The first thing that I want to discuss is general location and parking. As a few of my followers already know, I had previously attended Pacific Media Expo at the LAX Hilton just a couple of months ago. This time I was back in the Los Angeles Airport area just a couple of buildings away at the Marriott Hotel. I was told that the price of parking would be somewhere around $13 plus tax with the ALA for the hotel’s parking lot. I ended up using the parking lot in between the Hilton and the Marriott for only10.50. I suggest this lot to anyone who doesn’t mind walking an extra couple of minutes to the hotel because it was not at all over crowded. I believe that the Marriott itself was an excellent choice for a convention of this size. Yes, it was small. Yes, everything was sort of packed together, but everything worked out. The main thing I enjoyed about the venue was that the lobby and the main event/panel rooms were separated. The Ballroom Level held all of the panels and video rooms while the Lobby Level only contained the Artist Alley. I overheard people saying they didn’t even know their was an Artist Alley until they had been leaving the hotel but it was still on the map anyway. Even though this room was “hidden” from the rest of the convention, it always looked crowded when I passed through so I think that artists got the attention their work deserved. Separate from these two floors was the Pool Deck. Fortunately the weather was good for photographs so a lot of people were outdoors. This area was where someone could just sit and wait for hordes of cosplayers to pass through and take photos. Another photo spot was in the Patio. This outdoor area was not as crowded as the Pool Deck but was a meet-up spot for gatherings and more ‘’personal’’ photo shoots were being taken here all day.
The organization of this convention was really impressive compared to other cons I had attended before. I made my way from Orange County to Los Angeles early and arrived just as the first panels were about to start. I registered using At-Con registration and was surprised that there was no line and it was a really quick process to get my badge. The ticket price was $35, which was more than what I had been used to at other conventions but fair for something of this size. The Program Guide was also very interesting and went into detail on everything at the con. The guide was it’s own piece of art with All of the staff were very friendly and helpful right away. I did not have a single negative interaction with any members of the staff and it seemed to me like they positioned people that really knew their stuff out in the most crowded spots. Even when I hadn’t asked a question and probably just looked lost, a staff member came up to me asking if I needed help. A big thing about ALA would have to be the ‘ribbons’ they give out to attach to your badge. Unfortunately for me they had already run out of most of them at the beginning of day 2 so I missed out! I really enjoyed the seating arrangements all over the convention. There were painted benches with anime themes on them, bean bag chairs, and couches for guests to sit on. There were also photo print posters along the halls from a previously ALA and of course water stations scattered around the halls. One thing that stood out to me was the information posters outside of each room. For example the rooms were renamed “LP3” instead of “New York”, which is common for conventions, but they also actually had nicely and neatly printed out schedules for not just that day or hour, but for the whole weekend. The sign outside would say which day and what exact times things were scheduled to happen in each room. This tiny schedule board made all the difference when instead of seeing an open room and then having to look up a schedule, I could easily and quickly find out what was going on. The rooms themselves had more than enough chairs for the panels I had attended and were a good size for the expected audiences. I didn’t really notice any mentionable schedule problems and most panels I had seen started and ended on time successfully. I briefly questioned a few people in the halls about how they felt about this convention. Some people were 3 or 4 year ALA veterans and for some this was one of their first conventions. All of the persons I spoke to had positive things to say about their experiences from this year.
For such a small convention they had a larger selection of dealers than Pacific Media Expo with fair prices. There was a lot more variety in items being sold compared to PMX because it wasn’t just clothes and plushies. I saw a lot more posters, novelty gifts, cosplay accessories, and original stores. Instead of a lot of similar items being sold in one place, Dealers’ Hall was much more like a very small section of what would be expected at Anime Expo. ALA’s Artists’ Alley was really not what I was use to. ALA had just switched to a “lottery system” for spots available to artists looking to sell but they really did a good job! I had never before seen that many GREAT artists selling in one place. I guess it was just luck but at almost every table I was really very interested in the artists’ prints and badges. Higher prices were expected for laborious work but I think a lot of it was worth it to help a struggling artist. Lastly, I think the positive atmosphere of the convention influenced the positive experiences I had with cosplayers. I had never met so many nice and friendly cosplayers at a convention before. I was running on one hour of sleep for the entire day and wasn’t too excited to deal with the usual pushing/shoving and bad body odor that comes from a convention. However, it seemed to me like all day a lot of people were very mellow, friendly, and CLEAN! Made a lot of new acquaintances and didn’t smell any bad body odor, to boot! ☺
As I continue to expand my scope of conventions as part of living in Los Angeles for most of the year, I have added Anime Los Angeles (ALA) to my hit list of conventions. Being held at the LAX Marriott, which is coincidentally near the LAX Hilton, the home of Pacific Media Expo (PMX), ALA offers an entertaining and fulfilling weekend filled with panels, concerts, performances, cosplays, and a grand masquerade to top it all off.
Compared to other hotels I have been to, lodging arrangements could have gone more smoothly in my opinion. There were check-in delays throughout Day 1 and baggage storage/claim delays on Day 3. The rooms do not disappoint, and as I stated in my report on PMX, neither do the variety of restaurants in the area, which are conveniently listed on a single sheet of paper included in the goodie bag that you receive upon processing your registration. There are no food trucks, but the lobby floor contains a café, a Starbucks, and a bar. Again, as the LAX Marriott is located very close to the LAX Hilton, one can take the lengthy walk to various stores for supplies. The pool deck on the first floor is quite popular for cosplayers to hold gatherings and to have photoshoots. The convention area has also been redecorated to fit the theme with benches featuring art from anime, manga, video games, etc. along with the bathroom signs being replaced with “Fan Boys” and “Fan Girls.” On the other hand, the Artist’s Alley, which featured a collection of cosplays that have won competitions, was oddly located on the lobby floor. The Dealer’s Hall was more or less typical for a convention this size though I should mention there seems to be little regulation on the vendors as I have spotted quite a few questionable items while browsing there.
Even though its name implies it emphasizes anime, manga, and modern-day Japanese culture, ALA features events based on these along with Western animation, comics, and more, contributing to an ever-growing attendance. This convention features guests such as artist Stan Sakai, voice actor Chris Cason, voice actress Cristina Vee, cosplay expert Sionna Neidengard, and various music artists. Like PMX, ALA suffers from size-deficient event rooms. Compared to PMX, though, ALA’s events went more smoothly with few technical difficulties and delays.
ALA also features concerts throughout the convention during the late morning and early afternoon. These concerts may not be as big as what most people are used to, but they are worth checking out in my opinion. I believe Mikarin of Momotama gave a pretty good description of the concerts at ALA when she said, “We are like an oasis. You can come in to relax or be filled with energy,” during the duo’s concert on Sunday afternoon, featuring anime and classic song covers. The Western Vocaloid scene also continues to expand as Tempo-P (and Neutrino-P who was in the room in spirit) of Vocalekt Visions and special guest Koda-P, a notable user of English-speaking Vocaloids, present virtual performances of their hits.
For those who want to be a little more active, ALA has a tradition of collecting ribbons to be appended onto your badge upon completing certain tasks. Some of these tasks are as simple as stating that it is your first time at the convention while other tasks provide a chance to meet some of the convention staff. For the fans, ALA’s lengthy convention guides provide a space right underneath the descriptions of the various guests for them to sign during their autograph sessions or when you happen to see them in the halls. Unfortunately, these guides were printed a little too early, listing a band that would cancel not too long before the actual convention (Dig Jelly) and not mentioning a group that would bring in a fairly large crowd despite the arrangement of the room provided for the concerts (Vocalekt Visions).
As a gradually growing convention, ALA offers all sorts of programs and events for fans of anime, manga, video games, and even Western media. ALA also offers a stronger sense of community with its fan events, cosplay gatherings, and ribbon-collecting quest. Like other conventions in this day and age, it caters to the late-night crowd by hosting a dance and leaving its karaoke room open past midnight. I highly recommend checking out ALA whether you are a convention veteran or you have not been to a convention before not only for its programming variety but also for its role as a gateway to other conventions in the area as representatives from PMX, Anime Kaigi, Anime Conji, and Anime Expo were there to get the word about them.