Anime Expo began this year on the 4th of July. I don’t know if it was because of the holiday or because I got there later than usual, but the line for badge pick-up was crazy. I waited three hours for my badge, twice as long as I ever have before. People in line are excited and goofy and there are cosplayers mixed in and we’ve all got our smart phones so I wasn’t too miserable until the start of the third hour when the line was losing its charm and there was a long stretch in the blazing sun. Rather than looking forward to the con I was just looking forward to getting to the shady part of the line that was near the end. I literally threw my hands of and yelled “Yes!” when I stepped into the shade.
Since I had to get back home for the 4th of July party I was hosting, and I wasn’t anticipating a THREE HOUR line, I essentially had to drop off my entries for the Gunpla Builders World Cup, say “Hi” to the guys at Bluefin and then turn around and go right back home just in time to be late to my own party. So much for Day One…
The next day I carpooled with Clem, Angel and Clem’s wife, Yuki. After we got there and they got their badges (thankfully they didn’t have to wait in line with Clem’s presenter connections) Clem and Angel set up their entries in the Bluefin booth for the GBWC. While they were doing that I took photos of the entrants with my new Canon Rebel SL1 camera.
Next we walked the exhibit hall for an hour or so comparing prices and stock at the various Gunpla booths and sometime around this time we were joined by Dave. Next it was off to Clem’s G-Rated Gunpla panel. Due to past complaints about Clem’s completely disrespectful sense of humor, last year’s panel was late at night, poorly advertised and poorly attended. This year he requested two, one in the daytime, where he promised to be on good behavior, and one at night for an 18+ crowd where anything went.
The G-rated panel was pretty boring. Not that it wasn’t interesting and informative (for new model builders), but model building is kind of a dry topic when you take away Clem’s equal-opportunity racist jokes and sexual innuendo. There were a lot of set-ups for jokes that were left hanging there as Clem chanted to himself, “G-rated, G-Rated, G-Rated.” I got lots of progress done on the HGUC Sinanju I brought to snap. There were about 170 people at this panel and Angel and I stood by the exit door and passed out flyers for this November’s Southern California Gundam Model Contest to almost all of them.
Next we crossed the street to a welcome parking lot full of food trucks. Back in the bad old days you had to eat whatever you could carry around all day in your backpack or eat the overpriced crappy food inside the convention center. Last year a few food trucks were scattered in the streets around the convention center, but this year they were organized and there were a dozen or so trucks parked in the lot caddy-corner from the front entry of the convention center. The first day I got Philipino-style nachos with Adobo chicken and the next day I got some really good Indian butter chicken and samosas. So much better than cheese and crackers.
The last big event of the day was the Gundam Unicorn Episode 6 screening. However, it began with a panel by the director and Clem got disgusted and left. Angel, Yuki and Dave went with him back to the exhibit hall but I stayed because there was nothing really for me in the hall and it’s always more fun to watch anime in a crowd of nerds.
After that I caught up with the guys in the hall and then we pretty much took off. I was home in time for dinner.
The next day was Saturday. Saturday is always the big day of the convention with the best events and the largest crowds and this day was CROWDED. It felt like the most crowded AX day I’ve seen but maybe I’m biased by the memory of the three hour line. We carpooled again (with Sue Yin playing the part of Yuki) but I went off on my own once I got there to see the Attack on Titan panel and screening. I got there almost a half hour late (a dog loose on the 60 freeway and lines to park held us up) but the panelists were late, too (probably as stuck in traffic as we were) so they hadn’t let people in yet. Unfortunately about 50 feet in front of me they cut off the line saying the room was full. Oh well, back to the hall.
We walked the hall some more and hung out at Bluefin. We were talking to Casval so long that Steve asked us to get out of the booth. Heh…
We hit up the lunch trucks again and then went to the Production I.G. panel. I was anxious to hear about the new Ghost in the Shell OVA. About half way through, we got a text from Casval that they were going to announce the winners of the GBWC. So, after deciding it would be rude not to, we got up and sneaked out of the panel to return to the hall. But then when we got there, somebody from Bandai had disappeared. Then Xavier was gone… We totally could have stayed, lol.
Clem’s Nu box art diorama didn’t win. I kind of thought he would but I think the Japanese judges just didn’t go for the concept. The winner was a nicely done Zaku Cannon in a really nice and uncharacteristic flying fight pose. I never caught the name of the winner since Xavier never really threw it (he said it was probably Thai and he didn’t want to butcher it, so he just kind of mumbled it). Clem’s Nu got best diorama, a guy named Mai who we didn’t know got best 1/100 for his up-armed Duel Gundam. A kid got the well-deserved Junior award for his large Zeta-Gundam hangar diorama and I got best 1/144 for my Rick Dom and GM “Ambushed” diorama. I really expected Vin to win 1/144 with his really nicely-built GN-X variant but the Japanese judges… they weren’t so much into basic modeling skills. One of the winners’ kits featured prominent gouges around the nubs and unfixed seam lines. It kind of took the wind out of my sails to win a contest where the judges awarded a model that looked great from two feet away but had issues on closer inspection. We asked the guy who built the model in question, and his response was, “I don’t do sanding.” Haha, to me that’s like a pilot saying “I don’t do take offs.” Maybe we can get him to our build gatherings and brainwash him into a case of Advanced Modeler Syndrome.
While this was going on I was missing another panel (the Japanese voice actor who voiced Jerid in Zeta Gundam). I wanted to go up and ask him how it felt to play the guy who loses over and over throughout a 50-episode series.
Anyway, once the GBWC hubbub was over and the hall was closed we wandered a bit and settled at the Lounge 21 (I think that’s what they call it) where you can relax and have a drink. Brandon popped over for a while and it was kind tense since his girlfriend and Clem had recently decided they don’t like each other. Awkward…
Finally, it was off to Clem’s 18+ panel. It was more fun than the G-rated version and I learned something. Not about models but about something really horrible that can happen to the female anatomy. Shudder. I ducked out a bit early to go the “Ghost in the Shell: Arise” screening. It was awesome. I’m really glad they’re making new GITS works and this one’s a prequel so you get to see how the team forms and Motoko’s teenage years.
And that was it. I skipped Sunday because there were still lots of things to do at home (that garage still isn’t clean yet, ugh, but there’s nothing to stop us now, I will have a car parked in there in the next week, I swear). I had a nice mellow Anime Expo. Last year I ran from panel to panel trying to absorb every bit of AX (maybe trying to recapture the magic of the first few years I went) and came away tired and a little disappointed. This year I spent less time planning, more time with my friends, went with the flow and left wanting more instead of burnt out and maybe that’s the better way to do it. I think I realized this year that while each guest or event might be the only time you’ll get to ever see them or it, you’ll probably be able to see something like it the next year.