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Day One, July 4, 2002 - Gunfire, Sirens, Traffic, and Massive Confusion...I must be back in Los Angeles!

I arrived at Los Angeles International in the early afternoon. Lisa’s flight had landed about 45 min earlier. Unfortunately, the gate workers directed her to the wrong gate to meet me. When I arrived, I went to her gate to find her gone. We wandered about the airport for the good part of an hour before I put out a page across the PA system and located her. I was also able to make contact with Jesse during this time. To make things worse, we arrived right in the middle of a crisis in which a madman opened fire on the El Al ticket counter. The police were shutting down the entire departure (upper) level. It was chaos. Furthermore, an abandoned bag was also found.

Fortunately, Jesse located us within minutes of his arrival and we made it south to the Long Beach Convention Center in good time. We couldn’t check in to the hotel until later so Lisa and I began familiarizing ourselves with the layout of AX2002. Right away, I ran into my old friend Jingmon Leong from UC Riverside. He was very surprised to meet me as I had not been able to tell almost no one that I was going to attend the convention. We caught up for a bit and then Lisa and I went on to the Matsubara/Goda panel. While there I also got to meet up with my old friend Brian Garvey. Something really cool we got to see was a group of cosplaying ladies who played various anime themes on violin and cello. They drew a lot of attention and gave outstanding performances. I was told they did it for the opening ceremonies as well.

The panel was pretty good but I felt that I missed out on a lot arriving toward the end. Couldn’t be helped though. These gentlemen played a large role as director and character designer in the production of the Oh! My Goddess OAVs and movie. I did get to see them open the floor to “stupid” questions after the regular questions were exhausted. A few of the questions got them to drop their faces in their hands in a “What have I done?” gesture. One of the questions, “What is Skuld’s favorite ice cream flavor?” got both their brains churning for bit as they tried to come up with a creative answer. Anyone out there remember what it was?

I wanted to try to show a bit of everything to Lisa as this was her first anime convention. This was also her first visit to Calif. But we knew we weren’t going to see much of my home area with AX taking up our time. She was immediately amazed by the amount of people present. Anime fandom in St. Louis is a somewhat sparse and seems to be concentrated in an area to the west known as St. Charles. You feel very much a minority there. There are a few anime clubs around like Anime Stack, Fant-Asia, and Washington University’s but it is not that big there. Lisa mentioned that she felt like she was in the majority for once around all these fellow anime fans.

I also ran into fellow military otaku, Ernest from Hanscom AFB, MA. We had talked a bit over e-mail before meeting up so I was very glad to see him. I know he is a big-time cel collector and I wanted to meet him at the cel collectors’ panel but the timing didn’t work out right and I didn’t get chance to see his latest acquisitions. There’s just way too much to do at these conventions.

For those of you who know me, you know that I am not a fan of Sailor Moon. Alright, alright, sometimes it makes me downright nauseous. However, she is a fan of the series. So, after returning from checking into the hotel, we dropped by the Sailor Moon SeraMyu panel. We caught the tail end of it as all the cosplayers were gathering to take photos and some of the more enthusiastic attendees were singing along with the videotape of a live action performance of Sailor Moon from Japan. I have to admit, most of the costumes in the room were very well done. Not to mention that Sailor-fukus can look rather fetching on certain ladies. Ahem, enough about that… It never really occurred to me that this could be so popular that folks will pay to go see live action renditions of it on stage. Then again, Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King made to Broadway stages so why not?

Afterwards we met up with Brian to grab dinner. The AX program came with a handy map of local restaurants and we decided to hit one of the Japanese restaurants nearby. Seemed fitting given the event and I was looking to introduce Lisa to Japanese food. Unfortunately there was one small problem, out of the three restaurants around, two were not there and Wasabi was closed for the 4th of July holiday. The restaurants that were not there had other restaurants in their place. I guess they went out of business. Making things worse was that the restaurants were widely separated and we ended up walking…A LOT. One of the restaurants was supposedly located near the waterfront and it was a madhouse trying to walk through there. Throngs of people were gathering to get a good spot to watch the fireworks that evening. We finally ended up walking up Pine Ave. to Johnny Rockets.

After dinner we headed to the waterfront to watch the fireworks. I must say, what a great nation that we can celebrate a national holiday by setting off a lot of high explosives. From there we wandered around the game rooms a bit before heading to the hotel for some sleep. It had been a long day traveling and the ticket handout for the anime music video contest was tomorrow. I knew the line would be long and we needed to be early. There seemed to be a lot less video games in the game rooms compared to last year. Nothing new that was all that impressive. The console game room had a little more. I think Lisa stopped off there just to tease me about having never owned a console and being ignorant overall of console games out there. Plus she can mop the floor with me in those games :-)