I still can’t believe that the last time I attended FanimeCon was 5 years ago. It feels like an entire lifetime has passed since then. Since then I’ve gone through an intense emotional period, gave up anime, graduated high school, matured as a person, and am now entering my 4th year of college. A lot has changed in those 5 years, so going back to an event I never thought I’d return to was an experience.
The last time I attended Fanime, I was into a lot of shounen. I was the biggest Bleach fan and would always talk about it to my friends. I had watched every episode to date, collected the manga, saved up fan art on my computer, and at one point considered cosplaying as Ichigo. I even managed to convince Will to watch it when the English dub premiered on Adult Swim back in 2006.
I was also a huge fan of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. My close friends know how much I love that series and how I wouldn’t shut up about it the first time I watched it. I went crazy over anything Haruhi-related, especially if it involved the character Yuki Nagato. It was just one of those shows that got me hooked from the first episode, and it still stands as one of my favorite shows to this day.
So I guess back then I had a healthy interest in action shows and strange fantastical misadventures of high school kids. It’s the type of stuff that I think most guys at that age were interested in. So it’s no surprise that at the time I wasn’t interested in shows like Neon Genesis Evangelion, Clannad, or anything with complex stories and deeper meanings. Which is why I’m surprised at how much my own interests have changed in only 5 years, something I noticed after I started watching anime again in early January of 2012.
With the Mahou Tofu crew and friends in tow, we all headed down to Fanime for 4 days and 3 nights, where in a way I rediscovered my love for the anime culture and learned to accept it as a part of who I am.
The first thing I noticed was that there was construction going on at the convention center. Apparently it began last year as part of an expansion to the center in order to better accommodate a convention this size, since it had been steadily growing in attendance over the years. This meant that registration was moved to the Fairmont Hotel two blocks down, which lead to our first big challenge: the long wait in line for our badges.
My memories of attending Fanime 5 years ago have melded into one blurry mess, but I do not remember having to wait so long to pick up a badge. I had ordered my badge online for pre-registration, so I was hoping that would speed the process up. Yet we still ended up waiting almost 3 hours to get our badges (my girlfriend had it worse, having joined our group a week before the convention, and ended up waiting 6 hours to purchase her badge). An entire floor of the Fairmont was dedicated to registration, and it involved winding lines that expanded through hallways, three sets of rooms, and a ballroom. It was only just past 8am, but BO was beginning to build up, which is never a good sign.
Once we got our badges, that’s when we were finally free to roam about. Our first stop was the Game Room, an enormous room where you could play games of all kinds. There were board games, Yugioh tables, an arcade, and tables set up for both console and PC gaming. My group had wanted to stop by in order to attend a Weiss Schwarz demonstration, a card game from Japan that featured licensed anime on their cards. Just give me a Yuki deck and maybe I’ll play with them.
After getting my girlfriend around 2pm, we went to check in at our hotel some 3 miles away. Quite the distance compared to the Fairmont which I stayed at 5 years ago, and even farther than the Marriott and Hilton Hotels, which were connected to the convention itself. The plan was to secretly fit our group of 8 in a room meant for only 4 people. We broke into two groups and brought up our luggage and assortment of snacks. We were going to live off of frozen burritos and 10 pounds of bananas. That was the plan at least.
We headed back to the convention center and went straight to the Dealer’s Hall, where all the sales were going on. The room is heaven for any otaku: rows upon rows of manga, overpriced DVDs, rare figures, sword replicas, and more. The Dealer’s Hall is always my favorite part of the convention because of all the great things I see. Now that I was an adult and had quite a bit of money saved over from my birthday, I had plenty of shopping money this time around, yet somehow managed to restrain myself from buying anything that day.
What I ended up spending money on was at the Swap Meet next door. Just like an otaku’s flea market, people could sell and trade their unwanted items, ranging anywhere from old manga, CDs, toys, posters, and other miscellaneous junk that they wanted to get rid of. There was a lot of stuff I wanted, and ended up spending the most money here. I picked up the premium edition of Atelier Totori for $50, which had sold out last year from the NIS store. The crowds got ridiculous to the point that it was difficult to move around, so I had to wait an hour or two as the crowds died down. As it came close to closing time, dealers started selling their items at discounts, and I managed to get Ace Attorney Official Casebook Vol. 1 for $2, the Love Com live-action movie and the Rurouni Kenshin light novel for $5, and Socrates in Love for $1. Great deals all around, and I was a happy camper.
With ups comes downs, as I found out upon boarding the shuttle back to our hotel. For whatever reason, the shuttle service was extremely unorganized. They wouldn’t allow people to stand inside the shuttle, despite there being hand rails and plenty of standing room, so some people had to wait for the next shuttle. Worse, the shuttle service at night ran hourly, and there didn’t seem to be any set times on when it came; there was no way of knowing whether the shuttle was coming or just left. Not only that, our shuttle driver seemed unfamiliar with his route, and it took us a significant amount of time to get back. To top off our misfortunes, we returned to find out that the hotel staff figured out we had 8 people in our room thanks to security cameras, but thanks to a stroke of luck and California law, we managed to get another vacant room on the same floor. With a crisis averted and our groups split evenly now, we had our dinner of frozen burritos and Canada Dry and plopped down for some well-deserved rest.
After waking up a little later than planned, we all took the shuttle back to the convention center and went walking around the Dealer’s Hall and around the convention floor. The whole morning is just one big blur to me now, since all we really did was wander around the Artist Alley and Dealer’s Hall for things that might interest us.
One of the activities we had begun to take up is playing with the Streetpass feature on our 3DS’s. An anime convention is likely to have a strong concentration of people who own a 3DS. With that in mind, I had mine kept on my person at all times to meet new people, exchange puzzle pieces, and battle monsters. My Streetpass plaza kept filling up so fast that I almost couldn’t keep up with the flood of people interacting with my 3DS. By the end of the convention, I had met almost 500 Mii’s, finished Find Mii twice and Find Mii II once, and completed 19 puzzles. If it wasn’t for all the other things going on around me, I would’ve sat in one spot and completed everything in one day.
Of course, if I had done that, I would’ve missed out on one of the best parts of the weekend. Fanime was hosting it’s own Musicfest featuring two bands from Japan: ROOKiEZ is PUNK’D and 7!! (Seven Oops). ROOKiEZ is PUNK’D had music featured in Durarara!! and Blue Exorcist, while 7!! had music in Naruto Shippuden. The theater we were in had a lot of people, not exactly filled up, but a very sizable crowd. I guess not everyone at the convention wanted to watch a free concert.
The first to perform was ROOKiEZ is PUNK’D. After a brief introduction by a character from Durarara on the big screens, the band started their set. I was not familiar with any of the bands playing that night, but I ended up liking their music the most. It was JRock with a bit of emo and even some ska thrown in. Their lead singer knew some English, and did his best to communicate with the fans in between songs. His charisma was what surprised me the most, and drew me even more to their music. They had great personalities, and even with the language barrier they were able to connect with their audience.
Following their performance was 7!!. They knew even less English, so it was tougher for them to communicate with us. But they still managed to keep the energy high with their performances, especially when they played their songs from Naruto Shippuden with accompanying footage. The crowd went wild seeing favorites like Sasuke and Kakashi on the big screen as the band played live, and I actually knew one of the songs so I had even more fun hearing it live. I admit I didn’t feel like they had the same charisma as the previous band, but the lead singer and their drummer were very lively and had genuine smiles throughout. It was a fun experience overall, and though it was a great way to end the night, I found myself wishing the music didn’t stop.
With the shuttle service being extremely unreliable, we made the smart decision to just take the van to the convention. It proved to be way more convenient and gave us an option to return to the hotel in case of emergency, as well as a place to store any purchases or bags.
I spent the morning walking around Artist Alley and the Dealer’s Hall again. I still hadn’t spent a lot of money outside of my purchases on Friday and food. Around 1pm we attended the Q&A for ROOKIEZ IS PUNK’D, which wasn’t as packed as I thought, but also meant that it wouldn’t be difficult to get into. They spoke mainly through a translator, though their leader knew a decent bit of English. Their performance the previous night was one of the highlights of that day, and part of that was thanks to their charisma and overall likability. Even during the Q&A they were very friendly and just great guys in general. I hadn’t seen Durarara!! yet, so when I do start watching it this summer, I’ll be looking forward to hearing their music in the opening.
After the Q&A we all split up and did our own thing. Will left to meet up with a friend in Stanford, leaving the rest of us to our own devices. Bryan and Duc went to some panels and screenings, while my girlfriend and I wandered around some more in the Dealer’s and Artist Alley. I ended up buying a really cool BMO Noire poster, and spent the ride back to the hotel trying my best not to get it ruined. It didn’t.
To top the night off, a few of us went to the rave. I am no dancer unfortunately, but my girlfriend really wanted to go. Now, I’ve never gone to an actual club. I’ve been on a boat cruise for my senior year in high school, and I went to a “rave” when my high school’s JSA club went to a political convention. However, the Fanime raves are something else. It’s got the high energy, sweaty bodies grinding on each other, and loud bass-heavy music that you would normally expect, just with people in cosplay. Seriously, I saw the strangest assortment of people in that rave, including school girls, Naruto cosplayers, and even a guy dressed as Hard Gay. It’s like a Halloween party cranked to 12. I ended up having fun though, even though I didn’t stay too long.
Alas, the final day. At this point, I think everyone was starting to get exhausted. As much fun as we were having, we were already getting sore from all the walking. My lower back had steadily become more painful, to the point where I had to take breaks to sit down and rest. We had also run out of frozen burritos and only had a few bottles of water and some bananas left over. There were also Funyuns left over, but I did not want a repeat of my Funyun addiction from 2 years back.
Fully checked out of the hotel, we returned to the convention for the final time to make any last minute purchases and so forth. We headed back to the Artist Alley and walked around a bit more, and did one last walk through Dealer’s Hall to find any discounts or things we missed. We even went to the Game Room and played billiards and games before the big crowds came in. It was a very relaxed morning, and for all of the chaos of the weekend it was nice being able to play games at our leisure.
In the end, I somehow managed to get through the entire day without buying a single thing. My, how frugal I’ve become. Since it was the last day, there weren’t any big events going on so it was a more relaxed day. Everyone was either exhausted or had already gone back home for work or school. And after 4 days, we were ready to head home too. With little fanfare, we all dragged ourselves to the van and made the trek back home just after 2pm.
I still get embarrassed to admit that I love watching anime. It didn’t bother me too much when I was younger, but during high school, I wanted to distance myself from what I thought was a culture that was extremely looked down upon by society. That lead to my withdrawal from anime until January of 2012 when Bryan and Will managed to coax me back after 3 years.
In a way, going back to Fanime this year reaffirmed my love for anime and that part of Japanese culture. Even though I’ve matured a lot more in the past 5 years, there’s still that part of me that wants to be a kid and just enjoy watching giant robots fight or moe high school girls save the world. Call it a hobby or a guilty pleasure, it’s something I enjoy doing and am not ashamed of. I guess I’m starting to learn to not let other’s opinions affect what I like, no matter how weird it can get sometimes. Besides, there’s nothing wrong with having a weird side every now and then.
- Strangest cosplay I saw: Schoolgirl/Pyramid Head
- Strangest thing overheard: “I brought my sexy Dark Magician Girl mat!” *high fives friend* *sound of my palm hitting my face*
- Memories made with my friends: Priceless