Aniplex of America announces first LA convention, AkibaFest, in October

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At Anime Expo 2016, Aniplex of America announced it will be hosting its first two-day convention known as AkibaFest on October 15-16, 2016. The venue was also revealed to be in the Little Tokyo district of downtown Los Angeles.

The convention won’t take place in just one building in Little Tokyo. Instead, the event is planned to occupy several locations all over the historic downtown district, giving attendees a unique experience when compared to other conventions. Fans will be able to enjoy many local restaurants and cafes, shops, cosplay events, and more while walking outdoors between convention spaces. While actual convention space will require a badge, anyone will be able to enjoy the outdoor festivities and attractions.

What exactly is AkibaFest? I had a chance to sit down with Aniplex of America’s President, Hideki Goto, and John Inada, Director of Business Development, to get an idea of what fans can expect from the new convention.

“As you know, the convention scene is booming everywhere, of course. Anime Expo is one of them,” said Goto. “It’s not just Anime Expo, there are more and more conventions that are growing as well. So I thought about this, and looked at the top ten conventions and the number of attendees they have.” He continued, “With more legal simulcasts becoming popular, I felt that new audiences are joining our communities. It’s important to have that new audience, otherwise, attendance cannot grow.”

The goal is to create a place where fans can share their excitement for a series with others, especially if they want to know more about the show’s creators or music. “Aniplex has done video release, streaming licensing, and theatrical releases, but I thought the next project we can have is a more live event opportunity to meet fans expectations,” stated Goto.

When asked about the naming choice of AkibaFest, Goto explained they want to give fans a different type of experience. Aniplex is working with various industry partners including Sony and Bandai Namco Entertainment, with more to be announced at a later time, to make that experience happen. Aniplex wants the event to be more than just anime, and with the help of their industry partners, AkibaFest will feature music, games, and other exhibits. When asked if there was any concern for local shops and businesses competing for merchandising sales (ex. Anime Jungle, a large retailer of Japanese and Anime memorabilia in the heart of Little Tokyo), Goto and Inada responded they will be working with their partners in selling officially licensed products at the convention. I asked if there will be any prize figures from Banpresto or Gashapon; they could not confirm because the logistics for the entire convention were still being planned.

With AkibaFest scheduled to begin in four months time, I asked just how long has the convention been in planning? Inada and Goto have been thinking about this for a long time, and now the time seemed right, especially since Aniplex is working with all of Little Tokyo to bring this event to life.

As for selecting October, Goto said, “[AkibaFest is] after the convention season, so it is a great addition.” He feels the timing was right, and many more people may attend when not worrying about missing other events. Also, it’s close to Halloween, and attendees will likely have costumes completed in anticipation for the holiday.

Just how much of Little Tokyo are they planning to use? Aniplex is likely to use almost all of Little Tokyo, in some capacity. The Downtown Independent, a venue Aniplex has used for movie premieres and screenings, will likely be one such place. AkibaFest won’t be an all-day event like Anime Expo, where events last almost 24 hours. That doesn’t mean it’s the end of festivities for fans. Little Tokyo hosts a variety of restaurants, karaoke bars, bowling, and other nightlife to satisfy those eager to make the most of their time.

AkibaFest is a great move by Aniplex as a service to the fans and to increase exposure. I look forward to October and seeing what Aniplex has planned for events and guests, especially for AkibaFest’s first year. Follow the link to the AkibaFest website for a countdown timer to the start of the convention, and be sure to check back later this month for the full website launch with more information.

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Chris Del Castillo
Chris Del Castillo 2588 posts

Growing up Chris watched a lot of the original Saturday morning cartoons and developed a love for arts and animation. Growing up he tried his hand at animation and eventually script writing, but even more his love of video games, anime and technology grew.