Sunday, July 6, 2014

Con-Man: Anime Expo

Following this years Emerald City Comicon, Calgary Expo and BotCon, it was time to attend yet another new convention, Anime Expo.  AE has been around Northern and Southern California since 1991 and has recently taken residency in Anaheim and now Downtown Los Angeles.  With a childhood filled with comic books, Anime was around but never my forte.  Sure I've checked out Street Fighter: Victory, Vampire Hunter D, Gundam Wing, The Big O and Cowboy Bebop but that's about the extent of my anime consumption.  A friend is a staff photographer for AE and got me hip to the fact that they open the doors to the Exhibit Hall for free after 4:00PM.  Check out his bitching photography and Anime thoughts.  With nothing to lose and some awesome swag to gain and sights to see, we headed downtown for a movie and the show.

It was a very Comic-Con'esque experience as it was a hot day out, there were throngs of people about and the hall was CROWDED.  At least 20 food trucks were parked outside and across the street so there were plenty of attendees milling about waiting for ice cream and fries as well as the obligatory Bible thumpers who show up at every highly attended event.  We had just seen them in Anaheim at WonderCon where Con-goers fed the trolls and protested the protestors with funny signs and costumed antics.  I wonder if these guys show up to sporting events?  Lots of people go to those...The Los Angeles Convention Center is a huge space and the perfect location for a big show.  Ample parking, lots of neighboring restaurants and attractions with plenty of exhibit hall space laid out over several wings and buildings.  Surprisingly, Anime Expo only goes until 6:00PM so we walked the floor for 2 hours but it felt like 30 minutes.  Right away I was taken aback by the heat inside the hall, the sea of people and the whiffs of B.O.  Booths were selling toys and figurines, animated cels, statues, model kits, video games and clothes like any convention but AE vendors swap comics for manga and had a real penchant for stuffed stuff like cute animals and characters from page and screen.  Artist Alley was great and I picked up a pixel magnet of Chrono from Chrono Trigger!  I figured I'd see some recognizable video game swag and in my mind wondered if I'd find something from SNES classics from Japanese masters Square Co. Secret of Mana or Chrono Trigger.  90's memories yo.  Literally sitting in my room in Ohio, listening to Oasis' Be Here Now on my 3 disk CD changer and playing Chrono Trigger.  Those were the days, huh?  Anyways, this vendor had them in spades with awesome, straight from the game looking versions of Chrono, Frog, Robo, Ayla and more.  It was kind of a trip to be talking to a fellow fan at the booth who seemed to be a good 10 years younger than me about a video game that came out in 1995.  But hey, fans are fans no matter what age and he let me know that I grabbed the last Chrono.

With the show closing so early and my friend not being needed until 8:00PM for the Cosplay masquerade, we wandered around and grabbed some grub then he escorted us into another wing.  There, the organizers had set up half a dozen scenes from various anime for photo opportunities.  You had a bedroom, a classroom, Arabian Night motif, prison, woods and more.  It was a really cool thing to see and a clever traffic diversion.  In the same space were arcade games free to play, sit down console gaming and a huge area for table games like Magic: The Gathering.  That, plus programming and night time events?  Damme Anime Expo, I may have to up my intake just to be in the same book and attend next year as more than a simple casual fan.  My friend explained to me about this skinless, muscle guy walking around was from a show called Attack on Titan so I went ahead and added that to my Netflix queue.  At every show you notice certain things, at this one it was an abundance of cute and cuddly stuffed/plush animals and characters, colorful wigs, Sailor Moon outfits and men dressing as female characters which I was informed is not drag but CrossPlay, get it?  A very packed and exhausting evening and we were only there for a few hours!  A nice warm up for Comic-Con in 3 weeks.  See you in San Diego!

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