Another year gone, and another year of California Conventions started with Anime Los Angeles. It's past 8:00 on Sunday and all of my roommates and co-workers have decided to head home early, leaving me in an empty room and giving me time to sleep and gather my thoughts.
I have been staffing at this convention for five years in a row now. I think that this convention is one of the most interesting conventions of the year, but this year, two other members of the Rolling 20’s podcast and our show runner managed to try out the con. They were each lucky to make it in considering the convention was sold out days before the convention started. Did they feel with was worth the trek, or should they have stuck around Sac Anime?
As with the last few years, this convention has taken place at the Los Angeles Airport Marriott. The hotel seems to have enjoyed the patronage of Anime Los Angeles. The rooms are the same rooms I remember from the prior year, however, I managed to get a room overlooking the pool. The rooms are still spacious and while the noise could be intense sometimes, if you enjoy people watching, this was a good place to be and just take a good overview of the main social area of the hotel.
Additionally, this year, the hotel made extra moves to be even more open for the convention: They added extra garbage cans to most areas of the hotel, they removed the furniture from the pool area, they extended the hours of the Starbucks in the lobby, and they reserved certain areas of the hotel for the convention only. Not only that, but the hotel staff were very interested in the convention. I walked down one hallway behind a staff member when another hotel staff member came down the opposite way. The other staffer suddenly pointed at the one I was following and said, “How did you get more ribbons than me?!” And the first staffer actually held up her Anime Los Angeles badge and taunted her co-worker, just like any other pair of con-going friends would!
I love this hotel because it’s fervor for Anime Los Angeles feels a lot like going to a San Diego Comic-Con block hotel!
The process for registration at Anime Los Angeles is fairly quick and has remained so. This year had an extra wrinkle in that there was only (depending on who you asked) only 250 badges available at the door. So, the line at the door was pretty busy, anxious, and tremendous. To the con-goers credit, they often self-regulated and made sure things were orderly. The actual processing of registration meant that no one seemed to wait for more than 45 minutes, but the near total sell-out meant there were people showing up every day who didn’t read the Facebook page and find out that there was just no badges available.
If you plan on going to Anime Los Angeles 2015, PRE-REGISTER EARLY! This convention has hit it’s cap three years in a row, and I don’t see that trend slowing next year.
You’ll notice that the title of this section isn’t “Convention Center” this time. That’s because Anime Los Angeles all takes place in one building, the Los Angeles Airport Marriott. Some people would say that’s pretty small and small isn’t fun. In this case, I feel the opposite is true. Because the convention and the majority of the rooms were in the same building, it is much easier to coordinate your activities and keep in touch with your friends.
That isn’t to say that finding everyone is necessarily simple since this hotel was built a long time ago and wasn’t made for the digital age. The ballroom level, where 90% of Anime Los Angeles takes place, can be hell on your cell phone reception and you can’t get a signal, in some cases, unless you walk about 20 yards from the building.
However, the staff have done a good job of keeping the water stations filled and maximizing the available space for the convention. We have one more year at this hotel 2015. After that, it will be hard finding a hotel that can be as dedicated to this convention.
The Dealer’s Hall is small. There’s no way around that. They have people selling a lot of what has become expected at an anime convention: figures, DVDs, blu rays, T-shirts, swords, keychains, and other items. While the room is small, the people running the hall did a good job of vetting the vendors and making sure there is a fair variance of items to be found. I didn’t personally spend much time here, but there were a few items I’ve been contemplating purchasing for a while.
There was a couple of new items on the panel list this year.
One of the more memorable times I had this weekend was the first panel of World Cosplay Wrestling. It wasn’t cosplayers beating each other with chairs, but people dressed in costume cutting wrestling-style promos and the better promos win. It was a raucous crowd, but it was a fun night that even had the hosts cracking up in the corner.
There were some interesting titles such as “Haters and How to Deal With Them,” “Why Your Anime Sucks,” and the “Hentai Cupcake Swimsuit Competition.”
The list of panels weren’t the normal “How to Sew” or “How to Use Kickstarter” panels. It felt like ALA spent some time carefully selecting the panels for unique ideas and interesting ideas. I have to commend them (even though I am a staffer) for stepping outside the box and taking a chance.
There is a lot of what has become regular parts of conventions such as anime music video competitions, a masquerade, dances (dance club and ballroom style), video game room, tabletop game room, cosplay repair station, and others. If you have an itch that can be scratched legally, you can find it here.
Cosplay is DEEP here. I spent some time asking around and there is a lot of cosplay ideas that are either tested or debuted at this convention as people work up their ideas for the next year. I often see things here that I will see later on in California.
The people here will often push the boundaries of their fandom cosplaying as classic and obscure characters. That’s part of the enjoyment is that for no real reason, cosplayers will get daring here and photographers will be just as enterprising. At the pool area, at one point, I saw five different photography setups that included reflectors and flashes to maximize the exposure opportunity.
This convention is definitely a chance to put your best-dressed foot forward and impress the Internet.
Even though this is housed in one building, these people work pretty darn hard. I saw the head of the Tech Department once jog to get a job done on time.
I find it hard to discuss this section fully since I have staffed here for the last five years. Anything I say can sound biased. In all honesty, though, if they weren’t good to work with and willing to put in the work necessary to make a good convention, I wouldn't have been here as long as I have.
In reality, if you didn’t step in the hotel, you probably would have little to no idea a convention was happening. The city doesn’t get as excited for the convention like the hotel does. There’s no signs in windows welcoming conventioneers, no specialized menus or shops, or even the banners like San Jose puts up for Fanime. There’s just no indication that this section of Los Angeles marks the event as anything, really.
There are dances and late night, adult oriented panels at Anime Los Angeles, as there are at other conventions. There isn’t any supplemental entertainment outside of the building, unless you count the bevy of room parties that some people host at night.
The convention is actually very active in the evening hours. You can find people wandering between the dances at night pretty frequently. Even when we recorded a Rolling 20’s podcast in one hall at 1:00 in the morning, you can see groups of people passing behind us.
This convention comes CLOSE to being a 24-hour convention, but isn’t quite there. Even so, there’s things to do during most waking hours.
Anime Los Angeles isn’t big. It isn’t flashy. It doesn’t have a ton of money behind it. And none of those items are really a problem.
This convention has carved out an unusual identity as a good convention to kick off the year of conventions in California with innovative cosplay and panels and people finding a way to get over their holiday hangover with a lot of fun and camaraderie. I’m actually very surprised that co-workers and friends I have been telling to come have not only arrived, but they have said that Anime Los Angeles is now in their Top 3 conventions of the year, if not their favorite. That’s a strong statement for a convention that only has 4,583 people attending (according to their Facebook page).
This appears to be the Pocket Hercules of the convention world. It’s small, but it delivers like a heavyweight.
Now… if only I could get TV reception at my station so I could check in with the NFL Playoffs…
Returning to the Los Angeles Airport (LAX) Marriott Hotel for its 10th year, Anime Los Angeles comes back to stay for the weekend of January 10-12, 2014. The convention brings forth programming featuring various domestic guests ranging from voice actors and musicians to rising cosplay crafters along with featuring a wide variety of fan-run events. With events covering anime and manga alongside cartoons and comics, Anime Los Angeles continues to grow in attendance and popularity.
Being situated in the LAX area in Inglewood, CA, attendees and guests of ALA have several restaurants to choose from should they ever need to refuel for more fun at the convention and a decently sized selection of stores and even more restaurants if people wish to walk further up north the nearby Sepulveda Blvd. On top of that, ALA continues its implementation of the con suite borrowed from earlier sci-fi conventions, a room whose main purpose is to serve snacks and drinks to the attendees for some quick replenishment. For its 10th anniversary, ALA has also done something a bit unprecedented: reserving the entire Marriott Hotel just for ALA attendees and guests only along with exclusive use of the pool deck. This change has allowed for opening up more discounted rooms for attendees than previous events alongside having hotel security act as ALA security for the weekend to make sure only badged attendees are entering the ballroom floor, where most of the programming is held, and the pool deck, a popular area of the Marriott for cosplay gatherings and photoshoots. Of course, as with most hotels of this caliber, the Marriott suffers from dim orange-tinted lighting, which is not too complimentary for photos in a convention setting, so the outdoor pool deck and the front patio tend to be crowded with cosplayers and photographers.
The convention had quite the number of activities and events to offer at its hotel venue. Borrowing another tried-and-true activity from sci-fi conventions, ALA continues its tradition of con attendees passing out and receiving ribbons for fulfilling certain requirements ranging from conditions like cosplaying from a particular series to reciting certain lines. They can be attached to the convention badges in the area specified on them. Panels are held in the various meeting rooms on the ballroom floor covering all sorts of media and ran by both fans and the members of the industry. This year's convention featured guests such as professional translator Neil Nedelman, voice actress Erin Fitzgerald, comic book editor Jonathan Tarbox, and many others. Panels aside, there are many other activities to check out for the more adventurous including a rum party, two types of formal dances, cosplay chess, and of course, the standard nightly dances. ALA also has the convention staples of the Dealer's Hall, Artist's Alley, and the newly included Swap Meet to satisfy the inner collector. A room is also set aside for autographs from guests for those who want to get merchandise and other objects of interested imprinted with their signatures. For cosplayers who want studio quality photos at no extra cost, a photo studio room is set up in which photographers who are not a part of the crew can feel free to use with their models of choice should they desire to do so. For the gamers, there are both video and tabletop gaming rooms, and for those wanting to see some local musical talent, a modestly sized room is set aside for their live performances. A maid cafe has also been implemented for people who wish to enjoy a bit of the Akihabara experience without actually being there.
As for panels, with the heightened security from the inclusion of hotel staff, it is definitely mandatory to have a badge on you as attendees will be asked to show them on the way down from the lobby floor and once more prior to entering the panel room itself, showing that the convention is more serious about ensuring that the event is enjoyed by attendees only. Panels themselves were smoothly ran for the most part with little to no technical difficulties and were definitely met with positive reception from the people who attended them (or at least the ones I attended). The Masquerade was definitely quite the spectacle...if you were sitting in the front areas of the main stage. The projection screens airing a livestream to the sides of the stage for people further back to see the action more closely were not quite projecting a clear image at times. A previous complaint I had about previous conventions, I personally find it quite discerning that ALA fails to see the potential of the wide variety of local talent that takes the time and effort to bring forth a good show for a decently sized audience only to be allowed to perform in a room intended for a maximum capacity of around 40. Speaking of small rooms, the newly implemented Swap Meet was quite the spectacle. Held in one of the smaller rooms on the Ballroom Floor, the market could accommodate only around 20 customers at any given time, resulting in waits of at least an hour and then some for attendees who got to the area right as it opened or later.
Things were quite mixed in regards to how ALA made efforts to make the attendees' stay for the convention during the weekend more convenient and comfortable. On the one hand, the convention offered folks who stayed at the LAX Marriott bag check-in on the last day of the convention at the lobby floor by one of the restaurants in contrast to the 18th floor executive suites from last year. As far as I know (I did not stay at the Marriott this time around, this went quite smoothly. For people who missed out on getting a room at the Marriott, the convention supposedly offered discounted rates at nearby hotels like the LAX Hilton (which has played host to Pacific Media Expo in November for the past several years), but for most people, this discount was not acknowledged, which definitely some miscommunication somewhere down the line. ALA is definitely growing, and if they do not look into getting a larger venue, the staff should definitely at least look into offering proper discounts at neighboring hotels to accommodate attendees who plan to stay nearby the venue during the weekend.
The programming overall has definitely improved from previous events with a good amount of emphasis on the anime and manga aspect of things. Of course, that's not to say that there are no events or activities regarding non-Japanese media. The convention has definitely shown efforts to appease fans of many forms of media from both Western and Eastern cultures while still trying to keep the "Anime" in their event name. There are reasons why ALA has managed to maintain such a record of constant attendance growth, and this is one of many of them. As one of the first conventions to take place in the year as well as inviting representatives from other conventions to show off their events, ALA also acts as a gateway to both conventions that have existed for many years and those who have just stepped on the plate. With that said, ALA is a convention that many can enjoy, whether one has yet to wet themselves in the convention scene or has already explored the vast sea of conventions and wants to come back for more. With activities and events that people from all backgrounds and fandoms will enjoy, ALA will be sure to entertain you for the weekend in more ways than one.
More photos can be found in our gallery (Some photos can be found in higher resolution in this gallery.).