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Anime Expo 2012, Day 0: And so it begins…

Anime Expo 2012: Day 0The best laid plans of mice and men… or so the old saying goes. We’d planned on arriving in Los Angeles sometime in the early afternoon so that we could leisurely pick up our press badges and catch at least some of the press conferences; but alas, it was not to be, thanks to a combination of having to do Real Work™ in the morning; and the most dreaded of all enemies to travelers – TRAFFIC. Didn’t end up getting to the hotel until well past 8 PM, and while press badge pickup was going on till 9, by then we were way too tired and just wanted to get checked in to our room and get settled in. So the badges will have to wait till tomorrow.

“Press conferences,” you might be saying. Yeah. Unlike last year, when select press establishments (such as yours truly) were granted some very intimate “one on one” time with the Guests of Honor, this year they decided to instead toss all the GoHs and all the press (that could fit) into a room for a series of free-for-all press conferences. I can sort of see why they chose to do this — with the doubtless high number of press attendees (thanks to their relaxing of their press admittance criteria, which we heartily praise BTW), it was no doubt impossible to grant GoH time to everyone who wanted it. (In fact, there were several GoHs we really wanted to interview last year but couldn’t due to this very reason) So a press conferences does make sense in this case: it gives more people a chance to ask questions of the GoHs, and even if you weren’t able to ask a question, you could still hear the GoH’s response to other questions and report on them. Still, not having those wonderful intimate conversations is a bit of a disappointment.

They did however take the rather unorthodox step of pre-screening press questions. IMHO this is a very disappointing move on their part. Pre-screening questions means that the GoH’s can produce the sort of bland, uninteresting canned answers that only lead to disappointment and sorrow. I can sort of understand why they did this – they’re probably trying to avoid the pain and embarrassment of some random press member bringing up a GoH’s torrid affair or some other touchy subject. Perhaps they could have (A) asked press members to limit their questions to one or two, and (B) asked press members to give a rough idea (without going into specifics) of what they wanted to ask. This would have been an acceptable compromise.

These press conferences weren’t the only procedural change we ran into so far. The Red Carpet walk and the Opening Ceremonies, usually held on the morning of Day 1, were instead held on the evening of Day 0. This was a bit unexpected, and unfortunately in our case meant that we had to miss them. Not everybody attends on Day 0, and for them to have these events on Day 0 is, in a word, odd.

Scheduling oddities seems to be the theme du jour this year. As I write this, the main Anime Expo website is down. Just a blank screen; not even a 404 or other cryptic error message. This isn’t the first time this has happened; the site has been up and down over the past few weeks. IT has reassured us that they have added additional capacity and are monitoring the situation. Yet it keeps on happening. One can only wonder if certain parties are retaliating for past transgressions. Fortunately their mobile site is up. Which is fortunate because, according to the Twitters, the paper and PDF schedules are just plain wrong. Hopefully at least the PDF schedules on the Anime Expo website will be updated when they get their scheduling in order. If they can get their website back up.

Speaking of the mobile site, I am disappointed that they chose not to do a right and proper mobile app. I complained bitterly about the mobile site’s slowness and quirkiness last year. This year it seems a bit better. The site feels a bit faster, there is a search function, and you can filter the list of events based on event type (main event, concert, video/film screening, etc.) But the search function only searches through the events of any given day; so if you know that there’s a Yuki Kajiura concert but you’re not sure when and where, you’d have to click through and run a search on each day’s page in order to find it. Really disappointing. And when browsing through the list of dealers and Artist’s Alley vendors, one would expect that tapping on their name would bring up some information on that vendor, where they’re located, etc. Instead it brings you to a form where you can report a vendor for various infractions (selling counterfeit/bootleg goods, rudeness, and inappropriate (presumably not kid-safe) displays). Don’t get me wrong; this is absolutely commendable — the world really could do with less rudeness, and vendors who sell bootleg/counterfeit goods really deserve their own level of Hell. But it isn’t what I was expecting.

I keep asking myself, why oh why can’t Anime Expo wise up and use a “real” convention scheduling app, one that’s been time-tested and used by quite a few other anime cons (the likes of Anime Conji, Otakon, PMX, Sakura Con, SacAnime, and probably several dozen others that I can’t recall) — something like, perhaps, the Guidebook app? This is one of the slickest scheduling apps I’ve seen. It’s fast, works on multiple platforms (iOS, Android, BlackBerry and Windows Phone 7), and has a ton of features. Schedule listings, exhibitor listings, maps, Twitter and Facebook integration, and much more. You can flag events that you’re interested in, which adds them to your own personal schedule. You can even set alarms, so that your phone or tablet will remind you X minutes before an event starts. It’s just a very well designed app that works. And, most importantly, the app does not require a data connection. And until the world has ubiquitous free WiFi, this is an important point. (Even if the world did have ubiquitous free WiFi, this would still be an issue. Convention centers are notorious for being very unfriendly to any form of wireless communication.) (Disclaimer: I have no connection whatsoever with the people that do Guidebook, other than being a very happy user of their app.)

Well, that’s about it for this update. Not a lot happened, yet I still manage to fill up several screens worth of blog blathering. Ah well, what can I say? tomorrow’s gonna be the biggie, with many of the big industry announcements; plus I hope to drop in on some of the remaining GoH press conferences. Keep an eye on our Twitter as well as our liveblog — we’ll try to bring you all that we can. Until then, good night, and good luck.

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