Sunday, July 13, 2008

Anime Expo Impressions

Last week I made my first visit to Anime Expo. I'd wanted to go to AX for some time, but conditions never seemed to make that possible. It's proximity on the Calendar to Comic-Con, plus it distance from my home (usually being held in Orange County or in Long Beach), made it seem too much like an added expense.

This year, however (and for the next couple of years at least, according to the staff I spoke with) it'll be in the L.A. Convention center, a relatively easy (two transfer) train ride from my apartment. Being able to get in as an "Industry Professional" meant the price was right, too.

Since this was my first time at AX, I was going with more of a 'look and see' attitude, than with any clear objective. The L.A. Convention center is a nice one, a very modern and attractive facility (William thinks the San Diego Convention Center is better looking).

The one complaint I have isn't with the center itself but with surrounding environment. Unlike San Diego, where you step out of the convention center and into the Gaslamp District, with all the shops and restaurants you could want to find, the L.A. Convention Center is surrounded by warehouses and parking lots that service the Staples Center Sports Arena next door. If you want to get something to eat, your only choices are to eat at the overpriced food court at the Convention Center itself ($9.50 for a cheeseburger), drive someplace (fighting downtown L.A. traffic and parking), or take public transportation someplace.

The public transit option is by far the best option. One stop north on the Purple Metro Line train is 7th & Figueroa, a shopping area with malls and restaurants and the like. You can also go south by bus (the DASH bus is 25 cents) to Exposition Park (near USC University) and find another area with cheap eats. A $5.00 day pass lets you ride the Purple Line and the 81 Metro bus (which follows the same route as the DASH bus) all day long. L.A. doesn't have the greatest public transportation system by any means, but it is quite serviceable for the going to the convention.

The convention itself is much like any convention, with viewing rooms for anime, panels, dealers' floor and artists' alley. The anime viewing rooms very large, with nice wide aisle set up for walking through. That was the one good thing about them. Unlike at Comic-Con, they were spaced rather far apart (the layout of the convention floor plan worked against them in this regard), and the schedules were schedules in name only. I was told by staff members to ignore whatever was printed in the program and just go to the rooms and see what was posted as playing that day (difficult to do when you had to trek from one room to the next).

I sat in a number of industry panels where various companies were promoting 'up and coming' releases. I wasn't taking notes so I don't have specific titles to convey to anyone. I did notice some general trends: Lots of boxed sets of completed series. Several releases of older works by famous artists before they become famous. Most of the new stuff coming out was "shoujo-something" (shoujo-fantasy, shoujo-horror, shoujo-goth, etc.). The TokyoPop panel was interesting for the repeated use of the term "under review" when they were asked by someone about the fate of whatever series they had been following. Part of the impact of their recent reorganization. The dealers' floor was set up with nice wide aisles between the booths. So it felt busy without feeling like you were in a crush of people.

Artists' Alley was in a separate room next to the dealers' floor. I got to talk to a number of people there. Once more, I heard about fallout from TokyoPop's reorganization, with projects being suspended, cancelled or simply in limbo with no sure direction in sight. It was rather depressing to hear.

The best part about going to Anime Expo was rejoining my fellow geeks and nerds. Working in the 'real world' for eight hours a day can be a drain on one's soul. Being at the convention was invigorating. Compared with Comic-Con, there was a greater percentage of cosplayers at Anime Expo. And they were much more active in their presentation, with more groups staging little scenes or vignettes for the numerous picture takers. I think seeing Marvin there (see above) was a special treat for someone like me, raised on Bugs Bunny/Daffy Duck cartoons.

The most popular costume type I recognized were Shinigami or "Death Gods" from Bleach.

There were also more 'odd' costumes at Anime Expo. I'd seen people dressed as something from a video game before, but never a Tetris piece. And there were bunch of them, too. I later heard a rumor that three of them jumped in line for some special event, and promptly disappeared allowing everyone behind them to move up.

I have no idea who this guy (or gal?) was supposed to be. If you know, send me a message or leave a comment.

All in all, I had a good time going to Anime Expo. As long as it stays at the L.A. Convention Center I'll make a point of going. It did whet my appetite for Comic-Con, which is week after next.

Hope to see everyone there!



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