EVENT COVERAGE: Anime Expo 2013
Anime And Manga Fans Descend On Los Angeles...
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Each year the July 4th weekend is marked by not only patriotic festivities, but also the largest anime and manga convention in the United States, Southern California’s own Anime Expo. 2013 was no exception, and like the five prior years the event was held at the Los Angeles Convention Center in Downtown L.A. As always it was an incredible weekend for the fans, filled with special events, panels, screenings, contests, art, cosplay, and much much more. Moreso than maybe any other group of genre fans the anime crowd has an energy and excitement that makes this show one of the most fun every year, and if you count yourself in that group but haven’t been here, mark your calendar for next year right now.
While AX has been on a rise since 2010 (the first year attendance dipped in about a decade), 2013 seemed particularly crowded and vibrant with fans packing the exhibit hall and panel rooms all weekend. And yet, even with attendance reaching around 50,000 people Anime Expo has a fun, small convention spirit to it. People are friendly, there are deals to be made, and for the most part everyone looks happy as they go about their business. It’s also the place to be to see cosplay. While Comic-Con may showcase some of the highest quality costuming around, head to AX for the absolute widest variety and most impressive ingenuity in design and execution, not to mention more gender and race-swapping of characters than you could ever imagine. Everywhere you look there are fans of all ages in costume, and nearly the entire weekend there’s veritable standing room only in the entrance hall as cosplayers show off their stuff and attendees swarm to take pictures.
As you traveled into Downtown L.A., the first thing most people saw was the new banner on the convention center proudly announcing the show. But, that wasn’t all. Parked in front of the main entrance was an actual German Panzer tank, a bit of promotion for the anime “Girls und Panzer.” In the middle of each day the area was also swarming with food trucks, offering attendees plenty of options besides the overpriced convention center fare. Inside the main building there was even more to check out before getting into the exhibit hall or programming rooms with the official AX store and Mirai Mart by Culture Japan. At the former you could deck yourself out in Anime Expo apparel while at the latter you check out unique shirts, art, language aids, and dolls from Japan.
For most people, the best part of Anime Expo is the Exhibit Hall, and it certainly didn’t disappoint this year. As usual, the bigger companies formed the first row of booths with familiar names like Funimation, Crunchyroll, NIS America, Aniplex, sentai Filmworks, and Viz Media. The anime and manga companies showed off new releases and classics (like more Tiger & Bunny from Viz, Asagi Wars at NIS, Valvrave the Liberator at Aniplex, and Another and Bodacious Space Pirates at sentai just to name a few), sold a plethora of items, and offered fun activities for fans like photo ops, giveaways, and freebies. Plus you could learn about voice acting at the Bang Zoom! booth, play demos at Bushiroad, and more. Just beyond the first row were some more big presentations too including gaming with Aksys, Bandai Namco, and Nexon.
Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t discuss the coolest displays among the big boys at Anime Expo, and that would be toys! Several major companies turned out to show off their wares and sell to the throngs of eager attendees. As usual, Bluefin (Bandai’s official U.S. distributor) was there in full force with the massive, brightly lit display cases as well as the fully stocked store next door. The toy giant had everything from hundreds of Gundams in various scales to One Piece and Tiger & Bunny figures, Dragonball Z, Godzilla, Valvrave, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, Mega Man, Masked Rider, Digimon, Ultraman, and many more. The labyrinth of their store area featured rows upon rows of models and toys, and eager collectors sought out their excellent show deals. Click HERE for the full Bluefin gallery.
If you were in the mood for more figures, down a couple booths from Bluefin was Good Smile Company, probably best known for its “figma” lineup. They had a series of display cases as well with all sorts of Nendoroids, Nendoroid Petites, figma figures, and more. Literally not ten minutes after the exhibit hall opened on Friday there was a line completely surrounding this booth. Down at the other end was frequent convention exhibitor BAIT, a company with lots of unique items. On display and available at Anime Expo was a wide variety of One Piece items alongside blind box figures, Spongebob Squarepants, Marvel, and Domo apparel, and lots more.
Beyond the first couple rows of major companies, the AX exhibit hall stretched as far as the eye could see and offered hours and hours of activity and enough products to bleed your wallet many times over. From food to toys, anime, manga, cosplay items, music, art, video games, plush, weapons, apparel, posters, adult items, model kits, card games, and even weird stuff, it’s truly an understatement to say that there was something for everyone. I really can’t emphasize enough the variety of booths at Anime Expo, so check out the photo gallery to get a small taste. Of particular note: Figures.com readers may remember our introduction to the Necomimi brainwave-controlled cat ears at Anime Expo and Comic-Con last year; this time around there were Necomimis everywhere (and reduced prices) in addition to lots of new ear shapes and materials from Emoki. Click HERE for a closer look at all the cool stuff happening in the exhibit hall.
At the back of the exhibit hall was the artist alley. You’re probably familiar with this area from other conventions, but once again at AX things are a little bit different. The “alley” here is massive and features rows after rows of amazing artwork, plushes, figures, and all sorts of interesting crafts. Artists sold every manner of medium, and many created commissions for attendees on the spot. As you can imagine there were lots of anime and pop culture characters celebrated in the art here, everything from the current anime hit Attack on Titan to My Little Pony, Doctor Who, and everything in between. One particularly cool booth I found in this section was for CreepyTown Miniatures. With the tagline “Something Different for Your Battlefield,” CreepyTown offers professionally painted miniature terrain and other items for miniature games. Their stuff is pretty amazing, and I couldn’t resist buying the deadly Pustule for use in my Pathfinder games!
So besides shopping and checking out all of the cool stuff in the exhibit hall what’s there to do at Anime Expo, you might be asking. Well, the short answer is: a lot. Live Programming rooms host panels featuring anime and manga companies, convention guests of honor, Q&As, in-depth looks at specific titles, fan groups and like-minded gatherings, concert viewing, and much more. The “industry” panels for each of the major companies (Funimation, Aniplex, NIS, Viz, eigoManga, Right Stuf, etc.) and properties (Robotech, One Piece, Gundam, etc.) are always major events, where they show off new and upcoming releases to thunderous applause. As always there were plenty of opportunities to hear from industry professionals and get tips on how to make it in the biz, whether that’s animation, voice acting, or game design. Workshops ranged far and wide from dance to model building, food, body painting, stunt fighting, makeup, and more. Then of course there are the four rooms screening all manner of anime and movies day and night, as well as a separate rooms for anime music videos, dance, and karaoke. In other areas of the convention center you could enjoy various pleasures at the Maid Café and Lounge 21, or participate in all kinds of gaming either table top or console.
Anime Expo also features plenty of main events and special guests. Ranging from Opening Ceremonies to concerts, the always-popular Anime Music Video competition, battle of the bands, masquerade, and charity auction, the large Hall B gathered fans together for truly memorable events. Meanwhile, special panels were held in honor of special guests like Christopher Sabat (voice of Vegeta and Piccolo), Danny Choo, Eric Vale (voice of Trunks), Johnny Young Bosch (the original Black Ranger) and his band Eyeshine, Mitsuhisa Ishikawa (CEO and President of Production I.G.), and lots more. And if even that wasn’t enough, you could relax and get some reading done in the Manga Lounge.
Whether you’re a fan of anime, manga, Japanese toys, dressing up, or just plain fun, Anime Expo is definitely a destination weekend with tons to do, see, and most importantly, buy. Next year’s convention will be at the same time and place, July 3rd through 6th at the Los Angeles Convention Center. Get your badges and I’ll see you there!
Photos and Text by Scott Rubin