Despite the fact that I live in Los Angeles, which is a very large area, we get some very small cons throughout the year. Pacific Media Expo (PMX) is one of those cons and the size is a very good indication of it’s quality, unfortunately.
This year the con was held at the LAX Hilton, which would be as good of a location as any, except for a few things. First, and foremost, is the parking. The hotel and the surrounding areas cater to LAX-bound travelers most of the year and so parking is obscenely high. The Hilton did nothing to discount their parking for PMX attendees, driving many to a Parking Spot lot next door when the Hilton lot filled up. Thank goodness both were $20 a day. In comparison, the LAX Marriott a few doors down, discounts parking for Anime Los Angeles (and I’m assuming other cons like Gallifrey and the Costume College, which are also held there.)
Once you entered the hotel, you were met with large lobby packed with cosplayers creating multiple fire hazards and a lone sign for a swap meet right by the doors. If you went through a certain set of doors to the right and you have good eyesight, you could see an info desk way on the other side of the hotel. However, if you entered the hotel from the left, you would have just seen cosplayers and the hotel check-in counter. Nothing to indicate where registration was or where anything else was. For some reason, registration was tucked into a tiny room in an area only used by con ops and security. I realize the hotel was not built to host anime cons, but the layout was just too scattered for my taste and I couldn’t easily find things on more than one occasion .
Cell phone coverage throughout the hotel grounds was pretty lacking, but considering how bad cell phone coverage is in the LAX Marriott, it could have been worse.
I looked at the programming for the con and found almost nothing that interested me except for a Sailor Moon panel and a We Heart Japan panel. I wound up missing the Sailor Moon panel due to difficulty finding parking and was told I wasn’t missing much. The We Heart Japan panel about the organization’s efforts to help victims of the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami was fun, informative. One of the panelists had actually been at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant at the time of the earthquake and had to evacuate soon afterward. His anecdotes were a highlight and I hope We Heart Japan brings him to every panel they can in the future. I could have attended the Suzumi Atsushi (of Venus Versus Virus fame) panel, but I had never read her manga and it wasn’t for sale in the dealer’s room.
Unfortunately, attending the We Heart Japan panel showed just how disorganized PMX’s scheduling was. The schedule given out by PMX themselves indicated that it was at 3:30 pm, but the panel room schedule said the panel was at 3:00 pm. The volunteer guarding the room thought that the current occupants were the We Heart Japan people, but the panelists themselves thought their panel was at 4 pm. Oy gevalt.
Admittedly, there seemed to be a lot of content for fans of Lolita fashion (a boutique, panels with designers, swap meets, scavenger hunts and plenty of exhibitors) and Visual Kei. Had I not quit Lolita fashion and Visual Kei fandom a few years ago, I might have been more excited about PMX’s programming.
The dealer’s room contained the one saving grace I found at the con: a manga peddler who had fantastic deals on out of print titles from now-defunct publishers. I bought 36 volumes of manga for only $60, which was amazing. I came back the next day ONLY because I wanted to see if I had overlooked anything on their shelves. The dealer’s room also had a Kapibara-san booth, which excited me because I’m fond on the large furry rodents and unusual Japanese character merchandise. I’d never seen that particular character have a booth at a con before, which makes me wonder why they chose to exhibit at PMX. (Wish I could have justified a giant Kapibara-san plush, but my apartment is too tiny.)
I didn’t peruse the artist’s alley much except to commission a friend of mine, who said that she was having difficulties making back her con expenses because the artist’s alley was so hard to find.
The last thing I did at the con (aside from coming back quickly to shop for manga) was attend a swap meet. However, due to poor judging on the part of the con, it was more like a lesson in claustrophobia there were so many people crammed into this tiny space. I lasted five minutes at the swap meet after making sure there weren’t any manga I really wanted. Truly, this event needs to be in a MUCH bigger room, even if there aren’t that many tables, as evidenced by some poor soul in an electric wheelchair who couldn’t even slowly inch through the crowd. I don’t know if this chaos lasted throughout the evening, but the size of the room was such that it was clear a bigger space was definitely needed no matter what.
As far as I can tell, PMX is a decent con for cosplayers and Visual Kei fans, and a pretty good con for Lolita fashion. For just about everyone else, it’s a decent con for seeing your friends and maybe spending lots of time in a video room or the game room. The PMX organizers have excellent taste in local food trucks, thankfully. This year they had Truck Norris, which was quite tasty, and last year they had Nom Nom Truck, which is a very popular LA truck.
As for next year, I think I’ll skip PMX.