Anime Expo 2012 Impressions + Cosplay Gallery

Credit to Jackson and Jenny for helping get this covered and out to you guys.

Normally we break our coverage up into multiple days and events and other good items, given our whirlwind experience at AX 2012 we’ll concentrate our focus more on the good times and a massive enjoyable gallery to support it all.

(Also a word of warning, the gallery is over 300 images big, all images are also in 8 MP resolution so you don’t get robbed of valuable pixels to post process, if you don’t want to wait for the images to load in soft box use right-click to save the link as)

All of this tl;dr? – Skip to the gallery

Getting into AX… kind of.

Just as one does not simply walk into Mordor, one doesn’t simply just get into Anime Expo. Each year presents various hurdles of long lines, temporary system issues or other fun things, as pre-registered attendees it was much easier to bypass this general trouble and overall the system and lines were moving so fast that no one was ever locked up once the show got moving. The old days of 3-4 hour registrations are dead with how efficient the show has become.

Unfortunately this is only half the problem for those in the region driving in, this year there was a special treat of the X-Games going on just across the way. Instances like this aren’t that frequent but when they hit they leave a lasting impression, mainly because while sitting in traffic in front of South Hall, it took over 2 hours to move from there to a parking space on the backside of the convention center. Unfortunately the LAPD made getting in to park for both events a nightmare and it took a very stern sheriff in those last 20 minutes to tell the traffic merging at the last-minute to beat it. Better coordination needs to go down with internal staff and the LAPD to make sure that events like this don’t face issues that get this awful.

The Exhibit Hall

As the market fluctuates so does the general size of this feature of the show, as of the past years it felt as if the show was losing more and more space with vendors and that general variety was stagnating. For 2012 they pushed hard to reach to new avenues of independent markets and sellers and even rare import dealers that one wouldn’t usually see in the US including the official One Piece store which was selling goods as fast as customers could haggle prices with them. It’s no surprise then to see that what fell to a low at the LACC of almost 8 major aisles took a step up and has reached double that in a short span of time while preserving variety and  an entire dedicated wing for Fan Art set apart from that.

Pricing was a bit of a mixed bag, items like plushies felt like they were running on the high-end of the spectrum while figures and other collectibles felt more accessible and it seemed as if sellers were open to deal on those items more than before. It’s never a situation where everyone is going to walk out happy but hopefully with the space rental arrangements it might be easier for them to budge on pricing a bit more. It seems like a yearly staple to expect shops to push $5 manga, $15 plushies and $15 wall scrolls or 2 for $20 with shirts still looming around the 20-25 mark.

It’s not horrible that it’s so predictable but it’s also not a driving force for people to shop on the spot vs online either and I think that’s an influence people actively face still when going to events like this.

Publishing Power

In past years I had a genuine concern about the industry power being invested into AX as a whole, with so many mergers and the rise of SDCC it felt like the attention was going elsewhere with the show and it was a major blow to the fans (not everyone can get down to SDCC and not everyone can swing $175 for tickets). Seeing companies like Viz return brought a sense of reassurance in tough times for everyone right now. Bang Zoom did their classic auditions and demonstrations, AAA showed off all the major goodies coming soon, Funimation touted shows they have out and projects they’re starting on, Namco slammed fans with their biggest related releases coming soon and Crunchyroll kept the crowd energized. NIS was there to hit fans with goods for their favorite products, Aniplex helped showcase all of their recent projects and
attempted to deal with massive traffic overloading their section of the hall.

Overall the support was good given the limited players left in the field, it was good to see Viz make a comeback to the show as well given they were just in the region for Wondercon as well in a smaller capacity.

Community

There’s one thing Anime Expo has never fallen short on and that’s the community aspect of the show, between fans there’s not a lot of ice to break and it’s often comforting to know that many there will have an eye out for one another. As the show has aged so have the patrons so it’s a refreshing shift to see photo-op circles staying tight together and organized and giving the security teams nothing to stress over during the show. As the show has cemented itself it seems more and more fans are settling down to socialize and share the experience.

There are quite a few examples of this, Concourse hall played host to waiting lines for events and when inactive the cosplayers and random fans would blast music, dance, play games, hang out and relax in what was essentially a massive living room. On the patio areas there were groups of friends new and old hanging out singing random songs and having a good time while resting their feet in the shade. It’s a refreshing shift from a lot of the conventions on the circuit for collecting and gaming actually.

Features

There’s something to be said about the amount of features they run now, while the show doesn’t run videos until the early hours of the morning anymore, they are moving to use more and more of the LACC with feature rooms, industry panel areas and tutorial workshops ranging from drawing to Vocaloid tools. Many of these cater to segments of the community that never found as much of a niche in AX like AMV production, there’s an entire block that ran for a full day on just that topic to be sure they hit the fine points.

Add onto this the return of classics like the gaming tournaments, arcade and tabletop gaming and fans really were just overloaded with events to take on. In that sense the only thing that felt lacking was a steady flow of direction from the AX team to inform people on the fly of what was going on. By this I mean having information available without having to break out a guide-book or pop out their phone (when you’re a cosplayer this is a bit of a problem to say the least). Often people shot through concourse without being aware what was even going on, this isn’t a problem isolated to AX though, it happens even during events like E3.

Cosplay

One of the huge sellers at most Anime conventions is the huge response from the community to dress up as their favorite characters from their favorite timelines in a shows life. This year was huge in that respect as you’ll see on page 2 with our gallery of over 300 shots from the show this year including TONS of cosplay that goes from “huh?” to “I really need to get on top of my game for next year” because seriously, many of these fans took it to the next level and it’s scary to imagine how high they might go next year. Even if you’re not up for dressing like your favorite character though, there are many shops at AX that sell outfits (mostly for women) and wigs that would allow one to mesh in with the crowd if they desired. Bring your wallet though because on the spot service isn’t exactly cheap.

Overall

Anime Expo for us had one of the most active years we’ve seen or felt in a while and not just by sheer traffic numbers. It’s great to be a part of it and to see that even young kids can get in on the show and appreciate all the goodies, the movies, the costumes and the fun that it brings along. The only issue that still comes up is LA is still a drive so it makes hitting every single day a task when the show crosses over with normal 9-5 work days in downtown on Friday and Monday. The show banner said they’ll see everyone back in 2013 so it’s doubtful they’ll be moving even if the Farmers Field project goes forward, at least LA has this one secured unlike E3 right now. Although I wouldn’t protest if they moved the show over to the ACC temporarily, just saying.

AM2Con 2011 – Back to basics

AM2 is just wrapping up as I write this, but as a potential force it’s only starting after this inaugural year. For those that are veterans to Anime Expo it really has been the only pure Japanese animation event in town, you have SDCC but it has arms in everything out there. As opposition there are many fan events not run by the SPJA but often they fall under the radar, AM2 was anything but that with high profile members behind the curtain to arrange the show for an impressive first year showing with a new staff group and venue at the Anaheim Convention Center.

To kick things off, AM2 started this year with a unique proposition to everyone, entrance and events for the most part are free. Video panel rooms, live programming, concerts and even the exhibit hall weren’t checking for tickets or passes and the public at large was able to join as a part of this first year event. There were a few special events that did require it but even then the passport was a fraction of the cost to current major events. For the most part it took over the ACC by capturing upper floors and Hall B. With some extra polish there looks to be a gem here, I’ll go through my experiences from Day 1 at AM2 (unfortunately I wasn’t able to catch 2 and 3 due to some unexpected changes in plans).

Exhibit Hall:

This is the litmus test for many fans, if you have an exhibit hall stacked with retailers side to side, you’re considered godlike to most. Unfortunately conventions have been seeing less retailers in their halls though, if it’s the economy or high rental prices I don’t know. AM2 suffered in this area, what they did pack was quality but the volume wasn’t so high. You could successfully see and pass through the whole thing in a bit over an hour if you were taking your time through everything. A big issue that came as well was that Hall B is HUGE, having your exhibit hall crammed to the side and covered by drapes only hurts the visualization of the space. Honestly with 10 or so extra people selling it would have made a big enough impact to counter it. Bigger names would have been nice and even a corporate showing would help perk things up outside of Media Blasters.

Artists / Fan Art / Artist Alley

Again, a helpful measure to keep people busy or attract other fans, the area was largely absent from the show and what factors hit that are pretty unknown. When the retailers have some higher kicking prices though, many flock to the fan artists to save the day for cool finds. Catering to them early or with competitive spacing prices might have helped here, as a whole the community seems to be a bit regressed as of late from participation. It needed more though to make it attractive to those passing by.

Summer Festival

Until this year I had never participated in a Summer Festival, after this year I can say I would again if the prices were a little friendlier. I took my daughter this year to the event and she had a ball but for $1 per ticket it seemed steep. After about $10 we called it a day on the games there, had the games been 50 cents or less for kids with simple prizes or tickets for children it would have been a better deal. Even the staffers were shocked about the ticket sales for it. It shouldn’t be too shocking, from what I know most of these take place outside when it’s July and it’s on blacktop and anyone from the area knows that July on blacktop means that you’re slowly cooking yourself. Having the Summer Festival inside was a great idea, it needed more games though and maybe a little more style though.

Food

Having a legendary candy maker crafting animals isn’t exactly catering to food needs; having hot trucks with delights is catering to the food requirement though. I’m not sure if the ACC came down on the AM2 team or not but having the hot trucks outside was a bummer and many didn’t even know where they were because the arrow was pretty vague. Next time working out how to have them indoors lined up would be amazing because people wouldn’t be walking blocks to food places in the heat and not wanting to walk back or being too tired to finish the day. Integration is a must.

Live Programming | Video Rooms | Arcade

I can’t talk bad about this, after finding the LP rooms I was having a good time, between major events they were screening shows to keep the ball rolling which was nice. They actually had a variety of events to see and fan panels which was pretty epic. The video rooms were stacked through the day with break periods that didn’t actually hurt anyone, in fact if you needed to keep your fill going, you could walk over to the next room and catch something new. If nothing was meeting your need you could throw down on Street Fighter IV, 3rd Strike, Marvel Vs Capcom 2, DDR or multiple other games to get your action fill. These areas weren’t really lacking at all and were easily accessible.

Concerts

Having the entire 3rd floor of the ACC just for shows, there’s something magical there. The team from AM2 didn’t miss a beat on this one, the shows were probably the biggest impact on my visit to the convention this year. After years of having to wait in line for tickets and entrance it all stopped. AM2 adopted a Comic-Con style policy with a twist, if you’re there you can go in, if you don’t want to be there, you can go. You don’t need to wait for tickets or waste other parts of your day to hope to see something. If you have a passport though, you not only don’t have to wait if there is a will-call line, you can just get inside and have fun as you wish. This year it worked out that everyone could pretty much enjoy things, I have a feeling next year will be a little harder to pull that off. Music acts for AM2 had my jaw on the floor, Heidi was amazing to see and even my daughter was jumping and dancing to the music which was awesome.

Navigation

This is big deal that I saved for last, many that I talked to were hanging out in Hall B wondering if this was all there was to see, if the live acts would be on the Summer Festival stage and that it seemed like it would be much larger than it was. It looked like passport holders were able to get their hands on a book but freebie entrants had no real clue and the information booth wasn’t exactly standing out to everyone. Having a chart for the show on a large foam core board would have been nice. Having arrows or signs to lead people around would have been great too because the volume of traffic wasn’t high enough that everyone could just assume things. People need to know what’s going on especially when you’re sharing the ACC with another convention entirely. This was a huge black mark for my time there, I even had part of my party leave because they thought Hall B was all there was.

———-

It’s a shame I couldn’t be there all 3 days, I really wanted to but it’s not always so easy. I’m glad I attended day 1 though, it was a fresh twist on events I remembered being much simpler years ago. AM2 has a chance to redefine how everyone gets to interact at these conventions and I really welcome their efforts so far. I’m really hoping they can pull everything together in 2012, with more exhibitors, better social communication and more focus around the fan experience it could be pretty epic. Move the food trucks in, add some signs, bring in some extra retailers and see if some of the big boys will come down to hang out. The show took the experience back to the basics and made it openly accessible once again, it just needs to refine how it finishes that experience.

Also, needing more cosplayers. Maybe be one of the rare places to actually deliver a creative approach to series meetups instead of having security kick everyone off the stairs or everyone bake outside.

More info: AM2Con Website

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