Japan Expo 2013 After Action Report

Japan Expo is a spin-off of a French-run convention held at the Santa Clara Convention Center, home of the original Fanime.  While it was exciting that there would be a new

Cosplayer: BatShep

Cosplayer: BatShep

convention in NorCal, a few policy concerns and a late schedule publication probably hindered the number of attendees to the convention.  It is not exactly an Anime convention but rather showcased Japanese culture as a whole.  Did the convention perform?
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Not Your Typical Convention

Many convention goers were somewhat bewildered as to what we saw in the convention hall.  The hall had the usual suspects at Anime conventions like viewing rooms, Guest panels, merchandise and artist alley, and video game room.  However, there were also things like travel agencies, tradition Japanese art on display (and for sale), as well as martial arts, traditional music, and special guests not from the Anime-industry.  I would make the joke that it means there is something for the kids as well as the adults, giving it a feel of a San Francisco Cherry Blossom festival.  There were even mini-parades and what I can only describe as a Japanese male cheering squad present at random.

There is a slight more emphasis on Anime, but the inclusion of more traditional Japanese culture is definitely welcome, if a bit jarring.  It was interesting to learn about art as well as shoot cosplayers.  If anything, I think there should be more of both in general.  The artist alley was rather small and in the corner, so those artists might have gotten the shaft.  Hopefully feedback would help them for their 2nd show.

Thematically, Friday had mostly the culture on display.  However, with school just starting for many people, it was clear only adults would be present that day, though a change to an earlier date would be advisable as the convention was a ghost town the first day.  Saturday was clearly a lot livelier, as it typically is for a 3-day convention.  However, for some reason, there were two cosplay masquerades, one on Saturday and one on Sunday right after many of us were checking out of our hotels.  Thankfully they had bag checks and cosplay changing rooms (not to mention numerous clean bathrooms) to help alleviate the problem, but I know from experience that Sunday is usually shopping day and not a heavy cosplay day.
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Technical Difficulties

Cosplayer:  Miss Ocha + LadyStaba

Cosplayer: Miss Ocha + LadyStaba

Japan Expo had a professional staff, but they were clearly used to a certain way of doing things that worked in Europe.  The biggest sticking point for people was the badge system they implemented. Instead of waiting in line for badges, everyone (pre-reg and same-day guests) used a QR code to verify their purchase every time they entered and exited the convention.  This system as a couple of advantages over the badge system us Americans are used to.

No badges to hide during shoots.
Guarantees that ghosting is at a minimum.
No pre-reg badge lines.  Just head straight for the entrance.

Unfortunately there were only two scanners so that means there were only one entrance and one exit.  And for some reason, they were strict on where the entrance and exit was.  For example, exiting through the hotel connection was tentatively allowed, but to enter again, you had to go all the way around in the hot sun to the main entrance, a rather major annoyance.

Still, the system does benefit both the con and the attendees.  Attendees do not have to wait and can hide their QR codes easier and the con guarantees that there is no one ghosting the convention.  If they can get more scanners at different locations, the system could be a good change from the norms.
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Cosplayers: Blossomberry Cosplay

Cosplayers: Blossomberry Cosplay

Personal Feelings

The convention felt more like a Japantown fair than a convention with the art displays, booths for trips to Japan, as well as the random parades.  It was not very crowded like Fanime is currently, but that’s not always a bad thing.  It helps that I had more areas to shoot in the hallways since there was usually decent lighting as well as plenty of wall real-estate for one to use.  The feel is more laid back, and after going to Fanime, Anime Expo, and San Diego Comic Con, that was a very good thing for me.

The more laid back feel also helped me, photography wise.  I was able to spend more time per group than I ever could at any of the other cons.  While it’s not so populated that I could just grab a cosplayer to do a shoot, like ALA, it wasn’t as hoity-toity as Anime Expo either.  I joked after the con that I “got my mojo back”, and looking at these photos, I can see why.  My lighting as better, the shots have better composition, and frankly they were all a blast to shoot.  The best part was the variety of shoots I did thematically and timing wise.  Even after I injured and blistered my legs, I had a great time and never let that stop me.
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Friday:
:iconladystaba: + Miss Ocha Cosplay (FB), :iconlexy-chan::iconyukari-of-konoha::iconprototypem: + etc,  Blossomberry cosplay (FB),

Saturday:
Blossomberry cosplay (FB), :iconsparklepipsi:, :iconladystaba::iconcharmiesweets::iconpikachurepublic: + Miss Ocha Cosplay (FB) + Haruhi, Batshep (FB)

Sunday:
The Great White Cosplayer + Sirian (FB), :iconlimitlessedge:‘s Jie, :iconkeinotpin:

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Final Thoughts

Cosplayer: Sparkle Pipsi

Cosplayer: Sparkle Pipsi

For a first-time con, it was run professionally.  I know it came from Europe, and it had teething problems adjusting to the convention culture we Americans are used to, but compared to lots of other cons I go to, it was great.  It had almost something for everyone, the staffs were neither unprofessional nor stuck by the book (except for badge checks), and it could adapt on the fly.   If they can solve the badge scanning problems and the food, I would not be surprised if Japan Expo would actually become a threat to Fanime.

I hope I can attend next year and I hope to see this con grow bigger and stronger.
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Good:
Hi!  – Staff were, mostly nice
Little Worker – Pre-reg badge has little wait.
Handshake – Relaxing, but not boring.

Bad:
CURSE YOU! – Entrance/Exit placements
CURSE YOU! – Food is not as easy to come by.
I've got too much work to do. – Artist Alley could use a better placement and incentive to go

Con-Rating:
Star! Star! Star! Star! (Solid)
Fun Factor:
Star! Star! Star! Star! (Great)

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~ by BlizzardTerrak on September 12, 2013.

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