Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Anime Expo 2010 Recap: Day 3 & 4

Day 3: Rock n Cosplay.
Saturday seemed like the busiest day at Anime Expo 2010, with everyone off work, they all descended onto the Los Angeles Convention Center... in cosplay! I don't know how many photos I took of different people in cosplay, but I do know that I don't even think I got 1/3 of the people dressed up. It was crazy.

There are a lot of events going on, but I was of course heading to the Sophia concert. Beni opened for them in a cute pink and black mini dress reminding me of the fashionably cute Japanese celebrities I saw on TV. It was the first time for me to hear her music and I would say it was up there with Utada and Ayumi. Of course, I was really excited to see the legendary Japanese rock band Sophia in concert up close. While they weren't as popular in the US as Gackt or Morning Musume, they are still quite popular in Japan, and have stayed together for 15 years! As a learner of the Japanese language, Sophia's lyrics were quite difficult to master, and their songs tend to have a more mature feel. The promotional video for their popular song, Strawberry & Lion, was actually banned in Japan for too much violence (Let's just say Little Red Riding Hood got her revenge on the Big Bad Wolf).

I saw Sophia in Japan back in 2000, so I was keen to compare my experience there to the concert in the US. There may have been less American fans in the audience, but the 250 Japanese fans, who flew all the way to L.A. just to see Sophia, more than made up for it. I felt like I was back in Japan swinging my arms in unison with the whole crowd and trying to remember all the lyrics (I had been practicing weeks before on my Metro commute). The band can rock, but they also talk.. a lot! And their pretty funny! The lead vocalist, Mitsuru Matsuoka, even joked about how they are the (second) most talkative band in Japan. He showed us his "Instant Translator Device" and talked about how every member in the band is quite busy with other jobs beside their music gig - most notably, the drummer works part-time at McDonald's and In-N-Out. The concert ended with the song "Little Cloud", and Matsuoka transforming into Kamen Rider, a masked hero from a popular Japanese live action movie (Matsuoka and Miyako, the keyboardist, worked together on a song for the movie). A fitting end to an Anime Expo concert.

So, how did Sophia get to be at Anime Expo 2010? It could be from the fact that their song, "Boku wa koko ni iru" is the ending theme song for the anime Kaleido Star. Or maybe the fact that Matsuoka starred in a live action drama based on the popular manga, "Yamada Tarou Monogatari". Or maybe because their Japanese! While some may think that Anime Expo should be only about anime and manga, I have to disagree. In Japan, the different media get mixed up all the time. Live action movies turn into manga and manga turn into anime and anime turn into live action TV shows and movies with popular Jpop and Jrock bands playing opening and closing theme songs for all of them! Not to mention the video games.

After a little bit of shopping, where I bought some chicken-flavored candy, I went to the last event of the day, the Masquerade, a costume contest and show where cosplayers present their costumes with music or a skit or both. Some amazing costumes, like an actual four-legged costume of the wolf and deer god from Princess Mononoke, were presented, and hilarous skits were performed by the fans for the fans. While you definitely had to be a fan to enjoy all of the Masquerade, you didn't need to know anything about anime or manga to enjoy the coordination of skits like the "Henshin Ninja" (The Transformation Ninjas) where blue-starred ninjas reinacted the transformation sequence of Sailor Moon live! Plus, the intermission came with a special treat - the winners of the Anime Music Video (AMV) contest! I missed the AMVs this year to see Sophia, so I was ecstatic to see the winners. I even found my new favorite anime, Soul Eater from the Best Pro Winner, “This is Halloween” by Caleb Taylor.

Day 4: Mech Mecca and Fandom
I spent most of my Fourth of July at Anime Expo, with the usual (cosplay photos and shopping) and unusual (a panel on the world's first working Mech and stalking Jrock band Sophia).

At the exhibit hall the day before, I stumbled upon a group of people looking for fans with skills to help build the world's first working Mech, a human-controlled, bi-ped machine used for transporting materials that would normally take several machines and/or trucks to do. At first this seemed like a pipe dream, but I went to the panel on Sunday, and found out that despite the dry humor at the presentation, these guys were serious. Mecha Propulsion Systems have been working for 10 years on planning, designing and creating the machine. At the expo, they had a working ankle joint, and at their base in Rosamond, California near the Mojave Spaceport, they have a working foot skeleton and the chassis for the driver. It may not seem a lot, but they answered all questions with no problem (I could tell they've thought about every possiblity), and their software is abstract based in case they need to redesign a part of the Mech. If you're interested in helping out, they are looking for interns.

After the panel, it was back to the exhibit hall for more shopping, when I stumbled upon two Japanese girls I met the other day. I found out that they missed the Sophia concert, but I showed them to the area where they could get a signed Japanese fan from Sophia. Once we got there, they were closing the line, but I was able to ask them to reopen it for the girls. How? Why the band recognized me and waved "hi"!!! (Insert super excited fan moment here) As press, I made it my goal to cover as many Sophia events at Anime Expo as possible, and being a non-Asian girl, I stood out. This could only happen in L.A. because in Japan there would thousands of screaming fan girls. What a way to end the day!


Check out the Anime Expo 2010 Event Reel below and more photos on the ExperienceLA Flickr Pool.

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