Anime Expo Day 2 – 4 Recap

Well, as overdue as it is, having bigger priorities than posting, I finally got around to writing something.

Come towards the end of February reminds me of convention time, so now is a good time to get reacquainted with preparation again.

As far as 2013 goes, I don’t really plan on going to any convention. My disappointments with 2012 far exceeded my disappointment level threshold, and I don’t find it’s worth the cost to attend. The badge itself isn’t actually that expensive on a per diem basis, but the overall costs stack up for very little return as it gets more expensive and more tedious with longer lines, weaker events, less guests and all.

Actually my backdoor plan was to go as Press, since I found analyzing and promoting the conventions far more interesting than attending as a regular attendee. I’m always more energetic when talking to guests, staff, and dealers about business related matters rather than consuming.

It’s quite a strange irony really. In previous years, the guest pool was fine, but things like line trafficking and inconsistent explanations to policies were problematic. While lines got even longer in recent years, and also was managed even better, my issue for 2012 was actually the lack of guests and content to go by.

While I don’t know the numbers for attendance, one thing is for sure: the lines were significantly longer. I was actually shocked that preregistered lines were longer than at-con lines. That nearly defeats the purpose of a preregistration.

Oh wait this post isn’t about Fanime, because I already addressed the problems I had with them. Also unlike AX the Fanime convention is local to me, so the travelling and hotel costs are so negligible I don’t have to specifically call for time off or expend a lot to get there. If AX were local to me, I would have fewer issues, as the 6 hour drive each way and expensive lodging would be negated entirely.

Well, as far as AX goes, it was more or less boring as far as actual events went. Although I had killer awesome roommates and met very interesting people, our interests and priorities were very much different. For instance, half my roommates were Press people. While they did excellent in their Press responsibilities, it also means I couldn’t spend much time with them at the convention itself.

In other words, it’s as the open ceremony stated: AX is a place where you’re free to roam and make the experience yourself.

That meant one thing, I’m in control of my enjoyment. Can’t rely on the lack of available events, just have to make the most of it.

So on AX day 2, after settling into Los Angeles, I got around to meeting multiple people I got acquainted with online who have similar interests as I who run blogs or websites and lead projects. It turns out even though people can sound like dragons online, in reality they’re more like chill people. I found this amusing since the personality level doesn’t deter from the online persona at all, facade or not.

In short, since the guest pool was small, the timezones for certain panels and concerts were already set in stone. This still left an arbitrarily large amount of time to do well … nothing or anything. Instead of being passive and waiting on nothing, I opted to instead contact those that didn’t have something to do at a time, and invite them over to the artist alley. This caused a chain of events where we spent a few hours scouring the booths and me personally recommending some of my favorites, knowing some of what the artist has drawn and trying to match it with what things I know some attendees liked. It worked magnificently, as attendees I brought over were satisfied with what they saw and bought, while the artists got business. It felt very good to see two parties happy on a transaction after facilitating small advice and recommendations. On the other hand, while the artists appreciated the influx of business, they were certainly not accustomed to seeing someone bring a small army of people to their booth on multiple occasions. It did feel good to get tokens of gratitude.

Personally, before I went to AX I had a contingency to not buy anything at AX. First off, going to the con costs a lot already, and buying things in the con simply magnifies more costs. To deter most impulsive purchases, I intentionally sought a long sold out Mizuiro Onosaki Kiyoka resin kit that was made way back in 2003. Resin kits are no longer produced. If I were to see a live existence of this figure, I would have to visit the Kotobukiya headquarters. In short, no dealer, or even anywhere online, possesses this item. Most told me that if someone somehow did have the figure for sale, due to rarity, the costs would be at minimum a $500 range. My budget for that item was only 10% of that, so I’m basically never buying it. This prevents me from overspending yet constantly leads me to talk to dealers on the availability of the item.

By the end of day 2 I noticed my roommates were playing a maid deck building game called Tanto Cuore for a good chunk of the day. I personally, despite what I may seem to like, am not much of a fan of the 2D maid concept at all. The true issue with me buying the game was that I was highly unlikely to play with my local playgroup since the playgroup further stigmatizes the 2D maid concept, so it was a running joke for me to purchase it. Again, since I don’t like the 2D maid concept, I never would have bought Tanto Cuore unless it was 20% off $40 or something, which ironically was available by one dealer on day one at AX that I passed over thinking it’d still be there. Well, I got to play the game anyways, so not owning my own wasn’t much of a problem. I actually found the game terribly fun after learning of the adjusted Dominion mechanics, which reduced all the nuances I had about Dominion, so I liked the game more mechanically.

The game itself has pros and cons. For one thing, I’ve heard comments that the game’s maid cards are too weak. It’s true, the game actually does depend on the playgroup. There’s tendencies to do a maid chambering rush for exponential points, or a completely suffering match where most people have negative points. In other words, not only is an inefficient play more punishing in this game, but it’s also easy to look at suboptimal plays, because when first playing, aiming for giving others negative points simply sounds more fun, especially when the negatives can go double after a certain condition is met. So while the game actually gives you more options and directions to go in, over time one does notice that some maids are too effective on certain strategies, while some don’t really do anything. Regardless, while the game appears to be stringent, it also provides a better flow because you have so many ways to be productive, without cluttering your deck with inefficient cards.

Personally, I have two bad tendencies on deck building games. One is the “max purchase” effect where if I have say, 7 purchase power, I would almost automatically pick something that’s 7, or if there are more buys, some combination that totals 7 that uses as many realistic buys as possible. The other bad tendency is a “penalizing effect” where if someone is stacking exponential points, if there’s a way to cut off a source of the multiplier, I’ll do it. In a multiplayer game, if you designate one opponent as a target, even if you shackle them entirely, another opponent can run away in the points department over time. In other words, negative points or negating opposing points does not advance your own position in points. It’s actually a key fundamental that reminds me that there’s a lot of pointless actions that can be done that doesn’t get you anywhere. Quite an interesting lesson on optimizing effectively. Focus on improving yourself and your situation first, then figure out other things from there.

Anyhow, while the maid game was fun, I didn’t want to play it during con hours since travelling to LA just to play board games sounds rather counter-intuitive to me. However, the game ended up being played a lot precisely for the fact that AX had very few interesting events. Having those select few interesting events also highly delayed did not help one bit. As I’m not a fan of the long line waiting concept, I opted to not attend events with an absurdly long wait time. Waiting long didn’t ever happen anyways since I had a premium pass, but delayed events hurt everyone anyways.

Speaking of the premium pass, AX wasn’t that stellar in pointing out the premium lines, so it was fairly easy to miss them and line up normally. That in itself was rather chaotic, and in the end I simply took it upon myself to do whatever I wanted, and subsequently informing staff of my actions to make sure there’s no conflict with their rules. Waiting indoors by the restroom and power outlet was much better than outside where it is cold and unnecessary to wait on a delayed event.

The concerts I attended themselves were good, but I still felt cheated that X-Games took access of LA Live. I heard that large facility is quite nice for entertainment, so I lost my chance of witnessing that building. To this day I have never ventured in the building. In other words, concerts were held in Hall G, where the auditorium was entirely flat. This made the higher pricing tickets that were closer hardly advantageous, and people cheated to the front rows anyways due to more lax rules. Policies were rather inconsistent, being contingent on the performer’s policies, rather than a general all-purpose rules list like Club Nokia and other facilities had. I was actually surprised that the second concert I attended allowed photography.

I’ll refrain from talking about Club Nokia as that building wasn’t even accessible in 2012, but in short they have their own security staff to make sure there’s no cameras in possession at all. So remembering such a rule to heart for 2012 actually jacked me from taking adequate photos. Event and policy wise this is obvious, but for a common attendee this isn’t obvious at all, so clarity in communication was pretty terrible as usual. It’s understandable the more it makes sense, but it’s still fairly bad.

The convention itself seemed adequate for a first time attendee, as the newness effect would cause everything to be fresh and new, even if the number of things one can do were rather limited. It’s good to have an open mind and not narrow down on specifics, or disappointment can nearly be guaranteed.

Every year I usually went to the Mangagamer panel. While 2012’s panel was quick and concise due to being delayed and cut on midnight limits, it was fun and simple. It was also rather disappointing since the direction seems to be in one I don’t have interest in, so I’ll likely pay little to no attention to any further news. Coincidentally, I was far too excited at who from Japan could have came, and the people that showed up were far less in number and far less in variety than years past. This is no fault to anything, but either the western market doesn’t appeal enough, or the timing was just that awful. I actually had a secret budget to spend loads on shikishi, which are signing/autograph boards, but only if specific artists from specific companies had showed up. Since 2011 had a nice surprise of some companies arriving, I thought 2012 would repeat even a little of it. Nope, not only were there no new company guests, CIRCUS didn’t even come, and they usually came every year. I started to notice that I might as well give up on such a rarity of seeing employees from VN companies in person in America. Hoping for an influx was asking for far too much. The convention’s oomph level just seems like it’s been on the decline for the past 3 years. Again, while there’s a large reduction of complaints and problems, all the good stuff also seemed to dissipate with it. A con cannot be perfect, but I certainly don’t want to find myself bored for good long segments at a time from a lack of things to do.

My memory for AX day 3 gets rather hazy. By this time I notice the lack of events, as Saturday was a rather solid day, Sunday I found quite lacking. If there were good deals, they were all gone by now, and the much worse deals manifested. Usually there is a day 4 trend of buying items last minute as some dealers would want to clear out their inventory to reduce travelling expenses. I probably would have ended up not shopping for any item had I not randomly run across the TrollandToad booth which somehow had anime card sleeves and happened to carry the one single character card sleeve I wanted. So I splurged, spending way too much, because I had already scoured the internet for that item, and by factoring shipping and exchange rates, the inflated amount I ended up spending was relatively the cheapest.

An amusing thing that did occur was when I traversed through dealer’s hall with people I just met from the concert. We ventured through booths and when we reached Mangagamer’s booth, for some reason I was explaining thoroughly some positives of the goods they were selling and managed to convince someone to buy a game without pressing on any specific suggestion. The girls at the booth inquired me why I wasn’t on their side of the booth explaining things. Well, I’m not employed so I’m on the attendee side of things rather than the exhibitionist side. Also I’m not a pretty girl. I don’t make a good cosplay like that model I encountered there. I simply didn’t buy anything because well, I still have a game I purchased from there at least two years ago that I still haven’t finished. Lately I cut down on the games and went towards items that feature some kind of simple utility like storage or covers.

Still, an objective of a convention is more on the networking and interaction aspect, which was quite worth it. If I had focused on just item shopping or purely on guests/panels/events, I would have been thoroughly disappointed. Then I noticed, most of the enjoyment I indeed have at the convention, was outside of the convention itself. The hotel nights were fun, the hangouts in the hallway were fun, the meals were fun, but none of these required the badges, halls, or panels themselves whatsoever. Although I’m on the fence for going in 2013, I might go as far as driving down to LA, not get a badge, and use all the outside-the-con fun similar to last year. I don’t think I’d miss much at all, and wouldn’t need to be so stingy on a sunk cost.

Well, enough rambling. I hope cons turn out well and continue to prosper. I likely will not be in attendance, but in the end I still want to actively participate.


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