I was excited to start the new year with a new experience, and Anime Los Angeles offered the perfect experience. It is a four-day event, but I decided to wait until the weekend because of other obligations and attend the last two days. If my memory serves right, it was my first time attending Anime Los Angeles, so I did not know entirely what to expect, but I was excited nonetheless.

Like when I went to L.A. Comic-Con last December, I reserved a parking spot next to the convention center to relieve stress. I spotted an entrance and went through security without any issue, but it turns out … I went through the wrong door. An employee inside noticed I was missing my badge and directed me to the main entrance. 

There were two lines at the main entrance, and I could exaggerate a bit, but each line appeared to be a mile long. So many people were lined up, dressed as their favorite characters, and excited to get inside. When I identified as a press, an employee brought me inside, where I got my badge with no problems.

Inside, there were so many people in the main lobby. Like when I went to L.A. Comic-Con, I was happy when I recognized the characters being cosplayed. Kagome, Inuyasha, and Sesshōmaru. Perona the Ghost Princess from One Piece. Queen Beryl from Sailor Moon. Isabela from Encanto. Tohru from Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid. But what I loved seeing most was the Tokyo Mew Mew crew being cosplayed. Tokyo Mew Mew is one of my favorite magical girl animes as a kid, so seeing them all together was a blessing for my nostalgia-starved heart. Their costumes were awesome, and I wish I got a proper picture of them, but they were surrounded. 

Dressed again as Ash Ketchum and feeling ready for my Pokémon Journey, I approached Professor Oak, who stood near the entrance of the Exhibitor Hall. He told me about the wonderful world of Pokémon, gave me a ribbon, and sent me on my Pokémon Journey. My mission was to track down and challenge the eight Kanto gym leaders stationed far and wide throughout the convention center. As part of the challenge, each gym leader had a quest or riddle I had to solve. Once I completed their quest or solved their riddle, each gym leader presented me with a “badge” in the form of another ribbon. 

I searched and searched and only got four out of the eight badges. I got the Boulder Badge from Brock, the Thunder Badge from Surge, the Rainbow Badge from Erika, and the Volcano Badge from Blaine. Misty, Koga, Sabrina, and Giovanni were nowhere to be found in a sea of cosplayers. Like the real Ash, I failed to become the Kanto champion, but my journey was far from over. There was still more for me to see and do.

Per tradition, I spent most of my time scouring Artist Alley, loved seeing the vastly different art styles, recognized some names from Instagram, and bought some cute prints, pins, and charms. For starters, I bought prints depicting Katarina Claes from My Next Life as a Villainess and Persephone from Lore Olympus from digital artist and Twitch streamer Nekkokya. I had followed her on IG for a long time, so I was thrilled when she announced she would attend ALA. We gushed about Otome Isekai, and when I admitted I was lost initially, Nekkokya was nice enough to offer me her guidebook, so I could find my way better around the convention center.

I bought prints depicting Maka Albarn from Soul Eater and Team Rocket from the Pokémon franchise from a painter named Leah. At her booth, she had prints and paintings that were incredible. She had a beautiful painting depicting Shenron from Dragon Ball Z, and someone bought it while I was at her booth. Seeing her get so excited to see her masterpiece find a home was great. 

I bought more prints from artist and content creator Antonia Andros. Her art style was fun and caught my eye straight away. We talked for a bit, and I ended up with prints illustrating the Super Mario crew, Princess Tutu and Fakir, and the main characters from Cells at Work! I also bought a Derpachu pin from TealTeacup and pinned it immediately to the collar of my costume. I knew her work from IG, and I loved chatting with her. Her art style is so fun and delightful to look at.

Pin maker and artist @tealteacup. Photo Source: Brandi Ortiz from The Game of Nerds

I bought a shiny Gyarados pin (to increase my in-game shiny odds) and a Super Mario charm from fashion designer, cosplayer, and artist Kystalized Raine. I had fun chatting with her about shiny hunting in Pokémon Scarlet, and we both talked about how much we missed the sparkling sound that came in previous games like Legends: Arceus. Pokémon, please bring back the sound. I don’t trust my eyes to spot the differences! Despite the lack of sound, I have caught four shinies within my first four days of playing, so thank you, Krystalized Raine, for increasing my shiny odds!

While walking around, I spotted another familiar name from IG, ChaiBee. I loved her art style, so I was thrilled to see her booth, but to my great sadness, ChaiBee got sick right before the convention and could not attend. I was looking forward to meeting the real ChaiBee, but I had a pleasant time talking with her friend, illustrator, and tattoo artist, Parkiip, who also had a lovely art style I could appreciate. Other names I recognized from IG included Crystal Hearted Kat, MousuArt, and Pink Beach. I highly recommend checking out all these artists because I was blown away by their art styles and enthusiasm for the arts. Meeting them in Artist Alley is my favorite part about these conventions.

Eventually, I ventured past Artist Alley and, to my delight, came across the Dreamland Maid Café, Southern California’s newest and cutest Maid Café. Being a Maid-Sama! fan, I always wanted to eat at a themed restaurant like maid cafés but never had the chance. I was hoping there would be an actual café spot to sit down and enjoy a meal, but I just found the booth promoting the café and ended up chatting with the people stationed. I was disappointed I couldn’t sit down and order something special, but I left determined to find the café sometime after the convention. It looks like a fun experience!

@dreamlandmaidcafe. Photo Source: Brandi Ortiz from The Game of Nerds

By the end of the day, I had collected more ribbons, bumped into someone in an inflatable Pikachu costume, got accosted by Team Rocket, and watched some cosplayers play Dance Dance Revolution. I loved the love and care that went into every costume, and I loved chatting with the artists, creators, and costumes that swarmed the convention center. Admittedly, the first few hours were overwhelming because ALA was all new to me, but by the end of the day, I was hesitant to head home. 

But ultimately, I had a fun time and would love to go again sometime next year with friends. Anime Los Angeles did not disappoint, and I recommend it to anyone who loves getting in costume, chatting up with creators, and singing their hearts out with a few rounds of karaoke. 

Overall, it was a fun new experience, and I cannot wait until ALA 19 next year!