Massive mess at Anime Expo 2017 shows need for change

Anime Expo

Credit: Chris del Castillo

It’s amazing to think that Anime Expo first began in 1992. That’s right. Over the last 25 years, the convention has been growing each and every year. When the first AX was held, it had just 1,750 attendees. Fast-forward to today, and it’s increased massively with over 116,00 attendees. That’s more than a 10% increase from last year.

This growth has become a huge issue over the last few years. And while it seems that things are improving, it’s also getting much worse in different areas. It was about three years ago when lines were moved to the outside of the Los Angeles Convention Center to prevent any fire hazards. That first year there were no tents outside. And people were standing in the hot sun for hours to attend panels and events, which resulted in plenty of new issues. So Anime Expo added tents to help deal with the sun blazing down on people. It’s a good thing, but the lines are still a massive issue.

Panels

One thing Anime Expo organizers are still failing to deal with is how this affects panels. Panels, including major ones, last primarily for about an hour. However, a majority of these panels start anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes late. This reason is that the lines to get people in are just too long. Instead of adding time onto the panels, it causes them to be cut short. Panelists are forced to rush through announcements and cut back on audience Q&A time. Companies can complain, but it feels like Anime Expo isn’t doing much to deal with these issues. It’s something that’s been happening for the last three years.

LineCon

“LineCon” is a term you’ve probably heard for different popular conventions, and Anime Expo is no different. Day 1 had a line wrapping around the Staples Center for people to get into the convention to get their badges. Day 0 was just as bad, if not worse, with people in line to get their badges. This led them to residential areas and some even near a giant trash area. This isn’t the way you want to enjoy AX, especially on Day 1 where people who had a one-day badge probably spent a majority of their convention day waiting. Luckily, next year Anime Expo will be mailing out badges, which is a huge plus. Attendees can look forward to one less line. To AX’s credit, it’s a big step forward in the right direction.

Being a regular attendee isn’t going to cut it anymore if attendees want to enjoy most of the convention. This year saw some of the worst experiences with queue lines for panels. Rooms that were to be cleared after each panel were never cleared. This is a major problem with popular panels.

Panel Queue Line

While trying to hop between appointments, interviews and panel coverage, I would sometimes find myself getting in line anywhere from 15-30 minutes before a panel. I would line up alongside the premier fans, and by the time we got inside, three-fourths of the room was already packed. People have been staying from the previous panel. Some were even walking in a panel just so they can wait for the next one. Even if you sat outside for hours waiting to get in, there is a chance the line was cut by others before you could even get in. That’s a shame for many people who patiently waited. So moving forward, you may want to plan ahead or try a Premier badge. (Unfortunately, as of this writing, it has already sold out.)

Artist Alley

Artist Alley has always been a big point of Anime Expo. Last year, it was placed in Kentia Hall alongside the Trading Card Game Area and the Guest of Honor Autograph Sessions area. Walking in the Artist Alley was hectic. Sure, many booths have tons of people who gather to visit their favorite artists, but it felt worse this year. It feels like Anime Expo needs to regulate more space moving forward. It’s a huge issue when you can’t really walk or move in that area, and it definitely poses a few safety issues.

Improvements

Those reasons aside, Anime Expo did feel much better this year than it has in the last two years. There were still hiccups, but it’s almost impossible for everything to go perfectly. It’s always important to try. There were a lot of great panels, and the inclusion of live streaming the bigger panels in Petree Hall made it easier to miss some of the panels I normally attend.

This was the first year I spent less time in the big industry panels and the exhibit hall. Even though I did a good amount of shopping, I spent most of my time jumping to various panels, interviews, autograph sessions and rocking out at the Asian Kung-Fu Generation concert. (The latter isn’t a part of the Anime Expo lineup but was easily my favorite part of the convention experience.)

Closing Comments

Overall, it seems Anime Expo is growing faster than it can handle. That’s especially the case when seeing many volunteers not being aware of what’s going on due to lack of communication and information. Sadly this isn’t new, and it’s an issue I’ve had to deal with over and over for almost a decade.

Mailing badges helps alleviate many of the issues that have risen in the past, including issues with the registration servers. With the good comes the bad, and there was definitely a lot of bad. It’s a process, and addressing and dealing with these issues is an important step that Anime Expo as a whole really needs to prepare for the future.

About author

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.