Sunday, January 8, 2012

Anime Los Angeles 2012 Convention Report

As a person who has started attending anime conventions with a massive destination convention like Anime Expo, a smaller con was a foreign concept. I went to my first small convention and was disappointed because I was merely expecting a smaller version of large mega-convention like Anime Expo. My mindset about smaller conventions changed when I attended Anime Los Angeles in 2010. I had such a great experience that I have started to expand the conventions I attend every year to include large and small conventions. Small issues aside, the convention was another memorable experience to remember.

Can't get enough
Kingdom Hearts
My Anime Los Angeles day started when I arrived at the LAX Mariott. This led to the two of the most frustrating issues I had in what was otherwise a great day. I arrived at the convention site at around 9:30am expecting to park in hotel parking. As I arrived I paid my $13 and proceeded to park in the underground parking lot. I drove around the parking lot to realize that every single spot in the first underground floor was filled. The lower levels were coned off and I circled around in frustration until I decided to exit the parking area to give them a piece of my mind. Thankfully the parking attendant was sympathetic to my situation and resolved the issue. I found a parking spot in the end, but it ended up taking 45 minutes and I wasted lots of gas. As I entered the convention, my troubles would eventually double when I headed to the registration line. I headed to registration to pick up a comp badge that multiple people have said I would be able to pick up, after all I am on the Board of Directors for the largest anime convention in North America. I was not in a database and the people in the front refused to give me a comp badge even when I gave them my business card. I walked around the convention center, completely frustrated, trying to get in touch with my contacts to no avail. After wasting an additional 30 minutes I grudgingly gave up and decided to buy a badge. After all, I do love Anime Los Angeles, so supporting the con was a no brainer for me, I was just frustrated that I had been promised a comp badge without a follow through. After the horrible exercise in frustration, I decided to enjoy the rest of the convention.

Yes, Queen Esmereldas
I got to the pool deck at around 10:40am and started doing some cosplay photography. It was so great just walking around and saying hello to so many familiar faces I have met over the years. I caught up hearing the pleasant stories of many of the cosplayers and cosplay photographers that I haven't seen since Anime Expo, Pacific Media Expo, or the previous Anime Los Angeles. Let's just say that I am glad that I remember how my New Year's started, compared to some of my friends out there. The pool deck was a great location to do shoots from, it provided for some interesting backdrops. As the pool deck started getting very packed full of cosplayers and photographers, it was still easy to walk 30 feet to "escape" from the crowds so that my photos would not have errant people jumping in the photos. I love the location, but the crowded area has me hoping that they move to a larger venue for next years convention.

The convention definitely lives up to the reputation of creating a fan friendly experience. It was easy to navigate from location to location with signs posted everywhere. Water was easily accessible all over the venue. Looking at all the pictures of the cosplay photos posted around the con area makes me wish that I could have contributed some of my amazing photos from last year's Anime Los Angeles. From my experiences, the staff were very genial and helpful when I was trying to find the con suite for some snacks. The sum of it makes for a very pleasant, fan friendly experience.

Anime Los Angeles has a reputation of being one of the big party conventions. As I walked around the pool deck there was music blaring from a couple of hotel rooms. At random intervals people started dancing with each other and high fiving each other. Even your humble cosplay photographer and Anime Expo executive got invited to a couple of party rooms over the day (I turned them down due to the large number of photoshoots I was engaged in). As night fell I noticed many of my friends striking the delicate balance of enjoying the convention atmosphere and socializing. This is one of the greatest strengths of Anime Los Angeles, the size of the convention makes it easy to socialize and have fun. The con is a unique hybrid of anime convention and social gathering.

My favorite anime from
2011, Madoka Magica
Over the course of the day I had many photo shoots. Whatever record I had for the largest number of photo shoots over the course of a single day was beaten at Anime Los Angeles. I had photo shoots from the moment I got my Saturday badge at 10:40am to when I left Anime Los Angeles at 1:46am on Sunday morning. Originally I had 8 big scheduled shoots, but between those scheduled shoots were 34 impromptu shoots ranging from 5-10 minutes from cosplayers who were fans of my work. I took tons of photos at Anime Los Angeles, taking close to 2,200 photos over the course of a single day. Of those shoots I had many favorites. I had an amazing shoot with my friend Joy with her Earl and Fairy cosplay, we had a shoot with the harsh hotel lighting yet the picture turned out to be gorgeous. I admit I laughed a couple of times when people confused her for Juliet from Gonzo's release of Romeo and Juliet. I had another great shoot with Meg as Chun-Li from Street Fighter, she is definitely one of the top cosplayers when it comes to amazing shoots. I also had amazing and fun shoots with cosplayers from Kindgom Hearts, Rurouni Kenshin, Monster Hunter, Vocaloid, Tekken, Puella Magi Madoka Magica, and many many more.

As I did my long 70 minute drive back home, I marveled at just how great the day was. Over the course of the convention I met so many people and made so many friends, while strengthening the bonds of people I have known for a while. Aside from my two hit punch that tested the limits of my patience in the beginning, I had a wonderful experience. As one of the people who runs Anime Expo, I think that Anime Los Angeles is a perfect complimentary con since it is exactly 6 months after the last convention and 6 months before the next one. Anime Los Angeles is a great social con to meet new people and make friends, then you hang out with the friends you made at ALA in Anime Expo. ALA 2012 was a great experience and a wonderful way to start the New Year.

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