TR, the administrator of Golden Plume Press, an OEL manga firm, is covering Anime Expo 2018 for us! Check out his thoughts below and follow us on Twitter, as TR live tweets his way through all the ups and downs of this massive event.
A thunderous applause shook the ballroom as the next wave of cosplayers strode confidently across the stage, showered with affection by a deluge of ravenous fans waving their hands frantically. The symphony of the Your Name soundtrack reached an emotional climax as it trumpeted proudly through the sound system.
Standing room only.
Pressed up against the back wall, I tried my best to play it cool while snapping photos between the crush of swaying arms. I had arrived. Years of wanting to attend finally realized. Anime Expo.
A young, female cosplayer crossed between Madoka Magica and Uma Pretty Derby stood nearby, her phone begging for notification attention. Somehow, her wildly popular costume mash up was lighting up the Twitterverse as she multitasked posing for photos while live tweeting.
Buzz buzz. Buzz-buzz, buzz-buzz, buzz-buzz…
Wow. That was some serious popularity.
My eyes popped open as my S5 continued to buzz and shake as if hyped up on a triple espresso. Wake up buddy! It’s Anime Expo Day 1! The notifications continued to roll in as I checked the time display. 6:30 AM. Seriously?! It appeared that my Day 0 coverage found a fan with 21 likes in rapid succession. That’s what you get for not powering off at night.
After stealing two more hours of sleep, I suited up for the second biggest event of my life, donning Adidas athletic wear and running shoes. Lace them up tight, it’s going to be a marathon. Having attended the Kentucky Derby (150,000+) there was some knowledge of what to expect in having to navigate a horde of humanity. Right?
I was so not ready for AX.
10 AM and the line in front of the Staples Center stretched past master class Gundam cosplay and into infinity. I didn’t dare look to see how far it went. Fortunately, my industry pass afforded me a priority line through a side entrance of West Hall. There would be plenty of lines in the future, at least get one freebie while you can.
Heading to South Hall, Fate banners hung freely all the way through the concourse in a massive marketing blitz. Taiko heralded the arrival of attendees into the Exhibit Hall as they ascended escalators into the next level of fandom. A handful of strides through the open doors and the enormity of AX hit you full on. Massive towers proclaiming Crunchyroll and BANDAI NAMICO and a sea of peeps sandwiched into the canyon between them.
If you were wearing any cosplay that extended past your body, kiss it goodbye. Bodies congealed into a solid mass of humanity as they shuffled, stretched, and craned to get a glimpse of each convention exclusive. If you ever wanted to know what a pinball felt like, this was it. Somehow, a cardboard Panzer complete with auxiliary soda can fuel canisters managed to trundle through the crowds, thanks in part to its charismatic female commander.
Bouncing my way through the path of least resistance, I found my way slowly to the back of the hall where the smaller exhibitors displayed their world of creative endeavors and humorous memes. Pokemon snowglobes? Check. Sokka’s Cactus Juice tees? Yup.
Look right, look left, up, and especially down because being so tall it’s easy to accidentally walk into someone who stands beside your triceps. Poke! I took a painful flanking blow from a pointed Overwatch costume that didn’t leave a mark but still doesn’t appreciate being touched. Yes, AX2018 comes complete with real battle damage! The shuffle continued for the rest of the morning until a quick lunch break off-site and then back into the fray.
The first panel of the day was J-Novel Club but it might as well been The Hunt for the Red October. Where is the darned line for room 404? It took the better half of an hour to locate it due to obscure directions from overwhelmed staff who assumed that if you “just go that direction and ask the next red shirt” you’ll get there eventually. Eventually.
Of course, the irony of red shirts and 404 was lost on me at the time.
Long short, I got to the panel on time. J-Novel Club announced a string of new titles and publishing partnerships that kept the crowd cheering repeatedly as my stylus struggled to keep up. Meanwhile Twitter kept crashing due to a poor connection from being so deep within the bowls of the convention center.
J-Novel let out and a speed walk put me into the queue for the Viz Media panel, which turned into my first serious line of the day. Peeps, if you want to get into the big stuff, get the Premier badge because that lets you in early. Everyone else, including Industry, is stuck in the queue. Sadly, the queue doesn’t start to move until the panel is underway, which meant walking in 20 minutes late even though you were 20 minutes early.
During the panel, the creators of RWBY offered some insight that may slowly change the fan bias against OEL works. It turns out that in Japan, manga is manga, and anime is anime, regardless of the country of origin. Fans there enjoy it all. After all, manga is a style, not a geographic location, a concept that also came up on Day 0.
Learning from the Viz queue, I cut out early and dashed over to try to catch the Welcome Ceremony. Another line and this one made Viz look like nothing. Peeps piled up out in the sun while staff swarmed about repeating “fire violation,” and trying to concoct a solution. Eventually they formed a backup queue to the queue, a contorted line that made Super Snake HD jealous. Fortunately, the opportunity allowed everyone to produce a lot of Vitamin D under the cloudless Los Angeles sky.
Again, the queue didn’t start to budge until music started coming from within. Why don’t the lines start filling the room before hand? This time it took 30 minutes to get in, half of the entire event. What I saw of the ceremony was underwhelming, though it finished strong with a moment of closing your eyes and projecting all your hopes and desires for the convention towards the stage. I projected them a better direction. Up.
After that, it was a dinner off-site where I nearly fell asleep. A check of the step counter read over 11,000 steps, approximately 5 miles. Battery change on my hungry S5. Then it was a dash off to the Aniplex panel to try to get some magical girl and Sword Art fix. 30 minutes early would be plenty of time, right?
Peeps, if you want to be able to get into something, and don’t have a Premier badge, triage your schedule and arrive super early. After spending 75 minutes in the queue, the room hit capacity. Bummer, no Gun Gale for the half of us left outside.
As a welcome consolation, Special Weekend and her Uma Pretty Derby trio happened to be chillaxing outside the Marriott and struck a memorable Grade-1 pose to close out the day.
Here comes Day 2!