It started Thursday morning. The original plan was to wake up a little early so we could translate a chapter of UQ Holder!, and then have time to make it to Anime Expo before the guest welcoming ceremony. But there was no UQ Holder! on Thursday, so we decided to go early...and were immediately filled with dread. Remember, we had to take the bus.
The bus is something that really seems like it shouldn't be scary at all, and yet for us it is. I think I've been over this before, but it would have been a long time ago, so I'll go over it again. First of all, we're terrified of getting lost. This fear has worked against us on previous bus trips, when we would miss our stop because we thought it looked like the right place, maybe, but let's go to the next stop to be sure...oh wait, now we're going in a totally new direction, where are we AAAAAAAAHHHH!!! We thought that if we looked up the routes ahead of time, that fear would be eliminated because we'd know exactly where to get off...which brings us to the second reason we hate buses. There seem to be all manner of little secrets to bus routes and rules of riding that everybody knows...and because everybody knows them, they figure everybody else already knows them, so there's no need to explain them to anybody anywhere and especially not the transportation website. One time, because we didn't know the rules, the bus ended up taking a completely different route than the one we were sure it was going to take based on the bus's website. Argh does not even begin to describe it.
Nevertheless, we had hope for our bus endeavor, because the our stops were very, very obvious: the Los Angeles Convention Center, and Disneyland. Very difficult to miss. So then our main fear was of getting on and off the right bus at the right time (just because the LA Convention Center is big doesn't mean we won't be distracted, or maybe the stop isn't right next to it or something!), and of one of those unwritten rules coming into play. Oh, and having money for fare. I don't usually carry a lot of cash, and all I had was a twenty. We fixed that problem by getting Slurpees on the way to Disneyland, and we nervously approached the bus stop. We managed to get on the bus without any problems--in fact, when I paid our fare, the driver figured (based on the amount) that we were going to Downtown LA, and made sure to get our attention and give us the little magic tickets that we needed for some unknown reason.
Even now that I know how those little tickets work, I still don't understand the reasoning behind them. I figure the transit people probably know something that I don't that makes it make sense, but since I still don't know that thing, it still doesn't make sense to me. But what happened was, at a certain stop along the way, the bus stops, and everybody who's not going downtown gets off. Somehow we were under the impression that everybody was supposed to get off (this impression was emphasized by a group of friends wearing AX badges who also got off the bus). While we were off the bus, the driver collected everyone's ticket (where "everyone" means everyone who was still on the bus). Then we got back on, and the driver made us pay fare from that stop to Downtown. We tried to tell her we were just on the bus, but she was adamant and we were too scared of buses to want to make things too much more difficult, so we just paid again. It was extra annoying because at that point all I had was a ten, and LA buses don't give change. Still, we would have just sighed and been like, "Well, at least now we know how it works," except there was a guy on the bus who seemed to be watching us and smirking. I wanted to punch him, the jerk, but I calmed myself down later by reminding myself that when he got on the bus, he seemed to have some confusion as well, and with his fragile ego he probably needed proof that he was better than somebody else. The jerk.
Anyway, our stop proved to be more obvious than we'd predicted, because not only was it right in front of the convention center, but of course there were huge crowds with lots of cosplayers. The AX staff were very friendly, so we had no trouble finding our registration line. We got our badges...and had a few hours before the only event we were interested in, so we were at a bit of a loss as to what to do.
So we ended up wandering around for a while. We went to the dealers' hall, then decided it might be a good idea to figure out the lay of the land (we hadn't been to AX in five years, and anyway they don't always use the same rooms for the same things), so we got lost trying to find Main Events. Once again, the staffers were very helpful, so eventually we found it...and then we went back to the dealers' hall to look around.
We also saw a lot of cosplay, of course. At first, I was sad that there seemed to be more American characters represented than Japanese ones, and then I realized the problem might be with my ability to recognize the Japanese characters...in other words, we haven't seen enough anime lately. And that made me even more sad. Also, apparently there's a character in Kill la Kill that, when cosplayed, looks just like Hitomi from Escaflowne, but when I saw a drawing of the character in question, she looked way different. Kind of interesting how that can happen.
In the dealers' hall, we happened across a booth with a big screen that had some Japanese guy talking on it. Athena saw it and was like, "Wait, that looks kind of like Yuuki Kaji." Then she noticed the letters at the bottom of the screen that were partially obscured by the crowds of people in the way, but they all looked like they belonged to "Yuki Kaji." So we got closer, and sure enough, that's who it was. So we tried to watch him talk (he was doing an interview on his character in Sushi Ninja, or something), when one of the booth people came along to tell us all about Daisuki.net. I listened distractedly, and apparently it's a service like Crunchyroll only it has...stuff that when I thought about it later seemed also a lot like Crunchyroll--mobile apps, store, etc. Still, all the people seemed really nice, and we have an idea what Crunchyroll pays its translators, so we think it would be good to give them some competition...assuming competition leads to attempts at higher quality, as opposed to attempts at cutting costs. I really hate businesses sometimes.
They had a panel coming up, so we decided to check it out. It was pretty fun, but started late because of technical difficulties. I wonder how feasible it would be to have all the panel-holders with AV stuff come and make sure everything works with the convention center tech before their panel is supposed to start. To kill time, the main PR guy had us sing "My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean," where you stand or sit (whichever you're not currently doing) whenever you sing a word starting with B. He introduced the idea, and we were like, "Cool, our nephew loves this game." Other than that, most of what I took out of the panel was that we should check out Daisuki, and we might want to consider watching Kill la Kill and Sword Art Online.
Technical difficulties prevented them from showing the extra special limited world premiere of Sushi Ninja (the boss lady was handed the DVD (or Blu-ray, whichever it was) as she was boarding the plane to go to AX), so they just dismissed us, but then difficulties of a less-than-technical nature had everybody standing at the door for what appeared to be no reason at all but was actually because they couldn't get the box with the Sword Art Online posters open, and people didn't want to leave without one. If we had known that was the problem, we would have left anyway, but it's good that we didn't, because while they figured that out, the tech guys figured out how to get Sushi Ninja to work, so we got to watch it! Yay! It was preeetty strange. But the episodes are short, so we figure we might as well watch it some more. It could turn out to be either very funny, or very...not our taste. No pun intended, but since it's there, awesome.
We had a little more time to wander the dealers' hall before trying to get to the guest welcoming thingie, so we decided to stop by the Kodansha booth and say hi. When we got there, there was a huge mob of people! Aaaaaahhhh! And the one guy there was preoccupied talking to some other people, so we let ourselves get swept away by the people traffic. Then we realized we hadn't eaten anything since those Slurpees, and we still needed to break some twenty dollar bills so that we could get home without paying way too much for bus fare. Also, we didn't have much time before we wanted to line up for that guest welcoming thingie, and there were massive lines everywhere, so our options were extremely limited.
Fortunately, there was a little old fashioned soft serve ice cream stand that didn't have a line! So we got a Reese's sundae and went on our merry way. We found the line for Main Events, which was long and confusing. There were multiple layers of people, and we couldn't tell if it was like at an airport, where they have everyone stop and let one line through at a time, or if it was a bunch of switchbacks like at Disneyland, and everyone was going to have to walk back and forth and back and forth until they got into the event hall. Turns out it was the latter, but that didn't matter until much later than expected. The event started an hour late.
We were pretty annoyed at the lack of punctuality. We wondered if maybe...okay, this year they had a guidebook app in addition to a printed program guide and event schedule. The app had a very handy feature that listed all the events by time, so you had a time, say 6:00pm, and then a list underneath it of all the events that started at 6pm. Under the name of the event, in a smaller font, it would very kindly say "Until 7:00pm" (for example). It was really great, because it told you what time you'd be free to go to other panels, or if you had to leave early or something. But it was tricky, because if you weren't used to it, you might just scroll through the list of events without paying attention to the time groupings, and see the name of the event with a time under it, and think that that time was when it started, instead of when it ended.
We thought it was a bit silly of a theory, but it suddenly started to seem less silly when it became apparent that neither of the MCs had read the script for the event before they stepped onto the stage. I was already judging them unfairly because the woman was wearing a mullet skirt, and I have an unreasonable amount of hatred for them because I think they're so ugly. It's jerky and judgmental, but in my defense, I had also been standing out in the heat until an hour later than I should have been, followed by walking back and forth through an unnecessarily complicated queue process. Seriously, as we were walking, we were talking about how we would go to the next open SPJA meeting and volunteer to run the lines.
Anyway...they gave an introduction of some sort, and then they started introducing guests. It was different than the opening ceremonies that we'd been to in the past, because instead of having tables for the guests to sit at after they came out, they just had everyone come out individually, say a few words, and then go backstage again. When it started, we remained apathetic, especially when they introduced one guest as having worked with all these Hollywood people. We were like, "Okay, so why do we as anime fans care about this guy?" Then he came out and said, "If you're wondering what I'm doing here, I directed the Sailor Moon dub." Then I started to calm down and I was like, "Oh, okay, you're cool." And also like, "Seriously, who wrote the guest introductions?"
After that, all the original Sailor Moon dub actors came out, starting with Susan Roman. Somehow, we never knew who she'd played in Sailor Moon, but when she came out, she made it obvious by telling the male MC, "You know, I think you look kind of like my old boyfriend." Then all the really old otaku in the audience cheered, while others, including the MC she addressed, seemed to be like, "Uh, okay."
This is where things got interesting for us, because the original Sailor Moon dub is what got us into anime, so it was a nice nostalgia trip. It was a little weird, though, because for Sailor Moon, they brought Linda Ballantyne (PS: I'm not really sure how to spell most of these names), but she was the third Sailor Moon, and by the time she was in the role, we had already practically sworn off dubs. Our English-speaking Sailor Moon will forever be Terri Hawkes. But anyway, Toby Proctor (Darien) came out, and we really cheered for him because Tuxedo Mask was our second crush (our first was Thomas from Disney's Pocahontas). And he came out and did some lines and sounded JUST LIKE the Darien from our memories...but he also called everyone meatball heads, and I wasn't sure I was okay with that (Serena is the only meatball head! (maybe Rini, too, but they'd be deformed meatballs)), so I didn't cheer for that so much.
Anyway, they all came out and were all pretty great, especially Artemis and Molly--they were both super cute. Mary Long was like, "I'm sure none of you know who I am, but I played Molly..." and some of us cheered, and she replied, "Thanks, Mom!" But come on, the Nephrite episodes are playing on Hulu right now--everybody who's watching is going to be thinking of Molly. Except for the whippersnappers who haven't actually seen the show before now.
And then, to make it the blastiest blast from the past, they brought out Jennifer Cihi, who sang all the songs. She started singing, and she encouraged us all to sing along ("Come on, you all know this song!") and we started singing along because whenever she started a line, we knew exactly how it finished...and yet I couldn't for the life of me remember what the song was until she got to the chorus, "Call my name and I'll be there." It was great.
After that, we were mostly just bored with the whole thing. One of the American guests tried to wake everybody up by teaching the audience how to squee in Japanese, but we had no patience left for that sort of thing. And finally, they brought out another American guest who had made some weird cartoon that they'd tried showing twice before the ceremony but failed due to sound issues. We already didn't like him because we'd seen his Minnie Mouse geisha house art at the Disney Gallery in Downtown Disney, which, as I'm sure you can figure out, we didn't like. The cartoon didn't help. They had fixed the sound issues, so now we got to watch it again and I think I liked it even less. But of course, we're biased by many things including the very long day we'd already had, so if you want to form your own opinion, you can probably find it if you Google "Mayumi Gumi." (It doesn't help that in our heads, the pronunciation of Mayumi doesn't allow for the right kind of rhythm for that name to rhyme like it's supposed to.)
Oh right, the other reason for our lack of patience. We had a two-hour bus ride waiting for us when this thing was over, followed by a 20-30 minute walk, and we wanted to get home sooner rather than later, especially because we would have to get up early to make sure to catch our two-hour bus in time for Masakazu Morita's panel. It would have been fine if the thing had started even only reasonably late, but a whole hour? Uuuuugh. And we couldn't leave early, because what if they introduced Morita-san? They didn't, so at the end we were just like blah and ugh.
Fortunately, as we approached the bus stop, the bus was right there! Unfortunately, we had to get across the crosswalk, and the sign said Don't Walk! And the next bus wouldn't be for another half hour! But fortunately, the bus waited. It was still there when we got there. Yay! (I think that might just be because there were so many people getting on that it hadn't been able to leave yet, but we'll take it.) So we rode for two-hours to Disneyland, and then we walked home. At that point we were so hungry that food was now unappealing, but we decided to eat the granola bars we'd brought along anyway. Why didn't we eat them before, you ask? Because we were too busy running around, and then we were sitting in places where eating was prohibited. We probably could have eaten them on the bus, but that seemed rude, what with all the crumbs that would inevitably be shed.
We got home and watched an episode of My Little Pony as a bit of a cool down before going to bed. And we were both like, "I hate the bus soooo much. I don't wanna go anymore! But we have to see Morita-oniisan♥!" (Note: the heartmark is for Morita-oniisan♥'s name only, not for any other sentiment expressed in that quote, for which the overall tone should be extremely blah and ugh (for reference, see: whiny).)
And that was the end of day one.
Today I'm thankful for an amazing blast from the past, making it onto the right bus, making it home safely from our first day at Anime Expo, granola bars (I would like to point out that we were fans of Nature Valley before it was cool, but we're not hipsters so we still like them even though it's mainstream (but obviously we're a little hipster, or I wouldn't feel the need to point out that we liked it before it was cool)), and the super delicious Reese's sundae.