wished to join in, I played the game that decides who would win between zombie wizards and robot ninjas. I won’t go too far in describing the game, as that is Loaded Dice territory (and Smash Up will be reviewed in a future LD post), but the game is a lot of fun, if a bit unbalanced. The wizards can have turns that last twice as long as everyone else playing combined, for example, but that is more a quirk than a flaw. The board game was a great capper to that Saturday, and made me regret that I had not spent more time in the Entertainment Hall getting to know fellow AX-ers better.
Sunday, June 6th
So, here we are, the final day, and I am not going to lie, it was a short one. The last day of a con is always the shortest, but this day was especially short, as we all decided to sleep a bit more than normal before heading up. Still, once there we headed off to the Exhibition Hall to walk around Artist Alley and the floor one more time. Then it was off to probably my favorite panel at AX—the Twitch Plays Pokemon panel. Twitch Plays Pokemon was something that happened early this year, where a programmer set up a rom of Pokemon Red and then connected it to Twitch. Anyone that watched the stream could play the game by inputting commands in the chat. Any command put in would be executed. The principle was that if you put enough monkeys in a room full of typewriters and gave them enough time, they could eventually write Shakespeare by pure chance. In this case, even though there would be thousands of people inputting commands into the game for Pokemon, eventually the game could be finished. While starting modestly, this idea soon exploded, and millions of people watched and participated. Not only that, the community participating created their own mythology that soon became as important as the game itself. You can find out more here and here, but the whole experience was one of the more interesting social experiments in recent memory. As for the panel, things got off to a great start as the presenter had the entire room sing Pokemon theme song together, which we all did with gusto. Then he began speaking about the cultural impact of Twitch Plays Pokemon and other Internet artifacts that had produced flash fandom. It was a very fun and informative panel that provided terminology to me that I did not have before when thinking about fandom. It really was exactly what you want from a panel—informative, fun, and unique. After that, it was off to a panel discussing how and why the anime industry was in decline. I didn’t expect much for this panel, but what I got was amazing, part economic talk, part psychology talk, and part marketing talk. The presenter proved to be quite informative and engaging, and explained how the relationship between the American dollar and Japanese yen has profoundly affected how anime has been made and licensed. This panel was a diamond in the rough, and a good last panel to go to. After that, there was not much left to do except go by the Sentei Works truck and grab some stickers before finally heading out. After four long days (five if you count day zero), the journey to AX was over, and it was time to go home.
So, how was AX overall? Good, but flawed. There isn’t enough to do, and the staff has a lot of soul searching to do before next year’s con. Line management has to be improved, and it is probably time to start capping badge sales at a specific number. The popularity of anime has grown to the degree that AX now has SDCC type numbers, but without the ability to handle those numbers the way SDCC does. How AX handles all of these new issues will be fascinating to see. With all that said, AX does a lot right. It has things to do until 2AM; it really tries to get the attendees to interact with each other; and it is just plain fun. I would definitely go back next year, and I am glad I went this year.
That’s all for AX coverage. In just a few short weeks, con coverage will continue when The Drunken Thieves go to SDCC. How will SDCC compare to AX? Find out in the weeks to come. Until then, enjoy one last video.