Anime Expo (AX) is the largest anime convention in the United States with over 100,000 fans in attendance. AX is known for occurring four days over the 4th of July and began back in 1991. Since its start, AX has been taken over by the Society for the Promotion of Japanese Animation (SPJA) and has evolved from its roots into a large convention that fills both the South and West halls of the Los Angeles Convention Center.
AX offers fans a widespread of activities, from their Exhibit Hall, live gaming, maid cafés, artist alley and more. The exhibit hall has grown exponentially over the years and offers fans exclusive merchandise, photo opportunities, and the chance to find an elusive anime figure. Key players such as Atlus, Crunchy Roll, and Viz Media had their booths up front as usual, but this year Bandai took up a large portion of the floor with their 40th Gundam Anniversary celebration. The hall was a buzz with their 9 foot Gundam Statue and the opportunity for both new and old fans to step up to build their own RX-78-2 to take home.
Another anniversary celebration took place at the For Fans by Fans booth where the little cartoon pug Puglie had a 5th birthday celebration cake for fans to take photos with and meet the creator Euge Leung. From simple beginnings, this little pug has taken over the internet with his love for food! It is great to see such an interactive way for fans to take part in the celebration and even adopt and take a Puglie home.
Once part of the Exhibit Hall, the Artist Alley has taken over its own separate space just below the hall. It was great to see so many artists offering their original art, keychains, and even on the spot art commissions. Since expanding the artist alley, AX has allowed more niche anime and video game representation that they would not have from the main players on the exhibit hall floor. These artists build their own displays and sell their work that they brought with them.
One of Anime Expo’s short comings has always been organization. Although this year was better than previous years, they still have a long way to go. Years prior it was always the dreaded “badge pick up” that caused attendees to arrive a day early to devote an entire day to standing in line to pick up their badges on site. Since switching to mailing badges, this stress has been lessened though sadly replaced with the newest issue, the Security & Bag Check.
With the influx of attendees, AX has put in security check points to make sure that only badge holders are allowed into the convention space, with only approved items. Due to poor planning, attendees were faced with multiple zig zagging lines without shaded cover or clear direction. On day one alone, attendees were faced with multiple hours of waiting to make it into the convention center itself and faced line merges and people cutting in the line. Premier Access Attendees had a much shorter wait with their own express line, but at the cost of a premier ticket. Peak hours such as the exhibit hall opening and lunch time caused an overload on the lines and attendees were faced on deciding if they should leave the hall for lunch- or wait in the food lines for on-site meals. By the second day of the convention, the staff had a better handle on the situation, but there were no major adjustments. By upping the staff at the convention center, Anime Expo has kept up with the number of attendees but miscommunication and poor information is a major factor in the chaos to enter the convention center its self. Hopefully staff can learn from this experience and come up with a more streamlined system to keep attendees both safe, and comfortable.
Anime Expo is a gathering of anime fans from across California and across the world, one that any fan needs to experience. Parking can get pricy, lines sometimes endless, but overall Anime Expo is worth the adventure into Downtown Los Angeles in July.