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Friday, July 22, 2011

Anime Expo 2011

Oh, Anime Expo... I've attended every year for the past 9 years, but how you've disappointed me so this year! 2011 was supposed to be Anime Expo's Year of the Fans - its 20th anniversary. But I felt neither honored nor appreciated. This was probably the worst experience I've ever had at Anime Expo (and this is including the one year I decided to volunteer and attend on the same day, which left me too tired to enjoy any of the exhibits or panels.)

Over the years, I have seen Anime Expo rear its greedy little head. Initially, I went to Anime Expo with the Exhibit Hall Only Pass, which only included admission to the shops and booths in the Exhibit Hall and not the panels, special screenings, or concerts. A few years ago, they stopped offering that option - forcing people to buy the One-Day Attendee Pass, which cost about twice as much as the Exhibit Hall Only Pass. I wasn't happy, but I dealt with it and continued going because I enjoyed Anime Expo. This year, as a gift to the fans, they brought back the Exhibit Hall Only Pass! I was ecstatic at first! I was only ever interested in going to the Exhibit Hall for some anime/manga-related shopping so I was completely in favor of saving some money. (One-day admission was $50 this year! And it was only $35 last year!)
As you can see, the website clearly showed that from June 15-30th, the price of an Exhibit Hall Only Pass was $20. (More than it cost a few years back, but that's inflation and the state of our economy for you. :T ) After some indecisiveness and semi-drama from my friends regarding AX, I decided to go with my cousin. We bought our passes online on the 30th and to our surprise, we were charged $25 instead of $20. I thought it must've been some sort of computer glitch so I called and emailed AX only to receive a reply saying that the webmaster has messed up the date and that the proper price for the 30th was $25. This didn't make sense to me! What I didn't understand was that even in the news release, it had stated that from June 15-30th, it was going to be $20! After talking to the registration supervisor at the convention and some more emails, I was able to get things straightened out and my $5 refunded, buy the entire process was very frustrating.
Pre-registration Badge Pick-up Line
Another thing that bothers me every year is the line for pre-registration badge pick-up. Notice that little box of light at the end of the tunnel? Yeah... the line winds back and forth several times from that point to the point where I took this picture. It's rather ridiculous how the line for pre-registration is always almost 20 times longer than the at-con registration line. Thankfully, it moves relatively quickly, but I just wish they had a more efficient method for badge pick-up. Waiting 20-30 minutes in a seemingly endless line is never fun.
Ahn Joo's Buckwheat Noodle Combo
After my cousin and I picked up our badges and resolved the overcharge issue, we headed outside to check out some of the food trucks that had set up station in two nearby parking lots. I was craving a pita, but that truck wasn't open yet so I ordered the Buckwheat Noodle Combo with chicken skewers and rice punch from the Ahn Joo truck.
Ahn Joo's Buckwheat Noodles, Chicken Skewers and Rice Punch
I thought cold noodles would be good for such a hot summer day, but I didn't really like this dish. The sauce for the cold noodles was a bit too bitter for me and the chicken was dry. My favorite thing ended up being the rice punch.
Evacuating the Exhibit Hall
We wanted to bring our food inside the convention center so we could take advantage of the air conditioning, but right as we entered the building, we saw security directing everyone back out. It turns out, they were evacuating the entire Exhibit Hall! No one would tell us what was going on and when I tried to ask one of the workers, he just told me, "Keep moving!" How rude! I know he was just trying to get everyone out, but he could've been a little nicer about it. Since no one knew what was happening, people were just milling around, entering and leaving the lobby area. It wasn't til later that my cousin received a text from one of his friends telling us that we had been evacuated because there was a "suspicious" spill in the food court area. If the people in charge had just told us that at the beginning, we would've been more understanding and evacuated the area in a more orderly fashion.
Hatsune Miku Toyota Corolla
Speaking of the lobby, Toyota had two decorated Corollas on display. Hatsune Miku, a character from Vocaloid, is Toyota's new mascot. There was a photo area to take pictures with their Hatsune Miku models/cosplayers and if you filled out their survey, you got a free Hatsune Miku poster.
Hatsune Miku Toyota Corolla
No Anime Expo would be complete without cosplayers and although I've never cosplayed, it's interesting seeing some of the more intricate costumes. I was never big on photographing cosplayers, but this little girl was just TOO ADORABLE!
Baby Chun-Li
It's Baby Chun-Li!! She's sooooooooooooo cute! She may very well be my favorite thing out of the entire convention this year.

One thing that was different this year was that Pocky had a booth and was having a scavenger hunt. Hidden throughout the Exhibit Hall were 5 boxes of Pocky. Although they told you which booths they were located in, you still had to find it hidden amongst their merchandise. Once you found out which flavor was hidden in which booth, you had to fill out a form that got entered into a drawing with a prize of a giant Pocky display box.

Coconut Pocky
Dessert Pocky

Marble Pocky
Winter Chocolate Pocky
Choco Banana Pocky
I really enjoyed the scavenger hunt because it gave us something different to do besides simply shopping, weaving through crowds, and observing cosplayers.

Regarding the Exhibit Hall itself, I've noticed that over the years, there have been less booths and nearly no more free stuff. Back in the day, TokyoPop and Viz would have booths giving out manga samplers and free bags, but sadly, they no longer even come to AX. Also, it seems that AX is allowing just about anyone to set up shop in their hall. (Can someone please explain what exactly Verizon has to do with anime or manga?) One of the "out of place" booths did catch my brother's attention though...
Red vs Blue
It's Red vs Blue! My bro didn't want to go to AX so I got a picture for him. Look! You can even see Griffon, who I am told writes the series. It's not really anime, but at least it's cartoon-like. (Unlike Verizon... *ahem*)
Giant Pokeball Plushies
And finally, one of the main reasons I came to the Exhibit Hall: to find the allusive giant Pokeball plushie! About 3 years ago, when I went to AX with my cousins and brother, I found a booth selling this plushie for $15. I decided to look around some more and then backtrack to the booth, but by the time I got back, another girl had purchased it. A little bummed, I figured I'd go for it the next year... but as luck would have it, no one was selling them that year... or the year after... or the year after that! When I saw the Pokeball plushies on display this year, I literally let out a squeal of joy! BUT sadly, this booth was selling them for $35, which was not within my budget. I went around the entire hall in hopes that another booth was selling them too, but alas, no one else was. When I came back to the booth and tried asking another worker how much they cost (in hopes that it would've somehow decreased in price within the last few hours), the guy told me they were $40! *SIGH* Stupid inflation! The giant Pokeball plushie has alluded me once again...

With the whole issue with being overcharged, waiting in long lines, evacuating the Exhibit Hall, and not really finding anything I wanted to buy, I did not enjoy my time at Anime Expo this year. I was able to buy a few bento-related items and some manga for my brother, but overall, the experience wasn't worth the price of admission. My experience last year was probably the most fun I've ever had at Anime Expo (esp. with the laser show, Club Nokia, and funny panels) so in comparison, it felt extra disappointing this year.

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