Thursday, 02 September 2010 19:53

Anime Expo 2010 Report

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Holy shit, folks…they actually managed to actually HAVE an Anime Expo despite some of the serious shit that led up to this year's show. For a round up of that situation, I'll repost part of a news item from a few months ago so you can refresh your memory on this bit of drama:

Board Requests Vote of No Confidence.

AX Staffers Threaten Board of Directors with Walkout

AX Artist Alley Manager and Assistant Manager Resign (Updated)

BAM Marketing Dismissed By SPJA CEO

Gotta Love that sort of Change.

Multiple Anime Expo Staffers Resign in Board Dispute

At one point seemed to be the most up to date info coming out.

With Chase having been dismissed as noted above in the BAM Marketing dismissal and our own, and quite a few other little operations now too small for Anime Expo to consider as press, neither we nor most small press were invited back to cover for Anime Expo this year. This did not deter me from filming what I normally would or covering what I normally did, but it did require a certain amount of finagling I've not done for a couple of years when I still wasn't covering this event as press. On the other hand, I wound up actually going to AX and attending another event as a press representative that was being put on in parallel with Anime Expo, that being the Club 2 the Max event that was held in the Club Nokia about a minute walk from the Nokia theatre by the LA convention center.

It's really best to say I probably didn't attend the first day of Anime Expo actually. Club 2 the Max had far more going on that I was interested in, and I wanted to be there checking that out. About the most I really managed to do was attend the first few minutes of the Opening Ceremonies to watch Danny Choo dance after I managed to attend some of the Red Carpet Event previously to photograph Sophia and AKB48. I have to admit, the red carpet event was one of the craziest goddamn things I'd ever been to as far as fan events go. Getting in to take any sort of pictures was maddening in the extreme. Seriously people, have some fucking respect for those around you…don't jump in front of them just for a photo op. That's just fucking rude.

The first event I wound up attending at Club 2 the Max was the Kai Ki: Tales of Terror World Premier with a red carpet event for a great deal of the staff that produced and directed the movie, but who everyone was really there to see was Mano Erina, a graduate from the Hello! Project (from which last year's offering, the concert of Morning Musume nearly killed me with sugar), who was making her debut as an actress in this movie. You can check out many of the photos I took of the event starting here on this page of TFA Cosplay and continues on to page 12. Having never been to an event such as this, I found it an intriguing experience, but I'm not sure all it's cracked up to be. It does, however, give the press a chance to take pictures which works well for everyone involved…and gets that out of the way. We quickly moved on with a press conference with the producers, a few fashion designers, and Erina herself where by several statements were issued and a few questions were asked. Much of the discussion centered on the four dresses created by the fashion designers for Erina for use at this event…though I have to admit, I only saw her in this dress (well, after she changed out of that adorable skirt and blouse) the entire day. Other statements concerning the technical aspects of the movie's creation and bringing out here for its premier seemed to provide little interest to most, if I was judging the mood of those at the conference correctly. There was also a smattering of the usual questions, such as if they'd try to use Erina as an actress again (of course they would), and for Erina what her future plans were in the entertainment industry. Her answers to that last one seemed to indicate she wanted to concentrate less on her idol singing and move more towards being a full time actress, though she very much enjoyed her music. Also that she wished to play more mature roles, to which even the translator had to boggle a bit…girl is only 19, heh. Interestingly, we had a couple of the hard core stalker, shrine-in-my-basement types, which I had to say were an interesting study all on their own if only in terms of behavioral observation. I suppose it means you've finally made it when you start collecting stalkers, heh.

Before the movie started, they premiered the winners of the Tales of Terror contest they held before hand; whereby people would make their own home versions of a Tale of Terror, though I'm not sure if they won anything outside of being shown with the world premier of this movie. The movie itself was extreme low budget, almost gorilla class filmwork which actually served to increase the creepy ass shit going on due to the almost 'foggy' nature of the overall recording of both movies. As such, special effects were practically nonexistent, and were fake as hell when they did appear, which forced the movie to rely on the acting, atmosphere, and story telling to carry it through. It was divided into two parts; the first one called Tsukimono - The Possessed, which is the one Erina stared in. Basically a take on the Zombie infection flick, only taken to a really creepy level with the way patient zero started in on people. The second story was called Nozomi, and actually coaxed a tear from my eye there at the end, regardless of all the really weird ass shit that was going on for the rest of it. Overall, this movie was made to give one the feeling of that cold slithery SOMETHING running up and down their back and in this it did not disappoint. Make no mistake though, this could have been filmed by some college students on a shoe string budget and a couple of High Def camcorders, so don't go there expecting to see Nightmare on Elm Street or Revenge of the Fallen.

At the end, Erina came out and sang the end theme for us while the credits rolled in the background. As it was stated in the original agreement, I did not take any pictures or video of this concert, though others didn't seem to care much about that. I have to admit, in that blue and black dress, Erina was adorable as Hell. She's a fairly decent singer too, though certainly not the next Susan Boyle; much better than me anyway. Then it was off to the post premier party.

Ever watched one of those movies where you see this private space up in a bar with faded ambient light, and caterers walking around serving people food and drinks? Yeah, that's where we got to go. I admit, it was interesting for the first half hour or so, and certainly was needed as I was starving to death while feeling the desperate need for a beer, but without the guests of honor or any of the production staff coming in to talk and party with us, I do admit to eventual boredom. Everyone was in their own little bubbles, and even my attempts to draw some of the lady journalists out of their shell was met with half hearted responses and withdrawls. Honestly, I kept thinking I'd have liked to have bought Erina a drink in congrats for a job well done, but it later occurred to me that wouldn't have worked since she's only 19. Unique as this whole experience had been for me, I had to bail…there were pictures to be taken of cosplayers after all, and daylight was burning up.

So I spent the next couple of hours taking pics while wandering around and generally wasting time until the next Maxx event, which was the Maid Café. Because I knew I'd have almost no time after, I went ahead and changed into my suit, which was actually a cosplay of the original Master from Dr. Who…I wish I had some pics of that. Great thing about that cosplay is that one can use it for a formal event as well as cosplay; something most costumes can't pull off. In any event, I met up with Gensao and we headed back to the Club Nokia to get some food and play with the cute maids. Honestly, for this event, they needed about twice the amount of time they allotted for it. It started a little late and continued on a little late, but when you're talking only an hour for some games, watching the show, and eating…the whole event is a little compressed. We got in and were escorted to our table with one occupant already there, and an adorable Maid whose name I forget, who then proceeds to inform us of how the games and such work, how the tickets work to play the games and what not. So the three of us pool our tickets, and at our Maid's recommendation (which should have tripped an alarm bell in my head), we started playing UNO Stacko (Jenga). I really should have been worried when, in one of the cutest and most determined evil tones a girl like her could have mustered; our Maid informed us simply, "You're going down, Goshujin-samas."

I had a very distinct urge at that very moment to pick her up, collect her, take her home, and put her in my display case. I believe I shall leave the description at that.

We passed the time while waiting for our food by getting beat at UNO Stacko, playing some games with the Maids when they got up on stage for their song and dance routines, and making general small talk with her and each other. I found myself actually trying to classify her behavior in terms of the archetypes these places tend to cater toward, and found none of them really fit. I suppose being evilly cute would have to do; though it's not something you typically associate with a Maid at a Maid Café. She was also quite energetic; more so than every other Maid there…she was really getting into the whole idea of being there and what they were doing. Damn, I wish I could remember her name. Edit: I THINK she went by Mikan upon further recollection and comparing the Maids at the Animaid Café. Reading her bio, I now see just how badly we got suckered when she suggested Jenga. Well played, Mikan, well played.

Food was…edible. Not bad, but it was mostly stuff they could obviously whip up in a hurry in great quantities. They probably had a cauldron of chicken helper or something similar in the kitchen. I'm not complaining since by that point I was starving to death, and the time constraints really didn't allow for much more, but it did make me want to eventually visit the actual Maid Café in LA and check out what that must be like when they weren't operating under such constraints. I had to leave right after I ate, unfortunately, so I could deal with the next event, which was the Black Carpet event for Yoshiki and, of all people, Stan Lee as well as several other celebrities who'd walk by for the appearance of X Japan to film a music video for their new single "Born to be Free." If you want to see the low quality, 'I shot that' version, head over to Youtube and do the applicable search…you'll find several angles for it.

It took us awhile to get set up for the Black Carpet event, during which we were likely in serious danger of being arrested due to the fact they'd stashed us over by the fire doors, which you do not block…and yet there we were for about an hour or more. I file this under shit happens, but when most of the photographers were grumbling they could be taking cosplay photos at this point, I will also note the indication that we were out there far too long. Eventually we got in though and we got the whole thing running; you can find my pics of it here on TFA Cosplay which continues on for another page.

Stan Lee is a natural born public speaker. It was truly a treat to just hear him talk about past projects, some future projects, how much he'd love to make a comic book about X Japan, and just coming up with new words for characters that may or may not come to pass. Yoshiki was very quiet comparatively, though I have to say the boy needs to get some sun, and if this white guy says that, you know you're pale. Then again, he may be worse than me, in that he don't tan at all no matter how long you stay out, heh. In any event, he talked mostly about what was about to happen, that being the music video they were recording, and their appearance at Lolapalooza in August of 2010. It was mostly just a shootin' the shit session and an excuse to take pics and have pics taken while everything gets set up for what everyone is really here to see and do. And hell, what's the problem with that? Not a goddamn thing; we're all having fun, so let's have some fuckin' fun.

We were then moved into the club proper where the festivities had begun in full force. At that point, everyone was cut loose. Now me, I was feeling extremely good. Probably the best I'd felt in about seven years if not more. This was a good night; a damn good night…the only down side was that there was no one to share it with. The fashion show was in full force with X Japan getting ready to film their music video, the mosh pit was filled with onlookers and photographers, and the alcohol was flowing fast and furious. I grabbed a beer before I headed back to drop my camera off at the room once the fashion show was over, because I knew I was about to get very very obliterated.

I came back and it was pure fucking beautiful chaos. Loud music, a mosh pit so hardcore that even God would have hesitated before getting in on that, and cute girls everywhere. I even broke my record for scaring girls when I asked a goth loli how many inches her platforms added to her height. She giggled and ran like hell. Even that could not dismay me with a screwdriver and a margarita in me. The drinks were okay, and fairly cheep, considering they were practically doubling the amount of alcohol in these badboys. I stuck around and wandered while X Japan filmed their music vid. They had several cameras running around along with the other mounted and motorized cameras flying around the stage while they sang. They had to play the song about four times to get all the footage they needed to cut this music vid; which really didn't dismay the audience in the least…nor myself, though I was so happy by this point, I could have met my worst enemy and been friendly enough to buy him a beer.

After that was all over, I bailed on the club and met up with Gensao, who joined me for one last drink at the Hotel. Good drink, but I prefer not getting hit on by gay men…especially gay horny drunk and slightly belligerent men who fuck up what would otherwise have been the near perfect night. Man, I wound up paying for all this the next day when I prayed to the porcelain goddess a bit, but I expected this…never drink hard if you're not prepared to suffer consequences later.

So, that was Club 2 the Maxx. As a competing event to AX, I do believe I enjoyed this more than the past few years of Anime Expo. It was just one fun thing after another, like one giant all day party that barely paused for breath during the whole thing. I hope they have another next year; it was well worth attending.

Both Battle of the Bands and Anime Expo Idol were held outdoors in the Nokia square right next to the Nokia theatre. Since I wasn't officially press, I expected I'd be using my body harness, which I did for Battle of the Bands. Hilariously they made me go into the cage for press during the Battle of the Bands, which is fine, but I'm not sure what the concern was for me walking around with a camera strapped to me.

So, Battle of the Bands. It opened with a performance from Eyeshine, which is the band that Johnny Young Bosch is lead singer of. As a small aside, I'm wondering what would happen if we got him and Walter Jones within a few feet of each other…would there be some sort of temporal reaction, as time and space itself broke into its quantum components and ceased to exist? Hmm, I'll have to try that some time. They were actually pretty decent, and was something I've been looking forward to since what happened to them at the bloody abortion, also known as, Anime Expo 2007. I have to admit though, I think there were some bands in the actually contest that were better.

Broken Lane had won the last three Battles (including the inaugurating year), so they were classified as Legends, and no longer allowed to compete. This is probably a good thing given how talented they really are and how much they improve year to year. They were mind blowing last year; I can only imagine how awesome they'd be this year. I expect to hear they've gone pro at any time to be honest. In any event, the line up this year was:

Cherry
Kitsune Robot
Makenai
Skill Project
The Black Crystals
Ace Revival

I should be able to get a torrent of this event up soon, though I'm not sure how much of the quality I can vouch for, since I recorded this using my steady stick, and not at true tripod. Like AX Idol, The Battle of the Bands has done nothing but increased in quality over the years. At first there was a lot of hesitation, even some embarrassing mistakes by several the bands as one could tell in a collective sense people were feeling out the ground around them, trying to get into a groove of sorts, and generally seeing where they were and how far they had to go. After a few years, the measure of people's talent has been taken; coupled with a desire for true excellence, this has given us a show of some real high quality independent talent, of which I hope will continue to be a staple of this event. For me, it was actually a tossup between The Black Crystals and Makenai; though if I had to make a decision, it'd be The Black Crystals if only for having the balls to sing "Go, Go, Power Rangers!" in their medley. Makenai is the band who actually won, and one of their singers was Pamela Moss, whom you may know as the one who won Anime Expo singing Idol 2008 and has made several more appearances at AX in various musical capacities. At the time, I honestly didn't think she was best singer there, but to be fair she wasn't bad, and has improved considerably since then. Overall, as far as Makenai is concerned, it wasn't my choice, but it wasn't an undeserved choice at this event.

Anime Expo Idol this year did something I did not think was possible. Then again, after filming that, and watching what Mario Bueno did when he sang World End from the anime Code Geass. That man right then had the entire female half of the audience wanting to have his babies. And though I could tell the man who usually picks the female talent (and not always the best female talent either) was about to do the same this year, I think his compatriots managed to talk him out of it on the grounds that if they did not pick him, they were going to be eaten. Which is true; I could see the girls gearing up for some friendly bout of homicide should he not be chosen to win…which fortunately he did. This is the first time a male singer has EVER won in the (what is it; six years now?) history of this competition. However, wonder of wonders, there was a stunning bit of dubbing by Erik Kimerer, who not only deservedly won, but was actually (jokingly) asked not to come to Bang Zoom by the VAs present so as not to take their jobs.

This year two guys won folks. I did not believe that would be allowed, but somehow it happened, and never more so deserved than this year. Look, if the girls had kicked all asses, I'd be the first to note it…in fact I believe I did back in '06 when Nichole Dixon kicked everyone's ass in singing, heh. It took guys going to a level nearly above professional to do it, though…it may well never happen again. Still, as far as the overall level of the competition, it has only increased year after year…any one of these people could be singers or voice actors. Hell, for me for the singing it was actually a tossup between Mario Bueno and Bernie Bramlett who sang "Heats" by Kageyama Hironobu in a way that showed he should have been touring with The Jam Project. It's too bad he didn't get to sing the second time like he wanted as a farewell to some family members that passed away. Still, it's good to see talent rewarded, and I believe this year the talent was truly…finally…rewarded. Likely on pain of death, but I suppose I should take this victory on its own merits for it was more than earned.

Funny story about Masquerade. Gensao had signed up for texting for event updates in case of cancelations, rescheduling, and the like from Anime Expo. While we were hanging about outside the Nokia theatre, he received a text stating that Masquerade would be starting at 20:30. After rushing across the street to get a burrito from the roach coach, this meant we could take some time to actually eat it and get a few more cosplay photos. Guess what didn't actually happen? That's right, they started ON TIME! We got in while they were starting the skits…so I missed the first four while setting up my camera gear. So, like at ACEN, anyone got some footage of the first half hour or so in HD that I can borrow? In return you can have my raw footage as well…just as soon as we figure out how to trade it.

The Masquerade itself was a bit like last year in this regard; nothing really stood out for me to comment on. It was all fairly good, just…nothing that really popped. This seems to be a bit of a trend the past couple of years. Perhaps people are just tired, I'm not sure. What I do recall is the AMV winners that were shown at half time before judging. The AMV's this year were something I wish I could have attended, but given what was going on at Club 2 the Maxx, there was just no way for me to go. Still, here is a list of the AMV's that were shown at that event:

Drama

"Avis" by TearX
"Girl Please" by Solomon Smith
"Have You Got It In You" by Caleb Taylor
"Under There" by Kitsuner
"Princess Of The Red Rose" by Lark(1MoonGoddess7)
"Setsuna Of Arabia" by Brian Evans
"Alchanum" by Rider4z

Action

"Spinning Infinity" by NightHawk
"Switchback" by Erin Nguyen
"Senjogahara’s Love" by Benjikun_7
"Drop The Bomb" by Doki Doki Productions
"Brutal Zombie Hybrid Murder Event" by LC Lapen
"Raw Bullet" by Mouse Freaker Studios
"Building Steam" by Studio Hybrid

Comedy

"Springtime" by Brad DeMoss
"And Now A Word From Our Sponsors" by Scintilla (fucking hilarious)
"An Alchemist Named Sue" by Armed And Out Of Medication Productions
"Hello Fairy" by Doki Doki Productions
"Fad Of Princely Caliber" by Drew Brisco
"Common Accident" by Hofuzz
"Cuppy Cake Song" by Point Of View Productions

AMTV – Pro

"Children Of Daicon" by Solomon Smith
"This is Halloween" by Caleb Taylor (this one actually got me to buy the series)
"Myth" by TearX
"Stasis" by Steven Walker
"The Bridge Effect" by Otaku Lounge Productions
"Fireflies" by Truffle Pig Studios
"I Wanna" by Caught Productions

There's just too many to link here, so I'll leave it to you to locate them on Youtube, animemusicvideos.org, or wherever else you can find. Though, I did link the winners you'll find. Also this year there was a new contest, whereby a few AMV creators were given about three hours to come up with an AMV using footage from several anime and one 'secret ingredient' in a sort of Iron Chef scenario. These two winning videos was the winner, Black Parade, and the runner up Time After Time which really REALLY needs a proper upload of some sort.

There were quite a number of concerts this year; the most noteable of which was the Megumi Nakajima and May'n concert which featured the music of Macross Frontier. It also had a surprise guest in the form of Yoko Kano who came out to play the grand piano left in the center of the stage; accompanying the two aforementioned vocalists for the last thirty minutes or so of the concert. I was not actually there for that concert, and I'll probably be kicking myself in a few years for it. The concert I was really interested in was the Sopia concert, a band seemingly not as well known on this side of the pond as it is over there. I mean, everyone knows Gackt, L'arc En Ciel, etc, but do they know Sophia? Not so much. They're actually my favorite Japanese band as they tend to be more of a pure rock band like one would find in the '80s, and you can certainly tell they draw inspiration from several sources in that era for many of their songs. I never thought I'd see them live, and truly this was the highlight for me. The lead singer, Mitsuru Matsuoka, did like to talk to the audience in between songs, which actually caused him to note that in Japan they were referred to as the second most verbal band there…he mentioned the first, but I'll be damned if I can remember. It was also interesting to note that their normal keyboardist wasn't there for their first appearance in the States due to a really nasty illness; of which I hope he recovers from and I hope he can be with them next year when they return. Translating all this was the artist known as Beni who actually opened for Sophia at this concert. Hmm…things I would like to say about her? Well, most are XXX-rated, so we'll skip that part, and move on to how she actually was on stage. Her music and vocal style reminded me a great deal of the likes of Janet Jackson, Whitney Houston, and the like, as did her music. That female glam rock most guys wouldn't be caught dead listening to with their friends, but sounded nice all the same. Though I did detect the very noticeable J-pop flavor in it aside from the fact she was singing in Japanese, heh. Not really my kind of music, but it wasn't something that'd drive me screaming from the theatre begging for the quick release of death while blood and otherwordly ichor streamed from my very pores. On the whole, it was rather nice; though I can certainly say I wasn't her target audience, and wouldn't have known anything about her had she not come here and performed for us like this.

Cosplay Photos…wow. This year it was pretty much every single one of them that I found to be something special. This is the opposite problem from last year whereas it wasn't so much that the quality was bad, it was that so few if any made any real impression on me. This year…damn near ALL of them made an impression, and I don't even know what to do about that. Here, check them out on TFA cosplay. There were a few though that I can say stood out apart even from this exceptional year. There were these two, whom after years of photographing them one would think I'd remember by this point can't really speak English, heh. Taiga and Amy who look EXACTLY like their characters. Al Azif from Demonbane, and probably the one I've been wanting to get a pic of for the past couple of years. The Cammy cosplayer I photographed from a distance at Anime Conji; I finally got a nice closeup shot of her. These two extremely beautiful ladies who I cannot place, if they're even dressed up as characters. This whole group of Disney Princesses and Villains, and yes, fanboys, the Ariel closest to Giselle is indeed Traci Hines. This is a picture I had taken with Walter Jones, the first Black Power Ranger. I'd always wondered and worried about him, so seeing him alive, well, and active in the fandom was something I found to be most comforting…in the way I'm always comforted when I meet an old friend again. And finally, this picture of Sabre (same cosplayer from Fanime who was in Sabre Lily garb), is singularly the best picture I have ever taken in my life. I'm very glad I was able to take this picture, and am truly grateful to her for giving me the opportunity. If you're reading this, I thank you…this was a moment of perfection, and I feel honored to have been able to capture it.

There was a lot of miscellaneous stuff I wound up doing this convention that I didn't really manage to do in previous years as well. For starters, I managed to attend the full Nerd Courting panel with Gensao. Mostly because I found the whole thing extremely humorous at Fanime, but didn't get to start or finish it…just sort of showed up in the middle. One thing I took away from this was that it is true…normal people don't go to convention panels in the middle of the night. It's an interesting thing to reflect on the fact that most of the populous doesn't view time as the variable thing that most of us do. My parents, for example, would never think to drive to town in the middle of the night just to pick up some kitty litter as they'd run out and need to change the box. Things like that are just not done. For me? Fuck it, give me my keys…we need anything else? I'd kill for some Krispy Kreme…. Also, there was the alcohol I consumed. I tend not to do that very often and not usually in those quantities. I really paid for it later…to the point I was so damn burnt after the convention I couldn't even bring myself to spend the night at Lenny's and party with those guys. Which reminds me, don't get a bloody mary at the hotel right next to the Nokia theatre…there was enough salt in that thing to give the mutant Ultrasaur hypertension. After the Masquerade we managed to catch the final couple of acts of The Last Comic Standing, which was quite amusing all around. I am a little concerned about the hot girl whose entire comic set was nothing more than a spiel on how much she loved porn…you'd have to have been there. Not so much that it wasn't funny, it's that her description of her obsession made me wonder if she may need some therapy…because a good rogering just wasn't going to cut it for this problem (though it certainly couldn't hurt). Also, it's true that in prison I wouldn't want to share my cell with a guy named Ironhide, though a guy named Starscream would indeed be everyone's bitch. Finally the Club Nokia nightly dances…fuck, I'm still wondering how those actually worked. The mosh pit was packed so damn tightly that I don't know how anything moved, and yet, when it did move, it was as one giant entity…you could feel the fucking tremors through the floor on the outside of the place. Looked like fun, but there was no way to get into that sea of bodies, much less participate in their orgies of song and dance.

In conclusion, I can say it was a good convention. I did not expect that. At the same time, I wasn't actually at the convention for the entire show. The Club 2 the Maxx event was a great deal of fun and a welcome break from the same old things I wind up doing at most every convention I've been too. It certainly seemed like a lot of fun for all of the other attendee's as well. I didn't get all the footage I wanted, but I think I can work around that. I also got some of the best pictures I've ever taken, including the one I said WAS the best I've ever taken; something else I didn't expect. This all, despite some of the added expense of the tickets both for AX and for the main events such as premium seats for the masquerade. Given the way this whole thing started I imagined an unmitigated mess that would put 2007 to shame. Instead we got a decent show all around, so far as I can tell. I was certainly entertained.

Oh, and one last thing. This is for the author of "The Last Unicorn", Peter S. Beagle who attended Anime Expo this year. My man, it is okay to speak up, be friendly, and be heard there…in fact it's necessary because I can barely hear you in the dealer's hall. Still, it's okay to project yourself; we don't bite...well, not unless you WANT us to anyway. I'm just saying to enjoy it; you deserve it, and ain't anyone there judging anybody for anything as long…as you're not trying to kill or maim someone. Well, unless you see an oujo-sama whipping her oyobi when you round a corner somewhere…then it's simply a matter of telling them to get a room, heh.


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