Photo courtesy of LA Weekly
This year's Anime Expo packed the heat – quite literally. Temperatures boiled above 100 degrees throughout the weekend during early afternoon hours as convention attendees braved the weather to consume as much Japanese entertainment as their minds could handle. It's suffice to say that the effort was well worth it, as the annual event continued to deliver what other gatherings across the country still hope to achieve.
More than 110,000 anime and manga enthusiasts graced the halls of the Los Angeles Convention Center this past July 4-8. In attendance included guest of honor Go Nagai, creator of Devil Man, Cutey Honey, and Mazinger Z, and light novel authors Kumo Kagyu, Kugane Maruyama, and Ao Jyumonji, responsible for such works as Goblin Slayer, Overlord, and Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash, respectively. Anime world premieres included the likes of My Hero Academia's first ever movie, titled Two Heroes, the first episode of season three of Attack on Titan, and the first episode of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind. That's not even the tip of the iceberg, as Netflix showcased some early footage of a new Ultraman series and announced an adaption of Kengen Ashura, a shonen based on the manga of the same name by Yabako Sandrovich. Oh yeah, and Anime World Matsuri came back roaring with performances by such popular artists as Aimer, Yuki Kajiura, Shoko Nakagawa, and Sanketsy-girl Sayuri.
As far as games were concerned, NIS America showcased their upcoming remake Disgaea 1 Complete plus featured gigantic versions of Monokuma and a Prinny at their booth. Bandai Namco allowed fans hands-on time with Code Vein, Jump Force, and My Hero One's Justice (you can find previews for the latter two right here and here). Last but certainly not least, Square Enix had demos for Kingdom Hearts III and Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age and presented their VR manga, Tales of Wedding Rings, to eager attendees. No matter your principal interests in nerd culture, this year's Anime Expo provided a robust range of activities for anime, manga, and video game fans to invest in.
Unfortunately, the cost came at the price of waiting hours in line for the next event. Signings were virtually impossible to get into without clandestinely hanging around the area beforehand, and queues grew so long that they occasionally blocked the flow of hallway traffic. Though the number of attendees was slightly down from last year, 2018's Anime Expo felt much more crowded. This may be a fault of the venue itself, though does spark an inkling of concern should the annual event grow substantially in size next year.
Of course, the usual convention hallmarks were back in full force.The main exhibitor hall was filled with such companies as Viz Media, Funimation, Aniplex, and more, plus the aforementioned NIS. Smaller booths provided thier own neat slices of entertainment, as Indivisible was once again playable at this year's convention and attendees were given a chance to take home some sweet Doki Doki Literature Club merch. The artist alley felt much more properly ventilated this year, allowing for a much more enjoyable stroll through some of the best artistic creations the community has to offer. That's not to mention all the great photo ops that were available, ranging from giving the finger with the girls from Pop Team Epic to posing as a kawaii sailor scout with Sailor Moon.
Anime Expo remains one of the best places to show off your newest cosplay, as the elaborate sets from last year made their return. Anything from idol stages to a classroom to a garden filled with cherry blossoms was available for costume-wearers to try out. Seeing as how scores of photographers – professional and amatuer – flood the show every year, it's not hard to imagine being discovered at the event should you think your cosplay is worthy of all the internet attention. Most importantly, however, is that the concept remains as fun its ever been. The many smiling faces I saw were sufficient evidence for me.
Thankfully, lines into the convention were not as intense as last year. It's fortunate that the staff running the show had so many entry points and security checkpoints stationed at major entries, lest someone be at a health risk due to heat overexposure. Gone were the hour-long wait times just to get inside. Though they were arguably replaced by longer lines within the convention itself, at least there was AC in there.
Los Angeles' annual Anime Expo continues to be the mecca of all things an anime nerd like myself could dream about. Though you'll have to wait to get what you want, your patience will be well rewarded. If you've not yet gone and are a diehard fan of the medium, do yourself a favor and book a trip for next year's iteration. You won't be disappointed.