Anime Expo 2000 - The Experience
By Diana Kou
Ahh... how so I love the early months of summer. Swimming, barbecues, Anime. Wha? Anime? Duh! It's Expo-season, baby! Hehe. Sorry about that. Nevertheless, I couldn't be more serious. Summer is always the season for expositions here in sunny (and all too steamy) California. That in which comes the biggest Anime gathering -- Anime Expo 2000!
Thousands of fans gathered last year; approximately 6,500 people showed up for AX99. This year, I can only imagine the number! So many fled to AX2K, but what for? Some would say due to the grand list of honorable Japanese guests, ranging from incredible director of Shoujo Kakumei Utena / Bishoujo Senshi SailorMoon -- Kunihiko Ikuhara, to the woman of many voice talents, Rica Fukami (Minako Aino/SailorVenus (SailorMoon), Myung (Macross Plus), Akiko (Prefectural Earth Defense Force)).
For any reason, AX2K was definitely a memorable one, especially on my part. Without much ado about anything, I was able to meet Miss Fukami three times, all out of panel, no fussy lines and just plain walking around. Tee hee! After what I would call a "quite rewarding masquerade" (i.e Sailor Jam-boree's winning of the 'Best Presentation Award'), I spotted Miss Fukami sitting in the front row, waving and smiling at we Senshi after the end of the show. In practically no time, I ran to my bag to get my handy little camera and hope that her translator would allow me to take some pictures of her -- No, in fact, Fukami-san's translator came up to me and requested to take some images with "her Senshi-tachi"! Ahh. What a dream come true. Thus followed what seemed to be a near half-hour or so of taking photographs with the lovely lady, as well as conversing and receiving autographs from the legendary Senshi of Love herself! The other two chance meetings with Fukami-san followed once every day... While on her way to lunch, and her way to a meeting. Everytime I seemed to talk to this woman, the more I loved her, and the less I believed I actually met her! Ah well. Must move on.
Rica Fukami with her Senshi-tachi -- Dai!
The premier of Shoujo Kakumei Utena: Adolescence Mokushiroku the Movie brought a nice chunk of the AX2K population to the grand room that enclosed it. As many viewings were showed throughout a certain time span during the weekend, fans all raved that the movie was exquisite. I must agree, as I also highly enjoyed the movie. The artwork was sheer beauty, and the music was definitely masterful. Ah, but what is this? Another special appearance? At the special midnight showing of AM on Sunday evening, the huge audience gasped in awe as Mr. Kunihiko Ikuhara and Miss Chiho Saito walked down the main isle. To much surprise, the two had come to 'host' the viewing. If they had done this for every showing, I'll never know. Accompanied by their translator, Saito and Ikuhara gave the audience a warm greeting, a few words in regardance to the movie, as well as Utena in general, and some information in the upcoming translation of the Utena manga to English. With quite humor, Ikuhara's final statement was "Please, enjoy our 'G' rated movie!" With that said, the two dashed off, as the movie opening rolled. It surely invigorated the audience, as everyone seemed to holler and cheer at the mere sight of "Directed by Kuniko Ikuhara" and "Created by Chiho Saito" on the screen. What a lovely experience, neh?
As for the other guests at AX2K, I sadly can't say that I had the chance to meet them. An overwhelming display of CosPlayers, as well as a dealer's room full of merchandise, not to mention karaoke and gaming threw me astray from the wonderful delights of the panels. Nevertheless, this year at AX was much more productive than last year, which... frankly, I didn't enjoy all too much (Don't worry. My entire fault. It was my first year! Give me a break!:P)
To shed more light on some of the programming:
"Sailor Jam-boree" wins Best Presentation Award
Doki Waku Karaoke Competition: This is now my AX duty. Involve myself in karaoke! Last year, I participated and made semi-finals -- but this year, I pushed myself and was included with four other wonderful performers in the finals! The triumph was taken by Yaya Han, whom I may add, is not only a charming young lady, but also a great singer. Go Yaya! Boy. I knew I had stiff competition when I heard this girl. I'm glad she got a great title, and I hope to see her again next year. It was a long and strenuous waiting process, but in the end, it was definitely worth the wait, and tons of fun. Open karaoke sessions are also included in the AX schedule for those who'd like to show off their skills, without the pressure of on looking judges. Anime + Karaoke = ALL NIGHTERS!
Gaming: Dou. I missed the Marvel VS Capcom competition, but as usual, the gaming rooms are always busy. One game in particular that gained a pretty good number of popularity was the Dance Dance Revolution Third Mix game, which I may add, wasn't even IN a gaming room! Yes, this game was overwhelming popular, and just happened to be placed in an arcade near the lobby. The room crowded with onlookers as those brave enough stood up to the plate. And I must say many of these people were incredibly coordinated! Whoo! Even THE CHAIR took a stab at the challenge...
More Dai CosPlay! It's Rei!
Screenings: Many films and shows were featured during the four days of AX. Those ranging from Hong Kong films to Pokemon the First Movie (which I must make note was cancelled ^^;) had fans fleeing to lines and waiting a good hour or so before the screening to get a good seat. The top two featured films seemed to be Escaflowne: A Girl in Gaia, and of course, Shoujo Kakumei Utena: Adolescence Mokushiroku.
Cosplay: A magnificent array of CosPlayers inhabited the Disney grounds that weekend... many of which were mistaken for WORKING at the park! (I speak from experience u.u...). All sorts of characters were featured --Ranging from Ah! Megami-sama, to the ever-kawaii Card Captor Sakura, to the kick-ass Final Fantasy VIII, to the all too familiar SailorMoon, rolls and rolls of film were used on all the awesome costumes. (May I add my cosplay partner Eiko and I were stuck in the lobby for two hours having pictures taken of us? Oi oi! It's even printed in the AX newsletter... har har.) CosPlayers came from all sections of the country, not to mention a nice chunk came from Japan as well! My good friend Barbie Tsukino, along with her group URAN2, studded the stage and halls with their glamorous cosplay. Another awesome Japanese Cosplayer, Jacky Hayakawa, made girls drool left and right. Boy. That's power!
Masquerade: The highlight of AX programming. The grand ballroom filled with what seemed to be almost everyone who attended AX2K, and this year, it actually started on time! Out of a of total 50 odd skits, a colorful display of humor, drama and shaking booties fought for the precious titles of awards. A big standing ovation to all those whom participated in the masquerade at all - - it takes guts, and everyone did great!
Other than the long lines, lack of both food and sleep, AX2K was definitely 'not that bad'. I had a great time, even though I may not have "done" much Otaku-wise, but hey. That's just my opinion. If you'd like to share some AX-memories, drop me a line. It'd be great to hear from some of you people out there.