I haven’t been to the Pacific Media Expo (PMX) for a LONG time. My memories of the convention were from 2004 and 2005, when the convention took place at the Long Beach Convention Center and the guests of honor were Nami Tamaki, T.M. Revolution, Daisuke Moriyama, and Rex Navarette. Since then, I had heard varying stories about the PMX, and Mission Start asked me to stop in and see what was going on. Am I going to turn down a convention? Not unless I broke a leg recently, and both of mine are still working, so let’s see what the word is on the Pacific Media Expo…
Despite being an older hotel, the Los Angeles Airport Hilton has done an excellent job of catching up with technology and staying accessible. The rooms have 42” flat screen TVs, and the rooms are spacious. The hotel can be a bit dim as far as overall lighting, so pictures can be frustrating in a few areas. The staff, however, was very helpful and eager to do what they could to make sure you didn’t have any needs during your stay. I really don’t remember any problems with the hotel itself other than the underground parking structure being muggy and cramped no matter when I walked through it, but that is a regular problem in the area with parking being in high demand with the airport nearby. Occasionally, you will hear a landing plane pass the hotel, but that’s a momentary complaint.
The panels were always timely and snappy. I sat in on a few that included Con Going 101 and How to Sew Your Cosplay. The fans in charge did their best to be both informative and engaging.
One of the more interesting nights was Friday, when I watched Cosplayers Got Talent. As the name implies, several cosplayers showed an array of different special skills from singing to instruments to stand-up comedy to earn prizes and a complimentary pass to the 2013 Pacific Media Expo. One of the more unique things I saw during the performances was an exhibition by Team LIFT, a stunt team that is going to begin a Youtube series staging fights between different superheroes and decided to give us an example of Spider-Man taking on Thor.
Right after Cosplayer’s Got Talent was PMX’s Anime Singled Out, a mock game show based on an MTV dating show. The 18+ crowd started hesitant, but quickly warmed to the quirky questions and atmosphere until a boisterous group of people were trying to win. The interaction between the hosts, Sami Speed and Andrew Alandy keep things moving quickly and entertaining. The winner was a singer named Garrett Chikini a.k.a. “Carrot Zuchini,” singing a very memorable tune called the Pickup Song. I took a video of his performance later in the convention. You’ll want to see it.
Unfortunately, I didn’t make it to the Moon Stream concerts due to a mixture of technical difficulties and rooming issues. However, I did watch the Lolita Dark performance. The show started by the lolitas, band founder Ray and her partner May, being carried onto the stage as lifeless dolls to be charged using the “nuclear technology” of Professor Steampink. (That’s not a typo.) Their set was energizing and fun with all five members, Ray (vocal/guitar), May (vocal/synthesizer), Patrick Cabrera (lead guitar), Rain Balen (bass), and Joey Felix (drums) putting on a thrashing performance. According to the band, they have already managed to sell out their first printing of CDs since their debut performance at Anime Expo 2012.
We managed to take a video of the first song in their set!
Cosfest, PMX’s masquerade, happened quickly, with skits and walk-ons happening in an almost rapid-fire succession. It was very clear that every contestant put in the work to win with well-constructed costumes and interesting choreography. Again, Sami Speed and Andrew Alandy kept the packing brisk and the energy high while giving well-worded introductions to every type of act. I must admit, this was the most interesting masquerade-like event I’ve seen in a long time. There was an issue I had with Cosfest, but we’ll cover that in a little bit.
The Vocaloid concert… Let me first say, I get it. I see how people find the Vocaloid concert interesting. Hatsune Miku has become the first virtual idol on the planet singing for her fans at the behest of talented computer programmers and producers (Vocalekt Visions in this case) using the Vocaloid program to write original songs. I get it.
Now that’s out of the way, the show wasn’t for me. I watched the screen the avatars’ images were projected on and after the second song, something that was bothering me was coming into focus:
There’s no depth.
I watched the characters dance back and forth the length of the screen. They stayed on the same axis the entire show. I did see why that’s an issue. For one of these characters to “step forward” or “step backward,” they would be seen as either getting taller or shorter on the screen. There’s no way with the tech available to give them the depth to give a full performance as other idols or bands would. I found myself spending most of the 10-song set pondering the current state of the technology and how to give a truly three-dimensional performance. I guess I’m looking less for Hatsune Miku and more for Sharon Apple.
However, the crowd really enjoyed the show. They chanted as they would for any of their regular artists for an encore, but none came.
I was more interested in the World Vocaloid Dance 01 troupe. Their performance was oddly infectious and interesting. I give them full credit for warming up the crowd and giving Hatsune Miku a great opening act. The girls are very approachable and eager to answer questions, too. Hopefully, they are taken on any future Miku concert series.
There was also a full blown Filipino and Jiu-Jitsu martial arts tournament that occurred on Day 3. This is a rare gem in the yearly convention cycle. I’m not aware of another anime or comic-related convention that has a live regulated tournament like it occur during the year. It makes for an interesting conversation when you’re sitting around with your friends, trying to shoot one down in Nuketown in Call of Duty and you say, “You’ll never believe what I saw last week.”
The game room had what’s become the standard of the convention circuit; several stations set up with various Xboxes, Wiis, PlayStations, and a Kinect set up around the room for people to play by renting a controller and/or game with the use of your convention badge. This one was very roomy for a convention game room, though it was unusually quiet. You’ll see why that could be in the Organization section.
This is where my interest was piqued and I was sorry I didn’t come in with workout gear on. Several martial arts instructors stopped by the PMX to give you live lessons in their respective disciplines. I can’t recall another convention where you can take off your shoes and get a lesson in Capoeira, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and Yaw-Yan Ardigma. You can check out the video below where Master Guatambu came in from his Burbank Capoeira studio and took several newcomers with experienced students and gave them a lesson where even the new people looked like they were well-practiced in the beginning movements of his art.
This is where I hit a serious problem with the Pacific Media Expo. When I registered as press, I received an e-mail telling me where to go. Twenty minutes before it was supposed to open, I met up with another press member I met as an attendee, Super No. 1. He’s a friendly photographer under normal circumstances, but he imparted to me that organization and sudden changes in the PMX is their weak point. He told me that last year, the Press and Industry Office opened half an hour late. That wasn’t welcome news when the Press Office is scheduled to open the same time as the convention.
That’s right. I couldn’t get around at the beginning of the convention because while regular registration was open and seeing people, I had to wait for the Press Office to open. I went to registration and asked about the Press Office. It turns out the Press Office was moved. I didn’t receive an e-mail letting me know of the change, nor was there a sign outside the former Press Office saying where it had gone. Apparently, we were expected to just trip across it.
Also, Cosfest started nearly an hour late. We were told it had to do with technical issues, however, it was a serious problem when the Vocaloid Concert was scheduled to seat right after Cosfest was supposed to end. I imagine this was why Cosfest was so quick and snappy, however, it left me with a bit of anxiety as to whether I would be on time or not.
Unfortunately, the placement of the Video Gaming Room was in a very odd location. You had to go in the lobby, take an escalator downstairs, make a U-turn, walk across the lower lobby, go down a hallway, make a turn into a mirrored causeway, and then you found the Game Room. It was no wonder it was quiet. It was very out of the way compared to the rest of the convention.
Some questions, from my standpoint, were not quickly answered. I asked the head of security where the press should wait for the Vocaloid concert, and he didn’t have the answer. Someone higher up should have communicated where he could have us gather later on, but in the meantime, his best suggestion was to line up with other attendees. I had to turn him down as I had to cover Cosfest and he would do his best to get the answer while I was working. As the night went on, there seemed to be a policy put in place for where press should wait, but I have a feeling it came because people were tired of us asking what that policy was.
The guest list for 2012 was very eclectic with Z8 and Masumi Kanoh as guests of honor relating to fashion, Mamoru Yotoka as the guest in honor of anime, and visual kei band Moon Stream as the guests of honor in music.
Also in attendance was Dante Basco, Ryan Stylez, Tsuyoshi Nonaka, Christina Vee, Marianne Miller, Lauren Landa, Christine Marie Cabanos, Little Kuriboh, Doll Delight, and the cast of Power Rangers Samurai.
Talk about a little bit of something for everyone!
The Dealer’s Hall was one decent size ballroom where the tables needed to be fairly close together to get a decent amount of tables in it. To their credit, the PMX did a great job of making sure there were tables for a bit of every type of their fans. I saw Lolita clothing, a fashion line, ABCToy4Me, a steampunk jeweler and haberdasher, and various types of goods for such a small room. It was about the most variety I’ve seen with so little space available.
This is a convention that doesn’t seem to have an extensive online community. Similarly to Comikaze, there doesn’t appear to be a single forum, but there is a forum for the convention on Cosplay.com. The PMX has several groups for talking to fans including Facebook, MySpace, LiveJournal and Tumblr. This may be because the PMX is more interactive with fans with its bevy of workshops and events to keep fans engaged, so fan gatherings are less likely.
This was tough for me because there were some serious setbacks that kept the convention from really singing. The technical and scheduling setbacks were hard to overlook and it was more awkward when I found out that these problems were to be expected by people on a year to year basis. I do think there’s a lot of interesting things to see from a convention that is on the fringes of what would be considered normal anime and Pacific pop culture. They have great guests and things to take part in that are definitely fun and create memories that can last a lifetime. It can be a nice change of pace if the organizational problems are seriously addressed. When they fix them, this can be a fun out-of-the-norm place to be with other fans. Until then, it’s hard to give a full recommendation to go to the PMX.
Returning to the Hilton Los Angeles Airport (LAX) Hotel in Inglewood, CA, Pacific Media Expo (PMX) once again offers its wide range of panels, guests, and events encompassing many aspects of East Asian and Pacific Islander culture. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the convention, PMX has dedicated itself toward appealing to this massive variety of interests, and as such, there would be instances such as a panel featuring a Japanese animator taking place at the same time as a martial arts tournament. Whether or not this is a good thing is up to each individual, but regardless, PMX has indeed shown some signs of growth since the last time I visited.
Being situated in the LAX area, the Hilton Hotel that played host to PMX this year is located near various restaurants within a short walk and stores and banks further away on the main streets. The rooms are kept well-furnished and maintained along with being quite spacious. Unfortunately for photographers and cosplayers alike, the yellow-orange tint in the lighting can sometimes make for poorly composed photos (I can vouch for this after having first-hand experience with taking photos around the convention halls myself). Luckily, PMX has designated various gardens on the 3rd floor for the purpose of photoshoots and cosplay gatherings. Not to mention, ani.me has also set up a photo studio on the 2nd floor for the same purpose.
PMX had much to offer on the 3 (4 if you count the 3rd floor gardens) floors it occupied for the weekend. Guests of Honor came from overseas such as illustrator Yokota Mamoru and fashion designer Kanoh Masumi as well as from near as in the case of domestic voice actors like Cristina Vee and Christine Marie Cabanos and recently relocated mecha designer Nonaka Tsuyoshi. Other than the decently sized Dealer's Hall (which seemed to have been better regulated compared to last year's) and the not so impressive Swap Meet and Artist's Alley, PMX returns once again with a fashion boutique for lolita clothing and such. The Gaming Room in the lower lobby was more or less standard to say the least being well-equipped for both video games and tabletop games. Of course, the wide arrangement of panels rounds off the convention along with concerts and nightly dances for those who like some music in their time at a convention.
Based on the panels I went into, I found them to be ran smoothly with little delays and hiccups in the transition between panels for the same room. There were slight audio problems with the microphones, but other than that, panels went well for the most part. I would say that PMX would have to consider larger venues in the future for there were several panels and other events that ended up going past seating capacity especially with the debut of guests new to PMX such as LittleKuriboh, the man behind "Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series" and American visual kei band, Moon Stream, which put on 2 concerts for the weekend.
Speaking of overcrowding, there was none more anticipated and hyped for than Vocalekt Visions' Vocaloid Concert on the night of Day 2. At around 1:00 PM, lines were already started up for the event on the 3rd floor Malibu Garden, which began at 6:30 PM (I believe this was to prevent conflicts with the line for CosFest/Masquerade, which started earlier.). There were hundreds of people who were willing to brave the cold (and soon rainy) weather to be able to see how the group has improved since then or to see their work for the first time ever. Coming back for a second time, Tempo-P, the songwriter of the group and MC for the concert, puts on a spectacular show utilizing not only the AniMiku software that the group is known for using at their shows but also debuting the accompanying cosplay dance troupe, World Vocaloid Dance 01 (WVD 01), at a Southern California convention. Done are the days of mosquito net screens and a not so optimal projection setup that was prone to lag. Claiming to be the most popular and most active Western Vocaloid production group in the West, Vocalekt Visions has indeed improved tremendously since last year's PMX and have come a long way especially in terms of the quality and popularity of their shows both in the United States and in Romania, where Tempo-P's partner, NeutrinoP, resides.
However much the convention tries its best to maintain all of these nice offerings, PMX was still prone to some drawbacks. Large scale events tend to come into conflict with each other. In order for attendees to get into the aforementioned Vocaloid concert, they had to line up hours beforehand to receive tickets while CosFest was still in session. Of course, no matter how rapidly smooth it went from participant to participant, watching CosFest pretty much meant you more or less missed out on your chance to see Vocalekt Visions' second appearance at PMX. Elevators in particular were a bit of a problem for people traffic was quite heavy at the Hilton during the weekend with attendees going to and fro so frequently. It did not help that some people thought it would be fun to re-enact a scene from a certain popular music video to the point where volunteers and staff had to carry signs addressing this issue.
With that said, PMX has shown itself to be a convention exhibiting cultural breadth with a wide range of events, panels, and a diverse guest line-up. Based on my relative short experience with the convention, it would seem that PMX would continue to be one of those conventions that link the consumer to the industry via panels featuring people who work in the business that actually admit to wanting to hear what their fans desire. No matter which part of East Asian and Pacific Islander culture you enjoy, there's bound to be something that fancies your liking at PMX. PMX is definitely a convention for those who are curious about what's going behind the scenes of the media, fashion, and the like they enjoy.
(More photos can be found in our gallery.)