[Anime Expo ’23] In the Heights

We were excited to find out that we had our “Cosplayers Guide to Shopping at the LA Fabric District” approved for Anime Expo ’23. We have a complicated relationship with AX – we don’t hate it, but it is a battle to get ourselves hyped and excited to attend this behemoth of an anime convention. I have been attending Anime Expo since 1999 and I can tell you this con has gone through so many changes and I accept that it’s not the same smaller industry con I recall from the early Anaheim days.  For locals, we groan when Anime Expo is brought up. We know that it’s going to be a dry Los Angeles summer heat. We know there will be lines out the door. We know about the rising cost. But we still go anyway.

Another year, another Expo

Sunday crowds at South Hall

Southland Hotel Strike occurred the week of Anime Expo. Demonstrations began as early as 5AM


We began our Anime Expo by doing the regular attendee badge pick up. Panelists for 2023 were given comp’ed regular attendee four day admission. We waited about 90 minutes in the dry Los Angeles heat. There was no shade in the area – attendees in line had to create their own cover from the blazing sun. My partner, Jared the Greek, was fairy close to passing out in line, but thankfully we got pulled in to the ADA line once we found out that was an option due to my partner’s disability. What also slowed down the line was badge activation at each of the registration kiosks – you had to use your smartphone to virtually register the badge to you. Additionally for ADA access, you had to go to a separate booth to get an access sticker for your badge.

Registration line for badge pick up. Estimated wait at 11AM on Day 1: 90 minutes.

Some feedback I’d like to give as a panelist would to have an indicator on our badge that we are program participants or to simply give us an industry badge. Standing in line – be it for registration or getting into the con – could take up some time and if we have an event to attend, we would need some priority access. While we were lucky to have ADA entry, this may not be the case for all panelists.

West Hall on Day 1


The Crowds

Anime Expo 2023 began on a Saturday. Typically, Anime Expo starts on a Thursday or a Friday. The four day show had lines all the way from South Hall to LA Live spanning several blocks. The mass of otaku were waiting as early as 6am to be among the first to enter the vendor hall to collect exclusives or to be the first in line for the many premieres and industry panels that day.

Day 1 crowds at South Hall

Lines outside the Crypto arena

Yes, Saturday was a madhouse coming in. There was a record number of people attending on day 1. The photos and video from social media do tell the truth of people sardined going in both west and south hall and into the dealers room. However, as the expo progressed, day 3 and day 4 became less intimidating. While day 1 and day 2 had the larger crowds, day 3 and day 4 were busy, but far more manageable and breathable.

Day 4 crowds

Oh hi Colossal Grimace! No fries were sold at this booth


Shopping at Anime Expo

Ready your wallets! Anime Expo is an industry driven convention, but that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily a bad thing. Industry conventions do have a place. A lot of anime and anime adjacent vendors have a lot of Anime Expo exclusives and opportunities to shop! Aniplex, Crunchyroll, Atlus, and others have interactive booths for selfies and photo ops. You could also get a lot of convention exclusives if you showed up early. I ended up getting a ton of Love Live merch from Bandai Namco. Of course, the vendor hall also had artists and anime merchandise. However, the main draws for the vendor hall, we the big industry booths.

Day 1 crowds as the dealers hall opened

Crunchyroll celebrated My Hero Academia

So much neso!

Hot Topic had a booth, but it was invite only..says the booth that plays Nickelback at their stores.

Also, the basement level artist alley brought in indie artists from across the country. Artists have reported making as much as $5,000 during the Anime Expo weekend. However, one of the negatives about being attendee is navigating artist alley. Year after year, the aisles are narrow and you are sardined in. However, another aspect of this basement level shopping zone is the Annex. The Annex highlighted anime inspired fashion. What was once a showcase for Japanese street fashion now showcased a variety of wearable fandom, soft girl, cottage core, and the usual Lolita fashion.

This is where you went for Artist Alley

Artist Alley and The Annex


Entertainment Hall

This is one of my favorite places to visit at Anime Expo! You can find more industry booths here such as Mihoyo, NIS, Good Smile, Yostar, and more. Mihoyo had a manageable line for Genshin merch and photo ops. Yostar had a bit of a wait for the highly coveted Ark Knights and Azur Lane. While waiting in line for Yostar, you could also watch a trivia show. My partner, Jared the Greek, loved spending time at NIS. He sampled a lot of the Rhapsody and Disgaea games featured. I also sampled the Yohane (Love Live) game – while I didn’t beat the angler fish boss, I ended up getting buttons for trying it out.

Love Live autographs

Deciding which convention exclusives to get!

The Entertainment Hall also had your cosplay photo sets, gatcha stations, cosplay repair, e-gaming, board gaming, and charity auction. We wanted to see what the charity auction would have to offer, but the items were not ready until day 4. These items also included a boba tea plush autographed by Shaq!

Boba plush signed by Shaq for the charity auction.

Of course, our personal favorite section of the Entertainment Hall is Aniplex as they showcased the latest in the Fate Grand Order universe. They had daily panels and costume contests for Fate fans. It was also home to the infamous kigurumi show that happens every year. While we missed out on the Fate Strange Fake and Fate Grand Order panel due to schedule conflicts, it doesn’t feel like Anime Expo without getting a selfie with the Fate mascots – it’s like a Disneyland meet ‘n greet!

Fate characters meet fans and kick them occasionally!



I felt very mixed with programming this year. There wasn’t many panels that called to my attention save for a few premieres and voice actor Q&A’s that were running up against prior commitments. I did check out one of the academic panels that highlighted transitioning from high school to first year at university by using the framework of isekai anime. Anime Expo has had some interesting academic discussions; I was happy to make it out to this one as it inspired discussion and thought.

Utena and Anthy! I found 3 Utena’s on Monday!

Anime Expo also had a number or premieres and industry announcement panels. Likewise, the ones we wanted to attend conflicted with prior commitments.. Yet, we were able to make attempts to try out some new things. While we did participate in Cosplay Wrestling Federation, we also checked out a few game shows at Anime Expo. We went to the Build That Pokedex panel; this family friendly panel encouraged the audience to design Pokemon, figure out their name / persona / type, and battle style. Of course, a panel like this invites memes and laughs. This was our first time attending this panel and we had an entertaining time.

Rizzler was the winner of the Pokedex challenge

We also went to the Kpop Battle event at the AX Dance Hall. Kpop Battle brought in fans and dance cover artists from all over the world to show off their skills. Contestants made medley’s of kpop songs and created their choreography to it. While I have a surface level appreciation for kpop, this was a fun and light hearted event. We had 17 contestants and all of them were mesmerizing. I applaud everyone who came out all the way to Los Angeles to compete in this show!

Kpop Battles

Kpop Battles

Lines for panels can start almost two hours before the panels. If there is a panel you want to check out, do line up early or “camp” in the panel before to secure a spot.



Food! Ichiban Market

As much slack as Anime Expo gets, we have to point out the positive of Anime Expo 2023. Ichiban Market is a smaller version of SoCal’s 626 Night Market. Local vendors selling bao, boba, import beers, dumplings, skewers, spam musubi, and more delighted the taste buds of attendees – including ours. This was where we went during the mid-day to sit down in the shade and enjoy a beer to the sounds of Japanese lo-fi tunes. The relaxing atmosphere paired with summer matsuri vibes painted a different Anime Expo than the crowds seen in social media. People were friendly and ready to start conversation if they were sitting next to you. Both my partner and. I thought of all the things Anime Expo 2023 was doing, Ichiban Market, was a step in the right direction.

Best place at Anime Expo

Best wagyu skewers

Vibes at Ichiban market

Outside of Ichiban Market, you could also find food trucks in the area – favorites like Okamoto Kitchen, Salt and Pepper, and even the Genshin Impact. ice cream booth had lines because the food is just that good!

Genshin Iced Cream

Genshin art in the artist alley


Cosplay and Stuff

And of course, it wouldn’t be Anime Expo without a little dress up. While I was scheduled to check out the Fate cosplay meet up, seeing how cosplay gatherings were placed and how attendees were using those zones to chill and sit down, I thought doing these were a lost cause. It’s about time Anime Expo should start booking the ballrooms of the JW Marriott to host cosplay meetups. Having these outdoors at the LA Convention Center is almost a thing of the past. Private cosplay photoshoots were mostly regulated by West Hall in the “horseshoe jungle” and in the bowels of the parking lot and parking lot entrances.These are great for urban settings and may not work for all types of settings. There were photographers on the second floor of the convention center using the small aisle ways by the emergency exits for Genshin, Honkai, Ark Knights, etc shoots. While I normally book private shoots, I decided it wasn’t worth the hassle at Anime Expo given our prior programming commitments.

Pop Team Epic at Ichiban Market

Sailor Moon cospalyers

Alien sightings at AX

Cosplay events at Anime Expo are mainly the masquerade, Word Cosplay Summit, and Cosplay Wrestling Federation. The latter is an event we partake in; we entered representing the Walt Disney Company for animation and entertainment supremacy.

The infamous horsehoe jungle of the convention center

Spicy Burrito: the people’s champion of AXtreme Rules

Popular fandoms this year included Demon Slayer, Chainsaw Man, Genshin, Ark Knights, among others.

Genshin cosplayers

A lot of Ark Knights this year

My Hero Academia always delivers

Panty and Stocking make a comeback!


Overall Thoughts

Anime Expo is always going to follow this for locals, “Oh no…Anime Expo. Why do we still go?…It’s in a month? I guess we can still go!” This is the typical mentality for locals. For us, it’s an opportunity to meet fans of Scarlet Rhapsody and to run panels. We always have an amazing turnout, have had top of the line service with staff in getting set up – we just wish us panelists were given water prior to the panel. I feel that the Entertainment Hall has so much to offer, it really should be divided now into a few separate zones – again, I’d advise take advantage of the unused space at the JW Marriott or perhaps the new hotel that will be opening up across from the LA Convention Center.

Spy Family group

Anime Expo is always going to draw in massive crowds. Our lesson learned this is that’s it’s okay to wait to get in. We could always grab lunch at the hotel or at Tom’s Urban to wait for the bum rush to pass. We also employed a strategy of finding a quiet zone at the con anytime we need a breather – and there was a lot of quiet zones (outside of the quiet room) right outside where the AX Dance Hall was located.


Of course, I always wished that there was more we could have done, but I know given that this is AX, you’re likely not going to hit all the things out want to do. However, I did enjoy perusing the vendor and entertainment hall on the daily. I liked looking at neso’s, figures, manga, exhibit displays, etc. We weren’t attending this event as press, but it was nice to roam around as an attendee. Anime Expo has always had a superb vendor hall and if you can wait until a lighter day, it is worth exploring the booths.

“Are they idols? Are they track stars?” Jared the Greek reacts to Uma Musume.

So as long as Anime Expo requests our services for programming, we will be there. If you are planning for Anime Expo, especially if you’re from out of town, plan early and save. LA is not cheap and you will find things in the vendor hall that you will want to take home, especially if these vendors only show up to AX. Overall, this is a con we like lending our time and services to. Navigating the challenges of AX has become strategic planning year after year. We look forward to returning in 2024.

Wild to believe this doll from my childhood is worth this much!

Leave a Comment