Friday, 15 September 2006 22:53

Anime Expo 2006 Report

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This article has been consolidated from its original two parts into a single document for easier reading.

Anime Expo was an interesting time this year. Last year, admittedly, wasn’t all that fun, but this year, I can say I loved every minute of it…well, almost every minute; though I don’t really believe I actually accomplished all that much. Sometimes, though, those times are when you have the most fun.

As you may have noted, my passion recently has been for taking pictures of cosplayers and general socialization, which is all I allot myself on a yearly basis before crawling back to my dark and dank cave I call an apartment. Seriously though, I find it’s more fun meeting and talking with fellow fans and old friends than a considerable amount of what goes on at AX, though this may be changing in time as well. The reason for this can be found in its very name: Anime Expo. Anime, and all that is related…the very reason for this convention’s existence.

Put bluntly, for the most part, most, if not all of the anime they’ve had recently has been available to the public on DVD or seen on the various channels that now show anime already. There aren’t really all that many new premieres of anime, and all the really kick ass anime that is being premiered, (again, if any) has already been fansubbed. Typically this sort of anime is sub only…and I’d only go see it again in this context to check out the dub. I think the last big premiere of something I went to was the “Ah! My Goddess!” movie being brought over here by Pioneer some three years ago. I saw it raw, on the full 35mm film in a room that was stadium like, filled to the brim with fans, and we loved every single unintelligible moment of it. As an aside, you’ve not experienced perfection ‘til you’ve heard and seen what the goddesses do at the very end of that movie. So, going to Anime Expo to watch anime, isn’t really all it’s cracked up to be anymore. However, there are other anime related things it has going for it.

Video gaming, tabletop gaming, panels, guests of honor, workshops, main events, cosplay, and general all around socialization and having a damn good time all make up the Anime Expo experience. Also, let’s not forget the dealer’s hall…twice as large as last year’s with freedom to move around finally; hell on your feet though. I know I missed a few things to do at AX, but that’s okay. All I’m saying is that if anime was all that Anime Expo had going for it, that convention would be long dead in the water.

I go for the reasons I mentioned above, though I find myself gradually finding interest in other events. Unfortunately for me, those interests are set to conflict with the main events, which I religiously attend. I find this next year, I may not go to the main events, and instead attend those other events, depending on how things work out with scheduling, timing, and Transformers the Movie; which I will bail on the convention to go opening night, Anime Expo be DAMNED (assuming AX is going on right on the 4th this upcoming year, I’ll have to check)! This also means that likely there will be no cosplay video for next year and possibly no AX Idol video as well. We’ll see how it goes.

In any event, I should probably get to the meat of this little article, which will chronicle my misadventures at the convention, such as they were. Perhaps you may find some enjoyment and enlightenment out of this tale, or perhaps not. In any event, I hope you find it somewhat informative, and perhaps a reasonable distraction for an hour or so.

Preparation:

This year, as related in my Fanime report, I had grown tired of the camera I had onboard my video camera, the Panasonic PV-DV953, which, while serviceable (and outdated), was only about 2MP, if that. I had managed to acquire the camera I wanted for Fanime, the day before I left to head up to Mayhem’s, and got a real big acid test there. What I didn’t realize until about a week after Fanime was the 4GB SD card I bought for it wasn’t quite compatible. You see, it formats the card FAT16; which, for you non geeks, means that I could only use 2GBs of it. This irked me somewhat, and I figured I’d get on the message boards and see what could be done about it. I’ve not yet found a solution, and there may not BE one.

I realized, however, that I might need another SD card, considering the amount of pictures I take and the size of files themselves in this new camera. With a bit of luck, I managed to locate my 1GB Pretec SD card I bought last year, but had thought I’d lost. This was good, since I’d spent some serious cash on the camera and didn’t want to shell out any more for it. So, camera supplies: Check.

I have a bag for my video camera that contains most of the video camera stuff I bring to AX already. Coupled with it, the tripods I use, and the new blank DV tapes for it, it was mostly ready to go. What irks me most about the DV tapes is that they’re prone to dropping frames during capture and sometimes even during recording. Also, the longest of them only last two hours at extended record function. It’s important to note that extended record function does not sacrifice any quality, only increases the possibility of frames dropping. I myself will be glad for a tapeless recording solution that doesn’t tear my bank account to shreds or means I don’t cart a laptop around. This is only going to get worse as HD recording becomes more popular. These concerns weighed on me as I made sure all was well with the video gear, but for an amateur who will likely never get a press badge or enough money to invest in a few of those solutions, not counting the upcoming advancements in technology, what I had would have to do. So, video camera supplies: Check.

This year, I had decided I was going to cosplay. For this venture, I decided to portray the generic Dark Priest that you find in Video Games, RPGs, period stories, and the like. Also, I just loved that monk outfit I ordered from Museum Replicas to death, and really wanted an excuse to wear it. The bad thing is, I ordered it before Fanime, but it didn’t arrive until the day I was set to depart for AX, and so, couldn’t get it altered in time. This is beginning to sound familiar, I thought. In any event, I tried it on right there, figured it was good enough, and packed it in with the clothing. So, Costume: ehh….sure, check.

Last, but definitely not least, was the gathering and staging of the miscellaneous items. These items included clothing, my old Navy bag for my loot, paperwork, DVDs that I’d made of previous years’ cosplay photos, bathroom gear (something EVERYONE should have at AX, or any convention for that matter, and its use be mandatory), and any other bits of miscellaneous gear that I could think of. This is actually the biggest portion of the preparations for AX, and typically takes a couple of days to make sure you get everything you need. Take any less time, and you risk leaving stuff…doing it an hour before you leave is right out. Miscellaneous gear: Check through the roof.

Day 0:

It was the day before convention, and I didn’t get to leave until about 1PM in the afternoon. I had waited for my costume for near a month, and now…it finally arrived the day of, and I couldn’t get it altered to better fit me. This pissed me off to no end, but I put it on, and found it to be acceptable. Also, my Hybrid Style Convoy had come in with this package, which did much to alleviate my temper. In any event, I knew I was about to hit rush hour traffic on the weekend before a holiday…this could not end well.

To speed things up, I went to the AMPM to get a drink, and went through the Taco Hell to get something to eat. Two 7 layer burritos and I recommend these highly. They’re not messy, and you can eat them right out of the bag while you drive, as long as you don’t squeeze to hard. So I’m munching on these things getting to the area just outside of Oceanside that turns from a 5 lane highway into a 3 lane highway under construction.

During rush hour. On a holiday weekend.

Oh, and highway 15 north had caught fire; leaving only highway 5, and my preferred path, the only other viable way north.

During rush hour. On a holiday weekend. While the highway was under construction. After I’d already been forced to be much later than I wanted.

I had this mental image of the Almighty sitting up there in Heaven (which is odd, since my beliefs don’t quite follow this interpretation of God) laughing and laughing and laughing as I dug one hand’s fingers into my leg in frustration.

What should have been a one and a half, two hour drive, turned very quickly into about a four and a half hour drive, and I actually consider myself lucky there. Eventually I found my way to the Portofino where I was to spend the first night, and hook up with Gensao to share a room the following day, since he was staying with a mutual friend of ours that night. Pulling all my gear into my room, I grabbed my camera and went down to AX preregistration and to meet up with Gensao and crew.

I found Gensao outside the convention center stalking…errr…taking pictures of cute cosplayers who always show up the day before for such things. We talked as he showed me where preregistration was. I walk into the stadium sized room where it’s usually held and…

Wonder of wonders, there was no line. Usually the line for registration, prereg or otherwise, wraps around this hall several times. But there was nothing…nothing at all. Angels were singing, birds were chirping, the rapture was upon us (I don’t believe in that either, but the point is still valid, heh). I took a few pictures to commemorate the moment, and went to get my badge and gear. This didn’t actually last for the people who came the following day, and I felt truly sorry for them. However, for one brief moment…AX got something not only right, but they kicked its sorry ass! I found that this trend of ass kicking was going to continue for most of the convention in various events; though there were things even they couldn’t compensate for.

So, I went outside with Gensao, where we met up with some friends, took some amusing photos, and eventually went to a late dinner at the overly priced, but strategically placed, IHOP, across the street. I grew to both love and hate this place. Love it for its closeness, but hate it for its price gouging...and this from a fuckin’ IHOP!

Anyway, then it was back to the room to prepare for the following day. This is the time when you actually finalize your schedule. Any events, guests of honor you want to see, panels and workshops you want to attend, or whatever…you do it at this point; since you’ve got the finalized schedule in your hands. It’s always good to have a generalized plan concerning what you want to do before hand, such as any guests of honor’s panels you want to go to, but now you get to find out how you’re going to schedule your time to accomplish this. Bring a back pack and check your schedule and watch often.

This year I really didn’t want to see anyone. Hell, even the concerts weren’t really something I wanted to attend, so I scratched them off. CLAMP was here, but I had better things to do with my time than die. I thought about the Mana panel, but that took place during another event, so I didn’t get to go check that out. Last year, Peach Pit was in residence, and was scheduled perfectly, so I was able to attend that…I put those poor girls through the ringer on their story of DearS, heheheheheheh. In any event, unless I was dragged to someone’s panel by whoever I was hanging out with, this was going to be a blah year for those.

Now, the Pop Shock Masquerade and Panels I really wanted to check out. Not to mention the dance and various other activities. Problem is, they were scheduled either very late, interfered with a main event, or were just plain flat out in the wrong time zone for something else I preferred to do at that time. Like I said, next year I may just have to redo my priorities.

Day 1:

Order of the day today was opening ceremonies and trying to avoid the CLAMP panel…you know, the aforementioned ‘don’t want to die’ thing. Trust me, something that high profile with that many rabid fans is something you don’t want to get involved in, unless you ARE one of those rabid fans. I myself love CLAMP’s works, but I’m not about to risk my life in line to see them, all things considered. That and I had better things to do than wait in that huge as fuck line.

In any event, I had to quickly toss my stuff in the new hotel room I was sharing with Gensao and company, move my vehicle, and head up to the convention center with all my video gear for opening ceremonies. While waiting around, we managed to get some shots of various cosplayers, including one of my favorite Rozen Maidens, Suigentou. I admit: I really wanted to get a shot with her later when I was cosplaying as well. Sadly, this would be the last time I’d see this lady for the convention…or any good Suigentou cosplayers for that matter.

Anyway, we got in line for the Opening, which is actually on the third floor of this giant convention center. One of my favorite things to do is walk up and down the line and take pictures of the various individuals in costume. Also, this is the reason why it’s best to go to these conventions in groups. You take turns holding your group’s spot in line, while the rest go wandering around socializing and taking pictures. I don’t recommend doing this with a giant group, but usually about four to five people are okay.

This year the staff did a much better job with the lines, and didn’t cluster fuck them too badly. We all managed to get inside and seated, and I managed to get my video gear out and film the opening.

Honestly, the opening was…meh. CLAMP didn’t make an appearance, which I later found, was indicative of their entire behavior for this convention…more on that in a bit. No one sang, and the most excitement we had was the dubbing session which they do every year from that VA school from Japan. I don’t know if I’m going to encode the opening, but at least I didn’t run out of tape close to the end like last year. If there are enough requests, I’ll toss it up on the web.

Getting out of Opening Ceremonies is almost as fun as getting in. Imagine about 5000 people trying to get out of a single room with only a few exits, to spiral down some stairs and into the convention proper. This is all while running into other lines of people trying to get to other places, like the Dealer’s Hall. It’s like a bunch of ant scurrying about, let me tell ya…especially from the 3rd floor, heh.

We hung out for a bit, and took some pictures, and then hit up the line for the Music Video Contest. Fortunately one of our friends was already there, so we waited in line with him, doing the whole, “You wait here, while I go do something,” thing in shifts. Cell phones are a must, as it keeps you in touch with the group. Also, being too close to the beginning of the line is a curse, as your people might not be able to get back in time to get their tickets when they finally start handing them out. You definitely want the group to all have the same color ticket so you can sit together, so you don’t want to stray too far either.

After getting our tickets, I headed back to the room to drop my video gear off and grab my costume. I got to the convention center and put it on…and immediately regretted it. You must understand, this is not a costume in the traditional sense, this is a fully functioning replica of a monk’s robe…the real deal. It’s made of wool, and in the Anaheim summer heat, a near death sentence. In fact, I didn’t wear it long, and I know Gensao had pictures of me taking it off and stuffing it in my backpack, heheheh.

Food becomes a problem in these places. Time is worth more than a catgirl’s soul here, so finding time to get food is both a necessity and something to be cursed. Having food with you is ideal, but mostly impractical due to the constraints of spoilage and needing to carry it around…not to mention possible loot damage. Fortunately, AX has saved our asses the last three years or so with the Summer Festival. The food there is expensive, but it’s fast, mostly healthy, good, and won’t kill you later…pros outweighing the cons, so we go there from time to time to eat.

Mayhem and family arrived sometime or another around this time, and had to wait in a very large line for this day’s registration. He was nonplussed to say the least. Worse, he has a family larger than four, and to Anime Expo’s eternal shame, something they really need to fucking change, they don’t really have any support for such a family. I’ll see if I can get him to write out the list of complaints concerning that one of these days.

About this time, I had broken off from Gensao and was soloing the convention. Something a few people don’t seem to get while at the convention, you don’t need to always stay around the group. You’ve got to remember, though it’s good to see your friends, being around them constantly tends to wear on the person who’s used to being solitary for the most part. Also, interests differ, and strategies for what is done, are best planned individually unless it’s something you know your friends will be at too…then you coordinate. For the most part though, don’t be afraid to take off on your own…again, that’s what Cell phones are for if need be. Just don’t use them in the dealer’s hall; lousy reception.

On the subject of the Dealer’s Hall, when the line to get in finally died down, I made my way there and just marveled at the size. They used two halls this year, which is…you know, I don’t recall the actual measurement, but it was something like two football fields. I’m sure someone out there knows the exact size.

I didn’t actually spend much money here this year. I only had two things I wanted to get…three if you count Lita’s list o’ CDs that I might have been able to pick up there. I have come to the conclusion getting Soundwave is going to be next to impossible, but I DID find two Blitzwings, which I bought. The CD places sucked this year, as opposed to previous years, so when I took the list of stuff that Lita had requested over to them, they turned pale and gibbered madly like I’d given a glimpse of the Necronomicon or something equally nuts. So not much for me this year, unfortunately…though I did keep an eye out for anything else I might want. I found nothing, however.

The Dealer’s Hall is, on the other hand, a great place to stalk…err…find cosplayers and take pictures of them, which I did a lot of this convention.

Somewhere along the line, we managed to eat dinner, and then it was off to the Anime Music Video Contest. Here is where the really fun trouble started.

Before we went in, we stayed outside taking some pictures. While I was photographing Zelda, my UV lens popped off my camera and shattered, scaring the living daylights out of Zelda. My camera was okay, but that was forty dollars right there. Wound up having to use the Lens Hood the rest of the convention.

A friend we hadn’t seen in nearly a decade, Happosai, was coming, but his car broke down. Now the person he was with, actually managed to fix it, but there was no way they were going to be able to check into the hotel they were staying at and get to Anime Expo in enough time to get through preregistration. This rather irked me and various others, as Happosai had preregistered…he paid for the full time, and there was no ‘after hours’ sort of thing for problems like this. This led to us on a wild goose chase trying to find someone in charge to help us out, as I wanted them to see the AMVs. Eventually we got them to the Convention Operations Center, and that was the best we could do…the line for getting into the AMV contest was moving, and I barely made it in.

A word of advice: Don’t get separated from your friends in line. AX personnel are total assholes when it comes to this sort of thing. Realistically, they have to be. You cannot have people saving seats, or they’ll save three, four, and ten seats at a time. I shit you not, SOMEONE will do this. They do not allow you to save seats, and will pack you in to the seating area like sardines…again, realistically they have to.

Another problem with main events is that a lot of other cool stuff is scheduled with them. Again, realistically, they have to do this. The seating area for the main events only seats a few thousand…there were over 40,000 people at the convention this year, and there was no way in Hell that they could have handled all those people at one event. It’s sad, but it’s necessary.

The Music Video contest this year was highly disappointing, which is about how it goes, to be honest. Last year it rocked, and when an event rocks that hard, I’ve noticed it usually needs about two years to recharge. Fanime had better stuff this year in this category, by far.

Fortunately, Happosai and his friend (who I will say we were all very anxious to meet), were able to get tickets into this event and get their registration taken care of. They were able to be here for this, though admittedly, we saw very little of them the rest of the convention…which was fine, that’s how it goes sometimes. At least we did get to see them.

Day 2:

Ah…so much cooler outside today. Time to cosplay. This day I actually managed to spend about half of it in costume, after the Idol contest.

As an aside concerning my costume: while a dark priest walking around AX isn’t exactly peculiar, it isn’t exactly the norm either. I had a number of cosplayers come up and wonder about it, from what it was made of to how hot it was. It was still hot enough I had to spend most of my time in the convention center, but I could at least bear to do so. I would occasionally duck outside to snap a quick picture of someone who caught my eye, but usually I stuck around the inside and within the dealer’s hall.

Mayhem accompanied me a good portion of the time early in the day. Occasionally we’d meet up with Gensao or one of the others in our group and hang out. Like me, Gensao acquired a new camera for this convention…some how that magnificent bastard gets pics I’m exceedingly envious of.

About the middle the day, came the AX Idol contest, which I’ve actually encoded and made a torrent for some time ago. This year, unlike previous years, I was allowed to actually use my video camera to record it. I would hazard a guess that the reason being, that this year, Geneon didn’t support it…and wasn’t mentioned actually funding much of anything this year to be honest. A far cry from their previous support, not to mention the stuff they used to do for the convention when they were Pioneer. If they were responsible for some of the draconian rules that have been in place in the previous couple of years, then I for one am glad they’re not part of it anymore. Don’t get me wrong, I’m so very grateful for the chance to record Yuuki Kajiura’s concert, but that still doesn’t excuse half the shit that has gone down in the previous couple of years as far as that went.

AX Idol was hosted this year by Johnny Young Bosch, also known as Adam, the Black Power Ranger (later the Green Power Ranger). A very cool guy, and a class act all around. Also one of the only Power Ranger actors to professionally survive their experience and go on to another job in the industry, this time as a voice actor. He’s done the roles of Vash the Stampede, from “Trigun”; and Mike (or Maiku, if you prefer) from “Onegai Twins”. The entertainment value alone from him was priceless. Then it was onto the acts.

The AX Idol contest is divided between voice acting and singing. This year, rather than have the voice actors choose something to act out, they instead, had them actually perform a dubbing session with the directors/judges of various anime. Bang Zoom was directly supporting and hosting it this year, and so, brought all their cool gadgets to do this with. Singing, is of course, singing. The only rule for the songs was that they had to be in some anime or video game type of show. I expect that would mean one could sing, “I Was Born to Love You” by Queen, since that showed up in “Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon” if they were so inclined.

It’s also important to note that Lance Henrickson came out on stage and talked to the audience and to those who were in the contest. Mr. Henrickson has been doing a lot of VA work here recently. You can hear him in both “IGXP” and “Superman.” He came out on stage looking kinda burnt out, so I expect he’s doing the VA work mostly because it’s probably less demanding physically. He was pretty friendly and cool about everything, sharing anecdotes and encouragement to those participating. Personally, I wanted to ask him how fun it was to get cut in half by a Cynobite in “Hellraiser: Hellworld”.

The first act was singing, and it started out with a bang. Jose Sanchez came up and chose “Shine” from “Hellsing”. After he was done, I was ready to give him the prize right there, that guy kicked some serious ass; though everyone was mercilessly teasing him about the entire sex symbol joke he made in the audition for AX Idol. They recorded some of it, and played it for everyone…his statement that he was in this to be a sex symbol was recorded, heh. In fact, every single one of the acts this year was nothing short of outstanding, though there were definitely some better than the others. There were also some who picked songs that were really not suited to them as far as singing went; which the judges noted. They sang the songs well, but it would be like my bass singing voice singing “Only an Ocean Away” by Sarah Brightman…it don’t quite fit. In the end, it was Nickole Dixson who won with a song from “Ghost in the Shell: SAC”. As good as Jose was, Nickole was honestly that much better.

All the voice actors get a hat tip this time around. I loved all of them, and the judge/directors working with them in their live dubbing sessions were a lot of fun too. In the end, it was Giselle Torres who took it with her outstanding dub of Guu from “Jungle Wa Itsomu Hale Noichi Guu”. I didn’t realize who this was until at the very end when she won and said, “Well, I guess second time’s the charm!” This adorable lady performed a skit last year at AX Idol 2005 entitled “Chiyo-chan’s Day.” This was basically her performing the narration of the episode “Chiyo-chan’s Day” from the “Azumanga Daioh” anime. I swear, I never saw so many people up and just DIE from diabetic shock than I did that year. The shear adorable cute this girl exuded in her manner and voice was something that could have destroyed Unicron. Oh yeah, she had the power and the touch. This did not change in the least this year, only it seemed that either this young lady either grew up some or perhaps it was simply the outfit she chose to wear accentuated the fact, that not only is she cute, but was quite beautiful…and not nearly a child at all, heh. It was a well deserved win, and I’m glad she did.

My only question happens to be, is a guy is ever going to win this thing?

After this, I went back to the hotel and dropped off my filming gear, got back into costume and headed out again. Also at this time I managed to talk with this rather depressed looking cosplayer who honestly didn’t look like she was having any fun. Now I’m not sure how much this is accurate, but if this is to be believed, CLAMP will likely not ever be invited back to this convention again. People waited in line for HOURS to see these four girls in a rare public appearance…unfortunately, here’s what REALLY happened (again, if the girl I talked to is to be believed): They herded the masses into the main events hall, which took nearly an hour. Then they brought out the CLAMP girls and showed some preview of an anime based on their works, which anyone could have DLed from the ‘net at any time. After this, they had the girls in a prepared question and answer session from the list of questions that were chosen to be asked online at the AX Forums from what I understand. And that was it. No line of people going in and asking things out of the blue, no audience interaction at all. Just something we could have had posted in a web interview.

It was a big fuck you to the fans who wanted to, for lack of a better term, get in there and ‘play’ with their favorite manga-ka. No pictures, no interaction, oh…and my personal favorite, only a few people got to get a poster board (only that poster board) signed by CLAMP girls. No open autograph session. It’s no wonder that none of their signed stuff ever broke the grand mark at the charity auction event. I expect there were a lot of pissed off CLAMP fans this year. Makes me wonder why they even bothered to come, if they were going to pull this crap. Like I said, I’m betting they will never be invited back again. I can see why this girl was one morose fan.

Later on, I managed to get one of the pictures I’d been wanting: The Dark Priest and Sabre from “Fate – Stay/Night” in a group shot. The Sabre you see in the pic there was extremely friendly and rather enjoyed getting her picture taken with me. We also talked a bit about her costume. The silver armor portions were made of styrene, which she complained was warping and bending in this heat.

We stayed out there until people started filtering back to their rooms at their respective Hotels. Going back to the Hotel room, I had to dump my memory card's pics. Fortunately, Gensao brought his laptop, and we all used it as a place to store our digital treasures before we crashed for the night.

One thing I did forget to note, was the very first thing several of us did on Day 2. Early in the morning...well, early enough, it was listed on the anime viewing schedule, a dub of Pretty Sammy's TV series was to be shown. Note that I said a DUB of it was to be shown. Being fans of the series, as it's a spin off of the series that we all loved to death at one time, that being “Tenchi Muyo!”...not to mention featured cute Sasami as the main character, we had to go check this out.


Getting to the damn room was a minor quest in and of itself. It was in an obscure corner, and not very well labeled; yet find it we did. When we got in, we wound up watching an ep or two of Detective Conan, dubbed. I'm not really a fan of the series, but I know that many are; and it's very popular in Japan given it has over 400 eps and 11 movie. So we endured that, and managed to make it through to Pretty Sami.

Five minutes in, we got up and left. It wasn't that it was badly dubbed, you see, it was that it wasn't dubbed at all. I suppose it really was too much to hope that Geneon would have dubbed something like that. It's not like they paid much attention to who subbed it and how to begin with either. Seriously, QA in the industry has a lot to be desired sometimes, but here recently, you have to understand that a lot of times it's actually the Japanese license holder that's making the bonehead decisions anymore. This forces the US licensee to do something they'd otherwise rather not, but they do have to make money; of this there can be no doubt. And so, they go along with it...though they know how stupid it is. I mean, it's either they do it, or someone else will, and how will they make money off of it if someone else gets it?

Day 3:

Ah well, in any event, it was time for day three. Day three I dedicated myself to the pursuit of Rozen Maidens, specifically Suigentou, in the hopes to take photos with them, as that would be lots of fun. Especially for members of the channel; who I knew would enjoy the previous pics of Unlimited Desu Works, and the like. Unfortunately all I found was this lovely little Suiseiseki, who both watered me, and took a pic with me, though she was a little shy about that. She was utterly adorable though, and her costume was lovely...she fit the part perfectly.

Thing is I think the Rozen Maiden gathering was the day before, and I missed it entirely. As was the Sailor Moon gathering, and THAT is a riot of color I really wanted to get again this year. I missed them both though; however I DID wind up seeing the Xenosaga gathering, which kinda made up for it; but you know? It really sucks when you completely miss out on something you really wanted to see and have fun at.

Regardless, there was fun to be had, both inside and outside the convention. There was, however, a main event that I had to be ready for, and that was the Anime Expo cosplay. I'm probably the only person who makes their recordings available to the general public. All these press guys you see with the ability to record in the back and side? Good luck getting anything from them. Oh sure, someone somewhere probably knows somebody who has access to it, but for everyone else? There is no way in Hell. Tried posting inquiries on their forums...that failed. Tried asking their press department about others who might have access...that failed. Hell, I tried asking on the Somethingawful boards, a place I know has psychotic fanboys, about anyone else who might have recordings besides me (not to mention offering mine in exchange.) Nope, got laughed off those boards, and they will never get any of my recordings posted on their site again. So, honestly, there wasn't much way to get recordings of Anime Expo, and so I long ago decided to do it myself, and make it available to all.

What I've been doing in recent times is encoding and making a torrent link out of the event, and posting info to it on Tokyotosho. It's never been extremely popular, but it's been popular enough that I continue to do it; and if there's any special requests for it, say on the forums of Dragon's Anime, we've filled those as well. Imagine if someone had done it during the time in 2002 when Inoue Kikuko came out and sang for us? We've probably lost that memory for all time, and that's what cemented my desire to get a video camera to record these events.

So, anyway, I change out of my Dark Priest outfit, and hit up the aforementioned IHOP from expense Hell, before continuing on to the line of the Cosplay with several friends. The great thing about going with this many people is that we can always secure at least ONE seat at the middle-edge which is the best spot for recording. This year, I was going to use my Tiffen Steady Stick, which allowed people to use themselves as a tripod, and thus, eliminates that problem about setting up a tripod in the middle of the walkway. Fire hazard, you see. But, recently, Anime Expo has been a little more lax in these matters, and so it was decided that I use my tripod and mechanical turret. The damn steady stick lost a few parts anyway...I may just retire it.

So, how was it? Put bluntly, this was the best Cosplay I'd seen since '99. And it was the best video I ever recorded...I say this without a hint of ego or pride; this is the best I've ever done. I think perhaps I should invest in a microphone later, but right now...there really is no need.

What was fantastic about this Cosplay was that the second half was just as bad ass as the first. The second half consists of live shows, such as the martial arts event, and the two former AX Idols who came out to sing for us; not to mention the Japanese drummer group that came out and really rocked the place. Heh, I suppose this spared Brad DeMoss from entertaining us again this year...that man deserves...something grand for his performance in pacifying the ravenous crowds of AX before, during, and after the Masquerade.

What made the first half so badass, I have to admit, was the fact that there was almost nothing sacred...and people went for broke. There was the Tonkatsu brothers and their rendition of the Leaves of Happaness...I was scared for life. There was the Alucard and Ceres skit, which was suitably gothy and sensual. And there was also the Power of the Clow skit which had to be seen to believed...believed that anyone would actually DO such a thing. Honestly, the creativity and skill that was demonstrated this year was top notch and without a doubt, made the Masquerade the single most entertaining thing about the entire convention in my not so humble opinion.

Heh, the only problem with the Cosplay, is AFTER the Cosplay, when you try to get pictures of all those that played a part in the event. Many times, people will only wear their costumes for this event, as they won't risk damage...or the lessening of surprise. Still, there are those that wear their costumes the next day for people to take photos of, but you won't see everyone.

In any event, it was time to head back to crash. I decided to try to move the pics I had taken to my external harddrive I had thoughtfully brought, via Gensao's laptop. Slight problem though...I brought the wrong type Firewire cable with me. Fortunately Mayhem bailed us out with this all in one cable he brought with him. That's going to be an item I'll have to acquire as soon as reasonably practical.

I think Gensao might have checked out the dance about this time. I'll probably be doing that next year, as one of those things that I don't get to do often in the usual scramble for AX, that I'll make time for this coming year by skipping the normal events. We'll see. In any event, I for one, crashed.

Day Four:

So...day four. The final day, the day when everything is far more relaxed. All the main events are out of the way, most of the panels and such are done...typically everything is winding down; and you can feel it like a miasma in the air.

Walking around as The Dark Priest, I found several kinky girls who liked to perform S&M on my person for some reason in public...today was no exception to that, and Mayhem delighted in taking pictures of my forceful submission. He's getting it next year, that's for sure.

I was still looking for Rozen Maiden cosplayers, which I did find, but still no Suigentou. I guess it wasn't meant to be this year...which is too bad. In a recent photoshoot with another Loli of my acquaintance, I found The Dark Priest was an excellent, if a bit kinky, compliment to her, and she seemed to get a kick out of it as well. However, I DID find one of the Sabre's that I'd taken pics of before, and got of a pic of me bowing to her...hehehehe, she looks so nonplussed in this pic.

I think the highlight of the whole day was the Lolita gathering, whereby I took several pics of several girls (interspersed with various others in those pages, heh) in several of the various Lolita styles; though not as many as I'd have liked. I'd honestly like to do an outdoors photoshoot with them one of these days, but this was rather nifty too. I felt sort of like Steve Irwin...photoing the Lolis in their natural habitat, interacting with others of their kind, heheheheh.

Eventually though, it was time to start packing it up, which is what I did in the early afternoon. A lot of people bail about this time, and I was one of them, having work the next day. So I met Gensao and co at the charity auction, and watched as CLAMP's items never broke the grand mark. I also watched the MC auction off his water...that was funny. They had AX rebranded water this year...no, I don't know why. There was honestly nothing I took any special note of in this auction, not like former years, but I expect others may have found it more interesting than myself.

Once that ended, it was time for me to go. I bid my farewells to Gensao, Mayhem, and the rest; and headed out to my truck where I loaded all my stuff up and took off on that hour and a half trip back to San Diego.

The convention this year was a lot of fun. Like I said before, I accomplished absolutely dick in terms of anything constructive, outside of the videos I took, but that's what made it so fun. The costumes get better and better every year, and the cosplayers are some of the friendliest and enthusiastic bunch of people you will ever meet. They love what they do, and they love the attention they get...it's honestly why they do it. Hell, it's why I did it, though I certainly wasn't as popular as some. I met my friends, which is something I don't often get to do...sometimes only at this convention and only for a few minutes to hours, but even that small amount of time is worth it, and precious. Hell, I got to hang out in a place that was, for a brief few days, nothing but a celebration and socialization event with people very much like myself; and as much a geek as I am, if not more. It's a place where everyone is welcome and everyone belongs no matter who or what you are in the more 'normal' world. It's a fantastic thing, and I'm happy to have been just one small part of it.

I will note one thing in closing. It was otaku mating season again this year...lord, was it otaku mating season. Hook ups were happening all over the place, and if I'd been free at the time, like I am now, I would have taken one of those friendly fangirls up on their offer. I may just do a documentary on that one of these days, “The Mating Habits of the Otaku.” If nothing else, it'll certainly put to rest the myth that fanboys and fangirls aren't interested in sex, once and for all...and probably cause several cases of cerebral hemorrhaging, but hey...if you want to make an omlet...


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