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17 July 2014 @ 12:42 pm
Giant Anime Expo 2014 Recap Post  
I finally got around to writing up something about Anime Expo that _wasn't_ just the AMV Contest!

Day 0 - Wednesday, July 2nd: Long Line For Badges

I left work a little early on wednesday to go wait in line for my badge. The original plan was i would get there about 3:00, hopefully be done sometime between 5 and 6, and then head down to Hermosa Beach for the usual wednesday night trivia.

Well i got there at 2:45 and there was already a huge line. I was a little disappointed that getting there before the official opening of the badge line at 3 didn't help me beat the crowd at all, but i wasn't that surprised. (And my original time estimate was based on a "regular" sized line anyways.)

So 3 rolled around, and the line just stood there. 3:30. 4. (Thankfully sometime between 3:30 and 4 the sun went behind the convention center, meaning i got only a mild sunburn.) At 4:30 the front of the line started to move, yay! Except it was mostly a false alarm. Just a small trickle of people advancing. Finally around 5 we finally got word that the computer system was down. They were processing some people by hand, but obviously they did not have the setup to do that anywhere near efficiently enough to get through the current line in anything approaching a reasonable time.

At some point during this process we figured out there was no way i was going to make it to triva at a reasonable time, so Avalyn decided to come up and join me in line instead our original plan of having her get her badge thursday afternoon before the AMV Contest.

Avalyn arrived right after we found out the system was down. (Football!) She held down our place in line while i went to find a bathroom, check on AMV Contest ticket status, and get a drink. It turns out that despite what was implied on the AX website there were no AMV tickets being sold before thursday, and it turns out the food truck that had been around earlier had shut down, so i had to walk two blocks to find someplace i could get a diet coke.

All in all i was probably away from the line for at least 15 to 20 minutes, but when i got back it still hadn't really moved at all. Finally around 5:50 they got the computer problems resolved and the line actually started moving for real. We spent the next 2 hours serpentining back and forth, observing the costumes and t-shirts of the people on either side of us.

When we got to the front there was one last little technical glitch. As usual they had rows of computers set up for people to scan their barcodes with. However when they successful scanned a barcode they didn't show anything on the screen, they just beeped. Even if it was only Day 0 it was still fairly noisy in the hall and it was kind of hard to hear the beeps, and hard to tell if it was your computer that beeped or the one next to you, especially when you're kind of expecting a visual cue rather than an audio one. Both Avalyn and i got confused about whether our codes had successfully scanned or not, and were standing at our respective computers trying to rescan our barcodes until they called out our name at the kiosk at the end. To be fair, even if they processed people through the barcode scanning part faster they'd just bottleneck at the printing kiosk, but it still seemed kind of annoying and inefficient.

So we finished up with getting our badges and got out of the hall almost exactly at 8. Since it was day 0 and there wasn't anything else to do except people-watch we decided to just head home, where we had a late "dinner" and then went to bed.

Oh yes, and since i was expecting the whole line process to "only" be 2-3 hours long i wore my birkenstocks for the day. Instead i spent almost 5 hours in line plus the 20(?) minute hike to go get something to drink, and at some point i noticed i'd actually worn holes in the top of my left foot where the strap goes across. So when we got home i spent a little time cleaning the sores and applying liquid bandage. Which really really hurts. But hopefully less so than having uncovered wounds rubbing inside my shoes for the whole rest of the con.

Day 1 - Thursday, July 3rd: AMV Room & AMV Contest

Avalyn didn't have enough vacation time to take Thursday off, so she got up for work at the usual time, and i also got up so i could go wait in line for AMV Contest tickets.

Since the line didn't open till 9 and i had a much shorter drive than in past years i spent a little longer getting ready than usual, and still got to the convention center at 8:45. There were about 150 people in line when i got there and the line actually started moving shortly after 9, so i got tickets for Avalyn and i and was out of there by 9:45.

So pretty much the only event going on at 10am was the "AMV Showcase" in the AMV room, so i went up there and found... a line, of course. So i got in line and made it into the room and watched a bunch of AMVs. Of course in the room immediately after that was a set of action AMVs, so i decided to leave 5-10 minutes before the end of the showcase so i could get in line again. The line was already around the corner and down the hall and threatening to cut off the stairs and escalator, so they rerouted us into an empty room down the hall.

I decided to sit all the way through that one and give a pass on "AMV 101", because i was much more interested in the "AMV Creator Takeover" that was happening at 1:15. So i went and wandered around for a bit but when i came back to check on the status of the line for the Creator Takeover i found there wasn't one, there were still a lot of empty seats for AMV 101, and they weren't sure if they were going to clear the room in between, so i decided to take a risk and sit in for the last half of AMV 101.

This trend would continue throughout the con. Some AMV room panels were half full and others were past capacity. Usually they would reset the room but sometimes they wouldn't. You might feel dumb for waiting in line only to find the last third of the room empty when it started, or you might feel dumb for not getting in line early enough and not being able to get in.

This time my gamble paid off and i managed to grab a seat in the 3rd or 4th row, next to the table where they were running things. Which meant i got to overhear some commentary from the staff, and even more so once the Creator Takeover panel started. One of the creators sat down with her friends right behind me and were critically discussing the videos for the whole rest of the panel, which was interesting to overhear.

Once again they didn't reset the room for the next panel. "AMVs: The Music of the World", which was a bunch of AMVs done in different languages. A couple of them i recognized ("Hold Me Now"/"Hall Om Mig" and "Tainted Doughnuts" in particular) and some were all new. All in all they covered Japanese, Swedish, German, Russian, Italian, Spanish. Bengali, French, and Finnish. (I would not have remembered several of those, but luckily there was a playlist posted later.)

At that point it was 4 and Avalyn was supposed to be arriving after not too much longer, so i decided to go wander around for a bit. I took some pictures and also checked out what the registration line was like. It was huge. At least as long as it was when i'd arrived the day before. (Although i have no idea how long it got after i arrived, i pity the people who showed up at 6 pm after the line had been no moving for 3 hours.) So all in all it was probably a very good thing that Avalyn had come up the day before to get her badge then.

Avalyn showed up right around 5 and we decided to go grab dinner at the Yard House before getting in line for the AMV Contest. (The tickets specified a specific row in a specific block, but not an individual seat, so we wanted to get a good spot in the row.) We got in line around 7:30 and i think they started letting the line in around 8:30. We were the first people in our row, so we got to grab aisle seats, meaning Avalyn wouldn't really be blocked by anyone sitting in front of her.

I've already posted about the AMV contest multiple times. Short version, there were some individual videos that were excellent, and is usually the case the comedy section was quite good. But overall the contest was a bit of a disappointment after 2013, which was a high-water year for the contest.

The show wrapped up around midnight and we thought about going to the dance, but instead decided to just go home and crash.

Day 2 - Friday, July 4th: AMV Room, Exhibit Hall, and Dinner With Neonelephant

Friday was pretty much a free day. We got there moderately earlyish, around 10:00 or 10:30 i think? And got in line for the reshow of the AX 2004 AMV Contest. It was either 2005 or 2006 that i found out what AMVs were and started going to the contest (thanks to jmpava and neonelephant) so i'd never actually seen this one before.

We were quite near the front of the line so we got very good seats. (Right up near the projector on the inside aisle, so Avalyn had a clear view.) Before they started Vlad (i think) gave us a rundown on what was going on back in 2004. Kingdom Hearts, FLCL, Kingdom Hearts, [something-or-other], and Final Fantasy. And the popular band for AMVs was Linkin Park. That of course brought a number of groans and laughs from the audience, and someone shouting something along the lines of "hey! stop mocking my childhood!"

There were a number of very good videos from that year, "Disney in D(wchang) Minor", "Hale's Mom", and "Football" stood out. And seeing some of the old Kingdom Heart and FF10 videos was amusing. On the other hand this also turned out to be the year that had "Shattered Dreams", and even worse, "Cry Little Idol" *shudder*

Towards the end of the reshow a bunch of police came into the room and started shining flashlights under the chairs and behind the screens. The one closest to us was notable for having something like a shotgun strapped to his back. I might guess there had been a bomb threat or something like that, except that i'm pretty sure in cases like that they try to do an evacuation. (Maybe not the entire con, but certainly at least the room.) However after wandering around for a couple minutes they disappeared and nothing more was heard about it.

After the reshow was done we decided to go grab some lunch. The food truck situation at AX has expanded greatly over the last couple years. 4-5 years ago they had a couple trucks outside the con. Then i think 2 years ago they started using the parking lot across the street. This year they had trucks in that lot, and then more trucks in the next lot over (bracketing the Hooters) and yet more trucks right outside of South Hall. There was a pupusa truck we'd seen outside of South Hall the day before that i was interested in trying, but they weren't there so we went across the street instead. A couple of trucks i knew from OC were there (though sadly not the Lime Truck) so i got food from them while Avalyn went to India Jones for some vegetarian curry.

When we were done with lunch we swung by the AMV Room again to see if we could get in for the AMV Chef panel, but as expected it was quite full. So instead we went to check out the dealers' hall. We got about halfway through the hall, and Avalyn picked up a Soul Gem necklace since we'd just finished watching Madoka, when we got a text from neonelephant say he was there for the afternoon. He'd decided to pick up one of the "exhibit hall only" passes, which are apparently free but only let you in from 4 to 6. So we managed to find him around 4:15 or 4:30 and spent about an hour going through the rest of the hall with him. Around 5:30 we decided to break for dinner. Well, dinner for him, more of a snack for Avalyn and i since we'd had lunch earlier.

After we did dinner (at the Yard House again =) neonelephant headed home while Avalyn and i got in line for "Anime According to AMVs". It was fun, though as usual i think some of the people supposedly playing the game are "cheating" or unnecessarily hamming it up. And this year a couple of the videos were way too close to the original anime. I wonder if perhaps they already went through all the really good examples in the first couple years and are struggling to find more. The only one they repeated from previous years that i can recall was "Kanon in 5 Seconds."

So after that wrapped up around 9 we contemplated going to the dance but instead decided to call it a very early night and headed home. We got on the freeway right before 9:30, which turns out to be the time that just about every place in LA is doing their 4th of July fireworks show. So we got to (kinda) watch fireworks for the whole drive home, which was kind of cool.

Day 3 - Saturday, July 5th: DanceManiax, Cosplay Pictures, & Masquerade

We got back to the con around 10 or 10:30 again. This entire time we'd been walking past the giant game room downstairs in West Hall and i kept saying "we ought to go in there and take a look" but then forgetting or getting distracted by other things. So since we didn't have anything specific on the agenda and we were walking by we finally took the time to go in. Look, there's a huge array of tables with PCs on them, there's a bunch of tables with people playing various card games, and there's a small area with arcade games. Oh look, they have several DDR machines, too bad they don't have a DanceManiax machine. *walks around to other side* OMG THEY HAVE A DANCEMANIAX MACHINE!!!

So i got a handful of quarters and spent about an hour playing DanceManiax. There were a couple other people who showed up to play it at intervals, but i was playing probably every 2nd or 3rd game. According to Avalyn there was actually a small crowd actually watching me play at one point, but they'd dispersed by the time i finished that set so i never saw it. All told i played six and a half sets over that hour. (One person started a game and then decided halfway through they weren't any good at it and gave it up to me.) My arms were feeling pretty dead by the end of it.

I decided to swing by the Final Fantasy cosplay gathering at noon, but unfortunately got there a little late so i missed out on FF6 =/ I got pictures of all the rest though. Then to continue the trend we went to the Madoka cosplay gathering. Sadly the Madoka cosplay gathering was inside South Hall rather than someplace nice outside like the FF one was. So there was a smallish circle of people crowded around a bunch of cosplayers surrounded by a much larger crowd. They also weren't quite as organized about calling out combinations of people to come out.

By that point we were getting hungry and decided to do lunch. Happily the pupusa was back outside South Hall, so we grabbed food there. I got carne asada fries and a plantain empanada.

There were a couple panels we were thinking of going to around 2:30, but getting lunch had taken long enough (what with the waiting in line to order then waiting in line to get the food and then finally having to eat it) that we weren't able to get in any of those. So instead we went and waited in line for the 3:30 AMV Comedy showing.

The AMV Comedys were pretty good. I thought it was a little too reliant on short ojokes and AMV Hell type videos, but that may have worked well for Avalyn since she doesn't have a very deep background in anime yet.

It was close to 5 by that point and there wasn't a whole let we had time for before we wanted to get in line for the Masquerade (once again, the tickets specified block and row but not seat) so we went back to the game room. Avalyn thought i was pretty good at DanceManiax when i was playing in the morning, even though i told her i wasn't really that great. The group of people gawking at me apparently thought i was pretty good too. However now that it was later in the day the _real_ masters had shown up. One of the people from this morning was there (he was about as good as i am) but there were two other people there who blew us away. The four of us rotated through several times. I was doing okay on regular mid-tier Wild songs, they were doing the alternate "use all four pads at once" mode on Wild songs and _still_ doing pretty good! I think i got in another 4ish sets before we had to go.

The Masquerade started at 8 and we got in line just before 6:30. Obviously they were going to start letting the line in before that, but even so we still had some time to kill. We'd contemplated going to see the first three episodes of Toradora at one point, but we were either busy with someone else at the time or it had filled up. However we discovered it was on Hulu, which Avalyn has on her phone, and i had my not-quite-earbuds on me, so we ended up watching... i think it was most of the first two episodes before the line started moving.

When we got inside we were once again the first people in our row, so we were going to sit on the inside aisle. I'd "splurged" and paid $15 each for our tickets, so we were in the very front block in the sixth row back. However it turned out that the first five seats in the several of the front rows, including ours, were reserved for AMV creators. (It wasn't clear if that was just finalists in the contest, or anyone who submitted an AMV, or what.) So we had to move over. That could have been annoying if someone tall had sat in front of Avalyn. It could also have been awesome if we'd ended up next to Rider4Z or Vlad or Troy. But instead it seems not many of the AMV people showed up, so almost none of the reserved seats in our block were taken. There was no one next to us or in the reserved seats in front of Avalyn.

The announcer this year was Kyle Hebert. He's a voice actor and has been the MC before, but that's fine because he has pretty good stage presence. (Though i still look back fondly on the year where they had the two MCs, i think one of them might have been Kyle) who were able to riff back and forth successfully.

So in my experience no AX Masquerade is free of snafus. There's always at least some small technical or organizational glitch they have to work through. Your job as a member of the audience is to expect and enjoy that. (It definitely helps if you go out and drink a bit before the contest starts, but i forgot that we should do that, and it's not strictly necessary.) So this year they got off to an early start. They announced the second entry, a giant Gundam. He got into the little elevating platform at the side of the stage, along with a stage hand to handle the controls. They got to the top, the stage hand tried to open the elevator gate... and failed. He tried again. Someone came out to help him. They tried lowering the elevator a little. They tried raising it back up again. A third person came out to help. The announcer started humming the Jeopardy tune. Then a fourth person came out to help. Then the audio tech people started playing the Jeopardy tune over the speaker. All together this went on for a little over four minutes before they gave up and lowered him back down and brought on the next contestant.

They also played a little video segment before each contestant. It looks like a lot of them were actually recorded at the con itself, though some people sent in pre-recorded segments. That was the other big source of technical screw-ups other than the elevator. Sometimes they seemed to have trouble getting the clip started, sometimes they chopped the end off, i think at least once or twice they accidentally started the wrong clip, and for the interview type ones the sound was often off from the video by about a second.

There was an otherwise good Bravely Default skit where the sound got started early, then at the wrong part, and then they had to reset the whole thing while the Jeopardy track played.

But technical difficulties aside, there were a lot of good skits and costumes. The group that did Journey, the dancing Vash, the predictable The Fox skit was acutally well done, the Madoka skit,

And of course there were also a lot of great costumes that didn't have a skit to go along with them (and didn't have an elevator malfunction =) but those are a lot harder to remember.

After all the contestants were done they did the usual halftime show while the judging was going on. This year they got two different dance troupes to perform. The first one had a generic anime theme, with people changing into costumes of a wide variety of characters. The second group did an all Attack on Titan performance. Both groups were very awesome.

After the dance troupes were done the judging was still going on so they started playing AMVs. That started out okay, but after a couple good ones they played that drama/horror/dubstep one i don't like (Into the Labyrinth) and then they played two more that i either didn't like or thought were just meh, so we decided to go.

It was around 11 or 11:30 by that point. We went by the dance to see if we felt like going to that, but it had a pretty long line that was moving _very_ slowly. (The room was at capacity, so they were only letting more people in as other people left.) We might have felt up to spending awhile dancing if we could have just walked in but as it was we decided to just go home.

Day 4 - Sunday, July 6th: This Is A Lie

We got up on sunday and _thought_ about going in to the con. If we had, it would have been mostly for the "didn't quite make it into the contest" AMV showing, some more DanceManiax, looking for last minute stuff in the exhibit hall, and maybe going to the video game/anime concert they had going on that afternoon. But we decided we were kind of tired by that point and it would only be a half day anyways. So instead we decided to stay home and actually watch some anime instea. We watched another five or so episodes of Toradora, then we went out for sushi for dinner, and then we watched the first four or so episodes of Attack on Titan. It was a nice relaxing day.

So all in all Anime Expo was wonderful as usual, and even more so because i got to introduce Avalyn to it. She said she had a great time too, and especially seemed to enjoy the Masquerade.

This was the first year in a long time (possibly since i discovered it existed?) that i didn't go to any of the dances at all. I think that was a combination of two factors. First, perhaps counter-intuitively, the drive was much shorter than in any other years. When you live 10-15 minutes away it's no big deal. When you live 45-60 minutes away on the other hand you feel compelled to get as much out of the experience as you can. The second factor was that this was pretty much the first time i was going to the con with someone i was dating. (shelleycat managed to make it for one day a couple years ago, but that's it.) The option to go home with your SO is much more compelling than going home to an empty apartment.

For anyone who's interested, the entire list of what was played in the AMV Room was posted in the AX forums, though there are no direct links to the videos:
http://community.anime-expo.org/topic/18117-amv-room-2014-play-lists/

And here are a couple bits from the Masquerade:
Attack on Titan Dance Troupe, Part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jGJiRARk1L4
Attack on Titan Dance Troupe, Part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uu7dZ1W7wzw
Hetalia the Fox: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MqVRsIPcEW8
Vash Can Dance: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JX90DQoQWsE
One of the many Sailor Moon skits: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D9fsPF7-ZZE

Sadly it looks like there are no videos of the first dance troupe up yet, or of the other cool skits i mentioned.