Anime Expo 2018: Wrap

If I use one word only to describe AX this year, it’s “gucci.” Thanks Sally.

I spent a considerable amount of time standing in front of the Aniplex booth this past weekend, trying to catch glimpses of the three 22/7 members (nanabun no nijuni, or just “nanabun” or “twenty-two seven”). On their scripted stages, the wotas on the floor were busy taking photos and videos of the girls, catching their attentions, and enjoy being fished. The idols (and MC Albert Kao) meanwhile tried to play along and did what they had to. For an idol stage, it was pretty much what you would have expected…if you are an avid reader of Amaki Sally’s tweets. The other two members (Miyase Reina or Reinyan, and Hanakawa Mei or Meimei) are both sort of along for the ride, but also aboard the party boat pulling fishies out of the water. The fisher of men analogy refers to how in Chinese, idols “hook” wota during their stage shows by the means of dance and acting, like a strong dab or a cute smile with eye contact.

It’s like, even Sally knows this stuff, just look at her reactions here.

I spent a lot of time doing worthless things at this AX I guess. Starting off, my flight to LA was delayed by 3.5 hours or so, because the equipment got grounded due to thunderstorms at origin. The fateful UA Boeing 757 got here, only after I had spent some bucks on beer, burgers, and a thing of baked escargot. The Saison in Terminal C EWR is okay, I guess, but not particularly French-y. I spent a good chunk of the time watching the Yankees game, despite living like 40 minutes away from the airport. I could have just stayed home for that extra 3 hours if UA told me about the delay earlier… Well, I’m thankful at least it was still flying out the night of 7/2, and not cancelled like the other flights afterwards. I did lose a lot of sleep as a result, considering I didn’t get to the hotel until 3am.

Going to bed at 4am was as late as it get, actually. Then it was like 2-3am rest of the weekend. I was able to make up for it by not going to anything really early, just breakfast.

Speaking of standing around to see cute girls, there was the Aina Aiba track with Bushiroad peddling Bandori stuff. A friend went and did this.

For Aiai, she had 3 autograph sessions, and tickets were at a premium, as in only the first 40 or so each day who bought $30 worth of Bang Dream things can get one. Premiere folks had a shot on day 1, basically people who did a real camp. Days 2-4 was pretty much a wash, with a lot of exhibitors taking up the line space. Well, you can also play Bang Dream EN party play with her as above. She performed two songs at the con on Community Stage. The crowd was wild. Meanwhile I completely missed out on all of this, despite queueing up for Bandori goods first thing on Day 1 with Premium Badge Hour advantage. It was pretty brutal.

The other track with interesting stuff to me was the Lumica stuff. They hosted a wotagei context, and shipped in a couple guests (2 members of Ginryu Force and Keitan from Real Akiba Boyz) to get the crowd up. Somehow Tsui’s group (Aniparty folks) got to guest DJ as well. Which is good, because the basic wotagei wazas is nice, but this kind of demo is what America needs. Also Keitan was only there for 2 days, so team Ani-Party filled the gaps.

The Lumica events go between their booth and AX’s rave space during the day, so it is kind of hard to catch one or the other sometimes. The crowd at AX this year is huge. At one point the west-and-south corridor on the ground floor was literally gridlocked on the west hall end, because the way traffic move up and down the escalator, limiting the rate of people going out of the hallway. And this is not some small hallway–this is the walkway outside 21 Lounge. To take a guess, the gridlock was partly due to the record hot temperature all AX long, and since there was only one realistic exit (gotta scan badge to exit) to leave from LACC towards the JW, it created some serious crowding issues. It was much easier to leave AX from the South Hall but that leads to nowhere, where as the main ground floor hallway took you between the Exhibit Hall and Entertainment Hall. Always walk outside from the back, I guess.

On the note of the con itself, the switch from traditional badge checks to RFID went mostly well. The problem was more still the security theater with bag checks, but that was no big deal most of the time. The other troubles stem from the usual poor line control for, say, exhibit hall entry on day 1 and onwards, or how panel lines for non-Premiere are often outside, and it was over 100 degrees F for at least 2 days out of 4 of the con. That is pretty horrific. And yes, there were people who needed emergency care, although probably not more than usual…

The only other real note this year differing from previous AX I attended is the relatively weaker autograph game. There is the usual share of industry autograph that required purchase (like Aiai above). I got one from Sato, who directed Kase-san And Morning Glories (Kase-san to Asaagao or just the Kase-san series). I tried (by arriving 20 minutes late) and failed at day 2’s PA Works autograph. I heard similar train wreck at Trigger’s (As opposed to Arc System’s). Anyways, it’s probably expected at this point, but all I wanted to say is the autograph line this time was short, because only 2-3 guests are all that interesting. Even Go Nagai, a legendary manga creator, did not draw a huge crowd due to the way his autograph session was handled (limited to only the new Cutey Honey). It was so short, that it only looped around once. That’s roughly half the length compared to prior years. I guess this year they also opened up the pay-to-get-autograph options more so, removing a lot of dub actors in the process.

On a personal note, I was able to draw Suwa Nanaka’s signed sticker at Bushiroad booth. In fact, the person behind me also drew a Suwa Nanaka signed sticker. I guess those were shuffle-inserted into a stack or something. In the end I only “gacha” three times for Aqours stickers, twice after I won, so this was pretty amazing luck at any rate. Maybe that makes up for the fact that I had to ditch my Aqours AWM ticket…

Oh, so I ditched AWM Aqours because I had to go set up Wota Peace Party. Loading was late because 7/4 is a federal and state holiday in the USA. This actually was a weird kink we had to work out from because that added to my labor costs, and as such the venue wasn’t even accessible until like 7pm. In any event, you can watch the content of our private party on Chun’s Twitch and some streamers were also there. I can probably write a post just on this, and I have to do a retrospective on it personally to see what we should be doing next year. Anyways, I’m just so glad so many people came and had a good time. I’m also glad all the things we wanted to do worked out more or less, including getting Oblongar to play for us.

Speaking of Oblongar, I did go to the Fakku x Mogra party, at least after JSL ended. Caught most of Inoue Taku’s set and onward, until I had to leave to let a friend into my hotel room, around 2am. That’s all streamed here. I was able to have a little chat with some folks I didn’t think I was able going to see at AX, there. Also, a lot of my friends ended up there, at least the Mogra types. I mean, it’s Inotak and I love his stuff, after all.

In general, there were a lot of parties. And only some of them I went to were the “rave”-ish types. In fact, despite how bad that crowd was at Fakku, I can tell there were plenty of genuine fans who know the songs but don’t quite know what to do. It’s like if you took the culture around anisong and live performances, and remove the live performance part. It’s good to be hype but it’s better to know how to channel that hype into calls and wazas. Actually, the latter is kind of the demarcation between someone who knows, and someone who both knows and have the words to speak it into power. It is too bad, because at the Mogra event I was yelling my voice out to the calls, partly because I can barely hear anyone else doing it, despite my wota friends were there.

It’s kind of like how I lost my voice at JSL, because May’n did One in a Billion. I did hear more calls this time but still pretty quiet at the Paku Paku stuff. Thankfully rest of JSL was more chill than killer. Set List Here. Seeing Aimer for the first time, it was pretty solid. She reminded me a Groomed-By-SME version of Itou Kanako. Kajiura’s FJ stuff is great as usual, except this time it felt way too short. The song selection spans a wide time period, from .hack to SAO and Heaven’s Feel. Pretty crazy if you ask me–especially since it runs against the big SAO Aniplex panel. Walking away from JSL I think I was most impressed by Sangetsu Shoujo Sayuri. What a shtick, and this is such stark contrast to all the idol and anisong stuff we normally see.

I’ll write a separate post on JKL. It deserves as much, between TULIP USA ver. and i☆Ris.

It was good to hangout with folks at the con. I say this publicly and to people who asks about AX, but Anime Expo is the worst-run large-size anime convention that I attend. It is suffering to attend as an attendee, and basically I fork out for a Premiere Badge to ease the suffering, not because it’s good value (I guess it is?). It felt like the con is really just an excuse for industry to bring their big ones and fans to come as both reach a critical mass that might be beyond Anime Expo’s ability to manage. To say the same differently, it is the attendees that makes AX so much fun. I had enjoyed that, from the 22/7 events, the party, Mogra, AWM shows, plus the usual eating and hanging out with a lot of people, seeing people from UK, JP, and everywhere else. The movie premieres are okay, but Japan brings their creative types to watch Anime Expo attendees giggle at their films, because surprisingly the con audience is best for that kind of a thing. There are numerous little things that made this con for me, as well as the big ones.

That brings us to Sunday’s screen of Kase-san. Director Sato Takuya was there and he gave some background on how the film came about. There was even a special video of the three main voice actresses introducing their characters to AX that was played at the panel. Good stuff on a Sunday morning.

What else is there? Let me just bullet some of the random things:

  • There were a lot of partying and the random one that grew from the back of JW, to inside JW, to the parking lot across the RI/Courtyard, was weirdly appropriate. It’s Saturday night, I guess you got nothing better to do.
  • Meimei was who I liked the most out of the 22/7 detachment, partly because she’s a P. See this tweet.
  • I didn’t say much about OtaQuest lineup, but they were all good. I ended up buying another ticket so I can re-enter. Saw 8Prince, then PKCZ and onward. Crystal Kay and m-flo hit the spot. We can split hair on DJs and anisong but Nakata is legit awesome, let’s leave it at that.
    • Where’s everyone screaming “Cream”???
  • Oh I guess Aniuta US version is announced. All I got was a PR email and seeing the trailer of it before AWM, with words from Jam Pro and May’n? It’ll launch in August.

  • We need to mention the heat wave over the weekend again. Thursday was positively a blast furnace outdoors under the sun. Like, I hung out with a HK dude (“I got ripped, coming to America expecting cooler weather”) and guy from Texas who said this was hot.
  • I saw SudoP at his Crunchyroll HQ event. Wanna take a 2shot but the opportunity came and went before I was ready. Or more like, they were late and time was just wasting, so the urge came. The CRHQ space is swank, but when I was there it was mostly empty.

  • Looming in the background was Chara Expo for the locals…

  • I did see Horie Yui at her Showmaker panel! Did not see her at Miss Monochrome’s live, though. Line was long and was just running errands by that point. A lucky winner pulled a post card from underneath his seat and won a 1:1 cutout of Miss Monochrome signed by Hocchan. Like last year folks won stuff, too, by sitting in the right seats.

And that’s a wrap. I’m just saying, next year is Lantis 20th anniversary. Bandai Namco Arts will surely do something, but I am not sure what that will be in context of AWM. It just means I need to buy another Premiere badge come Black Friday since I wiffed the day-after sales. AX you might be terrible but see you next year!

PS. Food Expo 2018. I Yard Housed a couple times. Took our new DJ/wota friend Thames there and got him a ticket to OtaQuest. Had the Blue Moon Mango Wheat and it was good. Ate at the Carvery a couple times. I really need to get the salad there next time. Went to “that Mexico” place for dinner and drinks two times, I’d say the drinking is better than the eating, but all I had was mole. Nothing really to write home about.

In terms of good eats, I went to Fogo by the con (which was just all right) and M-Grill near Koreatown, which was smashing. Two churrasco meals in a week? Rice to meet you too. The winner of the meat roulette is hard to call, but the lamb chop and grilled pineapples are the crowd pleasers. I liked the chicken heart too. Everything was pretty delicious at the minimum, some are very delicious. Even the filet as well as the bacon-wrapped chicken and the stuff I usually pass on Fogo. They also provide this hot sauce in case you want to kick thing up a notch, to add some variety in this meat extravaganza–it can get a tad repetitive eating all this beef/sausages/chicken/lamb. Random note: They had a bottle of Yamazaki 12, which was always good.

We also went to BCD Tofu House in Koreatown, which is part of a big Korean sundubu chain. I don’t know when was the last time I’ve been to a BCD, but this was better than I remembered. Not pictured because I was too busy chowing down. I think that was more or less it. No dimsum panel this time.

PPS. A more proper post(-post)- script: Not only I had flight troubles coming into LAX, I also managed to miss my flight going out of LAX. Turns out what usually took 45-60 minutes in prior AX airport runs took 100-110 minutes. Definitely impossible to catch my flight when boarding ended just as I got to the airport. I also had to check a bag. One of the Canadian in my Lyft pool had to stay overnight. There was a disabled vehicle at one of the ingress, cutting it from 2 lanes to 1. Thankfully it did not matter much for myself, I ended up just taking a flight out that was leaving 2 hours later, and ended up going to work a bit late. What’s more, I got upgraded due to bumpage, so I even slept great, on a PS-equipped 757. Lots of people were late for their flight, I guess.

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