The plan was to be in Norway the weekend of Anime Expo 2010.
But given our bicycle was not ready for our bicycle trip, we postponed Norway until end of the summer. And given the guest line up (May'n, MaMegu, Kuribayashi Minami were main draws), Hitomi and I decided a few weeks in advance to give it a go.
Hitomi bought plane tickets and arranged the stay, the somewhat low-end Kawada hotel. We left on Wednesday night, after work. Virgin Airlines had some difficulty with their plane and we cooked for about an hour on the tarmac, and arriving late to a busy, busy airport was making me cranky.
Thursday ("Day 1") registration was fast in the morning, although there was the usual unnecessary AX crankiness. In addition to badges, we bought tickets: Hitomi got in touch with a friend of a friend, who were staff in ticketing and could get tickets for our group to sit together. AX has been doing ticketing for almost all concerts, which is great for people like me with money and little patience–it's less lines like in the old days. We bought tickets for AKB48 (idol group), MELL, and Nakajima/May'n.
Opening ceremonies was pretty lame. The MC couldn't pronounce Japanese names, the translator was bad (left a lot out, didn't know how to translate major titles, lots of embellishing), and the Con Chair was a blowhard. As for Danny Choo: He spent too much time on stage dancing, 1 minute would have been better than 5. Introductions took forever. (Hint: Have everyone be on stage first.)
Sakura-con does away with all the speeches and shows a quick video clip for each guest showing their work, then there's actually some entertainment. Like we have taiko drumming or something Japanese and interesting.
The theme for Day 1 was panels and concerts: May'n had a panel. The usual boring questions were raised, but it was nice to see here anyway. Then I went outside to see the singers RSP live in the Nokia Plaza, and had fun. Hungry at around 2-3, we stopped by a Lawry's, and had some nice meat. (Best food near the convention, IMHO.)
At 3, Hitomi and I went to Manga Gamer's booth. Although we were supposed to be back at Nokia Theater at 4, we stayed in the Dealer's Hall and watched three singers perform there, one being Kuribayashi Minami, a favorite of Hitomi's. We were pressed up about 8-10 feet away from her, which would be pretty unheard of in Japan where she performs stadium venues. A group of us in front had glow sticks and though I didn't know the precise "calls" we had the clap, PPPH, and other Otagei down pretty well.
I wasn't that impressed with AKB48 on YouTube but when we got in there and saw the last 20-30 minutes or so of the concert, I enjoyed their dancing and choreography, which wasn't too terribly interesting to see on video. The music and singing isn't worth a CD buy. But I'd like to see them live in Akihabara some day. (Seated row B, seat 307.)
After AKB48, it was off to Little Tokyo with our group. Thanks to Oscar and Bisco for the ride, albeit in a bumpy and racey Toyota TrueNo. We ended up at a Japanese style curry house for dinner. (LA and the Bay Area get all the great Japanese chains!)
Day 2 started early. We planned to be at the meet the guest breakfast at 8AM, and waited outside at 7AM for the shuttle. The shuttles weren't really operating, and considered taking the city bus again, but we finagled a ride from a fellow guest who drove the 2 miles from the hotel to the convention center.
The event cost $50 for each of us and there's really not much of a breakfast, considering there's just cold cereal, fruit, and muffins. But the price keeps the numbers low, so there's more of a chance to actually talk to some guests. Some guests are really, really popular and one actually had nobody at their table, which was sad.
I sat down with KitaEri, Nabeshin, Asakawa Yuu, staff of Eden of the East, and Horie Yui when she appeared late. Musical guests weren't in attendance. Most popular voice actresses tend to be pretty cute and good looking, since agencies often turn them into idols or performers.
We had a few hours to kill, so back to the exhibit hall. We met Rick Alonzo, who often invites guests to Sakura-con. Also, toured the other booths, including Manga Gamer. They had all sorts of odds and ends, like hug and cushion pillows for games and characters I haven't heard of. Still, there were some nice things to be had. Lots of new titles are coming to the U.S., including the Momoi voiced "My Bride is a Mermaid" show that Hitomi likes. The list of anime I want to buy or watch keeps growing. We picked up Toradora, and might have had it signed by "Hocchan" (who was at the NIS booth) but we had to be at the May'n Concert at 1PM.
As previously stated, we had all the group in one spot, all who know the Japanese concert going convention of waving glow sticks and all. (Seated row E, in the middle.) Most of the concert you spend standing up, which is great for me, but not so good for the folk behind.
There's a lot of reports of the May'n/Nakajima and their set list. Needless to say, I was overwhelmed to see Yoko Kanno come on stage, I even cried a bit and embarrassed Hitomi. Kanno had an unusual solo performance introduction, beginning with a series of bird call whistles, which was almost avant-garde, in that it wasn't exactly bird-like but timed in a way that it made it sound part of a jazz musical interpretation of the music she was to play. She's quite the jazz technician, able to blend themes together effortlessly. (Why the tears? Well, I've been listening to Kanno's music constantly for over 14 years or so, since Macross Plus and the Escaflowne. So, it was like reliving all the moments I played those CDs.)
The concert started and ended a bit late, so we were to head to the performance of the play Kisaragi, but it was thankfully delayed and thus we had a chance at lunch. Lunch was again at Lawry's. Mostly we were eating a minimal breakfast, snacking during the day, and waiting out for a late dinner. When you go to an anime convention expect to only eat one real meal a day.
Hitomi and I own Kisaragi on DVD. The play is pretty much the same characters and story, though the opening and ending sequences were done differently. And there seemed to be some changes in dialog, but it could have been just my imagination. We were sitting near the back, and it looked as if the fan club was situated all in the front 5 rows or so. What a lot of Japanese fans! They were there to see one of the Sophia (band) members who was in the play.
Since Hitomi and I pretty much only listen to female vocalists, who have mostly male fans, I forget about the males who have almost all female fans. And somehow it's creepy to see a bunch of frumpy middle aged ladies drooling over some good looking guy.
Post play, we headed off to listen to MELL. (As Danny, an Asian guy dressed in sweet lolita drag, artlessly put it, she's pretty hot for a "middle-aged" woman. Middle-aged being over 30, says him. Uh oh, Hitomi!) She was with her band, which always makes things a lot more interesting, though nobody really cares to know too much about the band members. There was also a magic show, part of the stage transitions between songs. Hard rock, well "synthrock," is always better live than recorded.
Post concert, it was now around 10PM, and being a mostly Asian crew the consensus was some (of course) cheap, Hong Kong family restaurant in the middle one of the many cities in Los Angeles I've never heard of. Seated at a really long table of about 14 people, I was among the white folk, who ordered some Chinese and the Asians who ordered $10 plates of prime rib with spaghetti.
Day 3: Day 2 was a long day and we slept in a bit to recover. Our plan for Saturday were to attend just a few events. I was back at the Manga Gamer booth for 3 hours of live performances, Hitomi went to see the Trigun movie. We also went the the Mamegu panel in the morning, where I was blown away at just how kawaii Nakajima Megumi is.
At 7PM there was a industry/anime convention gathering sponsored by Sakura-con and Anime News Network (and others) at a nearby hotel. Free drinks and food, though not exactly dinner-quality. Hitomi and I talked with Sabrina and Myra mostly, and we said hi to a lot of folk we've seen in the past at Sakura-con and other conventions. We were there until 12PM and I'm not exactly sure how we carried on for 5 hours.
Day 4: Last day, so packing and not much left to do at the convention. We did another round of the dealer's hall and weren't that enthusiastic to shop. We attended the screening of the final episodes of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. I hadn't seen the previous 60 or so episodes, but I've read the manga and kind of knew what was going on.
There were some goodbyes and I found out one of the dealer's at Manga Gamer, a big, balding fat dude, was really into cycling. Some people are more into owning bicycles than actually riding them, but even fat guys can ride pretty hard I've seen. He knew a lot about my frame and had quite a lot of pictures, some in Germany! I felt a bit more enthusiastic about our ride to Norway next month.
We were hungry and had one more meal before being picked up at 4PM: I experienced some profound disappointment with one of the fancy Korean lunch trucks that seemed to come highly regarded. I was all excited for some fried chicken done up with exotic sauces and it was overcooked fried chicken with some pretty bland sweet sauce. Sometimes gourmet talk is bullshit.