Monday, July 6, 2015

Con-Man: Anime Expo '15 Friday

Happy belated 4th of July! Hopefully you're recovered from a long weekend of celebrating the colonies and independence. For the pre-4th Holiday Friday it was time to roll out to Downtown, Los Angeles for my first full on experience at Anime Expo. But honestly after 8 hours at the show, I didn't even soak it all in, there's just that much going on. The Los Angeles Convention Center was hopping with religious protestors, food trucks, cars trying to park (TIP: Take an Uber!) and attendees waiting for their badges. The volunteers were hardcore about the crowd walking ON the taped lines, not between them, that's a new one for me. But the queue moved quickly and before you knew it, we were inside. In the lobby you had throngs of photographers and cosplayers, merchandise booth and huge banners for video games and cartoons.

The exhibit hall was packed with vendors from end to end. Not being an anime expert, much of it was familiar yet unfamiliar to me. Lots of Attack on Titan, Sailor Moon and Dragonball Z, video game giant Capcom had the latest Street Fighter set up while Bandai hocked toys then Funimation and Hulu showed off the latest animated series available. Figurines and models of Godzilla, Ultraman and Gundam filled booths while there was a surprising abundance of wigs and weapons. Wigs for all of the fantasty riffed cosplay characters and weapons like samurai swords, nunchucks, airsoft guns and fake brass knuckles for...whatever. Artist Alley was hopping with oh so many prints and sketches and my personal favorite; beaded magnets of 8-bit characters. One booth had giant Street Fighter characters like Zangief and Ken but not much in terms of Chrono Trigger. Then you had a guy walking around with a saxophone, playing the opening bars of George Michael's Careless Whisper. One of my anime expert friends will have to fill me in on that one...

Over in another exhibit hall was again the cosplay backdrops of bed and class rooms, the top of a building, Gothic cemetery and Japanese garden among others. Dozens of tables were set up for gaming and a small quarter operated arcade had favorites like Time Crisis, Terminator 2 pinball and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. A video game hall of fame was also in full effect with every home system imaginable set up for your playing pleasure. Taking a break, we people watched for a bit and realized every few attendees was carrying a stuffed animal or prop cane/sword/giant gun around. I also noticed that the demographic at AX was a little younger than your typical convention with many looking in their 20's and hardly a parent taking their child in sight. Lots of men dressing like female characters aka CrossPlay, lots of Pokemon and one group as Batman and villains.

I wondered how food set up worked for AX as many of the convention dining venues were closed. Outside there were a good two dozen trucks slinging food but we opted to walk a couple blocks over to L.A. Live. Just like Seattle and Emerald City, The Yardhouse was our lunchtime savior as it wasn't very crowded so it was time for some specials and Jameson Mules. Going back to the show, we opted to walk the floor some more and see basically every aisle. There was a wedding venue set up from a new anime that shows you just how deep the imagination and role play runs in these series. By my estimation there was only one booth selling garden variety Marvel and DC comic books as the bulk of vendors had manga and the ol' adults only hentai. Programming ran all day and into the wee morning hours with screenings, panels and separate ticket concerts. Would have loved to have sat down for some Cowboy Bebop but the timing just didn't sync up. To cap off the night in Downtown we headed to Little Tokyo's Wolf & Crane for some dranks ($5 Happy Hour!), way too much delicious food at Ebisu (Shrimp Shumai!) and some video games over at Eighty-Two (Sunset Riders!). With Anime Expo scheduled to take place in Los Angeles for the next five years, I'll be back next year ready to tackle more of the amazing show.

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