Chara Expo 2019 took place on December 7 to December 8, 2019 at the Anaheim Convention Center. This is the second time the Bushiroad owned fan convention took place. Chara Expo continues to focus on Bushiroad related intellectual property. This includes the Cardfight Vanguard series, Bang Dream, Love Live, Revue Starlight, and New Japan Pro Wrestling. Chara Expo has more of a trade show kind of vibe. New Bushiroad related products were being pushed and introduced to fans who paid for the $30 weekend ticket. Chara Expo shows no signs of slowing down. There’s a steady audience for idols and pro-wrestlers willing to return every year.
Our team attended Chara Expo 2019 for both days. A majority of cosplayers represented Love Live and Bang Dream. Roselia and RAISE A SUILEN were headlining acts at Chara Expo. The convention draws folks from around the world for a rare chance to get up close and personal with their favorites. I started out at Chara Expo attending the Swallowtail butler cafe. I have attended a handful of maid cafes at conventions. This was small and I was not expecting how rushed it was. My colleague had mentioned that in Japan, Swallowtail’s services were lavish, ornate, and catering to the ladies. So much so, folks have to reserve a year in advance to dine at Swallotail. For this service, we were only given a spot of tea, two cookies, and candy for the price of $28. We were also given a photo opportunity in his curtained off space. However, this space was pretty popular with international Chara Expo guests. A friend pointed out that two guests from Japan had a reservation for every time slot each day!
Another aspect about Chara Expo is New Japan Pro Wrestling. I admit I’m a casual fan and my other teammates are deep into this fandom. As an outsider looking in, I did enjoy Sunday’s show. We were entertained with the ladies team, Stardom, to open things up. We also had a few tag team matches as well. The show even got intense when El Phantasmo from Bullet Club started trash talking anime and the audience. That was my favorite part of the show. The tag team match ended with Rocky Romero and Taguchi (Roppongi 3K) winning against El Desperado and Yoshinobu Kanemaru.
Chara Expo is a merchandise heaven and hell for idol fans. Upon checking in, you would get a reservation for a timeslot to enter into the merchandise booth. I ended up getting in at 2:30PM. By then, some of the hot items were already sold out. These included the Roselia light pen, various pieces of Roselia merch, etc. I was lucky to score a few Love Live pins and traded duplicates with friends. The space was relatively small, but I’m glad that this year, Chara Expo decided to give folks shopping time reservations on a first come, first served basis.
Chara Expo also pushed their new properties are this trade show. Love Live is getting a new mobile game, Love Live School Festival All Stars. Guests can test out the new game. There was also booths dedicated to Assault Lily and D4DJ. Assault Lily is a brand new anime that focuses on private school girls armed with giant weapons. D4DJ plays like Bang Dream, but has a wider variety of music styles. What caught Jared the Greek’s eye was A3!, a game with managing a talent pool of an all male stage troupe. Suffice to say, he’s excited about a boys idol game out.
Familiar properties also had a strong presence. There were booths that had costumes from both Revue Starlight and Bang Dream. Stage outfits from Poppin’ Party and Roselia were on display. There were plenty of selfie walls to promote events within the Bang Dream game. Chara Expo had a stamp rally where you are encouraged to visit booths, take selfies and post on social media, etc to get a free Revue Starlight clearfile. Jared the Greek ended up getting a free clearfile because he had the same birthday as one of the Revue Starlight characters.
One highlight of Chara Expo is the table top gaming section. This took up 1/3 of the exhibit hall. I’m not too familiar with Vanguard, but we did sit in with Aniplex to play Fate Grand Order Duel. It plays somewhat like the mobile game, but you would utilize a card based system to go up against your opponents. The draw to this is the figure collecting aspect. The figures for Duel are sold in blind boxes. So it’s kinda like drawing servants in the mobile game. Our team had a fun time playing Fate Grand Order Duel. We ended up getting a few figures to get us started in building our servant collection.
The main event of Chara Expo were the concerts. If you are a fan of Bang Dream, this is the place to be. TIckets were highly coveted. You had to show up early in the morning to get the concert tickets to be guaranteed a seat. The headlining acts were Poppin’ Party (acoustic only), Roselia, and RAISE A SUILEN. We caught a fair chunk of the acoustic Poppin’ Party concert. It was a rare occasion to hear genki anime style songs done with live guitars. Roselia was the main event of Saturday night. Roselia performed new songs and a few classics. Light pens were up. The crowd was wild. Roselia even talked about their favorite heroes in between sets. Yukina (Aina Aiba) did a few Spiderman poses. This is our second time seeing Roselia live and it’s always a pleasure seeing them perform for their American fans.
Overall, Chara Expo 2019 was a great way to end the convention year. More and more, it seems like companies of intellectual property are having their own private events to promote. This is evident in the Fate Grand Order Tour, Crunchy Roll Expo, etc. These take on the the feel of trade shows, organized by the creative minds behind the properties. This is not a bad thing for fans. Though, I wish that Chara Expo did something about folks lining up at 4AM to only compromise the safety of attendees being trampled on. Tweets showed victims of line trampling begging Chara Expo to have better line management.
We would definitely return to Chara Expo. D4DJ, A3!, Assault Lily, etc look promising enough to keep us going back. The new Love Live game might get me back into playing School Idol Festival! This is one of the events I look forward to. It makes me happy to be a fan of Bang Dream, Love Live, Revue Starlight, and beyond.