Anime Expo 2017: Day 1

Day one was an adventure – moreso than most other day ones. Admittedly we didn’t do much at all; a test run of the suit and one panel was just about all we had the energy for, given that we literally didn’t finish the suit until 7am the morning of the Expo.

I don’t remember it taking two hours just to drive from Orange County where we hail from to the LA Convention Center where the Expo is held, but I suppose midday traffic can do wondrous things.

It’s little surprise that it gets bigger every year, though this is the first time we’ve actually had to wait in line to just get into the ‘con. We picked up our badges on Day -1, so we usually have a straight shot in, but not this time.

As I briefly mentioned above, the last hot glue welds on the armor just barely went down at around 7am this morning. The last chapter of that journey will be retroactively added into the build log as the Expo wraps up.

We always like to find a quiet secluded corner to suit up in, to avoid drawing too many prying eyes into the unsightly suit-up process. The upstairs hallways and alcoves work best for this.

Someone who asked for a photo was even carrying a HG 00 Gundam around and wanted a photo op with it. Not the same suit, but damn close.

Just as last year, the security guards on the second floor were cool enough to let us through a restricted area to use the elevator – because Gundams shouldn’t be attempting stairs.

We discovered some problems with the armor very quickly. Namely, the giant shield hung over the left shoulder was just too large and heavy to be practical. It tore half the torso apart and warped the shoulder it hovered over, so we had little choice but to take it off and have Quanta travel through the ‘con shieldless.

We had somewhat anticipated something like this happening, but having it rip part of the suit to shreds at the convention wasn’t in the cards at all. At the end of the day I had to carry the shield around on my back.

While we were screwing around with the suit warpage and repairs the hastily constructed GN Sword also snapped.

To be perfectly fair though, this was sort of bound to happen – the sword was just too long and flimsy and couldn’t hold itself up under its own weight, so it was sort of inevitable that it would break eventually. Clear acrylic sheets are heavy, floppy, and delicate when cut into strips and used as blades.

The weight of the shield when it’s plugged into the backpack arm is simply too much for the suit to handle. Things are splitting and body parts are warping. Not a pretty sight.

We’ve been at the convention for less than two hours and barely suited up and everything’s already a mess.

So we had to make the sacrifice of going around Day One mostly shield-less. I was carrying it while we traveled together though, so occasionally when people asked for pictures I would take my place behind him and hold the shield out as his personal shield stand.

Our buddy who made the shoes for our armor dressed as Mugen from Samurai Champloo, just as last year.

The sword he worked so hard to craft himself was peace bonded to high hell by the weapons check corps.

 

We barely got to get around the ‘con today so we didn’t get a chance to snap too many cosplay pictures – though we would always see some super cool stuff far off in the distance, we’re hoping we’ll be able to catch them in the days to come.

The main idea today was just to test-run the suit around ‘con and make sure we get to the official Gundam panel presented by Sunrise, since we were cut out of it last year.

Before that we got a quick run around the front of the Exhibit Hall just to see what was up, dropping by the official BlueFin/Bandai booth for Gunpla before we headed to our panel.

And as luck would have it, we caught the legend himself – Bandai’s Katsumi Meijin Kawaguchi – at the BlueFin booth. We’re hyped to attend his panel tomorrow and see if we could get an autograph later, but for now it was surreal just meeting him in the Exhibit Hall and showing off our slightly warped armor.

The Gundam panel this year is in the same hotel that the Gundam Thunderbolt panel was in last year, meaning it was about a block away from the actual convention center. It was time to take the Gundam through the streets of LA once again.

Thankfully we didn’t have to spend time searching for the building.

It was super cool and rather gratifying as always getting loads of requests for photos of the suit, even from people who aren’t in the area for the convention.

Sadly due to our structural issues that meant that most of the photos were taken with the shield set off to the side, since it just wasn’t wearable without causing damage to the rest of the armor.

The Quanta looks really good on its own like this though, I think. The only downside is that without the distinctive sword and shield (both of which are borked because of our rushed and shoddy suit engineering), a lot of folks think it’s the Gundam Exia.

Out of the maybe 30 people who called out a Gundam name upon seeing us today, maybe two of them at most actually recognized it as the Quanta. The rest all screamed, “Oh my God is that Gundam Exia?! It’s Exia!” I understand that the Exia got way more publicity than the Quanta ever did, but it’s still grating to hear people mistake your suit model for another after all the blood sweat and tears.

On our way to the Gundam panel, located in this way too fancy J.W. Marriot Hotel.

Feels good to be at the front of the line.

I didn’t actually know what to expect coming into this, since I’m pretty sure I’ve only ever been to an official industry panel like this once or twice before.

It looks like there will be many of the same guests as the ones who appeared at the Gundam Thunderbolt panel we attended last year, with the addition of a few English dub voice actors from Mobile Suit Gundam Iron Blooded Orphans.

Among the sporadic Gundam rumblings and announcements of DVD/Blu Ray releases of Gundam series we’ve all already seen before were some special moments. At one point the big-shot Gundam Producer from Japan presented the English dub voice actors of Mikazuki and Kudelia with some stunning hand-drawn artwork of their respective characters, which we thought was super cool and an incredibly gracious gesture.

Then they threw up some insanely (read: mind-shatteringly badass) artworks in the same vein as the previous ones, and announced that they would be available for raffle.

You can probably guess though – we’re never lucky.

I’m actually kind of surprised and disappointed that the panel mentioned nothing of Gundam 00’s tenth anniversary this year – it was kind of a leading factor for us choosing to suit up as the Quanta.

The panel concluded in the early evening, and by then we were running on three hours of sleep and absolutely exhausted, so it was time to cut it short and head back.

Gundam armor is kind of death to wear all day.

We don’t even know when these thighs split, but it’s bad and obviously requires emergency repair tonight.

My partner and I barely got any chance to look around the Exhibit Hall today, so we didn’t grab any merch, but our other buddy who usually handles the camera got himself quite a haul.

Back home it was time to commence some last-minute surgery on the suit. That Celestial Being emblem was actually a super last-minute detail – it’s actually a car decal ordered off eBay, and happened to arrive the morning of Day One. The paint texture and finish meant that it wasn’t actually possible to dry transfer the decal on normally though, so we just cut the clear film outline off and glued it on. It really looks a lot better than it deserves to, given that hacked-together way of putting it on.

As I mentioned earlier, the torso just started splitting at every seam imaginable, so the priority was just to get the thing solid, even if it meant hot gluing on the outside and letting the glue show. Utility and practicality are much more important than aesthetics at this point.

Foam splitting. Bad times.

This connection point in the rear torso was our main problem. The top foam totally split from the bottom and was causing everything to warp backwards, so the pieces need to be joined again and reinforced to prevent the same thing from happening again.

Desperate times call for desperate measures. Metal is stronger than foam and cardboard, right?

Unfortunately that plan went straight out the window and into the ditch because metal doesn’t like any of the glues we use, so it just straight up wouldn’t stick to the foam. Played ourselves.

Honestly we were ready to just run ‘con without a sword. But that would be admitting defeat and making all our work on that clear green blade moot.

We explored multiple ideas, including using metal rods to stabilize the blade, but that would make it way too heavy to practically use. The clear blade was just too long and too flimsy.

The contingency is actually kind of great. Fine, if we can’t make it kit-accurate, we’ll just get it as close as practically possible and run with it. That meant cutting the super long blade into a manageable length, and modifying the rest of the weapon to match.

My partner did cut the blade down, but then presented me with the option of having a single-edge blade as a sort of self-redesign, since if we’re making it shorter we don’t need to adhere to the original schematics anymore – we could make it ours.

I was super iffy on the single edge at first, but after going back and forth between the original double edge design, we figure it would look better to redesign the whole sword more drastically, so it didn’t look like we just tried and failed to make the original sword (even though that’s literally what happened).

 

To secure all the broken and warped pieces we basically drowned it all in hot glue and E6000 and hoped for the best. Only time will tell if it holds up for Day Two – though obviously we won’t have to wait long.

 

Read on the rest of the Expo:

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

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