The Anime Expo 2010 hype can be compared to seeing the trailer to The Last Airbender. You want to love it because it's Avatar, but at the same time you want to hate it because it is derivative of its oringal source material. Of course, these are the feelings you experience before the convention has started. However, I went into Anime Expo with low expectations with a few panels I wanted to cover. My cosplay schedule was not finalized until the day before. Suffice to say, I came into Anime Expo 2010 without knowing what to expect; good or bad.
Anime Expo was not the "epic fail" that sensationalists made it to be. It was upsetting that Facebook groups protesting the new management poppped up and commentary along the lines of "Anime Expo is going to suck!" were trendy though the convention had barely started. I have been attending Anime Expo for 12 years and I know this is not the first time Anime Expo had internal drama prior to con. Even the smallest of conventions have their own internal drama. This is nothing new.
However, after experiencing Anime Expo did have flaws that can be improved on:
1) Dealer's Hall / Artist Alley / Autograph Session layout and logistics.
The right side of the dealer's hall was very much cramped, but the left side's aisles were widened. Why not rent out Hall G of South Hall to create more room for attendees to navigate the dealer's room? I would have spent more time looking at merchindise to the right of the dealer's hall. I also had issues navigating Artist Alley because it was so cramped. Having more space to navigate is helpful not only to the attendees, but to the merchants. The more time someone spends at a booth, it is very likely that they will buy products. Having more space for the Autograph section will prevent any fire hazards and having to go through narrow aisles in the dealer's hall.
2) Paid Ticketed Events
Where do I start? I understand that Nokia Theater requires all events to be ticketed. However, I do not believe that fans have to pay for concerts and masquerade. If the badge is $85, they should be able to have access to any main event they wish to see. One way I can see this issue be solved is to put tickets on sale for priority seating, but have a standby / rush line if there are available seats. I talked to many people who were interested in seeing masquerade and the Macross Frontier concert. There were empty seats in the Nokia Theater. I would advise for 2011 to have an attendee rush / standby line to fill empty seats.
3) Registration Price Tags
I understand that anime is expensive and running a convention is no expcetion to the rule, but the target audience of anime conventions are high school students and young adults in college. $85 is too much for a college student to handle. I understand the notion of saving up for something you really like, but factor in the extra costs the attendee has to pay for (ie: hotel, food, travel cost, etc). $50 would be fine for a student discount, in my opinion. Bring back group discounts too! Those are very helpful for local anime clubs. In addition, I also heard that flashing your badge at select LA Live restaurants can get you a discount. Why did I not hear about this? I was eating there all weekend!
4) Lack of Early Evening Programming
Anime Expo did not have much in terms of panl programming after 5PM. There were events in the Nokia theater and plaza, but I really wanted to do more panels during the early evening hours. Other conventions that I normally attend typically have programming running from the morning to the wee hours of twilight. We could use more fan panels during this time.
5) Shuttle Service
For the most part, I just walked to and from the Wilshire Grand to the convention center, with the exception of most mornings. I felt safe walking along Figueroa at night with my friends. However, shuttles need to be running at a consistent schedule during the evening hours when programming like Last Comic Standing and masquerade let out. I was lucky to have a hotel that was within reasonable walking distance, but I felt bad for those who stayed at further hotels like the Biltmore, Omni, and Kawada. In addition, please give priority to people with physical disabilities for boarding the shuttles.
6) Schedule of Events: Panels, main events, cosplay gatherings, etc
I heard that Anime Expo ran out of program guides and schedules. I talked to my friends who regularly attend Sakura Con. They suggest that Anime Expo should have a giant schedule grid in West Hall and South Hall (see example). Even if some of us do get the program guide, not all of us carry around the program book all the time. I know Anime Expo has ignored including Cosplay Gathering schedues and times in their programming guide, but I think it is long overdue that Anime Expo does such a thing. Even Fanime's Cosplay Department has a gatherings division. While I know this is fan run, it is the fans that make up the convention. Catering to this need would put Anime Expo one step closer to being a fan friendly convention. The current perception is that Anime Expo is industry centered. I believe you could have a balance of the two.
I really hope Anime Expo takes these points into consideration when planning for Anime Expo 2011. In spite of all of the problems and bad rep that Anime Expo gets, I still want to support this convention. It is a huge part of my growing up as I have been attending since I was a sophomore in high school. I can accept that Anime Expo's new home is in Los Angeles. I really do enjoy going to LA Live during the evening hours seeing how Nokia Plaza lights up. I was also happy that Los Angelinos asked us nicely what what was going on and why people were dressed up. This was so different from getting "You're going to Hell" statements from the Anaheim years and constant harrassment from the Long Beach years.
I would still choose Anime Expo over Comic Con International for many reasons. While I do like all genres of popular culture, at the same time, it's the people and experience that make it for me. For Anime Expo, there is no real hassle of getting a decent hotel room, no worries if badges are going to sell out, and it is much easier (compared to Comic Con) to find friends. Restaurants were not always crowded and in most instances, we waited less than 10 minutes to be seated. Aside from the issues I had with the dealer's room, at least you are not sardined in. Not to mention, if you are a cosplayer, chances are, your creativity will be much more appreciated at Anime Expo than Comic Con. Hence why I still pick Anime Expo over Comic Con for my July main event.
As far as our stay in the Wilshire Grand, I enjoyed having happy hour appetizers at Point Moorea and dancing in the club. However, I was rather iffy about the service. My hotelmates complained that room service only gave us two towels when we had asked for four. Not to mention, our luggage was messed around with on the last day. No tip for you. However, this would be our first and last time staying at the Wilshire Grand because the hotel will be demolished in 2011.
I thoroughly enjoyed the guests of honor line up. I hope Anime Expo plans to bring more A-list guests in the future, particularly movers and shakers in the anime industry. I was happy with what we had. For the first time in years, I begun to attend guest focus panels at Anime Expo. During previous years, I just stopped going because I did not care for the guests. Anime Expo 2010 had something for every otaku girl and boy.
Overall, despite some setbacks, I had a good time at Anime Expo. There was so much to do and so much to see in one weekend. I wish I could have done it all, but I am only one person. I may not return next year because I may be moving out of state, but if the chance arises, I would not mind returning to Anime Expo to relive the nostalgia of my childhood.
Many thanks to Mark Perez for being open to constructive criticism. It was great talking to you on Friday. Many thanks to the kind folks at Anime Weekend Atlanta, Anime Los Angeles, Dragon Con, Fanime Con, and Anime Central. Many thanks to the Anime Expo press department for their patience. Many thanks to the cosplayers for always raising the standard every year. Many thanks to my college buddies for being there for me on Friday evening. Many thanks to all of my friends for the random shenanigans and adventures we went through. Thank you everyone for making this convention well worth the wait. Until then, I hope to see you all very soon!
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