Anime Expo 2001

Long Beach, California

July 5 - 8, 2001

Wednesday, July 4

Arrived half an hour late due to the brainiacs at American Airlines not having a mechanic on site and our wonderful aircraft needing a maintenance sign off to prove that it has enough hydraulic fluid because the gauge is broken. One might think they'd have called the guy to start his commute before the plane landed.

Anyway, after a lengthy journey through some of the seedier parts of Long Beach, we're here. The Westin is a nice hotel in that expensive Los Angeles kind of way - the complimentary bottle of water is in fact 3.50 and so on. Registration went without a hitch, except the line management was noticeably worse.

Had a very nice late lunch at the Westin's restaurant- I had the club sandwich, Marcia had the Thai chicken wrap. both very good. Tonight is a quiet night, all we're expecting to do is use our fabulous view over the harbor to watch the fireworks.

I've been in LA now half a dozen times, and my sense of this place is always the same, that once upon a time a beautiful city was built here, but that it is now decayed, polluted, and overrun with people picking at its bones. No part of the city ever seems wholesome and healthy - it's either slum or ultra-ritz, the latter seeming almost like a theater set built in the decaying ruin of the city, every reflective surface catching some glint of what the real world is like just behind and beneath it. Small wonder people who live here are perceived as shallow. If they made a habit of digging, they would realize the true nature of this place. Every time I'm here I'm left with the thought that the best thing for Los Angeles would be to give everyone 30 days to leave and then turn off the water.

Still, the harbor at Long Beach is pretty - or as pretty as a working harbor can be. I can see the harbor works out my window, just beyond the aquarium. To the right is the final resting place of the Queen Mary - now a restaurant and hotel. I DID wonder at the multi-stacked ocean liner - they don't build 'em like that anymore. Well they didn't used to. I imagine the Titanic II, when completed, will have more than one stack, although probably only 1 that does anything. I have misgivings about the idea of a Titanic II. Titanic was the very symbol of the division of people by money - rich and poor, first class and steerage, survivors and victims. I'm not at all certain resurrecting her is a good idea. Or a good sign. She somehow belongs in LA though. She'd fit right in.

The con itself is shaping up to be a good one. Lots of dealers this year, where last year they were a little thin for Expo. Most of the folk we normally buy cels from, and a whole lot more beside. Most of the major US Anime distributors are here too, and guests galore.

The site is pretty broadly distributed - perhaps even more so than last year. We're in the second overflow hotel, across the street and a couple blocks down from the main con hotel, and slightly closer to the convention center. It's a good thing we both brought extra walking shoes this year. We're going to need them. Might even drink that $3.50 bottle of water when all is said and done. Dealer's room opens at 10:00am tomorrow, and you'd better believe we'll be there then. I'll try to be in a better mood so my missives aren't so depressing.

Anime Expo, July 5 2001

Tiiiired. OK. Today started out at about 10:00 when, after a pretty good breakfast buffet at The Grill - the restaurant in the Westin - we headed out to the line for the dealer's room. Mind, the dealers room opened at noon. So there we stood, absorbing the fumes from the nearby wastebasket, but generally having a good time sitting and chatting with the other otaku who were just as gung ho (or more so - they got there before us) as we were.

And then it rained. Not a hard, driving rain, just a light shower, enough to test the colorfastness of various costumes and hair without really getting people soggy enough to leave - or that those who needed showers were more than just lightly diluted. We did feel a little sorry for the cosplayer in the fur bra, underwear, and ears, as she looked a little cold. Line management was fairly poor, as when they broke the line - conveniently right behind us - they put the second wave on the other side of the walkway and filled the third, fourth and fifth waves between them and us. Still, everyone took this in stride, and nobody seemed to have a huge problem with it. When you go to Expo, you expect to stand in line. Alot.

Once inside, the dealer's room was, as usual, immense. Hundreds of dealers, proving once again that Americans have *nothing* on the Japanese when it comes to merchandising any given thing to the hilt. There were dozens of cel dealers, and it was these who got most of our attention today.

So OK OK, what did I get? Well, I started out with Nichibei, where I purchased a cel of Yoko from Bastard. It's from the scene where one of the Lords of Chaos is melting her clothes with something or other. It's even backgrounded. I also got Marcia a nice Dark Schnider exposing himself. She likes this stuff. Also got a nice one of Bateau from Ghost in the Shell. After that, and perusing the collections of more dealers than I can remember, I hit on Ed Noonchester's table and got a very nice Arshes Nei, and at Anime Chaos, Marcia found me a nice Kusinagi, from Ghost in the shell. At this point I figured I was pretty much done cel shopping for the con, having done very well (and having gotten my poor old Visa card smoking.) But the con had a shock for us. On our way toward the door we ran across Animaxis, whos collection of *gorgeous* BGC2040 cels were VERY reasonably priced. I got two pan cels of Lina in her second hardsuit, one pan cel of Priss on the motoslave. Marcia got a cel of Lina during the massage scene, and one of Sylia with Nigel. THEN we were done. Well, more or less. I'm probably going to pick up Noonchester's cel of Togusa from Ghost, just to be completist. If it's still there. I'm also probably going to pick up a copy of Animation Master, just because I want to play with animation, and it's got tools to help those of us who are drawing impaired. And Animaxis will undoubtedly have more BGC2040 with which to separate us from our cash. But after all, this is what money is for, right? To trade for things you want? Right? I keep telling myself that.

After we returned to our room, we did a brief sojourn in the pool, which though as warm as bathwater DID manage to cool us off just the same.

Dinner was room service pizza. It was quite good, although be aware that at least at the Westin they put a gratuity of like 17 percent into the price. I was brought up in a civilized part of the world where gratuities were at the discretion of those served, so the guy who brought us our food made out like a bandit. In his defense the 17 percent gratuity WAS on the receipt, I just didn't see it. And he WAS prompt.

After that was the cel panel, aka the cel gathering. I couldn't hear much of what the panelists were saying - no amplification and they mumbled, apparently being shy anime geek types. However most of us came for the show and tell, which started quietly in the back even while the panel was still going. As usual Curt from Asylum Anime had 4 or 5 books of *amazing* cels. It's good to be a dealer. Obviously he doesn't get ALL the good ones, nor does he keep all the good ones, but if there are any he finds he can't live without, he doesn't have to. Other collections were very nice as well - I saw several cel books with more value at the going rate than I'll make this year. I did have some cels that got some Oohs and Ahhs, which was a nice change from years past when my entire collection barely held the attention of the person looking at it.

After that, we staggered back to our room, nibbled some leftover pizza, and pretty much called it a night. I'm writing this on the Power Book instead of my iOpener, because this room only has one computer-capable table, and the Power Book is on it. And I'm lazy. And tired. And my feet hurt.

Tomorrow, we're going to try to take in the AIC panel, the Escaflowne movie, more dealer's room crawling, this time for toys, mostly, and perhaps some videos. I've found that I've barely scratched the surface on anime series' - and it'd be nice to at least have seen a few more so I can recognize others' cels. Should be a full day, although I could do with a bit less fullness than today.

See, I said I'd be in a better mood today. I still think LA is a city with no soul, but it's been a remarkably mellow con - in that enthusiastic con sort of way - given that there are 10,000 people here and organization is stretched a little thin. By and large everyone we ran into this year thus far (some of them rather more literally than others) have been polite, even pleasant. This compared to many times last year when I was sorely tempted to start elbowing people in the head.

Anyway, my feet are going to sleep from this chair, and the characters are starting to wander the screen, which makes typing difficult. Definitely bedtime. More tomorrow.

Friday, July 6, 2001

A somewhat more relaxed day, having few real deadlines. We got up, headed over to the Hyatt, got some lunch there, and went to the end of the Bandai panel and attended the ADV panel, which followed it immediately.

The Bandai panel was quiet. So quiet in fact that when the doors opened as people came in for the ADV panel at the tail end of the Bandai panel one could not hear anything except the various Dance Dance Revolution machines, of which there was one of every version made immediately outside the conference room. Throbbing Jpop was the order of the day.

Then it was time for ADV. As usual, ADV was the star of the show. They've undergone phenomenal growth, essentially doubling their business last year, and they expect to double it again this year. They're going to go from 1 title a month to 5-6 a month by the end of this year. They're also opening a new studio for dubbing in Houston. It's that big. I wonder if they're publicly traded?They had a long list of titles that are going to be released, and more that they weren't ready to announce here. Among those titles were Slayers - the movie, I think - Spriggan, Aura Battler Dunbine, Sailor moon, first two seasons uncut, several old Godzilla movies, the Martian Successor Nadesco movie, more Dirty Pair, more Sakura wars, more Those Who Hunt Elves, more mecha series that I'm not interested in, and so on. There were frequently cheers in the back from the otaku at various titles.

From there it was back to the dealer's room. Animaxis separated us from more money for more lovely oversized BGC2040 cels, and I made good on my threats to buy a copy of Animation Master - which utterly failed to install on the Power Book - and the cel of Togusa that Ed Noonchester had. I also got a book on learning Kanji, which looks mildly interesting. And I find myself interested enough to finish getting all the ingredients and to try my hand at sushi, a minor, short lived obsession of mine after first being exposed to Iron Chefs.

From there we went to our room to rest a bit. We spent some time watching the DVD catalog on DVD which was handed out by ADV - it's basically a short summary and the theatrical trailer from a large number of ADV titles, all on one DVD.

After that, we headed back to the Convention Center for one of the big events: the Ah, My Goddess movie's world premier in non Japanese theaters. We were surprised that the line moved rather quickly despite its size - the theater was enormous and swallowed the entire crowd without turning anyone I saw away. It seemed promising, until the Pioneer Video rep came out to announce that the movie we were about to see had no subtitles. That in fact it was raw, still having only the Japanese dialogue. We were then introduced to a voice actress, the character designer, and the animation director, all of whom spoke little or no English, but who were greeted warmly by the crowd.

I can't tell you anything intelligent about the movie, since all the dialogue was in Japanese, and I don't even speak enough of it to get myself in a fight. (I mention that because I DO speak enough Spanish to do so.) It's a beautifully animated movie - one would expect no less from AIC - with gorgeous artwork. I can see why cels from this series are gruesomely expensive. But without the language to understand the dialogue, not to mention the rather poorly adjusted projector that kept jumping and looked as though it hadn't been cleaned since the 1930s, we ultimately couldn't get into the movie, so we left after half an hour. I'd like to revisit this series - I may get the chance tomorrow in the video room - and I'd like to see the movie when it comes out in December on DVD - dubbed and subbed.

We didn't go to the music video competition - the line was enormous, and we were meeting a friend of Marcia's for dinner. Had dinner at a *wonderful* Thai place called Phuket (PooKet) which is a few miles from the hotel. Marcia's friend has a car. :) Dinner for me was Thai yellow curried chicken, which was to die for. Marcia had beef with noodles and broccoli, which was also delicious. It was a very pleasant evening and a much needed change of scene. We've tended to hole up in our hotel room when not actively involved in something con-ish.

Anyway, tomorrow is slated to be an even more mellow day, with yet another bounce through the dealer's room, where Animaxis will no doubt separate us from more cash, and from there to the video rooms at the Hyatt to take in some Anime we've never seen before.

Sayonara.

Saturday, July 7th, 2001.

Another comparatively relaxed day. We got up, finished shopping at the dealer's room, I bought yet another Ghost in the Shell cel, and yes, Animaxis separated us from more money. Other than that pickings in the dealer's room were pretty thin where we were concerned. Marcia got a couple more cels from Anime Link - a Tenchi Muyo, a Tenshi Ni Narumon, and one from Magic Knights Rayearth.

From there we went to the Hyatt and got sandwiches and brownies for lunch. Pretty good, actually, and reasonably priced when compared to the convention center's prices - which had gone up by $.25 for a bottle of Fruitopia since Friday.

After that we went to the video room(s) to watch some Anime. We saw: the end of Trigun, which was very confusing but involved a lot of fighting and cybernetics. I want to see more of this one before I decide whether to buy it. After that we saw the idol singer episode of Martian Successor Nadesico, which like most Nadesico is lovely, but painfully stupid in spots. Crest of the Stars looked interesting when the video wasn't being scrambled by a malfunction. Rurouni Kenshin is another one I'll want to look at again before I buy it. It could be interesting, or really dull, it's hard to tell from one episode in the middle of the series. Then we switched rooms to avoid having to watch Boredom Wing (Gundom 08th MS Team) episodes.

New room. We saw Lost Universe, where lots of things blew up (and Marcia says the bad guy is hot) - not sure whether I want to see this one again either. Fushigi Yugi OAV is gorgeous and complicated - alot like wandering in on a season finale of Sailor Moon without knowing who the hell these people are. I'll have to see an earlier episode of this to make up my mind on whether I like the series. Finally we saw Irresponsible Captain Tylor, Christmas episode. Both of us wanted to slap the snot out of him by the end, so I think it was a wash.

After that we ate dinner. I started with the clam chowder, which was quite nice, although I found myself remembering parts of the movie Fight Club, just because it WAS clam chowder. For an entree I had seared Ahi in a sauce whose name escapes me, and served over pea shoots and ginger. It was very very good, as was the New York style cheese cake I had for dessert. Marcia had a hamburger with a mountain of fries and a "chocolate martini" for desert. I didn't care for the chocolate martini especially - it's a Mexican style of chocolate with herbs in it, which to me made it taste as though it had spoiled.

After dinner we hung out in the hotel room, too tired to do walk back across the street for any of the remaining activities. As last year, the Expo folks had not scheduled much across from the masquerade, which is brain dead since the vast majority of the 12,000 people here did not win the ticket lottery. So we spent the evening listening to some lovely tenor singing down in front of the convention center, watching the fireworks over the Queen Mary again - apparently they do them on Saturday of the weekend of the fourth too - and arguing over who got which cels. :)

All told it's been an expensive con. I added up the value of just the cels I bought and it's quite large. Now truth be told I've gotten some lovely cels, all of which will go on my web page when this missive does. Everything was expensive here, from transportation to food, to the never-to-be-sufficiently-accursed $3.50 one and a half liter of bottled water that is STILL sitting on the dresser, thus consigning us to drink Long Beach tap water, which like most of the city has the vague essence of urine about it. My opinion of Long Beach HAS mellowed a little - last night's Thai made me miss California a little, although parking to get there and waiting half an hour for dinner certainly did not. Marcia is still purring about the Pad See Ew and the yellow curried chicken.

Of the hotel, I can't say I'm displeased. The service - except for the first afternoon - has been uniformly good, and the place is clean, well lighted, and pleasant. And if you get the chance to stay in a Westin "heavenly bed" do - it's a pillow top mattress with a down comforter. Much more comfortable than the usual brick hard or mushy hotel mattresses I've slept on in recent months.

All told the con was definately *DEFINATELY* better than last year, and once my finances recover (I bought *17* cels all told) I'll be ready to go a-conning again.

See you in September for Nan Desu Kon!