It’s been awhile since I posted anything on this blog hasn’t it? Well after five months of no posts, I figure no better way to start off than to write up my belated recap of the 4 day party that was Anime Expo 2016!
Before I start, a disclaimer: let’s not kid ourselves that Anime Expo is a fan convention by any stretch. As AX continues to distance itself from other cons as the largest of its kind (just a little over 100K this year) in North America, it’s going to continue to be an industry driven con where the biggest movers and shakers in anime come to showcase themselves. This much is obvious by the ever more elaborate or large booths book-ending the front and back of South Hall which this year was used in its entirety for the Exhibit Hall, which if you can navigate around is an attraction itself. That aside, as this year was to be the 25th AX ever held (but not technically the 25th anniversary, which is next year) it promised to be one of epic proportions and the stacked guest list certainly led many to wonder what they would have to sacrifice to attend some of the panels and events on the schedule due to popularity of said guests or to conflicts in schedules from overlapping panels.
As has been the case since 2011, my AX began ahead of the madness on Day 0 to check in to our hotel and get badges and try to prepare myself for 4 days of long days on little sleep and lots of walking. Checking into our hotel (the Doubletree) was smooth and a much less hectic experience than last year as I was able to get into our room right away and get situated with roommates. It probably helped that the Doubletree is a little under two miles away from the convention center and not nearly as many attendees stayed here (the lobby was fairly empty when I arrived). Conspicuously absent from our hotel and what seemed like every other hotel was the dreaded wristband policy where guests would need to wristbands to access guest elevators as a means to curb room stuffing (which is very common at AX and many other conventions). Once settled in, it was time to wander around Little Tokyo for dinner and stocking up of snacks and beer for the room before we went to get our badges. As Day 0 pickup was open till midnight, we took our time heading over to pick up our badges and found ourselves staring down a still very long line at around 8:30 PM. Long though the line was it was constantly moving and all told badges were obtained in around 30 minutes, a far cry from the 30 seconds it took to get my badge last year. Still better than the 3+ hours from years past, though I hope next year for Day 0 AX brings back the secondary badge pickup location by West Hall. After badges and goodie bags (a large backpack style bag sponsored by Sentai Filmworks which for me only lasted 5 minutes before ripping) were obtained it was time to head back to the hotel to rest up for day 1.
Day 1 dawned bright and early before the sun was even out as I woke up with a roommate who would spend the weekend getting up and leaving the hotel room by 5:30 AM every day to brave lines for a chance to get an autograph ticket for the many notable guests of honor attending. I had planned on trying to get autographs from JAM Project, but as I took my time getting ready and had to wait awhile for the shuttle I figured that my chances of getting a ticket were slim and none which was reinforced by a picture of the long lines a friend shared. On a semi related note, I struck up a conversation and made fast friends with a fellow attendee who had come all the way from Buffalo to attend his first AX (and his first trip to LA). One of the best parts of any con is getting to meet and make friends with people from all over and AX is no exception to this. Due to my extra early start and the fact the first panel I would be attending didn’t start until later in the afternoon, I found myself wandering around the convention center aiming to kill time all the while deciding that while I wanted autographs I would not be doing anymore 5 AM wake-up calls the rest of the con. In my wanderings, I came across a display of itasha in the Entertainment Hall which provided for good photo ops:
After meeting up with a few friends and attending the VIZ Media and Aniplex industry panels I once again found myself splitting off and doing my own thing which meant making my first foray into the ever crowded Exhibit Hall, a trek that didn’t last long as the hall was crowded and my stomach protested the fact that I had gone too long in between meals so it was off to find food before attending the Anime Music Video contest. While there were other interesting panels and events going on at the same time, the AMV contest is one thing I cannot miss each year (also the only free main event). As with the past few years, this year’s contest was again full of some talented creators who made it very hard to pick winners. All in all, a good end to the first day even though I did not do much.
While still an early wake-up call, day 2 started a bit later as I opted to get more sleep and not rush around to wait in lines for autographs. After a filling yet pricey breakfast buffet in the hotel’s restaurant it was off to the con with a friend for more crowds (and day 2 by far was the most crowded). Owing to the unreliable and infrequent shuttle service between our hotel and the con to this point (and the long line already waiting), I opted to use the slightly more reliable LA Metro system as we were cutting it close on time to make the beginning of the special Love Live Sunshine event we were attending. Unfortunately for us, while we arrived to the con on time, the line to get in and through the bag check was the longest I would see it at during any point at con. Fortunately for us though, despite getting in well past the 11 AM start time, AX was true to its extensive history of often not starting events on time meaning we didn’t miss any of the event.
I may be biased as a huge fan of the Love Live franchise, but the Sunshine event was one of my AX highlights. Despite not getting to see all 9 members of the new idol group Aqours, the event was still high energy and featured clips from promotional videos as well as a Q & A with the present cast. The highlight was a showing of the first episode of the new anime to a very enthusiastic crowd which was met with an overwhelmingly positive reaction. I’ll post my thoughts about the anime in another post, but suffice to say I think the Love Live franchise is in good hands with this new group of idols. The next few hours were spent wandering all over a very crowded Exhibit Hall people watching and after a relaxed dinner, it was time to line up for the Japan Super Live which featured 8 prominent Anisong artists and groups. Unfortunately due to the long and slow moving lines and AX this time actually starting an event on time, we missed the first few minutes of the concert but overall it was still a great time and another highlight of my AX to see acts like JAM Project, TM Revolution, Yoko Ishida and others on the same stage in one massive concert and in front of what appeared to be a completely sold out Microsoft Theater. Like with my thoughts on Love Live Sunshine, I’m going to devote a separate post for my review of this concert which despite sometimes poor sound quality was an amazing concert.
After a restful few hours of sleep, it was time to head down to the convention center for the Official Sailor Moon panel. I opted to use the Metro system for transportation as I once again refused to waste an hour or more waiting for the shuttle. Despite my lack of significant amounts of sleep catching up to me at this point, the Sailor Moon panel was a fun one featuring Q & A with many of the voice actors from the new dub and announcements about pre-orders for Sailor Moon S and Crystal. No news on anything related to Super S or Stars yet, but that was to be expected as VIZ is probably still finishing up the dub for S. Owing to the fact that I found myself nodding off during a couple of panels I sat in on and was starting to get a headache, I spent some time in the Quiet Room, something which AX introduced last year as a place for attendees to get away from the hustle and bustle and recharge. I don’t know who came up with the idea for this feature, but it is a great new feature to AX and was a much needed respite from the madness outside the doors. Feeling refreshed and free of any headache I spent some time wandering Exhibit Hall and stopping by the Bushiroad booth to try my hand in a head to head Score Match on the Love Live School Idol Festival game which I finished last on, but it was all in good fun. By this point, I decided to forgo any evening panels I was interested in to have dinner before getting in line for the Band Battle concert with FLOW and OLDCODEX which was yet another highlight of my AX experience; as with Love Live and Super Live, the Band Battle will be a subject for another post. After a fantastic concert, I decided to check out the video rooms in the JW Marriott as I had found my second wind. Not seeing much I wanted to stick around for, I eventually got back to my hotel room for a few hours of sleep with my ears still ringing.
The last day of AX was another early start as many of my roommates were opting to get an early start on their drives home. I was in no real rush so I lingered in the hotel room taking my time making sure I had everything together before checking out and storing my bags before one last trip to the convention center. Unlike the previous two days, I decided to wait for the shuttle as since the last day fell on a holiday I wasn’t sure how often the Metro was running. There really wasn’t much on my schedule for the last day, so I decided to do one more last walk around the Exhibit Hall and buy a JAM Project and OLDCODEX CD along with season two of Love Live (I was bummed to find that I had waited too long on the movie which was sold out). During my wanderings of the Exhibit Hall, I did manage to get in a few pictures:
As I had yet to eat anything substantial I once again decided against a couple of panels I was interested in to find some food before attending the last panel I would be attending at AX which was a panel with the English voice actors from the series Cowboy Bebop which like so many other fellow anime fans was one of those series that really got us hooked on the medium beyond that of Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball Z. The panel was your standard Q & A type with some interesting stories shared by the cast about their time spent recording the series and the doors it opened up for them beyond the show through other roles and projects. A fun panel with an enthusiastic audience turned into an emotional and powerful moment as an attendee addressed the cast and thanked them for providing a light during a dark period in her life when she had contemplated suicide. Whatever question she had intended to ask of the cast was lost as she broke down crying which prompted the staffers and the entire cast to come offstage and embrace her in a group hug which left many in the room including myself in tears. A short time later after a few more questions from the attendees and a photo opportunity in which I failed to get a decent photo, it was time to leave the convention center for the last time until next June and catch my train home. Though more exhausted than anything by this point, I was pleased with my AX experience this year even though I attended far fewer panels then I usually do. It’s something about being with great friends and being among so many fellow anime fans that makes a convention vacation so refreshing mentally even though it is a far from relaxing vacation. If this year’s guest list for the 25th AX is anything to go by, I can’t wait to see what is in store for the official 25th anniversary of AX in 2017!