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Anime Expo 2009: I Got AX’d

posted Aug 22, 2012, 11:32 PM by Douglas Sun
Originally posted: July 8, 2009

For all of my complaints lately about being busy, I did manage to spend a day trolling the exhibitors hall at Anime Expo over the weekend. And I say, very specifically, trolling the exhibitor's hall because I didn't have the time or the energy left to do anything else apart from my commitment to shop. No guest speakers for me this year, no industry panels, not much scoping out of the cosplay kids. No Morning Musume concert (yeah, as if). I do regret missing the simulation of a maid cafe that some high-level cosplayers put on, but the show was all booked up by the time I found out about it, anyway.

Even so, I am, as always, good for some random observations:

The weak economy did not seem to be much of an issue. To the naked eye, attendance appeared to be just as strong as last year (the AX website claims 44,000 for this year, but I don’t know what their attendance was last year), and traffic in the exhibitors hall was brisk. One of the first things I noticed walking in was the 10-deep line formed up at the bank of ATM machines. Near the end of the day, I had to wait so long to pay for my purchases at the Anime Palace booth that I think I had an out-of-body experience standing in line. Some dealers were offering attractive discounts on manga, but in general they seemed no more desperate to sell than last year; my own modest attempts at haggling were soundly turned down. But perhaps this should come as no surprise, for everyone knows that not even a deep recession will keep otaku from their collectibles.

Didn't have time for as much cosplay-watching as usual, but I did keep an eye open for how the kids were dressing up this year. I always do, as an informal measure of what's hot and what's not. Fewer “Naruto”

headbands this year, and those who went that way wore proper costumes — very little of that wimpy Naruto-lite business, in which you wear a headband that you bought at Suncoast Video and normal street clothes and consider it cosplay. There were several “Sailor Moon” girls and “Dragon Ball” guys; it's always good to see reverence for the classics. But interestingly enough, this year's most popular character appeared to be Haruhi Suzumiya; apart from the stray sailor-suited girls with a yellow hair ribbon wandering around, I came across two separate SOS-dan trios doing the dance, one

“Dokidoki suru deshou?” One of two “Haruhi Suzumiya” cosplay groups that I saw on the way out of West Hall.

in the South Hall lobby and another in the courtyard outside.

Once again, the major publishers were noticeably absent from the exhibitors hall, although I assume that all of them had panel discussions. And I read on Viz's website after I got home that they had sent out marketing shills dressed as cosplayers to mingle with the crowd, in what sounds like a polite form of guerilla marketing. But Funimation was the only major publisher (unless, I suppose, you consider Media Blasters as such) with any real presence where retail money was actually changing hands. Gone are the days when the ADV booth was loud enough to exert a zone of control into half of the hall. I'm not

quite sure why — when I first noticed the publishers disappearing a few years ago, I assumed it was a sign that AX was not nursing its relationships with the industry players properly. But now I suspect it's just that the big publishers aren't seeing a return on the investment, either because anime as a phenomenon in America has plateaued (although at a relatively high level), or because people at the show just prefer to buy from dealers instead of directly from the publishers.

Kenshin Himura UFO Catcher plushie, a bargain at $5.

In any event, I was pleased that I bought the things that I most wanted to buy — the Funimation Love Hina DVD set, as well as sets of Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi and His and Her Circumstances — with enough to spare for a few extras and gifts. Next year, I hope to be on a less restrictive budget, and that I'll finally be able to take a deep plunge into collectibles. One of the dealers who always comes to AX has displayed a vintage (Japanese) promotional poster with Ranma and Kyoko Otonashi on it since I’ve been coming to the show, and I have always felt that it would look lovely framed and mounted on my wall.

But of course, it is not enough to simply narrate an event like Anime Expo. Here’s more visual evidence:

Last year, I picked up an old “Tenchi Muyo!” live concert CD and a “Lucky Star” character song CD from akadot’s bargain bin. Nothing quite so useful this year, but it was hard to miss this old “Tenchi Muyo!” laserdisc. Even though I have never owned a laserdisc player and never will, I almost bought it at $10, just as a piece of Tenchi-ana.

A spontaneous bout of Caramelldansen breaks out in the exhibitors hall. Like a car wreck on the highway, one simply cannot turn away from it.

The Japanese Consulate had a booth at the show, which included this Tanabata-style bamboo plant for hanging wishes. I thought it a charming touch. Yoshi, however, was there purely on his own.

Becoming Alphonse Elric: This was not cosplay in the sense that this fellow was obviously getting dressed up as part of a promotional effort (although I forget who was the exhibitor). But all the same, I thought it was interesting to watch him prepare, as putting on an Alphonse costume seems as complicated as donning plate armor.