Anime Expo 2018: Days 1 & 2

Anime Expo week is always a whirlwind of last-minute cosplay repairs and exhaustion walking the halls of the convention center with little sleep, but this year seems particularly grueling. The Wing Gundam suit is turning out to be our toughest Gundam to bring to ‘con, and it’s been an uphill battle getting it to work as intended. The last build log for the suit actually isn’t uploaded yet since I’ve been too busy scrambling to tie loose ends to sit down and write out the post, but it’ll be out in the near future.

I also usually cover the Expo with a day-by-day, but it’s been tough taking pictures and chronicling our adventures since I’m constantly handling bulky suit accessories, so this time we’ll be merging them into two-day combo parts.

We didn’t have concrete plans for Day 1 – there were some mildly interesting panels on the schedule, but nothing we absolutely had to attend. My partner was interested in the My Hero Academia movie premiere, but even Anime Expo knew that was going to be so packed that they created a line for the line to get into the screening.

So, we hit the Entertainment Hall in full armor first to get some mileage on the completed suit and break some necks. Unfortunately we ran into complications fairly quickly, and of course returned to the Cosplay Repair Center as we do every year.

Minor parts were splitting or needed adjustment; mostly fixed with hot glue. Peek the wires and quick connects thrown in at the last minute the night before and hooked up to a sideskirt switch – this assembly is janky and unreliable at best, but it succeeds in sending our wings up at least half the time.

We usually save the photoshoots at the Entertainment Hall photo sets for the third day or at least later down the line, but since we were already there with no other commitments we thought we’d go in for some shots right away.

We’ve shot at this space hanger background set for the last several years – it’s too bad Anime Expo doesn’t switch up their photo sets up more often. To make it worse, this is the only overtly sci-fi set – Gundams in a bedroom or subway wouldn’t quite fit in.

We did decide to try out the forest set for kicks to change it up a bit though. It actually works pretty well – a Ground Gundam would be perfect in this environment. Unfortunately the set backdrop doesn’t extend high enough, so it’s tough to get a nice shot looking up at the suit to give it a sense of large scale.

On our way out and towards the rest of the ‘con, we run into our first mobile suit brethren – a Freedom!  With actuated wings, just like us.

Size. Doesn’t. Matter.

It’s really interesting seeing other mecha cosplayers and noting how other groups decided to do certain things differently. We obviously have a penchant for slim, small proportions – this plays a certain part in our relatively small stature. Other cosplayers like this Freedom buddy go big, which affords them a much more commanding presence around an audience.

These folks apparently built their suit over the course of a year, with (if I recall correctly) about 20 hours a week into it. Adding the hours up alone, we probably have similar numbers, though we blitz our builds and get it all done in a month straight with very few days off.

Lots of cool and noteworthy cosplays as always – but I barely got to snap any of them since it’s tough to shoot with giant Gundam weapons in hand.

Literally a personification of how we felt trying to grind this cosplay into creation before the deadline.

Exhibit Hall was our next stop – we expected it to be super crowded on the first day, but it surprisingly wasn’t bad, even with a wide-load Gundam suit.

Exhibit Hall goodies. We could spend an entire day here and still not have enough time to peruse every vendor’s offerings.

Unfortunately from our brief stint in the Entertainment Hall it looks like there isn’t going to be an Itasha car showcase this year. We did find this kickass Macross NSX at a vendor booth in the Exhibit Hall though.

Yeesus the detail. Most importantly that it’s an NSX.

Shoutout to this vendor with some really cool handmade art diorama pieces. They’re pricey, but we of all people know full well handmade items are rarely inexpensive.

The Gunpla Builders World Cup competition entries are featured at the Bluefin/Bandai booth as usual, though this year it looks like they’re focusing more on international entries.

I suppose these cards stand in for overseas models in the competition?

I’m not sure if these kits are meant to represent the regional tournament arena or the world stage, but either way I hope I’ll be able to enter a model in the coming years. Gunpla just isn’t as exciting to build as it used to be though – car models have drawn me in too deep.

This 00 ending diorama really stood out – the water effects, weathering, flowers, mini scale – everything is so picturesque.

While we were in this area we stopped by to watch the Gunpla booth, hosted with the legendary Meijin in attendance.

That feel good when senpai notices you again.

I want it. But I don’t $50 need it.

This vendor had some of the coolest resin garage kit models. I don’t even know what half of them are but they look so cool I want one.

So, that was all there was to Day 1 – really just a test drive for the cosplay and to feel out how the Expo will play out this year. Unfortunately, about halfway through the day, we hit a speedbump – the wiring for the wings came undone, and thus have to now be redone before Day 2.

Properly soldered connections and neat crimps with quick connects for ease of suit-up.

Figuring out the chest barrel so it reflects light and doesn’t look like transparent garbage when we have the LEDs inside on.

A big part of why we needed to scramble to work out the suit’s kinks on the night of Day 1 before Day 2 hit is because the second day is when our suit is judged by the Masquerade judges.

Our suit will always be rough around the edges, but it at least needs to cover its basic functions for the judges, so sleep had to be sacrificed to get things to come together. We even put together a neat little 10-page mini-build log for the judges so they can get a better idea of how the build went.

Day 2 is, uh, significantly more crowded. I guess Day 2 is the prime day for one-day attendees and not day one?

I…don’t think I can catch them all.

 

Made our way over to the Exhibit Hall again to meet up with a fellow mecha cosplayer (@discaliber) – and the man has good taste – Lancelot Albion! I don’t think I’ve ever seen any Knightmare cosplays before, and as a Code Geass headgeek (recall I’ve cosplayed as Zero before), I’m very glad to see the series and its mechs get some love.

As with Freedom on the day before, it’s very interesting examining other mecha cosplayer’s work and seeing how similar or different their methods and materials are. Discaliber here is actually probably the closest to our own build style so far in what we’ve seen – check out those gigantic platforms!

Confirmed overpowered. I’m not playing anymore until he’s nerfed.

Having these two together for a joint photo drew a crowd.

Our next stop involved walking a block in 105 degree California heat – the Gundam the Origin panel was located in the J.W. Marriot hotel down the street, and we’re not about to miss a Gundam screening.

Walking in the suit is bad enough – throw in uneven pavement, street crossing, curbs, and most of all the blood boiling heat and it’s a literal living Hell on Earth.

They really livened up the plaza with the hotels though.

Made it to line con for the Origin screening.

Slightly awkward thing though – this is the primere of the sixth and final episode of the Origin OVA series, but I’ve never seen the first five, and my partner has only watched the first.

Thankfully I think we both still got by with most of it, since the series is essentially just filling in the finer details of already-established lore that we’re familiar with. The panel itself featured some producers and voice actors and of course, the classic unlucky raffle that we always never win.

We have to acknowledge that just showing up to the panel was more than worth it material-wise though – they handed out these very neat little coaster-sized art pieces at the door as complimentary items. They seem to be somewhat unique original design art focused around the series – very cool stuff.

Day 2 spawned many more complex and full-build cosplays, along with many large groups of them that stayed together. Regretful that I was only able to capture a handful.

Thankfully our own suit is still being well-received, though ironically we have to turn down photo requests with more frequency than ever before due to the longer time it takes to get places thanks to the suit’s impracticality.

Back home to the grind for the night. The last build log (to be published next week) for the Wing will have details on how the beam saber project went awry, but for now all we need to know is that we ordered a genuine Force FX Luke Skywalker lightsaber, and it came just in time for us to unpack and mount up for use in the Masquerade show that’s going down tomorrow, during Day 3.

I haven’t held one of these in a long time. I used to own Obi-Wan and Darth Maul sabers, but sold them long ago. I forget how fine the craftmanship on these are, though of course you get what you pay for.

Compared to our beat ass broken homemade saber. The Force FX is too good to be modified – we’re just going to use it in the show as it is, without converting it to a Gundam beam saber because we’d probably break it trying.

The shield is now really, really misbalanced and has gained a lot of weight, but it’s a necessary sacrifice because the saber is necessary for the show.

Catastrophic failure. Hoping drowning it in epoxy tonight will save it from tearing the entire chest apart tomorrow.

It feels like we didn’t do as many official things on the first two days this year as we have in the past, but it certainly feels like we’re getting good mileage out of the suit, mostly because we’re having an impact on attendees and making connections with fellow cosplayers. Tomorrow is going to be the longest day yet – the Masquerade show is high-stakes, and we’re not getting enough rest or practice time, so we can only hope Lady Luck really digs this armor and smiles tomorrow.

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