Monday, July 18, 2016

Anime Expo 2016: Tally's Review

Anime Expo is one of the biggest conventions in the United States, and one of the more well-known anime conventions as well. The convention was held at the Los Angeles Convention Center, as it has been for the past few years now. It always goes on during Fourth of July weekend, so this was no exception.

This year, as a member of this blog, a few associates and I were welcomed back as member of press. Now, in the past, I have written some not so nice reviews about this particular convention and have been harassed by a former AX DJ and unfortunately, had to block him on Facebook. I pray that a similar situation does not happen again after this review goes up.

Day 0

After arriving to the LACC, my associate, Ryan, and I picked up our badges on the second floor of the convention center, before heading to the Westin Bonaventure hotel for the press junkets and conferences. Given the amount of special guests, either anime, industry or music related, it was a tough decision deciding which junkets and conferences we wished to attend, and while in waiting for these events, we had come up with some questions in high hopes they would be answered.

The list consisted of almost all of the special guests invited by Anime Expo. It took some time to eliminate choices off of the list. The following below were the choices we picked.

  • Junichi Suwabe. Having started his voice acting career in 1995, he has become a well-known voice actor by anime fans. He is known for many roles he has done since 1995 until now. His most popular roles are Worick from GANGSTA, Dandy in Space Dandy, Keigo Atobe in The Prince of Tennis, Daiki Aomine from Kuroko no Basket/Kuroko's Basketball, Archer from Fate/stay night, Ren Jinguji from Uta no Prince-sama and Grimmjow Jaegerjaquez from Bleach.
  • DJ Teddyloid. His career started in 2008, working with Japanese rock (J-Rock) artist, Miyavi. His is known for his musical involvement with the series, Panty and Stocking.
  • T.M.Revolution. This singer and actor is known for his contributions of ending and opening themes to many notable anime and games series, such as Rurouni Kenshin, the Mobile Suit Gundam SEED/SEED Destiny series and Sengoku Basara series. 

For press conferences, Ryan and I hit the Music Block, which consisted of the musical talents of DJ HeavyGrinder, DJ Teddyloid and Lia. This ran from two pm to three pm. Unfortunately, by the time we arrived there, the only artist that was there was Lia. Ryan was able to ask Lia a question. I do not have the footage, but my associates do, so it will be up very soon.
The next block was the Anisong World Matsuri. This was at three-thirty pm to four-thirty pm. This group consisted of JAM PROJECT, T.M.Revolution, Eir Aoi and Luna Haruna.

Unfortunately, there were come complications, such as guests not showing up for junkets or press conferences. I do not blame the special guests, by any means. It is completely understandable to be late or not show up at all to a scheduled event. Incidents happen to the best of us.

The Pros

Badge pick up was smoother this year. In and out within a set amount of time. The night before day zero, people started lining up around nine o'clock at night to pick up their badges early. These dedicated fans waited over twelve hours or so to pick up their badges early.

The Entertainment Hall, was once again, a main attraction for con goers and cosplayers. Different scenarios were set up. From three school settings (a classroom, school gym, and rooftop), to two Japanese settings (a cherry blossom setting and a garden), to an idol stage, and a post-apocalyptic setting and cemetery, this room had almost perfect set ups for quick photo shoots.
If someone wasn't into the scenarios offered to them, there was other ideal entertainment. For example, there was an eGaming section, with games sponsored by iBuypower and Save Point. Save Point provided arcades and video games. This would be a plus for gamers alike that attended the convention.
Cosplay Repair Station was in the back of this hall, near the Community stage. If your costume was in need of repair, that was the place to go to fix up the outfit as best as one possibly could without returning to your hotel room.

Kenta Hall housed artist alley this year. If you do not know LACC's layout, Kenta hall is what con goers call "The Pit". It is called "The Pit" because many cosplayers and attendees go down there to relax a bit. However, usually seen down there are Hetalia: Axis Powers and Homestuck cosplayers. Please do not ask me why and/or how I know this.
Artist Alley is a good location to buy prints or little fan made trinkets (key chains and/or pins) of various characters or series. As for prices, some varied, and usually on the last day of con, the prices are dropped.

The special guests this year were far more impressive than last year, or any other year, in fact. From musical guests like JAM PROJECT, T.M.Revolution, FLOW, Eir Aoi, Luna Haruna, Michi, Minami, and OLDCODEX, it was no surprise that this year's musical guests were far more superior than previous years before. This is no exception to other special guests as well. With voice actors, English or Japanese, to important people in Industry, it just added to the magic that is Anime Expo, and some of the reasons why con goers, such as myself and may others, go every year.

Main events, such as Anisong World Maturi (Japan Super Live and Japan Band Battle), the One Punch Man Matsuri, Love Live! Sunshine! Special Event: Nice to meet you, we are AQQURS, Anime Expo Masquerade and Cowboy Bebop: Jazz Cast Experience, it is evident that events like these bring people to conventions. For the most part, all were ticketed events, but for those who go to events like these, who enjoy them, then it is well worth it.

The shuttle system was beautiful. For those who were not at the J.W. Marriot or hotels in walking distance, the only option to get to the convention was by shuttle. You meet some interesting people while taking a shuttle. In fact, on a shuttle ride, I met one of the artists at artist alley and that was how I found out about the horrid conditions the artists had to deal with, until I witnessed it for myself. But, besides the point, the shuttle rides were quick enough and very simple, with working air conditioner. The bus drivers were very friendly and some even talkative.

Press was well informed this year. The constant update emails were very informative. One woman working for the firm press used to organize press, called to confirm we were present and coming to the press junkets. This was very helpful, and a nice change compared to previous years and other conventions that I've attended. This system works. Hopefully, this system continues next year and future years.

The Cons

From a personal stand point, and many others feel the same way about this, especially those among press, in the past years, up until two years ago, Anime Expo allowed members of press into main events. No tickets were required. This was a perk back then, when press was treated with respect. Now, it feels as though members of press are just 'honored attendees,' barely a step of over normal attendees.

Artist Alley, as stated above, was placed in Kenta Hall this year, instead of coinciding with the Exhibit Hall. How is this a problem you ask? The location in which Artist Alley was place was inside a parking garage. There was very little air flow once the air conditioner was on. Towards the back aisles was an issues. I talked to a few of the artists and the all mentioned how "stuffy" it was towards the back. It was a health issues for those not near the front and with the crowded aisles it was no doubt a health hazard. There could have been carbon monoxide poisoning. Key words, could have. The lack of air conditioning in the back aisles and the crowded aisles made it very uncomfortable for some. Hopefully this problem is fixed next year.

Crowd control was an issue this year. It seems like every year crowd control gets worse and worse ever year. It was almost a fire hazard, in my personal opinion. With over one hundred thousand people attending, I understand that with that amount people attending, this is hard to control, but, and this is just a suggestion, perhaps capping the amount of badges sold and given out will help this situation.

Given the events previously this year with terrorist attacks and bombings, I understand that the security is everything nowadays, but the excessive amount of bag checks and security watching was a bit much. Most people who attend Anime Expo know better than to bring any kind of offensive weapon to a public place. As stated the amount of security was a bit unnecessary. Perhaps, once the possible threats to our country have stopped, excess security will not be an issue.

LACC staff and Anime Expo staff were not as bad as they could be in past years. In previous years, they were San Diego Comic Con trainees, or just misinformed and used harsh words to get attendees to move from certain locations. This year, an incident happened and unfortunately both sets of staff did nothing to help the woman. A woman had two seizures, the first one minor, and a friend of hers took care of her. The other one happened outside, but as stated in this paragraph, both sets of staff did nothing to help the woman. Whether it is because they had no idea how to help or they just did not care, I will assume that tending to con goers in their time of need is not part of their job description.

Unnecessary badge checking this year was ridiculous. Like Fanime, every so often, in partially crowded areas, a staff member would approach attendees and ask to see their badges. This convention was no exception. I know that ghosting is a thing, and many people do it, especially if they cannot afford badges with how ridiculous the prices would be. This, however, was not the worst of it when it came to badges.

A few reports I heard that badges were being stolen. In fact, one of my roommates had his badge and wallet stolen, outside by the food trucks,in broad daylight. The issue with this is that the badges, except for Industry or press, had names on them. While they could easily fall off, it is a problem if the badges have no names to verify who the badge belongs to. This was simple in the past, with names, nicknames and city and state on them. It was harder to copy. But now, it is just too easy.

One or two of the gathering sites had been switched. This happened at the Kuroko no Basket gathering I attended. We were not aware that the sites were switched until someone had asked a nearby AX worker. This was a slight inconvenience to not only myself, but the others waiting for the gathering. Perhaps next year, an official gathering list could be put out in the guide book to help those planning to attend gatherings.

Anime Expo was once for the fans. Nowadays, it is mostly industry and less for the fans. How is this a problem? It is all about the money, and this had been the main problem the past few years. I have no knowledge in business management, but I am aware of some things. While conventions have to evolve, that does not mean make the convention mostly industry, while those who wish to have fun with friends just sit on the sidelines while everyone else has fun. While there are gatherings, photo shoots, panels and karaoke, how long will that keep someone entertained? It is called Anime Expo, not Industry Expo.


Overall, this con was a success, yet again. Minus the small list of hiccups, this con survived another year and will only get better now that new CEO, Ray Chiang, is running the show. Sure, some changes could be made, some more improvements, but this year was fairly good, considering the past few years. I look forward to next year.

Am I suggesting you attend this convention? If you wish to get the exclusive merchandise and art prints and trinkets from con, then yes. I am suggesting you go. If you're like me, a person who hangs out with friends, attends gatherings, sits in karaoke and does photo shoots, then perhaps it not the convention for you.
But, please do not let this review influence you.

Until next time, dear readers.

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