Sunday, July 30

Otaku Obsession at Expo 2006

By Tina Tsai, Jul 28, 2006

This year’s 15th Anniversary Anime Expo (AX) was another record-breaker — 42,000 attendees — proving the success of this convention, the anime genre, and the exponential growth of J-pop into American culture. There was lots and lots of free cake and live performances by AX Idol Stephanie Yanez and her new band SLY, and the favorite Asian American rock band Random Ninjas.

From a Sushi demo to a How to Draw Manga workshop, from Idol singing contests to dances, karaoke and showings of anime films, there’s no doubt you get your money’s worth at this convention with 24-hour programming. Oh, and don’t forget all the cosplay and celebrity guests from Asia and the U.S. Even natives of the Los Angeles area leave this convention jetlagged, getting a full pseudo-trip-to-Asia experience.

The squeals and deafening cheers of fans at the CLAMP panel (a famous group of manga/graphic novel artists) were accompanied by plenty of picture-taking. But this year’s Exhibition Hall missed some fan favorites. Jet Li’s supposedly last martial arts flick Fearless was nowhere to be found, and there were no new exciting Naruto items or even any wizard’s staffs at the weapons shops.

t was only afterward that I found out they were selling Potion, an energy drink in Japan inspired by the Final Fantasy XII role playing game (RPG). In RPGs, players can drink “potions” to increase health points during battles against random monsters or tough-to-beat bosses. I, for one, hate energy drinks, but since I saw the commercial for it on YouTube, I’ve been ready to down whatever is in those beautiful blue bottles. They could probably put gasoline in there, label it Final Fantasy XII Potion, and I would still drink it — OK, well, maybe not, but you get what I mean.

There were also a number of hot film screenings. First off, this year’s AX FUNimation premiered the movie Fullmetal Alchemist. It was spawned by the anime series about two young brothers who try to bring their mother back to life with alchemy. There was also the movie version of Densha Otoko (or Train Man), inspired by a true story about a young otaku — hardcore anime fan — in Japan that protects a woman from harassment on the subway and then attempts to ask her out. I’ve seen the TV series version of this and have wanted to catch the movie version ever since.

One news bite that got out was about the American debut of the Japanese live-action film Azumi this month. Aside from a few corny lines and a predictable plotline, the visuals are beautiful and you gotta love the main character — an orphaned girl raised to be an assassin for the good of the nation. Plus, now there’s an Azumi 2, which means you’ll find me asking about it at the Kinokuniya bookstore in Little Tokyo.