HEXXP 2010: Modest beginning, shaky missteps

November 16th, 2010
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The Hawaii Entertainment Expo Experience — HEXXP for short — was a convention that, from the time I and some others first heard about it several months ago, made us think, “Hmmmm … an anime convention that’s not really an anime convention per se, but more a pop culture convention incorporating sci-fi, theater and other things? Sounds interesting, and we’d like for it to succeed, but … will it really work?”

It did work. Sort of. But perhaps what the inaugural HEXXP will be remembered for the most was the stealth “seventh spoke,” one that people buying into the six-spoke convention structure of contests, gaming, film and theater, sci-fi, anime and cosplay would never have realized they were also buying into had they bought their tickets online.

So welcome also to the inaugural edition of the Extreme Machines Car Show, organized as a complement to HEXXP, headquarters to hot cars (like the one pictured above) and motorcycles, hotter scantily clad women (not pictured above, because we’d like to keep our PG rating), and owners eager to show off their sound systems with enough power to replicate the decibels generated by a sold-out Aloha Stadium in the space of, say, a VW Bug. It’s not exactly the perfect complement to the generally cross-generational appeal that anime conventions like Kawaii Kon generate. The vehicles and related displays took up two-thirds of the hall floor space, with the other third occupied by HEXXP.

In talking with several people who were on the HEXXP side on Saturday, a common story emerged: On the car show side, there was a war of sound systems going on, the sides gradually escalating their volume to a point where there were no clear winners, but several “casualties” on the convention side. In fact, the first I actually heard about anything substantive going on at HEXXP — it was a rather quiet Twitter traffic night on that front, particularly when compared to the continual tweeting that emerges during Kawaii Kon weekend — came from a late-night message from William “Doc” Grant and the Hawaii Star Manga Project account, cross-posted to Twitter and Facebook:

“Hex Day 1: super loud carshow DJ drove out droves of fans and made sales all but impossible, shared venues FEH! Still great to see many old familiar faces and friends! The security and volunteers went out of their way to do a GREAT job despite the 120dB BGM from the carshow next door! Round of applause to the little guys!”

The noise was enough for Theatricus, an interactive theater troupe, to pull out of a planned Sunday performance of its play, “The Ghosts of Aragos,” because no one could hear the actors at the Saturday performance. Also packing up after Saturday, never to return, was a business offering five-minute deep-tissue and healing-point massages.

Tag-team partner in fandom Wilma J. and I missed all that. We had to serve our regular, mild-mannered-for-the-most-part-unless-particularly-heinous-copy-comes-through-15-minutes-before-deadline duties as copy editors on Saturday. We did manage, however, to drive past the Blaisdell 15 minutes before the show opened, where two things caught our attention:

  • The respectable crowd that had gathered outside the Galleria entrance to the exhibition hall, some of them dressed in bright, colorful costumes. (I think I saw two Pokemon.)
  • The volunteer teens across the street for some kind of “luxury car slasher sale” who were advertising 50-cent jumbo hot dogs with giant arrow signs … which they were using on occasion to point at their own, umm, “jumbo hot dogs.”

So the first time we stepped onto the floor of HEXXP was about 45 minutes after the convention opened on Sunday. That we weren’t assaulted with a wall of sound soon after arriving was already a positive sign. But what we also noticed was … this.

Yes, that is a Back to the Future replica DeLorean in the foreground. But for the purposes of our discussion, I’d like to point out the attendee traffic in the background … or rather, the lack thereof. This picture was taken close to two hours after the show opened to the public, around 11:50 a.m.

This picture was shot close to 3 p.m. I’d have to call attendance modest at its peak, sparse in general. And when things were starting to wind down around 5 p.m. …

… umm, yeah. Let’s just say navigating the aisles was never a problem.

It also meant we saw a lot of this: people sitting in the corridor of what was being termed as the “artists alley,” a handful of visitors visiting them every now and then, but mostly left to working on their crafts or talking among themselves.

The panels — what few we attended or tried to attend, anyway; there were two things on the entire schedule that interested us — also were somewhat disappointing. Wilma attended a panel advertised in the program as “Ken Maeda – Anime/Game Drifting in Real Life: D1GP Professional Drift Driver” that turned out to be a straight Q&A session, with only one of those questions addressing the supposed panel topic. (For the record: The difference between video game drifting and real-life drifting is that real-life drifting has real-life feedback.) A second panel, the stealth, off-the-schedule-then-suddenly-on-it panel hosted by Manga University’s Glenn Kardy and discussing his experiences interviewing various anime and manga industry notables in Japan, was quietly dropped with no explanation. Although there were a few announcements made over the Blaisdell PA system, they were difficult to hear, and it would have been nice to have some more clear advance notice about the panel’s fate.

That’s not to say that everything was a wash. There was a fascinating display of film props and replica weaponry, including helmets from Sam Campos’ new fantasy martial arts drama Dragonfly and various daggers.

One cool thing I saw while looking over these props was this giant suit being wheeled in by three guys. It’s quite an impressive piece of work when you see it from the front and up close.

See?

There were also video gaming and PC gaming rooms available. The video gaming room hosted by the Hawaii Video Gaming League had the usual faithful standbys, like Super Street Fighter IV, Tekken 6, Marvel vs. Capcom 2, Rock Band, Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 and NBA Jam.

And, of course, a guy in a panda suit playing Super Smash Bros. Brawl.

The PC gaming side, run by PC Gamerz, had terminals with people playing Starcraft II, as well as the cushy rumbling gaming chairs shown above with Xbox 360s running first-person shooters.

I also had a wonderful interview with Glenn, one which I’ll be transcribing and posting here sometime in the near future. Stopping by to visit the Manga University table during our chat was friend of the column (and Star-Advertiser cartoonist) Jon J. Murakami, seen here chatting with Glenn’s wife, Mari.

Truth be told, though, this is what held our attention the longest … and it wasn’t even on the HEXXP side. Drifting radio-controlled cars … they are rather cool, and infinitely mesmerizing.

Overall, I’m willing to forgive the show’s faults this year. It’s difficult to get everything right out of the gate, and fixes do exist. (One thing I’d suggest: Give the car show its own venue.) To its credit, it was a show that provided more diverse opportunities than a straight anime convention can in showcasing different elements of pop-culture fandom — sci-fi and filmmaking being the most prominent. I’ve heard about big things in store for next year, and I hope organizers aren’t promising more than they can actually deliver.

3 Responses to “HEXXP 2010: Modest beginning, shaky missteps”

  1. William Doc Grant / Lime Media Hawaii:

    The Hawaii Entertainment Expo also had no signage at the NBC to announce it was there a month or even a day before the con started, even at the ticket window. One of the fixes HiEX actively did do was get vendoe feedback and AA feedback. With about a 3 person core team setting most of this up, lumps and bumps are part of the learning curve. But they WANT to learn, and that’s what counts. The volunteeers were universally helpful and cheerful even in the face of that horrid din on Saturday. PLATINUM STARS all around.

    Theatricus gets special mention as the crew of the Praemos hit an LZ incandescent with incoming enemy fire, completed the climax of their mission with a a great fight scene before withdrawing in honor under the withering enemy bombardment from that #@!$% car show!


  2. Hawaii News - Staradvertiser.com:

    [...] Place My Ad Top Stories Otaku Ohana « HEXXP 2010: Modest beginning, shaky missteps [...]


  3. Diane:

    Actually, when I first heard about HEXXP, back when it was still EXP con, I thought it was going to be a scifi convention. I was SUUUPER excited, since it had been YEARS since there was anything resembling a scifi convention here. I definitely didn’t expect the car show part. I’m glad I’m half deaf, so the mega-decibels on Saturday night didn’t bother me too much. =-) HEXXP definitely needed more, and better, advertising/marketing, but that’s something that can be worked on for next year. =-)


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