Anime Expo 2011 : Celebrating 20 years

Before I begin: To those who have wandered here because they grabbed a red card from an artist alley table at Anime Expo, I want to welcome you to our blog! Thank you so much for stopping by!

Last weekend, Anime Expo celebrated its 20th anniversary at the Los Angeles Convention Center. For those not in the know, Anime Expo is the biggest anime convention on the west coast and perhaps even in the United States (Otakon is its main rival so they might beg to differ). The convention holds a special place in my heart since it was my very first convention a mere ten years ago. I had gone because friends of mine were talking about it on the forum I frequented and we all wanted to meet up. My whole family went, actually! And two hours in, they told me I would never ever go back because it was so damn confusing and boring to them.

And yet I went – sans parents – year after year. The only one I’ve missed is 2004 because I was in France at the time.

The convention has exploded more than grown over the years, going from a convention that shared its space with Jehovah Witnesses and Gay Square dancers to one that takes up the whole space to house 47,000 attendees over the July 4th weekend. The convention has become more mainstream and one can see bus ads for it all over Los Angeles. I’ve even heard an ad on the radio for it which was kind of both cool and strange.

If 2001 was overwhelming to me, I can’t imagine how it would be like to starry-eyed anime-loving pre-teens who have finally found a place where they truly belonged. It sounds sappy, but it was very true to me. The friendships I’ve spawned here for the most part stay forever. At age 25, the magic has dulled a little and I don’t talk anime day in and day out. The younger crowd that I would have flocked to in the past drives me crazy half the time and I get exhausted fairly easily (though maybe that’s because I insist on doing far too many cosplays!). Yet I still manage to have fun at Anime Expo regardless. So what happened this year?

First off, my good friend Yan came to visit us from China! She had moved back there over a year ago for a job and I was super excited to spend the time at AX with her. We greeted her with this sign at the airport:

Anyways, let’s fast-forward to the actual convention!

The line for the pre-registered people:

Celty’s a guy. I’m jealous!

An hour or so later, we got our badges which I then raged about because they looked like a blind ten year old made them in MS paint. Seriously! 20 years and they can’t even give out a decent badge.

My friend Robert gave me my prop sword! (sadly I didn’t actually get around to using it!)

Here are the cosplays I did:

Val's AX 2011 cosplay

The list was longer and I actually had to cut two costumes because I didn’t have time to change into them.

The reason for this is because I had decided to do Artist Alley with my friend Alice. We had done so before in 2009 and I guess we forgot how much work it actually took to run a booth even when people perused more than they bought. Space Pirate Queen was kind enough to print out my three new prints and they all sold decently.

The booth offered a place to sit when we got tired (we would take turns being at the booth) but it also meant that we didn’t have the luxury of meandering without a sense of time.

Yan helped us out and sold these plushies of Kyubey (a mascot-type character from Puella Magi Madoka Magica) which went like hotcakes. It was her dream to have those things take over the convention and in the end, her dream came true! I saw those evil things everywhere I went afterwards!

They’re really evil.


The Bomb Scare

The second day, we got something I had never encountered at Anime Expo before: A bomb scare!


I was sitting in the exhibition hall at my booth when the PA system announced in a loud booming voice that there was a package in the cafeteria and that it was to be claimed immediately. Well, the dumbass that left it there didn’t go pick it up so they evacuated everyone in the South Hall, including my boyfriend who had gone to get food for us (someone then ran into him and made him drop it. JERKS!). The people had to sit in the hot sun while those in the exhibit hall were locked in.

There are many rumors about what really happened:

1. Someone forgot a suitcase and then claimed it later.
2. Justin Beiber was there and wanted to check out the dealer’s hall.
3. Someone actually planted a fake bomb and called in a threat and then was arrested.

Most likely the first one because I’d hate to think an otaku would want to blow up more otaku but I do like the second one.

I entertained myself by covering myself in Kyubeys.

Here’s my friend Amy with her brother Matthew as America and Canada (Hetalia)! Pretty awesome especially since the nations are brothers in the Hetalia series.

Hatsune Miku

The second day was also the day of the Hatsune Miku concert! Supposedly the first and only concert in AX history to have sold out. Ironically, it’s for someone who does not exist. Miku is actually a computer program that is used to create vocals called Vocaloid. She’s even got a Toyota ad campaign!

Her image has become very popular over the years and she’s garnered enough popularity to have concerts where she is represented by a hologram that sings and dances with a live band. Vince got us tickets from some friends of his after the tickets were all sold out so we went to check it out (isn’t my boyfriend awesome?).
The concert was amazing in terms of what it was: live musicians supporting a vocalist that only existed in virtual reality. Very modern art.

Here is a clip of what she was like with Ruka in a different concert (wasn’t allowed to film):

She’s on a special sort of screen so when she went to the sides, she’d start to fade, which does mess with you a little but we had great seats so the effect was minimal. I wish that real singers had the option of split second costume changes and snazzy special effects! I don’t follow Vocaloid at all so all the songs were new to me but I could appreciate the energy of the crowd as they cheered on their favorite singers (Miku’s friends Rin, Len, and Ruka also made short appearances)

My first photoshoots started on the third day! FINALLY, RIGHT?

Vince and I woke up early and I changed into Stocking so we could shoot by the pool. I got a few stares since I had very blue-and-pink hair and these little girls asked their father if I was an actress. I didn’t have the heart to tell them that I was more a geek playing dress up than an actress.

The Puella Magi Madoka Magica gathering was also that day so I tried to fit into Mami like I did the day before. Except the cheap zipper BROKE. COSPLAY DRAMAAAA. Yan was kind enough to let me borrow her Kyoko costume so I ended up being a different magical girl while she dressed as Charlotte: a witch from the series (pink hair and scarf).

We missed being a part of the gathering but we did wrangle up the other magical girls in the series. Alice was dressed as Sayaka (the blue-haired one) and our friend Yoshiko had on an original design for a humanoid Kyubey.

Yoshiko with our friend Eric. He was so pretty I didn’t recognize him at all.

I love seeing children in cosplay! So adorable!


Skullgirls: The game that my boyfriend’s sound director of. :)

Playing around with corsets.

Scanty vs. Panty!

I can’t believe these guys are still here after all the controversy! (artist alley drama of years past where they’d buy multiple tables under different names and harass people. I found them in the dealer’s hall area this time.)

After that, we did another photoshoot!

The cutest Madoka, Mami, and Homura! The Madoka had bought a kyubey from us and gave it to Kalfina (the group that did the ending theme for the show. EVERYWHERE!)

The Gong Show

That evening was the Masquerade which I heard was very awesome due to the $10,000 prize (!!!) but I actually had other plans. My friend Robert who made my sword wanted to participate in The Gong Show which is a karaoke/skit contest in which you attempt to perform your worst and gross out the judges who would then mock you in good humor. In short, it’s a contest to see who makes an ass out of themselves the most on stage. I won in 2009 by singing “A Whole New World” from Aladdin with a prop decapitated head making zombie noises.

Unfortunately, Robert couldn’t do it alone and requested that I and another friend help him with his idea which involved a gold speedo which I made him, chocolate sauce, and ketchup while dancing to DJ Ozma’s Drinking Boys (the video involves naked men dancing with fans that cover their bits so just youtube it while you’re not at work).

We won! Could you really get any more gross than to drench girls in chocolate and ketchup? It took forever to get the syrup off and to stop smelling like it! We won random shit like a broken radio and porn (one of them was a Tron parody called Pron) but the main prize was that we all got free passes to Anime Expo 2012. So maybe we’ll come up with another gross and strange skit next year too. I’m just glad no one recognized me the next day because there were some creepers there.

I did another morning photoshoot on the last day and I was especially excited because it was my first crossplay (cross-dressing costume) in years. I had gotten a binding shirt from Under armor after friends told me they were better for chest binding than ACE bandages. I was a bit hesitant at first but the binding shirt did the trick and I went from an E to an A with no discomfort! Seriously recommended. We ended up being stopped before we could do much but it was enough.

I spent the rest of the time manning artist alley and buying the prints I wanted. I got to meet Miki Liu of MugiBunny (she gave me the cutest cellphone charm!) and Richard Suh, an artist that worked on Skullgirls and whom we borrowed a hacksaw from earlier when we got new poles for our artist alley booth. After all the crazyness ended, we packed up and went to eat and celebrate the 4th of July with karaoke at Vince’s place. We didn’t even have to leave the apartment (someone also used Vince’s car as a launch pad. D: )I then took Yan back to the airport and went home to collapse.

The convention gave me four days to spend with my nerdy anime-loving friends that I wouldn’t really get any other time. We’ve all grown further away from the overly excitable teenagers that we were but we all still have something that draws us back time and time again. I can’t really hate it even when I stress out about either artist alley or cosplay because in the end, it always has its fun moments and I truly enjoy it as a whole. It’s become an annual tradition that is hard to break. Anime Expo might have its quirks but I just can’t seem to quit it quite yet even if I feel as if I’ve become a bit displaced among the newer crowd.

More pictures:

(credit to Vincent Diamante for many of the pictures!)

Anime Expo
My American Cosplay Paradise account
My Deviant Art

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