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AX 2001

    Wow oh wow oh wow! It’s Anime Expo 2001 baby, and because of the fact that this year’s was held at the Long Beach Convention Center, practically anyone could tell that it was going to be WAY better than last year’s con. However, just because it’s at a better location doesn’t mean there wasn’t any drawbacks. What do I mean, you ask? Well, it was pretty obvious from the start when the AX web site announced their lineup of Guest of Honors: there aren’t as many GoHs this year compared to last year’s! Plus, the lineup wasn’t as diverse either. On the bright side, a lot of this year’s GoHs were first-time attendees, so it was pretty much a sight for some people’s sore eyes. Unfortunately for me, I never got a chance to attend any of the panels... bummer.

 Day 1 (July 5): Holy crap, I’ve got to get up and go! Originally, I planned on leaving at 7 a.m., but figured that the registration line would be huge over at the Westin Hotel during this time. So instead, I left at 8:30 and got there at around 9:15. Ah, but what do we have here, AX staff actually decided to split the lines into two, one for pre-registrants like me, and the other for at-the-door purchases. So, what I thought would be a two hour wait turned to only 20 minutes! Not only that, but they had pitchers with water and cups to refresh weary in-line waiters. I managed to get into this conversation with a Cosplayer girl who was dressed as a moogle, based on the AX EZ Board. In the end though, she just left, so whatever. When it came to picking up my badge, I was able to get my name changed (got it in K-Bug this time instead of my real name). Oh, and the best part of all? The free goodie bag, duh! Loaded with free glossy postcards and a free issue of BPM magazine, this bag kicked plenty o’ ass.

   After the wait, it was about 9:40. I sat in the hallway of the Westin like many other fans, peeking through my schedule to see what was going on. I kept thinking that Opening Ceremonies already happened, but I was wrong --- Opening Ceremonies start in 20 minutes. While I was scanning everything else, a table next to me was being set up, and this was specifically to sell AX souvenirs. I bought a shirt and high-tailed myself out of there. The problem with this year’s con, as I first noticed, was the fact that in order to get from the Westin to the Terrace Theater and the actual Exhibit Hall itself, you had to cross streets on a constant basis. It didn’t bother me that much though. So finally, Opening Ceremonies starts, and everyone in the giant Terrace Theater is cheering the AX mascot on. People are introduced (including the GoHs), clips are played, and even a special dubbing session is presented to the fans. In the end, it was a fantastic way to begin the con. While people left to go line up for the Exhibit Hall outside, it started to drizzle heavily.

   I didn’t want to sit outside and wait, so I went back to the Westin and waited for about half an hour before going to the hall. The rain was slightly halted here, so that was a pretty good sign. Upon reaching the hall, my eyes completely dilated. It was reminiscent of a gigantic arena with chaos running amuck inside. The first booth to greet my eyes (like last year’s) was the Pioneer booth, except it was their giant TV screen showcasing some anime. Though it was an incredibly nice booth, Pioneer didn’t sell anything and didn’t really give out cool stuff this year. They only had cheap postcards, but that was it. I happened to notice that there was a whole bunch of new dealers this year. By the time I exited the hall to go for a break, I had already purchased the first Cowboy Bebop DVD and the Cowboy Bebop: Music for Freelance soundtrack. I needed a break. I set a goal for myself to not spend my money on ridiculous items like I did last year. Besides, the video theaters were playing anime, and I wanted to watch. But first, hunger struck me, so I ate, then went to the Terrace.

   Wow, by far, this is the best video theater!!! Held in that giant auditorium, you got to see anime on a giant suspended TV screen, plus excellent sound, plus comfortable theater seats with armrests! I stopped watching anime after a while and went back to the Exhibit Hall to get more freebie junk. I managed to get myself tempted into buying the Rurouni Kenshin movie (a.k.a. Samurai X The Motion Picture), which I did, then went around practically all the booths getting free stuff. I came back around on the other end of the hall, discovering a comic place selling graphic novels of almost every manga series I could think of. Turns out they carried the Gundam Wing Ground Zero graphic novel there, so I bought that without hesitation. “Okay,” I told myself, “I can’t spend any more money until tomorrow.” When I was finished with the hall, I had a big Tokyopop bag loaded with about 10 lbs. worth of free stuff --- about 5 times more than what I got from last year. Okay, so now it was getting pretty late in the day, and I didn’t want to go home yet. What should I do? Well of course, go back to the Terrace and watch more anime! Surprisingly, they were playing the Kenshin movie in Japanese, so now I saw the movie before even seeing it on the VHS I just bought! It was excellent though, but funny how they kept playing the same scene over and over again.... oh well, it was for plot purposes, so I can understand that. It got be 7 p.m. by the time I was done, so I gave my mom a rang and left HAPPY.

Day 2 (July 6): Nothing special really happened on the second day. There was a panel with Yu Watase at 10 a.m., but I refused to go at 9 because there wasn’t anything going on in the morning. Though I really wanted to go to Yu’s panel, I figured that I can always wait for next year since I knew this one would be jam-packed. However, that was probably the stupidest move I made. Turns out, my mom can’t take me until 11:30, so I ended up sitting at my aunt’s flower shop while my mom was running about making deliveries to people. Okay, so 11:30 comes around the corner, I leave, and get there exactly at 12. The Exhibit Hall just opened, so I might as well wander around in there. I’ve got only an hour until the premiere of the Ah! Megami-Sama movie, which I was dying to see (though I’ve never seen the show itself before). The funny thing is, I really wanted to buy stuff, but I didn’t.... nothing interested me. It was either that or the fact that I couldn’t really think of anything to buy. 12:50 hits, and I run out of the hall and ask AX staff where the movie is. “What, it’s full already?!?” I ask the guy. “Yeah, the theater’s already reached the 1000 person capacity,” he replies. “You’re kiddin’ me.....” I thank him and walk back into the hall disappointed as hell. I don’t really know what I did after that..... I basically sat in the hall for another hour or so, then got bored and left again. At least I picked up some more goods later on. Bandai handed out a card-flyer to me notifying all attendees of an “aftermath” party going on at the Renaissance Hotel from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. The first hundred people through the door receive a free Ryo-oh-ki plush backpack.

   Did I want to go? Well, I was in a way interested, but then the thought of where to put my belongings lingered in my mind. I felt like checking it out, but 9 p.m. was like 6 hours away, and there’s no way in hell I’m going to wait that long. Still, my mind wasn’t made up yet, so I thought about going to the Terrace to watch some more anime. Maybe then I’d have a decision. An hour passes.... I’ve been watching Arc the Lad for a damn hour now, and the show bores me to death. Then again, most anime based on video games do that. It’s funny ’cause there’s so many people saying how great the show is. Sure, visually it’s pretty cool, but story-wise? Where’s the character development?!? Why is this annoying kid named Elk screaming “Arc!” at the top of his lungs every 5 seconds? That sight alone made me want to jump into the show, grab Elk’s weapon, and slice his bloody head off. Yes, it was THAT annoying. Imagine a dog barking, except, instead of saying, “bark” or “arf,” it says, “arc.”

   Flash forward to the present: I’m reading Animerica reviews on this series, and now I have a general idea of what’s going on in the show. But even after reading that, my opinion still doesn’t change.... the kid needs to die, BAD. At least the ep. I watched showed the title character Arc kicking Elk’s sorry ass, so all was not a total loss.

   Back to the past: I had to get out of the Terrace theater fast! I gave a sigh of relief to get away from that miserable show. Then it hit me that the Hyatt Hotel had video rooms too. I had to trek a long way to get there, but it was worth the trip. The interior was a lot nicer than that of the Westin, mainly because the Hyatt is a newer hotel, or so it looks that way to me. The third floor contained the gaming room, where throngs of people came by the dozens, and where rows of Dance Dance Revolution machines dominated, along with their other “match-the-beat” machines from Konami. I watched a little bit, but then lost interest and went inside to Video Room 2, where they were playing something I’ve never even heard of. After standing in the way back watching for a minute, I bailed and went next door to Video Room 3. An episode of Cowboy Bebop was playing, and I was happy, but then pissed ‘cause it was the last episode of Bebop. Ironic isn’t it? I haven’t even seen the first ep. of this series and already I know what the ending’s like. Great. Oh well, at least it was still in a way worth it. After Bebop, they played two eps. of Sol Bianca: The Legacy. I’ve heard both good and bad things about this series. My two cents: What in the name of god is this crap?!? Sure, the animation is a nice touch, but the CG and that “Goddess Bow” attack?!? It just didn’t seem right. Made the show look really really cheesy. I left the Hyatt mid-way through the second run of Sol Bianca; my fragile mind couldn’t take anymore of the crap I having on this second day of AX.

   It’s about 5 p.m. right now. I wanna go home. I call my mom on the pay phone, but she tells me that she can’t pick me up for at least another hour or so. After making the call, I lean on the counter and mess around with my face in frustration. At the Westin, I bought a bottle of Sprite from the gift shop and sit down at one of the lobby tables reading my free issue of Smile from Tokyopop. Before I know it, the chair next to me moves, and someone sits down. Startled, I look up to encounter a smiling face greeting me with a “hi.” “Hey,” I reply back. We chat. I find out his name is David, and he’s pretty cool (as well as adorable. Reminds me of one of the Gundam Wing boys in chibi form for some reason, heh! ^_^’) Time seemed to fly because my mom comes through the door and waves at me. I tell David that I have to go, but I left my site address for him since he wanted to see my site and all that. Ah, but my mom comes up to me and starts talking a little bit. I find out from David that he’ll be back tomorrow, so maybe we’ll run into each other again. “Hey, that’d be cool,” I think to myself. We say our goodbyes and part ways.

   My mom then asks me how my day went. I told her it sucked big time.

Day 3 (July 7): My last and final day. I knew that I wanted to attend tomorrow (Sunday), but I couldn’t --- had to pack my bags and get ready to depart for Otis College of Art and Design for their summer program, which was fantastic, mind you. Anyways... back to the con. Saturday for this con always seems to be the best for some weird reason... must be because of the fact that they had a lot of great events scheduled. I arrived at 10 a.m. and immediately went over to the Terrace Theater to get Cosplay tickets. Unfortunately, AX officials told me that people have been camping out as early as 5 a.m. to get a hold of the tickets, which went on sale at 9 a.m. Dammit, I had promised myself I’d see Cosplay this year, and what do I get?!? Well, all was not a total loss. Today I would be going with my friend, and since this was her first experience ever at a con, I knew it was going to be great showing her around. She wouldn’t get here until 11:30, so I crossed the street from the Westin to the Terrace once again to watch some more anime. They were supposed to show NieA_7 I believe (Yoshitoshi Abe’s latest is hilarious!), but they played Love Hina instead, which was incredibly funny. Love comedies/spoofs always hit the spot, especially if they’re the light-hearted ones in a Tenchi Muyo-sort-of-way.

   Finally, after watching 2 eps. I went back outside, saw my friend, and dragged her over to registration. Surprisingly, the line was still pretty long, so we waited. Meanwhile, a crazy 30-year-old man was walking around being Mr. Waterboy and pouring all of us a cup of ice water, which was really nice of him. After about nearly 30-40 minutes of waiting, my friend got her badge, her goody bag, and her big grinning face telling me to lead the way. The Exhibit Hall was open, so of course, I made that the first spot to see. We walked in there, and my friend was startled by that giant Pioneer screen and booth. The entire place was overwhelming to her, but damn, she had a great time! Unfortunately, she didn’t buy anything, unless I’m just forgetting. I, on the other hand, had told myself not to spend anymore cash, but temptation always gets the better of you, and I saw the Essence art book by Yoshitoshi Abe, as well as the Blue Submarine No. 6 OST 1. After that, I declared myself AX Wiped-Out. I already spent nearly $100 the first two days I went, and now I just spent another $20 something. Oh well, at least all the stuff I got this year was worth every penny.

   I believe we spent about another hour in there, then settling down in front of the carpeted Pioneer big-screen area, munching on a Dominoes pizza lunch while watching Adventures of the Mini-Goddesses (an Ah-Megami Sama! side-story with all three goddesses in chibi form) while keeping our eyes constantly alert incase Pioneer people put some more of their limited 2001-2002 calendars on the table (they kept running out... those things are NICE). Eventually, I spotted a fresh stack out of nowhere, and made my friend attack before anyone else did. She managed to nab 3 before a horde of other greedy AX attendees reached blindly with their hands to grip one. I was happy, my friend was happy... wow, this was great. ^_^

   I asked someone for the time, realizing that the Escaflowne movie that I snoozed over last year was about to screen within half an hour. It was already guaranteed at this point that there would be a long line stretching outside. And boy was I ever so right. The line had spanned all the way to the end of the LBCC, stopping half-way on the other side! I lost hope and figured that we would never be able to get in, since the seating capacity was up to 1000 people only. Fortunately, my friend had stopped and started talking to someone. I turned around, and she pointed to me that this guy was her friend from school!!! We begged him and his pals to let us join them, and they were nice enough to do so. From that point on, we chatted for the longest time until AX officials finally announced the end of the wait. My heart was pounding; I remembered that this movie was good, and after seeing a bit of the series, knew that I would finally sit through the whole thing and be completely mesmerized.

   We sat somewhere in the middle... the subtitles were a little hard to see, but that was okay. When the lights dimmed and the screening started, everyone started cheering, much like last year’s. It was great, and I shouted with enthusiasm. The gorgeous Yoko Kanno and Hajime Mizoguchi-composed music boomed over the speakers, and the image of Van Fannel falling through the sky was a majestic sight. The sky and the moving clouds --- that entire freefalling sequence alone --- had already captivated me. Van’s falling body lands on an airship down below, and the first thing we get to witness is the decapitation of the officer on lookout. Sweet.

   At the end, all of us were humming the beautiful “Sora” song that was sung many times by the character of the same name. “Win dein, a lotica, en vai turi, si lota. Win dain, a loluca, en dragu a, se lain. Vi faaru, les shutiam, en rigalint.” It never occurred to me to purchase the movie soundtrack until after the con. Likewise, the same went with my friend, except she hasn’t bought the CD yet. The rest of the day, her friend couldn’t stop whistling it. I don’t blame him either since he downloaded the movie onto his comp anyway. His buds were pretty cool too, and we were talking about a bunch of crazy stuff. We walked back to the Exhibit Hall and looked around, splitting up but meeting back at the Bandai booth. When we left again, hunger strike came, so we walked all the way to the Hyatt and bought another pizza there. Outside, there were groups of Cosplayers patrolling the area, so we got some pictures. Most notable was this professional group that had dressed up as the movie version of the Escaflowne film.

   As the sunset neared, a part of us departed and went back home, while the rest of us were determined to stay behind and catch the premiere of Blood: The Last Vampire at 9 p.m. In the meantime, we continuously switched video rooms in the Hyatt to pass the time by. Near 8 p.m., we got in line, now reaching the halfway point. Though none of us really wanted to sit and wait, we knew we had to. However, two of them willingly stayed behind and told us to go back to the Hyatt and watch people play DDR or something while they held our spot. Awfully nice of them ne? Anyway, we took the offer without hesitation, stormed back into the video game room, and watched some crazy DDR-otaku get their groove on, nearly playing the machines to death. One guy even went as far as memorizing the dance steps of a particular song, dancing to it facing the audience so he couldn’t see the screen! Well, one of the guys in our party played with his hands in his pockets, and he was really good too.

   I eventually got bored with watching DDR people, so then went to the Para Para Paradise machine over by the escalators. Within a couple of minutes, a heavy tap was poking at my left shoulder. I turned and came face-to-face with this blond-haired lady dressed in a black dress, her face bright red and her lips stretched into the most awkward smile I have ever seen in my life. “Is this a picture booth?!?” she said stupidly. “Uh no, it’s a video game machine,” I replied. “Ooooohhh!” she commented. After looking around for about 5 seconds noting all the otaku in cosplay outfits, she asked another stupid question. “Is this some kind of superhero convention?” “No, it’s an anime convention.” “A what?!” “AN ANIME CONVENTION!” I shouted amidst the loud noise. “Oooooh!” She didn’t talk to me after that, and when I turned around again, she was long gone. My friend’s friend leaned down and whispered “she’s drunk” into my ear, and I nodded wholeheartedly.

   After the above, we went back outside; Blood should be opening very soon. However, as time passed on, people started to show agitation. Why can’t we go in yet? AX officials had to provide the answer: Due to the fact that Akira was the movie playing before Blood, the premiere would have to be delayed somewhat. We started groaning, but understood. Another hour slowly trampled over us, and we were finally admitted inside the LBCC. As we sat down in our ballroom chairs, an announcement was made which pleasantly surprised all of us. “We thank all of you so much for being patient this entire time! We understand that the wait was long and tedious, but because you were all great about it, we decided to present you with something special... a Cardcaptor Sakura short!!!” Cheers erupted and echoed throughout the colossal room. Okay, so maybe that’s not how the AX lady said the announcement, but close enough. The lights dimmed, the screen glowed, and the Cardcaptor Sakura short Leave it to Kero played. This lighthearted comedy seemed to have captured the hearts of all of us in there. We laughed in unison and cheered in unison. Brilliant.

   Then Blood played. Everyone in the theater was completely blown away by the sudden rush into violence as we all witness Saya’s katana mercilessly make its way through the body of a man on the subway, blood gushing everywhere. The computer graphics, I must admit, are astounding in the sense of just how realistic they look. Saya’s dark character, on the other hand, keeps us captivated in this short 45-minute mystery thriller. Unfortunately, the length is of course, too short. There wasn’t much character or story development, and I found myself wanting to beat the crap out of that annoying school nurse who did nothing but shriek at the top of her lungs and get in the way. Why didn’t she die? I really don’t know. Overall, good movie, but not really THAT great. I liked it, of course, and I first thought I wanted to buy the DVD when it came out September, but now I won’t even consider it. If someone else owns the movie, I’ll just make a VHS copy or something. In fact, much like the recent terrorist attacks on 9/11, the mentioning and featuring of Blood became overly redundant. I like Mamoru Oishii, but this film didn’t appeal to me very much. Yet, people continue to kiss its ass as if it was the greatest thing to step onto the face of this planet. This movie, like all movies, has its ups and downs --- more downs than ups though, I’m afraid. With lack of development and footage time, Blood actually was a let-down. However, I must pay my respects to it for doing a fairly great job, even if it was in that compressed version.

   By the end of the movie, nothing was going on. It was starting to get incredibly late. I think we sat there and just chit-chatted until around 11:30 p.m. Then we made the decision to go home. As we stood within LBCC staring out the colossal windows at the night, I knew I had to call my mom. I borrowed my friend’s cell phone, and my mom said she would pick up me at the lobby of the Hyatt. The guys offered to drop us off since they didn’t want us to sit there depending on my mom, but we refused the kind offer. About a half hour passed, my mom pulled up, and the guys were nice enough to sit there with us making sure we got picked up. Then we left, and that was the end of AX 2001 for the both of us. I sighed in the car, smiled, and stared out the window. My mom was talking to us... about the things we did today, and so forth. As we neared a stop light, there was a group of crazy teens dressed like Goths having a sort of dance ritual. A guy was sitting on the cement beating on some hand drums while a skilled girl was waving around a pole with fire burning on the ends. Everyone else sat and cheered. I pulled the window down, shoved myself halfway through the opening and grabbed a picture of them. My friend and I thought it was hilarious. But oh well. On the way back, we both took a small nap, though I was still pretty much awake, only exhausted from all the walking and talking. When we reached my house, I burned a copy of the Serial Experiments Lain: Cyberia Mix CD since she was looking for some good techno-related music (she heard some playing in the Exhibit Hall and said that she wanted some music kind of like the one that was playing, so I volunteered. We tried looking for the Lain disc, but none of the dealers had any, and the only one that carried it just recently sold the last copy, damn!). After the burning and sorting of our collected swag, we got back in the car and dropped her off at her house. The current time was 1 a.m. on the dot. She told me she had a great time, and would definitely love to do it again. As announced during the opening ceremonies of the first day, AX 2002 will be held again at the LBCC. Cheers from the crowd, and from me. Although my friend wasn’t there to see that glorious morning, she still got witness a large portion of AX 2001, especially since it’s a Saturday, the day when most of the things happen.

   She waved "bye" to my mom and I, then went inside her house to go to sleep. I leaned back in my seat and reminisced about the day's events, then went back even farther to the beginning of AX 2001. I already missed the convention. I wanted it to last forever. But all dreams end someday, and that is the sad truth. However, as long as you hold within you the hope and the will to keep something going, you can surely bet that it will last. My energetic attitude for adventure and happyment got the better of me today, and that was the best part of all. Once again, the best anime experience in my life, surpassing that of last year’s by more than a thousand miles. My vision now points towards the future, where AX 2002 is calling for me to be there. And that I will. Time for pre-registration only hits within a matter of months. Until then, I can sit back and look forward to yet another stellar year in my life.

 

AX 2000

    This is where it all starts..... the largest anime/manga convention in all of the U.S.  Sad, but true, it was my very first appearance to an actual anime/manga con.  This day, on Saturday, July 1, was my journey into the true fandom of the anime/manga convention scene.  I really am now an otaku.

    What started off that day was getting up at 6 a.m.; my friend was coming to pick me up, and we had to be at the Disneyland Hotel & Convention Center (located in Anaheim, California) by 8 before the line for registration got too long.  And we did get there, at 7:50, waiting in a line that seemingly looked like the line for the registration.  When my friend and I noticed that all the people were wearing badges, we found out that this was not the right line.  So it turns out, we were dropped off at the wrong Disney hotel; the registration was taking place over at the Pacific Hotel. 

    And what do you know, the Pacific Hotel was a 5 minute walk from our present point!!!  After getting there, we had to ask fellow fans where the line for getting the badges would be--- the way back of the hotel, yippy.  So now we were standing outside with all these other people who were waiting patiently as well.  This line totally sucked: AX staff were only letting in a few people at a time.  The line would only move every 20 minutes, and we were able to take about 11 steps forward each time. 

    After an hour of standing outside making our legs numb, we finally reached the inside of the building!  Now it's another 30 minutes from here on in.  While waiting this eternity of a so-called 30 minutes, my friend and I decided to take turns sneaking into the video theaters right across from the line to kill off time by watching some films through this black curtain (there was a man sitting on a chair checking for badges, so we ended up standing just outside the door).  That really helped.

    Okay, now we're in!  In order to register, we were assigned to these computers to do electronic registration.  Information gathered included name (first and last), address, phone number, e-mail, and the kind of membership we wanted (in my case, it would just be a one-day membership).  After all that, we were moved to counters where AX staff would process our information (as well as checking ID), print it on a sticker, ask us to cough up the cash, and tell us to move over to this other table with the programs and badge holders.

    I was expecting the program guide to be much thicker, but it wasn't.  Only 36 pages, but bleeding with color.  Included with the program came a nice Dream Network Tenchi Muyo! plastic folder, convenient to hold all your AX 2000 flyers and crap!  So I walked around, wearing that badge proudly with my name printed in big Times New Roman font, whereas my friend chose to use the nickname "Shinikami" (Shinigami, in my opinion.... you know Duo, the "God of Death"?).  As soon as we both found ourselves comfortable with this new environment, our first thing to do was check out the video theaters.

    Unfortunately, the first theater we went to was playing a title that was unfamiliar to us; it was in Japanese without any English subs, so we bailed outta there.  The theater next to that was playing All-Purpose Cultural Cat-Girl Nuku-Nuku in Japanese with English subs.  We watched an episode, then saw Trigun, and then watched an ep. of Slayers Try.  At the end of Slayers Try, we left the theater with a couple of laughs to go along.  Since we both wanted to see the Exhibit Hall the most, we headed back over to our starting point at the Convention Center. 

    Now what's this?  The Exhibit Hall doesn't open till 12?!?  You've got to be kiddin' me!!!   The AX staff told us that due to opening so late, the Exhibit Hall times got changed to 12-6 p.m.  Curse them!!!  Now we have to find something to do for about 3 hours until that thing opens.  Sitting in the lobby of the center, we were completely surrounded by dozens of Cosplayers.  What scared me the most was how many Duos there were; even more surprising, they were all girls, no guys (then again, guys don't naturally like to have long hair, do they?).  I saw Lady Une, Zechs, Duo, and Noin Cosplayers....... nope, there aren't any other characters from Gundam Wing.

    An annoying part was that most of the Cosplayers went as Sailor Scouts from Sailor Moon; way too many--- don't expect to win the Cosplay contest with so many look-alikes.   Anyways, we had met one of my friend's friend, so we all headed over to the Tokyopop tent, located outside the Convention Center.  What's weird is that this was the only booth outside; you'd expect Tokyopop to be stationed inside the Exhibit Hall.   But people at the Tokyopop booth were pretty cool; if you signed up for a one-year membership, you would get a free subscription to their mag.  Even better, they were giving out free issues of their mag right on site, plus stickers, postcards, and a bungee ball!!!

    After 5 minutes (my friend was signing up for a free subscription), we walked away with a big bag filled with Tokyopop stuff (yeah, freebie junk!).  It was now about 10:30..... 1 hour 30 minutes to go.  Since we were nearby, we walked into the Artist Alley room where dozens of fan artists and pros alike were displaying their work for viewing and purchasing.  And let me tell you this, their stuff was REALLY nice; this one lady made Trigun pictures that looked identical to the originals!  Another person had her own home-made dojinshi for sale at $5 per comic.  Others did remakes of Final Fantasy characters, while one guy did pics of American cartoons such as X-Men.

    We stayed for about 15 minutes, checking here and there at the magnificent pieces, flipping through pages of dojinshi, and talking to the artists themselves about their work and the prices for each piece.  And with that, we left, satisfied.  Next up, we headed straight to the Video Gaming room, watching these people hitting on the Dance-Dance Revolution arcade game where you had to dance on this pad with arrows that lit up, commanding you to stomp your feet on them.  People watching were cheering on the dancers, for it really was a hard game to master.

    But we got fed up with the whole thing, so went to watch Gundam 0083:Stardust Memory in the video room right next door.  20 minutes later, we got out of there since the Exhibit Hall had just opened.  Running insanely towards the hall, we made it just in time to discover tons of people struggling to get themselves in.  The place was filled with loud Techno music; what a bonanza!!!  My friend and I first stopped at the Pioneer booth, where there were glass cases displaying videos and DVDs for sale.  I really wanted to get the first volume of Trigun, but the guy told me it would cost $25!!!  Dude, that's the same price as getting into the Expo in the first place!   So I left, knowing that no where else would sell the tape (seriously, none of the other booths had it). 

   Right across from the Pioneer booth was this guy and his giant display of imported Japanese music CDs.   Sitting right in front of my eyes was the Serial Experiments Lain: Cyberia Mix soundtrack that I've been dying to get.  Grab!  Cha-ching!  It's mine, bwahahahahaha!!!!!!!!!!!  Now I was pretty damn happy!  Next, I followed my friend all over the place looking for a D-Hell Custom Gundam model that he wanted.   In the far right corner of the Exhibit hall was this giant mecha model booth, full of all sorts of Gundam models.  But they only had one D-Hell Custom, which this 20 year old guy nabbed before my friend could get his hands on it.  Nonetheless, it was a 1/144 scale model, and he wanted the 1/100 version.

    While wandering all over the place, we managed to find our way around (there were so many people that there was even a time where no one was able to move for 2 minutes!).  One of the main things we were going to do was grab as much promo crap as we could from the different companies and stores.  What did I pick up?  Let's see now: 2 comic books with a comic book protector, a small DBZ figurine, 2 Trigun cards (very nice!), Animetronic stickers, a pin, a couple postcards, catalogs, Wanted 2000 Bandai/Pioneer promo DVD, Wanted 2000 book, Gundam Wing poster, Gundam Wing trading cards, Bandai Entertainment brochure, couple anime flyers, an A.D.V. Films $5 off coupon (courtesy of Suncoast Media), and so much more (I forgot what else I got)!!!

    I happened to come back to the Pioneer booth, and decided that I was going to get the Trigun video, which was the last VHS tape remaining of the first volume.  1 minute later, it was in my hands; I dropped that into my large Tokyopop bag.  Next, I followed my friend around some more, and we finally arrived at a booth that had the D-Hell Custom 1/100 scale model.  He bought it, moved on to the next booth, and purchased a 1/144 scale Wing Gundam model.  Okay, that was pretty good.  At the same time, we both realized how badly our legs were killing us, so decided to get outta there and wolf down some lunch.  But before we did that, we sat back down at the lobby of the Convention Center to check over our items. 

    And just arriving through the door was a guy dressed as Vash the Stampede from Trigun.   What a Cosplay outfit!!!!  It was the best of all the Cosplay costumes by far!!!!!  The part of his costume that really drew my attention was the red coat.  It was obvious that the thing was made by him, but how the heck was it possible to make it look identical to the real one?!?  Seriously, this pro Cosplayer looked like he really was Vash, who just happened to come to our world; he even had the cool yellow-tinted sunglasses with the zig-zag metal bands on the side!  Where did you come from?!?  I had to get a picture.  Click!  Now you're on film, Vash!

    We left the lobby to walk around outside looking for a restaurant to settle down at.  There was this tempting place that seemed to appeal as a good lunching area.  Turns out, there was a 15-20 minute wait, so we sat until we were finally called.  Seated at our table, we made our choices as soon as we saw the menu; I got a turkey sandwich, my friend got a burger, and his friend didn't get anything.  This was a good time to talk about the day so far.  We thought about heading back to the Exhibit Hall right after we ate lunch; a good 20 minute break felt refreshing, but pretty soon, we would be killing ourselves once more.

    On our way back, I saw a booth selling AX 2000 merchandise; T-shirt time!  The lady at the counter asked me what design I wanted, and I asked her, "What are the designs?"   She responds with a "Pink-hair or purple-hair girl?"  And I'm like, "What's that?"  All I knew was that I wanted the shirt in white, but the designs were unclear to me.  Then, I told her "I want it in white, but I don't know which one to take!" followed with a cheesy laugh.  Evil lady then gave an annoyed look at me, and asked once more the same question.  I finally made up my mind: "Give me the pink-hair girl in a large size."  The shirt was thrown at me, followed with a beckoning of the hand for payment.  And in my mind, I'm thinking, "Hell no!  Why should I pay with an attitude like that?!" but gave in anyway.

    That kinda' ruined my happy mood, but something like that was not going to spoil my day!  Back at the Exhibit Hall, my friend, his friend, and I wandered through the booths again.  We split up; my friend's friend wandered alone, while us remaining two walked around.   Since there were over 69 companies with stuff on display, the entire place was just a jungle.  Some booths were throwing shirts and posters out to energetic fans, while others would approach you and hand you a flyer or two.  But this atmosphere was friendly, and I was happily entranced with all the things.  We demoed some video games for sale, watched some videos that were playing on TVs, signed ourselves up for a contest, and did some other stuff. 

    Oh, then my friend found this DBZ shirt he really wanted with Vegeta on the front.  It was red in color, and found at the Funimation Studios booth.  With that, we walked some more, then left the Exhibit Hall once again.  Next, we checked our pocket program guides (these had the listings for the various films playing in the video theaters), and my friend yelled suddenly.  "What?!?" I asked.  "Look, they're going to play Endless Waltz at 7:40 tonight!!!!" he tells me.   "Are you serious?!?"  "Yeah, I am."  OMIGAWD, they're going to show the Gundam Wing movie today!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!   Aaaaaaaahhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!

    So many GW fans have been dying to see this, and what luck that I get to see it first at AX 2000!!!   That listing really made my day!  Walking around outside, we saw a guy walking with a Trigun wall scroll in his hand.  Eagerly, my friend asked him where he got it from (my friend has to get everything Trigun related).  The man told us that this one booth restocked their supply of merchandise just now, so my friend and I dashed back to the Exhibit Hall.  We found the booth with the wall scroll; he bought it, then saw a Trigun 2001 calendar at the booth next to it.  Oh boy, now it's his for the taking!  At this other booth selling books, I saw a Trigun art book, and he immediately purchased it. 

    Whoa, what a shopping spree!!!  At the back of the hall, I saw a book I wanted: How to Draw Manga.  I had to get it 'cause ordering/buying it off of anywhere else would cost way more than what this guy was selling it for.  Okay, that was it--- my shopping frenzy was over.  But his, damn--- his was still going!!!  At the Digital Manga booth, my friend then found a Trigun keychain that was made out of silver and bronze metal.  It was Vash's gun, and pretty heavy too.  Well, that's another Trigun item added.  What next?  We toyed around a bit more, but the old sore leg syndrome hit us again, and we had to leave.  Let's see, we had about 2 more hours until Endless Waltz would show. 

    Oh, I forgot to mention that the artist of Trigun would be appearing at the Expo signing stuff for free.  My friend had to attend that, but an AX staff member told him that the signing was through a raffle.  Dammit!  Another cool event down the drain!   Then we asked about the Cosplay/Masquerade event; she said that tickets had already gone out for sale this morning, but they're sold out now.  We both got really pissed off about this sudden turn of events. The Cosplay contest was the largest event of the Expo, and we would completely miss out on it.  So we decided to waste the rest of our time away by watching movies and OVAs while waiting for EW to hit the corner.

    We went upstairs, into the "Film" room where Escaflowne: A Girl in Gaia would debut for the first time ever in the U.S.  Inside, when the lights turned off, all the people started screaming like mad--- yes, the fanatics of Escaflowne of course!   I never ever saw the series, so this was a first exposure to the theatrical film.   It was really good, considering I was kinda left confused about the story line.   My friend and I watched for about an hour, then left 'cause EW would be in another hour; the reason for this was so we could get front seats to the movie. 

    Sucky part: Video room 1 was full of people.  We thought we weren't going to get good seats since some probably knew that EW would be on next after this really crappy Street Fighter movie which had no English subs whatsoever.  I'm pretty sure people got bored in there, watching something that they couldn't even understand a word of.  An hour passed....... the movie was over!  My friend and I didn't see anyone leaving.  A few seconds later, people in the front were starting to get up and walk out.  That was our cue.   We both ran to the very front, trying to get ourselves in the seats closest to the screen.  And we succeeded!!!  Yeah, now we can really enjoy this movie!

    2 minutes later, "It" popped on.  I was hoping that it wasn't going to be without subtitles, but to both of our disbeliefs, it was dubbed in plain English!!!  That means for sure they'll be playing it on Toonami!  All the regular voices of the entire cast, with some new ones since there were new characters, were featured.  That made me even happier!!!  I never would've expected this movie to already be dubbed!   It was fantastic!!!  The fight scenes were way more action-oriented than that of the series, and there were tons of cinematic effects (one of the main things that anime fans all love in anime movies).  What surprised me even more was that there were a lot of inside jokes!  When everyone saw the characters first make their appearance, this theater got real loud with all the whooping!

    People were screaming, and when the EW title appeared, it got even louder!!!  We were way louder than the people at the Escaflowne movie.  This was just too good to pass out on.  The Gundams were pursued as celebrities too, 'cause when they made their debut with all the cool upgrades, we went completely wild!!!  The voices and characterization was well-done, and a real odd thing happened in this movie too: Heero actually made wisecracks!  I know you don't believe me, but it's so true!  Just wait till it airs on TV and see for yourself!

    After sitting a full 1 hour 30 minutes of enjoyable Gundam fights and psychological conversations on pacifism and war, my friend and I called it quits for the day.  What a better way to end an exciting event than by watching one of the all-time awaited films!   It was 9:40 p.m.  We walked outside, left the fantasy world, took one last glance at the Expo, and jumped into the car.  I knew we didn't get to see everything that we had originally intended to do: Art and Modeling Show, Karaoke, Masquerade (a.k.a. Cosplay contest), Meet the Guests Reception/Dance, SPJA Charity Auction, and Takada Akemi Art Exhibition.

    It sucked to end it without seeing everything, but at the very least, I was able to see most of it.   The satisfaction was beyond its border limits............. and that ended the best day of my entire life. 

 

---Experiment with Anime Expo---