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Getting started: Luckily the Los Angeles Convention Center isn't too far from where I live so I was able to take the public transportation there and get my badge on Day 0. After that on Day 1, I took a commuter bus to the LACC and arrived bright and early in downtown LA at around 7:30am. After I checked into my hotel and grabbed a bite to eat, I headed off to the convention center. Since many of the hotels are over a mile away from the LACC, this year AX utilized a shuttle system in which shuttle buses would come throughout the day and take attendees to and from the hotels and convention center. The panels I wanted to go to weren't until the evening so I spent most of the day taking pictures of cosplayers and finding my way around the LACC. I also spent a good two hours at the Exhibit Hall and bought lots of anime goodies. There seemed to be a lot more exhibitors this year which is always nice ^^ There was also a lot more space in the Exhibit Hall this year so it never felt too overwhelmingly crowded.
I was originally planning to try and attend the AMV Contest on Day 1, which is one of the main events that's been held at every AX for many years. I was actually entitled to get one free ticket to any main event since I pre-registered but like an idiot I forgot to claim my ticket online before the June 15th deadline. I could've still waited in line at the con for an AMV Contest ticket, but in the end I decided to pass on this event. I can watch all the AMVs I want online and rather than spend hours in line at this popular event, I'd rather spend my time elsewhere. I spent nearly half my time waiting in line at AX '07 so I was trying my best to avoid lines at AX '08! XD
Anime Journalism and Anime in Academia panels: The first panel I attended was about how to get into anime journalism and was held by staff from Anime Insider magazine and Anime News Network. Just an interesting fact that Bamboo Dong, the managing editor of ANN, goes to the same university I go to (I ran into her there by coincidence one day ^^) I've always been interested in getting an anime journalism type job so this panel was really informative and helpful to me. They said that the most important thing is to keep writing and to have a web site or blog of your best work to show potential employers. Since I have my web site and blog and I work on them pretty often, I guess I'm off to a good start for an anime journalism job =) This kind of job takes a lot of time and brain power so I probably won't look into it until after I'm done with school but it's definitely something I'd like to get into!
The second panel I attended was about anime and manga in academia; basically it was about the new field of study about anime/manga fandom and Japanese pop culture from a sociological and anthropological point of view. We discussed books written about this topic, possible new topics to consider about anime fandom and its affect on society, and about applying this "aboutness" of anime fandom to actual school courses. I've always been interested in learning about anime fandom itself rather than just the actual anime shows so this panel was also very interesting to me. Maybe one day I'll publish my own opinions about the topic =)
The Art of Reviewing Anime panel: This panel was similar to the Anime Journalism panel and was also held by ANN staff. They talked about the most effective ways to review anime, how to be objective yet critical, and also what ANN looks for in a good review. Again, I've been interested in writing for ANN or similar anime journalism sources so I found this panel very worthwhile. Even though I pretty much already knew a lot of the tips for reviewing anime that they mentioned, there was one I found very interesting; to be aware of clichés and not to judge anime based solely on that. Anime is a pop culture medium with very distinct genres and as such you're going to find a lot of clichés because that's what sells. So you've gotta be careful not to criticize an anime series just because it fits into a cliché category (i.e., it's a typical shounen story), rather you need to judge whether it follows through with that cliché well or not (i.e., even though the basic plot of Naruto is very cliché and unoriginal, it's executed and written very well).
Exhibit Hall and Artist Alley: After the anime review panel I was planning to go to the Ouran Host Club panel at the Funimation booth where fans could have tea and be catered to by cosplayers dressed as the Ouran Host Club characters. However because the line was horrendously long, and it didn't seem like a very pleasant experience to have tea in the noisy Exhibit Hall while other anxious attendees wait in line all around you, I decided to skip it. Instead I met up with one of my friends and we spent the afternoon walking around the Exhibit Hall and Artist Alley. And I've gotta say, Artist Alley was greatly improved this year compared to last year. The room they were in was nearly the size of the Exhibit Hall so it never seemed too crowded. And because of the extra space, it seemed like they had nearly double the number of artists this year. I was also really impressed by the amazing artwork of the artists themselves and I ended up buying a few things there =)
Anime News Network panel: Another panel held by ANN, this one was purely focused on ANN itself and its new plans for the future. They have this panel every year and they always give away free stuff to people who ask questions (there wasn't anything I wanted so I didn't ask anything =P) Probably their biggest new development for their site's 10th anniversary is the installation of the Anime News Network Video Player which streams free anime trailers and ANNtv podcasts. I've already checked out their trailers page and it seems good so far. They're also hoping to add actual anime episodes as well (which will be free or at least really cheap). This is a gigantic undertaking for ANN as they're planning to add hundreds of trailers and episodes and give fans their coveted free and legal anime viewing (totally supported by ad sponsorship). I'm really curious to see how this turns out =D
Lucky Star and Code Geass autographs: There weren't really any events I wanted to go to today so I decided to spend the day saving a good spot in line for the autograph sessions for the English VAs of Lucky Star and Code Geass at the Bandai booth. I haven't really watched the dubs of Lucky Star or Code Geass but I like the English VAs that are in them and I like getting the big, gorgeous posters with the autographs for free ^^ The Lucky Star autographs started at 3pm and the Code Geass ones at 4:30pm but I was at the Bandai booth by 11:30am! XD I passed the time playing my DS, watching Bandai trailers and clips on the big screen, and watching Bandai give away free items to anyone who bought something from their booth. Just to note, Bandai has licensed Gundam 00 and Hayate no Gotoku! (I'm really curious how they're going to handle the dub of Hayate though ~_^) By 2pm people were already crowding around for the Lucky Star autographs. Before the actual autograph session started, a Lucky Star cosplay group did an amusing little skit and danced to the Lucky Star opening theme. Bandai then gave out a limited number of tickets to everyone who wanted an autograph, which would guarantee them one. I was one of the first to get my big Lucky Star poster autographed by Wendee Lee (Konata), Karen Strassman (Miyuki), and Stephanie Sheh (Akira).
After that I hung around the Bandai booth some more waiting for the Code Geass autograph session. Unlike the Lucky Star autographs, it was a first come first serve session without tickets but luckily I had already saved myself a good spot in line. When they told everyone to line up, everyone tried their best to squeeze into the small Bandai booth area and we literally had to stand pushed up against each other for a good 20 minutes or so before the autograph session started. But it pays to come early so I quickly got my big Code Geass poster autographed by Yuri Lowenthal (Suzaku), Karen Strassman (Kallen), and Kirk Thornton (Ohgi).
Death Note: L Change the World screening: After the big autograph sessions I went back to my hotel to drop off my stuff, grab some food, and then I went back to the LACC for the screening of the second Death Note live action movie "L Change the World." I got there about 45 minutes early but there was already a pretty long line. But I kept busy with my DS and I discovered the amusement of Pictochat which is a must whenever you're with a large group of people who also have DSs XD The movie was supposed to start at 7:45pm but it didn't actually start until around 8:30pm, which I guess is understandable since they probably weren't expecting such a big crowd and they had to get everyone settled in.
This was my first time watching one of the Death Note live action movies but I really wasn't that impressed with it. To me, most of this movie seemed like an obvious catering to L fan girls (and it did this well, since all the fan girls in the audience cheered and squealed at everything the L actor did), the story wasn't all that original, it had very little to do with the Death Note itself, and besides L none of the other Death Note characters had a major role. They also went overboard with the gore and graphic content in the movie to the point were it was so revolting it lost all seriousness and was almost laughable. But the movie did have a good overall message and subject matter to think about so it wasn't a total waste of time. I'm curious if the other Death Note movie is any better.
The End: Unlike last year's AX where I actually did a lot of things on the last day, I had to check out of my hotel room by 12pm on Day 4 so I didn't have time to do much of anything on this year's Day 4. So I just got some breakfast, took a quick swim in my hotel's pool, checked out, and then headed back home with my back of goodies, an SD card full of photos, and an empty wallet XD
After the catastrophes of AX 2007 I figured I'd give AX one more chance to redeem themselves in 2008. And I'm glad I did because overall I was very pleased with AX '08. The new badge system was very effective and greatly cut down wait times, and the shuttle system worked pretty well too. They also made the AX Backstage channel play 24/7 throughout the con on channel 18 in the LA area where you could watch recordings of some of the events and guest interviews, anime trailers, info about Little Tokyo, and other AX-related stuff. All the events I went to started more or less on time and the AX staff seemed a lot more informed and organized this year. I didn't go to any of the main events, like the concerts and guest panels, but from what I've heard they were okay and attendees were given more than one chance to get a guest autograph. AX '08 was also a lot better because of the LACC; there was plenty of space compared to Long Beach so the Exhibit Hall, Artist Alley, and overall convention area never seemed too crowded and there was very little waiting outside in the hot sun. My one complaint is the lack of good, inexpensive food and drinks nearby or inside the LACC (a mediocre cheeseburger by itself cost $7.35! 0_0) And of course there were still lines and crowds at popular events but that's to be expected at any convention. In conclusion, I think AX did a good job improving themselves after last year's disaster so I'm hoping their improvements will continue. AX 2009 will again be held at the LACC so let's hope it's another good one!
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