Anime Expo 2007

Long Beach, California, USA. June 29 – July 2, 2007.
Reporter(s): Lady Sage

July 2007 marked my sixth consecutive Anime Expo (AX), which was an unusual year for several reasons. It was the first time in five years that the con was held at Long Beach Convention Center, rather than the more spacious Anaheim Convention Center, since the Shriners took over the ACC for Fourth of July weekend. It was my first year at AX without my usual convention companion, who is in Germany for the summer. Finally, it was the worst-organized and planned convention I have ever had the misfortune of attending. 
To be honest, things were going poorly before it even started. Multiple hotels had large overbooking problems – I found myself scrambling to find a room after mine was among the 50 rooms dropped from the Westin. Furthermore, I did not find the guest list, for the most part, the least bit engaging; not a single guest was involved in production of any series I liked. Instead, there were five musical guests, most of whom had minimal involvement in anime. The only guest I could really get excited about was SKIN, the J-Rock megaband consisting of GacktMiyabiYoshiki of X-Japan, and Sugizo of Lunasea
I have to wonder what the con executives were smoking when they planned the layout of the convention. It seemed like everything was designed to be as inconvenient as possible, with long detours that were inescapable, such as from the dealer’s room exit back to the convention center entrance. The artist’s alley was divided into three parts: one in the Hyatt adjacent to the con center, one in the Westin across the street, and one (inexplicably) in the main corridor of the convention center, lovingly placed to obstruct foot traffic as much as possible. Getting around was, to put it mildly, a hassle, made worse by the fact that LBCC is far too small to accommodate the 40,000 people in attendance. 
The venue’s deficiencies were only exacerbated by the staff’s utter cluelessness. The entire press procedure was mucked up; before the SKIN concert, the first major event of the concert, I asked ten different staffers where I needed to go to get my tickets, and was told ten different things. It wasn’t until I found a fellow member of the press purely by accident that I was able to find where to go. Once I got there, I was told not to wait in the blazing hot sun, since nobody would be getting in until 4:00, the time the concert was scheduled to begin. Once we were allowed in, nobody had any idea where the press seating was supposed to be. Not the volunteers, not the press coordinator, not the Arena employees. Once they decided where to seat us (I am still not sure whether that was actually my assigned seat), we waited another two hours for the show to start. However, my situation paled in comparison to those who were lined up in a parking lot all day in the heat, as cars entered and exited the parking lot around them, only to be forced to throw away any provisions and their cosplay props (!) once they were inside. 
The entire weekend was plagued by amateurish mistakes on the part of both Anime Expo and venue employees. The night of the AMV contest, they could only show one category because the DVD with the rest had been stolen; instead, they showed the rest two days later. Convention attendees were routinely told they were in the wrong lines, whether or not they actually were. The StaffPRO employees (who, apparently, Anime Expo were forced to use because of some sort of union agreement with the LBCC) were both incompetent and rude; I asked one for directions and he told me he was “just standing where they told [him] to stand,” and on several occasions I was mocked openly for my cosplay, as were many others. Cosplayers were not allowed to bring props into the Arena, and many (myself included) found their hard work broken, thrown out, or stolen upon exiting. 

There were some high points to the con, but few of them had to do with the con itself. SKIN was definitely worth the wait; there’s a reason all the members are superstars, and the combined force of their charisma was overpowering. Miyavi’s appeal, however, was diluted by his utterly outlandish hairstyle. The thrill of being among the first to witness the group was incredible. Their music had some cacophonous moments – not the least of which when Yoshiki and Sugizo went nuts and annihilated their instruments – but overall it was very enjoyable J-Rock. 

Another premiere I was able to see this Anime Expo was theMushishi dub. I was a bit apprehensive about the dub, as it is a fairly talky series and I was not familiar with Travis Willingham, Ginko’s English voice’s work. Fortunately, they passed with flying colors, and there was a fun question and answer session that included Nagahama, the original director. What’s more, I was able to convert three new fans by dragging them there with me! 

At 15 years old with 40,000 attendees, Anime Expo has been around far too long and is far too large to be making the kind of newbie mistakes that happened this year. Change in venue and staff turnaround is no excuse; with its longstanding reputation as the most professionally run of the North American cons, I think it’s safe to say that nearly everyone in attendance expected better. It’s time for them to grow up and stop clinging so desperately to the illusion that fan-run automatically means better. They’ve simply outgrown their current model, and to improve must look to larger, more professional cons. 

I love Anime Expo, and wouldn’t dream of missing it next year; however, they better shape up by then.