So to be honest I had no plans to attend Anime Expo this year; however, due to the cancellation of AVOX I was left with either attending Anime Expo or canceling all my vacation plans. Since I haven’t had a vacation in a while I decided to see how Anime Expo would do after its hiatus and this led to a rather interesting weekend. Just to note I was only able to attend Friday and Saturday.
I’ll start with the vendors and as usual, the vendors had one of the best selections of merch of any convention I’ve ever been to. The reason is that they have booths for individual sellers but also big companies like Hot Topic, Crunchyroll, Aniplex, Atlus, and more. Furthermore, many of these vendors have merch exclusive to Anime Expo. I had a couple of people ask me to see if I could get some of those exclusives for them while I was there. The problem with the vendors is the same problem with a lot of Anime Expo which is too many people. Areas of the vendors were so crowded that I spent more time trying to move in my intended direction than actually shopping. The crowd varied by the time of the day so there were times when the crowd wasn’t as bad but by then a lot of the exclusives were gone or at vendors with huge lines. I love shopping here but I don’t enjoy trying to figure out when the vendors are open enough to where I feel like I can walk as freely as possible.
Like vendors, the convention has an impressive array of panels such as the Sword Art Online anniversary panel, Demon Slayer panel, and the Spy X Family panel, but I didn’t attend a single one of them. The first problem is the number of people wanting to go to the panel so it forces you to line up really early and miss out on other parts of the convention. The second problem is that the convention doesn’t clear out a lot of its panel rooms so a lot of people will camp at previous panels to get a good seat for the panel they want to go to. As much as I wanted to go to the panels at this event I just didn’t feel like going through the song and dance of trying to bear the crowd and find the right time to be there.
I have to be honest the guest list for this year was much smaller than what I’ve seen in my previous two years coming here. In 2019 I started my Fire Emblem Poster at Anime Expo and got 20 autographs and that wasn’t even all that I could have gotten just all the ones I lined up for. This year I got five because there were only five people signing that I needed for it. That was partly because of how far I’ve gotten with my collection but mainly because most dub actors don’t sign at Anime Expo. The policies the convention has really don’t benefit either the fans or the actors in any way. First, you need to get a ticket for the autograph session via a line outside the venue which is long and has some people camping out overnight to get their ticket of choice. Then once you get the ticket you need to endure the line to get in which is very long early in the day and makes earlier sessions a struggle to get to on time. The third is that Anime Expo charges actors $200 an hour to sign so the tickets actually limit the number of people who line up and deturs those who want an autograph but can’t get a ticket. Then also subtract those with a ticket who decide not to go at all. So overall to get autographs fans have to endure intense line situations to be allowed to line up for the autograph sessions and actors to have to endure policies that severely limit how many people line up for their sessions while charging them to be there. This is why many actors dropped the ticket policy entirely mid-convention.
The second problem with guests is that a lot of people are listed as guests but you don’t really know in what capacity they will be there until the full schedule is released. There were some guests I was personally hoping would sign autographs like Lizzie Freeman and Dan Woran only to find they weren’t. Now this is not by any means any fault of the actors but the fault of the convention for not providing that much needed clarification. In many cases the actors provided the clarification for them.
Since the event is so big I feel like a section about the crowd is needed. On day one in 2019 the crowd was so bad it took hours and hours to get in for the entire day. At no point did things get that bad in 2022. Now on day one the fire marshall did ban further entry into the event for a time but that was resolved once things in the convention opened up like vendors. Lines were long early in the day but still not too horrible of a wait, about an hour for me at most. Later in the day the line to get in was non-exsistant. As for inside the crowd migrates depending on what’s going on so sometimes the crowd was managable but more often the crowd was too large to deal with. Frankly it was a battle to figure out when it was best to go to any one particular section. I actually took breaks near autographs because the ticketing policy made it to where it was one of the most open sections of the entire convention.
I decided to add this section because the topic of Covid was a really big one considering how big this event is. The convention claimed to have a policy where masks had to be worn at all times and to reduce lines they had a seperate line away from the convention to show proof of vaccination or a negative test as the additional requirement for entry which would igve you a wristband to wear for the entire event. All of this went out the door almost immediatly. Most people in the convention were not wearing or even entering the building with masks and for some reason Anime Expo decided to have a line for vaccination verification near the line to get in the building which made two long lines next to each other and a lot of fans confused as to where they were suppoed to go. Staff wasn’t really helpful here as the staff seemed more attentive to the condom my wife put in my backpack instead of the maskless person entering beside me. Now to make it clear my views on covid is that I simply believe everyone needs to have a common sense approach and that is to just not be out while you’re sick, but when it comes to conventions I believe if a convention advertises a policy for Covid regulations they need to stick to them as many fans attend or avoid the event because of these regulations only to find out it didn’t mater and that means a lot to a large number of fans, vendors and guests.
Overall Anime Expo is a very impressive event that manages to offer experiences that you can’t find anywhere else. However, the crowd is so large that a lot of these experiences are just hard to do to the point that I decided to avoid some of them entirely. Furthermore the policies the event has that they enforce hinders everyone involved when wanting to meet your favorite performer as fans feel the need to sleep outside the convention center for a chance to get a ticket for the meeting and many of the people signing have to go through incredible expense and limitations to be there and fail to enforce the policies that people strongly encourgage them to have for their own protection. This is a fun event but I just don’t have the determination to wait and wait and battle the crowd to experience what it has to offer. Unless they get someone I absolutly have to meet or change the way they manage things I truely believe this is my last Anime Expo.