I know! It surprised me, too! The staff was more professional, the building was well utilized, and the panels and Dealer’s Hall was a good variety! I went into 2017 thinking that there may be more positive trends on the way and this is where the convention could actually challenge San Diego Comic-Con for the title of the biggest pop-culture convention in North America!
Yeah… about that…
Registration was a lot like last year, but more extreme. Last year, there was a breakdown after Day 0 where people waited for hours on Day 1 and a bit less on Day 2 before things were fixed.
The same pattern held true this year. I went to Day 0 and it was practically a walk-up process. Things looked to be pretty good. There were a number of people ready to process bar codes and the badge pick-up was fast.
Fast forward to Day 1, Saturday, and there were reports of people waiting for SEVEN HOURS from the time they went to pick up the badge to the time they finally entered the convention. If you can believe it, the line for registration stretched south half-a-block, west for three blocks, north for three blocks, and then East for two blocks. It nearly stretched back to the Staples center, disturbingly near the West Hall Entrance, stretching past a homeless encampment and sometimes doubling back into the street.
Then, people waited in a near equal line for security checks to get into the building! There will be more on that later, but if you think we’re exaggerating, Kotaku.com ran an article that goes into further detail as people live tweeted their agony.
Yes. I stayed at the Residence Inn. It allowed me to make my own schedule with a half-a-mile walk separating me from the Convention Center. My roommates liked the hotel more than I did, I think. They were impressed with the kitchen with a full refrigerator, microwave, electric stove, and a very courteous and professional staff that was following our needs and were very accommodating when problems popped up, offering very definitive solutions instead of a set of maybes.
Something new happened this year, though; even though my hotel room was off block, the people in my room were assigned wristbands. Without these wristbands, a guard at the elevator would not let us up. It was a bit of a conversation, but once we were used to the system, we adapted and it wasn’t a terribly bad interruption to our flow.
I’ll say it plainly; the Los Angeles Convention Center is inadequate.
There were few nooks in it that weren’t unreasonably crowded and the separated halls (South with the Dealer’s Hall and West with the Entertainment Hall) are less and less convenient when every conceivable walking lane is taken up by crowds, lines, photographer set ups and people sitting because the shuttles are too inconvenient or they’re afraid to miss something.
The Los Angeles Convention Center is aged, poorly planned, and not well suited to larger conventions.
The building has had two different plans submitted to completely rebuild in the last three years. If one of these plans is ever funded, Anime Expo may find itself in trouble as at least half to two-thirds of the building will be rubble for 12-to-18 months.
The Dealer’s Hall had three solid rows of industry booths, bringing more legitimacy to the convention’s status as the biggest in the North America, but I would like to know who decided all of these booths had to be put in the front of the hall, near the entrances. Imagine if San Diego Comic-Con put Hasbro, Mattel, Lego, DC, Marvel, Blizzard, Fox, and Warner Brothers’ booths at the very front of their hall and then imagine the clogging of bodies making lines eager for exclusives. That was what was at the front of the Anime Expo’s hall.
Behind them was a more regular spread of vendors selling figures, plushies, books, clothes both cosplay and fan-oriented, digital and regular art supplies and the like. There were more specialty booths on the outer edges of the convention, but not as many towards the inner areas.
Artist’s Alley was similarly crowded and I saw about half of it and the wares inside. People I usually pal around with at anime conventions mostly didn’t bother trying to finish it due to the crowds and the muggy feeling in-between the tables.
There were finally some informative industry panels!
For a convention that touts its industry connections, this was the first year since 2006 it felt like brand new news was making its way out of the convention instead of just an announcement of the latest English dubbings being released. We saw the new FLCL trailer, and the announcement of three new series from Studio Trigger!
There were more panels than usual, causing Anime Expo to use the ballrooms in the J.W. Marriott Hotel a block and a half away on Olympic Avenue. I do question why screenings and some large industry panels were in the hotel. I thought the fan panels should have been held here instead and the convention should focus more on an industry connection.
I didn’t visit any fan panels personally, but the fan panels at anime conventions in California tend to be repetitive for my liking, so I didn’t think I was missing a lot by being selective.
Usually, people bring their best and brightest cosplay to Anime Expo every year… except…
- This year, there was a lower density of cosplayers. I was surprised to see how many people were in normal clothes in the crowd. In addition, people weren’t being as innovative or original with their costumes this year. It was like people felt the convention wasn’t worth the potential aggravation of cosplay. Was it the weather? It was usually hot during Anime Expo weekend in Los Angeles, but this year was tepid by comparison. Was it a response to potential tightening of rules after the man with weaponry walked into Phoenix Comic-Con? Is it just the struggle of walking around and flying in with larger props?
I’m not sure what it was, but it just seemed like the Anime Expo crowd was trying less. If you want more top notch anime cosplay, you may want to try going to Fanime.
Last year, I reported the staff of the convention was better than the 2015 year. Apparently, that was short lived.
I was yelled at by staffers no less than four times over the course of the weekend. Once, I tried to explain myself, but a staffer decided to yell “I DON’T CARE!” at me. I wasn’t sure if it was me setting him off, but he decided to do it to someone identifying himself as an exhibitor as I walked away. I don’t know what Anime Expo is feeding staffers, but whatever it is, it needs to be decaffeinated.
I heard everything from down-talking to attendees up to threats of yanking badges during the four days of Anime Expo.
I had better conversations with random staffers who told me, as an example, that their department had badges for 500 volunteers, but 160 of them were never claimed. In other words, they were understaffed by 33% in that department. Between the understaffing and some of them probably being admonished for the Day 1 registration-and-line debacle, I’m sure some of them were feeling the pressure, but taking that out on attendees is unacceptable.
Oddly, the convention center staff were much more easy going than the convention staff. Were they stiff? Yes, but when one talked down to me a bit about where I was walking, a quick explanation on my part garnered an actual apology.
When the convention center staff is friendlier than the convention’s, something is broken.
Downtown Los Angeles is getting more crowded. I don’t mean in terms of people, I mean that there were three different buildings being constructed across from the Los Angeles Convention Center which I think were two condo towers, and possibly a hotel. This took away a lot of the nearby parking, so parking has become a serious premium in the area. If you don’t show up early, you may have to park a couple of miles away in a sketchy area across the 110 Freeway as someone I know did.
While some buildings are finished and the skyline is changing, there hasn’t been a lot of fundamental changes to the city. There’s still a spread of high-priced condos and moderately-expensive to really-expensive restaurants in the local area. If you’re a bargain shopper, either bring your Cup Noodles with you or be prepared to have UberEats deliver on a daily basis.
There still a homelessness problem in the city that has had a couple of tax initiatives passed to try and help these people, but I don’t know when that will start. I was panhandled a couple of times and followed once. I wouldn’t recommend walking alone after the sun sets.
The AX did schedule parties every night, both 18+ and 21+. Anime Expo tried something new called “Neon District” where they used the West Hall’s Hall B, and used the panel stage and LED panels to create a rave-like atmosphere, but this was a ticketed event, so there wasn’t walk-up access.
You’ll need to ask someone else about that for details. Dances are rarely something I go to.
Well, this convention has been around quite a while, and… It’s out of chances. By that, I hear every year, “They’ll fix it next year.” The convention has been around since 1992. How many “next years” does it need?
Registration was a mess, security was only shored up to a good degree by Day 2, panel lines were often way more than capacity, cosplay has been made an afterthought to panel lines, the crowding has reached insane levels and an attendance cap is sorely needed, the staff is confrontational and unprofessional, and they still charge you an extra ticket for every special event you want to do, including the Masquerade.
I have trouble thinking of more than a handful of things Anime Expo provides that other conventions don’t have for half of the overall cost of attendance. I also overheard too many people using the phrase, “This isn’t worth it anymore.”
Anime Expo appears to have reached the breaking point where fans just aren’t interested. If they aren’t interested, how much longer until the ghosts, party boys, and casual con-goers go elsewhere?
In summation, “Line-Con” is usually a phrase people give a convention when their lines to wait for things are becoming too long, and Anime Expo has become the Undisputed Champion of the Title of Line-Con.