Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Ray Pre-Reports: Japan Expo 2013

In the past two years, we've seen a couple of Northern California conventions switch over to Southern California: WonderCon from San Francisco to Anaheim, and Yaoi-Con from Burlingame to Long Beach. Although the two cons are recently making plans to move back up, this trend left us folks in NorCal with two less conventions to go to.

Fortunately, in their place we get Japan Expo, a major Europe-based expo with a 2012 attendence of 208,000 that recently expanded to have a U.S. branch. And by a stroke of fortune, they've chosen my hometown of Santa Clara to host their first American iteration.

As the title suggests, the expo isn't necessarily just focused on anime, manga, and video games; there are some elements of Japanese music and traditional culture. While this format means that the expo will probably have an unfamiliar atmosphere to those who have not attended it before, I personally welcome the more diverse topics as it will show that yes, there is more to Japanese entertainment than animation and comics.

The location means I can commute to and from the convention easily; I could even take the bus to get there, something that is free of charge thanks to me holding an SJSU Eco Pass that is good until next month. Still, I might get a hotel room for one night for the purpose of being able to easily change in and out, especially since I can't change into or out of one of my cosplays due to issues with my parents. Other than that, I don't foresee myself doing a whole lot of prep. 

There are a few things about the event that I may need to get used to. While most conventions have events going on until midnight, Japan Expo is only open until 7 PM each day. This means to fully enjoy my experience I'll need to arrive early. On the bright side, because events end fairly early, this grants me the rest of the evening to eat out, go home, post photos and writings about each day, and still wake up early the next day well-rested. 

In the process of moving here, the folks at JE ran into a few obstacles. A few months ago, some of you may recall that Japan Expo had a pricing model significantly different from those of U.S.-native cons: When you purchase a ticket for the expo, one ticket means one entry. If you leave and then come back you have to purchase a ticket again. This approach, while a mainstay of JE's European branches, caused quite an uproar amongst prospective attendees here, who are used to the idea of "get your badge and it's good for the entirety of the day(s) it's designated for", while those who attend JE's European shows had trouble understanding why there was so much outrage.  I was pretty upset myself, as this creates many problems; what if attendees wanted to leave to get food or go to their cars to pick up or drop off materials? What if someone had an emergency and needed to leave and come back later? Fortunately, JE USA was quick to respond to these concerns, and within the span of a day or two, updated registration such that tickets now have in-and-out privileges. This switch quickly won back the favor of many attendees, although this controversy gave us a little idea as to conventions operate in Europe.

Looking at the guests pages, I don't see a lot of familiar faces, but I see that Noriyuki Iwadare and Tatsuro Iwamoto, two guests who have contributed to the Ace Attorney series, will be making appearances, and are hosting an AA-related event on Friday around 5:30 PM, so I may look at that.

As far as other events go, most events in the schedule seem focused on anime and video games, although there are some Japanese musicians performing as well as a room for martial arts panels. Most likely I'll look at the schedule in more detail when I arrive at the expo, as I generally improvise all of my plans at conventions.

If worse comes to worse, I have a lot of friends going, including one friend coming from the East Coast, and conventions are always a perfect opportunity to meet with friends from far away, something that has been well-demonstrated by my experiences at Anime Expo last month.

As of this writing, Japan Expo is still 3 days away. This is JE USA's first year so I don't have a lot of specific expectations, but I hope to enjoy myself at the show. See you all there!

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