The temperature outside of the Los Angeles Convention Center had reached a balmy 102 degrees by noon on Saturday, July 7, the fourth day of Anime Expo. The only thing hotter was my sheer, unbridled excitement at the thought of wandering its halls elbow-to-elbow with costumed otaku (anime, manga and pop culture obsessives).
Anime Expo is a five-day convention organized and hosted by the nonprofit Society for the Promotion of Japanese Animation. It is the largest anime convention in North America, encompassing manga, films, video games and music, attracting over 100,000 fans from around the world. This year’s expo was held July 4-8.
Think of it as San Diego Comic-Con specifically tailored for the anime genre, replete with special announcements, panels featuring voice actors and creators and world-premiere screenings.
With one day scheduled for attendance, I would need to formulate a tight schedule for the optimum amount of anime consumption. As it turns out, one day wasn’t nearly enough.
After catching a portion of Kimba the White Lion at around 9 a.m., I succumbed to sensory overload as I stepped back into the convention center lobby, thanks to the incredibly creative cosplayers scrambling about.
“Nani?!” I shouted. (“What?!” in Japanese).
Fans by the thousands came donned in costumes, portraying characters from popular and sometimes incredibly obscure series, memes, video games and everything in between. Attack on Titan, Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball Z were well-represented.
Several cosplayers arrived as colorful characters from JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, an anime and manga by Hirohiko Araki. Over the weekend, it was announced that part five of the series, Golden Wind, would premiere in anime form later this year. Excitement was palpable throughout the convention center.
For certain premieres, fans required tickets or wristbands. Dedicated thralls lined up in the sweltering heat earlier in the week to procure passes to several events, including the film adaptation of Boku no Hero Academia, an immensely popular series following the exploits of wannabe heroes.
By midday Saturday, the convention center was packed tight. It took 15 minutes to wade through the swarming masses from the West Hall, where costumed and non-costumed folks alike could pretend that they were inside of an anime by posing in intricately designed sets, to the South Hall, where the big-name anime purveyors such as Funimation and Crunchyroll set up shop next to not-so-big-names selling T-shirts, figurines, replica weapons and even sleeves for body pillows adorned with a wide variety of anime characters in various stages of undress.
It was hot. It was sweaty. And it was, well, wonderful. There truly is no place better than Anime Expo to immerse oneself in this particular niche.
Aforementioned series can be found on Netflix, Hulu, Crunchyroll and other streaming services.