I’m really grateful for all the friends and acquaintences that I saw, talked to, shook hands and otherwise enjoyed Anime Expo with. It was a very exciting yet very emotionally fulfilling time. We didn’t need alcohol (although it helps) or try to whip ourselves into a frenzy to enjoy the every passing second that lapses between us. We connected through both the sweat and hard work of the AX staff, the guests, and even people like Vic and Danny Choo all had a hand to make AX 2011 one of the most enjoyable con I’ve been to. Thank you, all of you. Even if you’re just a twitter username or, like the one girl who asked for my MFC username at the panel, like, who are you people? Thank you, even so.
Even so, indeed, if AX 2011 is a somber reminder for me for the situation in Japan as a result of the 3/11 disaster. To give you some background, when I read about 3/11 outside of a fundraising or nuclear policy debate context, within the internet-based anime/manga/game fandom, it’s largely in the scope of the state of the industry. Like, so-and-so project is delayed or cancelled. Or so-and-so con is delaying some J-guest thing. It gets pretty irritating to see something you’re looking forward to being pushed back, but that’s a certifiably “shikata nai” kind of a situation. On the flip side, it feels a lot more refreshing to see how we can still make a difference–people like myself, at least, who have the financial ability to make a meager donation or charitable purchase (I mean, $100 art prints are OK for the most part). And AX provides an opportunity to do that with a nice speech from Taka, right at the start. There’s also the charity auction, and the little things, like hands, that dotted the LA Convention Center. Like Kurosaki Maon’s charity wrist bands. Or GOFA’s proceeds and Izumi Matsumoto’s hard work.
I mean, sometimes those things can be overwhelming, but when isolated in the context of an American anime convention, suddenly it is a well-grounded thing. It’s nice to have some of that in the midst of a meme-shouting dealer’s room. I’m glad that Otakon is throwing a charity auction this year as well. It’s good to give back; especially during a time when the excuse is so strong, that actions, and not just words, are the appropriate response.
With that out of the way, let’s get to business:
AX this year is markedly improved in some fronts, but also there was a bit of regression. While the autograph situation has drastically improved, it makes you wonder if it was more because it wasn’t at all advertised by the con (there was nothing listing anything resembling an autograph schedule) rather than superior management from last year. Granted, the line management is way better this year, as well as the Monday FFA autograph session, but 2011 is markedly less of a draw than 2010. I can’t really complain besides the lack of information. Of course, at the same time it creates the opportunity in which resulted me getting that many sketches from just one group of guests. I’m a beneficiary fully in that sense, but the con shouldn’t do things this way.
Meet the Guests reception this year is also problematic. I know for sure they did not sell out, and there were not a whole lot of attendees there, partly due to the timing (Sunday night) and cost ($75). It’s really expensive compared to last year, but I think people know what it’s worth. Too bad it was held on Sunday night and a lot of the guests had already left. The food was okay, as it was a dinner slot. The venue is at Club Nokia, which is pretty cool but not the best place to chat. It’s pretty swank, but I don’t think we needed that much privacy. Hotel ballrooms are just fine. I suppose I could say “hey, I’ve been to the VIP lounge of Club Nokia” LOL.
The problem personally I had with Meet the Guests reception is the whole panel thing that I was partly responsible for. It didn’t entirely conflict, but it was a tight squeeze (resulting in some drastic taxi runs). Oh, right, so I would never have dreamed to run a panel at AX. AX! AX is a super busy con, and even as just a third wheel to help a couple bros to go on with their figures project I had to shed a lot of other stuff that I wanted to do. And thanks to this experience it taught me a few things:
1. Don’t do it unless you are happy to prioritize it over other con things. Which means you will probably never see me run a fan panel at Otakon or AX, or at least one of my own.
2. AX fan panels… man. Who picks this stuff?
As for the panel itself, I’m glad some people actually did come up to us afterwards and said they enjoyed it, and that excludes the people I already know! LOL. It is, again, a learning experience and I actually had fun. It also gave me an opportunity to see how things are like and learn a few things about figures. If you want to know what we talked about, I guess you can wait until someone puts up the slides or what not.
Being AX, the room was half full by the time the panel begin (and we had a fairly decent size room, in Live Programming 3). The attrition is only maybe 15%? That’s way better than what I expected. We had some time management problem given the setup time involved and how the previous panel went OT by 20 minutes and we also hit some technical difficulties.
Times like this, you really can appreciate how Otakon loves its con. But of course, that con has its share of problems, too.
I rather think of problems as challenges. Challenges include things like managing time, and food trucks can fit neatly into part of that problem-solving equation by making getting good eats easy. It has, for many of us at AX. In detail, all the food trucks rolled out in force but 3 or 4 of the trucks manage to park by the bus parking lot at the LACC. Those were much closer to all the entrances and pathways, as opposed to the parking lot across the street. The farther lot hosted many more trucks, none that I was able to visit.
On the other hand, I think each time I hit the trucks I was just getting food to go, except day 1, when the entire group was chomping down. I guess we just made the wrong call.
Looking forward, I think the food truck craze will hit Baltimore, albeit in a very small way. I’m a little excited! I mean half the time I went to get a half-smoked I can’t even buy it, so I think there will be demand. Will there be matching supply? Only time will tell.
Oh, there was this Last Exile thing. I really, really wanted to go see it, but I didn’t want to plunk down the hour for waiting for it to start. Way too many AX events were not on time this year. It is quite annoying, really. At least I know it was well-attended: I walked all the way over there and turned around after seeing the line (I suppose I could’ve exploited my press-ness). I think the producers are really invested in this. I hear it turned out well so we shall see come this Autumn!
For consolation, I just got some autographs. I have to hand it to Funimation’s people for doing the promo items the right way. I actually like some of their stuff, compared to just about every other US-side promo goods. The Silver Wing promo print they were giving away is quite cool.
After the con, I was chatting with someone on IRC who went to Japan Expo (in Paris) over the weekend. He pointed out how lucky we are compared to our Japanese counterparts when it comes to autographs and sketches. I couldn’t agree more. Which is why for a large part of AX, I was surrounded by Japanese otaku.
We were all just waiting in line for some event related to the celebrity-type we were following. I missed out on actually two panels: Kalafina and Maon’s. The former I’ve got plenty of coverage already; the latter…I just don’t know what to say?
I do know that with Maon, she’s made some new fans. I think it’s easy to tell that the girl has what it takes, and knowing what DearStage was, she’s got a little more than just having what it takes. I suppose at this point it’s up to the agency to take her under its wings and do their thing. But when Momotato compares her with Makkun, I have to at least sit up and take notes.
Anecdote: one of my hotel roommate had a front row view, right near the center of the stage, for Kurosaki’s concert (really too short honestly). Right after the show, he started to sneeze like crazy. He (and a bunch of people, YT not included) went out to eat and he came back nauseated as if he’s caught a cold. Which, coincidentally, was the excuse Maon gave the day before when AX cancelled one of her two autograph sessions. Naturally, put two and two together, you’ve already got Con AIDS, now there’s this Kurosaki plague right? I think we had a cuter name for this. Maon plague? I don’t know.
I know I’ve shaken a many pair of hands this past weekend.
Maon had two concerts, one at the preview of HOTD dub on day 1 and the proper show at Club Nokia on day 3. They were both almost equal in length, but the second one was a little better in terms of set list, featuring a brand new song from Hellsing. Others will probably cover this better.
As for Kalafina, I really don’t have much to say. They’re better than they’ve ever been. Club Nokia works to their charms and ways by forcing people to stand up; it’s a packed house no less. That is always going to be an issue with their music. I read this report from Kajiura’s Fiction II live on my way home from AX; it’s pretty spot on as I see the same thing with the three girls as observed. (And by the way, that is the show they were the night before they took off and landed in LA, which is about 12 noon on 7/30; a little time warp.)
It’s not the first time I saw cosplaying industry types doing their panels, but probably the first time to see it almost in character.
I hit up a couple industry things just because I could on day 1. It turns out this AX was an announcement-heavy con and a lot of cool stuff happened. The one industry trivia game show panel that piqued my interest before the con got pre-empted by impromptu autographing as well, so I’m not sure what to say about that. Anyone’s got a report on it?
Well, at least bayoab doesn’t. He does have basically all the other ones I’m interested in and is missing. I’m going to spare you the industry stuff. The only thing that got me all excited was Asobi ni Ikuyo coming on Blu-ray. It just tells you that the licensing game still brings us something for everybody.
At AX, anyone can be a panelist, so it seems. Three year-olds? Not a problem. Funny figure otaku? Awesome. Spanish guitar? Even better.
It’s a good time. And that’s a wrap for now. There’s a lot more to say about AX, and I’m probably forgetting to mention something. I’ll try to update or write about them when I remember.
[oh right: edits]
I should drop a couple notes for Nirgilis and Miku too; if I’m going to discriminate I might as well do so with reason and rhyme. Nirgilis is your typical Japanese electronica group. The lead singer Acchu is pretty amusing; she knows how to hang loose. Yuki and Kuri are more typical and reserved. I think Acchu drank a little too much at the Meet the Guest, at least according to some who went. You know their music, hopefully; they have been around for a while. I mean I remember talking about them with some really old friend who has now disappeared into middle management back a long time ago.
The Sex on the Beach track was hilarious, the way they set it up. I can’t easily google up a setlist, but look at this video. It’s so random.
Mikuopolis is well-covered. I can’t really do anything besides to say, yeah, English tracks, yeah, there were, but sometimes it’s hard to pick it up. And yeah, we see what people mean about how it gets dim. My seat was on the right-most side, about half way up on the first level. They closed off the seats to the very right and very left section of the Nokia theater, so my seat was pretty much all the way by the right most side. I think that’s probably a good place to cut it off because if the hologram stood on the left side of the projection area, it gets very dim. On the other hand, we didn’t experience the whole “projector in your face” problem.
And man, never knew holograms can be so hot! And unlike real people, the whole panchira thing was not so disturbing, lol. Long live 2D, I suppose. I’m not sure if it is a pro or a con that it feels like Miku and friends were performing inside a fish tank. Check out the link above for more Miku stuff, like the set list. The live stream made things easy.
Maon’s two set lists can be found here. I didn’t know they’re up to volume 9 on the Hellsing OAV. Nine? Seriously?
Kalafina’s post-concert blog post explains it all. Probably a good read regardless. Only thing to add is that Hikari no Senritsu was the encore.