Photo courtesy of LA Weekly
As I was walking down the halls of the Los Angeles Convention Center with a friend, I mentioned that one of the best ways to describe Anime Expo is that it's a lot like Comic Con, sans the overtly corporate presence. I stick to that impression to this day, even if there was a little more Crunchyroll and Funimation to my liking.
Personally, going to the West Coast for the first time was an amazing experience. The weather is a super comfortable combination of beach and desert, making for a hot-but-not-so-humid mid-70s/low-80s during the day, and for a cooler but not cold high-60s at night. Los Angeles is a great city, though I imagine that if not for Anime Expo to keep me busy, I'd get bored relatively quickly (I come from the headache that is New York City).
The convention itself was massive, a mecca of otaku worthy of all the hype. The 100,000 plus attendees flocked to the largest anime event in the Western hemisphere willing to brave atrocious lines and not-so-patient staff just to be together with one another, like one big nerdy family. Indeed, though the organizers themselves weren't the friendliest of people, the fans more than made up for it. If you're willing to expand your friend circle and meet new faces who like the same weird things you're into, this is definitely a good place to do that (just as long as you're not that weird).
Though the fans are the heart and soul of any con, world premieres can't hurt, and Anime Expo had them in spades this year. Long anticipated releases like Violet Evergarden, In This Corner Of The World, and even the new Cardcaptor Sakura anime all premiered there and – take my word on this – they were all really, really good.
Game developers also had a great presence at the con. Not only did I get to sit down and play indie-darling Indivisible (you can read my impressions here), but I also had the chance to play titles like Ni No Kuni 2 and Dragon Ball FighterZ, both of which were pretty dope, to say the least.
Beside the obligatory Dealer's Room and Artist Alley (each of which will leave you bankrupt), Anime Expo has its own Show Floor, the highlight of which is definitely the amazing rows of a dozen of so scenes meant for cosplayers to strike a pose. It's here where I most readily got the sense that the people behind this event really did care and weren't running the whole show just for profit. They want their attendees to just have fun, and there's no better marketing than positive word-of-mouth.
I can go on and on about what makes Anime Expo so great for anime fans. Yes, you have to wait on incredibly long two-hour lines in the heat. Yes, the staff can be unfriendly sometimes. Yes, the food is overpriced and you might have a hard time navigating the convention center if it's your first time. But rest assured that Anime Expo is nothing short of an experience, and not one that you'd soon forget.