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And thus ends another Anime Expo… (Updated)

small.jpgI write this from our tiny hotel room at the Kawada, on the eve of AX Day 4, after an enforced 4 hour-ish nap.  Anime Expo 2010 was another phenomenal event.  Some among our panelists will disagree (and I’m sure they’ll elaborate during our inevitable Panel Review of Doom, which we’ll try to get to within the next week or two).  Me, I still think AX has a place in the grand scheme of things, and I’ll keep on going.  (But then again, I don’t mind the crowds, which I think is their main complaint with AX).

What I did have issue with is the sudden fee hikes.  Pre-reg was a whopping $75 per this year, and while I don’t specifically recall last year’s pricing, I think that this year the increase was rather sharp and sudden.  The general tone of the event was “nickel and dime.”  People staying at con hotels were no longer given complimentary event tickets and were forced to purchase tickets to the events that they wanted to go to.  They once again charged for shuttle service (although they did throw in free shuttle service as a last minute gesture to 4-day attendees, which I thought was a nice gesture.)  The Meet the Guests reception tickets took a sharp increase ($50 as opposed to somewhere around $25-30 last year); I also hear that they cheaped out on the food.  What did it for me was them charging $1.99 for the iPhone app.  Good on them for making an iPhone app — and a fantastic app it was — as well as the SCHED system, which was quite usable from most other smartphones; but charging $1.99 for it along with all the other price hikes seemed a bit crass to me.

Speaking of shuttles, because of an incident that happened (more on that later) we were unable to use the shuttles for the majority of our stay; however according to friends, apparently the shuttles were once again running late fairly regularly.  Also, honestly, some of those buses should really be put out to pasture.  Seriously.

The staff, on the whole, was friendly and largely knew what they were doing; on those occasions when they didn’t, they went out of their way to work with us to find the solution to our problem.  Their one weak point is still in the disabled services department.  It was a challenge finding exactly where to go, and then trekking halfway across the convention center to get there.  They should really integrate disabled services as part of the standard registration process.  Also some staff were confused as to the meaning of the “priority access” badge inserts that us disabled attendees received.  We were turned away from and/or denied priority seating at a few events because of this confusion.  Fortunately once additional staffers who knew what was going on arrived, we were seated without further delay.  I believe these may be the same as the “AX Premier” badges, so perhaps those people had trouble as well.

However, we did have issue with the convention center staff.  Oh, the ones we interacted with were friendly enough. Our problem was that there just weren’t enough of them.  Specifically security.  This is thanks to some serious budget cuts at the LACC.  As a result there was quite a bit of horsing around going on, which can be very dangerous, especially around stairs and elevators and the like. Sadly, this resulted in one of our panelists receiving a rather serious injury.  Nothing permanent, thankfully, but it still involved a rather expensive and nasty trip to the hospital on the wrong side of town…

Another thing we had issue with… What the frak is it with the vuvuzelas?  They were EVERYWHERE, and practically every 30 seconds I was hearing that most abhorrent noise that sounds like a cross between a pair of yaks in heat, and a pair of yaks dying an excruciatingly painful death.  Super annoying!  I seriously wanted to run up to every vuvuzela wielder, yank it out of their hands, and shove the thing… right up a very dark and personal space, if you catch my drift.  This is frakkin’ Anime Expo, NOT the World Cup.  And unless you’re cosplaying someone from Captain Tsubasa, they have no place here.  Hell, even if you were cosplaying as someone from that series, I still think they’re inappropriate, because I don’t ever recall seeing them there.  Gahhhh!!!!

This year marks the return of the Nokia Theater as the venue for the main events (AMV, Masquerade, and concerts).  This was fantastic, as the Nokia Theater has excellent stadium-style sloped seating (makes taking pictures that much easier, less of a chance of someone’s head getting in your way), and their sound and video system is phenomenal.  In 2008 (the last time Nokia Theater was used) we had some trouble with the staff not knowing at which events photography was allowed at — we were harassed for taking pictures at Masquerade. We also had trouble with getting disabled assistance and bag check.  Not this year.  The Nokia Center staff conducted themselves with professionalism and courtesy, and we weren’t hassled at all over photography or any other issue.

The events themselves were terrific.  Each year I am constantly amazed at the creativity and talent of the AMV creators and the cosplayers.  Unfortunately we didn’t make it to the AMVs — we arrived after registration and badge pickup were closed for the day; however they rescreened all the videos on Saturday, and barring a minor technical glitch or two, it went off smoothly.  Masquerade also went smoothly, and actually started more or less on time (shocking, I know).  This year, rather than that same old masquerade host (whose jokes were honestly getting a wee bit old) Masquerade was hosted by a trio of MC’s.  They handled their job admirably, although the female MC was a bit ditzy for my taste

However, the highlight for me has to be Friday’s concert featuring Megumi Nakajima and May’n.  Fans of Macross Frontier will know these two names; Megumi Nakajima is the voice actress who provided both the speaking and singing voices for Ranka Lee , and May’n provided the singing voice for Sheryl Nome.  I recently had the pleasure of watching Frontier (I wrote about previously) and the music from this show really stood out in my mind.  Seeing these two perform on stage was a real treat.  They performed many of the songs featured in Frontier, including a really rousing rendition of “Lion” (my favorite opening theme from the series), a heartfelt acoustic version of “Diamond Crevasse,” and a truly moving performance of the haunting Vajra theme “Aimo.”  Sadly we missed the first half of the concert, but the part we did see was incredible.  Japanator has a great writeup, including some awesome pictures.

Oh yeah, there was that little matter of my two panels.  They went off beautifully.  Tech staff was extremely helpful and got us set up in a jiffy for both talks.  And — THERE WERE PEOPLE!!!  This especially shocked me at the 9 AM panel – with such an early schedule, on a Sunday morning, on lastday, and after a Saturday night’s drunken debauchery, I was expecting a rather miserable turnout.  I was pleasantly surprised.  There were at least 20 at the morning talk, and I’d say at least 50 at the afternoon talk.  Everyone I talked to found the information extremely useful and they had some great questions.  To those of you who attended, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.  The notes from the podcasting panel are already up; I’m still working on the photography panel notes (give me a few days – I still have to recover from AX) but they should be online by the end of the week.

What will probably take me a bit longer are pictures.  I shot over 2,000 pictures around the convention and at Masquerade.  (no, unfortunately I didn’t shoot OVER NINE THOUSAAAAAAAND…)  Those will take quite a while to properly edit.  In the meantime, Japanator has started posting some of theirs (and awesome ones at that), which you can feast your eyes on here and here.  (EDIT 2010-07-05: And here, and here as well.)  (EDIT 2010-07-06: Last two AX cosplay photo galleries from Japanator are finally up here and here.)  ANN has their own cosplay photo gallery, as well as a gallery of photos taken in the exhibit hall (dealer’s room) and around various parts of the con in general.

What will also take me a fair amount of time to digest is the news coming out of AX.  I simply did not have the energy to attend every panel I wanted to.  As I get the time, and as the fog of tiredness gradually lifts from my brain, I’ll go through the news items and latest releases and blog about the ones that interest me, adding my own spin on things; but in the meantime you can feel free to check out ANN’s and Japanator’s coverage of all things AX.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll crawl back into my cave and hibernate for a few more months…

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