As someone who attended Anime Expo for more than a decade, it’s been really odd not having any type of events or conventions for the last two years. For obvious reasons, all these events couldn’t happen but it was finally time and while I had some concerns overall, I really needed a few days to let loose within reason of course.
I made my way to the Los Angeles Convention Center early on Friday, July 1st (aka day 1), I wanted to avoid the hell of parking so I left my house around 7:30 am and was in line to pick up my press badge and covid bracelet by 8:40 am.
I could go into some of the things I saw over the next few days like the massive crowd of what I can only imagine is a few thousand people packed into the South Hall lobby waiting to get in, or how I became claustrophobic while checking out the artist alley. Still, I will leave that for another story as I want this to be about the return of AX as a whole and how this year felt like a triumphant return but with some asterisks.
Guests of Honor and Industry Guests –
One of my biggest concerns leading up to Anime Expo was the lack of big names being announced. Normally there would be a huge name announced ahead of time, for 2020 it was to be Yoshitaka Amano but of course, the pandemic happened and things weren’t looking good as the final weeks before Anime Expo there was a lack of announced names.
Sure it sucks that we didn’t get any big names this year but I didn’t feel this would take away from the con overall, it’s something I’ve come to appreciate about Anime Expo as a whole. Part of my convention experience has always been camping out with friends at 5 am or earlier to get autograph tickets for various illustrators, artists, writers, voice actors, and it’s always been worth it….this year there wasn’t the same urge to do so, Studio Trigger was the only one I was interested but I decided to skip it this year.
That’s also not any slight to English voice actors, while I am more of a fan of subs over dubs I have a list of voice actors I really enjoy but most of them appear at smaller conventions around California so I have a higher chance of meeting them over the course of a year over say Masakazu Morita (Ichigo Kurosaki) whose last appearance at Anime Expo was back in 2014.
The Exhibit Hall –
The Exhibit Hall was a very familiar sight, that I’ve come to miss….kinda only because I am sure my wallet was happy I was able to not spend so much over the last two years. There were a few notable names missing that always had a presence which includes: Kadokawa Shoten, Sentai FilmWorks, Idea Factory International, NIS America, and most notably Funimation which always had a huge presence but now as it’s merged with Crunchyroll it’s sort of lost its identity which is a shame as they always had something cool happening at their booths.
The first few hours of my day 1 were in line at the Goodsmile booth, Atlus booth to buy some collectibles and apparel before roaming around and picking up a few other things like plushies, video games, and a couple of figures I’ve been looking for. Overall I think I spent less this year than I have in the past but there weren’t a ton of things I was looking to get.
Bandai Namco takes the awards with the largest presence at the show with…I lost count of how many booths they actually had overall. They had multiple booths dedicated to One Piece some in collaboration with Crunchyroll which promote the upcoming One Piece Film: Red, the new One Piece trading card game set to launch in December, the upcoming JRPG One Piece Odyssey, a massive booth for everything Gunpla, a booth showing off new figuarts, a booth dedicated to all things Digimon, Kamen Rider and so forth and that was just in the exhibit hall. Overall, there was just so much to see and they went even bigger on day 3 with a special Gundam event which I will get into more detail in a separate post.
Entertainment Hall –
The entertainment hall has always been a great place to take a break from the insanity that is Anime Expo, It’s open late and features an arcade that was presented by Round 1 along with a few older fighting games run by a nearby shop. There is also a free play area with various console setups to take on have some fun playing in various fighting games which I’ve always enjoyed. Take photos with the help of different backdrops or learn to play the My Hero Academia, One Piece, Yu-Gi-Oh! Or Vanguard TCG.
Artist Alley –
Artist Alley is always a must-check out for me, however, this year I was only able to last about 30 mins before I left just barely walking down one aisle. I was glad to see there was more space between each aisle but being shoulder to shoulder with so many people, barely being able to walk up and down plus the lack of air conditioning meant it didn’t take too long before I started to feel claustrophobic, so I decided to skip this area this year which was a shame.
I wasn’t as excited for panels this year, there weren’t any big premiers happening, guest of honor panels, and a few video game companies that usually attend didn’t this year. Looking back at my calendar, there were only about 12 panels I had any interest in attending from Friday to Sunday, which is low compared to the 23+ I usually find myself trying to fit in my schedule back in 2019.
In the end, I only went to about 8 of them as scheduling or prior commitments made me miss out on the Trigun Stampede, I’m Quitting Heroing, and My Isekai Life premier.
Anime Expo also tried something new this year, panels they knew would have a huge turnout required you to sign up for tickets. These included the Fate Grand Order 5th Anniversary Event, Kaguya-sama: Love Is War -Ultra Romantic- Festival, Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba Third Anniversary Celebration, and Disney Twisted-Wonderland at Anime Expo 2022. Tickets went up for premier members first and then regular attendees and went almost instantly. It’s a great idea on Anime Expo’s part, rather than having people wait in the sun for hours on end to get inside distributing tickets before the event saves people time and lets them be disappointed they missed out days before the event rather than minutes before…However, this needs some work as it was reported that many people were acquiring the free tickets only to sell them shortly after which Anime Expo could easily track as the tickets are linked to a person’s badge.
Overall, I’m glad to see Anime Expo back in full swing. It was great to see friends from out of state I haven’t seen in person in a few years, hanging out with friends, making new friends, and just having a great weekend. Now let’s see what Anime Expo has in store for its November event.