Thursday, July 5, 2012

Anime Expo 2012: Experiences of a con-goer

Anime Expo 2012 has come and gone. As one of the biggest and most remarkable anime conventions in America, there are a lot of stories to tell and a lot of pictures to share. This is only my second year attending AX, but it was just as busy and crowded as I remember. However, unlike my attendance in 2010, I tried a lot harder to attend more panels, see more guests, meet more people and spend less time in the Exhibit Hall. I think I accomplished my goals, although I didn’t follow my schedule exactly and I left with less autograph signatures than I wanted and left with more things than I should have purchased.

Day 0:

I arrived in LA via carpool at about 5 pm and proceeded to the convention center so I could stand in the pre-registration line to get my badge. The line was ridiculously long as usual, stretching in a big zig zag outside the convention center. Fortunately I only had to wait about an hour, so it wasn’t too bad. Many people in line kept everyone’s spirits up by offering numerous high-fives as we passed each other back and forth to the door. Even on day 0 there are a few noteworthy cosplayers, I noticed two girls in line behind me lugging a giant Pikachu outfit between them. After I got through the line we took a quick look around the main entrance, where Danny Choo’s itasha cars were already on display. I laughed when I realized the diver’s seats were occupied by large Domo-kun plushies. I snapped a few pics and headed home to rest up.

That's Mirai-chan with AX-tan, whose official name I can't remember.

Day 1:

Arriving about 11 am, my friends and I decided to try and wait in the standby line to get tickets for the AMV contest (and free tickets for the LiSA concert if they were available). After waiting for about an hour with little progress we all decided to give up and move on to other things, when we came back a few hours later to get in a different line, we recognized a cosplayer who had been in line with us (we called him “Team Rocket Jesus") still waiting for tickets. It’s a good thing we didn’t wait or else we’d have spent half the day in that damn line. In case you haven’t figured it out already, a large part of the AX experience is standing (or in some cases sitting) in huge fucking lines.

See the kind of shit you have to put up with?

At 12:30 my friends and I attended the Ryo Horikawa panel. For those of you that don’t know, he’s the voice of Vegeta in Japanese and also the actor for Captain Falcon in the Super Smash Brothers games. Horikawa was an interesting person to listen to, considering he’s been in the business for many years you could tell he had a lot of experience with giving meaningful answers to rather simple questions. One of the more interesting moments of the panel was when he talked about the very old days of anime production. He described how they had to record all the lines on tape that would roll consistently, which meant they had to complete an entire episode in a single take and if anyone messed up they would have to start ALL the way over from the beginning. There were also a lot of questions about his work as Vegeta on DBZ and how he felt about it.

Originally Horikawa didn’t audition for the role of Vegeta (though he didn’t explain under what circumstances he had been given the role) and he assumed that because the character was a villain, he would die within the first 4 episodes after his appearance. But instead Vegeta became a very noteworthy character in the DBZ universe and Horikawa was very appreciative that he got to voice him for an extended period of time. I should mention that Horikawa himself is very soft-spoken and gentle, if you saw the guy talk in person you would never believe he was the voice of such an angry character like Vegeta. Horikawa himself talked about how he isn’t a violent person but appreciates the opportunity as an actor to play a character opposite his personality. Some people at the panel requested lines and when he yelled you could really hear the shift in his voice and personality – it was quite impressive. One thing that Horikawa was surprised to discover was the American obsession with the “Over 9000!” line that is infamous in anime meme history. Horikawa was asked to do the line in English and did so almost perfectly – he tried to speak English whenever he could really.

AX is not limited to anime cosplays, have some Bioshock

One of the other funny moments was when someone requested him to yell Goku’s name (Kakarot) in an angry voice, “as if you were trying to kill him.” Unfortunately the interpreter didn’t quite understand the question and Horikawa ended up yelling a threat instead (“I’m going to beat you down!” “I’m going to kill you!”) to the person who asked the question, which resulted in some heavy laughter when Horikawa immediately said “I don’t actually kill people!” afterwards. One person did request that he do the “Falcon Punch!” line, but unfortunately Horikawa didn’t really remember his work as Captain Falcon and couldn’t do it in the right voice. At the end of the panel, Horikawa took the opportunity to talk about a new project that he’s been working on – an e-manga called Magical Dreamers. The interesting thing about this project is that it’s essentially a “voiced” manga that’s available in both English and Japanese. He showed us a demo video that switched the voices and text between the two languages – it was really cool! Apparently it will be available sometime this month, you can find the English site here.

Some cosplayers are actually cute

After the Horikawa panel I went to the Aniplex Industry panel which consisted mainly of them going over releases that are currently available (Madoka, Fate/Zero, Blue Exorcist) and what would be coming soon (Garden of Sinners, Oreimo, Baccano and more). The only new announcement was the dub of Blue Exorcist which didn’t sound too bad, but I really don't care for the show so I can’t say I’m very excited for it. Overall Aniplex’s panel was probably the dullest one I attended. The best part of the panel was hearing the guy who ran it mispronounce certain things, like cousplay and o-ray-moh and sayaki (as opposed to cosplay, ore imo and Sayaka).

Aniplex had a shitty panel, but a cool booth.

The final panel of the day was the Yuki Kajiura + Fiction Junction panel. Unfortunately a lot of the questions consisted of: what is your favorite song, or who is your favorite singer, or what inspired you to sing, and stuff like that. It was interesting to hear the answers they came up with, but most of them didn’t mention anything specific (which is typical of the polite Japanese). The best questions were aimed specifically at Kajiura and prompted her to talk at length about the process by which she composes her music and how she decides in what language the lyrics should be in. Overall Kajiura said that when she composes music, the style and feeling of the song is what determines the lyrics – she doesn’t “decide” what language the singing will be, but rather the song itself lends a certain musical quality which is better suited to a specific language. She also talked at length about how she sought out the vocal talent from the members of Fiction Junction and how each of their voices provides a certain quality (in musical terms think alto, tenor, etc) which helps her decide who should sing what song. I really wish this panel had been longer, or that I had come up with an interesting question to ask, but it ended too quickly.

I love .hack, so I couldn't pass up taking a pic of Elk.

Day 2:

Saturday is always the biggest, crowded and most enjoyable day of AX. The schedule is packed with tons of panels and events and it really forces you to pick and choose what you want to attend between many appealing options. The first thing I did was attend the Tiger & Bunny panel, which started off with an introduction from the cast that included Yuri Lowenthal (Baranby/Bunny), Tara Platt (Agnes), John Eric Bently (Fire Emblem), Patrick Seitz (Sky High), Travis Wilingham (Rock Bison) and Laura Bailey (Dragon Kid). Also in attendance was Japanese Producer Masayuki Ozaki. Ozaki had been wearing the AX exclusive “Wild Tiger” t-shirt that was available for purchase in the Exhibit Hall, but he pulled it off at the start of the panel to reveal that he was in a complete Kotetsu cosplay, vest and everything. He also pulled out Kotetsu’s trademark hat and put it on, which was met with plenty of crowd cheering. They played a clip of the dub (which is currently complete up to episode 14) that sounded amazing! All of the characters sounded great in the roles, particularly Kari Wahlgren performing as Blue Rose. The only dub voice that I think is lacking would be Wally Wingert who plays Wild Tiger/Kotetsu – he does a good job at capturing the character’s personality but honestly he doesn’t sound deep enough to match. After the clip, they took questions from the audience and answered them. The dub cast had a lot of fun making jokes, particularly about John who is “exactly like Fire Emblem” and they even encouraged him to cosplay as the character one day. Perhaps my favorite moment was when they were asked what powers they would have if they were a NEXT, Yuri Lowenthal remarked “I would like to have the power of teleportation…so I could teleport past the X Games this morning on my way here.” It was also fun to hear John describe Fire Emblem as “the bomb diggity.” Overall this panel was a ton of fun, but it’s hard to describe how well the actors managed to play with the questions they were asked and make the panel a fun experience. A large part of the excitement of panels like these is being able to be there in person and hear the cast and audience react – relating it through text makes it seem almost boring.

The T&B cast, if you look close you'll see Travis laughing his ass off.

After the panel I headed to the exhibit hall with the intent of getting Steve Blum’s autograph on my Toonami poster. Sadly enough his line was super long and the standby line had already formed outside – I waited for about 2 hours before I gave up. At one point they moved us inside and the line was moving, but it didn’t look like it was going to get to me by the time Steve had to leave for his panel at 4:30. I regret giving up because I might have made it through, but I can just send it to him in the mail to have him sign later (information is available on his website) so it’s not a huge deal. I would’ve liked to shake his hand, at least, but oh well. While I was outside I entertained myself by watching a Madoka and Fate/Zero cosplay gathering across the street. I was pleasantly surprised to see a Morning Rescue cosplayer participating in the Madoka group, I hope everyone knew who he was.

The Madoka gathering, see if you can find MORNING RESCUE.

In the afternoon I attended the FUNimation industry panel which was filled with all sorts of new announcements – most notably Michiko to Hatchin, the Blood C movie and Ikkitousen. They talked a lot about what’s coming out soon, I’m really excited about Panty & Stocking (for the dub) and Oblivion Island. Beyond that, the panel ran long and they ended up with no time for questions. So I put my bags away and braced myself for the Fiction Junction concert, the highlight of the day if not the entire convention.

Here's a shitty pic of the FUNi booth, it's one of the bigger ones.

Unfortunately there were no pictures or video for the FJ concert, which I expected. I really wish I could have captured the awesomeness that was seeing the group perform live. Not only was Yuki Kajiura there on keyboard with the 4 singers of FJ, but they had also brought their bassist, guitarist and violinist. Hearing them perform live was really something amazing that I may never experience again. They played songs from a lot of popular anime including .hack, Mai Hime, Madoka, Noir, Sacred Seven and Pandora Hearts. My personal favorite songs were Stonecold and Parallel Hearts, which a lot of people stood up for and pumped their hands to the beat. Unlike previous concerts at AX (I was there for the May’n and Megumi concert in 2010), there weren’t too many glow sticks in the audience which I think was due to the fact that they didn’t sell them outside the concert as they usually do. Normally concerts are held in the Nokia Theater next to the convention center, but this year that venue was occupied by the X Games so it wasn’t an option for AX. Fortunately the room we were in was huge and provided a great view for everyone in the audience.

Saber cosplay now available in the Lily variety.

Visually the concert was very appealing as well, the lighting flashed different colors and different designs were projected against the stage as the Fiction Junction girls danced and sang their different parts. The guitar and violin solos were always incredible whenever they reached those parts of the songs, it was great to see all the members of the band so passionate. At the panel the day before, Yuki Kajiura had said as a final remark that their feelings would come across in their live concert and I really think that statement held true. Everyone in the room could really feel the energy and emotion that they put into their songs and the crowd responded – getting more excited with every performance. Occasionally they would take short breaks and Yuki would talk about the songs they were performing and how nice it was to be at AX in front of American fans. At the very end of the concert they left the stage and nobody in the audience moved, we all stood and clapped and demanded an encore. After a few minutes of cheering – the entire FJ group once again came on stage and prepped themselves for one last song. The final song of the night was from the .hack soundtrack called “The World” it was a really fitting ending to the concert and I was glad they were able to play for a full 2 hours. A truly unforgettable experience.

so I heard you like megucas

Day 3:

The first panel of the third day was with Rikiya Koyama, the voice actor for Kiritsugu from Fate/Zero among other characters. It was a very exciting panel right from the start, because Rikiya ran into the room and circled the crowd giving them high-fives and getting us pumped up for the panel. The panel was run by Aniplex who showed clips of different moments from Fate/Zero and had Rikiya talk a little about his work with Kiritsugu and how he felt about the character. He spoke at length about the fragileness of Kiritsugu’s character and his struggle to become a hero only to meet with suffering in the end. It was really interesting to hear him talk so deeply about his character, everyone could tell that he really enjoyed being able to play Kiritsugu and appreciated his depth as the main character of Fate/Zero. When it was finally time for questions I quickly attempted to line up close to the front, I was clutching a sheet of lyrics. My plan (mostly inspired by my friends) was to ask Rikiya to sing the “24 song.” In Japan, the TV show 24 was dubbed with Rikiya providing the voice of Jack Bauer and to promote the show there was a set of commercials that involved him singing a song as Jack Bauer, which became pretty famous on the internet: 


We wanted him to sing part of the song for us, and we weren’t sure that anybody else was ready to ask so we came prepared. Unfortunately, the Aniplex staff was screening the questions and when I told them what I planned to do they told me they weren’t taking any requests and that I should just ask a question instead, so with much regret I decided to leave the line. There were a lot of questions for Rikiya about his role as Kiritsugu and how that compared to Jack Bauer and his other live action roles (such as Neo from the Matrix). Eventually they had to cut the line because they were running out of time, but they allowed for one final question…much to our surprise it was someone else who wanted him to sing the Jack Bauer song! They had slipped past the Aniplex staff by simply stating they wanted to ask him about his role as Jack Bauer – and Rikiya was happy to oblige, he sang two different parts of the song completely from memory, but he had to remember them first. Afterwards he made another run around the room before the panel ended, everybody was cheering "Ri-ki-ya! Ri-ki-ya!"

Blurry pic of Rikiya at his panel, he was a cool dude.

After the Rikiya panel we headed for the Steve Blum panel, which was also a lot of fun. There was a short intro reel that involved a bunch of Steve’s different characters providing some of their most famous lines, including Spike, Guilmon, Roger Smith and more. The entire panel basically consisted of people asking Steve questions or requests for lines, it was really neat to hear him talk about his roles and do performances live. Interestingly enough, Steve talked about how he originally got into voice acting by doing monster voices in the English dub of Guyver. Later on he booked more roles until eventually he really felt the “fame” of being a voice actor when he got the role of Spike which helped lead to Cowboy Bebop’s good reception. For me this panel was another con highlight, it’s fun to listen to Steve speak as a person and have fun with different people’s requests. His role as Amon in Korra was especially popular among the fans, and Steve seems to enjoy it himself quite a bit remarking that it was the only show he woke up "every Saturday morning" to watch.

A wild Steve Blum appears!

For every panel they have at AX, staff give out raffle tickets that are usually used for prize giveaways at the end of each panel, but also for exclusive front-of-the-line privileges during the autograph signings. Sadly, I was never one of the raffle winners at any of the panels I attended, but my friend was lucky enough to win the autograph session raffle for Yuki Kajiura and Fiction Junction! He didn’t bring anything for them to sign, but I had brought my copy of the Tsubasa Chronicle OST (the first OST I ever bought) and he was generous enough to take my copy and have it signed for me. I waited in line with him, in the hopes that I could go through the line and watch my CD be signed, but I was kicked out at the very last second for not being the actual winner. Argh! My friend told me that when he got to Kaori, she saw the Tsubasa CD and remarked that it was nostalgic. I wish I could have been there for it!

Signed swag is the best swag.

I spent the next 3 hours after the Kajiura signing waiting in line for the Muv-Luv: Total Eclipse screening premiere. I was waiting in line with some friends from Twitter and we were hoping to get good seats so we wouldn’t have to worry about anyone’s head keeping us from reading the subtitles. When the event started, the creator of Muv-Luv came out and talked at length about the background of the series and what we could expect from the story – he made sure that everyone in the audience knew that the main character was half-Japanese and half-American and that America as a country would play an important role in the series after Japan is overrun by the alien enemy. After this we were all treated to a live concert featuring Minami Kuribayashi and Ayami singing insert songs from the series.

Then we had the premiere of episodes 1 and 2 of Total Eclipse, which were pretty intense and fun to watch in a crowd setting (particularly hearing the reactions to episode 2, where things get brutal). It was nice to see on the big screen, and I enjoyed the episodes despite the somewhat lackluster animation and generic story elements. Overall I felt the highlight of the show was seeing the mech battles, along with the free mini-concert. After the screening we were also treated to a live performance of the ending theme before things wrapped up.

Second row seats, not bad except that dude's head in front of me.

Day 4:

The final day is the slowest and least exciting, it provides ample time for everyone to wind down and take plenty of cosplay pictures and explore the HUGE exhibit hall. I took the entire morning buying up things at various booths and grabbing what free swag I could. I visited the FUNimation booth and got some free postcards, got a free shirt and Saki minifig from the Crunchyroll booth, got a command seal stamp (from Fate/Zero) at the Aniplex booth, got a free promo card from the Bushiroad booth, got a free shonen jump bag at the Viz booth and MORE! Seriously, I can’t even begin to describe the sheer number of items you can find in the exhibit hall – figures, shirts, pillows, doujinshi, models, games, visual novels, mousepads, you name it. I spent more than I should on picking up things here and there – but I don’t regret it.

Look at all that stuff that you can't afford.

The last thing I attended was the charity auction (and closing ceremonies, but nothing really happened there except Danny Choo accidentally beaning someone in the head with a set of Moekana cards). The charity auction is always fun to watch, but I sometimes feel sorry for the people who are dedicated enough to participate. Whenever you think an item is going to go for a certain price it gets pushed up even higher and higher until it leaves everyone cheering. The hot item this year was a sketch of Chihaya from Chihayafuru, colored and signed by the Madhouse staff. It started at a solid $100 and became an intense bid war for 5 minutes until it reached the final amount of $2000. Other hot items included the sketches from Range Murata courtesy of the Gallery of Fantastic Artists, which both went for over $1000 if I remember correctly. In the end, I always feel like I should have saved all my money from the exhibit hall to bid on one really cool item, but it rarely works out that way.

All of this was free stuff, includes a few preview DVDs!

Overall, AX 2012 was an awesome experience. I always leave with the feeling that I could have done more, but when I look back I realize how crazy I was for trying to go to so many things and buy so many things and it leaves me exhausted just thinking about it. Honestly when you go to a big con like AX you get charged with energy and it lets go on for days and days until you come back and the excitement dies down and it leaves you exhausted. My impression of 2012 was better than 2010, probably because I went to more things and was interested in more of the actors and guests. However, from the industry side I have to say things were a little disappointing.

There were a select few announcements that I personally found exciting, but mostly I was disappointed by the lack of new properties and buzz. FUNimation always has something, but Aniplex and even NIS hardly offered anything new. Although considering the state of the industry this really doesn’t surprise me. I suppose the true winners of AX are Sentai Filmworks who never had a panel and simply announced their acquisitions on a small white board at their booth at set periods every day. It was fun to walk by and see what they had gotten – but overall they are so focused on licensing new proprieties that it makes me a little concerned for the future. Anyway, that’s about all I have to say about AX 2012. Thanks for reading.

It's not like I wanted you to come to AX with me or anything baka!

Cecil here with a few fixes/updates .All of this content is provided by my good friend zoid9000 that i meet over twitter recently and has been a great help to provide this content to you all. I really appreciate all of his hard-work sharing his experience at ax-con and I hope you guys will do the same for me, just leave the typical feedback, comments or questions below and hopefully one day I can check out a convention~ Also check out this YouTube clip of Rojas from the funimation booth...This is how you promote a product.


  1. good job man, it looks like you really had a lot of fun ax-con and I appreciate this so much

  2. too bad I'll never go, me and large crowds don't mix.