I find it to be a most interesting feeling to know when I'm almost done with something. I can't really describe it to anyone, but a sinking anticipation is the best I can give. Like a countdown to something unknowable that you cannot stop...and at some point, you're not even sure you want to. Anime Expo is rapidly reaching the point where it may have to be put paid, or it may have already reached that point...the next few months will tell me that. I get ahead of myself, however.
As it has been the past few years, and for the next five years at least (since they've signed a new contract with the venue), Anime Expo has taken place at the Los Angeles Convention Center and surrounding venues. This year it played host to over 90,000 attendees, which is an unreal amount of people, and one I truly believe if trying to get through its dealer's hall was any indication of those numbers. I'm reminded a great deal of the final couple of years I went to Comic Con, what I experienced there, and how it felt. Very much like now, to be honest. Up to and including the way you could almost not even move in some places there were so many.
It should probably be noted at the beginning that if one is a photographer, it becomes an act of masochistic love to go to a convention of shiny cosplayers (yes, that was a deliberate Pokemon reference) with carpal tunnel syndrome. Thankfully, Anime Conji is a small convention and not the much larger Wondercon up in Anaheim. As it was, every single time I hefted the camera and took a photo, lancing pain through my hands and up my forarms was my reward.
This is the fifth year of Anime Conji, taking place at the Sheraton Hotel in the Marina across from the San Diego International Airport (no, really, you can walk across the highway to the airport just outside of the hotel) as it did the previous year. I admit to liking the Town and Country a lot better than the Sheraton due to the fact that it's a lot more accessible and the Fashion Valley Mall was in back of it, so one could bail out and get something to eat. Now, granted everything was spread all over the place at the Town and Country, but I'm thinking this could have mitigated somewhat by reserving more of the convention center proper with all of its little outlying rooms, but who knows how the hotel may have logistically fucked that one up to make that a nonstarter. But, whatever, it's at the Sheraton...nothing else to be done. Admittedly I wasn't planning on attending initially, but events did conspire to allow me the time and inclination to head over there. I'm not entirely certain what I went to, however. By that, I mean, a convention has a certain feel to it. This event was not lacking in it per se, but it was greatly lessened. Oddly, I even ran into an overbearing floor manager, and got kicked out of the Improv Masquerade, which is usually a threat at the larger conventions with such individuals; yet, even that didn't quite make me feel like I was at a convention. I think I get what it was, but I'll save that for later.
Ah, Sac Anime Summer 2014.
I think this is the fourth year I've gone to this convention, having been convinced to go by Mayhem due to it being a smaller convention, and thus not prone to the same, shall we say, 'mishaps' that tend to occur at the larger ones. They're happier just having fun and hanging out with others that enjoy all the same things we do. Yes, that's an apt description; the smaller conventions have less drama and are more laid back overall. Unfortunately as a convention does grow, attendance grows so problems and other concerns creep up. Logistics gets more problematic due to more people getting involved, the need for more space becomes a greater issue, you can now bring in higher caliber guests, but have to deal with the baggage they carry, and so forth and so on. I mention this as I've seen it happen to two conventions so far: Anime Expo and Fanime. They each followed the same pattern. Even ACEN has done this to an extent, though I came in during their transition from smaller to larger convention (and there's other concerns with the midwestern convetions that have become more prevalent as time has gone on, but that's another article). I note this because Sac Anime is about where Anime Expo was in 1999, when I first went to it. I've seen this convention as it was, small and fun at the hotel, but now it's about to start making the leap into being a larger convention, and now we're all going to see how they handle it given all the examples and lessons learned in the past that are available. Let us hope they are students of history.
Have I really been doing this for around 15 years? Well, aside from the year 2000, yes, yes I have. In all this time I've typically gone to this convention with the same group of people; even going so far as to increase our participation in the conventions we go to by going as press under the auspices of Dragon's Anime and TFA Cosplay. That didn't happen this year. No, this year I was on my own in regards to being press as the core group couldn't make it this year due to various factors. Still, I wasn't totally on my own, as there were others who we've known for all this time who graciously invited me to room with them this year. This worked out a lot better than I'd have thought, because even though the Vagabond Inn up the road from the convention center was more expensive than we'd wanted, they had bunk beds of all things, which were far more comfortable than the Coleman Cots we're usually used to using when we stuff ourselves into these rooms. I'll have to admit though, this year put it into perspective on just how much I've come to rely on Gensao, Pio, and Mayhem for all sorts of things little and big when it comes to covering this convention as press which caused me to miss out on a lot more than I'd have liked. This doesn't count all the other disasters outside of everyone's control that wound up occurring.
So here we are, eight years since the first time I've been to Fanime, and six, I believe, that I've worked with them as a member of the press for Dragon's Anime and TFA Cosplay. Some things have changed and some have remained the same. The location, for one, has remained constant, though the use of that location, as well as the construction of the location itself has altered over time. Most of the main events have remained constant, though in the cases of the Music Fest, have widened considerably in scope. Stage Zero remains one of those basically ongoing events that one can just stop in the middle of their traversals through Fanime and take in, but the presentations have been getting more and more formalized with Singing, Maid Para Para Dancing, and the like in addition to the game shows and whatnot that have been there staple of the location. Opening Ceremonies has grown from Stage Zero to encompassing the entire entrance to the convention center, and sometimes even outside depending on what sort of things they will have going on. All in all, it's still a convention by the fans, for the fans, but it is growing, and while the location is growing with it, I've noted in my last few reports that I'm curious as to when true saturation point there in down town San Jose will occur, and what that will mean for the convention. Still, that's just idle speculation at present; it's time to get to the main event.