Anime Expo 2011 July 12, 2011Posted by aggrogahu| in Conventions.
Anime Expo went all out for its 20th anniversary this year, and through luck, I won a free 4-Day pass to the celebration from a contest I entered online. It helped that only four people entered, but the point is that I suddenly found myself registered for the West Coast’s biggest anime convention two weeks before it was going to happen. Summer was about to get a lot more exciting.
I always viewed AX as the Mecca for con-goers across America, so I resolved to go all out by going as 1000% power Ayumu (Kore wa Zombie desu ka?). I can’t thank my friend enough for upgrading my cosplay, and although I couldn’t get her the autograph from Furukawa-san that she wanted, I hope that she gets pride in seeing images of a cosplay she made all over the internet.
5 pm my brother got off of work and we headed over to the convention center to pick up our badges. Pre-reg line wasn’t too bad considering AX’s reputation for lines; better than Kumoricon’s and definitely better than my brother’s horrible wait at Fanime’s at-con registration. We got our badges and swag bags and then decided to ask about tickets to Hatsune Miku’s US concert debut. As far as I knew, tickets for that sold out online as soon as they started selling them, but the fortune cookie I got the day before that read
You are going to take a chance in the near future and win
told me that it wouldn’t hurt to ask. Turns out they reserved extra Miku tickets (now priced at $40) for purchase at-con. It was too soon to celebrate though because we had to endure the Ticketing line first and then hope they didn’t sell out again. About an hour later, we almost reached the front of the line when they announced that they were capping the Miku tickets for the night and were going to continue selling the rest of them Friday. We weren’t disheartened, but the bigger problem was that Aniki had to work again the next morning and the policy was one ticket per badge. We asked staff if I could get two tickets myself as long as I had Aniki’s badge and photo ID with me, and in true anime con fashion, we got two different and conflicting answers, so this was where I really had to take a chance.
7:30 am Aniki dropped me off and from there I was on my own at AX in my Ayumu cosplay. I had to get used to the stares again, but I was more concerned about getting to Ticketing and getting back in line. It was then that I started to believe in AX’s reputation for long lines. I was able to keep myself entertained during the hour and a half wait outside in the sun though. On their way to the Red Carpet event, most of the Guests of Honor walked right in front of those of us who were towards the front of the line. I had a little trouble trying to find and identify Furukawa-san, but it was obvious once I saw the Ace (One Piece) shirt he was wearing, and all the while I was looking and trying to identify him, I realized he was looking at me just as surprised as I was (for a different reason). Our eyes met and we exchanged smiles.
9:15 am I picked up two Miku tickets \(^o^)/. With that victory behind me, I get my chainsaw peace-bonded and get in another line to wait for Furukawa’s panel.
One of Furukawa’s first orders of business at the panel was reciting a typical line from Hokuto no Ken (Fist of the North Star):
Going into the panel I was little flustered having just finished my second serving of long convention line, so Furukawa-san reciting one of the most ridiculous lines in anime history caught me off guard and had me laughing in disbelief. Furukawa talked about action anime mostly, explaining how seiyuu got creative with the battle yells (because saying “ATATATA” all the time got boring). He and the other seiyuu resorted to random phrases like yelling whatever they saw lying around the studio or yelling what thoughts they had while taking a shower earlier that morning. Many of these takes made it into the actual dub, while other times the director would ask, “Did you just say (omelet with rice)?”
At the end of the panel, he talked about his figure collection, which was quite impressive. Overall, it was easy for me to relate to Furukawa and the panel was very entertaining despite me not being too familiar with his work. Like I mentioned before, I wasn’t able to get his autograph because you had to win the raffle in order to get one. Seems my fortune ran out.
Afterwards I browsed around the exhibition hall for a bit before waiting in line for the Miku keynote. Holy crap was the exhibition hall huge, and holy crap was it crowded. It was probably because it had just opened, but waves of bodies were trying to squeeze through the doors, and it didn’t help that people were asking for my picture. While I was wandering around I stumbled upon the booth for FAKKU! (website for anime/manga health material) and was able to get a picture with the infamous Jacob.
Waiting in line for the Miku keynote, I had a nice conversation with a Japanese dude about Vocaloids in general and the band supercell. I usually only have small talk with the random people I met in line, but I had a lot of fun chatting with him, despite him not having the best English. Once the line started moving, Aniki called saying he got off work early, and since I had his badge, I had to leave the line and meet him so he could get in.
We made it back to the Miku keynote, and the hall wasn’t packed or anything so we walked right in, wondering whether there’s a point to waiting in these lines. The panel allowed me to brush up on Vocaloid history, culture, and fan base, and it served as a general explanation for Aniki as to what the hell was all this hype about a singer who wasn’t even real. They also talked about upcoming projects like the English language Vocaloid and the launch of the social networking site Mikubook.
Afterwards, we stopped by one of the viewings for The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya (English dubbed, set for release September 20th). We came in about two-thirds into the movie, but I saw it subtitled when it came out so I was mostly watching it to see how certain lines and scenes would translate in the dub**. Aniki had no knowledge of the series going into it, but I was hoping he’d at least enjoy the climax of the movie where a certain humanoid interface goes beserk, but he missed that when he took a bathroom break.
We finished the day by waiting in line and attending the Danny Choo panel. If you don’t know who Danny Choo is, he’s the guy with the job that every otaku wishes he/she had. He talked about his show Culture Japan and how he’s promoting his mascot character Mirai Suenaga. It’s smart because his approach to Mirai is similar to the Vocaloid brand, so I hope to see Mirai as an anime idol in the future. The rest of his talk was about time management and life decisions, which I was turned off to at first, but I got a lot out of his advice. Danny is all about living for your passion and that’s a message that I’ll take with me beyond the convention.
We got to the convention center quite late in the afternoon, but all I really had planned for the day was to get what I wanted from the exhibition hall and then the Miku concert at night. I wanted to get the Mirai figma ($45) because there was a deal where if you bought her you could get another figma half off. Ultimately I decided against this because the selection for the other figmas at the booth were limited so I would end up paying quite a bit for two figmas that I didn’t really want all that much (sorry Danny, but the KidNEMO booth was charging a little too much for their figmas). I ended up getting an Ararararagi figma at another booth. The only other thing I bought was a stationery set so I could send letters to tsundere-chan in Missouri.
While at the exhibition hall, other shenanigans ensued.
- A bolt came loose from my chainsaw (luckily I saw it fall to the ground before I started walking off) so I opened the chainsaw up and performed some quick surgery to fix it up (I knew carrying around duct tape was a good idea).
- There was a sequence of me running into awesome cosplayers back-to-back. The funny part was that we all came up to each other wanting to take pictures of each other. It started with an Ika Musume, then a Mizore (R+V), and then a Shiro (Deadman Wonderland) who was probably my favorite cosplay of the convention. I just thought this was awesome because it was like a large chain of mutual appreciation among fans, and all the girls were really friendly.
- I went to the niconico.com booth. I love going on the stream because the comments are always funny, and there’s the chance that someone you know might be watching. It’s always awesome connecting to someone like that who isn’t physically there.
Before the concert, Aniki and I were in line at the bag check (because there’s no way I could bring a chainsaw into Nokia Theater). We realized that they’re charging for holding on to your items, so we got the brilliant idea of simply leaving our stuff in the car. Not the most interesting story, but seriously WTF? AX charges for their bag check?!?!
We got to Nokia Theater and surprise! More lines. It was assigned seating so the only difference it made was that I had to shimmy my way (with my poofy skirt) past more people in our row to get to our seats. Two Danceroid girls were on stage dancing along to Vocaloid songs while people were getting seated, so the music was already blasting and everyone already had their glowsticks out. The atmosphere got me hype for the concert. Danny Choo came out with Mirai-adorned glasses to announce the beginning of the concert. The lights went down. The band got on stage and played some teaser music. Then the drummer started counting-in at a tempo of a familiar song.
As expected, Miku slowly rose out of the floor singing the opening lines to “World is Mine.” I was a bit disappointed at that moment because the image of Miku wasn’t as bright as I thought it was going to be, but I started rocking out, because it’s the fucking US debut concert of virtual idol Hatsune Miku. I took in the whole atmosphere, glowsticks waving everywhere, and saw Miku there on stage dancing for all of her American fans. It was such a pathetic otaku moment, but it was so awesome.
I could tell that the organizers put a lot of effort into making this show a success. I would’ve been fine with just a slightly modified version of the Giving Day concert (Miku’s first live performance), but they made sure that Miku’s US debut would be unique. I was only familiar with about four of the songs from the concert, but they chose a good variation, and they were all ridiculously catchy. Some of my personal highlights from the concert in general include:
- PoPiPo – Yes, the song about vegetable juice was one of my favorite songs of the concert. It’s just way too happy to not like. The choreography for this is so utterly cute. Don’t forget “Pii~~~~~~~~~~~~~~!!!”
- The Disappearance of Hatsune Miku – There are a couple of Vocaloid songs that just won’t work with human voices for one reason or another, whether it’s range or ridiculous speed at which it’s sung, like this song. It’s one of the other songs I recognized. I’ve always liked how the inhumanly fast parts actually convey the theme of the song. On top of that, Miku’s costume change and the visual effects in general accompanied this song very well.
- When the other Vocaloids would come on stage – They played their entrances very well. Right after The Disappearance of Hatsune Miku where the image of a broken/uninstalled Miku faded into static, a spotlight started floating around. As it passed across different parts of the screen it would show short glimpses of Rin and Len dancing, which caused everyone to cheer. Then you hear “Hey, Rin. Are you ready?” “OK. Come on, ikuyo!” On a side note, Rin’s two-step was really cute because the bow on her head would bobble every so slightly with each step. Anyways, after Rin’s last song, her image turned into a floating yellow light that flew around and quickly turned purple, so people knew that Luka was coming out. When she appeared she went straight into the chorus of Just Be Friends, waving her arm in the air side-to-side, causing the audience to do the same.
Waiting in line to the concert, Aniki told me that he was telling his friend about the concert, and she asked him why they didn’t just use a real singer (to which he had no answer). My first response is that it’s about the culture. It started with users having easy access to software that added a voice to music. That voice was and is Hatsune Miku’s, so having someone else sing her music wouldn’t be true to the culture and to the users. People came to see the Miku that they’ve heard perform in countless user-generated songs posted on the internet. My second point, which is easier to understand, is that the Vocaloids are to human singers as anime characters are to human actors. In view of this comparison, it’s obvious as to why a Vocaloid concert would be so popular among anime fans. Especially at conventions, where cosplay brings anime to life, virtual characters performing in a live setting feels very much alive.
For only having attended two days, I sure had a lot to say. This was such a once-in-a-life-time experience, and all the events surrounding and leading up to it make it feel like I was playing with fate by coming to AX. Then again, having so much to say about two days is also an indication of a lot of things I missed out on that took place the following days. Nevertheless, spending time with family is first and foremost. Without family, this weekend would have never happened.
Thanks and Shout-outs to…
- Aniki – for one of the best birthday presents ever.
- SogeQueen-Perona – for the awesome cosplay.
- Thanks to anyone who’s gone to a con with me – for getting me addicted to going to cons.
- Anyone I met and chatted with (whether small talk or long discussions) – for being friendly and helping me pass the time in long AX lines
- People on the internet – while sometimes you abuse your anonymity, most times I am endlessly amused by it, then eventually we becomes friends irl.
** Disappearance Dub Translations (SPOILERS)
- Kyon is lying on the floor slowly passing out from the knife wound as the two Mikurus, young and old, appear to him. In Japanese Kyon thinks “Asahina-tachi… tachi?” (tachi is the suffix to indicate plural) which indicates Kyon refers to them in the plural, but then quickly questions himself as to why he’s seeing two of them. In English, Kyon just emphasized it like “Asahinas… AsahiNAS?” Since this is just Kyon’s inner thoughts, I would’ve liked them to deviate from the original line and make it more localized, since they didn’t have to match mouth flaps.
- Kyon and Nagato are talking on the roof-top. In Japanese Kyon says “Yuki” and Nagato looks up because that’s the first time he refers to her by her first name, but snow (or Yuki in Japanese) begins to fall. In English Kyon says “Yuki…*snow falls* means snow doesn’t it?” Yes, Kyon, it means snow. This scene is a very hard one to localize, but I think they did the best given the difficulty.