Gone and Back Again (Anime Expo 2012 and Trip Recap)
Well folks, I’m finally home in good ol’ British Columbia. Since I’ve unpacked and organized my photos from the trip, feel free to read this article if you’re interested in hearing about my entire Anime Expo experience along with the other little tidbits of my trip to Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Right away, I’d like to thank my friends from the expo for sharing their photos with me. Many of them you’ll find in this article.
So let’s go back to the beginning:
First Day: From the small city of Vernon, British Columbia, I left via Greyhound to get to Richmond, BC where I would spend my first night in a Days Inn motel.
Second Day: Woke up very early to get ready and head to the airport for a morning flight. Compared to trips I’ve taken in the past, I noticed that security checks have become much more efficient over the years. Combining all of the procedures together, I was fully prepared and on the plane before I even knew it. With a favourable tailwind, the plane made it to California in about 2 and a half hours. I remember stepping out of the airport and claiming that the heat wasn’t too bad, but during the taxi ride to the place I was staying at I quickly changed my thoughts. “Hometel” was the place I stayed at, and it was a very friendly house motel right in the middle of Koreatown. After setting up in my room, I popped out for a walk and it was official…I needed to lose some of the black hair that was sucking in the Californian heat. Eating in Koreatown is always awesome, so after dinner I went back.
Third Day: With one truly free day before Anime Expo started, I took an hour long bus ride that finally dropped me off at the end of the line- Santa Monica beach. While it was very hot as always, standing in the beach’s grace made me feel like I had gone back to the past. All that was missing was a Beach Boys song blasting from an old stereo, but hey, you can’t have everything. I’m half Korean, so you’ll excuse me if I took that hour long bus ride back early so I could eat in Koreatown once again.
Day 0 of Anime Expo! I got up without knowing what would happen and headed over to the convention hall to find a TON of people lined up. I used a Korean taxi service that only charged $3 within Koreatown and $10 to the convention centre, really cheap. It took a number of calls to help me find all of the people I planned to meet from AnimeSuki Forums, but eventually it all worked out. We beat the heat by starting a line of high-fives as the line finally decided to start moving. That’s what I love about anime-loving folk; they’re always open minded and nice. Everyone stood for hours in the blazing heat but stayed in good spirits the whole time. I loved it. When we finally entered the building, getting the pass was easier than I thought, and the remaining time was spent on taking the sights in and snapping a few shots of cosplayers.
Fifth Day: Time for Day 1 of the expo! Planning to meet up with my new friends, we all headed into the building and I ended up watching Tales of Vesperia: The First Strike with Marina, a fellow blogger. I had seen it before, but never with a big crowd like this (or with a friend for that matter), and we had a ton of fun. There was even a point when everyone got up and cheered at what was happening on screen- it was really, really cool. I only ask that they make another movie of this quality and ADD MOAR RITA. After that, we shuffled into the line…erm…the pile that was waiting to get into the exhibit hall for the first time. After a long wait, thousands of people had to move up to the entrances up three escalators. Inside the exhibit hall, I had to stop for a moment and take in how grand everything was. We got the Aniplex booth and right off the bat, I had a large Madoka wallscroll and poster that I had to carry around carefully. I ended up not buying much on the first day, but I sure did look around. Next, I met up with “Eater of All” (that’s not what his mother calls him, honest) and his awesome friends and we headed over to line up for the Yuki Kajiura panel. The line was very long and I learned that you’d need at least one hour of pre-anticipation to get into major events, but luckily we made it into the panel with no problems. The panel itself was really fun, and seeing Kajiura with the FictionJunction members (two of which are from Kalafina) was amazing. They gave us all a ticket that would be used in a raffle at the end, and the winners would have autograph rights (can you tell I didn’t win? Can you?). However, the tickets would come in handy later, unbeknownst to most. I tucked it away into my badge for safekeeping, even though I had no idea what purpose it would serve later on. With that over, we basically parted ways and headed back for the night.
Day 2! I knew going in that this would be the busiest day for me, and I was prepared…with one water bottle and two pieces of bread. I had planned to participate in the Smash Bros. Brawl tournament if time permitted, but looking at the schedule again, I realized I’d want to line up for other events and not be at the mercy of the tournament. After spending time in the exhibit hall again, I made sure to stop by Egoraptor’s booth this time. I’m somewhat of a newcomer to his videos, but he’s very funny and it was cool to meet him in person. I even got a t-shirt and received two autographs from him, but to top it off he even posed for some hilarious photos (on my Day 2 Anime Expo article). In the exhibit hall I also had my first experience with anime-related cards, and I learned that Weiss Schwarz cards had a 1/5 chance of purchasing a deck that contained a card signed by a famous seiyuu. Knowing nothing of the game itself, I bought a Madoka deck (opting over the Fate/Zero cards, since I knew Madoka better) and decided not to open it right away. From within the hall, LiSA had setup at a table in the back and we got into the lineup to get an autograph…but not before I spend a hefty sum on a Girls Dead Monster band score for the signing. Attempting to not sound creepy, my first glimpse of LiSA lit a genuine heartwarming glow in my heart, as she had one heck of a fantastic smile. She sincerely appeared to be enjoying the time she was spending with her fans, and that was just so awesome. As LiSA signed the book I heard her exclaim about the band score; it was a good idea to buy it. A little after the signing we had to make our way to LiSA’s actual panel, and this was much more packed. It was in this lineup where I opened that pack of cards…and victory! A Madoka card with Yuki Aoi’s autograph on it was in my hands, lucky! We got a never before seen preview of Sword Art Online, which would feature the opening song sung by LiSA herself. There was an awkward moment when somebody asked a question regarding Lia as opposed to LiSA and there was a lot of booing. Don’t worry it bud, it’s a mistake that can happen to anyone. Exiting the panel, I met another new friend Bevan, who would accompany me to my next events, as the others were heading to the Kajiura/FictionJunction concert. As I didn’t have a ticket to that concert, we lined up for the Danny Choo panel, which was really good fun. It was a very crowd-friendly presentation infused with laughs and serious talk- very informative. After that, we hung around for a bit and lined up for the last panel/event of the night, the Egoraptor panel. It was already 11 PM when the panel started, so it was quite late. Egoraptor is an absolute riot in person; this has to be one of the funniest events ever for just being a simple Q&A. After all that I had to part with my new bud Bevan, as he only had a two day pass to the expo. It was really cool meeting him.
And on the seventh day, God had ended his work and had decided to rest. Pfft, there was no time to rest for me! We hit up the exhibit hall once more and I ended up buying a pack of Moekana cards so I could get my hands on the special “shougakusei” card. I also got in line right away to receive a special promotional Weiss Schwarz card- this day receiving a Madoka card of Sayaka Miki. Whilst wandering the hall, I got a sudden call from “Eater of All” that informed me that the Kajiura ticket holders were getting first priority at the autograph table. That line of ticket holders was so short compared to the actual line, and before I knew it, I was walking the gauntlet, meeting THE Yuki Kajiura and the members of FictionJunction. I did my best to greet and thank them in Japanese, and it seems like my pronunciation isn’t so foul that it causes confusion. They all have awesome signatures and hearing them thank me back was insanely cool. With that over, we grabbed our tickets and went into the big hall where we prepared to watch the LiSA concert. I bought my ticket early and sat in the very front row with two glowsticks in hand. The concert was nothing short of amazing. The cute and somewhat quiet off-stage LiSA was consumed by a hard rockin’ and powerful LiSA who had one hell of a stage voice. She easily worked up a bigger sweat than anyone else there, but with the crowd waving glowsticks for two hours as well, it felt like an authentic Japanese concert. I even picked up a new LiSA favourite called “WiLD Candy”, where she personally taught us an interesting move to use during the song. By the end of the concert, my arms felt like noodles and my voice felt like the mushy sauce that accompanied it. I was spent, but I had such a great time. After the concert, there was a moment of sadness taken, for I didn’t have special ticket from buying a LiSA CD. That ticket granted access to a line where one would get a picture with LiSA, so I unfortunately missed out on that. Afterwards, we wandered the hall again together and I ended up buying some more stuff.
Eighth Day: The final day of the expo. I had spending money left, and I was determined to actually use it. Nabbing up as many deals as I could on figures, I also picked up an adorable scroll from the series Working!!. Halfway through my shopping spree, I got another call, this time informing me that Danny Choo was still at it, giving out signatures and taking photos with anyone who was still around the expo. Unable to miss out on such an opportunity, I took a break and headed over, expecting a huge crowd. That was not the case, as it truly seemed like most people had left early as it was Day 4. Lucky for me, as I grabbed my pack of Moekana cards, autograph page and camera and proceeded to get autographs on everything (and even somehow managing to nab one for my friend who is a big fan) along with an awesome photo (check the Day 4 article). After that excitement, I racked up the last of my spending and the exhibit hall closed for the year. With nothing else left to do, we all got together and headed over to Chinatown and had a fun dinner at the “Friendly Seafood Restaurant” (Best. Name. Ever.). Before leaving Chinatown, I was determined to find a bottle of ramune, since that was something I just had to try before leaving and never being able to find it again. It was awesome, as you shove a marble through the cap, which opens the bottle. Carbonation steam erupted from the top and it was the coolest drink ever. But yeah, after being dropped off back at the Hometel, I mentioned I’d be back for one additional day after the next part of my trip, and we all planned to meet up once more when that day came.
There was one more day to spend in California for the time being, so I hopped aboard a sightseeing tour bus as it roamed all around, passing Hollywood, Chinatown, Little Tokyo, Union Station and various other famous locations. Before hopping on the bus, I had a huge breakfast at the local market and then entered a Barnes & Noble for the first time. There, I found a compilation of Sherlock Holmes stories and managed to grab both books for less than $20, also scoring a copy of Aesop’s Fables as a free bonus. The first get-off point with the bus was in Hollywood, where I walked past several famous names engraved in the Walk of Fame. Other notable locations at this stop were the Hard Rock Cafe and Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. Hopping back on the bus, the next stop was Little Tokyo, where I stopped by a revolving sushi house for a bite to eat. I hadn’t been in one of these for a long time, so it was a fun experience, and I ate a little too much. It was at this point that the bus schedule confused me and I ended up missing the last bus for the night, so I had to take a taxi back to the Hometel.
This time, getting to the next part of my trip required a bus ride. After about 7 hours in a bus that was a little too heavily air-conditioned, we stepped out into the parking lot of Planet Hollywood to find the Nevada sun was blocked by several rainclouds. I now count this as a blessing, as the clouds soon disappeared and exposed some of the hottest weather I’ve ever experienced. Dropping everything off inside the Trump International Hotel, I checked out the nearby Fashion Mall to pass the time. The bus ride had been tiring, so I made an early return to the room and watched the Fourth of July fireworks erupt in the distance before heading to bed.
Time for some actual exploration of Las Vegas! Wait…it’s so hot… The blazing heat was insane, and the wind literally blew more heat into my face as I walked. For the first day, I made sure to grab a shuttle pass and I found myself riding it to the end of the line where the outlet plaza was. Before eating at a really tasty Japanese buffet, I caught sight of a pair of green Converse All-Stars and had to get them- you generally only see grey and black where I live. After the sun went down, it was off to Fremont Street to experience the bustling street of lights. There was a lot of stuff happening, but aside from the spectacles themselves there wasn’t much to actually do. I did head into the Golden Nugget hotel and had a look at the world’s largest golden nugget, which was shaped kind of like a piece of coral.
Twelfth Day: Time to start sampling the famous buffets! For lunch I waited in line to get into the buffet at the Bellagio hotel, and for $20 it had a large variety of very enjoyable food. This was the meal I ate far too much at, and ended up feeling somewhat bloated for the next hour. It was the day to start exploring the hotel innards, and the architecture was quite stunning indeed. After spending the day going in and out of the famous hotels, it was time to sit in on the Blue Man Group show. I didn’t know what to expect from the show, but it turned out to be a spectacle of music, comedy and showmanship. I laughed, I got into the music, and I cheered- it was all really good fun.
Thirteenth Day: This trip was longer than I thought! Last day in Vegas, and thanks to the heat I decided to take it easy. Exploring only a few more hotels, I had brunch inside the new Wynn hotel for a crazy $32, but it was even better than the Bellagio one. Surprisingly, I didn’t eat until I felt bloated this time, and I felt like I ate just enough, so that was nice. When nighttime came, it was off to the Rio hotel by taxi, where I got to watch the Penn & Teller magic show. Since I had avidly watched their tricks on YouTube, they didn’t really do much that was “new”, but it was really awesome seeing them perform live. After the show, there was even an autograph and a photo I got to take home with me! A fantastic last night in Vegas.
Fourteenth Day: Early morning, it was off to the front of the Circus Circus to wait for the bus ride back. It is at this point that I realized that carrying around my Anime Expo goods wasn’t a simple task. The wallscrolls especially were awkward to place anywhere. Anyways, this ride back was air conditioned nicely and the big Volvo transport was much fancier on the inside. There WAS a curtain at the window that constantly brushed up against my face, but luckily someone had stuck some nasty chewed gum on the other side, so with a subtle wave of the hand, I used it to keep the curtain stuck to the window itself. Back in Los Angeles, I planned to meet up with my friends once more, but found out that they’d managed to run into an interesting car problem. I won’t spell out details since might get assassinated in my sleep for doing so, but let’s just say that the solution they came up with was quite something. Either way, we hit up a delicious curry house and then went bowling together. It was a really fun way to spend the last night in California.
Nearing the end now. Carrying several heavy bags from the trip, they actually somehow got onto the Amtrak train at Union Station (there was no checking in bags since we were going to Canada). The little roomette inside appeared to be quite cramped but ended up holding everything conveniently. Beds could fold out, and reservations for meals could be made so you were sure to have a spot in the dining car at your times. The train had wireless internet, but for the life of me I could not get it to fully connect. Without internet I spent a lot of time watching anime, listening to music and scriptwriting for my project. What were meals like? Lunch had a smaller menu consisting of stuff like burgers and light pasta, while dinner jumped up to things like steak, ribs, fish and chicken. While quite costly to anyone boarding coach, those with a roomette had meals included in their meals, so no worries there. The train ride was to take 33 hours, so it was off to bed at the late hours, of course.
Sixteenth Day: It was to be a smooth trip from about Oregon to Seattle, but a sudden tunnel construction obstructed our path for a good 3 hours. By the time the train arrived in Seattle, it was midnight and the coach took about 5 people from Seattle to Vancouver. It was about 4 AM in Vancouver after stopping for customs checks, so it was far too late to make the 5 hour drive home. The only option was to check into a Best Western hotel for the night and then head back before check-out time.
The Last Day:
It was a simple drive back home this day. Glancing over the bridge into beautiful Kelowna, I had even more respect for the lovely sights the city had to offer. All that was left was to unpack everything and snap photos of them all, so be sure to visit my archive link below to see all of it. Thanks for reading!