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Old 07-04-2012, 03:31 PM   #1
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AnimeExpo 2012

Hello fellow fanatics! I just got back from a crazy weekend at Anime Expo 2012. It was my first visit to a convention outside of San Jose.

http://www.anime-expo.org/

Unfortunately, my stay at Anime Expo was short. I just got an internship with no vacation days except fourth of July. I work Fridays and Mondays. That leaves me only two days, Saturday and Sunday. If I was saner, I would have scrapped the idea entirely. However this year, Yuki Kajiura and FictionJunction were announced as guests of honor. With that, all logic was thrown out the window. I worship Yuki Kajiura! She is my most favorite musician. The music she composes enriches my life. It’s always been my dream to attend one of her concerts. And top it all, she was going to perform with FictionJunction. Sure I love listening to See-Saw and Kalafina, but if I had to choose which of the three Yuki Kajiura groups my favorite is, it would be FictionJunction.

Saturday (June 30, 2012)

Transportation

I wasn’t alone on this trip. Accompanying me was my good friend Nelson. We both went to Fanime towards the end of March. Just last weekend we attended May’n Rock Your Beats World Tour concert in San Francisco. It was thanks to Nelson that I had a place to sleep on Saturday night.

 



On Friday at midnight, Nelson and I boarded an Amtrak bus in downtown San Jose. The bus departed shortly after and drove to Santa Barbara. It was a long trip and nearly impossible to get any sleep. The ride was bumpy and the drapes kept making metallic sounds. After six hours, the bus arrived in Santa Barbara.

From there, Nelson and I transferred to Amtrak’s Pacific Surf Liner train. The ride was much smoother and relaxing. By now the sun had risen, revealing the beautiful coastal scenery. At 9:30AM, the train finally arrived at Los Angeles Union station.

 


 


We got off and searched for Silver Line public transit. After asking for directions, getting lost, and asking for more directions, we finally located it outside the station along a busy street. Unfortunately, the bus was late. After waiting around over eleven minutes, we decided to take a cab.

X Games

After a chaotic ride and getting dropped off a block away, Nelson and I discovered Anime Expo wasn’t the only major event in town. Right in front of the convention center near Nokia Theater was X Games. They had a massive ramp, race track, and even a life size hot wheels double loop.

To be honest, I found the X Games to be more of a nuisance. It’s thanks to X-games that the Anime Expo concerts were moved inside the convention center instead of Nokia Theater. I’m not sure whose idea it was to have two major events occur around the same time near the same location.

 



 




Pre-registration

I've got to hand it to Society for the Promotion of Japanese Animation. They really know how to process registration quick and efficiently. I had nightmares from my previous pre-registration line experience at Fanime. Sure at the time it was day zero, but I heard it took two hours for those who lined up the next day. In comparison, the Anime Expo Saturday Pre-registration line was just as long, but only took twenty-two minutes. I got a badge, packet, and off on my merry way.

 



Explore

I spent many hours exploring the convention center. Anime Expo certainly lives up to its reputation as being the biggest convention in the United States. Wow! I’ve never seen so many cosplayers and anime/manga loving people in once place. Los Angeles Convention center is gigantic! It’s probably three or four times bigger than San Jose convention center. Some of the video rooms were as big as movie theaters and probably contains just as many seats. There were a lot of hallways, meeting rooms, and smaller lobbies. It felt like I was walking in a massive shopping mall. A couple occasions I got lost.

 



 



 



 



They combined Artist Alley, Dealers, and Autograph Area into one giant room called Exhibit Hall. The front shops closest to the entrance were taken up by industries such as Bang Zoom, Namco Bandai, NIS America, Aniplex, Crunchy Roll, Viz, Funimation, Toyota x .studio4, Kinokuniya, and more. Artist Alley was crammed into the back with very little walk space. Smack in the middle were other dealers selling everything from costumes, swords, shirts, body pillows, models, etc. To the far left and far right were table for attendees to sit and rest their sore feet. Further right was the Autograph Area. They had so many guests of honors that they had to have multiple autograph tables to accommodate multiple autograph sessions at once. There were many entrances and exits to the Exhibit Hall. No worries about bottlenecks. Just flash your badge and you are in.

 



 



 



 



 



South Tower Lobby is hottest place in the convention. A lot of cosplayers pose there while photographers take pictures. On the second floor, there were a lot of restaurants. As expected, the food inside was overpriced. If you are smart and have time, walk a few blocks into the city. There are plenty affordable restaurants and even a Ralph’s supermarket.

 


Commission

One of the things I enjoy most about anime conventions is finding artists and commissioning them to draw a favorite character. One of my favorite anime characters at the moment is Erza Scarlet from Fairy Tail. I found an artist who wasn’t busy. She charged a small sum for the head and extra for waist-up. I asked if she could draw the entire body of Erza in a sarashi outfit. She agreed, but at an extra cost. A couple hours l returned, paid $40, and collected my Erza drawing. It’s extremely well done and very detailed. I later bought a poster tube from one of the vendors to protect my new treasure.

 



 


I wasn’t finished with commissioning artists. This year, I had special plans. I wish to attend the autograph session on Sunday and have Yuki Kajiura and FictionJunction sign commissioned art with characters from an anime that Yuki Kajiura composed a song for. I spent hours walking around Artist Alley, looking for a talented artist who was open to commission. I finally found one, but he was booked for the rest of the day. However, he agreed if I paid in advance. He told me the commission will be done the following morning. I paid $40 and asked him to draw Kira Yamato and Lacus Clyne from Gundam Seed in color.

Luxe Hotel

Up until now, I was lugging my backpack and sleeping bag around the convention center. My arms felt like they were about to fall off. Fortunately Nelson hooked us up with his friend, who was staying in Luxe hotel. Nelson contacted him and we agreed to meet at the Luxe hotel.

It should have been a short walk to Luxe. But thanks to the X Games, Nelson and I had to walk through a maze around Nokia Theater, under various parking garages, around a race track, under a massive ramp, and through pedestrian streets. After fifteen minutes, we finally made it.

 



We met up with Al in the hotel’s lobby. Al is Nelson's friend and the one who booked the hotel room.Our room was a little cramped. There was a full size bed and a roll away. There were six of us sharing the same room. Nelson and I arrived last, so we had to sleep on the floor. Hence the sleeping bag. We dropped our stuff off and paid our share to Al. After several minutes of rest, we headed back to the convention. Along the way, we ran into Jun, Nelson's friend. We also met Yvonne, another friend who was attending with a group of friends.

 


Star Driver

We still had a few hours to kill before the Yuki Kajiura and FictionJunction concert. Nelson wanted to attend the LiSA panel. But by the time we got there, the panel room was already full. We turned around and rested in a nearby video room. There, we watched five episodes of Star Driver.

It’s very rare for me to find a good mecha anime worth watching. I’m very picky when it comes to mecha. I like watching robots that has some semblance to realism or rational to why it could exist. However, for Star Driver I’ll make a special exception. This anime is off the wall! It’s hilarious. It’s as if it’s a mecha anime that makes fun of other mecha animes. Watch as Galactic Pretty Boy makes a dashing entrance and saves the day! The wacky villains and characters makes the show fun to watch. What makes it even more special was that I’ve already met Shigeto Koyama, who designed the mechas for Star Driver. He was a guest of honor at Fanime 2012. It’s great to finally watch one of the series that he’s well known for.

Yuki Kajiura and FictionJunction Concert

After the last episode of Star Driver, Nelson and I exited the video room. We had an hour before the Yuki Kajiura and FictionJunction concert starts. We headed towards Hall G located second floor west of the convention center. A long line formed outside on deck. It was bright and sunny where we stood. Thankfully there was a nice breeze to keep us cool. To kill time, we watched X games in the distance. Traffic was in a deadlock. Airplanes, helicopters, and a Good Year blimp flew overhead.

 



After an hour of waiting, they finally opened the doors. Unlike previous concerts that I’ve been to, this one had assigned seating. The concert was scheduled to start at 7:00PM, but it was delayed for half an hour. In hindsight, there really was no point lining up an hour before the concert start when my seat is already reserved.

At last the concert started. The entire hall exploded into an uproar with cheers and clapping greeting Yuki Kajiura and FictionJunction. It was surreal to see them at last in person. Kaori Oda, Yuriko Kaida, Wakana Ootaki, and Keiko Kubota stood on the stage while Yuki Kajiura sat to the left in behind a keyboard. Konno Hitoshi (violin), Korenaga Koichi (E.guitar), Kyoichi Sato (Drums), and Takashi “Jr.” Tomoharu (Bass) played in the back. Together, they produce beautiful music empowered with emotion.

Before, I predicted the sound quality of them performing live would be less compared to soundtracks on CD’s, but that wasn’t the case. It was the opposite. Being there in person with flashing lights, feeling vibration of drums in my chest, and wonderful flow of vocals mixed with the instruments rang heaven in my ears. I was truly awe inspired by the perfect harmony and melody of their music. Seeing and listening to them live beats listening to them through CD's or MP3 players.

Here’s a list of songs Yuki Kajiura and FictionJunction played at Anime Expo 2012:

The beginning of the end
The battle is to the strong
The image theme of Xenosaga II
Vanity
In the land of twilight, under the moon
Hanamori no oka
Parallel hearts
Salva Nos
Forest
Sis Puella Magica
Credens Justitiam
Himeboshi
Duran Shoukan
Mezame
Stone cold
Zodiacal sign
Open your heart
Encore
The World

Kudos to canta-per-me.net for providing the tracklist. Much obliged.

No photography or recording was allowed during the concert. However, one of the press posted images of them on a Facebook fan-site:

http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?s...6144366&type=1

Yuki Kajiura and FictionJunction concert was the highlight of my summer. They are the reason why I attended Anime Expo this year. I pray Yuki Kajiura will return in future Anime Expos. Better yet, perhaps next year Fanime. One can always dream.

Back to Hotel

After the concert, I met up with Nelson. Our seats were far apart, so I didn’t see him during the concert. Yuki Kajiura and FictionJunction’s stellar performance left us full of energy. We spent the next hour walking around the convention center, walking off the excitement. It was getting late and we finally decided to head back to our hotel room. Along the way, we picked up dinner at Starbucks. Yes, it’s a coffee shop, but there aren’t many other nearby eateries that sells food at such a late hour.

Once we got back to the hotel room, we met the other three guests sharing the room. Two photographers, two cosplayers, and then there was Nelson and me. After taking a shower and setting up my sleeping bag, I went to sleep.

 



Sunday (July 1, 2012)

Breakfast

Next morning everyone woke up. After washing up and getting change, we all headed to IHop for breakfast. It’s great being in the company of fellow AX attendees. We shared stories and experiences. After a hearty breakfast, we dropped by Ralph supermarket to pick up food for later in the day and then returned to hotel. Nelson and I packed up, said our goodbyes, and left. For both of us, Sunday will be the last day at Anime Expo.

I had bought tickets for the LiSA concert. Nelson wasn’t interested. We went on separate ways. We agreed to meet up later in the day for the Yuki Kajiura and FictionJunction autograph session.

Once again, I was stuck hauling my sleeping bag. I would have been fine if the case had a strap to sling around my shoulder. Unfortunately it was made entirely of plastic and I couldn’t find a bag with a strap big enough to carry it. It was a pain hauling it the day before. Thankfully, Anime Expo had onsite baggage drop off. I paid $10 to have my sleeping bag checked in for eight hours.

Artist Alley

As promised from the from the previous day, I returned to Artist Alley to collect my commissioned art. It was a gorgeous drawing. I didn’t expect the artist would draw and color on a huge 14” x 17” paper. I’m extremely satisfied with how it turn out.

Souvenirs

I also bought two large prints of League of Legend characters Morgana and Ahri. I normally don’t buy prints, but these two were so well done that I had to have them.

 



 


With plenty of spare time, I walked around dealers hall. I bought HG Gundam Heavy Arms Custom 1/100 scale for $25. I’m a huge fan of Gundam Wing and already collected most of the 1/144 scale models. However years later, I discovered 1/100 scale models which were more robust and bigger in size.

 



Cosplay Pictures

I also spent a lot of time around South Tower Lobby and the Exhibit Hall taking pictures of cosplayers. There were a lot of amazing costumes and cute girls. I took several pictures of Cosplays that peaked my interest.

 


 



 



 



 


 


 


 


 


 


 



 


 


 


 


 


LiSA Concert

Around 1:30PM, I headed to Hall G for the LiSA concert. By now they had open the doors and were processing ticket holders.

 


The LiSA concert was a blast. LiSA dressed in her signature frilly skirt with ankle high stocking and tank top. She was very energetic, dancing and singing throughout the concert. I stood the entire time, cheering and pumping my fist in the air. I don’t have the complete tracklist, but I know she sang a few songs from Angel Beats, Oath Sign from Fate/Zero, and many more from her album ‘LOVER S MiLE’. It felt like I was at a rock concert.

Yuki Kajiura and FictionJunction Autograph Session

After the concert, I raced back to the Exhibit all. Knowing how many people attended this year’s Anime Expo, it was imperative that get a good spot in line. I got there around 3:40 and already there were people lining up. I saw Nelson and joined him in line. In the next forty minutes, people started pouring in. They filled the first line block. The staff had to form a second line block. Beyond that, the rest had to wait in a long line that stretched outside.

Little did I know they were passing out raffle tickets during Friday’s Yuki Kajiura and FictionJunction panel. Apparently they had a drawing. Those who won were guaranteed a front spot in line. Unfortunately no one informed the staff at the autograph session, and so regardless of who won or who lost, anyone who had a blue ticket got to go first ahead of those without tickets. In fact, half the people in the first line block were blue ticket holder. There was a third line block to the side just for those with blue tickets who arrived late and couldn’t fit into the first line block.

I found this irritating. I and many others had waited an hour in line just to get an autograph. When the autograph session did start at 4:30PM, it took them fifty minutes to process all the blue ticket holders. By now the clock was getting dangerously close to the end of the Autograph Session. There was a bit of miscommunication from a staff about a cut off line at the front row of the first line block. By now, I was in the second row, behind the first. Fortunately another staff who was more informed detracted the previous announcement and informed everyone that Yuki Kajiura and FictionJunction were willing to stay until the Exhibit Hall closed. They eventually drew a cut off line at the end of the front block. I’m not sure how many people were turned away, but thankfully I wasn’t one of them.

 



When I got to the front of the line, I was filled with utter joy. Before me was Yuki Kajiura. I’ve listened to her songs for decade. In good times and bad, her music lift me up and enriched my life. And next to her were Kaori Oda, Yuriko Kaida, Wakana Ootaki, and Keiko Kubota. Each had their own special voice that determines the mood of the songs.

When I presented my large commissioned art drawing of Kira Yamato and Lacus Clyne to each member of the group, they were each surprised. Up until now, they had been signing mostly cd album covers, shikishi boards, Anime Expo catalogs, and posters. I was probably the first attendee who presented them a commissioned art piece. Each of them gave good remarks. I thank each one of them and bowed respectfully. It felt great to see them up close in person.

I was filled with relief after I received their autographs. It felt like I just won a long hard campaign. My second main goal the entire trip was to meet them in person and get their autographs. Mission complete!

 


 


Departure

Nelson joined up with me a few minutes later. He also got their autographs and thanked each one of them for the excellent performance. We headed back to baggage check in and retrieved the sleeping bag. There, we said our goodbyes. I had a train to catch and Nelson had plans to hitch a ride to Irvine to visit his mom.

By now I only had an hour to find a cab and get back to Union Station. I had initially scheduled a pick up earlier morning, but the company somehow got me mixed up and thought I was located in San Diego. Traffic was lousy and many other cabs were taken. I spotted a driver across the street and flag him. Apparently he had a customer he had to pick up. He suggested I run around the block and find another cab. I did that and waited for ten minutes. Traffic was sluggish. The same cab soon caught up to me with no passenger inside. We talked. He figured his customer got tired of waiting and took another cab. He agreed to give me a ride to Union Station. By the time I got there, it was a half an hour before the train arrived. I paid him cash with a large tip and exited the cab.

 


After getting my ticket, I bought Starbucks Frappuccino and waited in line. Apparently the train was running behind schedule. Ten minutes after the set departure time, it finally arrived. I rode the train to Santa Barbara and switched over to bus. I arrived back home at 4:00AM.

 


Reflection

It felt surreal to be back home. I had a real adventure over the last two days. I attended the biggest anime convention in the U.S. There I went to two concerts and met my all time favorite musician, Yuki Kajiura. I slept on the ground for one night in a room with five other guys. I also got see LiSA perform live in concert. I commissioned two artists and got Yuki Kajiura and FictionJunction to sign a large 17” x 14” drawing of Kira Yamato and Lacus Clyne from Gundam Seed. I took pictures of several cosplayers and bought a couple souvenirs including two League of Legend prints and 1/100 scale Heavy Arms Custom Gundam model.

Overall, I had an amazing time at Anime Expo 2012. This will be the highlight of my entire summer. I’ll probably go back 2013 or later if another Japanese artist that I admire performs. I pray Yuki Kajiura will return and hopefully bring more members of her group. Perhaps Chiaki Ishikawa from See-Saw or better yet Yuuka Nanri from FictionJunction Yuuka. I’m glad Nelson came. It’s better to share the experience with a friend rather than being alone the entire time.

For those who have never experienced an anime convention, I highly recommend you visit at least one. It’s fun intermingling with other people who are just as passionate about anime, manga, and the Japanese culture.

Thank you for reading my report.

SaiQ signing out.
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Old 07-04-2012, 06:37 PM   #2
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Re: AnimeExpo 2012

Is it really the biggest convention in the US? How many people does it bring?
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Old 07-04-2012, 07:15 PM   #3
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Re: AnimeExpo 2012

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Originally Posted by Kayarath View Post
Is it really the biggest convention in the US? How many people does it bring?
In 2011 47,000 unique and 128,000 turnstile.

They haven't released attendance numbers for 2012 yet, but it grows by a few thousand each year.
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Old 07-04-2012, 08:54 PM   #4
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Re: AnimeExpo 2012

It is the biggest, it's a shame to see they're still stuffing too many people into such a small space and they're not renting out the same spaces prior to 2011. The way they're fitting way too many people together for the sake of looking bigger is something I'm not fond of. Are they not utilizing the entire Dealer's Hall? Or are they putting too many booths together? That is not enough room for people to walk and I'm amazed no one has been hurt. I have never seen it like that and I highly doubt 3,000 people made that much of a difference in that huge room.

I haven't gone since 2009 for several reasons, but it's nice to see a positive review. I've been reading the feedback on Cosplay.com and most people voiced their annoyance at the lack of things to do, the 21+ Lounge, and the dance. Apparently there's a lot of people saying they refuse to come back next year, which is something I kinda expected to happen over time.

I think your experience was radically different because you were there specifically for that special guest, and that can make a huge difference in terms of how you feel leaving the convention, but I'm glad you had fun regardless.
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Old 07-04-2012, 10:19 PM   #5
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Re: AnimeExpo 2012

If it weren't for X Games, they could have had the concerts in Nokia theater and moved autograph/dealers hall into Hall G. That way they could have opened up more space for dealers.

Panel rooms were certainly jammed pack. I heard the LiSA panel was reserved in a small room that's known to seat only 500 people. Some complained they should have anticipated larger audience band reserve a bigger room. Nelson and I had difficulty turning back when they announced no more room. It became gridlock with people trying to attend the panel at the same time people trying to get out after receiving word the panel was full.

As mentioned in my report, I didn't like the raffle ticket event for first place in autograph lines. In caused a lot of confusion and seems unfair for those such as myself who couldn't make it on Day 1, but waited in line hours before the session started. If they want to reward those who attend the panel, they should raffle out prizes towards the end.

There was a lot of confusions regarding the concerts. A lot of people didn't know they had to buy a ticket just to attend. They though registration covered it. It was also finding the site to buy tickets. I didn't know it was sold through a third party called TicketLeap until I called AX.

Fortunately there weren't a lot of religious protesters. I saw a few outside Luxe hotel, far away from the convention center.

One of the nice features of LA convention center I do like is accessibility. There's two floors open to con goers (third floor reserved for staff) and there's plenty of shortcuts inside and outside. Aside from going to panel rooms, it's really not that hard navigating inside the convention center. Even Exibit Hall is manageable, as long as you aren't wearing a bulky costume.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Kanashimi View Post

I think your experience was radically different because you were there specifically for that special guest, and that can make a huge difference in terms of how you feel leaving the convention, but I'm glad you had fun regardless.
You've hit the bulls eye, Kana. My experience would have been different if I was there just for the convention. Actually, my experience would have took a nose dive if I didn't get Yuki Kajiura and FictionJunction autograph. Fortunately I did.
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Old 07-04-2012, 11:20 PM   #6
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Re: AnimeExpo 2012

Yeah, a great guest can turn an otherwise bad convention experience around. It's amazing how that alone can really make or break an experience. Luckily a lot of Japanese guests seem to be very accommodating, mostly if it's not their first time in the US. Glad you did get your stuff signed and bonus points for Lacus. :D

In terms of the LA Convention Center being accessible... I'm not a fan of that area at all. I don't feel safe walking there are night whether with a group or alone, and the hotels around are painfully expensive and cheap and dirty. Maybe I'm spoiled living in Vegas where you can get a great room at a cheap price, but some of the places nearby are insanely overpriced. I'm pretty disappointed they didn't decide to go back to Anaheim or even look for other venues since this year their contract with the LA Center was up.

In terms of concerts I've heard about that confusion the last few years. While most conventions a regular pass does cover it, I think it's pretty apparent by now that you have to purchase a concert ticket separately. I don't know if they have a list on their website that says what the pass does and doesn't cover, but if they don't by now it would help with a lot of the confusion. As for on-site confusion, there's sadly little that can be done about that unless it states it on your program or the back of your badge (and even then I know very few people who do read the back of their badge xD).

I'm not sure what to make of the religious protesters... I'm surprised how many different anime conventions they're deciding to crash. :/

Next year the X-Games doesn't land on the same days as AnimeExpo so it should be better theoretically, but I think in the long run AnimeExpo is sort of rediscovering themselves after the big shake up and debt that's been looming over them.

Also, apologizes if I seem like I'm being overly negative. That isn't my intention in the slightest, I'm just trying to be realistic.
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Old 07-05-2012, 12:37 AM   #7
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Re: AnimeExpo 2012

Next year, BET Awards will be taking over Nokia Theater on June 28, 29, and 30. Yet another culture clash, but this time Hip Hop. BET probably has more coverage than X Games. Next year's Anime Expo maybe more crowded than this year. We shall wait and see...
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Old 07-05-2012, 05:01 AM   #8
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Re: AnimeExpo 2012

Oh god, I had no idea... even more of a why didn't they move to Anaheim.
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Old 07-05-2012, 06:26 AM   #9
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Re: AnimeExpo 2012

Best way to fix this issue, make it an Afro Samurai focused event and just take the guests from BET.
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Old 07-05-2012, 10:02 PM   #10
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Re: AnimeExpo 2012

Nicki Minaj and Lady Gaga would fit right in Anime Expo.

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Old 08-18-2012, 02:15 PM   #11
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Re: AnimeExpo 2012

Wow I had debated going all the way out to LA from Chicago for AX 2012 specifically to see LiSA perform. But seeing the controlled chaos due to Xgames and the condensed layout would have probably made me claustrophobic.

This is why I tend to shy away from large conventions. The downside is I usually don't find as much stuff for my figure collecting addiction! But on the plus side I end up meeting a lot more people because the whole environment is a bit more relaxed instead of a mill of people just blowing by. =)
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