Japan Expo 2014 Review


BTW, going to SacAnime Summer 2014.  After that, I’m unsure between Comickaze / PMX….SacWinter and ALA is in doubt.


Japan Expo came to California at the end of August last year.  Coming from France, these convention organizers had no idea how different California conventions are, much

less the culture that we, the Anime and Cosplay Community have created here.  Yet despite this and other problems with the way the exhibit hall was organized and the timing of the con, it was a solid first try as a convention.

Their “First Impact” was held at the Santa Clara Convention Center.  For their Second Impact, they clearly went for something completely different and set up shop at the San Mateo Event Center, a venue known for having more outdoor space and minimal indoor areas.

Old versus New

Neeka Cosplay

Neeka Cosplay

Last time, it looked like a lot of hotel conventions with a giant hall for the dealers, advertisers, artists, and stages.  One could choose to stay at the connecting hotel, take the nearby light-rail, or parking isn’t ideal.  The exhibit hall was rather spartan, owing to it’s rather steep cost for artist alley tables and vendor booths, making it seem rather empty, especially on Friday when most people were at school or work.  Still, the guests and activities gave us attendees hope for future improvements to a new Northern California convention.

The “Second Impact” was a totally different animal from First (Impact?).  Instead of a mostly indoor convention, it felt like a theme park or a festival with paid admission.  The concert and masquerade stage as well as the food trucks and traditional Japanese dances were held outside.  The cosplay stage used for gatherings was also moved outdoors along with the autograph areas.  There were four different halls used for the con: Exhibit Hall (with the artist alley again shoved into one corner), a combined martial arts / panel room (imagine hearing “KIAI!” during Gen Urobuchi’s panel without adequate speakers), a decent anime viewing room hall, and a video game room that frankly should not be mentioned.  Unfortunately the rather high prices were still in effect for badges, artist alley tables, and food at the con, with few options due to the location and the lack of in-and-out privileges in the parking lot.

Overall, it was a huge downgrade of a rather solid convention in 2013.


Personal Feelings

Cosplayer: Dearmariette

Cosplayer: Dearmariette

Conventional wisdom holds that larger locations are better for conventions, but the way they organized the space provided was sloppy.  Having the martial arts demonstration at the same time and place as the guest panels as well as having two stages with speakers pointed at each other was clearly bad planning.  Most of the staff were knowledgeable and on hand to solve technical problems but some staff were strict to enforce rules that were not clearly defined (or enforced) such as cosplay weapons/props policies.  These mistakes truly baffled me since I had yet to see other smaller, less-experienced conventions point two stages to compete with each other as well as having the panel rooms soundproofed from other events.

After the first Japan Expo, I was hyped for this second iteration.  The guest list was impressive as was the uniqueness of having both a traditional Japanese festival atmosphere as well as fan-specific activities.  Theoretically those as well as a decent Exhibit/Dealer’s Hall should have brought in the attendees.  However, the larger area just made it painful to see how few were actually present at a given timeframe, particularly on Friday and a large part of Sunday.  Yet despite the lower-than-expected numbers, the autograph lines were rather short.  Usually that’s a good thing, however Japan Expo implemented a lottery system for autographs.  That meant that one did not even need to put in extra effort to show up early for autographs.  I know events like ComicCon make lines something to be feared, but artificially preventing fans from meeting the guests in this manner is a major way to scare off attendees.

I also can’t help but think the venue contributed to this as well.  Between the lack of in-and-out privileges in the parking lot, lack of connecting hotels and food, difficulty and distance of public transportation, and severe gaps in cellular and 4G coverage, the venue lacks many of the conveniences other cons have.  The timing could have also contributed to the low turn out as well, being right when school resumes and right before Labor Day weekend, which has SacAnime Summer, Dragon*Con, etc.



Cosplayers: Amaryie Cosplay, Athena Marid Cosplay, Ginryuu Cosplay

Cosplayers: Amaryie Cosplay, Athena Marid Cosplay, Ginryuu Cosplay


Angel Hearts Concert, Neeka Cosplay


Xty Kim, :iconhezachan:, Chihiro-kuma Cosplay, :icongya-inc:, Hello Musume! Concert, :iconlexlexy:, :iconjazzberry:, :iconkatsumiyo:


:iconcherryteagirl:, A.T.M. Concert, – :iconlexy-chan: :iconginriru-tatsu: :iconthiefbydesign:


Final Thoughts

“Japan Expo 2014: Second Impact” would be better described as a collision.  Most of the things that worked last year were barely present, making any improvements inconsequential and a lot of the problems exacerbated.  I can understand the festival atmosphere and I do think it would be a great selling point even at this venue.  The guest list was also rather impressive with  Shinji Aramaki and Gen Urubuchi present and even interacting with the fans (see if you can find the gathering photos where Urubuchi-san was surrounded by the characters he killed off).  Unfortunately, the execution of many important aspects of the convention like hotels and transportation, costs vendors had to get a spot, and the placement and setup of the panel room and the two main stages made things seem disorganized.  Some of this could be blamed on the San Mateo Event Center venue, but a lot of those problems could have been avoided with better placement and price options.  For a convention that offered premium badges that could cost hundred of dollars, there was very little value in them overall.

Frankly, if the convention does not improve many of those problems I listed, I have to wonder if this convention will go the way of Hyper-Con in years past.



:squee:  – Guests

Added to my devWatch!  – Larger Area

Gallery – Festival Setting

Guitar Hero: Expert – Outdoor concerts Sat night



Pay It – Pricey for what was available.

Shrug – Fewer activities than last year.

Upset – Questionable placement of events.

Censored Lottery System for Special Guests Signings.


Con-Rating: (Definitely a Step Down)

Fun Factor:  (Disappointing, but decent for a smaller convention)


~ by BlizzardTerrak on August 27, 2014.

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