Anime Expo will animate downtown L.A. this weekend

June 30, 2010 | 4:03 a.m.

Here’s a longer version of Wednesday’s Los Angeles Times story on Anime Expo 2010 as well as a promotional video for the event that starts Thursday … 

On Thursday, Nicki Ousley will don a Victorian-style blue dress with white lace and wield a fierce saber. Kate Hopp and 11 friends will dress up as residents of feudal Japan, wearing kimonos, peasant pants and straw hats accessorized with samurai swords and plastic snakes. Jayson Nufable will tie a bandanna over the mullet hairstyle he’s grown and cover his body in futuristic head-to-toe armor.

Anime Expo 2010

Their clothes will be unusual, but Ousley, Hopp and Nufable won’t look out of place. They’re headed to the 2010 Anime Expo, which hits downtown Los Angeles Thursday through Sunday, offering the chance for anime and manga fans to revel in a celebration of Japanese pop culture.

Expecting to draw 100,000 participants, the expo, or “AX,” will feature workshops, competitions, art displays, film screenings, Japanese bands, panel discussions with anime and manga creators, and more than 400 vendor booths.

This year, the expo expands outside the Los Angeles Convention Center, its home since 2008, with events at LA Live’s Nokia Theatre, Club Nokia and Nokia Plaza.

Michael Lattanzio, chief executive for AX’s umbrella organization, the Society for the Promotion of Japanese Animation, has spent a year planning the expo. His vision is to “connect with the Japanese homeland and deliver a top-notch entertainment event with something for everyone,” he says.

Anime Expo 2010

The events cover so many aspects of the anime, manga and Japanese pop culture world that even the most enthusiastic and dedicated participant might feel overwhelmed. As Lattanzio says, “Our program gives you more to do, not just exhibits to see.”

Those who enjoy dressing up as their favorite anime and manga characters particularly love Masquerade. For this talent-show-like event, participants perform skits featuring their characters and are judged on presentation, with a focus on costumes. The chance for costume-play, or “cosplay,” is a major attraction of the expo.

Cosplayers can spend months if not years and hundreds if not thousands of dollars preparing their costumes. They delight in the people-watching atmosphere that pervades not just Masquerade but the entire convention.

According to Hopp, a graphic designer from West L.A., “Anime Expo in particular is known for people doing big elaborate things that they wouldn’t do at other conventions because there are more people here to see it.” Dressed in clothes of feudal Japan, Hopp and her friends will reenact the fight scenes from the movie “Ninja Scroll” in the Masquerade.

Anime Expo 2010

For Nufable, who is studying to be a dietitian at Cal State Long Beach, costumes “make you kind of feel like a celebrity” and “you’re automatically friends with anyone else who’s dressed up.” With his tough-guy mullet and armor, he’ll play Solid Snake, the hero of video game Metal Gear Solid.

Ousley, who lives in Ventura and offers technical software support at Citrix Systems, won’t perform at the Masquerade. But she looks forward to wearing her costume as Saber from “Fate Stay Night” around the convention, saying, “I never outgrow the fun of dressing up.”

Non-participatory entertainment is available too. For the first time, the Anime Expo will host a world movie premiere, screening Japanese film “Black Lagoon: Roberta’s Blood Trail.” Rei Hiroe, the creator and artist of the manga series that inspired the movie, will present it at 1:30 p.m Thursday. A Japanese TV show, “Eden of the East,” will also have its premiere at the expo 4 p.m. Friday, followed by a panel with the show’s creators, Kenji Kamiyama, Satoru Nakamura and Tomohiko Ishii.

Anime Expo 2010

Live shows by Japanese performers offer yet another way to interact with Japanese pop culture. Rock band Sophia will travel from Japan to present a concert celebrating its 15th anniversary, playing at the Nokia Theatre at 12 p.m. Saturday. Pop group AKB48 will perform in its first appearance outside Japan at 4 p.m. Thursday at Nokia Theatre.

The expo also features guests who sign autographs, speak at panel discussions and preside over the competitions, such as Battle of the Bands and AX Idol, a Japanese fashioning of “American Idol.” Kyle Hebert, a Los Angeles-based voice actor for anime and video games respected for his talents as a voice coach, will discuss his weekly podcast of anime and technology related news on at 6:15 Thursday.
Though attendees expect to be worn out after a day at the expo, an evening activity aims to get them on their feet. Thursday through Saturday at 8:30 p.m., “Laser Light Spectacular” will illuminate the plaza at LA Live with anime-style laser graphics while the crowd is taught a dance set to a pulsating beat. All events offered in the plaza are free and open to the public.

Anime Expo 2010

AX has taken place in various California cities since its inception in 1992, but according to Lattanzio, it has found its home in L.A.

Size was a factor too. The expo simply outgrew its past venues. Ousley has attended the expo for the last 11 years, often working as a volunteer, and has seen its growth. She says it’s been a challenge to keep the event organized and focused as it has expanded.

But for Lattanzio, bigger is better. “Some people plan their whole year around this event. You want to give them something that will make them think it was worth it.”

– Daina Beth Solomon

Where: Los Angeles Convention Center, 1201 South Figueroa Street, and adjoining L.A. Live venues.

When: Thursday through Sunday, main events 8 a.m. to midnight

Price: Single day, $45; all four days, $85.

Info: http://www.anime-expo.org/

PHOTOS: Some of the featured artists and art from the guide to Anime Expo 2010

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