Mission: Anime Expo, Part 3

Undertaking: Anime Expo, Section 3

/// Your mission, should you choose to accept it… ///


Los Angeles, CA
12:30 Hours

Hold on tight. No voids. Keep your back to the wall.

We made our way past the Good Smile Racing car, an upgraded Itasha Porsche 911, which was neatly parked facing the Exhibit Hall exit as the line slowly snaked around the Smile Mart exhibit. Sweet. Once I had recovered Orange, I would have some hot wheels on hand for an emergency escape.

Time in the Smile Mart line went from being measured in minutes to hours. If the waiting line for Grand Archive was an appetizer, this was the main course. As I came around the third turn, Uma Musume’s “Glorious Moment!” racing music pulsed from the Cygames space, offering much-needed hype and emotional support for fatiguing feet.

Run! Run!
(Running to the top! Running to the top!)
Run! Run!
(Running to the top! Glorious 1-one-moment!)

As the line finally completed a near full-perimeter loop around Smile Mart, I started to get excited about completing the mission… only to discover yet another back-and-forth snake-y line within. Sigh.

Uma Musume’s “Girls Legend U” urged me on.

Don’t stop! No, don’t stop ’til finish!!
(Wo oh oh)
Don’t stop! No, don’t stop ’til finish!!
(Wo oh oh)

I craned my head to see if I could spot any sold-out signs indicating that Orange was overcome by the mob and sold out. No. Nothing I could see. Hang in there, Orange, I’m coming for you!

As the line snaked slowly back and forth within Smile Mart, I started to realize that standing in line for this long for just one thing was sort of crazy. During the wait, however, I came across Madoka and Homura chillin’ atop a lightbox. Now I’m not one who is all that interested in merch or figurines but Puella Magi Madoka Magica remains one of my favorite series. It is the anime that brought me back into the medium after a very bad experience with Princess Euphemia’s forced mass murder in Code Geass made me cold quit anime altogether for years.

Although there are many various interpretations of the series, Puella Magi is, in my opinion, a tale about agape love and sacrifice. In the anime, Homura repeatedly rewinds the same six weeks in an effort to stop Madoka and her friends from suffering a dreadful ending. It’s kind of like the time loop in Edge of Tomorrow (another Tom Cruise film). Gen Urobuchi, the creator of the series, claims that she continually sees their frequently horrific deaths, only to turn back time and try a second time—nearly 100 times in total. Homura’s psychological suffering makes me think of a similar experience I had in my own life when I wasted four years of time working as a volunteer with a studio on a project that is still unfinished to this day. I have little doubt that many of us have had personal experiences with self-sacrifice that seem to be insignificant or overlooked. Why should any of us wait in line for someone else’s plastic toy? The reply is: Since it matters. It’s always important. Even while the sacrifices I make in life might not seem to matter or seem to make much of a difference right away, we rarely see the genuine aftereffects. Being kind frequently has a cascade effect, whereby other people will spread it. And even if that doesn’t happen, even if it can feel like what you do isn’t appreciated or recognized, God actually always notices. And to be honest, that’s sufficient. We are asked to serve as the “hands and feet,” because the Holy Spirit is unable to do so. Those feet can cover a lot of ground at times. They sometimes wait in line. many hours.

I made the decision to buy Madoka, Homura, and the rest of the Puella cast as soon as I got to the front of the line so I would have them to remember the Smile Mart experience by. The host then handed me what looked more like a cipher card than a menu. Like in Johnny Rivers’ “Secret Agent Man” (They’ve given you a number And taken away your identity), it appears that you placed your order based on numbers rather than names.

“Go see Big (smol) Sister over there, she’ll take care of you.”

The Smile Mart was much like a long row of bank tellers. Through here you only deposited money. The tellers were situated in front of a plain plywood-walled mini-warehouse full of rows of cardboard boxes. I fired off the ordering numbers: 9. 57. 58. 59. 60. 61. Smol Sister printed the receipt and passed it off to several gofers to fill. Minutes later, a bag came back filled. I would have certainly accepted it no questions asked, but Smol Sister took the time to check the bag—going the extra mile—just to make sure.

In true Puella Magi fashion, Sayaka got forgotten. Again. Poor Sayaka. Why does this keep happening to you?

With the order corrected, I finally left the Smile Mart, objective complete. I snapped a shot of Orange in hand to DM it to a waiting audience of one. The response was immediate with lots of crying emoji.

Based on their response, it seemed like they were going through a lot at the time and they needed this win. I let them know that God loves them because I felt called to do so.

Humans are the most valuable thing on earth. So much so that the Son of God died for them all. Anything you do for another human has the greatest value, more so than money or prestige.

At this point, the final mission was to go after the signatures in Artist Alley.

Since AX has a blanket policy against Artist Alley pictures, you’ll just have to envision long rows of back-to-back artist tables displaying mostly posters for sale collaged as 8’ high walls. Since every square inch of display space is precious, most tables offer only a small “drive-thru” window that the artists look out from and transact through. The alleys themselves are quite tight and if attendees don’t remain constantly moving, then everyone jams up behind them. Like walking through a moving art gallery, the eyes are bombarded on both sides by every skill level and fandom.

In comparison to everything else, this ended up being the easiest of the three missions, other than wading through even tighter crowds than in the Exhibit Hall. Connecting with Agent ‘HC’ was a smooth process, though a comical one. Initially, as we met, she tried to hug me from behind her artist table, as if it wasn’t there, only until it was. Whoops! Instead, we chatted through the little drive-thru window in the center of the wall of prints on display as a multitude of signatures were uploaded and allowed to dry.

All in all a successful day.

And what about Triskit? Success in the end! On Day Four, I was notified that she was present at the Grand Archive space. An exchange was made and now an individual is able to travel to Grand Archive‘s first national-scale event in Houston later this year.

Return to base. Packages sent. DMs and Discords read.

Mission accomplished.

Be sure to read parts one and two of T.R. Racki’s coverage of Anime Expo 2023 if you haven’t already, and follow him on Instagram!

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