Let me preface this by saying just how scared I was that I wouldn’t be able to make it this year. I wasn’t frightened solely from the fact of not being able to go; I was terrified that after registering, figuring out my hotel situation, and purchasing my flight ticket, that work would not approve the time off for those couple of days around the Fourth of July. Since I’m newly hired and the only person in my department, my leaving depended greatly on how busy we were in the few days leading up to my proposed days. Thankfully, things worked out and I was able to follow through on my oft-repeated agreement to meet up with people. (More pictures at the very end)Day 0
This year, traveling was a lot less stressful since I now live much closer and I also know what to expect upon arrival in Los Angeles. Also better from 2012 is that I actually slept well the night prior and took my time that morning getting ready to go. I flew in a bit late around 5PM and dropped off my stuff at the Luxe before heading over to grab my badge. Another plus was that the Luxe is the closest hotel to the convention center, within a quick 5-10 minute walk, and that I was with a roommate who gave me a deal I just couldn’t pass up. More on that situation later.
I was a bit surprised at how long the line still was, but it only took 1 1/2 hours of mostly walking the line before I had my badge in hand. I booked it back to the hotel early to meet my other roommates and chow down on the rest of my airport sandwich from lunch. My decision to leave behind my laptop haunted me when I saw all the new anime that was airing during my peaceful first night in L.A. I ended up sleeping early, which was actually good considering the crazy time tables of the following days.
I kick started my offline meet-ups by catching up with papermario and his friends, including Eater of All, at the L.A. Convention Center (CC) and we stood in yet another line for the opening of the exhibit hall. Normally I would have just come in later after the doors were already open, but my free room came at the price of time: getting sketches from as many guests of honor as possible. This necessity ate away most of the first day since the hall didn’t open until noon and the new procedure of autographs required two periods of waiting as opposed to the previous years of first come, first served.
The unique difference to this year were the place holder tickets. These little slips of paper meant that you first had to line up in a generic autograph line to get the numbered tickets to the guests of your choice. Theoretically you could then leave to do panels or browse the dealer’s hall before coming back at the guest’s signing time and jump into your corresponding position. This procedure only really worked smoothly the first day because so many people had no clue about the changes and as such didn’t clog the rush up to the ticket table. All following days, however, were insane with the lines, especially with popular guests like Noizi Ito, huke, and Kazuhiko Inoue. Too many people running for a guest when he or she only had an hour to sign meant any number past 100 was likely to get cut off. There was almost never a chance to go to a panel or do any hall browsing between the ticket line and the autograph line.
My first day’s successful autographs included Nobuhiro Kikuchi, Mari Okada, and Keigo Sasaki. Kikuchi and Okada were paired autographs since they shared works. Ideally I would have asked them to sign different pieces, my preference for each one, but I was only able to bring one item for them both to sign: my Hanasaku Iroha artbook. Funny observation: most of the attendees in line seemed to be there for Okada. She was the one they requested photographs with and autographs from. Quite a few bypassed Kikuchi completely, or skipped asking him for a photo. Since the two guests shared a table, I felt really bad. He seemed relieved that I not only wanted his autograph, but that I also wanted him to pose for a picture with me. Both Okada and Kikuchi were engaging and didn’t seem rushed in their interactions. I followed up with Keigo Sasaki, hoping to get a sketch. Unfortunately, he was not taking such requests, so I got to keep his autograph for myself.
Prior to the autographs, I nabbed some bites with twitter and blog folk–Inushinde, draggle, mar, emperorj…am I forgetting anyone?–over at the food trucks. This mystical place had caught my attention the previous year, but I had never gotten around to trying it out until this year. The prices are much friendlier than the food and drink in the actual cc, and there’s a good variety of foods for people with different tastes. Obviously the more popular trucks were those with Japanese-themed dishes, so I made a bee line for the one with the shortest wait time: pulled pork sandwich with blue cheese, onions, and fries on the side. YUM! Unfortunately, I was in a rush to make the autographs, so I inhaled my sandwich much like how my dog swallows her treats.
Kazuhiro Furuhashi Panel
I was able to make one panel for Kazuhiro Furuhashi, an animator and director, who worked on the original Hunter x Hunter, Rurouni Kenshin, Ranma 1/2, and Mobile Suite Gundam Unicorn. Promos shown centered on UC and the Q&A mostly regarded that anime, as well as Kenshin. The plus of going to a guest panel before the scheduled autograph session means you first get a chance at a winning raffle ticket for a premier spot at the front of the autograph line. Non-winning raffle tickets still get you priority tickets that are second in the line, ahead of the standby tickest of those who did not attend the panel. I obtained a priority for his signing session on Day 2.
After the panel, I met up with Riyoga and his friend John, and we hit up the game room. I don’t believe I made it there last year, so I was definitely interested in what kind of games would be available. Most of the arcade games we walked around consisted of various rhythm games, including Taiko no Tatsujin, DJMax Technika, and miscellaneous ones for dance, guitar, piano, and DJ-ing. Some of the people we saw there were INSANE. I think some of them were even playing the part of two people all on their lonesome…it’s no wonder they’re all so scary skinny. I then dragged the guys off to watch the first three episodes each of FMA and FMA:Brotherhood. I can happily say that I convinced them to pick up Brotherhood on their own much sooner than they would have without the push. We missed our chance to attend 2DT’s panel, Learning Japanese with Hentai, which had a bigger crowd than we had anticipated and whose line ended up getting capped.
The second day started out again with the exhibit hall line, this time with a 10AM open. After obtaining my tickets, I commenced my attack on the dealer’s hall and snatched up the premier edition of the four seasons of Natsume Yuuinchou from NIS. This glorious and painful purchase also netted me a photo session ticket with Inoue, as well as some freebies from NY and Disgaea. Yay! I love free stuff!
Using my premier ticket from the previous day, I took Kazuhiro’s autograph sans sketch, Inoue’s autograph, and Kise’s autographed sketch. Inoue’s line was terrifyingly long, and I was #155. I fully expected to get cut off and even considered giving up, but that man went full bore and signed for almost two hours, likely going well into the 200s. He took his time with each fan, shaking hands (mine was ice cold from excitement), taking photos, and grinning the entire time. I have so much respect for his work and now for his interactions with the crowd. I then sprinted into line for Kise, who, to my delight, was taking sketch requests. I received a Yuuko (xxxHOLiC) sketch, which I took a picture of with Kise since I would be giving the board over to my roommate. Kise is another guest who seems to truly care for his fan’s happiness. The whole session ended with me going back to the NIS booth for photos with Inoue. There was practically no line, and I was ushered straight to him when I presented my photo session ticket. Inoue stood there smiling like some suave host, wearing traditional garb and carrying the Nyanko plush he had with him everywhere during the con. He not only smiled for the camera next to me, he even scooted in as close as possible and had no qualms with putting his face right up next to mine. I was simply star-struck and probably spewed out nonsense as a thank you.
I took a late lunch again at the food trucks, this time with Riyoga and John, before splitting off to browse the dealer’s room until it closed. I picked up several small Pokemon gifts for my friend back home, mostly from the Artist Alley. After the hall, I made my way to the table top area of the game room to meet up with people again as they played Tanto Cuore. I still haven’t learned the game, but maybe next year I’ll finally be able to jump in and become Queen of the Maids, fufufu! I also learned what Ace Attorney was, thanks to normalmar and Shinmaru, and will have to add it to my list of games to play the day I get a DS. I was able to catch a bit of the third episode viewing of Natsume Yuujinchou in the video room before running off to Ralphs–the closest convenience store in the area–for some sustenance.
After all that line waiting from the first two days, I decided to flip off autographs (I’m sorry huke; your line was too long! My Steins;Gate artbook will have to wait for the next opportunity) and browse the dealer hall again, this time with Inushinde. Alas, no ARIA goods were to be found. I’m pretty sure if there were, we would have come to blows over who would take the figure home. For the third time, lunch came from the food trucks, but this round I finally met the elusive and eloquent 2DT, as well as SeHNNG and violaxcore. These meetings are a huge reason why I continue to go to these gatherings, making connections from names to faces, and reveling in our mutual fanitude. I only wish I could have spoken with 2DT a bit more and picked that mind of keen observation.
I ran off to the Sunrise panel, which opened with several promos, including my loved Danshi Koukousei no Nichijou, Valvrave, Tiger & Bunny, and Gundam Unicorn. The majority of the session centered on Gundam discussion, which included a well put together video titled, “The World of Gundam.” I’m not very knowledgeable at all about the franchise, with my limited exposure consisting of Endless Waltz and Gundam Age.
Because of the time constraint, I was unable to make my highly anticipated Garden of Words movie premier, my only chance of seeing Makoto Shinkai this convention. Again, the line to the premier had to be cut off. Missing that chance is my one regret of the con, since Garden of Words is one of my preferred Shinkai works, and at the top of my list for his artwork. The one consolation I took out of the moment was I was able to line up early for Inoue’s panel, whose waiting area was expected to be so popular that they set it up outside.
Kazuhiko Inoue Panel
The panel, as expected, was well attended. His popularity meant he could request us fans to call out for him to come up on stage, which we happily did. Carrying his ever-present Nyanko-sensei, he immediately jumped into Q&A, the line of which extended all the way to the back of Petree Hall. The first several questions centered on his older work with Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam, which I think surprised him quite a bit since after maybe the second or third regarding it he muttered something along the line of it being an older work he couldn’t really remember, which gathered some laughs from the audience. Another popular role of his was Naruto’s Kakashi, whose voice he demonstrated a couple of times to extended applause. He also described the cast’s relationship to be one like a family, as they have worked together for such a long time and some members have really grown up over the years. There was even a section almost dedicated to his work on otome games, and he described in detail and action the method of using a dummy head mic, whispering his love into its ears and circling around it like a crab. Interspersed throughout the whole panel were several exclamations in Nyanko-sensei’s voice, calling for alcohol and drinks and earning claps, “awwwwwwwws”, and overly enthusiastic female fans whimpering in excitement. It cracked me up how a couple of times he would mimic the audience’s “aws”. And when the time came to end the session, he obliged a question-turned-request with a short line of song. If there were any uninterested people along for the ride in the audience because of friends or some other obligation, I’m pretty sure he won them over.
To end my experience at Anime Expo 2013 a day early, I made sure to have dinner with as many people as I could and to eat extravagantly without paying heed to the cost. Many thanks to Shinmaru, Inushinde, emperorj, normalmar, Icy, R1CK_D0M, and ToastCrust for bringing me along to The Yard House and indulging my scotch-ridden blather. I followed up briefly at AX’s Lounge 21 with Yumeka and her very sweet friend Jan. It seems like there never is enough time to meet up with everyone who I intended to greet and engage in some one-on-one discussion with. As I always end up saying, “I’ll see you at the next con!”
- The Luxe is really nice. Nice on quality, spacious rooms, quick to supply extra towels and pillows when asked, conveniently within the closest walking distance to the cc, and full of super friendly employees. 10/10 I would stay here again.
- My room situation was definitely kind of scary to me at first since I just could not believe someone would room me for free just for some sketches. But scam it was not, and Akage taught me a lot regarding autographs and guests and how to room with strangers. I think I really lucked out in finding her and in rooming with the other people who also took her up on her proposal. There were three of us women and two young men in the room. The other girl didn’t come in until very early morning on Day 3, so I was able to get a bed spot for the first two nights. I did come prepared with my own pillow and blanket for the last nights. Another awesome thing Akage did for us was bring a huge pack of oatmeal and a few cartons of vanilla soy milk for our breakfasts, to help us on keeping up and about in the mornings and avoiding the expensive meals in the area. While I’m not sure whether I’ll go so gung-ho on autographs in the future, I would absolutely room with her again and get her one or two sketches if possible.
- Now that I know where Ralphs is, I plan on shopping there on future Day 0s for groceries to cut down the food cost over the following days. Those $2.50 waters and $4 green teas at the cc are ridiculously priced. And despite loving trying all the food, it would probably be smarter of me to pack my own lunch and just tag along for a smaller snack or drink.