It was “the beach” episode of Anime Los Angeles’ 18th year. The mascot, Ala-chan, rocked a surfboard and two piece showing off Southern California surf and sun life. However, this was the year that brought in rain storms from Northern California. Day Zero and Day One brought in some heavy rain to the coastal city of Long Beach. ALA celebrated their second year in Long Beach, close in proximity to the restaurant district, shoreline village, and a nice scenic view of the Queen Mary.
Day Zero began on Wednesday where attendees can pick up their badges and check into their hotel. Not much was going on around the area in terms of con pre-game. Fellow staffer, Jackie and I, made reconnaissance to explore ALA’s full use of the Long Beach Convention Center. This year, ALA would be using the seaside ballrooms located in the underground levels of the Long Beach Terrace Theatre. We were worried that this would be a difficult area to navigate to, particularly during after hours.
The first day of the convention was hyper focused in on making sure that all ballroom events ran smoothly. Our staff ran dance lessons throughout the day in the Seaside Ballroom. Later in the evening, about over a hundred or so attendees made their way to the dance floor at the Seaside Ballroom. Music consisted of anime, k-pop, and video game inspired music as people danced the night away. No date necessary, you can find someone on the dance floor to partner up with – so as long as they had a “yes, available to dance!” sticker.
The ballroom dance also consisted of a cosplay contest which awarded the most creative outfits for the formal ball. Formal balls encouraged re-imagined formal versions (or canon) outfits to be worn and danced to. As the coordinator of the contest, I had so much fun looking at everyone’s outfits and admiring everyone’s creativity. However, we could only choose a few winners. Winners would be given a ribbons, entry to Anime Los Angeles the following year, and tickets to Anime Los Angeles’ prize emporium (think Chuck-E-Cheese where you trade in your tickets for something).
Enough with my free advertising for the ballroom dance, let’s take a look at Anime Los Angeles ’18…
Anime Los Angeles 18 came back strong. Last year, programming and events were whittled down due to the omnicron scare. Yet, we were ready for ALA 18. We had our ribbons ready to trade. Ribbons would be added to their badge and you would see many attendees with long tails of ribbons. ALA has brought ribbon culture to millennials and gen z. You had people have up to 300 ribbons and would go on the second floor of the convention to do a ribbon drop. You have to see how long their ribbon trains were! It was easy to find folks to trade ribbons with. On the North side of the convention center, you could find groups of people trading and exchanging ribbons – you can trade your own or you can “win” them by answering trivia…or be at the right place at the right time.
The dealers hall was even much more massive than before. It was a good use of the exhibit hall space. Aisles were wide enough to explore different dealers. You had figure sellers, artbooks, geek fashion, drinks, gunpla and other related model kits, pins, plushes, and more. I appreciated the variety of dealers booths. A light saber booth even had a Sailor Moon crescent wand hilt that I was very tempted to get, but alas I have to save money.
The artist alley was also combined with the dealers hall. This is one of my favorite artist alley’s. I usually collect pins signifying various parts of my identity be it my zodiac sign, birthstone, or what Genshin element I vibe with (electro life!). I collected my usual Beidou and Ningguang pin for my in-progress ita bag. However, artist alley can get very crowded, even more so than the dealers hall section. The E-gaming section was also hidden in the back of the exhibit hall. Itasha displays were also seen here too.
Both Jared the Greek and Ramses of our team spent Friday at the Seaside Ballroom zone playing Dungeons and Dragons and some card games. They really liked the fact that TTRPG’s and TCG’s were moved this zone compared to the previous year where table top gaming was combined with the entertainment hall. Even though the DnD room could get noisy, at least it was noise from other folks’ games, not the sound of the battle of the bands.
Programming wise, ALA did have a lot of old school anime themed panels led by Les Claypool. Because of our busy schedule, we didn’t have a lot of time to check out panels such as a “Weaboomer’s Guide to Anime,” “Class of ’98,” a panel about the OG Macross Plus dub, and so forth. Needless to say, there were a handful of good panels, but sadly, we couldn’t check them out. I hope these panels return and that we have just as strong as a lineup for old school anime programming.
We hosted three panels at Anime Los Angeles – Make Mine Mecha, Intro to Gunpla, and A Guide to the Fabric District. These were offered in the evening and very well attended. This surprised us that we had an audience in the evening. Historically, we’re so used to people ditching evening panel programming for room parties, but we were very happy to have engaged audiences at all three of our panels. We had a very positive experience with the staff and we wouldn’t mind contributing back to ALA’s programming schedule.
Cosplay is definitely a huge staple of any anime convention. Anime Los Angeles takes it to another level. I attended the Genshin Impact gathering on Friday and it was massive! It was my first Genshin Impact gathering and I was cosplaying as Beidou. I may have showed up a little late, but people welcomed me right in. I was one of the three Beidou’s at the gathering. At the end of it, people were feeling pride for their element. The Geo-types were chanting “Geo! Geo! Geo!” This was a highly spirited group; I may have felt like the oldest person there, but I still had a good time.
Gatherings were scattered around the convention and are typically fan run. I missed out on the Spy x Family gathering. Sadly, it was placed in the furthest and hardest gathering zone to get to – the rainbow lagoon zone.
I appreciated the existence of the cosplay repair zone. I was a regular using the hot glue gun. I had a good time chatting with the Bastet cosplayer about convention stories from what back when. “I remember when Yaya Han’s boobs were C-cups,” he said.
My biggest feat at Anime Los Angeles was participating in their masquerade. It’s been ages since I have competed in masquerade. As a competitor, I loved how this masquerade was ran. Anime Los Angeles had a huge glow up! Stef Von Schweetz, Arron Bowman, and Pros and Cons Cosplay were the judges. Voice actor, Ezra Weisz, was the MC of the show. I was completely floored by the entries at Anime Los Angeles. I entered this for fun just so I can get back into the swing of going back into masquerade. Yet, I forgot why I entered masquerade in the first place.
The green room was filled of cosplayers trading ribbons and sharing construction tips before we went on stage. It helped calm the nerves getting to know everyone. I was also amazed that people from Arizona (and Australia!) also entered the competition. I’m very impressed that ALA’s masquerade reputation has traveled that far. Most conventions in California follow the MC interview + 3 poses rule for cosplay contests. I’m just happy our state has a cosplay contest that is challenging and allows a performance piece to it. Getting to know cosplayers backstage left me inspired and excited to work on my next project. I left masquerade making new friends and connections – this experience was very valuable and I learned so much.
I didn’t place, but that was okay. However, I did get a lot of praise for the content of our masquerade act that lampooned on what it would be like for Setsuna Yuki, the anime nerd of Love Live Nijigasaki (or Gundam Unicorn: Good Version), if she were at an anime con. I also appreciated that the staff listened to my feedback – both the positive and what can be improved. I would recommend this masquerade to any cosplayer that wants to challenge themself or looking for a masquerade worth entering. Anime Los Angeles had a huge glow up and I’m all for this.
But I did get a Hall Cosplay award for my HMS Queen Elizabeth!
Overall, Anime Los Angeles 18 was a long weekend, but a weekend to remember. While I can hang out with friends whenever or wherever, knowing that we’re a part of making this con happen. Teamwork makes the dreamwork. Anime Los Angeles is eclipsing Anime Expo as being the “home” con for SoCal locals. It is bringing folks from across the country. I do appreciate seeing the growth and need to evolve in the past 10 years. I still wish I could have done more, but it only shows that Anime Los Angeles had a lot to offer their attendees. Even nightlife was pretty poppin’ with karaoke and dances all around. And if you couldn’t get into the cosplay deviants dance, you could start a Cupid Shuffle in the convention center.
The value of the 4 day badge is significantly lower than Anime Expo and I much prefer a venue like the Long Beach Convention Center over the LA Convention Center. If you’re local to SoCal or if you’re from out of area looking to visit Southern California without the hassle and trouble of Anime Expo, I highly recommend Anime Los Angeles. (and this goes double for my east coast readers who want to get away from the snow in January!)