Anime Los Angeles is easily the most enjoyable con I go to on a regular basis. It's not big and unmanageable, it's still "the friendliest con around" as the tagline goes, and I enjoy being able to see friends I never see anywhere else. It also attracts some of the best cosplayers, who invariably bring their "A" game to the event. You don't see a lot of the "superstar" cosplayers attending, but I think that is a good thing. Let the people who do cosplay for the love of it get the spotlight.
The only thing that is not especially fun about ALA is the location. The area around LA International Airport, more commonly known as LAX, is pretty sketchy. Brazen, in-your-face panhandlers. Horrible prices for food and lodging, even for fast food. Now there's construction going on in the area, and that construction is going to get worse rather than better. Eventually the construction will end up with a more usable LAX, but it will take a while.
LAX is the home of huge hotels with lots and lots of ballroom and meeting room space, and the LAX Marriott is no exception. However, ALA has outgrown even the Marriott's space, and for the past few years there has been a hard cap on memberships. Only 4,000 memberships were allowed this time, and that meant no at-con registration.
This problem is going to change very, very soon. ALA is moving to Los Angeles-adjacent Ontario, in what Angelenos call "The Inland Empire." It will be in the modern and spacious Ontario Convention Center, which is ringed around with plenty of accomodations. There will be no more cap on memberships, at least for a while.
Conceivably one could go to ALA and just keep going to events, panels, parties and whatnot non-stop. However, it's a good idea to get at least some sleep, eat, and attend to your personal hygiene, so that's not a good idea. But suffice it to say there's a lot of stuff going on, and we actually were a part of it this time. Our TOKYOPOP panel was well attended, considering that it started at 10:30am, but the early hour meant that it was pretty subdued. Still, we had a wonderful time, and next year we will likely have a lot more to share. Stu-senpai actually made it to the event, in spite of the fact that he had flown in the night before!
Here are some things I've found can be helpful for maximizing your experience at con.
- Make sure you have snacks and water with you. You might not get a chance to eat real food regularly, so healthy snacks, particularly those that have a good amount of protein content, are key.
- Get a prepaid debit card. Register it so you can get one with your name on it. It behaves just like a regular debit or credit card, except you "refill" it with money and you cannot spend more than what you store. It should not be attached to your bank account or backed up by a traditional credit card. That way you can have a hard limit to the amount of money you spend, and if your prepaid card gets stolen, or someone steals the number with a skimmer or the old fashioned way of just jotting the info down, you limit how much of a loss you take.
- Take advantage of con amenities if you can. ALA has a "con suite" where you can grab a light snack for free, the hotel has water coolers and cups out for keeping hydrated, ALA also has a "cosplay repair station" where you can get help with your cosplay if you have a wardrobe malfunction, and there was a modest but usable photo studio available for people to use. It wasn't the huge cosplay area with several Hollywood-quality sets like what Anime Expo had last year, but it was serviceable.
- Pace yourself, prioritize, and don't get down on yourself if you miss events. If your con has Guidebook, and you have a smartphone, take advantage of this service. Guidebook pushes updates to you, and you get an accurate picture of what events and panels are actually happening, and which ones have been cancelled.
So long, ALA, we'll see you next year.