The anime conference is where it all takes place. This is where your Otaku can really be themselves. The following is an overview of what you can expect when you attend these conferences. I have taken much or what I am about to share from AX (Anime Expo – Los Angeles, California).
Most conferences are held in major cities. You can find the larger conferences at the cities convention centers. You can find some of the smaller ones held in noted hotels. They go on for several days. The largest one in Los Angeles is at the Los Angeles Convention center that draws about over 80,000 anime enthusiast a year. These conventions are primarily hosted by non-profit organizations.
The costs generally can go down after the first year that you attend. If you register on line you will have the option to buy the following year at a highly reduced cost. This is based on my experience from the Anime Expo (AX) that comes out every July in Los Angeles.
The first year that we attended the daily rate that got us in the door and allowed us to attend all the panels was $45.00 per person, per day. (Panels are instructional forums) To my surprise after the conference was over I was given the opportunity to purchase the next years tickets at a reduced rate. I decided to purchase all 4 days for what was the given rate of $45.00. Heck one day for $45.00 or 4 at the same price. Even if I did not attend all four days this was still a bargain. The other opportunity that you can get through the conferences registration site are reduced rates at hotels in the area. Our favorite is the Luxe. It is in walking distance not only to the conference center but to a wonderful host of restaurants and entertainment.
At first you think, “Why are you spending time downtown”? This location incorporates several venues, Staple Center, the Nokia Theatre and the Los Angeles Convention center. Amongst the two theatres there are various restaurants and walks. Because this is the heart of entertainment, downtown it is actually very safe. Due to the amount of people that AX draws the city provides additional police protection. I have gone to three AX conferences and stayed out there for two. Each time without incident. It is very nice to be able to take your time to get ready with the conference being so close. This is helpful, especially if you have an elaborate costume or if you plan to participate in a lot of activities.
Cost and Registration
I briefly reviewed cost for AX. The earlier you buy your passes the more you save. For example; for a 4-day pass prior to March 31 you could pay between $45 – $60 per person. After April 1st, you will be paying $65 – $75 per person. At other conferences there may be additional costs to attend panels and events. Some conferences will charge an entry fee and all is included. Others may give you free entry but then charge for various events and panels. The higher end events are always at a cost. The events are usually night time entertainment revolving around concerts and masquerades.
Registration can be done right from the site. This will also open up information on the entertainment that you can purchase ahead of time and any other extra circular activity. Let me tell you right now “day one” of the expo is just jam packed with people starting with the line to pick up your badge. It can take up to an hour depending on what time you get there. They have something called day 0. This is the day before the conference officially opens and allows you to pick up your badge without the hassle of standing in line on a hot day in July. Once you have your badge you are good to travel within a certain area of Los Angeles at no costs and participate in anything that AX has to offer.
If the venue is large enough the city helps promote it by supporting free transportation to anybody that is holding a multi-day pass to get you in and around the city. But mostly it’s to help shuttle people back and forth from their hotels.
As I had mentioned before, hotel costs are reduced that are sponsored on the convention site. For AX, the more popular hotels in and around the area that have been sponsored are The Luxe, The Westin Bonaventure, The Biltmore, Hilton, Sheraton and the Figueroa Hotel just to name a few. AX in the past has had a great site that helps you select your hotel via a map showing proximity to the conference. The site also will list pricing and allow you to book your hotel right from the site. If you have discounts you can not apply them to the existing reduced Expo price. You will need to book outside the site in order to receive your own discounts.
For the most part AX is all about the cosplay. People will spend most of their time either taking pictures or having pictures taken of them. But there’s more. The exhibitor’s room is colossal anime shopping experience all under one roof. If you came non-cosplayed (I mean in civilian clothing) and wanted to get into the rhythm of cosplaying you could get outfitted right then and there. You can create your costumes from a large selection of ears, tails, makeup and wigs. There is also a vast selection of accessories from swords to plushies. Yes, wearing a plushy is a part of cosplaying. If you are just getting into cosplaying try on a set of ears and tails just to get you in the mood.
There is never a shortage of T-shirts sporting your favorite anime character. If you are looking for the rare and hard to find item, this is the place. I also like the unusual little vendors that you never find anyplace else like the oil perfumeries. But if you are an avid collector of the action figures and playing cards the exhibitors room is your place to hang out and scavenge for your rare treasures. The biggest draw to the exhibitors room is of course the videos and the manga’s. Search around as this is the best place to get the hard to find and too expensive video or favorite manga series. I found in most book stores that you can only find partial sets of manga’s where as at AX you can find whole series.
At the back of the Exhibitors room you can find Artist Alley this is made up of 4 long rows of smaller booths of artist exhibiting their anime artistry. Most of these artist post on Deviant art as a way to better themselves and learn from others. Pieces of art ranging from buttons and book markers to pictures size posters can be found here. Most of the artist work is inspired from anime manga’s, videos or movies. You can also find artistry in the form of home crafting as well, hats, buttons or accessories.
A panel is a session based on a specific topic around anime and or gaming. Panels are posted in the program that you are given at time of registration. Some of the panels invite well known celebrities from the anime world. Famous voice over actors like Vic Mignogna and Steve Blum have appeared at panel. Other panels may include informative segments in “How Tos” for artist and cosplayers. For the more serious gamers and film makers there are panels held to share incites in getting started into these industries. These panels last between 1 to 2 hours. In order to get good seats to the more popular panels you need to get in line at least an hour in advance. It’s advisable to plan out your days based on what are the more important panels that you would like to participate in. Otherwise you may find yourself more frustrated than having fun because you spent the whole day in line.
In the prior section covering costs, I had brought up masquerade. The masquerades are skits that are performed by the cosplayers. Some are very dramatic, most are humorous but most of all it is the level of effort that went into the costumes that really draws the attention. The costs per event vary based on the level of performance. With the masquerade, if you want upfront seating you can purchase tickets in advance. Yet if you don’t mind waiting until every paid customer has received their seat you can get in for free.
The concerts usually have named acts that are better known in the anime world. Concerts that have come to the anime conference include live bands and Vocaloid. Other forms of entertainment associated to AX are Karaoke. Of course what would a Japanese based venue be without Karaoke? But this isn’t just getting up on stage and singing your heart out, it is a challenge! There are contests based on age or for the very daring, where it is only you and an instrument. There are the open times where you can let your hair down and just sing.
AX Maid Café is an interactive show. Maids and the host are singing and dancing but not on stage, they are right at your table. They also interact with their audience by playing games, group dances, musical performances and photo opportunities. They don’t serve food but you can brown bag it. Please be aware that the day performances are very tame versus the night time performances where there is an age limit of 18 or over.
This is an area where you can play the latest games in association with AX and available from the attending vendors. There are also challenges that take place throughout the 4 day conference.
In other conferences I have seen gaming go back to the traditional table top board games.