What was only supposed to be a casual stroll through downtown San Diego wound up being much more – a detour into Comic-Con International 2011 itself. Join me as I take you through my roughly five-hour experience through the convention itself, and the little adventures around the convention center that my friends and I got ourselves into.
I mentioned in a recent post about being able to walk around with a super-wide angle lens for my dSLR and nothing else the entire weekend, and the series of photos in this entry further demonstrate the fun I got to have with the gear. The traffic was minimal going from Orange County to San Diego, so my friend Wynston and I got a chance to stop at a gas station some forty miles into the trip. Above is my Lucky Star Konata figure in a shrine maiden outfit on top of the car while holding a camera. Fitting! I decided to bring her along and try to snap pics of her in the city.
When we got to downtown and the street directly in line with the convention center, we were surprised to see so many people lined up. I think it was the queue line for next year’s Comic-Con registration. I think I’ll just wait to order online.
As we continued to look for parking, we stopped in front of a passing MTS trolly. The infamous red paint is an easy sign of one of San Diego’s convenient rail systems, especially for getting around downtown and the lower parts of San Diego county. Our family used to live in San Diego and I always remembered wanting to ride one of these. I don’t remember if I ever did!
On our way out to the sidewalks after finally finding parking, we noticed this very creative street art along the side of the parking structure. I think the shadows are what really completed the design.
It would have really been nice if that Mario star was real. Then we could have ran right into the convention halls without getting stopped and maybe rid of some koopas on the way in.
While Anime Expo has the rather new L.A. Live plaza for con-goers, San Diego really has a one-up in terms of walking-distance shops and the overall street life experience. We just happened to pass by a farmer’s market that sold really affordable food and goodies that are probably also leaps and bounds healthier and more bountiful than the food found inside the convention. Support the local commerce!
That’s not to say that local businesses didn’t help out convention goers either. The Hilton hotel across the train tracks leading up to the convention center offered refreshments for cheap as well. The only downside is the long lines to get these goodies, which you can somewhat see a line at the top right of the above photo.
Festivities were high around the convention center. The Heavy Quilt was performing outside next to the train tracks andHilton hotel. They were met with an interesting surprise.
Local businesses also like to collaborate with Comic-Con culture itself and team up to decorate and sponsor convention-related programs. Adventure Time, for example, was one of the biggest highlights of Cartoon Network’s Cafe, located just a few blocks away from the convention.
CN was giving miniature Jake the Dog plush dolls to each of their guests, so we were able to obtain one as part of our ‘free shwag’ of the day. After a long morning of walking, we decided to drop by Ghirardelli and take advantage of their freebies and comfortable seats. Caramel chocolate is so good, especially when it’s on the house!
Konata and her new friend, Jake.
After wandering some more, we came across Horton Plaza at Fourth and E Street. Here, you can find a wealth of shops and restaurants to peruse.
This was my lunch for the day: wings and rings from local fast food restaurant Superfries inside the plaza. So much deep fried food, but so tasty!
After lunch, we checked out some more of the plaza. It’s pretty sad to see so many bookstores closing, and it reminded me of Borders’ recent liquidation plans. Any local Borders bookstores in your area closing down soon?
Now this is a great idea: over-sized checkers and chess boards and pieces! You can see the sale of these just by looking at the people playing chess in the background. Not only can you play board games, but you can work out your back, arms, and legs too while moving the pieces!
One of the marketing strategies I’d love to see expanded at Anime Expo are the usage of relevant advertisements all around a convenient radius of the convention center. This Final Fantasy XIII-2 promotional wallpaper ad certainly caught my eye, and hopefully not just because I’m partial to being a fan of XIII in general.
Here’s Konata again, but this time with my friend Tran, who was with some friends and wrapping up their con-going experience early. She and her friend were kind enough to let us borrow their passes to enjoy the last few hours of the vendor hall festivities, and we kindly accepted!
And off to the convention we went! The foot traffic was as busy as ever, so we had a lot of creative maneuvering to do so that we wouldn’t bump into anyone.
Once inside, we ran into our good friend Mikey. Quite the sword he let me wield for a few seconds.
And of course, what do I scout for first? The AAA Distribution booth had a lot of interesting items to look at, especially these Good Smile Company Nendoroids. I only have Kirino in the front and Haruhi in the back at the moment, but I’m looking to snag blue-haired Kannagi and pink rose-headband Kuroneko in the back left sometime in the future.
Behind the nendoroid was a super detailed Hatsune Miku doll. I was quite amazed in the amount of work put into it.
Since I’m on the topic of Hatsune Miku, here’s a snapshot of Racing Miku. Behind her is waitress Mugi from K-ON! The Mugi figure looks a lot better in person than in the promo photos I’ve seen.
Here’s a photo of Good Smile Company’s Strength Nendoroid from Black Rock Shooter. She’s the only one I have left to collect to complete my BRS Nendoroid family. Can’t wait until she’s available to order!
Kobe/Lakers fans are going to appreciate this vinyl.
Sota Toys was showing of their SDCC 2011 exclusive Bobble Bud Sneaky the Ninja figures. All that’s missing is ninja stars and swords to go with them!
$275 for a slick Manny Pacquiao greyscale vinyl? I saw it at last year’s Comic-Con, but I think it was only a preview at the time. Glad to see him and Mickey back and up for sale. And after looking at Manny’s price tag, it made me realize that perhaps that 1/1 scale Kyubey figure by Good Smile Company wouldn’t be that deep of a bind on my wallet by comparison. Hmmm…
On the topic of figure scaling, I wouldn’t even want to guess at how much this Naruto display figure would cost.
Over at Square Enix’s booth, Play Arts showcased their loads of Final Fantasy merchandise. Of all of the figures on display, the FFXIII-2 of Lightning caught my eye the most; the detail is gorgeous! I can’t wait to see what unpainted Serah in the background will look like when finished.
In addition to figures and jewelry, Square Enix got a little more creative and showcased their soundtrack collection. Shown here is an iPod will all of their albums up for purchase, and headphones to conveniently preview whole tracks. On the backside, there were two speakers hooked up to an iPod where you can blast your favorite soundtrack for passersby to listen to as well. Imagine a few years back and in place of that iPod would have been a disc changer hidden inside that booth.
Just around the corner, attendees can line up for live demos of Final Fantasy XIII-2, due out here in the States in January of next year. I know I’ll be getting my copy when it comes out!
I also noticed that a lot of booths had custom headphones for their demo booths. Square Enix had awesome white headphones with the XIII-2 branding on the side of each headphone. I wonder how good they actually reproduced the game audio.
Aside from the figures and video games that I mostly gravitated to, there were also a small handful of cosplayers showing off their work. Ariel, pictured above, dressed up as Lightning from Final Fantasy XIII. I complemented her work in another post regarding the great attention to detail in both the clothing materials and the styling of hair. Those combined with her choice of weaponry helped make her costume one of the most authentic Lightning cosplay I’ve ever seen.
Jack of Jack in the Box decided to stop by as well. Now if only he had a booth to give away some food!
Interestingly enough, the same R2-D2 server droid that appeared at Anime Expo this year also appeared at Comic-Con. It seemed fitting for it to be resting at Kotobukiya’s booth.
Industry booths also had their fair share of fun and festivities as well. This group posed for a snapshot in tfron a promotional ‘Walking Dead’ booth.
Augmented reality was pretty nifty to see in action as well. Magic Leap Studios was showcasing their ‘Hour Blue’ app at the Weta Workshop Booth on their iPad using QR codes to show how 3D sprites can be displayed on top of them through a device like their iPad or an iPhone. I can definitely see this somehow being used to bring Vocaloid performances to life beyond projectors and glass panes. (But I’m not going to lie; that Mikunopolis concert earlier this year was still really awesome)
Just like the heavily promoted Toyota and Hatsune Miku collaboration at Anime Expo, Star Wars and Volkswagon teamed up to show off its Star Wars itasha. At least the mostly black sticker design was more neutral and would probably be easier to tolerate if seen on the streets. Sorry, Miku.
Artist Alley booths had many notable works as well. I snapped a photo of this very recent and well done illustration by Erwin Haya of Harry Potter using his invisibility cloak to hide Ron, Hermione, and himself as they climb some steps. For the quality of the artwork and its target audience, it’s no wonder it sold out quickly.
Another notable mention was my run-in with David Edmundson of Geek Legacy. He and I know each other in passing from our companies (day-time jobs) doing business together, and I was surprised to find him at the con! They were out and about filming attendees’ answers regarding geek and nerd culture and the phenomena behind collectables and popular media and what it means to them. It should be an interesting watch!
Comic-Con is also about meeting with family as well! I got a chance to run into my sister and brother-in-law and nephew before they drove back home.
Both my sister and her husband are avid vinyl collectors, so I got my sister to show me her loot of the day – Lunartik’s in a Cup of Tea series. I’m guessing this one is one of the special brews – “Lunar Tea”, but I couldn’t verify that it glowed in the dark since she just took it out of its package when I snapped the photo.
And this is my awesome nephew, completely relaxed and passed out in his stroller with the sounds of avid geeks and nerds chatting away in the exhibit hall as his bedtime music.
My nephew’s only 1 year old and he already got signatures and props from DJ Lance Rock of Yo Gabba Gabba! Man, all of the kids in preschool are going to be so jealous of him.
To wrap the day up before heading home, we checked into the Old Spaghetti Factory in the Gaslamp District for some adult beverages and tasty food. Contrary to the single piece of calamari on my plate, we ate a ton of food. Next time, we need to remember to keep the appetizer orders to a minimum if we decide to wait by the bar for our dining table!
So there you have it, folks. Another year of Comic-Con has come and gone, which now marks the third (or fourth) year in a row I’ve been able to attend. Wynston and I are very fortunate to have great friends who let us check out the convention for a while, and I’m glad I had such a great time. Next year, I’ll definitely make it a point to go at least for two days.