Anime Expo 2012 Impressions + Cosplay Gallery

Credit to Jackson and Jenny for helping get this covered and out to you guys.

Normally we break our coverage up into multiple days and events and other good items, given our whirlwind experience at AX 2012 we’ll concentrate our focus more on the good times and a massive enjoyable gallery to support it all.

(Also a word of warning, the gallery is over 300 images big, all images are also in 8 MP resolution so you don’t get robbed of valuable pixels to post process, if you don’t want to wait for the images to load in soft box use right-click to save the link as)

All of this tl;dr? – Skip to the gallery

Getting into AX… kind of.

Just as one does not simply walk into Mordor, one doesn’t simply just get into Anime Expo. Each year presents various hurdles of long lines, temporary system issues or other fun things, as pre-registered attendees it was much easier to bypass this general trouble and overall the system and lines were moving so fast that no one was ever locked up once the show got moving. The old days of 3-4 hour registrations are dead with how efficient the show has become.

Unfortunately this is only half the problem for those in the region driving in, this year there was a special treat of the X-Games going on just across the way. Instances like this aren’t that frequent but when they hit they leave a lasting impression, mainly because while sitting in traffic in front of South Hall, it took over 2 hours to move from there to a parking space on the backside of the convention center. Unfortunately the LAPD made getting in to park for both events a nightmare and it took a very stern sheriff in those last 20 minutes to tell the traffic merging at the last-minute to beat it. Better coordination needs to go down with internal staff and the LAPD to make sure that events like this don’t face issues that get this awful.

The Exhibit Hall

As the market fluctuates so does the general size of this feature of the show, as of the past years it felt as if the show was losing more and more space with vendors and that general variety was stagnating. For 2012 they pushed hard to reach to new avenues of independent markets and sellers and even rare import dealers that one wouldn’t usually see in the US including the official One Piece store which was selling goods as fast as customers could haggle prices with them. It’s no surprise then to see that what fell to a low at the LACC of almost 8 major aisles took a step up and has reached double that in a short span of time while preserving variety and  an entire dedicated wing for Fan Art set apart from that.

Pricing was a bit of a mixed bag, items like plushies felt like they were running on the high-end of the spectrum while figures and other collectibles felt more accessible and it seemed as if sellers were open to deal on those items more than before. It’s never a situation where everyone is going to walk out happy but hopefully with the space rental arrangements it might be easier for them to budge on pricing a bit more. It seems like a yearly staple to expect shops to push $5 manga, $15 plushies and $15 wall scrolls or 2 for $20 with shirts still looming around the 20-25 mark.

It’s not horrible that it’s so predictable but it’s also not a driving force for people to shop on the spot vs online either and I think that’s an influence people actively face still when going to events like this.

Publishing Power

In past years I had a genuine concern about the industry power being invested into AX as a whole, with so many mergers and the rise of SDCC it felt like the attention was going elsewhere with the show and it was a major blow to the fans (not everyone can get down to SDCC and not everyone can swing $175 for tickets). Seeing companies like Viz return brought a sense of reassurance in tough times for everyone right now. Bang Zoom did their classic auditions and demonstrations, AAA showed off all the major goodies coming soon, Funimation touted shows they have out and projects they’re starting on, Namco slammed fans with their biggest related releases coming soon and Crunchyroll kept the crowd energized. NIS was there to hit fans with goods for their favorite products, Aniplex helped showcase all of their recent projects and
attempted to deal with massive traffic overloading their section of the hall.

Overall the support was good given the limited players left in the field, it was good to see Viz make a comeback to the show as well given they were just in the region for Wondercon as well in a smaller capacity.

Community

There’s one thing Anime Expo has never fallen short on and that’s the community aspect of the show, between fans there’s not a lot of ice to break and it’s often comforting to know that many there will have an eye out for one another. As the show has aged so have the patrons so it’s a refreshing shift to see photo-op circles staying tight together and organized and giving the security teams nothing to stress over during the show. As the show has cemented itself it seems more and more fans are settling down to socialize and share the experience.

There are quite a few examples of this, Concourse hall played host to waiting lines for events and when inactive the cosplayers and random fans would blast music, dance, play games, hang out and relax in what was essentially a massive living room. On the patio areas there were groups of friends new and old hanging out singing random songs and having a good time while resting their feet in the shade. It’s a refreshing shift from a lot of the conventions on the circuit for collecting and gaming actually.

Features

There’s something to be said about the amount of features they run now, while the show doesn’t run videos until the early hours of the morning anymore, they are moving to use more and more of the LACC with feature rooms, industry panel areas and tutorial workshops ranging from drawing to Vocaloid tools. Many of these cater to segments of the community that never found as much of a niche in AX like AMV production, there’s an entire block that ran for a full day on just that topic to be sure they hit the fine points.

Add onto this the return of classics like the gaming tournaments, arcade and tabletop gaming and fans really were just overloaded with events to take on. In that sense the only thing that felt lacking was a steady flow of direction from the AX team to inform people on the fly of what was going on. By this I mean having information available without having to break out a guide-book or pop out their phone (when you’re a cosplayer this is a bit of a problem to say the least). Often people shot through concourse without being aware what was even going on, this isn’t a problem isolated to AX though, it happens even during events like E3.

Cosplay

One of the huge sellers at most Anime conventions is the huge response from the community to dress up as their favorite characters from their favorite timelines in a shows life. This year was huge in that respect as you’ll see on page 2 with our gallery of over 300 shots from the show this year including TONS of cosplay that goes from “huh?” to “I really need to get on top of my game for next year” because seriously, many of these fans took it to the next level and it’s scary to imagine how high they might go next year. Even if you’re not up for dressing like your favorite character though, there are many shops at AX that sell outfits (mostly for women) and wigs that would allow one to mesh in with the crowd if they desired. Bring your wallet though because on the spot service isn’t exactly cheap.

Overall

Anime Expo for us had one of the most active years we’ve seen or felt in a while and not just by sheer traffic numbers. It’s great to be a part of it and to see that even young kids can get in on the show and appreciate all the goodies, the movies, the costumes and the fun that it brings along. The only issue that still comes up is LA is still a drive so it makes hitting every single day a task when the show crosses over with normal 9-5 work days in downtown on Friday and Monday. The show banner said they’ll see everyone back in 2013 so it’s doubtful they’ll be moving even if the Farmers Field project goes forward, at least LA has this one secured unlike E3 right now. Although I wouldn’t protest if they moved the show over to the ACC temporarily, just saying.

SDCC 2011 – The BAMFAS lowdown + Cosplay Gallery!

Hey everyone, SDCC is slowly fading into the mist at this point and honestly it has taken a while to reach a point of editorial commentary. SDCC for the past 4 years has been pretty epic, watching it just boil over from a major event into a AAA showcase for the comic, movie, tv and gaming industries was awesome. What sucks is everything that came with it, SDCC exclusives are sought after by many and were a unique staple of the show. Now vendors come to the show or buy large volume to supply their stores at the con leaving low supply or excessive lines to regular consumers.

The crowds in the prior years were a bit friendlier as well, although of course last year there was the whole stabbing thing that went down. Striking that up to crazed fandom is probably the best I can do to class that one. This year not only was the floor packed but it was a shoving match from poor mannered folks to people that were shoving around in retaliation to the aggro behavior. Not cool at all and it really made for slow travel from end to end, for past visitors any extra time to that trek is a downer.

There are upsides of course and I’ll sprinkle one in right now, the quality of the cosplay and the endurance of the people taking part was superior in 2011. I loved watching the costumes around the show and seeing the creative poses and dedication to the public at large asking for shots. Lots of respect to those who made that venture, as a cosplay fan myself it’s never an easy task with heavy fabrics and shoes from hell. Many made it seem almost easy.

The dealer area seemed to show new life in 2011, while the Golden Age comics took an unexpected growth spurt the area as a whole had much more to offer for goods. Finding classic figures, new figures or even marked up show exclusives was easier than past years just due to sheer volume. Many retailers were also determined to run fire sales on old stock seen in previous years, watching some drop as much as 60-70% off had many buried in each booth to complete their collections or start new ones.

Personally, I found a good home with a few retailers, Comic Madness got me into the latest installment of Wolverine from Marvel. Hoping those turn out good. Also started on Secret Invasion finally with a huge variant pack I got for cheap. Although having 1-2 variants of each issue seems a bit odd now. Others made their impact as well, Top Cow and 2K Games actually set me up with a Darkness II limited Darkling statue from a Twitter event. For comic collectors, gamers and TV and movie enthusiasts there was a bit for everyone.

Now we go back to probably one of the most disappointing facets of SDCC 2011, the panel lines were probably the single most absurd thing on the planet. The waiting times were huge for everything, entering Ballroom 20 wasn’t something you just did, you planned extensively and camped that line for a glimpse of that room. Hall H was much the same with huge lines for major releases and determined fans sitting it out for days in line. The problem is, many of those who waited had no interest in those other panels they sat through. Waiting instead for special tickets or panels at the end of the day. The system used to work, it took roughly 1.5-2 hours to get inside but it happened. Some were waiting as long as 5 hours to see a panel and never got in.

The team at Comic-Con International has an issue to tackle with that situation, as it stands, very few will be able to see the panels they want to catch. I was fortunate to see Being Human and Community which rocked in the Indigo Ballroom. But only because blitzing in as early as possible to line was how it happened. Maybe it’s time to make lines for individual blocks of panels instead. As it stands there are a lot of campers who stomped good experiences for regular people who wanted to see their favorite panels again this year. Step it up for the fans and do something about the squatting because it let many people down.

The question of course, was SDCC worth attending? Yes, combine the downtown events with all the screenings and premieres and the show even if you can’t get into the main event is really a fun time. If you’re attending SDCC itself on top of all that, the event is more than most can handle, attending all the panels even when things were normal was impossible just because there’s so much to do. You can see some panels on your favorite shows, get signings in the exhibition hall from your favorite actors, animators or illustrators and more. It’s mind boggling for those attending their first year and rightfully so, the convention itself is gigantic and spills over to the surrounding area with goodies for all.

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Netflix now available on 3DS

Do you have a 3DS? Do you have Netflix? Now they go together like pb & j A slightly buggy pb & j. There have been some reports of it freezing up and the system has to be powered down. I’m sure there will be an update soon to smooth out any bugs.

Nintendo promises 3d movies in the future also, so updates are planned.

Netflix is available now in the eShop for free.

Thor 2 News

Marvel and Disney have recently announced Don Payne will be the single writer for Thor 2 which is set to hit around June 26, 2013. Many of us assumed ($439 million worldwide) that a sequel was going to follow, what we didn’t see coming was that two of the writers and the Director would not return. Many reports have mention Kenneth Branagh will not direct but still be part of the production process.

Zack Stentz & Ashley Edward Miller who co-wrote the sript for summer hit wanted to end on a high note and will not return. Payne who wrote the screenplays for My Super Ex-Girlfriend and Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer and  for TV shows The Simpsons & Men Behaving Badly. With that said the big question is “Will it be as good as the last movie?

Netflix now available on Android devices!

Today in Netflix announced support for specific Android phones! Streaming over 3g or wifi is recommended but with the emerging 4g market expansion, streaming should be no problem.

There is a party pooping issues though, No tablet support and the device list is a bit limited as of now.

If your phone is on this list, you are now able to drain your battery life even faster!

1. HTC Incredible with Android 2.2
2. HTC Nexus One with Android 2.2, 2.3
3. HTC Evo 4G with Android 2.2
4. HTC G2 with Android 2.2
5. Samsung Nexus S with Android 2.3

Although no official word to confirm, it is a safe bet that the list will expand in the near future.

Source:
http://blog.netflix.com/2011/05/normal-0-false-false-false-en-us-x-none.html

BAMFAS budget speaker buyers guide

I’ve seen a lot of forum posts and friends looking at speakers lately, there’s a lot of mystery behind what makes for a good set and how to get the most for your money on a budget. I’ll outline below a small section of how I go about picking speakers for myself or what I look for when reviewing a set of them. Without wasting too much time lets jump into the fray and get this going.

First a few key items.

  • Be honest with yourself, what do you want to do with these speakers?
  • Do you want to listen to music? watch movies? play games?
  • How important is 5.1 to you? Do you have the space and mounts to set them properly?
  • What type of listener are you?

I’ll go by category and you can go from there

2.0 / 2.1
5.1 / surround

2.0 / 2.1
Stereo speakers are coming back into the mainstream right now, everyone is using sound field emulation to try and create a surround effect. They do work but it depends on your needs. Because this is a 2.0 / 2.1 section we’re not focused on that to begin with.

  • Frequency response, anything around 28-45Hz at the bottom end, the top end is almost always 20-25KHz
  • Speaker size is a sensitive spot with a 2.0 or 2.1 system. Without a sub you want bigger satellite speakers, most come in a 2.5″ – 4″ variety, bigger is better in a 2.0 system as it usually gives you a lower frequency response. In a 2.1 system try to aim for a 3″ speaker, it’ll still give decent midrange.
  • Tweeters are something to shoot for if you’re aiming for full range, it also means that the midrange doesn’t work nearly as hard.
  • Cabinet material – most computer speakers have a plastic shell, some are even using metal now, ideally you want MDF or some wood composite. In a 2.0 system you probably will not get this. In a 2.1 be sure that the subwoofer box is some time of wood though as plastic will sound awful.
  • Subwoofer size in a 2.1 for music should be at least a 5.25″ speaker or higher. Some older sets came with an 8″ speaker for extremely good low frequency sound. 4″ subs are punchy and often lack any good range so try to avoid them at all cost.
  • Wattage is the worst measure of a good system, most people gauge what they by on simply this rating. What needs to be understood is the following.
    • RMS – If you’re looking to go by power ratings look at this and look at the distribution by channel. If you’re lucky you’ll get something like 25w x 2 for the front speakers and maybe 30w x 1 for the subwoofer in a 2.1 system or just 25w x 2 for a 2.0 system. This is the real power rating you’ll see in daily use.
    • Peak / PMPO / Burst / Max – This is the curse that haunts audio purchases. On a 50w RMS system you may see a peak or PMPO rating as high as 1000w, this is false and honestly just for chest thumping because it’s a theoretical peak level. Your speakers and amp will fail before you ever reach it.
  • Good power on a 2.0 system is around 35-50w for a bedroom or smaller area.
  • Good power on a 2.1 system will be around 40-65w or slightly higher, the boost here comes from the subwoofer not added power to the satellites.
  • This configuration works best in games and music, movies will sound alright but you’ll need to focus on speakers with 3D surround effects if you really want to run 2.1 or 2.0 and get a decent feel.
    • Budget brands – Logitech Z, Creative Inspire, Altec Lansing
    • Midrange brands – Logitech Z, Creative Inspire
    • Expensive brands – M-Audio, Logitech Z, Creative GigaWorks, Altec Lansing

5.1 / surround
Surround sound was huge in gaming for almost a decade, every major company got in on the game and it’s actually a bit hard to find a respectable set now. For the movie fan or hardcore gamer, these can be essential for a good experience.

  • Frequency response on a 5.1 set usually hits around 30Hz flat, some systems do try to claim lower but if you’re around here you’re good because most games and movies only go that low during explosive sequences or heavy crashes. Try to avoid anything that starts in the 40’s though because chances are you’ll have a lot of bottoming out from the speaker.
  • Speaker size is often pretty fixed on these sets, don’t be shocked if everything you find has a 3″ driver going for it. The response will be pretty decent.
  • Tweeters are welcome on the front or center channel speaker, generally if you get them in the front you get them in the back. If you go for smaller size enclosures expect to lose these as part of the compromise. Watch the frequency response of the satellite speakers if you get a set without tweeters, the midrange may be too high for your liking.
  • Cabinet material on a 5.1 set is almost always plastic for the satellites, try to go with something that doesn’t sound or feel too thin, you will lack the deeper tones but at least it will not produce a hollow tone. The subwoofer is usually wood composite or MDF on these systems, if it’s plastic I suggest running.
  • Input connections matter quite a bit depending on the use, I’ll outline the potential connections below.
    • Stereo / headphone jacks – These are great for PC systems to get 5.1 sound, almost every motherboard now supports 5.1 output from the back panel. If you plan to get 5.1 out of a gaming system or DVD or Blu-ray player you need something else. If you try to use it on a console you’ll just get bad emulation from the right and left front channels or sometimes stereo sound x5.
    • TOSLINK / S/PDIF jack – Perfect for the console hookup or DVD or Blu-ray player setup. Be sure to get a set that has the same input as your player or system though (most gaming and dvd systems use TOSLINK optical cables). Some PC systems also support this and it makes cabling a lot easier to setup. This is the more universal solution for most people.
  • Control pods are important to consider, are they easy to understand, do they have bass and treble control or even dedicated subwoofer volume control? Do you want theater modes as well? How are they designed? Some of the best control pods don’t need fancy looks, in fact spring tension on the knobs can be annoying when you’re just trying to up the volume a notch. Look for these qualities.
    • Surround modes – What does the control center feature? Can you adjust front, center and rear? Do you have Dolby and DTS support?
    • Stereo modes – Not everything you use will be in 5.1, for music the preferred method is stereo 5.1 or stereo x5 to just share the channels through all the speakers.
    • Input select – Was made popular by Logitech, if you plan to run multiple systems you should consider this for sure.
    • Control knob – Sounds silly but some control systems are designed around being futuristic looking while having really terrible function. If you can try before you buy I suggest doing this. If the control looks poorly built or handles terribly it will only get worse.
  • Subwoofer size matters, with 5 smaller speakers the sub will need to be located close to the user or in a sweet spot by the wall for the best spot to resonate. Most midrange speakers in this field don’t hit the lower end of the midrange, as such voices and natural sound are way too high so the sub in these sets covers that up. Aim for at least a 6.5″ speaker, although many companies are now using dual 5.25’s or 6’s instead which are okay. Few companies still give you an 8 or 10″ speaker.
  • Wattage is a nightmare on 5.1 systems, if you buy a computer set or a HTIB setup you’ll deal with insane power figures on the box. 1000W or 2000W aren’t uncommon and should only make you facepalm to see them. The following will look familiar for guidelines.
    • RMS – If you’re looking to go by power ratings look at this and look at the distribution by channel. If you’re lucky you’ll get something like 25w x 5 for the satellites and maybe 50w-70w x 1 for the subwoofer in a 5.1 system. This is the real power rating you’ll see in daily use, don’t aim too high as you’ll usually just get distortion at max power or it’ll overheat.
    • Peak / PMPO / Burst / Max – This is the curse that haunts audio purchases. On a 150w RMS system you may see a peak or PMPO rating as high as 2000w, this is false and honestly just for chest thumping because it’s a theoretical peak level. Your speakers and amp will fail before you ever reach it, expect this rating even from name brand companies.
  • * Good power on a 5.1 system is around 125-200w, most systems are high rated by default for the subwoofer power. Be sure to focus on speaker sizes and frequency response levels.
    • Budget brands – Cyber Acoustics
    • Midrange brands – Logitech Z, Creative Inspire
    • Expensive brands – Cambridge Soundworks, Klipsch
    • Legacy brands – Klipsch Promedia, Logitech Z, Creative GigaWorks, Altec Lansing

Hopefully this helps a bit, be sure to know your products before you buy them, ask for specification sheets when you need them so you can have an informed decision on those big purchases.

For those looking for buyer beware tips, avoid anything too good to be true, it almost always is. Sets from the back of a van, from a swap meet or other events are often false for ratings and use some of the cheapest components. It’s a deal until you set it up and hear the results, avoid the scams and take the time to get something with a real warranty that has been produced in the last few years.

To the audiophiles reading this, you already know what you’re doing so pretty much… this entire thing doesn’t apply to you.  Thank you for your time though, hopefully it was entertaining.

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San Diego Comic-Con 2010 – Preview night shots

Hey guys just coming in with the first batch of pictures from the show this year, from toys to cosplay to just cool stuff. We’re checking out panels and more this year, come back nightly for gallery updates and any panel coverage we can crank out after a long day of travel to SD.

Enjoy!

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Listed: Green Hornet Car, Gundam Models, Iron Man Suits, Rogue, Black Cat, White Phoenix, Dark Phoenix, Scarlet Witch, Michael Jackson, Batman Begins movie costume, Gargoyles figure, Toy Story Lego sculpture, Eva 01, Gurren Lagann, Avatar Mecha, Fox booth girls, Green Hornet booth girls, Mazinger Z, Batman Black and White, Storm Shadow, Snake Eyes, The Last Airbender figures, Thor Display at Marvel, One Piece, GI Joe figures

Inuyasha hits iTunes DTO service and Hulu

Viz Media has a big announcement for Inuyasha fans, the company has launched three of movies on iTunes download-to-own (DTO) for $4.99 each through August 3rd. The first episode of Inuyasha is also now available for free on iTunes for those who have been on the fence about following the anime. For those already collecting the series or looking to transition to digital format, Viz has also released the remaining 166 episodes into the DTO queue for $0.99 each.

For those hoping to score a longer dose of Inuyasha for free, Hulu and Viz have partnered to bring the movie Affections Touching Across Time to web viewers for free until August 11th.

While collecting a series as large as Inuyasha has always been a pain on the wallet, it seems that today things change just a bit with the release of the entire series on iTunes. Hopefully other stores like Amazon and even the Zune marketplace will be able to secure something as well to give some freedom to the consumers.

Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Prilgrim vs The World

If your not familiar with Scott Pilgrim series, its about a lazy 23 year bass guitarist Scott Pilgrim ( Michael Cera) who meets his dream girl Romona Flowers ( Mary Elizabeth Winstead). But before he can date her he must defeat the seven “Evil exes”. Which includes actors Brandon Routh, Chris Evans and Jason Schwartzman with Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) directing. Fans of the graphic novels rest assured you will not be disappointed scott pilgrim hits theaters august 13

For more about the series and its author Check out http://www.scottpilgrim.com/

The International Trailer for Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (HD)