Anime Expo 2013 Convention Report (Overview)

Cosplayers: Primadonna Cosplay (FB) + sweet-illuzions

Cosplayers: Primadonna Cosplay (FB) + sweet-illuzions

Anime Expo (AX) at the Los Angeles Convention Center is one of the largest Anime conventions in the U.S.  The convention takes in thousands of fans, cosplayers, and photographers

as well as host many guests both from Japan and from the US Anime Industry.  As a result, it has become an American Otaku’s place of pilgrimage.  But how do you know if the convention is right for you.  Well I’ll break it down in this first part of the AX 2013 Review.

For the following, I’ll be breaking it down into three basic groups: Cosplayers, Photographers, and Fans.   Fans, in this case, are not people who either cosplay or do serious photoshoots.  This means that if you’re the type who just walks around and do hall photos, you’re more likely a “Fan” than “Photographer” for the purpose of this write-up.  Serious photoshoots don’t just mean expensive cameras though.  If you are taking into account special lighting (say from a second flash or a reflector) or mind the fact that people are in the background of your photo, then you’re considered a “fan” here.

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For the Fans

Cosplayer: Midori Yang Cosplay (FB)

Cosplayer: Midori Yang Cosplay (FB)

Assuming you’re a huge fan of Anime, Manga, and some Japanese Video Games, then this is basically your version of Comic Con.  Each year, the

con brings industry guests from Japan like this year with Danny Choo, artist huke, and character designer Noizi Ito.  From the U.S., you have Vic Mignogna, Johnny Yong Bosch, and Christopher Sabat.  Plus there are musical guests like this year’s Porno Graffitti and Aya Ikeda X Carat doing concerts.

Plus there is all the swag (free and expensive) in the Exhibition Hall as well as plenty of cosplayers in full force around the Convention Center, particularly in the South Hall.

The ones who probably would not get much out of it are people who aren’t big Anime buffs.  I, personally, am more of a Western Comics type of person so I did not get as much out of it.  Also, while there is plenty to do, downtown LA is very expensive and hot during this time of year.  If you think the cost is worth it, then you should have a blast.

Go If:

  – Big Fan of Anime/Manga and the like

  – You really must see your favorite Anime/Manga stars and get their autographs.

Don’t Go If.
  – You’re not a big fan of Anime/Manga.

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Cosplayer: BatShep (FB)

Cosplayer: BatShep (FB)

For the Cosplayers

Every year, many cosplayers bring their A-Game to Anime Expo and there is definitely a wide variety to cosplay.  The past several years there were themes based on the guests at the con with this year being Attack on Titan (hence many giving AX 2013 the unofficial title of “Attack on AX” or “AX on Titan”).  And even if you did not cosplay as the year’s theme, you can still cosplay as your favorite characters both old and new.  And it does not have to be “Japan-only” since I’ve seen many DC and Marvel characters on the floor as well as troopers of the 501st (Star Wars) and many Avatar: The Last Airbender cosplays.  It’s pretty much anything goes at Anime Expo.

The thing you would have to worry about though is space and the heat.  LA Summers have been very hot (above 80 degrees F) and inside the South Hall, the AC pretty much never works so it’s more like 90+ depending on oh much you are covered from head to toe and how many/what kind of layers you are wearing.  Cold drinks are very expensive and with the amount of times you may be stopped for photos, it could be a while.

Now, risking dehydration is not just for cosplayers but for everyone, but cosplayers do have to deal with random people.  Whether they are cosplayer, photographer, or a random fan, many cosplayers are going to find that the crowds and the constant stopping for photos tiring after a while.  And AX is definitely like Comic Con in the respect that almost anyone dressed very well will be stopped for photos every 5 seconds.  And cosplayers will be lucky if they can move 6 feet before they are stopped again for a photo.  Exposure definitely comes with cosplaying at AX, but you should definitely make sure it is “fan-proof” because in a pool of thousands, the risk of creepy photographer, random bumper, or glomper is extremely high.

Still, many of these are a given when cosplaying at convention.  You (and to some extent, I) knew the risks going in.  And we all should be cosplaying at cons for only two reasons:  To make friends and to show your fandom.

Go If:

– You want more exposure

   – Meet other cosplayers/photographers

Don’t Go If:

– Personal Space issues are a concern

– It’s Hot and humid.

– Your cosplays break easily.

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For the Photographers

Cosplayer: Kale Tousen

Cosplayer: Kale Tousen

Now, this one is very tricky to write about.  I’ll take more about it in the next part of my Anime Expo report.

You saw above that many cosplayers come to Anime Expo to bring their A-Game.  Wings, armor, robes, dresses, everything is done to the nth degree.  So naturally many serious photographers would want to shoot the best at their best.  And to that credit, there are plenty of great cosplayers to photograph at conventions.  Those of us who take cosplay photography as a passion would find ourselves hard pressed to find conventions where people bring their best works to display.

However the crowds make it difficult to do good hall photography without someone coming up and bumping the cosplayer or camera or blocking your shot with their own camera, phone, or tablet.  While the convention center is huge, the number of photoshoot locations there are not many.  In my professional opinion, the one real place to do shoots is near the smaller West Hall where there are tunnels, unused stair cases, small patches of trees and architecture, and, of course, the parking garage.  However, since there are many cosplayers and many photographers, these areas are in high use.

I have to say that Anime Expo is a hostile place for serious photographers.  With so few locations, we have to make do with outside locations.  However, security and staff block many locations around the convention center.  This was especially prevalent at hotels like the JW Marriott where I stayed.  I could not even get one shot, without a lightstand or a flash without security asking me to leave and threatening to eject me from my hotel room.  The convention staff was not much better.  Bag checks were very annoying unless you found a gap in their security.  And of course the heat exhaustion is a very real threat.

Of course, many of us spend hundreds of dollars to attend the convention, whether you bought a badge or not.  So having so few locations we can shoot and being exhausted from constantly moving with a lot of gear means that a lot of us have to be picky as to who or what we shoot.  This is great for some of the more famous cosplayers because they can pick and choose whom to shoot with.  For photographers like me, the fame-factor comes into play.  If you’re not a famous photographer, good luck getting shoots.  Even a moderately well known photographer like myself will have shoots taken away because another photographer passed by and asked them for shoots even if you had planned with the cosplayer in advanced.

Overall, I hope you photographers love hall photography.  Otherwise, you are setting yourself for disappointment.

Go If:
  – You want many hall photos of great cosplays

Don’t Go If:
  – You’re afraid of your equipment getting damaged
– Photoshoot areas are few and far in between

– If you’re not a famous photographer, you won’t get the photoshoots.

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Final Thoughts

I have gone to Anime Expo for three straight years.  In that time, the convention has changed little with the times except for the increased harshness of the environment for photographers or the judgmental cosplayers.  If you are a big fan of the convention for the guests and the swag, I doubt you need me to help you confirm your desires to attend.  If you’re a cosplayer, the environment can be rough, but if it gives you a time for you to shine brightest, then I wish you good luck.  For aspiring photographers, it will be a challenge and it will be harsh.

In the end, the biggest reason to go is because your friends are going.  And it is those friends that will make or break your convention experience.  Anime Expo is a convention of extremes.  You will either love it or hate it.

How was my convention experience?  Come back next time when I go over what happened to me personally.

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~ by BlizzardTerrak on July 10, 2013.

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