Anime Expo 2018 Debrief

Posted by DiGiKerot in Free Talk at July 12, 2018 on 8:40 pm

Another year done…

– Given ‘murkins were complaining about the weather, it was a little rough outside for someone used to a more British climate in the “I can actually feel my eyeballs drying up with each passing second” sense. Thankfully I didn’t have to venture outside all that often, though the rather brutal exception to that was the Love Live merchandising line on Wednesday. Amid rumours of low supplies of certain in-demand items (mainly penlights, mainly proved incorrect), queues started early. Like, five hours before sales started early. Issues were rather exacerbated by the fact it was so hot that the iPads being used to drive the checkout system were repeatedly overheating until they eventually erected a tent over the desk. Still, got most the stuff I wanted eventually, but ultimately may have ended up better off waiting and picking stuff up in the exhibit hall a day later. Thank goodness I remembered to pack sunblock, though.

– aqours were, well, aqours. From the 2.5D-stage-idol PoV, I’m not really as up on aqours as I was on μ’s, not really helped by the fact I stopped playing School Idol Festival on the regular quite some time ago. Which is to say, if a song wasn’t in the anime, or not Guilty Kiss, my familiarity with it is probably a little on the passing side. Still, they has a solo show this year, which whilst still running about half the length of one of the Japanese lives, was a good couple of hours long. This did mean we got a couple of songs out of each of the subunits, though. CYaRons stuff is a lot of fun live. Somehow managed to pull seat Row 5/309, which is basically middle of the second row of seats, which is probably also 50% of my luck for the year used up.

– Onto the convention proper, the bum-rush for Bushiroads merchandising stand first thing was real. The thing here being that, for Thursday, Friday and Saturday, they were giving autograph tickets for Aina Aiba for the first 40 folks each day to buy $30 of Bang Dream stuff (though I hear the Friday/Saturday allocation was maybe closer to 70/20 instead). Despite being around the 35th person onto the stand Thursday, making me one of the few I know to actually get a ticket, most of the premium stuff had already been cleared out by that point. I gather similar scenes repeated themselves across much of the Exhibit hall first-thing for a lot of the stands bringing super-limited stock from Japanese events, as opposed to just the Aniplex and GoodSmile stuff you’d expect. Some places tapped out of stock entirely by the end of Thursday, basically. Bushiroad’s set-up actually ended up running about 70mins late, though, so basically wasted the Premier badge bonus hour entirely on sitting in queue there.

– On the subject of autograph sessions, that was a wee bit of a mess all around this year. For one thing, it feels like this is the year a lot of companies decided that they could do better outside of the standard AX autograph process and made their own arrangements, meaning the stuff you could queue up for pre-convention was pretty limited – lines for sign tickets were about a third of the usual length, which would be great for looping if there’d been more available. Regular attendees (or even Premier badge folks) were pretty much tapped out of luck for Aina Aiba autograph tickets on the second and third sessions as the booth was clogged with Exhibitor badge holders before the hall was even open. Go Nagai, someone with just a slightly formidable body of work, was only signing a Cutie Honey board, and one of those sessions was only apparently only accessible via low-odds $100 gacha on Pony Canyons booth. The first combined Trigger/ArcSys autograph session overrun enough that it ran into the second day’s session, which in turn ran into the third days – at that point, they only handed out Standby tickets for the third day without actually telling anyone who was queuing for them that was what was happening. From my own point of view, after two days of sitting in the autograph queues at a couple of hours a piece they cut doing full sketches a couple of folks before me, though I guess I ended up getting what I wanted out of it anyway, so I’m good on that. Okada/Horikawa at least went relatively straight-forward, though they cut the standby folks before they even started.

– Being stuck in Trigger sign queues did mean I ended up missing every one of Sally’s stage appearances over at the Aniplex booth. Ho-hum. That’s kind of AX, though.

– The My Hero Academia movie is pretty bad, honestly. It starts with a staggeringly impressive opening sequence, and ends with what I assume was Yutaka Nakamura going absolutely hog-wild spectacular, and has a short-but-gloriously loose-looking fight midway through, but much of the rest of the movie was rife with somewhat pedestrian layout and, honestly, animation which looked unfinished to the point that a couple of cuts looked like they were missing inbetweens. It’d probably be forgiveable to a degree if it wasn’t pretty much a stock first Jump movie in terms of content – the more ambitious recent One Piece movies have spoilt me, I guess.

– Pretty much the only other actual anime I caught was the staggeringly charming Kase-San and Morning Glories OAV – I went to the start of the Jojo’s panel, but since they were holding the episode of Part VI until the end, I didn’t want to sit through 90mins of shilling product for the US market, and I desperately needed something to eat, I ended up ducking out to go see Aina Aibas short live stage instead. Probably a sensible move, mainly because I didn’t faint as a result of it.

– Ended up going to Ihop for breakfast the following two days to avoid a repeat of the whole “not eating” thing. No, I didn’t have a burger.

– Day One exhibit hall queues were kind of a mess for Premier badge folks, in so much as they somehow managed to allow three different queues to form, and the one they let in first was not the one which people had been queuing in for up to eight hours (infact, it was the one where people were told not to be just a couple of hours before opening). Certainly didn’t help take the sting out of those not managing the Aiai sign.

– Ducked into the 6 hour long Otaquest event partway through the YUC’e set a couple of hours in. Wish I’d caught the start of her set, as the part of it I saw was pretty terrific. Overall not necessarily my kind of thing musically in general, but it was fun overall. PKCZ was probably a personal highlight, mainly because I don’t really have much of a history with m-flo.

– Japan Super Live kind of struck the problem of what happens at US events when you start selling penlights in proximity to live shows, which is that half the audience will pull out the glowsticks regardless of what you are seeing. I mean, sure, fair game for May’n, and I guess Kajiura’s vocalists at least ended up getting into the spirit of things, but it’s a bit off-brand where Sayuri and in particular Aimer, who spent most her set sat low-key mid-stage bathed in white spotlights, are concerned. Given that even the video screens where switched off the for the later, I kind of feel a little sorry for those at the back who probably saw nothing but the backs of folks kechaking.

– Was super-stoked to hear Key of the Twilight at JSL though. Takes me back to the days when someone sensibly realised that Kajiura’s music was more interesting than the writing in .hack and mixed it louder than the dialogue track for a few episodes. Good stuff, killer flute solo.

– Yui Horie’s Showmaker Shill Panel was at least in a room with around twice the capacity as the one it was in last year, so at least some of the folks waiting in the murderous sun outside for a couple of hours got in this year. The Miss Monochrome live was in a room which sat about 1500 as opposed to the maybe 60 from last year as well. Problem with that one is that it was being immediately followed by the Overlord III premiere in the same room with no clear in between, which meant about a third of the room were completely disinterested whilst a bunch of people who actually wanted to see Monochrome were turned away thanks to the crowds. Ho-hum.

– That said, Monochromes set was about 90% the same as last year, though given, you know, only about 60 people got to see that, there not a whole lot to complain about there.

– They actually gave out free Showmaker codes at both those events, which I guess is also on sale on Steam at the moment. I should probably have a fiddle with it at some point.

– The Bag Check security theatre and the new badge system didn’t really cause as many hassles as I was expecting, outside of the Marriott panel rooms during prime hours where everything was being filtered through one desk. I know some folks had trouble getting to the Monochrome live on time.

– The acts at Japan Kawaii Live pretty much had 25mins a piece each for their sets. Pulled another good pit seat for this one, which is another 40% of my luck for the year. Cinderella Girls were up first – they ditched the live dubbing demonstration from their set from last year, leaving it pretty much all-songs, all-killer, no-filler. I know a lot of folks were awfully stoked to see Tulip performed in particular.

– i☆Ris were well up for it, even if they were initially accidentally introduced as AKB48. I mean, I’d heard reports prior that a couple of them even turned up at the Pretty series cosplay meet-up earlier in the day and purloined one of the fan banners. On the other hand, I somehow managed not to get a copy of the callbook I actually had some art in (though I got the other i☆Ris callbook in circulation at the con ^^;)

– i☆Ris set was pretty much as good as you’d expect given the venue. Opened with Fantasia Wonderland, then went into the OP from Magical Girl Site (pretty much a given since it’s current). They followed that up with a medley of two-third length versions of the first three PriPara OPs, which suits me given I’ve be hard pressed to choose between Make It and Realize if you’d given me the choice, then the full-length Dream Parade. They finished off with their cover of We Are from One Piece, which given that Sorairo Days was kind of off the table given given the other acts on the card, is probably what made the most sense from their covers history for a US audience, even if I would have preferred the totally-never-going-to-happen Ojamajo Carnival myself.

– I really need to try and make it out to an In-n-Out next year lol

– AKB48 Team 8 were, well, AKB48 Team 8. Extremely polished, as you’d probably expect, but I continue to find it difficult to care outside of the context of intergalactic space terrorist cartoons. I guess they did at least open with Aitakatta, even if it was the only song they did I recognised.

– Shoko Nakagawa closed out JKL. Probably not really a shock. Good set-list, though – probably the most I’ve heard anyone in the English speaking world care about a cover of Pegasus Fantasy. This is also where we heard the token cover of Cruel Angels Thesis for the weekend (I mean, it’s always either that, We Are, Cha-la head Cha-la or something from Haruhi, and we’d already had We Are…). Would have liked Flying Humanoid, but I guess that falls into the category of “Who cares about Occult Academy in the Space Year 2018” category.

– Pretty sure that Cruel Angels Thesis is somehow still the most scientifically perfect anisong, even with (or maybe because of) the weird breakdown in the full-length version. I’m starting to suspect this is actually 70% of the reason why Evangelions popularity actually sustains itself somewhat.

– I pulled the semi-pro move of carrying the Prism Stone-exclusive Aroma plush from earlier in the year that a friend very kindly ferried back here for me through the VIP goodbye event, which got suitably amusing surprised “AH! Aroma-chan da!” reactions from Yui Makino (there repping CG), i☆Ris, and, maybe most amusingly, a bunch of Japanese fans waiting in the queue, which is probably about the best you can expect given the brevity of such events. That being said, maybe something to do with being both proceeded and followed by JP-fluent sorts who were stalling the heck out, but it was probably the most aggressively I’ve seen the handlers trying to push people through one of these things lol

– Shopping wasn’t super-great this year. The AWM booth wasn’t selling a ton of stuff outside the aqours stuff made for the event, though I did pick up a couple of the i☆Ris CDs and one of their live BDs I was missing thanks to the whole avex thing making them a pain to buy. Kind of the weirdest merchandising white-whales for me, but I did finally manage to pick up both of the Re:Creators plushes none of the Online stores would ship to Europe last year – they were actually in hilariously high levels of supply, and a little shopping around got me them for an entirely reasonable $15 a piece.

– Might just be what I’m noticed, just because I’ve been on a plush-kick as of late, but Nesoberi’s were, of course, in wide supply and a relatively hot item, even if I didn’t pick any larger examples up for myself. No Megumin-premium this year, because nowhere actually has Megumin’s left. Still plenty of old Re:Zero stock floating around – I actually saw more folks carrying around purchased Emilia’s than Rems, though I suspect that’s probably because the more maid-inclined picked theirs up in previous years at likely far more inflated prices. There was a veritable poop-ton of Kemono Friends nesos around. Also, a new design of Garupan’s Anchovy that’s actually in her Anzio uniform rather than the Oorai one like the previous release.

– Aniplex was impossible lol. They kind of rolled heavy on the F/GO merch this time around, and it appears to have worked out pretty well for them.

– Pretty much the only thing I wanted from Good Smile was the SSSS.Gridman book, which, thankfully, was in plentiful enough supply that I could just wait until there was no queue on the Saturday to pick up. They did have proto’s of the Splatoon nendo’s on display, though.

When I start to write stuff down like this, it starts to feel like I didn’t actually get a whole lot done for what was effectively a five day event, though in reality it’s mostly because those concerts end up eating a good three or four hours a time.

Still, minimal rest for the wicked. A 1500 person UK fan-run convention is pretty hardcore event whiplash after AX, but I’m theoretically talking kids cartoons on the Saturday morning if you are around Amecon in a few weeks time (I really need to finish the slides this weekend, and, like, remember to buy train tickets…). Following that, I’m back off to the US pending Otakon a few days afterwards. Not really a ton of events of interest down for Otakon right now, but we’ll see, I guess.

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