Reading Time: 4.5 minutes
Finally, here’s where the full force of the world’s anime fans came to play. Every little nook and cranny of the convention center had people mingling, taking selfies, doing professional cosplay photo shoots, grabbing a quick bite to eat, or just sitting down to breathe for a brief moment before heading back into the fray. Families were out in full force, the stress of the work week and school days faded into the background, replaced by Naruto costumes and swag bags large enough to swallow a child whole. Industry and press swarmed around the convention center, networking, swapping business cards, and gathering vital info with which to write up reviews after the weekend (see: Me).
Not for a moment did the high-profile events slow down. My day began as one of the first in line to see acclaimed light novel author Ao Jyumonji, writer of the Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash series, discuss what his daily life is like and what the industry has become in recent years. He was joined by the editor from his Japanese publishing company, Overlap Bunko, as well as the president of recent start-up J-Novel Club, an English digital publishing unit dedicated to localizing series’s for an American audience. It was fascinating to hear how a popular light novel author functions on the daily, basically by just writing nonstop for weeks at a time. There was some time for a Q&A and it felt like whenever there was a question about the challenges of light novel authorship, the response was generally “I don’t encounter those” or “I just keep writing more”. It got to the point that some of the audience would chuckle in reply, though it was all in good taste. It must be nice to be so good at your craft! Props to J-Novel Club for bringing out the big guns at this year’s AX with such a major player in the industry. Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash has 1 season of anime that adapted most of the first two novels and can be streamed on Funimation.
If you know LAG Radio, you know I love video games and I love music. Every episode we play music from the games we cover, but sometimes we supplement the playlist for the week with chiptune tracks. I’ve been supporting the Chiptunes = WIN group for a couple years now (I’m even wearing a ChipWIN hoodie as I type this), so when they announced the Chips = FLIPPED compilation, I went bananas. Let’s take some of the best and brightest in the video game music industry and have them do covers of preexisting chiptune tracks. DJ Cutman, FamilyJules, and Machinae Supremacy are all outstanding artists featured, but one I had never heard of before was Super MadNES. It took only one listen of their cover of Zantilla’s “Maggie’s Quest” for it to become my favorite track on the album. The shredding guitars raging alongside that absurdly catchy keytar melody has inspired some quality moshing in my car. When I learned they would be featured at AX in Lounge 21 for a live performance, I was pumped beyond belief. Their renditions of Castlevania and Mega Man tracks are all so solid in a private setting, but to hear that live was a reality I didn’t know was possible. They played plenty of rockin’ tracks from those titles, as well as stuff from Ninja Gaiden, Batman (NES), and most hype-inducing to me, their cover of “Maggie’s Quest”! After the show, I snagged some sweet merch and touched base with their drummer, Nico, to see about setting up a future LAG episode… stay tuned!
To wrap up the final full day of AX, I decided to snag a ticket to the JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure Escape Room: The Hotel experience that ran throughout the weekend. Note that I had never done a real-life escape room before, but I’d spent some quality time with Professor Layton, Danganronpa, and The Room, so I wasn’t totally out of my element. We were initially seated at large round tables, assigned to us so every group would be as close to full as possible. Each group was given a packet with player profiles and special items we’d use to solve the puzzles. Basically each person at the group would take the role of one of the main characters in the fan-favorite season, Stardust Crusaders. Jotaro, Joseph, Polnareff, Avdol, Iggy and Kakyoin (as played by yours truly) were all up for grabs, giving each participant a sense of worth since they could do something the rest of the team could not. Once the characters were divvied up and everyone was seated, we were welcomed to “The Hotel” by the staff, all in full role-playing personas. At this point, we were instructed as a group to stand in order of which character we chose so that the staff could teach us how to activate our special powers. How would we do that, you ask? Naturally, by striking a classic JoJo’s pose of course! This was a really brilliant way of breaking the ice, especially within groups who didn’t already know each other beforehand. If you know the series, you know how wacky and outrageous those poses can be, but also how important they are to the style.
A short video made just for this event was shown on a huge projector screen, setting the mood for the challenges ahead. The crew, journeying through Egypt to save the world from the devilish Dio, checked in to a local hotel to settle down for the night. However, they would soon discover that there wasn’t just an enemy in the building… the enemy was the building itself! Once the intro finished, we were let loose to try and solve the puzzles in order to escape from our fate. Cue all sorts of riddles, brain teasers, and scavenger quests to get the room moving all over the place. I don’t want to spoil the entire event, but by the end, only 2 of the 13-ish groups present were able to figure out the final, out-of-the-box solution and free us from the clutches of doom. Though mine was not one of those groups, I had an absolute blast getting right up to the end before the clock ran out. I missed doing the Final Fantasy XIV escape game that the same company, REAL ESCAPE GAME/SCRAP, put on at a previous Anime Expo, but didn’t really regret it until I experienced how awesome their JoJo’s production was! Though the price seems a little steep for 1 hour of entertainment, I promise you it is absolutely worth every dollar. I’ll be looking forward to their future events held at AX, as well as their permanent Little Tokyo location in Los Angeles.
With this, Day 3 came to a close. I was out of events I’d scheduled for the day and wanted to get an early start to Day 4, so I returned back home to Orange County to dream of becoming a light novel author, chiptune musician, and ultra-buff Stand user.
To Be Concluded in Part 4
Photo credit: William Tung