Sea to Shining Sea: An East Coaster’s impression of Anime Expo 2013

As an East Coast member of Anime Diet, the largest anime convention I’d ever been to was Otakon 2012. That’s in the past tense, because in late June, I found myself somehow able to consider going to Anime Expo 2013. In many ways, these two conventions are opposites: West coast vs. East coast, Industry-focused vs. Fan-focused, Four-day con vs. Three-day con. So in a rather financially questionable decision, I decided to figure out what’s so special about Anime Expo this year!

What other convention has a tank parked in front of it?
What other convention gets a tank parked in front of it?

As I arrived at the Los Angeles Convention Center for the first time, it became clear what “industry focused” meant – a big *tank* was sitting in front of the LACC, promoting the Sentai Filmworks show “Girls und Panzer,” a show about girls who were practicing “the way of the tank.” The industry connection extended to a Danny Choo booth prominently located in the middle of the LACC South Lobby, as well as a huge section of the Exhibit Hall (called the Dealer’s Room at many other conventions) reserved for industry representatives. In fact, it was the diversity of the industry booths that surprised me: not just anime licensors, but also gaming companies like NIS America and Nexon, as well as figure companies (Good Smile Company) were on the floor.

Good Smile Company showing off its figures!
Good Smile Company showing off its Black Rock Shooter figures

Of course, I was at Anime Expo for the guests too. Huke (Black Rock Shooter character designer) and Makoto Shinkai (premiered “The Garden of Worlds” at this Anime Expo; director of “Voices of a Distant Star”) were the top priority for me this year. As for musical guests, who could overlook PORNOGRAFFITTI? I added the Visual Kei and PORNOGRAFFITTI concert to my list of things to attend.

Bored Laptop-Rock Shooter
Bored Laptop-Rock Shooter

I was lucky enough to get a reasonably good spot in the Huke / Good Smile Company panel line, thanks to awesome line-squatting friends. During the panel, Huke spent most of his time drawing a “Black Rock Shooter-inspired character” live on screen, which was awe-inspiring… and at times funny, as he would make his new character make funny faces at the audience!
As for the man himself… if only he wasn’t wearing a camouflage outfit complete with mask! I’m sure he wore it to protect his identity, so I guess we can only assume he is a incredibly talented character designing ninja! Unfortunately, the Huke panel started late, giving him very little time to talk about how he created the characters for Black Rock Shooter before jumping to Q&A. However, some of the questions at Q&A were quite memorable:

Q: How do you add texture to your character designs?
A: Huke collects pictures of ‘textured’ objects, sometimes taking pictures of the most mundane but textured objects, like walls. Huke opens up a folder full of photos on his computer, inserts one into the Photoshop file that he’s been working on with the BRS-inspired character, and applies the texture to the character. Just awesome.

Q: Why did you want to become an illustrator?
A: Well, I was terrible with my studies, so I had to be successful at illustrating!

Q: What inspired you to have Black Rock Shooter carry a huge gun instead of something else?
A: Well, isn’t it really cool to have a girl hold a REALLY BIG weapon?

Ninja Huke escaping after the panel
Ninja Huke escaping after the panel

In addition to the GSC/Huke panel, I attended our exclusive Makoto Shinkai interview and the PORNOGRAFFITTI concert (articles to be published). The last two events stand out as the best experiences I’ve ever had at an anime convention.

With an attendance of over 61,000 people this year, Anime Expo nearly doubled Otakon’s 2012 attendance. This amazing number was surprisingly hard to feel due to Anime Expo’s good use of the LACC’s layout. Cosplayers took full advantage of the LACC South Lobby to showcase their work, the exhibit hall was off to one side of the convention, and the panels and concerts were located on the LACC’s West side.

Not just anime, but video game cosplayers!Ahri from League of Legends!

Speaking of the LACC’s South Lobby, I was impressed with the location: well lit, spacious, indoors, and air conditioned. It was no surprise that the best costumes and cosplayers could be found here, and with enough space, it was possible for the most hardcore cosplayers to show off truly extreme costumes that would be impossible to find elsewhere.

Lineup for a Main Event - long, but worth it
Lineup for a Main Event – long, but worth it

While Anime Expo and Otakon are pretty different, the one thing I did notice was that big cons have their drawbacks too. It was very packed on Saturday, and the description of Anime Expo as line-con matched my experience with Otakon’s events too. After lining up for Huke’s panel, I realized I wouldn’t get to experience Anime Expo if I continued to spend my time lining up. Autographs for very popular guests were very hit or miss, but with a well designed system of vouchers and standby tickets, it seemed more fair than the usual first-come-first-serve system.

There is one very memorable event that stands out as unique to Anime Expo. I cosplayed a character from Bodacious Space Pirates (a Sentai Filmworks license), and as I was walking by the LACC, one of the Sentai Filmworks “Girls und Panzer” cosplayers by the Tank called out to me, urging me to go to the Sentai Filmworks booth in the exhibit hall. Eventually, I made my way there, and discovered professional cosplayer Jessica Nigri cosplaying my character’s companion to perfection! Exchanging pictures and compliments, I left with a cherished memory.

Sentai's Jessica Nigri cosplaying Marika from Bodacious Space Pirates
Sentai’s Jessica Nigri cosplaying Marika from Bodacious Space Pirates

There seems to be a hole in my wallet… reserved for some financial irresponsibility next year! I really enjoyed Anime Expo and can’t wait to see who their guests will be next year!

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Author: Shizuka

Photographer, cosplayer, and secret Japanese culture fanatic. Shizuka does too many things. Follow her on Twitter at @Sh1zuka

3 thoughts on “Sea to Shining Sea: An East Coaster’s impression of Anime Expo 2013

  1. Yup, thank you for sharing the experience of the biggest con in the states. That tank, how much money Sentai invested in Expo, and top good looking hired cosplayers, and also bringing the genius, Shinkai Makoto! Did Huke even speak to the mic? I don’t know how he can talk with that mask.

    Those pictures are great! Yeah, no wonder top cosplayers in the nation. I like Card Captor Sakura cosplay from your photos, that’s very cute.

    Never been to an East Coast con, so I will save money and try to go there next year. Too bad I can’t get to see Kanno Yoko at Otakon this year.

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