Ronin Expo took place on Saturday, June 2, 2018 in Little Tokyo’s Japanese American Cultural Center. The one day event drew in locals to Little Tokyo on a warm summer’s day. Events were held outdoors in the main plaza and a few indoors in the main building. The main building hosted the maid cafe, concerts, panels, and the video game room. You can also find artist alley and live Q & A sessions with voice actors outside. We even had the occasional idol dance cover group performing on stage. Southern California has plenty of cons of the anime kind going on. This took place the same weekend as Anime Conji and one weekend after Anime Pasadena. However, with a badge price of $20, the one day event still drew in local otaku.
We were invited to do panels at Ronin Expo. These panels included Moon Prism Poptarts, Make Mine Mecha, and Mythology of Final Fantasy. Because it’s a small, one day event, turnout was small, but engaging. Our panel room was in the basement level of the JACC. We used the wall for our projection screen (seems to be the case with most office buildings now – there’s even white wall paint made for this!).
We were able to check out other programming such as the Kimono Cosplay panel. This panel was hosted by Mikarin and Haji, local experts on Japanese traditional wear. They covered more about male Japanese fashion as well as accessories that tie in with feudal Japan. Mikarin talked about how she made ten swords out of balsa wood, but only two ended up surviving. We also tried out the Japanese tea ceremony panel hosted by Lolita Dark lead vocalist, Rayko Dig. Donning a cheongsam, Rayko create an interactive tea ceremony environment in the main presentation room. We were taught the proper phrases on how to say “thank you” to your main host for the tea. Everyone got jelly matcha for participating. We also went to the SupaPop panel which showcased chibi / Toki Doki style / Cal Arts style comics set in Harajuku-Super-Kawaii-hell.
The artist alley was outdoors, but it was cool and covered in the shade. Smart move on the con’s part. There were your usual keychains, prints, ita bags, and some wearable fashions. The swap meet followed later in the day. The vibe of Ronin Expo is that it was a fairly relaxed convention with much opportunities to hang out and chill with friends. If you’re up for visiting Little Tokyo and need an excuse to cosplay, this is a good event for it. There’s even an outdoor garden where you can get some quality photos.
Of course, not every event is perfect. Space at the JACC is fairly limited. While I am thankful for our panel room, I felt bad for the maid cafe and video game room. They were crammed into one room. I would have done without the Biru (beer) Garden and would have had the maid cafe there. There were also security issues in the video game room wherein a checking system might need to be put in place.
Ronin Expo is definitely a locals event – an excuse to hangout before Anime Expo. It definitely caters to the locals who love coming to Little Tokyo. There’s a lot of amazing things about Little Tokyo to checkout outside of Ronin Expo. Food is plentiful; boba tea saved me from the heat and our local ramen joint (My Ramen Bar) has a variety of ramen flavors without the endless wait of a Shinsengumi. The Sanrio store still had the Aggretsuko diorama’s for posing. Even the Los Angeles Lolita squad showed up later in the day in Little Tokyo to celebrate International Lolita Day! Overall, Ronin Expo is a good event – could use some improvement. In an era where anime and nerd cons are facing over saturation in Southern California, Ronin Expo gives back to the community and culture that anime has stemmed from.