The severest heatwave to scorch Southern California did not deter the massive crowds at Anime Expo. Despite the heat, where you could swear you feel your own blood vessels boiling, anime fans endured it all to visit the flashy booths, attend panels, and wear all of the cosplay. There were some very dedicated cosplayers as I witnessed those who were wearing kigurumis (a fleece outwear that is animal or character themed).
There were two challenges of attending Anime Expo. One was not knowing most of the anime references and the second was not being fan of most of the current trends. There was the factor of feeling the age gap while walking around the floor. The average anime attendee is around 18 years-old. For someone who is significantly older, it was bit distancing.
The sheer size of Anime Expo offers a pro to that feeling. There is so much anime and anime-related culture to connect to. The anime was not limited to current titles, but also to the obscure and legendary. For no matter where one stood in the anime knowledge spectrum, there was something to check out at Anime Expo. With no plan, no schedule, no interviews, I was pretty much free to experience and share what I saw of Anime Expo.
From the exhibit hall where one could flow with the crowd watching flashing screens while trying to keep a tight rein on the wallet from seeing all of the fandom wares. All of the promo booths were right near the entrance with the vendors trickling towards the back. After a couple of circuits, one booth caught my attention. Each time I walked by, the booth was packed with happy female fans. Glancing up at the mega sign displaying “Ikemen series” in a pretty font, I guessed that this was something that catered to the shojo fans. Shojo is a section of Japanese genre that caters to females with stories that focus on personal or romantic stories. Like a moth to a pretty flame, I was drawn in.
The Ikemen Series features otome game apps. Otome games are storybased game apps where the goal is for create a romance between the players avatar and selection of male possibilites. What does Ikemen mean? “A hot guy; the man of your dream.” This was absolutely an interest of mine. Ikemen series was promoting an Alice in Wonderland-themed otome called “IKEMEN REVOLUTION: LOVE AND MAGIC IN WONDERLAND.” The player/female lead lives in 19th-century London. She is relatively successful: she has a steady job and a place to stay. Until a man bumps into her, dropping his timepiece before gashing off. It should come as no surprise that she is eager to return the timepiece and chases the stranger until she falls into Wonderland. Waking up in a mysterious she finds that she has fallen right into a middle of war between the black army and the red.
For review purposes (of course), I downloaded the game and immediately I couldn’t get over how beautiful this game is. The characters are drawn in amazing detail. Which you can see and view many, many times as their static image would appear with minimal animated movements (eye blinks, head tilt). The attire for every single character just screams “cosplay”!
With so much content packed in the game, be prepared for heavy downloads.There is a main story where the player taps on the screen to activate the next section. The main story may garner coins or items that will move the story forward. Each day you are limited by how much of the story content you can go through.
The game features about 14 characters voiced by actors that have voiced many anime shows and movies. Ray Blackwell, the King of the Black Army is voiced by Hiro Shimono (ATTACK ON TITANS, FAIRY TALE, RESONANCE OF FATE). Lancelot Kingsley, the King of the Red Army is voiced by Nobuhiko Okamoto (ASSASINATION CLASSROOM, FOOD WARS!, MY HERO ACADEMIA). Overall, the talents of the voice actors give the game a more polished and interactive feel. With so many talented voices and stunning character art, players will be hard pressed to choose which one they will fall for!
Out in the main entrance hall, Square Enix was offering relief from the muggy heat by handing out promo fans for their new manga in VR game. If they so wished, attendees were able to demo ten minutes of the game Square Enix is the company behind Final Fantasy franchise. Aside from the main Final Fantasy console series, the company has released fighter games, computer games, and other platforms ensuring that the fantasy will never really be final. The VR (virtual world) is still a relatvely new platform for players and the amount of games is endless.
Once the googles slipped over the head, attendees experiences the TALES OF THE WEDDING RINGS VR manga. I am one who is very easily nauseated by motion sickness from VR games so each attempt is met by trepidation spurred by curiosity. Final Fantasy signature character art style is also the enticing bait for me to try out the game.
The game begins with friends who are neighbors. Hime is about to move away. Her neighbor-friend, Satou, is trying to rally the courage to be brave and confess his feelings. Then the moment passes and they separate about to lead their lives away from each other. Then we find out that Hime is not from our world and she is engaged to be married someplace else. Events seem to be leading to sadness and unvoiced feelings. Until Satou decides to take a chance and follow her to the other world.
Manga-style comic art structure in black and white will hover before your eyes. Sometimes the box will expand as the characters move side to side. I noticed very quickly that if you lean forward, you see into and around the panel. I could see the neighborhoods and details beyond the edge. The story is animated in manga style. Occasionally the scene will expand beyond the panels and the player has a 3D view of the scene.
The transitions and movements of the story did not illicit any motion sickness, thankfully. The grayscale was also thankfully soothing to the eyes. Ten minutes of the demo definitely went by too fast! I need to know what happens! If I really wanted to know, I could check out the manga series of the same name by manga author, MAYBE but the VR experience raised the bar on experiencing the story.
Back at the exhibit hall, another game booth caught my attention. Displayed on a huge poster with a background music of catchy Jpop music was the game Utano Prince Sama- Shining Live. Utano Prince Sama is a Jpop male-idol franchise with an anime and now a cell phone game. The story of the game follows a Jpop male idol group as they practice and perform to their adoring fans..The booth featured large versions of the cell phone game on touchscreen. The game is similar to rhythm games like DDR(Dance Dace Revolution) and guitar hero where you tap the screen when triggered by the prompt. The live show is influenced by how successful you are at the prompts.
The brief demo delighted me enough to download the game. Interest definitely waned as it took a very long time for the game to download. The story assumes that the player is somewhat familiar with the series but it’s not necessary for the gameplay. You can either follow the story mode or just play the live shows. The songs are fun to listen to but the downloading time was just way too lengthy. Watching the anime on Crunchyroll, was pretty cute but it did not have enough substance to keep me engaged. The show is very, very light on story and leans on creating visual eye candy for viewers.
Sampling these three booths took up most of the conventional day. The bulk of the time was spent walking and shuffling through crowds and just general line waiting. Surrounded by pastel colors and flashy graphics, it is easy to overlook so many the exhibits. Or an attendee is just too plain exhausted from the crowd to even meander in. These companies offered something attractive to pluck me from the crowded pathways and opened my eyes to otome games and visual novels.
Thank you to Anime Expo for granting access to Fangirl Nation to find something new in the anime landscape!
For the Ikemen Series: https://ikemen-series.com/games/revolution/index.html
For Tales of the Wedding Rings: http://www.jp.square-enix.com/mangainvr/weddingring/en/
For Utano Prince Sama: Shining Live: https://www.utapri-shining-live.com/en/