I always do these recaps after the whole convention is over, but I’m actually writing this while Day 2 (and now finishing up during day 3) is in progress because this year I only went one day. Anime Expo might be hitting massive amounts of attendee numbers, but the quality of the convention as an ANIME AND JAPANESE CULTURE focused convention seems to have dropped beyond what anyone imagined it ever would. This year had essentially no actual guests, barely anyone related to the anime industry, and only 2 actual people worthy of a guest of honor title (Urobuchi, and one who wasn’t even counted as a GoH, Lunatic Joker). No good panels, no good guests, no concerts aside one shitty one that was squeezed in with other stuff as a bonus part of it, and unless you are a MASSIVE fucking fanboy of KLK – nothing to really see or do. Worse, it was basically a convention that wasn’t really anime related at all. Seems to me that the attendee numbers went up, so the money they spent on actually giving them content was drastically cut because why give people things if they are willing to pay for nothing – may as well pocket more of the cash given nobody is complaining and there is only a rise in income.
Mega 64 is a group everyone should know and enjoy at least some of their stuff, because they are great. However they aren’t anime or remotely Japanese. It’s sad that one of the best panels at the entire convention is a comedy sketch group for video games. It was fun as always and got to see some new clips, including a pretty funny one that had the whole room laughing once the Nuclear song from the E3 MGSV trailer started. And of course they also showed the second greatest video ever.
Urobuchi and Nitro+
These are both names that any anime fan should be familiar with, the former for sure. Gen “Urobutcher” Urobuchi is a screenwriter and a novelist who has written and been in charge of a lot of shit – the names you’d probably be most familiar with are Phantom, Madoka Magica, Fate/Zero, and Saya no Uta. He was pretty much the only person worth calling a guest of honor this year and was cool to see. I was a little disappointed by the panel though, instead of being about Aldnoah.Zero (Urobuchi’s new series that’s just started) or about other interesting things, it was just a history of N+ and himself. Interesting, but I was just hoping for something more in some ways. They did play a ~4 minute montage of a lot of their higher profile anime series which was cool at least. Sadly his autograph signings were only on days I wasn’t there, but it was still cool to see him. He seemed like a nice normal guy but also kind of shy.
Oh, they also had us all chant “BUTCHER BUTCHER BUTCHER” to get him to come onto the stage at the start, which was silly in a fun way.
I though they might complain about taking video, so I kept it low – not that it’d matter, the quality of this camera is such shit you’d just see WHITE anyway. Pretty sure they did say you could as long as you weren’t press, but I completely forgot at the time and didn’t want to get yelled at.
Sekai Project – a new official localization group mainly relying on Kickstarter for funding run by some guys me and my brother are friends with. Their most prominent releases at the moment are the Moe Headphones artbook with interviews with sound designers and musicians, along with Narcissu and some other popular VNs. They had a lot of announcements about VNs and a couple other games they were bringing over (sorry, but I genuinely forgot most of the titles they are working on – I know one of the non-VN games was like the older Ace Combat games, which might be cool, and another was a romance where your girlfriend turns into an Alpaca!) as well as bringing to Steam, and they also had the artist from the Lunatic Joker doujin circle there as their own personal guest of honor (not listed as an official guest of honor or mentioned anywhere in the program even though he was one of the only real guests…).
Easily their biggest and most important announcement was the fact they, by some miracle, were able to get Key/Visual Arts to let them officially localize Planetarian. It’s been out for a long time, it’s already got a fan translation for years, but it’s easily Key’s best work and very much worth getting be it on Steam when they finish. I actually own one of the original only ~500 made physical copy releases (they did make more later, but not of the original press version and packaging) as well as one of the less rare but still very hard to find early versions of the printed light novels but I’ll definitely be re-buying the game again to support these guys and this game, as well as show a big VN company that this is a smart idea. If you’re into visual novels at all be sure to look them up, chances are high they are working on something you’d be interesting or will possibly be in the future. Strangely enough the copy I own I actually bought years ago from the same guy who is the second in command of this company when he worked for another place that sold VNs and doujins at conventions.
For those of you who have never read Planetarian before, be sure to once this is out, it’s seriously probably the second best VN I’ve ever read even though it’s very short. Ever17 being the very best.
And, well, that’s it. That’s all the panels that were worth going to that day. The only other one I did want to see was the Bandai Namco one in hopes of seeing some more Xillia 2 stuff (or even the trailer again but in a room with a massive screen and super sound system), however I needed the time it was during to go shopping.
Terrible. We didn’t even stay through the whole thing, we left after the first two categories because we could not take any more of it. AMVs in general were never very good, but this year they were substantially worse than I ever remember them being. I don’t just mean at the competition, I mean in general. The “finalists” – which is every video they play during the competition for people to vote for the winner, must have been picked by a bunch of fucking retards as they were apparently the best of around 250 submissions somehow. I really doubt that this could possibly be true given the things they chose.
Let me run down the list for you real quick:
Action/Adventure: Awful Redline faggotry with a shit song that was basically a full summary of the film (went from start to finish showing most of the relevant scenes), yet-another-DBZ video with screamy metal, yet-another-Hellsing video with screamy metal, and a few other screamy metal videos. Oh, and not only were the anime choices mostly terrible and the songs completely awful, the videos themselves were made incredibly poorly and were more a random mash up of scenes and clips with no thought to placement or timing. Literally just monkeys putting clips into a timeline then tossing a horrible screamy song on top of it. This is what AMVs are nowadays, and this is why I stick to MADs.
Drama/Theatric: Random clips from Michiko to Hatchin with a mediocre hip hop song playing (because Michiko is black looking so we need black music for it), a Hajime no Ippo video which was actually alright – the video itself ran way too long for it’s own good but the song was really good (The Fighter by Gym Class Heroes) and fit perfectly, an awful screamy metal song to Attack on Titan random clips of Erin going titan-mode, an AMV that was made exclusively with still manga images (it’s called an ANIME music video, not a manga video), the most horrendous screamy metal shit to a bunch of shitty anime, and an awful ghibli video with an awful song from the 90s.
Oh, and of course in all those videos they were either what I mentioned earlier (random clips thrown in with no thought behind them), or they were just summarizing the entire series from start to finish with full spoilers and ending included. On top of all that, whoever was running it was too stupid to equalize audio or control volumes at all, so 90% of the music was blaring too loudly and fucking up the speakers and everyone’s ears.
Surely the people behind us were happy when we left though, as we had spent the entire time talking shit about the AMVs, laughing at how bad they were, and playing cellphone games/tweeting through half of the ones we sat through.
The exhibit hall was easily the bright point of this year’s convention and felt pretty good this year. Lots of merch, pretty good variety, and even though a shitty fucking MOBA had a gigantic area taken, it seemed like there were more shops this year too.
Oh, the 86 was there too – the door panel was correct too, though you can’t see it in this image:
The best booth last year to me was Natsume’s (the Harvest Moon guys) which had a giant cow plushie – well, this year they stepped their game up and bought a whole nother space just to put that cow, a giant chicken to go with it, some hay bales, and a plushie dog in too. Very cute, this is the best pic I could get without being a creeper and taking a pic of this little girl who kept running in and out of the display to sit on the animals and stuff:
There was one other booth dedicated to video games that I entirely didn’t expect – Tecmo Koei. They had various games for sale, had a screen playing demo gameplay of Samurai Warriors 4 which looked WAY better than DW8Xtreme Legends (which is a great game, but held back by being cross-gen and multi-plat), possibly thanks to being Sony-exclusive and not having to work on the 360+Xbone. Still not fully next-gen as it’s on the PS3 as well, but it looked way nicer and seemed to have a much higher FPS. They also had Atelier playing on a screen too, which made me happy to see, and they were selling the games and some other merchandise. They also were giving out free hand fans with Warriors and Atelier on them.
Crunchyroll was there again and apparently had a whole mini-stage with mini-concerts and also karaoke and their usual stream set-up for people watching online live. I somehow completely never noticed any of it though, but I did get a nice free poster and sticker for logging in (you get it for signing up for a free trial too) at their booth.
Sentai was also back (duh) and were one of the only people giving out free shit – a few posters and some buttons. The posters are actually nice too, almost like years ago when there was a lot of high quality free stuff all the big companies gave out. Those days won’t return, but it was nice to see something like that again.
Unsurprisingly, nothing from shows like Mikakunin and other recent popular shows. AX merch is always behind by at least 1~2 years for whatever is popular. They always have top-sellers though – lots of Free! faggotry was available to buy, and finally some Kuroko no Basuke stuff (albeit I didn’t buy any, I saw a good figure of Kuroko for a good price, but then when I came to buy it it had already sold and all the other booths had him for like 30 bucks more) as well. Luckily there was plenty of Railgun merch as always too.
First up, on their own because I forgot them in the picture of everything, the three heroines from the Arland trilogy of Atelier games! These are from the point in the timeline that Meruru takes place, so Rorona is a loli from that de-aging potion and Totori is a little more grown up. Cute things I didn’t even know existed – Tecmo Koei was selling them and I just had to have them.
And now everything else – I didn’t buy as much as I do usually, but I’m happy with everything I got (including the Atelier girls of course!):
Chicken and Chick plushie set from the Natsume/Harvest Moon booth – I got the cow last year (you can see it’s leg on the very right by Miku’s hair) and this year they had a chicken that came with a chick, so I was sure to get it.
Biribiri & Kuroko sticker (left above the headphone postcard).
Headphone postcards which actually I only picked up at AX but were also available to get at the convention – I got them for helping kickstart the project.
Mikoto pillow – which was actually flat when I bought it and in a vacuum package. When I cut open the package it expanded and with some fluffing is now a very nice soft pillow, and the quality of the design and cloth is really top notch and the lines and coloring are extremely vibrant. It’s official merch and it shows that very well in every aspect. Probably my favorite purchase of the year. Here are some better images of it:
Along with that pillow, I got that little notebook with Biribiri on it. It’s nice and also each page inside has a different image of Biribiri and/or her and Kuroko together from various promotional material. Each page has a theme matching the images too.
And – of course – yet ANOTHER anime clock. This time another Railgun clock! If you know me and/or have seen my prior AX posts, I have a habit that I didn’t notice until last year or so of buying a clock every single year I’ve gone to AX. They vary in shape, size, and design, but I always happened to end up with one, so now I always make sure to get one as some sort of tradition, I guess I kind of accidentally fell into being a moe clock collector. Now I just need to get it a battery.
And that’s it – actually, I lied. I have one last thing I got thanks to Sekai Project bringing Lunatic Joker as their guest. A custom commissioned sketch of my only railgun just for me, and he did a wonderful job of it. The Kurisu is my brother’s, Biribiri is mine, and the left two were for others. And, maybe it’s just my imagination, but I think the artist might be a fan – she seems to be the most detailed, her hair seems to have the most ‘strands’ to it, and she even has some shading in her hair, shirt, and even her hand, plus the effects from the electricity. Lucky!
Edit – closer image of Mikoto sketch! Fan or not, a lot of people have done this (myself included, and we all know how much I love her), he misspelled her name as Mikasa at first and then tried writing s and k over the old k and s. Rather than upsetting or bothering me, it adds a little more to it for me because it’s silly in a good way. It’s funny to see a mistake you and so many others have made show up in a situation like this.
There were a couple anime-covered buses instead of the plain shuttle buses, that was pretty cool. Shitty SAOII but still fucking anime buses and they were actually in-use rather than being just for display.
Best part of the entire convention:
As we were leaving the convention, just outside of the parking lot a guy went riding by on a bicycle really fast in cosplay – doing so into oncoming traffic instead of on the proper side of the road and also at a red light. A cop happened to be there and pulled him over immediately, got out of his car, pulled out his baton ready for a beat down and started yelling at the guy to put his hands against the wall. It was pretty great, especially because he was cosplaying and probably also not from around here if he thought a bicycle in downtown LA was a good idea – let alone riding it on the wrong side of the road while running a light.
This is not bullshit nor a joke or anything like that. This is truthfully the length of the line on Day 0 to pick up your badge. Also, worth noting that the part near ‘line end’ was actually snaked around about 15 times, not only three times like it shows there. These are also LONG STREETS, not neighborhood length streets.
According to AX’s official twitter they had over 25,000 people in the line that day. Being a legitimate cripple, I wasn’t made to stand in it at least, and it seemed to not be nearly this bad on Day 1 anyway. They clearly were not prepared, and their systems ALL broke and went down for several hours on that day. While I wasn’t there, I did watch their official twitter and they were apparently still getting people badges till way past midnight even though they usually stop at around 8pm. The line was just so long and held back worse by their non-working systems for hours that they couldn’t say “too bad” though.
According to a lot of mostly reliable sources, AX has hit their cap for the entire con at around 85,000 people this year. They have officially stopped letting people register on-site or online for the rest of this year’s convention so it seems to be correct – and given the rise in numbers each year it isn’t unbelievable at all aside in the ‘holy shit’ way.
Anime Expo 2014 Overall
For Anime Expo, this was easily the worst year since I’ve started going in 2002 – this was the first year I almost decided just not to go at all and ruin my perfect streak since then. It had nothing to do, no guests worthy of the title, and was a massive disappointment with just a barely tangential connection to ‘anime’ or ‘japan’. However, going just for one day I feel was worth it and I did enjoy myself – with that many people you always have some fun making fun of them and such.
Anime Expo has gone from a con that had it’s very high ups, rare middles, and often very extreme lows to a convention that can barely even be rated as an anime convention or in relation to what it’s accomplished in the past due to becoming so far from related to Japan and anime – so much so that “anime” in the title is very questionable. It is a convention that now is spending as little as possible for the attendees while making sure those same people continue to spend exorbitant prices just to go ($75 for a for day pass if you order early, and a full $45 to reprint a badge if you lose it). Which sadly at this point doesn’t take much simply due to the sheer size of the convention. People will keep paying to go to it no matter how awful the con is or how shit the prices are because of a billion different and stupid reasons that are more “it’s tradition” or “it’s the only time I get to meet my out-of-state friends” than “it’s the best anime convention in America”.
The one positive thing I can say is that the staff seemed a thousand times better than usual. They actually seemed, for the most part, competent, calm, understanding, and on a level you’d expect them to be for FULL TIME YEAR-ROUND STAFF who do nothing but spend 361 days preparing for this. Surprisingly that was not something the staff managed before. Last year had gotten a lot better than prior years, but was still bad in many ways – this year felt a lot more like it should however and I’m proud of them for that much at least. It’s just too bad that whoever is on staff to pick and try and get guests is a fucking idiot, and that the ex-Hollywood CEO running it now doesn’t know shit about anime or care about it whatsoever.
Overall, I’d say it was worth going for the day, but the quality of content is hitting a point where unless something drastically changes or there are some guests I’m totally unwilling to miss out on seeing (Rina Satou for example), this may very well have been my final AX. I would not recommend getting tickets or, if you’re out of state, making any plans on coming next year until we start hearing about the guests and events.
And while I luckily missed out on it, it sounds that Saturday was so crowded you could barely move anywhere in or around the convention center – to the point that the number of people on it’s own ruined a lot of people’s days.
At least I have the Vocaloid concert later this year to make up for AX this time around.