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Anime Expo 2012, Day 4: Seriously wounded, but the soul still burns

Anime Expo 2012, Day 4Fair warning: this post is going to be very light on news (even more so than yesterday’s), since (as predicted) we didn’t go to any events today, other than the charity auction and closing ceremonies. So this blog post will consist of mostly me summarizing our weekend here at AX, and pulling various opinions out of my… er, personal space.

Well, another Anime Expo has come to an end. I am now safely back home at Otaku no Podcast HQ, a little bruised and worse for wear, but otherwise very happy. Planning an event the size of AX is no small feat, and the staff have once again done an excellent job.

When we got together to record our wrap-up of last year’s AX, I expressed concern at how they would top their efforts that year. Well, they certainly tried. They were definitely basing their GoH selection on the popular trends in the anime world — with the popularity of Fate/zero (and the fact that it just recently ended its 25 episode run – perfect timing!) the whole Fate/zero related guest roster made perfect sense; and no one can deny Yuki Kajiura’s impressive musical contribution to countless anime (and of course there’s FictionJunction too); not to mention LiSA, with her undeniable meteoric rise in popularity following on from Angel Beats! and GirlsDeMo (popular in and of themselves). Did they succeed in besting themselves? Ultimately, the old saying “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” applies. To me personally, nothing could top Mikunopolis – that was truly epic. But that’s not to say that this year’s con was not enjoyable. Quite the opposite. It just didn’t have that “BAM!” like last year.

Anime Expo definitely needs to re-examine its hotel lineup. I heard various attendees talking about having problems with their hotel charging them the wrong rates (especially parking rates), and some of the hotels are really in need of a remodel. Things were made more difficult than usual this year thanks to the X-Games. Hopefully AX will be able to make deals with more hotels to offer a better choice, and more options if something like the X-Games should ever happen again.

There were definite improvements in the shuttle service. Even with the disruptions in traffic thanks to the X-Games, the shuttles still managed to run and not be too late (no small feat given the traffic situation in downtown LA). And the buses themselves were vastly superior to those broken down wrecks they were driving last year.

I mentioned in yesterday’s post about their improved disabled services. I’d like to amend that. Their entire badge pickup procedure has improved noticeably. I remember the “bad old days” where you had to enter everything by hand, which took forever, resulting in huge lines that snaked all the way around the convention center and barely moved. Nowadays, So even though the line is still long, it moves relatively quickly.

Most of the events we went to ran close to on time. AMVs started about 15 minutes late (but I’m willing to give them a pass given their picture-perfect technical execution). Masquerade started a bit late too (maybe thirty minutes?). However, the charity auction (which has never started on time in all the years I’ve been attending) started late again this year (supposed to start at 1:00, didn’t actually start till 2:30). And I understand that the Yuki Kajiura/FictionJunction concert started almost an hour late. (Not sure about the LiSA concert) At an event the size and complexity of AX, late starts are almost inevitable; but in my experience, they were much better this year as compared to last. (case in point, the Vocaloid panel which started almost an hour and a half late).

One thing that really disappointed me is that, from what I heard, staff didn’t attend the con gripe session. This is really poor form of them. Sure, there is no doubt a contingent of loudmouth blowhards that attend con gripe, that either blow things out of proportion, or are there to make trouble. But there are also people who attend con gripe that have legitimate complaints. For staff to ignore these is reprehensible. Now it could be that they could not attend for a valid reason (maybe they had to deal with an emergency or something); in that case, they should have at least sent a representative to hear people out.

We didn’t have any negative experience with staffers. Everyone was helpful and courteous, and when they didn’t know something, or needed to clarify something, they got in touch with the people that knew. Communication between staffers and departments has definitely improved.

And now on to the charity auction, one of my favorite events. It’s always fun to see the cool items that the GoHs and sponsors donate, and it’s even more fun to see the bidding frenzy that surrounds some of these items. Sadly there wasn’t as much bidder frenzy this year as there has been in the past; a sign of the economic times I suppose. There were still a few entertaining exchanges; one that stands out in particular are two guys that kept bidding against each other on an item (an anime DVD I believe), that turned out to be roommates. “They won’t be roommates for long” quipped one observer.

Again, another sign of the times is that there were only two items that broke then $1,000 barrier: a lovely art piece from SHANGRI-LA drawn by Range Murata which went for $1,700; and an awesome piece of artwork from Chihayafuru that went for $2,000. Most of the other items went for somewhere in the $100-200 and $600-800 ranges. Contrast this to years past where items frequently went above $1,000 and sometimes even as high as $5,000 or $6,000.

Lastly, one thing that always makes me sad is that GoH autographs never get bid up very high; usually they go for around $20-50. For some reason this makes me terribly sad.

This year, the charity auction raised $20,057, to benefit the Japanese American National Museum. I must admit that I’m a bit disappointed that the proceeds did not go to a charity that’s supporting the Tohoku relief efforts. They still need so much help.

Finally, it was on to closing ceremonies. Unfortunately most of the GoHs had to leave by then; but they left recorded messages of thanks. Those GoHs that were still present — Steve Blum, Ryo Horikawa, Cyril Lumboy, Yuki Kajiura and FictionJunction, and someone else (I took their picture but it’s too blurry for me to tell who it is) — came out to personally thank everyone.

Two years ago at AX, my intrepid co-host (and girlfriend) Beep had a rather nasty injury. This year it was my turn. At closing ceremonies, Danny Choo started tossing out Moekana cards (ironically the item currently featured as our (increasingly inaccurately named) J-List Product of the Day). And one of them just so happened to impact my forehead at a rather high velocity. He was mortified and was very apologetic, and not only gave me one of their really cool AX 2012 posters (signed even!), but also posed for pictures; and both his “people” as well as AX staff made sure that I wasn’t seriously injured (and took down my information just in case). I took this in stride; things happen after all. And the injury wasn’t severe (it did bleed a little, and my forehead is somewhat sore this morning).

At closing ceremonies, they announced this year’s attendance numbers: 46,000+. People were quick to point out that this was actually a drop from last year. This drop in attendance has made a lot of people wonder about the continued viability of conventions such as Anime Expo. First of all, attendance drops such as this have happened before. Second, the drop (47,000+ down to 46,000+) is not statistically very significant. Finally, this could be explained by the unusual placement of the July 4th holiday, which fell on a Wednesday this year. This means that not everybody could take Friday and/or Monday off of work, which would definitely affect attendance numbers. So this whole “Attendance is down! Anime Expo is doomed!” talk is utter rubbish in my book.

I’ve also heard people bemoaning the loss of “purity” of anime cons, namely the bleed-over of other fandoms and elements of pop culture (e.g. people cosplaying as video game characters, Harry Potter characters, etc.). What these people (the complainers I mean) are forgetting is that anime, like most things in life, does not exist in a vacuum. There are plenty of examples of cross-pollination between anime and Western pop culture, in both directions. So, to those of you who bitch and moan “Hey, you got your pop culture in my anime!”, I say, “Shut up and enjoy the con!”

And enjoy the con we did. In spite of everything, Anime Expo still managed to put together one hell of an event. After four days of walking around con carrying loads of heavy crap, it would be easier for me to name parts of my body that don’t hurt. Then there’s the moe missile that attacked me during closing ceremonies. And don’t even mention that after all of this, I am significantly lighter in wallet. Yet, in spite of all that, I am still smiling, and I would gladly do it again (and definitely will when July 4, 2013 rolls around). So, although I was seriously wounded, my soul still burns. And so, too, does Anime Expo’s.

I’m still way tired, and it’ll probably take me the rest of the week to fully decompress. In that time I hope to go through my pictures and post them; and this weekend we plan on recording our wrap-up podcast of doom. So look forward to it!

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