The AnimeExpo(AX) 2009 Convention: Better than Disneyland and Cheaper too!
Location: Los Angeles Convention Center, CA
Date: July 2-5 2009
Attendance: 44,000 +
Background: The AnimeExpo (AX), the largest convention of its type in the US, is put on by the Society for the Promotion of Japanese Animation SPJA (known more commonly by its entertainment property Anime Expo) which is a non-profit organization with a mission to educate and encourage interest in the American public about anime, manga, and the culture from which they stem, while also providing a forum to facilitate communication between artists and professionals within the Japan animation/manga field and their fans. In addition to the Anime Expo, SPJA has sponsored and facilitated several different projects over the years such as but not limited to:
1) The publication of the Anime Reference Guide (ARG) which provides information about current anime series.
2) Ex.org a website that contains information about new series, reviews, and artist interviews – a popular site back in its hey-day.
3) Fandom Industry Management Reception, an event that serves as a “meet and greet” to facilitate collaboration between professionals within the Japan animation/manga circuit. Past attendees include representatives from Anime Boston, ComicCon, and Sakuracon to name a few.
For some it was simply a reason to get dressed up, a second Halloween if you will. But, for the majority of attendees at the AnimeExpo it was an opportunity to express and cultivate their loyalty to manga/anime by stepping into their favorite character’s shoes, attending panels about their favorite series, and celebrating their interest and involvement in a culture that more often than not coasts beneath the mainstream’s radar.
During the four day convention, attendees were provided numerous panels, lectures with keynote speakers from the industry such as Seiji Mizushima (Appleseed: Ex Machina), trading card tournaments, guest of honor signings (one of which was “Afro Samurai’s” Takashi Okazaki!), game rooms for the gamers, and even a Masquerade Ball. Aside from the organized events, attendees had access to a floor of over 100 vendors with merchandise to sell ranging from original artwork from popular series and new anime/manga DVD releases yet to hit the American market to fetishwear. In addition and the most appealing to me, aside from the Takashi Okazaki signing of course, were the life-sized models of weaponry on display and handled by their corresponding characters. Add to the above the creative displays of attendees such as a female manga character playing a violin in the hallway, several series specific processions of anime/manga characters, and dated Power Rangers striking old school hip-hop poses and the convention as a whole is a fun-filled time that amounts to an experience much more exciting, memorable, educational, and cheaper than say … a trip to Disneyland.