Conventions, Expos, Gatherings; whatever you choose to call them, have risen in popularity exponentially over the last decade. It was only nine years ago that you could walk up to the door and buy tickets for San Diego Comic-Con the day of the con. Now, tickets sell out in under an hour. The pop culture hype has spread to other conventions as fans try to get their fill. Those who could not get a pass to SDCC have sought out smaller cons.
Anime Expo, though originally solely for Anime, is now filled to the brim with comic book, video game and movie fans. I roamed the halls of the LA convention center during 4th of July weekend with the villain Loki, Archer characters, steampunk and a shockingly large number of Sailor Moon (much to my personal delight) clad attendees. Over the last few years I have watched the once sparse halls of the smaller cons fill up to claustrophobic capacities.
I have enjoyed several Anime Expo’s, but I was disappointed to find 2014 had a few growing pains. Unfortunately, AX suffered a lack of organization and ability to handle the ever growing number of fans in attendance. The halls were difficult to maneuver, making getting from one place to another take an annoying amount of time. As frustrating as the traffic jams were, my biggest complaint was registration. Typically, the smart thing to do for any convention is to buy your tickets online to speed up the process of getting into the convention, also to avoid missing a day if it were to sell out beforehand. Anime Expo actually punished you for buying your ticket early. We were forced to wait in line for hours in 90+ degree weather, with no shade and no way of knowing how long it would take. Some friends of mine actually waited almost 4 hours because their system was not set up to sufficiently handle the number of guests. Just as annoying, was that fact that they did not allow you to print out a badge for the next day. So, if you purchased two single day passes, rather than a four day, you lost a large chunk of each day sweating in the sun for hours. This is not a tiny or brand new convention. AX has been around for a while and is breaking into the larger con bracket. I found this disheartening.
More and more, I realize that I enjoy smaller conventions. Nothing can stay small forever, but when an event reaches a certain point, you end up paying to stand in line surrounded by far too many people. If an event is going to sell that many tickets then they need be prepared to handle it. Otherwise, you end up with Comic-Con or “Disney” syndrome; more money for less experience.
As a balancing point, Anime Expo has a few things that I still really enjoy. The special events (if you can get in to see them) are still quite fun. There was karaoke with a fun, light atmosphere as well as a surprising amount of talent. Though, the website was difficult to navigate, the forums were filled with helpful meeting times for various costume or fan groups. Whether you wanted to dress with the group or simply observe you generally knew how and where to do so.
Anime Expo has a delightful area called “Lounge 21”, sort of like a club for guests over the age of 21. At Lounge 21 you can drink, listen to the lively music groups that perform live, and sit down. I cannot express how wonderful it is as a Cosplayer to sit down and casually enjoy a drink while resting your feet… glorious.
The exhibit hall is always an exciting place to be at a Con. You can see a wide variety of products on sale, speak with the artists, and have voice actors sign prints if you like. Maneuvering the exhibit hall can be more than a little claustrophobic, but worth the spoils of war if you are determined. Artist’s Alley in the exhibit room is simply stunning. The styles of artwork range from cutesy to realistic and exaggerated. It’s not solely Anime anymore. Of course, there is plenty of Anime and Manga to behold, but comic and movie characters held a strong presence as well. Speaking to the artists and gathering business cards for prints is a favorite activity for me. As an artist myself, it provides a unique insight into other creative minds.
There was a large room which had opportunities that I had not previously seen at a convention. One room was dedicated to picture scenes. Cosplay, or “costume play” is rampant at Anime Expo so wearing costumes is highly encouraged. I absolutely love taking pictures in costume and AX has provided a great outlet for that. Several areas had been decorated as little scenes, both indoor and out. You could get a picture of yourself or your group in costume in an authentic Japanese tearoom or even in a cherry blossom garden. This is a concept that I hope many other conventions will adopt.
Cons and Expos are growing in popularity and some have been overwhelmed at the rapidly increasing number of attendees. Anime Expo has sadly become crowded and over sold. However, if you enjoy Anime and Asian fandoms the mad rush can be worth battling a horde of other fans. I am still impressed by the number of fans that dress up and the stunning costumes that flood the halls. If you have a little fight in you and you can stomach a crowd then you reap the rewards. Alas, it does not come easily. If you really love something, then you just might do crazy things to live the life for a few days. I most certainly have.
Written by Taylor Kenne follow her cosplay facebook page here https://www.facebook.com/ElvenJediXCosplay coming soon is her very own website which we will proudlu support here.