Another convention, another weekend filled with various memories, that’s what I always say. Alright, so I’ve never said that before, but that’s my new motto. However, this wasn’t just any other con, this was Anime Expo, the biggest anime convention in North America. 50,000 attendees! I can’t even begin to fathom that number of people. This year’s AX was slated to have major guests of honor including the voice actresses from The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi, the director of Death Note, and every over-energetic fan girl’s new favorite band S.K.I.N. These are just a few of the headliners that appeared at this year’s AX.
From the moment I arrived at the Long Beach Convention Center on Thursday, I could feel the energy of the masses of fans and the sheer size of con. Unfortunately, aside from picking up badges, there was little to do on “Day 0”. So instead I hung out with nationally renowned con-planner, famous ex con-reporter, and personal friend of mine Ray Nager. We had dinner and swapped stories for the majority of the night. Dear old Ray also generously provided me with a press badge that granted access to many different areas of the con that were normally closed off to the public. After meeting up with The-O’s friend Alice Yan to pick up my attendee badge, I retired back to my apartment around 2 am.
Day 1 rolled around quicker than I thought it would. Why? I was asleep, dreaming blissfully about the cute cosplayers I saw the day before, when all of a sudden The-O decides to call me…at 6 am. A disgruntled phone conversation later, I found myself getting ready for AX. It had begun. I reached the convention center around 10 due to heavy traffic, and parked my car in some lot quite a ways from the con. After trekking past the crowds of fans in the sweltering heat I made my way to the rendezvous point; the ridiculously large fountain in front of the Performing Arts Center. I couldn’t find the group at first, so I happened upon a pair of girls cosplaying as Riku and Aerith; did I mention they were cute, who were keeping cool in the fountain. I asked them how the water was, and they invited me to join them. I woefully declined seeing as I had just found The-O and AMG across the way. Girls if you want to go for a dip anytime let me know ^_^
After we met up, The-O, AMG, and myself joined with WellpaidMercenary, and JDV who were waiting patiently in line for the dealers room to open. Without much else to do, I wandered about taking pictures. One girl in a super sexy awesome Santa outfit let me take her picture and said that my shirt from Threadless (shameless plug) was “adorable”. I should have gave it to her :\ Anyway eventually the line shifted and we made our way in. As expected, the dealers room was immense with hundreds of different booths including the big names like Bandai, Geneon, Gaia Online, ADV, etc. Also in the mix were a larger number of Japanese companies like Toei Animation. It’s hard to recall every booth there, but some that stuck out were Jungle Toys (crazy discounts on swords), Geneon (nice Hellsing theme), and the Broccoli booth, which had cool merchandise along with prizes for each purchase.
Around 1, we all headed out to eat lunch after we dropped off our newly purchased shat in our cars. I also changed into my Teru Mikami from Death Note costume. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, it was hovering around the high 80s all day, and Teru dresses in winter wear, so I was sweating buckets. We all met at Smoothie King for lunch…err…smoothies. About an hour later our assembly went off to our respective panels. The-O and AMG to their Hirano, Chihara, and Goto Focus Panel, while JDV, Merch, and myself went to the Bandai Freedom Panel. We arrived a bit early, and I got us in with the press badge. The total number of people that actually went to the panel was around 40; keep in mind that the SKIN concert was also at this time. Anyway, Freedom is a new anime from Bandai, which also happens to be the first HD DVD Anime created. It is a 6 part OVA that features the talents of up and coming director Shuhei Morita, Eureka 7 story director Dai Sato, and character designer Daisuke Sajiki. From what I gleaned during the panel, and later the episode 1 viewing, Freedom is about a group of teenagers who live on the moon base Eden, after the Earth became inhabitable. However, the main character Takeru discovers a hidden secret that could change the human race forever. (watch it).
At the end of the panel the three of us hung out some more at the dealers room, visited the artists alley, and took a ton more pictures. We left the con around 7, and went out to dinner. That was pretty much the end of Day 1.
Day 2, Saturday, came sneaking in quietly. I arrived around 11, but I went with Alice to get her phone fixed. After running around for about an hour looking for the Cingular store we arrived and got our business done. I got back to the con around 1 and I met up with the gang. We spent the majority of our time in the dealer’s room. There I met up with another group of Death Note cosplayers and we got our pictures taken, that was pretty cool. We also viewed the first episode of Freedom later that day. I thought it was pretty good as a 3D anime. That was pretty much my Saturday, and coincidentally my last day of Anime Expo.
All in all, it was a pretty decent AX. Not the best I’ve ever been to, but then again I think the location had a lot to do with it. Also I think with a con of this magnitude, if you don’t do your work before hand (cosplay gatherings, joining groups, etc.) you don’t tend to get to know that many people. To wrap things up, AX was pretty good; lots of crap to do, lots of crap to buy, lots of nice cosplayers; however, long lines, sheer size, and staff inefficiency kind of outweighed the good parts.