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.
Sunday, January 4th, 2009
There is this song I know that says waking up is hard to do, or was it breaking up? After four hours of sleep, I could care less how that song went. I changed into my Kyo Sohma costume, bid thanks and farewell to Captain Gundam, Shane, and Soy Sauce, dropped my luggage at the concierge desk, and was ready for the last day of ALA. My first instinct was to hit Xel-ko’s room. I dropped off a requested item and helped myself to breakfast before bidding them farewell. Hearing last night that they were low on food, I made one final stop at the Con Suite for some fresh fruit.
While eating my fruit, I ran into Victoria, not to be confused with Traveling Valentine Victoria. This Victoria ran the fashion show and was busy making final preparations for that show. The Phoenix Wright gathering started congregated nearby so I spent time shooting the cosplayers there. Lauren was now in the pink Edgeworth costume I first saw her in during Yaoi Con.
ALA was quite dead considering that most attendees were busy sleeping, packing, or leaving. Nevertheless, the attendees doing none of those three could spend time at the charity auction Tadao hosted. Attendees could also spend time at the Reiyukai America workshop learning how to make a hand basket out of a recycled milk carton. I found the time spent away from the convention concentrating on constructing my basket very relaxing with a Zen-like quality. Instead of getting angry over the bizarre circumstances that may have occurred during ALA, I could channel that anger into something constructive.
At the Dealers Room, I ran into Richard of Imagecraft and his official Masquerade photos from last night. He had a panel to host and left me to man the desk until relief arrived. While greeting people and making small talk, I overheard a few people mistaking me for Tadao before realizing I was someone they all referred to as Asian House. Hmm, I guess I can accept Asian House as my new moniker.
Relief arrived and I ran to catch the tail end of Victoria’s fashion show. The designs were primarily Lolita and I know as much about Lolita fashion as a fish knows about wig styling. But I know what I like and I liked what I saw. Meeting the designers was also a fun treat. The Traveling Valentine Victoria met me at the fashion show and together we had lunch with Deb. Like on Saturday, I opted for a Reuben in the same way that Gregory House took his (“dry, no fries, hold the pickles… and cold”). They are tasty, but I miss the dressing. With Stan/Yuki Sohma missing, Deb and I had a brief shoot as the hopefully unofficial canon of Kagura and Kyo Sohma from “Fruits Basket.” We three returned to the Dealers Room for a final look through and saying farewell to those we knew. Before I knew it, it was 3:30PM and I wanted to board the shuttle to the airport for my 5:55PM flight home. I said goodbye to the two ladies of Traveling Valentine and began walking to the shuttle before spotting my old friends CJ and Juan. Distracted, I traveled with them for a bit before realizing I really should get to the shuttle.
After saying goodbye to CJ and Juan, I grabbed my gear from the concierge desk and took the shuttle to LAX. Seated next to me on the bus was Soy Sauce. We spent most of ALA passing by each other. The first time I met him was during Anime Central 2008 in Chicago, his neck of the woods. And now found ourselves sharing the same shuttle en route to the same airport and sitting at the same gate waiting for our respective flights home. Maybe it was some greater force that caused me to get distracted and stay at the convention longer so that I could run into Soy Sauce and spend my final hours in Los Angeles with a new friend.
Unfortunately, I left the long lines of conventions like ALA and Disneyland during this vacation just to run smack into the short line of baggage check-in and the approximately hour long line of the security checkpoint. Soy Sauce and I tagged teamed our way to hold places in line for each other. I overloaded my hands with my cane, my Mi-DORI box, my rifle bag serving as my carry-on, and my boots that I removed from my feet to facilitate passing through security. Security flagged the Mi-DORI box since the x-rays display resembled a bomb composed of various wires and electronics sticking out of vinyl fashion doll pieces. After clearing security and finding the designated gate, Soy Sauce and I grabbed food and reflected on ALA while waiting for our flights.
I enjoyed what ALA offered to me and the average convention attendee. Fansview.com was an excellent guest. Food was plentiful thanks to the Con Suite and nearby restaurants. There were a plethora of panels related to anime. But they also featured plenty of panels and workshops unrelated to anime, which suited jaded attendees like myself who wanted to try new things. Staff was friendly and responsive to attendee needs. I did not have to drink excessively to alleviate boredom while waiting for something to do during the convetion. The Masquerade ran smoothly despite the now obligatory starting delays. But most importantly, I got to have fun with the attendees and made new friends while reuniting with old ones. I already preregistered for 2010’s ALA and look forward to the rest of the 2009 convention season.