It’s convention season! Which, for me, kicks off on 4th of July weekend with the yearly Anime Expo, humbly located in the sprawling Los Angeles Convention Center. I’ve been an AX regular since about 2005, and though times have changed, certain things, uh, haven’t. I’ve got a good hunch about what I’ll be able to find in the dealer’s room if I look hard enough. Here are ten of the strange, cool and completely expected things I knew I could find in the crowded exhibit hall. As usual, the show did not disappoint.
10) Stuff That Is in no Way Related To Anime or its Fans in any Way, Shape or Form
Look, I get it – it’s a bunch of nerds, gathering in one place, and you’ve got some nerd shit you’re trying to sell to people. San Diego Comic-Con is a few weeks away, and you’d like to not have as much stuff to lug around Southern California. Just because I get it doesn’t mean I always understand it. Which is why I knew I could find some weird booth that is ENTIRELY devoted to a completely different fandom – like Harry Potter!
One of my favorite things about these cons is seeing which things outside of anime merchandise actually sell – because the nerdy teens that congregate to these things often have no shame about wearing them or proudly displaying them right after they buy them. Like this guy, who bought this inflatable, winged donkey. He had it with him all weekend.
I didn’t find a single soul wandering around Los Angeles with any Harry Potter regalia. Meanwhile: anybody selling Homestuck stuff, anything with Zelda on it or Minecraft-related things probably made a fortune.
But at least all that stuff is pretty harmless. It is still, at its core, nerd-related merchandise. Anime fans obviously branch out into the larger realms of nerdery, be it gaming or card games or comic books and so forth. But what I DO NOT get are the booths in the dealer’s rooms that are selling the sort of mass-market crap you can find anywhere. I was sure I could find one of those somewhere, and by God, I did.
Seriously? Despicable Me 2 just made over a hundred million dollars this weekend. There is no “fandom” around Despicable Me. And if there is, I pity them.
Thankfully, I did not see a single kid in cosplay getup with a giant stuffed Minion. Nah – the kids here are a bit more refined in their tastes.
9) Hand-Written Signs
No matter the booth, no matter the company in charge, sometimes you need some appropriate signage. And sometimes, all you’ve got is some cardboard, maybe a piece of paper, and a marker. And it always, always amuses me. Especially when it unintentionally conveys something misleading.
Just in case the confusing wording next to the adorable, smiling visage of a cardboard cutout of a gothic lolita girl wasn’t enough, they were kind enough to draw a smiley face to really tie everything together. The mot juste.
And sometimes, the signs are there for safety reasons.
And then there are signs that are just dicks because they keep us (meaning: me) from having fun and enjoying life. Take this giant Gundam at the Bluefin booth.
There are so many wonderful, possibly illegal things I want to do to this Gundam, I can’t – oh.
Thanks a lot, jerks. I guess I’ll have to drown my sorrows and anger in the usual way; buying assloads of yaoi.
8) Cosplayers at Rest
The actual show floor is kind of a bad place to go in your full cosplay regalia. It’s too crowded, people get pissed at you for blocking traffic to take photos (i.e. me), and more importantly, it gets hot. This is LA, baby, and temperatures were around 100 degrees outside. So, I knew I could find one of my favorite things to see – hot, tired cosplayers!
Course, there’s also the guys who are just as intrigued by the loud noises and shiny objects in the dealer’s room as anybody, and didn’t have the time to get changed out of their intricate costume.
Even better are the full-body costumes, which I imagine put tremendous physical and emotional strain on the poor men and women inside. It’s very easy for THIS –
To turn into THIS.
So the next time you see a guy in a full-body costume, just remember – they’re people on the inside, just like you and me.
7) An Animation Cel From a Sex Scene
If you’re a cel collector, cons like Anime Expo are both great and terrible places to pick up some anime cels. Great, because there are booths with giant massive binders filled with cels, and you don’t have to deal with shipping or anything wacky like that. Terrible, because you’re often overpaying by a large margin compared to what you’d pay for a cel if you were, say, in Japan. This cel from Big O, for instance:
They want 85 bucks for this. In Japan, Big O was a flop, so you could’ve picked this up from a cel collector for half that, easy. Regardless, I was on a mission to find cels of naked people. I’m usually able to find at least one. And this year was no exception. Although I had to dig around for a long time in their “Miscellaneous” bin to find one. I stopped at some cels from Project A-ko, and I was about to give up.
Until, lo and behold, I found a scene from Yoshiaki Kawajiri’s delightfully dark and lurid Wicked City, featuring a demon sucking on a boob! Don’t worry – the dealers were smart and put tape over the NSFW bits. Also, the lighting sucks because it’s a dark cel and there was a giant light over everything, and I couldn’t move them around for a better shot.
Cel collecting is one of those things where I salivate when I have both the expendable income and extra space to accommodate stuff like, y’know, a cel of a boob-sucking demon from Wicked City. But there’s also another thing I salivate over:
6) ALL OF THE TOYS
Any convention would be a terrible place for me to be if I had money, but especially anime cons, because they have ROBOTS.
Luckily for everyone involved, I actually have no money! So I can’t spend an entire fortune on Gundam model kits I have neither the space or dexterity to make.
My favorite part of the toy booths, though, is the odd sight of characters from completely different series next to each other in fun, dynamic poses. Like Kitty Pryde here, jauntily hanging out with this super-deformed moe girl:
And my personal favorite, Solidus from Metal Gear Solid 2 next to a Chocobo:
I was also sure I could find some top-quality “Engrish” amongst all these toys, and of course I did not come away disappointed.
Before I move on to the next page, I’ll leave you with this 350 dollar figure of Onegai Teacher’s Mizuho:
And now, for some solid, upper-tier nerdery!
5) Geeky Super Sentai/ Tokusatsu Stuff
One of the things I love about Anime Expo is its palpable dedication to ALL KINDS of Japanese stuff; more often that includes things that I don’t necessarily care about, like Visual Kei bands and so forth, but God bless AX for being one of the few places where you can buy Kamen Rider crap.
And not only that, you can even buy FAN MAGAZINES.
Super Sentai and general “Tokusatsu” shows have had a bit of a rough ride in the West since the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers heyday of yore, but it’s soothing to the soul to see that there’s still a definitive and active fanbase supporting these silly masked people and the weird monsters they fight.
It’s enough to make my cynical heart melt. Which is good, because every year, I find myself enraged by:
4) Obnoxious Nerd Jokes
My girlfriend has a joke that any convention could be easily replicated by having a throng of people shouting “SOMETHING WE KNOW! SOMETHING WE KNOW!” and that is always an omnipresent part of any dealer’s room. There’s your usual offenders, like fake mustaches:
No joke, when I bumped into this thing on accident, I turned and said “sorry” because I thought it was an actual person. A lot of obnoxious nerds still think it is the height of hilarity to wear a fake mustache. God forbid any of these people leave the convention center and wander over to Silver Lake; they’d be in constant, painful hysterics.
But overall, my least favorite thing of all time can be summed up by this picture, which features a painting somebody was selling for money:
“Hey! I’m a big nerd and I like to draw, but I’m also exceptionally lazy and have no good ideas! I’ll take a current pop-culture phenom, and fill it with superheros! I AM A GENIUS!”
God damnit. I need something nice to think about before I throw my laptop in the trash. Or at least violent.
3) Heavy Artillery And General Weaponry
No foolin’, this year’s AX had some top-quality weapons on display. Better than I’ve seen in previous years. Whoever’s been running in the cosplay circles that’s found the best way to create massive, yet light, swords, keep up the good work. In particular, I got to see easily the best – if not simply the LONGEST – representation of Inuyasha’s Tetsusaiga.
That is one huge sword. But… eh. It’s just a sword. That’s still only one sword. How about a crapload of knives?
Hey, whatever works. And then, just when I thought I had my fill of artillery, I found another tank:
However they managed to get that thing into the dealer’s room is beyond me, but I imagine it played out a bit like the tank scene from the beginning of Urusei Yatsura 2: Beautiful Dreamer. (14 balding men just got that reference and choked on something.)
2) Intentionally Creepy Things
Like any nerd gathering, you go in understanding that the clientele here has an exceptional appreciation of the macabre and the unusual. So there were a plethora of goodies, cosplay and artifacts to that effect.
Like, for example, this stellar replica of the titular Titans from Attack on Titan!
There were also these stellar fan-made posters featuring Evangelion characters:
And, of course, half-naked men.
But that’s all well and fun. It’s fun to celebrate the twisted side of the psyche! Because if we don’t, we could end up with, uh – well, the entirety of this last entry.
1) Unintentionally Creepy Things
As we wind down, let’s go over some of the standard stereotypes of the anime fan: they buy body pillows featuring cartoon characters they want to have sex with, they’re all sad and awkward people, and so forth. That’s all hogwash of course, because *I’m* an anime fan, and I turned out pretty normal. Maybe.
But those people DO exist, and Anime Expo is here to serve their needs. So, yeah, there are body pillows.
But hey, at least there are body pillows for girls, too.
And, yeah, there are boob mouse pads.
There are also butt mouse pads for girls (and guys too)! But the vendor who was selling it gave me the shittiest look when I pulled out my camera. Considering I nearly got into a confrontation when I took a picture of this decapitated Totoro here, I figured it wasn’t worth the trouble.
But all of this pales in comparison to the true horror of the convention: MANKIND. I kid! It’s actually these things.
God bless that Yuna cosplayer for not urinating herself in fear when those monsters appeared out of nowhere. And in case you needed to ask: yes, there were more of them.
All told though, Anime Expo is always a fun time. I’ve been going there regularly for almost a decade now, and even though I usually know what to expect or what to find, I never leave disappointed.