After being at AX for a while, the initial feeling of “Wow, look at all these weird people in costumes OH WAIT I’m one of them” gradually morphed into something like “oh wow look at all these normal people not wearing costumes, they’re so scary”.
The thing is that, anime conventions have a strange atmosphere. For some reason or another, there is little sociedal pressure to conform to what society views as “the norm”. You want to have rainbow-colored hair? Sure. You’re a guy but you want to wear a skirt? Why not. And the attitude spreads. As time passes, the initial feeling of insecurity gradually fades away as you realize that people aren’t going to judge you for who you are and what you like; in fact, there’s probably someone nearby who likes the exact same things.
It’s almost like being at Caltech.
When people think about who attends anime conventions, most probably imagine a bunch of skinny glasses-wearing teenagers or maybe a group of fat middle-aged men. But the people who actually show up are amazingly diverse. There was a white-haired old man from Washington D.C., a fashionable young woman crocheting a red scarf, a group of tough-looking teenage boys with saggy pants, a middle-school teacher grading tests, a guy in a wheelchair dressed up as the 10th Doctor (complete with a sonic screwdriver)… Here, you see all these people you wouldn’t expect to like anime chatting to each other excitedly about the newest shows this season and arguing over which characters are the best. People of all shapes and sizes and backgrounds and colors gather here for something they love. It really is quite amazing.
Why am I rambling about this, you ask?
On the way back from the convention after trawling through all of the Exhibition Hall, we saw a huge group of people gathered around the Staples Center. Intrigued, we decided to investigate what’s the cause of the gathering. We were soon in over our heads.
The large plaza in front of the Staples Center was filled with white, middle-aged, upper-middle class, mildly plump women. The human density was as high as the entrance lines to Anime Expo. And these people all looked exactly the same. Sure, the jewery varied a bit, as did their handbags and clothing. But there was absolutely no variation beyond the small details. They all had the same body shapes, the same style of clothing, and held themselves the same way. Even very few the men there (with their wife attached to them, of course) looked the same.
They looked exactly like what society likes to think as “normal”.
Suddenly keenly aware of the fact that we are not one of them, my friends and I quickly shuffled away. t the street crossing was a most perticular sight. On our side were a group of anime convention goers – weird people dressed in weird clothing. And on the other was a group of white, middle-aged, upper-middle-class, mildly plump women.
Crossing that street was the most surreal experience of my life.
I’m sure these people were wondering to themselves what all these strange people were doing in costumes. They were probably slightly uncomfortable to be around us, just as we were slightly uncomfortable around them.
It’s strange to think that, despite all the differences between us and them, these people were probably here for the same reason we’ve gathered here–for the sake of something they like.
(Or at least I hope they’re here because they want to be here, not because they were coerced. That would be kind of…)
After another crossing, we met another large crowd of people in line. The group seemed more approachable this time, with teenagers and young adults of both genders and more casual clothing. We approached a friendly-looking girl and asked what’s up with the gatherings around here. She replied that she was here for a K-pop concert but had no idea what’s up with the gathering at Staples Center.
A quick Google search came up with nothing. I guess the gathering of the women will remain a mystery…
For dinner, we decided to go for some place fancy. After pouring over Yelp for a very long time, we decided to eat at the Bottega Louie. Two reasons: 1) it’s within walkable distance and 2) it’s on the cheap end, as far as fancy restaurants go. We went in cosplay because we were too lazy to change, but, as we walked further and further away from the convention center, we could feel ourselves leaving Anime Expo’s protective bubble. Walking around in costume is a bit like bareing your soul to the world. It’s actually pretty scary if you aren’t very comfortable with yourself…
The restaurant was quite nice. It had a busy and casual sort of atmosphere. The large bright restaurant was full with the animated chattering of people. The bakery up front was full of cakes and sweets, and the kitchen was separated from the eating area with only a pane of glass that didn’t even go all the way up to the high-rise ceiling, giving the whole place a nice, homey feeling.
And now, as promised, photos of food:
Dessert was macarons, which meant that we were obligated to pick the weirdest flavors. Protip: the weirder the macaron flavor, the more delicious it is. So never get chocolate or vanilla macarons! That’s too boring.
Flavors: Earl Grey (top left), pistachio (top right), rose (bottom left), lavender (bottom right).
As expected, they were delicious. 10/10, would eat again (if I had the money).
Suddenly, it’s the last day of the convention! What happened?!
Helpful note: things tend to go on sale on the last day of conventions because artists and merchants don’t want to carry all of their stuff back, so they try to sell their stuff as much as they could. We woke up early to wait in line to snag any merch anyone might’ve been eyeing. The line was significantly shorter than the line on the first day, and we managed to get a spot in the shade.
When the hall opened, everybody wandered off to do more things. Some friends and I headed over to the Artist’s Alley for any last-minute impulse buys. I was going to buy more prints but suddenly got caught up in Pokemon trading. There was an artist’s booth with a little gashapon machine that spits out a pin with a random Pokemon on it when you input four quarters.Although I got some pins from the machine before, they weren’t the Pokemon I was looking for, so I decided to camp out next to the machine and try to trade my pins with other people.
I’m sure the artist made tons of profit off of us. I probably would’ve stayed next to that machine for the rest of the day if not for the fact that my friends wanted to go back to Caltech.
And so ends an exciting four-and-a-half days of Anime Expo. Luckily, none of us got con sickness (a disease similar in nature to frosh plague). Our wallets significantly flatter than before, we metro’d back to Tech tired, but satisfied.
And now, back to your regularly scheduled food blog…
After a year spent in “soft-lockdown” at home in Atlanta, and as Caltech students prepared to finally return to campus, I was aboard an eight hour flight towards Edinburgh, Scotland. Since my junior year plans were interrupted by the virus who shall not be named, I’m spending my first term of senior year studying abroad through the Caltech - Edinburgh University International Exchange program. I’ve only been here just over a week yet have been exposed to so many new people, perspectives, foods, and classes.
When the announcement was first made that fall term was going to be online, I started talking to friends and looking for places to live. We were debating locations around the country: California, Florida, New York, etc.. there were plenty of options. Then it suddenly hit me, what is stopping us from going to Hawaii, covid numbers were better and a two week quarentine would ensure that numbers stayed down… I proposed this to my friend and we agreed it would be an amazing experience, but we didn’t want to get out hopes up. A month or so later we still haven’t decided where to live, Hawaii seemed too far and too difficult to plan. But we couldn’t get the idea out of our heads. We spent some time looking into plane tickets, places to stay, etc… and it actually didn’t seem so impossible after all. A couple weeks later and we were arriving here on the big island!
I visited Amsterdam for a brief two and a half days during my vacation. There were a few landmarks and neighborhoods I wanted to checkout, but did not plan the visit in detail. As such, when it came down to destinations with ticketed entries, I had to skip most of them, since they did not have day-of tickets left for sale. Fortunately, I was able to walk around most of the city and it was generally a good time.