Autograph Zone by Eri Kagami
I usually don’t go out for autographs at conventions; I usually wait until I run into the guest and get a selfie with them. Anime Expo had plenty of guests for the anime and video game industry this year. Some lines were more in demand than others. The director of Your Name was present and his handlers were giving away swag to sign. A-listers such as Go Nagai had lines out the door at 5:30AM outside the Los Angeles Convention Center. We went to press our luck with Dan Salvato. We ended up scoring an autograph ticket that was found at his booth in the dealers hall that sold Doki Doki Literature Club merchandise. We waited the full hour he was allocated for. We had Dan sign our badges and his handlers helped us take a selfie with him.
Anime Expo has a very formalized way of handling autographs. While some guests you can simply walk up to and score an autograph, some require tickets from panels or their dealers hall booths. If there is a guest you want to get an autograph from, definitely do the research before attending.
The Annex by Eri Kagami
This is a brand new section to Kentia Hall. While the Annex was advertised to be the fashion and up and coming artists zone, it felt like it was a continuation of things they could not hold in the Entertainment Hall or Dealers Hall. I do like the idea of highlighting designers and illustrators here. There was even a section where you can get your portfolio reviewed by Tokyopop by appointment only. The idea seemed good on paper, but I would like to see this area highlight different aspects of Tokyo Street Style and nerd fashion.
As someone who did a ton of walking at Anime Expo, I could not complain about the plush couches and beanbag area of the Annex.
Artist Alley by Eri Kagami
Artist Alley was held in their usual zone in Kentia Hall. Though Artist Alley was separated from the Dealers Hall, it still generated a lot of foot traffic. While the aisles were wider than previous years, it still brought in attendees to browse. The aisle closest to the autograph zone was was the most crowded which prompted us to browse up and down the remaining aisles. This year, there seemed to be prints and acrylic keychains sold here. Of course, most tables were anime focused or had art from series that are anime inspired. This place does get a crowd; if you are going to Anime Expo to take a peek at the Artist Alley, do start in the middle of the alley and work your way towards the far sides.
Dealers Hall by Eri Kagami
The dealers hall is Anime Expo’s biggest draw. Here you can find rare anime items and goods straight from the source. Because Fate Grand Order was this year’s big deal, Aniplex of America had a booth and stage set for merchandise and surprise appearances. Aniplex had exclusive Fate merch dedicated to Anime Expo. The buying times were very limited; they would open the store at random. People would be waiting by the booth for a change to get an exclusive Excalibur, figures, and artwork showing major Fate characters gallivanting around Hollywood. Good Smile also had plenty of exclusive figures that sold out wicked fast. Dating games for women also had a huge presence of showing off new mobile games for the choose your own adventure style dating simulation. Fans of various dating sim franchises can get photos with their husbando’s.
This year, I would have to say was a huge year for both Fate and idol fans. Idol booths quickly sold out of Love Live exclusive merch. Light pen themed booths were selling light pens like hot cakes! Considering there was a major concert every night at Anime Expo, these were going off the shelves. Another booth had rubber stamps of idols that one can show off on their ita bags. These were going at less than $10 per rubber stamp! This was a good dealers hall. However, if you are eyeing on anything from your fandom, get it right away. You never know when it will sell out fast!
We wanted to get a haori featuring Jared the Greek’s waifu from Love Live, Eli Ayase, but her haori was off the shelf the minute we returned to decide on our purchase!
Designing Characters from Inside a Japanese Game Development Studio by Jared the Greek
This was our last panel of the con and one of the last panels of the con. This panel brought in two of the artist guests Eisuke Ogura and Takehito Harada to discuss their work in game development. Ogura discussed his early work making background objects for Real Bout Fatal Fury Special and how he moved into battle poses and eventually full character design in Garou: Mark of the Wolves. Then harada told his story about doing some freelance work and moving toward his work being a lead designer on games like Disgaea. The panel then moved into how concept art becomes in game art and how some finishing touches can be rushed due to last minute changes in a game. This was a great panel that really helps you appreciate the work the art team puts into games. This was a great way to wrap up our panel hopping and hopefully next year we can learn more about game development from the professionals.