A new year brings a new set of conventions for those of us at MSP to visit, observe, and report so that everyone has a chance to make decisions about where they want to spend their hard-earned dollars and show off their costumes! As you probably know from our previous reports at Anime Los Angeles, we do not just go tot he convention, but several of the Rolling 20's Podcast members are staffers at this convention!
Jeremy and Steve shared their opinions after working both sides of the convention. With a sudden rain during the last year of their tenure at the Los Angeles Airport Marriott, was this a year to truly remember or are they glad to be gone?
Time to find out...
JEREMY - Once again, I stayed at the Los Angeles Airport Marriott for this convention. However, for the first time in my years at this event, the hotel turned from a solidly entertaining and professional venue to a serous Jekyll-and-Hyde situation.
The desk staff was very professional with me and I did spot a couple of them with ALA badges and rushing around trying to get ribbons. It’s very gratifying and humanizing to see them trying to be part of the convention and enjoy themselves.
However, there were also signs that the hotel took less care for the convention since it was its final year at the Marriott. While the pool area was set aside for the convention, they decided to plant and replant several areas and left up takes and plastic netting to protect the plants. While I understand the need to guard the landscape, the netting was also very disruptive to the cohesion of the central gathering area of the convention.
I personally had a very negative run in with hotel security. I was taking photos of a Sailor Moon group in the bottom level of the parking structure, and while I had my eye down the reticle of my camera, I hear a voice pointed at the side of my head say,
“Can you tell these people to move?”
I looked down at a bald security man. I sucked in air and said “Uhhhhh,” while trying to think of where to take them. I guess that 1.5 second period was too long for him, because he started flapping his head up and down like he was missing a vertebrae and said in a condescending tone,
“YES, YOU CAN.”
I can appreciate that he needed us to move as a security concern. I don’t appreciate the less-than-professional behavior of someone who should know how to treat people that aren’t being hostile to his position.
I used to think of the hotel as a place that would be good for both conventions and the occasional stay by travelers, but the kind of experience this year makes me feel that unless you have an ongoing monetary investment in the hotel, you may not get the kind of treatment you need to make you come back.
STEVE - As the Los Angeles Airport Marriott is the official hotel for this convention and I was staff, it only made sense to stay there. There are other hotels in the area, including a Hilton two buildings away, so you do have options. I've only been to this convention one other time, so I really haven't formed an attachment to the hotel, but I will say that I noticed a bit of a difference in treatment compared to last year. Most of the hotel staff were polite and attentive as usual, but I did hear about a bit of an attitude adjustment from hotel security. I heard people complaining about being hassled for issues that had gone unremarked in the past. I am uncertain if this was caused by the convention's departure or if there had been complaints from last year that caused this crack-down, but it was disappointing.
Check-in was very quick and easy. Due to my work schedule, I always seem to arrive late at night, but the staff was friendly and professional. The room was on the same floor as last year. It was clean and nothing had really changed from the previous year. It was a comfortable and quiet room – great to relax in after a long day.
JEREMY - I don’t have anything to do with the staffing or process at registration, but they do a pretty good job of keeping things rolling consistently and with speed. I didn’t witness anyone in line for more than 25 minutes to get to one of several attendants at the one registration table available. People were handed a plastic badge with a clear sticker with their name and a registration package.
There was a different process in place this year as far as how people could access registration due to a concern about ghosting versus a hard attendance cap, but it didn’t seem that the new steps were slowing things down to any serious degree. They adapted well and managed to keep things rolling.
STEVE - Staff registration in the morning moved along quickly. I had to wait maybe five minutes before I got done. Regular registration moved along quickly as well, from what I saw. I think hitting the cap on the convention helps a bit in this respect. You already know how many people are coming, and you can prepare with that number in mind. Still, I think they did a good job of moving people through quickly with the limited amount of space the ballroom level provides.
JEREMY - This is the last year of Anime Los Angeles occurring in a hotel. The majority of the convention occurred in the ballroom level of the Los Angeles Airport Marriott. The amount of people made the area crowded, but it was still possible to move around and traffic moved fairly well.
Then, on Saturday, the unexpected happened. Lord Cthulu played a prank on us all and made a serious, steady, day-long rain. All of the outdoor activities and gatherings moved inside, and the crowding turned pretty hard to navigate.
The halls are decorated in golds, browns, and red. It’s almost a shame that the convention had to move now since it seems that the hotel finally installed cellular boosters and it was easy to get consistent reception in the ballroom level. The network did shift a bet between 4G and 3G, but still, when you go from no reception to decent reception, that’s a hell of a step up when you have seen how people live via their cellphones these days.
This hotel is still hosting a few events that I am aware of, including Gallifrey-One. I expect to hear more about the hotel in the future.
STEVE - The big news this year was the upcoming move to a convention center next year. Even with the attendance cap, the ballroom level is always bustling, with plenty of costumes and people to watch, sometimes too much so. There is no denying that the ballroom level is crowded! Still, there is enough room to move around and get from place to place. Most large groups move outside or upstairs to the lobby or poolside, so it never seems to hit critical mass. This year I got to see how bad the crowding could get, though. Saturday's weather threw a huge kink into this year's space issue, with a pretty steady downpour throughout most of the day. I can definitely see the appeal in a large convention space after Saturday's crowding.
JEREMY - The Dealer’s Hall is actually took a big step forward in 2015. There was a wider variance in the vendors there, including mainstays in bigger California conventions like Pendragon Clothing selling custom leather and steampunk clothes and props. I was fairly impressed by the small hall having a good selection of different products: window stickers, custom glassware, DVD’s figures, manga books, prop and semi-sharp swords, etc.
Again, the Dealer’s Hall at ALA isn’t the main draw of the convention, but someone seems to be planning for it to take a bigger part in the bigger venue. We won’t know until 2016 if that momentum holds…
STEVE - I didn't even step into the Dealer's hall this year. To be honest, my budget barely gets me to this convention, so I just didn't want to risk any temptation to buy anything. I did do a stint of door watching on Saturday and the hall seemed much the same from my vantage by the door.
JEREMY - Panels continue to have a fun variance of things to do at Anime Los Angeles. There were panels with voice actors from League of Legends, panels by fans meant to entertain, panels by fans meant to inform on cosplay and convention techniques, video panels, voice acting panels, and even a room that was for bands to perform live at the convention.
I didn’t note a room for Rock Band this year. I can’t say I’m surprised since rhythm games have gone to the wayside in recent years.
There’s a good amount of things to do to keep you occupied and allow you to meet fans at the convention.
STEVE - As I was very busy with Staff duties this year, I attended no panels. I was a little mad at myself, since I wanted to attend the Fakku panel, but neglected to check the guide. It turns out that they held two panels and I could have made it to one of them. After looking at the panel list, the offerings seem pretty varied. I have never been a big panel attendee, but if you are, you might find one you're interested in here.
JEREMY - I said it on the Rolling 20’s podcast we took at this convention, and I’ll say it again here:
Cosplay at this convention is STRONG.
Maybe it’s because of the January date of the convention and people are trying out new cosplay techniques. Maybe it’s because people have been working on their ideas since the summer conventions and are finally putting the finishing touches on their projects. Maybe it’s because of the palpable community feeling at the convention. I am not sure what it is, but this convention rates high on quality cosplay on my personal scale. I saw people taking risks and trying variations on tried and true cosplay and characters.
ALA is a good place to see something new if cosplay-watching is a hobby of yours.
You will find links to photo shoots we took at Anime Los Angeles on the page. Check them out and tell us what you think!
STEVE - Out of all the conventions I have attended, I have to say, this convention still impresses me. Cosplay is EVERYWHERE. This is probably one of my favorite things about this convention. I am not a cosplayer myself, but I like seeing characters from anime, video games and T.V. walking around, mixing and meeting. Characters from series I haven't seen in years will appear, and remind me of good times.
JEREMY - The staff this year was a bit overworked. I’m not saying that as an excuse or asking for pity. There is a lot going on for them and they had to double-down on their work and find a way to get through.
As it has been known, Anime Los Angeles is going through a period of growth and that creates a need for more trustworthy individuals to be brought in while new logistical problems are both found and solved. Add into that, a lot of department heads are stepping down for various reasons and younger people on the staff are taking over.
All that being said, I don’t think I can rate the staff since I am a department 2nd myself and it will seem biased.
What I CAN say, though is that a lot of people I overheard towards the end of the convention said they had a great time, if not one of the best convention experiences they ever had!
I think that says a lot.
STEVE - As one of the staff this year, I don't want to go on and on about the trials and tribulations of the position. I will say that this year seemed a lot more hectic than last year, due to fewer people volunteering. Still, I had a lot of fun seeing the convention 'from the inside' and working with my fellow staffers.
Last year I worked as a gatekeeper (door guard) during the Masquerade. This year I was promoted to Stage Ninja! I had a BLAST! I was blown away by the costumes and participants. As I mentioned above, I love cosplay even though I don't do it myself, and getting a backstage look at all the skits was so worth it.
I am definitely going to do this again next year!
JEREMY - This part of Los Angeles, near the airport, is very similar to Downtown Los Angeles; in the immediate area of the venue, you’re all good. Go one block in the wrong direction, things change fast.
The immediate buildings around the hotel are just fine, but when you go a block east on Century Boulevard, things get dicey pretty quickly. It should tell you a lot that the Taco Bell about a mile from the LAX Marriott has bulletproof glass at the drive-thru window.
Given the local area and the increased security around the airport area, I wouldn’t recommend wandering around in cosplay. You’re likely to get into some trouble.
Instead of walking around, if you’re looking for a good place to go in the Los Angeles Airport area, you could take a car or cab from the Marriott for about 4 to 5 miles to El Segundo, Manhattan Beach, and Redondo Beach. Parking is a bit of a bear, but there is a lot of beach and beachfront property and businesses that can be very interesting, along with upper tier restaurants you can visit. I took my wife to one of the Japanese restaurants for an evening and followed it up with a sunset walk to the beach to watch the sun recede. If you have a significant other into events, this ability to wander away for a few minutes of quiet and company can be a serious decompression moment.
JEREMY - Again, the local area doesn’t have much of a night life, unless you travel down Sepulveda Boulevard a bit.
Anime Los Angeles tried to supply its own nightlife with a Swap Meet on Night 0, as well as a formal dance, a couple of club-style dances with deejays like DJ Sandman, and a lot of late night panels. The convention also continued its strong community and festival-like feeling into the night, causing people to wander the hallways late into the night or finding a room party to roost in.
Even the Tabletop Gaming room had late night games of Cards Against Humanity.
JEREMY - I won’t say Anime Los Angeles is perfect. There aren’t any big-name guests, no exclusives, or any debut announcements. But that’s not its strength.
The convention has a very intimate and fun feel. It manages to do what a lot of conventions do not and that is feel like a three-day party. While it was a stressed weekend due to the unexpected rain, everyone managed to improvise fairly well to keep the fun moving.
There are a lot of questions for the convention heading into 2016’s big move to the Ontario Convention Center. Although, as long as the staffers put in the work, next year should be memorable, too.
STEVE - This is a fun convention to come and enjoy yourself at. Barring the stricter security this year, I still witnessed many fun events and gatherings. It remains to be seen if the more intimate feeling of this convention will survive the move to a convention center, but I think a lot of this depends on the people. The culture fostered in the confined space of the hotel could survive in a less crowded area, if the people involved want it to continue. I look forward to finding out how this all pans out next year!
Click this link for our Anime Los Angeles convention photo shoots!
Returning to the Los Angeles Airport (LAX) Marriott for the last time, Anime Los Angeles (ALA) attempts to leave behind the venue it has remained at for several years with a bang. While the convention opted not to utilize the entirety of the hotel as it did last year, it sure tried to make use of as much of the area as possible. With panels offered by both members of the industry and fans of anime, manga, video games, and even Western media along with other convention staples, ALA brings a fun-filled weekend with many activities to offer its attendees.
Being held in the LAX area, ALA attendees have the option to stay at the hotel venue of the Marriott or one of many other hotels in the area including the LAX Hilton (host of Pacific Media Expo), Travelodge Inn, Doubletree Hotel, and more. Attendees also have access to quite the variety of restaurants should they need a pick-me-up. If they are willing to walk a half-mile or so, there are additional restaurant choices along with a few stores such as CVS or Ralph's for emergency supplies or other goods if necessary. As mentioned earlier, ALA chose not to utilize the entire hotel exclusively for its event, but hotel staff are still accommodating to the event to ensure that con attendees and staff as well as hotel guests who are not attending the convention all have a comfortable stay. Rules regarding noise and disturbance were under strict enforcement during the weekend, so room parties, a known staple for hotel conventions like ALA (up until and including this past year), were discouraged.
Of course, being a convention, there are other things to do that do not require additional money on top of your registration and food/hotel/travel expenses. Various panels are held throughout the ballroom floor in the several conference rooms hosted by both members of the industry and fans alike. These panels feature content about quite the range of topics from anime and manga to games and music in Japanese popular culture as well as Western media. In the technical side of things, slight troubles with getting equipment like microphones and projectors to work along with a tendency for panels to start and end late as a result of these and attendees wanting a bit more content from Q&As and such. Hopefully the technical details will be better ironed out come the 2016 event in Ontario with better acoustics and such typical of convention centers over hotels. Areas dedicated to tabletop, video, and arcade games have been set up for those that want to get a bit of gaming fix to pass the time while waiting for a certain event to start. For those that are hungry for performance, there are also mini-concerts performed by local talent along with the convention essential of the Masquerade as well as workshops for those who want some hands-on activities. As if to give attendees an opportunity to enjoy the venue while it lasts, ALA has decided to expand their programming well into the early morning with about a relatively small break between each day.
ALA has held its event annually at the LAX Marriott for quite a few years and has grown so large since then, prompting this year's event to be the last one held there and moving to a larger venue in the form of the Ontario Convention Center starting next year. This year's convention has sure been evidence that the folks behind ALA want to end their time at that venue on a good and strong note. Since this convention will be moving to a new venue after this year, I cannot say much about how the convention will be with any strong confidence, but from what I can tell, I will recommend both veteran attendees and convention virgins to give the new ALA a chance if they are able to make the trip out to Ontario next year!