Anime Expo returned to the Los Angeles Convention Center earlier this month for its 27th year, and it looked like the gargantuan event was trying to tackle the difficulties of being “America’s Largest Anime Convention”, while still trying to provide their attendees with the biggest and best time possible. While the pure size of the convention alone makes it rather unwieldy, Anime Expo 2018 appeared to make a conscious effort to improve the attendee’s quality of life without compromising the experience. The five-day event, having been capped at a whopping 110,000 attendees, was a loud, bold, fun show of America’s love for Japanese culture and media.
When you first arrive at the convention center, after having walked past a flurry of anime-themed banners, billboards, and brightly wrapped shuttle buses, one of the first things you might notice is the new registration location. Rather than being stuffed half indoors on the already-crowded South Hall side of the center, Anime Expo moved this preliminary task to a large open outdoor area on the west side of the building. In conjunction with the introduction of pre-mailed badges, the majority of the attendees we spoke to found registration to be an easy and pain-free task this year. The bag check line to get into the convention hall was far more overwhelming, but it moved with relative speed with the help of dozens of volunteers to keep the line in order and moving forward. Compared to the reports of attendees having spent hours outside last year in order to bypass building security, this year appears to be a vast improvement.
Unfortunately, while Anime Expo did do it’s best to minimize its convention-wide lines and wait times, the experience inside still involved a lot of waiting, a lot of patience, and a bit of luck. While the convention might be equipped to handle over 100,000 attendees, the smaller events and experiences within Anime Expo had a significantly lower maximum capacity. It is almost essential to have a game plan going into the con if there is anything specific you are hoping to experience, or else you might find yourself unable to get into any of the events you were looking forward to. For example, the line for the highly anticipated My Hero Academia: Two Heroes world premiere began as early as the day before. Attendees finding themselves in line as early as 5 or 6 am still were unable to secure a seat for the afternoon show, leaving many hopeful fans disheartened. Many of the events in the entertainment hall, like the Blizzard and Fate/Grand Order experiences or the Dragon Quest and Kingdom Hearts demos, either required extremely early attendance or hours-long patience in order to get into their lines. Even some of the independent creators in the Exhibitor Hall had hour-long lines of customers. The fandom and audience for any given thing at Anime Expo is huge, purely due to the size of attendance, so you need to come in with a game plan regarding what you want to see and be up to the task of fighting for that chance.
If you were able to spend your time wisely and see what you wanted to see, then Anime Expo is like no other. The convention was filled to the brim with exclusive events and content you can’t catch anywhere else or anytime again. With 150+ industry guests, 500+ exhibitors in the Exhibit and Entertainment halls, 500+ artists in the Artist Alley, and 900+ hours of programming, few if any anime fans would struggle in finding something that appealed to them. Attendees of Anisong World Matsuri and OTAQUEST LIVE praised the fun, upbeat, high-quality concerts, while those that managed to get a slot in Jojo’s Bizarre Escape Room or One Piece Puzzle Hunt events raved about their enjoyment. While there might definitely be some difficulties in getting to experience Anime Expo, the experience itself might definitely be one worth fighting for!
Badges for 2019 are already up on their site, for those interested in snagging a spot before the price spikes or the attendance cap is hit. Anime Expo 2019 will be taking place from July 4th through July 7th. Located too far out from the west coast to justify the travel, or hoping for another chance to experience the convention? Anime Expo recently announced a partnership with New York Comic Con to launch Anime Fest @ NYCC x Anime Expo for east coast fans. While the quality of this first-year event is still to be seen, this collaboration between two of the world’s biggest conventions is definitely one to keep an eye on.