Anime Expo '96: What We Did, What We Saw, and How We Waited in Line
(An earlier version of this article was published in the CJAS Newsletter on 9/7/1996)
As I write this, I'm listening to my new A-B-Chisa CD by voice actress Chisa "Sasami" Yokoyama. The CD was but one of the Tenchi Muyo-related items that I bought at this summer's convention. Anime Expo is one of the biggest anime conventions in the United States, featuring a large dealers room, anime 24 hours a day, many prestigious Guests of Honor, anime premieres, and lots and lots of fans. This year, the con was held in Anaheim, California, home of Disneyland--"the happiest place on Earth". For most fans however, AX was "an even happier place on Earth". Hideaki "I don't like Disney" Anno, member of Gainax and creator of Evangelion, would probably agree.
People attended the convention for various reasons. Some people wanted to buy animation cels, others wanted CDs. Some people wanted to buy models, while others wanted to display their models in the art show. Some people came to see the Guests of Honor and get autographs (Jerry got his fair share). Personally, I wanted posters, art books, and other pretty-looking stuff to decorate my otherwise drab dorm room. Many people came to meet Net friends. Of course, people wanted to buy and watch anime, especially the premiere of the much-anticipated Tenchi movie, Tenchi Muyo in Love. For whatever reason we came, we were united by our love of anime.
Festivities began with the Opening Ceremonies, where the Guests of Honor were heartily welcomed by the fans, previous years of Anime Expo were remembered, and we were treated to the annual opening animation. This year's animation clip featured a magical girl, a cute witch, and a mecha girl all in search of "The Item", which was also the title of the clip. "The Item" was created by a group called White Radish, and it wowed the audience with its rousing techno music and beautifully-rendered computer animation. After the opening ceremonies, we all filed over to the dealers room, where we were very prepared to spend some money.
The dealers room was full of nifty goods: anything you can think of that's anime-related, both hard-to-find stuff and the typical anime merchandise. At any given table, I was tempted to spend all my money at once, but I resisted, knowing that better items and better deals might be found elsewhere in the dealers room. The dealers room turned out to be the place where I'd happily go when there was nothing else to do, which wasn't very often.
Unfortunately, since there was so much to do, the con was very disorganized at times, with unannounced schedule changes and ridiculous delays. Still, it was fun and pretty much worth the time and trouble, especially since I got to see both the dubbed and subbed premieres of Tenchi Muyo in Love -- in THX sound (Here's a link to my Tenchi movie review).
In addition to the dealers room, watching anime in the video rooms, or possibly waiting around for autographs, the main attractions were the various panels. Each Guest of Honor gave a panel, answering fan questions and responding to comments. Other panels (or pseudo-panels) included karaoke night, a Crayon Shin-chan panel, a Viz panel, an AD Vision panel, an H/Dojinshi panel, a fan-fic panel, a video games panel, a Macross panel, a Gundam panel, and a magical girls panel, not to mention some awesome fansub premieres. Guest of Honor panels were especially interesting because the various anime directors often gave us advance information on projects they are working on. Prominent Guests of Honor included Hideaki Anno (Gunbuster, Evangelion), Mamoru Oshii (Patlabor movies 1 & 2, Ghost in the Shell), Kenichi Sonoda (BGC, Gunsmith Cats), Yoshiaki Kawajiri (Ninja Scroll, Demon City Shinjuku), Yumi "Aeka" Takada (Tenchi Muyo), and Ai "Ryoko" Orikasa (Tenchi Muyo).
The Art Show was great, and the Auction of the exhibited pieces was just incredible. A picture of Hikaru from Rayearth signed by the members of CLAMP went for $1250. On the other hand, the mobile, life-sized, LED-equipped model of the Sharon Apple computer unit went for only $105 -- a definite steal, but difficult to move around and store. The Masquerade was both unbelievable and a little crazy. There's no room here to tell all about it, but let's just say that the guys dressed as the Street Fighter girls were psychotic, the SD Gundam was both cute and menacing, and the life-sized Totoro made the crowd go wild.
At the convention, I was joined by Jerry (our treasurer and CJAS veteran) and Shannon (now living in California). We were all surprised to see Gabe, who also lives in California. The closing ceremonies ended things nicely, and Gabe sort of became famous in the con's closing video (ask us about it if you're curious). It was a fun three days for me (40.5 hours of Anime Expo), with more anime and less healthy food than I could handle, as I was sick the whole week afterwards. That's okay. My new Sasami poster and all the good memories made everything okay.