Anime Los Angeles (ALA to its fans and attendees) is a small convention that begins the 2009 anime convention season by taking place on the first weekend of January. Located at the Los Angeles Airport Marriott Hotel and a stone’s throw away from the LAX airport, visitors from across the country can fly in for this convention and easily fly out when the con ends without worrying too much about commuting. Although a small convention, ALA continues to evolve from a bunch of anime fans milling around a hotel acting like fools while the real world looks on into an organized bunch of anime fans milling around a hotel acting like fools while the real world looks on that learns from its mistakes and avoids repeating them.
Flashback to 2007 when rain dampened most of the attendees’ spirits during the convention. You could not blame ALA for bad weather, but you could blame ALA for its overzealous security that angered Fansview.com to the point of storming out from the convention. Two years later and the changes are undeniably noticeable. Fansview.com is now a Guest of Honor and the staff is ready for a fun time while maintaining order. Throw in an underground rapper, relaxing yet educational panels, a well-run Masquerade, a bunch of fellow con attendees to make friends with, and a well-stocked con suite for refreshments and you have ALA 2009.
Now sit back and enjoy the tales of Anime Los Angeles 2009 from my field report.
Saturday, January 3rd, 2009
In a rare moment in my convention lifestyle, I found myself awake, dressed, packed, and ready to hit the convention before 8AM on a Saturday. Claudine and I took advantage of the free continental breakfast that the Travelodge provided before checking out and walking to the Marriott hotel where ALA took place. To easily segue between costumes later that day, I chose to wear my Sousuke Sagara costume from “Full Metal Panic: Fumoffu.” I still kept my House cane on standby in case of leg issues. In preparation for the physically intensive activities where I could not use my cane later that night, I bummed two Naproxen from Claudine.
I wanted to get to ALA early to hit Fansview.com’s 9AM early morning panel. It was a small panel attended by a few photography enthusiasts. I found his sport photos lively. Fansview.com talked about how conventions and cosplayers evolved during his more than 10 years of attending. Conventions and cosplayers are more numerous. Cosplayers are also younger and developing new techniques to bring out more detail in their costumes. The Lolita fashion trend caught Fansview by surprise. It seems science fiction conventions need to work to grab the young audience to stay afloat in the future.
Before ALA, Victoria came up with a sketch idea to use with Ouran Host Club. I adapted and recorded some dialogue and now we and the rest of Traveling Valentine were set to perform for ALA Masquerade later Saturday night. I floated over to the origami workshop to kill time while waiting for the mandatory Masquerade meeting at 11AM. The origami workshop taught people how to fold paper into a heart, dish, and shortcake. Not wanting to load myself with ancillary items, I settled on folding hearts since they were cute and small. The Masquerade meeting was quick and ensured us rehearsal time onstage with the tech crew before the actual performance. I returned to the lobby to see Claudine off on her return to the Bay Area.
After lunch with Victoria, we began Saturday’s video project. Ripping off the “Mark Wahlberg Talks to Animals” sketch on SNL, I had great success talking to people during PMX that we decided to do a second one aimed at Bay Area attendees at ALA. Like most sequels, this turned out to be a remake with the same material on different faces plagued with production problems. In this case the production problem was the Naproxen making my head fuzzy and turning me into an even more incoherent babbling fool. Hopefully the video will upload once edited.
At 2:00PM Victoria and I hit the Masquerade stage to get our tech rehearsal. Tech rehearsal made placement and timing for the actual sketch easier to plan, but having Stan and Deb present would have also been an improvement. Deb showed up late, but it was easy to guide her. I was looking forward to performing later.
After dispersing from Victoria, I had nothing planned. I made the obligatory visit to the Dealers Room but found nothing of interest, which was good since I had no money to buy anything of interest. I wandered into the music room to listen to underground rapper Random. Random has some pretty good Megaman inspired music that I found different from the usual rap. He gave the audience a preview his latest track “Splash Woman.” This was the first time I listened to a live rap performance. I caught the tail end of Toastmaster Tadao Tomomatsu’s lecture on Japanese swords. It was entertaining education. I also killed time shooting cosplayers and talking to friends. If it is one thing ALA has over larger conventions, it is the opportunity for attendees to get to know their friends and make new friends better. Communicating with friends at larger conventions usually consist of “Hi! Nice to see you! Gotta get ready for this thing! Bye!” But ALA’s more intimate settings allow me to have a more detailed conversation. I might even learn the person’s name during the conversation. I caught up with Alex from ALA staff who helped the lady from last night. She had exhaustion but was fine after treatment. I also got in touch with my new friend Captain Gundam, who had my room for the night. Masquerade was nearing so I swapped from Sousuke to Kyoya from “Ouran Host Club” by putting on my Ouran tie and my Ouran host coat. I usually cosplay Mori from “Ouran Host Club” and grew used to his gruff, unfriendly personality. Shifting from Mori to Kyoya was challenging since I never paid attention to Koyoya during the show and had no idea who he was or how he acted.
At the appointed time, I ran to the Masquerade green room to meet with the rest of Traveling Valentine. We did some last minute rehearsals while anxiously waiting our turn. I can handle a live performance due to my improv abilities. If I can’t remember a line, I’ll ad-lib to keep things going. But our sketch for the night was a lip-synced choreographed song and dance number with pre-recorded dialogue. Ad-lib and improv will only show off the grievous errors and lapses in memorizing the choreography. Naturally, I was nervous as hell. We were second in line but the first to compete since the first entry was exhibition only.
When we received the curtain call, Traveling Valentine got to the stage to perform . In a tribute to Frankie Valli and “Jersey Boys,” the four of us performed a lip-synced Broadway routine of “Walk Like A Man” as Ouran Host Club members with Deb as Hunny and Stan as Mori. It fit since Haruhi (Victoria) needed to learn how to walk and act like a man during the anime. The audience loved us and it was a rush to perform. I didn’t care about the results. Other acts ranged from a Pokemon musical using “High School Musical,” a quick costume change sketch, a sketch full of “Soul Eater” in-jokes that I found myself understanding, and a dance lesson sketch done in Japanese yet was understandable.
After Masquerade, I got to see my old friends Jarod and Nate again. I’ve known them since I began a name for myself at cons. We’re old and obsolete, but still having fun. One picture of our friend Iori E would scar the three of us for life. I found Captrain Gundam and changed into my impromptu Engineer costume from “Miss Saigon.” I joined Victoria in her Kim from the same musical for a couple pictures. I attempted karaoke but the acoustic set up was so loud that amoeba on Saturn could hear me and sing along to my rendition of “December 1963 (Oh, What a Night).” In fact, I think one of those amoeba did join me onstage.
Finding Captain Gundam and the rest of the people (Shane & Soy Sauce) in the room proved difficult without a working cell phone, so I involuntarily got to experience the late night convention antics. I have not done so in over five years. First I attempted the dance, which nowadays is the rave. I liked the music, but my leg prohibited rave dancing. I went to a couple room parties for drinks before seeking familiar faces. If I wanted to get intimately familiar with new faces, there was spin the bottle. As open as I am to new people, I am not opening myself that way. At least throw in some more girls. Going to Xel-ko’s room and while running around with Toggy, I ran into Lauren, a familiar face from Yaoi Con. We did not talk much during Yaoi Con, but now we got to know each other better during ALA. Arizona seems a new place to visit. Once she resolved her room situation, I wandered some more and found myself playing Truth or Dare with Soy Sauce and some people who I’ve only seen while riding an elevator. Truth or Dare provided a perfect opportunity to learn a few things about people and see who can gracefully take public humiliation. At the very least, I got a free massage from a cute girl to alleviate tension during the game. Sarah popped in to join and eventually so did Captain Gundam. As 4:30AM began rolling in, I decided I had enough of the night life and requested access to the room to pack, get my plane ticket, recharge my phone, and maybe get some sleep. Shane thought the same thing and ran into me en route to the room. ALA was a long day, but very enjoyable.