Anime Expo 2012
Los Angeles, California, USA. July 4–July 7, 2013.
Let’s get one thing straight: Anime Expo is an exhausting convention. As North America’s largest anime convention, it’s got a long history and a big reputation to uphold, and it does so by pulling out all the stops: huge guests, big concerts, and a huge cash prize for winners of the cosplay masquerade.
Where last year was the year of Fate/Zero, this year was the year of Attack on Titan, with producer George Wada as a guest of honor and cosplayers of the series outnumbering almost any other in the hallways. Other cool highlights included Good Smile, the company behind the super-cute Nendroid line of figures, and huke, the artist behind Black Rock Shooter, getting together to release some Anime Expo figure exclusives for fans. These included Vocaloid and Madoka Magica figures and sold out quickly.
While this year’s concert was a shift from their normal super-relevant musical guests, having Porno Graffiti and a Visual Kei concert was such a nostalgia crash that I didn’t mind, and most other people didn’t seem to either. I’m not sure if it was intentional, but Anime Expo also managed to be the same weekend as a DBSK concert, the Korean boy band, and considering how much the K-pop fandom and the anime fandom collide, there were more than a few AX attendees who ended up over there. It wasn’t an SPJA (Society for the Promotion of Japanese Animation) event, but it sure seemed coincidental (then again, the other concert running that night was New Kids on the Block, so who knows).
To be honest, coming back after a hiatus from AX to see the sea of people trying to get into the dealer’s room first thing made me completely back off and only start going near those doors once the crowd had eased – about noon or so. There are enough other things going on during the convention that unless there’s something you absolutely need to get (like the Good Smile exclusives), it’s usually better to just take it easy and wait it out. The Artist’s Alley was again at the back of the exhibit hall, which seems to be a good location – it’s still in the middle of everything and people are already in a shopping mood when they get there.
Also making a return was Lounge 21, instituted last year for AX’s 21st birthday. Here attendees could relax and get a drink, with either a live DJ or live band, depending on when you went, and this year’s Lounge was partly sponsored by Cosplay Deviants. At the con, there were also the normal staples of a huge gaming room and art auction, but new (and super cool) this year was the introduction of cosplay stages. In Japan, studios often set up particular sets and rent them out for cosplayers to use; schoolrooms, fancy mansions, and other room settings are the most common. Anime Expo took this idea and set up stages for cosplayers to go on and take pictures. There was a classroom, a bedroom done up in pink frills, and a dystopian sci-fi laboratory complete with rusty pipes. These stages were especially nice at a convention with few and far between locations for good cosplay photos.
One of the main deterrents for AX is the fact that all of the hotels are so spread out – if you don’t grab a room at the JW Marriott or the Luxe, you can count on taking a shuttle. The LA weather is just too much to be able to walk back and forth, so a reliable shuttle system is a must. Last year’s commute was a mess with the street closures due to the X Games, but this year’s was fast, on time, and comfortable. The buses were nice, and while you still had to plan around the shuttle schedule, it was definitely smoother than previous years.
AX can be very overwhelming if you aren’t prepared for it, but there are lots of ways to make sure it’s a fun convention. There’s always something to do while it’s open (the convention center closes at 2AM, which is probably for the best; it’s too exhausting to be a 24-hour con), and as long as you’re prepared and ready to plan out your time (or even decide to just play it completely loose and go with the flow), it’s a fun trip.