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Anime Expo: Another View
By Jack Blazkiewicz
After an exhausting eighteen-hour drive from Seattle, we arrived in Long Beach, this yearís location for Anime Expo 2002. Our first stop was the Westin Hotel to get our room and get registered for the con. As we entered the line for registration at about one oíclock, we noticed that the line wasnít that long; or so we thought. While the line didnít yet extend to the outside, we didnít realize that the main room in which the line fed into was huge! It just led around and around in a maze that was partitioned off via some silly orange tape and a multitude of chairs. Suffice to say, we ended up standing in line for almost two hours just to get registered. Note to self: Next year register early!
The actual registration process, once we got into the actual registration room, was relatively quick. They had several small dumb terminals setup so we could just type in our info. Then we went up to the cashier who brought up our names and printed out our badges on these cool little printers. After that, we went to another table to pick up our con bags and free Real Bout High School posters. Then we were off to enjoy the con!
After getting some much-needed food, we headed to arguably the most important place of all conventions: the dealers room. As we walked towards that room, we stopped by the Newtype USA booth to pick up our free copies by filling out this little survey. Then we noticed that many people were lugging around these gigantic bags with Initial D on them. It turned out that TOKYOPOP was giving them away free, with little goodies in them to as we discovered when we picked up ours. After that, we headed into the dealers room.
The space they had was, simply put, HUGE! There were four aisles of mouth watering, must have, money sucking merchandise. They had it all: DVDs, CDs, VHS Tapes, and even LDs (the dead format LaserDisc). Manga, Artbooks, Plushies, Posters, and various other Anime/Jpop related goodies were there too. It was the largest merchant room Iíd ever laid my eyes on, I was in heaven. With the multitude of merchants, the chances of one underselling another were high. There would be several good deals going around if you looked carefully enough. Securing my wallet, so not to overspend, I proceeded to browse.
Iím proud to say that I left that room only spending a single American dollar. I bought these really kawaii fliers for a shop that was going to open up soon in Tokyo, Japan. But that wasnít the only thing I had in my gigantic TOKYOPOP bag. It was actually quite full; full of all these freebies that several of the Anime companies were giving away. For example, Raijin comics gave away an issue 0, along with their sample copy that was included in our con bag. ADV gave away several little trinkets. Fliers galore were abounding from many other companies. Suffice to say, my bag was anything but empty.
We exited the dealers to drop off our loot in our room and proceeded to find the artist alley. Much to our chagrin, it was already closed. I guess I spent too much time in the dealers room... But that was okay, there was always the next day. We ended up doing a food run and then sitting around chatting about what we saw in the dealers room and other things. A few hours later, we ended up attending the dance, the Love Hina Dance; called such because they had two projection screens on either side of the room playing the first and second DVDs. The dance itself wasnít bad, the music was fun, and they played many Jpop tracks like some Two-Mix and Ayumi Hamasaki. Overall, it ended up being fun even for a person who canít dance.
The next morning on Friday, we attended the TOKYOPOP panel. They announced many things, in particular that they picked up the Initial D Anime and were slating that for a US TV release. And with that, they explained why they decided to make some editorial changes with the character names in the manga release from the first volume to the second. The decision for the anime to be released on US TV was made after the first volume had been published. Also, the possibility of correcting the naming problems of the first volume in subsequent prints was likely. Another announcement, that I personally am excited about, is the future release of Brigadoon Marin and Melon; I canít wait.
Later, I entered the dealers room with purpose, grabbing a select amount of cheap LDs. But I also ended up buying an entire set of Azumanga Daioh plushies. It was actually quite funny how I came across them. At first when I walked by, I saw only three of them hanging up. Interested, I asked the merchant whether the others in the set were available. He kindly told me, ďNo,Ē but proceeded to check his box to make certain, but to no avail. Sadden slightly; I pulled out my wallet to make the purchase. As I paid, his partner, who was still on the quest, found another. Happy, I pulled out my wallet once more. But as I put away my wallet, once again his partner found another. Now I almost had the complete set of six. This time before I put my wallet away, I paused. My instincts paid off. But, his partner didnít find the last one, he did better and found an entire set still in itís plastic bag! Much happier, I paid the balance and walked out of the dealers room as it began to close.
That Friday night, the music video contest was scheduled. Tickets were needed to attend the event and since I wasnít in fortunate enough to get any, I didnít attend. But as luck would have it, I was destined not to attend at all. At 7pm, hundreds of people lined up outside the main theater where the event was to happen. Seating was to start at 8pm so many must have gotten in line earlier. But to everyoneís disappointment, seating didnít happen until around 9pm. After about 45 minutes of nothing, the music video contest coordinators came out and told everyone that the event was canceled due to some technical difficulties. I happened to be outside the theater just before the announcement and noticed several EMS vehicles and Police cruisers parked out in front. I suppose they expected a riot from the many disappointed otaku exiting the theater. Luckily, there wasnít that much excitement.
That night we attended the dance, but through some technical difficulties, only trance-style techno music was played. And boy, did it suck; no wondrous Jpop, no vocal music of any type came out of those loud speakers: Nothing. Suffice to say, I didnít stay long there. I went back to the room to get some much need sleep so that I could get tickets in the morning for the Masquerade. I didnít realize how popular the event would be and only ended up getting in line an hour and a half before tickets were to be passed out. I didnít get my tickets. They had run out. So I went to the dealers room. There I stood in line for another hour before I entered my heaven. I quickly realized that I didnít have such a wait on Friday, and that this was Saturday,... everyone was there that day!
Much of the rest of the con consisted of waiting in line for each of the small events I wanted to attend. I was kind of disappointed that I did miss out on the major ones, but I got to spend a good majority of the time not in line, but in the artist alley. There I met several cool fellow artists and I even got a chance to sit down and do some sketching myself. And the rest of the time was spent in the dealers room. I ended up spending more than I wanted, but I still did reasonably well as far as price per item. I did come back with a nice stash.
Next year, I plan on doing some things differently and try to attend all the major events. While I did enjoy the experience and had lots of fun, I think I much prefer being at a less crowded smaller convention. As I am a staff member of a much smaller con, it was a great learning experience to see how a much bigger con is run. Itís nice to know that they still have as many heartaches and problems that we smaller cons have.