2015 was my first time ever going to Anime Expo. I had been meaning to go previous years, but times and scheduling had never worked in my favor. All my previous anime convention experienced was limited to Fanime in San Jose, and Animation on Display in Santa Clara, both significantly smaller than AX.
I knew AX was the largest anime convention in America going on, but I didn’t really appreciate the scale until I saw it in person. The sheer volume of people was unlike anything I’d seen before. People had said that AX was extremely crowded, and they were right. It definitely felt like a mosh pit in many parts of the convention, especially when trying to get through the main hall to the Dealers Hall/Artist Alley at the start. A lot of the hallways were extremely congested due to the lines for every panel. However, despite all the crazy crowds, I never felt like it was “too crowded”. The crowds had a crazy energy to them that made the event a lot more exciting. Sure it was a pain getting from one end of the convention to the other, but I thought that inconvenience was worth it just to see the mass excitement of the crowds. I’ll definitely be back next year for AX.
Organization wise, I felt that AX did the best they could with the convention center. I felt the big exhibitions, like Artist’s Alley/Dealer’s Hall, Gaming Room, and the big events like the UBW panel. However, I feel they suffered a pretty severe case of trying to make a square peg fit into a round hole with the way they did the lines for all the smaller panels. The exhibition halls on the LA Convention Center were definitely designed to accommodate the huge amount of people going to AX, but the individual panel rooms and surrounding halls weren’t designed for it at all. There were quite a few times where I’d want to line up for a panel, but when I reached the panel door, it wasn’t clear where the line began and where the line ended. On several occasions, multiple lines formed for the same panel door, and when it was time to let people in, a single line was chosen randomly, and all those people were let in first. A couple panels had an outside line in the tents outside the convention center, and much of the time it wasn’t clear that we were supposed to line up there. To compound all this, the hallways weren’t designed to have so many people waiting on the sides. There’s definitely a lot of congestion in the halls when there’s a lot of people sitting on the sides waiting for the panel to open up.
There’s definitely not much that AX can do about this because the convention hall was not designed to accommodate this type of usage, however one thing I feel they could have done was given a clear marker to denote where the line began. The only things necessary would be a sign to point out where the line starts, and which way the line goes. It’d at least prevent a situation where multiple lines form for the same door.
For other things organization wise, the thing I was most impressed about was the fact I didn’t have to wait in line to pick up my badge (#MakeLineConGreatAgain). I’d seen pictures of the lines from previous years, and I expected the worst when I went to pick up my badge, but I was pleasantly surprised by the minimal wait. Whatever they did to speed up the badge pick up system definitely worked.
The strongest thing about AX to me was definitely the panels and the content of them. The absolute standouts to me were the UBW concert/panel, the Studio Trigger panel, and the Big Hero 6 panel. It definitely felt like stuff I wouldn’t be able to see anywhere else besides AX. My personal highlight of the entire con was watching the Little Witch Academica and Inferno Cop crossover short during the Studio Trigger panel. Other highlights include listening to Aimer perform acoustic versions of her songs during the UBW panel.
One impression I got comparing AX to Fanime was that even though AX could be considered “overcrowded” (some parts definitely felt like a mosh pit), in a way, the crowd is what allows the big events to be brought over to the US. I don’t think the UBW staff, voice actors, and the artists would have come to any other convention besides AX, solely due to the size and location of AX. If a huge crowd is what it takes to bring over these types of events, I’ll support having a crowd any day.
Overall I had a very positive experience with AX 2015. I look forward to going back there in 2016.