Thursday, July 18, 2024

Anime Expo 2024: Artist Alley Isn't 18+


Come with us. Down below, where both Artist Alley and the 18+ Section are banished. Not really banished, but it always funny to see yourself going underground...away from the light into Kentia Hall. Where such colorful works of some of your favorite characters are shown off with fans talented enough to show off their art skills...are in the dungeon. We get 18+ being down there and as we've put it before, call it something else like Hentai Alley, Horny Town or NSFW-ville. In any case both were a deligh to wander through.

Artist Alley, per usual was showcasing whatever anime was the most popular, but had fun hints of ultra specific tastes. Sure, there was Delicious in Dungeon everywhere, but original characters and stuff based just around artist's actual pets.

It was busy every time we visited it and other then giving them light and more room we're not sure how to improve the setup other than some dividers for better people flow. Many times people crowded around booths for artist they really loved. People got entranced for specific PC characters now on a phone charm.

It's so hard to choose what to get, so many great, silly doodles given a full roll out as stickers, pins and what have you. It remains one of our favs of all cons to see what people are into and what crazy things artists can come up with.

On to the porn. 18+ remains behind its gate, checking all IDs. A wonderland of what the and oh jeez. There was a nice push of very dirty steam games. There were round the booth lines for both purveyors of Japanese filth Fakku and JAST, J-List, but mainly porn. It's always fun to see what oddities of horny are there, but it feels like the area was a little empty and Fakku and JAST could expand or more horny booths related to anime could fit in the area.

What we're getting at is there seems like there could be more booths their and maybe a theme or festival, like this year it's all about swimsuits or panties or monster girls, prison girls. Something to unite all the booths underground. Have fun decorations. 
Wefeel like TENGA used to be a part, but it must have dropped out and a few other names.
Here's hoping the have more booths next year and an agreed upon theme. Who doesn't what a special shirt saying, "MILF Festival AX 2025" or "Yaoi or Yuri, we all Support Peace in the Middle East."

Anime Expo 2024: Nonsense


Here's some of the stuff at AX we couldn't believe was real or a crossovers no one asked for or just funny pics. Just what jumped out at us. Top of the list are the very real Gundam Crocs. Yes, you can now pre-order Gundam themed Crocs for the low price of $74.99, before shipping. They come out later this month.

We just love the MEGA 64 bag, one side is their logo, the other side says: 

Many people were stopped.
A not so adorable MEGA 64 shirt

The MEGA 64 Panel was fun as always, it's very much an inside joke for fans and it's something the cast wants you to only enjoy live at AX. They specifically ask for no video or photos during the panel so the special clips they show and the secrets they talk about get saved for only their real fans that show up.

Some of the MEGA 64 crew

We did not think it was the 10th anniversary of Noodle Stopper Figure or that they made so many. All for your easy to make noodle cups to have a little anime characters chilling on them.

The 18+ Section, which needs to be renamed Hentai Alley or something more fun, still a gold mine of nonsense. Who doesn't want a tiny "WEEB TRASH" desk trashcan from Denpasoft ? That "special" game below is probably the least risky we can show without putting up black bars. We can only show so much here, but will have more on the 18+ section in another post.

We found Waldo

Just every single time

We feel bad for whomever was in the baby kaiju outfit at the Ultraman booth, that head was so massive, hope there was air conditioning unit in it. The blow-up Pikachu costume has got to be a sauna as well.

Jesus Otaku always cheers us up. They don't preach like those weirdos outside damning people to Hell. They just listen and hand out stickers.

The World Expo 2025, taking place in Osaka, mascot is so creepy.  MYAKU-MYAKU is the perfect mascot to give your children nightmares.

Just a regular interview at AX

If you've been to a Bass Pro Shop, you get it

Stuff his face!


End on a high note, just happy this guy brought his flute and was playing it while hanging out in the Entertainment Hall.

Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Anime Expo 2024: The Good, The Bad & The Overpriced Food

 *Sorry, for the delay on content, we're recovering from Covid and family events at TTDILA

By Jonathan Bilski

Anime Expo was a sight to see unfold this year. Never quite perfect and changing once again with it's larger physical take-over of the convention center we were in moments of awe, pure fandom glee and "oh c'mon." You can either stick with a bad attitude over a missed panel or head to another one like we did. The only part we can't forgive and left a literal bad taste in our mouth was AX Crossing, the new food section. We'll get to that in due time, let's go over AX overall.
The Good
Even with all badges sold out, 4-day and individual, it was never crowded as we thought it would be. The Main Hall shined with memorable booths and businesses from all over anime fandom. You could walk the Hall and only have to navigate a bit on even the busiest day Saturday to miss people. 
Bandai Namco was showing off it's power, making itself center stage of Main Hall. It's anime and games, being the epicenter. The giant banners above crying out, "We own the Hall!" They had demos for Dragon Ball: Sparking! ZERO to play. With preety much every other property the have coming out on display.

And, of course Gundam galore. There was a wonderful photo-op for Gundam related to the recent Call of Duty DLC. It had you falling into the game alongside Gundams.

Not far off, Crunchyroll and Aniplex (both owned by Sony) were showing off. Crunchyroll was giving away tons of swag in intervals to everyone's joy. 

*Very interesting how the day after AX, Crunchyroll announced they were closing comments on the site. We're sure there would have been a lot more contention if it happened over the July 4th weekend. At least whomever did the policy change didn't screw over their teams at AX. Not a lot of word on why, but many guess Crunchyroll doesn't want to have to pay moderators.

Toei Animation had a giant Luffy to take photos with. It was also showing off One Piece's Egghead Arc. Screens glared with vibrant animation of amazing fights to see unfold as dubbed episodes will start coming out English dubbed. And, of course there were plenty of cosplayers for One Piece. You might have seen quite a few in our cosplay section.

And the winner of best booth, was, of course, Pony Canyon for their Wrestling Ring Photo Booth for the Kinnikuman Perfect Origin Arc, now on Netflix. The giant ring towered above fans and cosplayers a like as muscly long haired wrestlers and a referee took any picture you wanted. We waited around this booth and heard the hyper specific requests of the fans followed through by the wrestlers. They were trounced by tiny ladies, small children and a series of dolls. And, they took it with stride. We take our hats off to you Pony Canyon. A greatly executed booth that reminds viewers to watch your wrestling anime on Netflix.

Metaphor: ReFantazio...We... don't know what you are. Some sort of creature...character...thing from the game beached in the Main Hall. As the game was just announced, we're unfamiliar with whatever it is or more so what this monstrosity is, but it made it's presence known. We outright hated this...ship? From the makers of Persona 3-5, you can play this new strange looking game this October from SEGA/Atlus.
It got us writing about it, so we guess the booth kind of works.

Casteify creeped everyone out, but in a less creepy way then Meataphor for it's collab with Jujutsu Kaisen.

And, this year all booths made sense being there. We only saw booths related to anime/manga/video games or Japanese culture. Usually a convention has a weird booth unrelated selling some weird nonsense or some career college. We didn't see anything like that.

We did miss Dark Horse Comics though, they did have a panel, but no booth this year...again. Maybe,
they've just become a smaller manga publisher, but we remember how much seeing them their and their titles really making AX shine. Here's hoping they can show off at AX Chibi and have a booth again for next year. Just saw they're re-releasing Gunsmith Cats. This time as the Gunsmith CatsOmnibus. The first volume comes out Feb 2025 and at 600 pages.
Gunsmith Cats

Funny enough, Kenichi Sonoda, creator of the Cats will be at Comic-Con showing off the finished Riding Bean OVA coming to Blu-ray and streaming. Which features characters from Gunsmith Cats.
A few random booths had our eyes, we really like the hand models for Kotobukiya Figures and the Festiv'AX Japan Pavilion showcased some random, but fun art/media and electronics from Japan. 

The Bad
The Japan booth featured the Mutalk 2, which is real and not a joke. I'm not sure how that got past a plethora of different people to tell them, no ones gonna put that gimp face mask on even though it's soundproof. With any VR goggles on it just looks like way too much on your face. Even without goggles.

We have to give proper credit to AX though, it may seem so simple, but they put up dividers a long the
the main walkway and people used them. This stopped so many traffic jams from years before. Everyone either went left or right and it made the hallway so much more efficient. Is it crazy to write about something so simple...yes, we know, but they haven't had it and it worked so well.

Anime Expo grew in area. We're...not gonna need a bigger boat...we guess. The Society for the Promotion of Japanese Animation (organization behind AX) used all of convention center like we saw with Anime Riverside. Parking lots and streets were converted into areas to eat or pick-up/tickets registration. They could learn a lesson in making it look a lot nicer or having sponsors pay for some mural on the drab fences. The fences didn't make it look so fun. More like an anime prison, but that would probably look cooler in your mind. Hey, who doesn't like walking under the bridge to be in your own personal homeless simulator. Right between Main Hall entry and the food trucks was like everyone's own creepy little hide-a-way with outhouses.
At the same time we're glad AX used as much of the area as the could, they still can improve and that might be dealing with AEG ( the company that runs the convention center and LA Live). AEG flat out sucks. They mishandled the press room and didn't provide us with enough power outlets. Something AX said they asked for. And AEG, gave the room the world's saddest water dispenser. This was on Day 3 of the convention, so not a big change or fix from AEG. So, here's a headline. 
Don't Use The LA Convention Center, It Sucks, Bad Management

As per usual, they're weren't enough places to sit that wasn't the floor, outside and in. If you want people to sit and act like human beings, provide them chairs or bean bags or places to lounge. This has happened for years, so if AX wanted it solved they know how. 
We don't know if invoking the Fire Marshal does anything other than make AX look bad. LA Fire Marshal look around AX more. AX, make security tell people not to sit. Go rent more chairs from the Convention Center or some place else.

Other con goers were nice enough to show off the much vaunted AX x KADOKAWA Original Bag. Yes, for only $30 you too can have the most boring looking bag. Contest still stands, if you want to be the first to send it in ( we can use it in the TTDILA lounge for groceries) we'll feature you on the site, whatever you're social media or work you want to show off and we'll go over what you bought and what you thought of the bag.

The Overpriced Food/AX Crossing 

Getting to the worst is our experience at AX Crossing. AX Crossing was the new food booth area run by Tatsuo Mori, publisher of JapanUP!, a free Japanese culture monthly magazine. We saw a smaller version of AX Crossing at AX Chibi last November and liked it's look. Now, this time, it did look nice and there was some shaded seating, but pricing was crazy. And, we'll get to the taste of the food of one booth in-particular that nearly made us barf.
So, this is to Tatsuo Mori, publisher of JapanUP! you need to fix both quality and prices of AX Crossing as we explain below.

So looking at AX Crossing, it looks nice. What a nice addition to AX proper we blindly thought. Quite a few booths to choose from. It had a stage area off to the side, not really the center of the area or near the seating area for enjoyment, it was sort of in it's own area. Cute and quaint, we really wanted to enjoy it.

Now, anywhere you went prices were absurdly high for sometimes very basic food like a hot dog. Or whatever rendition of a hot dog they were selling or two chicken skewers for $20. Just insane for what is very basic food.
They were selling water for $8 and not full bottles. This seemed to be at a Convention Center booth outside. Not sure why it was part of AX Crossing. Getting to how bad it was, the Dasani was in a metal bottle for $8. There was filtered water for free there, but you needed to already have a bottle to get it. When water is $8 bucks a bottle, you know something isn't right. Canned sodas at every booth were about $5.

Hello, price gauging!
Booth after booth had pricing that looked like it started at $16-$20 as the lowest option. Meals for very basic items looked to cost the average person $25-$30. 
Now, a lot of the other food looked good. Sitting down with strangers they seemed to slurp it down and enjoy it.

Sadly, after looking around, some of us settled for the basic chicken karaage for $30 including sales tax of Shibuya X Japanese Fried Chicken which is really the Happa Restaurant out of Gardena. 
The chicken was the worst meal we've ever had at Anime Expo or for that matter the Convention Center. Some of us couldn't believe this was allowed at AX. It was tasteless and seemed barely cooked. And, many of us were beyond angry we wasted money on it. If you look at the menu you on their social media you might see, they charged $2.65 for sauces. That means basics like ketchup were in a little cup for $2.65. This cheap outfit couldn't even spring for ketchup with their tasteless garbage chicken.
Disgusting chicken

We were so disgusted, we didn't try the other food options within AX while there. We didn't want to
waste our money. If there's some sort of standard for an AX Crossing booth it might be that it charges way too much for people already stuck AX.

Treating people to substandard food at exorbitant prices when the only option is to leave the comfort of the the convention center is not fair to people who pay so much for passes. Having to leave the general area means losing out of the time to enjoy AX and we were hoping AX Crossing would have made it easier. 

We say forget it. Plan on bringing your own lunch. Bring your own water bottle. Eat the overpriced food inside or take your time and go to a restaurant not far from the convention center and enjoy your meal. Don't support something so tasteless as AX Crossing.

Here's hoping AX, can turn itself around by Chibi and someone can vet AX Crossing on food and pricing by then. If not, don't eat at it.

We hope no one wastes their money and time trying to choke that down again.