Anime Expo 2018: All Grown Up

Every year in Los Angeles, the Society for the Promotion of Japanese Animation hosts the largest ani­me and Japanese pop cul­ture con­ven­tion in North America, dubbed Anime Expo (AX). With hum­ble roots start­ing back in 1992, Anime Expo has be­come a des­ti­na­tion for lovers of ani­me and Japanese cul­ture the world over. 

This year, I went on my year­ly trip to Anime Expo with my fi­ancé, Nacho, with painful mem­o­ries of 2017 in hand. Let me briefly ex­plain what 2017 was like to demon­strate the dif­fer­ence be­tween it and 2018.

I have at­tend­ed AX since 2001, and it’s one of my fa­vorite sum­mer time things to do, it is my sum­mer va­ca­tion. With hap­py hearts and ex­cite­ment, Nacho and I went to Anime Expo in 2017 wait­ing to go on an ad­ven­ture, and we went on one we very much didn’t ex­pect, nor want. The ma­jor­i­ty of our con­ven­tion ex­pe­ri­ence for AX ‘17 was wait­ing in a line that was lit­er­al­ly miles long, which wove its way through home­less en­camp­ments, un­der free­way over­pass­es, and into neigh­bor­hoods of the sur­round­ing area. After 5 and a half hours in line with only the Pocari Sweat we brought with us, and no bath­rooms or shade, we made it to the front of the line to get our badges, only to re­al­ize that the Exhibit Hall would be clos­ing in an hour and a half.

We’d wait­ed all day in line to bare­ly use a badge that should have been a tick­et to an ex­plo­sion of wee­by good­ness. Long sto­ry short, we went to the Exhibit Hall, ran around quick­ly to try to make some pur­chas­es, and be­grudg­ing­ly head­ed home, me with sec­ond de­gree sun­burns on my shoul­ders from wait­ing in line. My only so­lace in this dev­as­ta­tion was that I was able to grab a Bishoujo Edward Scissorhands statue.

Fast for­ward to a few weeks af­ter AX 2017, when it was an­nounced that badges would be mailed out for 2018, which would raise prices, but hope­ful­ly cut down on lines and wait times. I was skep­ti­cal, but ap­pre­ci­at­ed the at­tempt at quelling the chaos that was Line Con 2017. After some time, Nacho and I or­dered our badges so they would be mailed to us. We re­ceived them with­out any sort of is­sue. I also had down­loaded the Anime Expo app to keep track of dif­fer­ent ex­hibitors and pan­els I was in­ter­est­ed in. When a heat wave hit Southern California Day 1 of Anime Expo (I only at­tend­ed Day 3), I re­ceived many no­ti­fi­ca­tions from the Anime Expo app warn­ing peo­ple of the heat and to en­cour­age them to stay hy­drat­ed, in the shade/inside, and to re­fill their wa­ter bot­tles at the con­ven­tion. This fore­sight pleased me, but Nacho was right­ly doubt­ful about how well these ar­eas for wa­ter bot­tle fill­ing would be main­tained, if they even ex­ist­ed at all.

The Saturday of Anime Expo 2018 ar­rives, and we make sure to get to the con­ven­tion ear­ly, hav­ing learned a very harsh les­son the year be­fore. We quick­ly and eas­i­ly find the end of the line for the en­trance, some­thing that was vir­tu­al­ly im­pos­si­ble the pre­vi­ous year. We prayed that the lines would be less egre­gious this time around. Even an hour-long line would be per­fect­ly rea­son­able, giv­en that it’s a huge con­ven­tion, which at­tract­ed 110,000 peo­ple when all was said and done, so lines are un­der­stand­able. We crossed our fin­gers and hoped the line would move quickly.

And it did. Twenty min­utes. That’s how long it took for us to make it through the line out­side, through bag check, and into the con­ven­tion. Thanks to much im­proved or­ga­ni­za­tion and the ad­di­tion of RFID tech­nol­o­gy with the badges, the line moved swift­ly and smooth­ly, much to the sur­prise of Nacho and I. We made it into the con­ven­tion be­fore any of the halls had even opened. Nacho and I stood there, in shock, amidst the ever-growing crowd of peo­ple. This was the best en­trance ex­pe­ri­ence ei­ther of us could re­mem­ber in this his­to­ry of Anime Expo, es­pe­cial­ly since they had be­come larg­er. With the open­ing of the Exhibit Hall, we be­gan our jour­ney around the convention.

While I wasn’t able to get hands-on time with dif­fer­ent games that were present in the Entertainment Hall, such as Kingdom Hearts 3 and Dragon Quest XI, but see­ing their booths and their se­tups was a great ex­pe­ri­ence, one that we had nev­er re­al­ly had time to do in the past due to the or­ga­ni­za­tion­al is­sues that usu­al­ly would plague the con. It was great to be able to ex­pe­ri­ence the whole con­ven­tion through­out the en­tire­ty of the Los Angeles Convention Center and not feel rushed, or as though we would miss any­thing. I also was able to pick up some more fun mer­chan­dise this time, in­clud­ing a few Persona 5 shirts and a Madoka Magica blind box (which had all Homura stuff, much to my chagrin).

While my con­ven­tion ex­pe­ri­ences are al­ways as a ca­su­al con-goer, Anime Expo 2018 is the most suc­cess­ful I have ever seen Anime Expo be in terms of ease for the con­sumer. Nacho and I left the con­ven­tion when we felt our feet were about to give out and head­ed home with a feel­ing of sat­is­fac­tion and ful­fill­ment that we hadn’t got­ten from the con­ven­tion be­fore. We didn’t feel rushed to make our pur­chas­es, or to try to see if some­thing was still open. It felt like the fun of a 4 day con­ven­tion ex­pe­ri­ence wrapped into one quick and ex­cit­ing day.

Through ei­ther their own plan­ning and de­sire to be bet­ter than last year, or the po­ten­tial in­volve­ment of the city gov­ern­ment af­ter the safe­ty dis­as­ter that was 2017, it’s great to see Anime Expo grow­ing into its “big kid” pants. The grow­ing pains of try­ing to rec­on­cile start­ing from a small con to be­com­ing one of the largest in the world less than a decade lat­er def­i­nite­ly put Anime Expo, and its at­ten­dees, through the ringer some years. But 2018 is a tes­ta­ment to what can be done when a large con­ven­tion re­al­ly tries to plan it­self well. Here’s to hop­ing that 2019 can fol­low in its foot­steps and po­ten­tial­ly be even bet­ter that 2018.

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Lover of video games, met­al, and hard cider. Amateur video game mu­sic com­pos­er and YouTuber at Video Culture Replay. Armed with a de­gree in psy­chol­o­gy, she thinks she knows it all (and some­times ac­tu­al­ly gets it right). Also skilled with the oboe and wran­gling chil­dren. Catch her on Twitch over at

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