After hitting the milestone of 100,000 attendees last year, Anime Expo is officially the largest North American anime convention. With that said, the Society for the Promotion of Japanese Amination (SPJA) had to step up their game to make Anime Expo even bigger and better for 2017. Unfortunately, that came with a price, a high one, for attendees. $80 at the door for one day to be specific. So the question is, was Anime Expo worth it?
Typically held on the first weekend of July, Anime Expo commonly coincides with the 4th of July holiday weekend and lasts four days. This year, 4th of July fell on Tuesday. Instead of hosting Anime Expo from Thursday to Friday or Friday to Monday like last year, SPJA decided to host Anime Expo Saturday through Tuesday this year. With the holiday placed in the middle of the week, SPJA had to make a tough decision on what days would be best to host the event. I can’t argue with the decision to choose from Saturday to Tuesday since Monday would be the only work day during the expo weekend…
This year the expo held 450 exhibitors (15% increase from 2016) and obtained 137,600 square feet for booth space (14% increase from 2016). Programming included 800+ hours of panels, events, screenings, and workshops. Some screenings even went on until 5:00 am. Although, I find it a waste to go to an event to watch something I can watch at home. The expo held a pre-show night, hosted six world premieres, and several US premieres. Guests included creators such as Akira Himekawa (Astro Boy), voice actors such as Miyu Irino (Sora of Kingdom Hearts), and live action movie guests like Fumihiko Sori (Director of the upcoming live-action Fullmetal Alchemist). Events included Anisong World Matsuri, a new EDM concert, a masquerade, a Dragon Ball Super Puzzle Hunt, and the World Cosplay Sumit US Finals.
By far, 2017 was the largest Anime Expo held at the Los Angeles Convention center. There were so many exhibitors that Artist Alley and the Gaming Corner had to be placed in Kentia Hall, separate from the main exhibit hall. SPJA made better use of the space including both the main and south hall, the organization for badge pick up was much better this year, and the staff handled the bum rush at the opening hours with little trouble. Cosplays were impressive per usual with an Overwatch D.Va and One Piece Brooke being some of my personal favorites. Fans even got to demo the upcoming Dragonball Fighter Z and Indivisible video games.
Overall, SPJA really did step up Anime Expo this year with its sheer size, content, exclusives, planning, and organization. Unfortunately, I don’t believe it was worth $80 at the door for one day. Fans did not gain more exclusives with their goodie bags and only had the same access to the same content they do every year, even if there was more of it. Certain events still required fans to pay to get in, despite already paying more to attend the expo. To put it into perspective, San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC) is arguably the biggest comic convention in North America that takes up several city blocks and this year it is about $60 a day. At SDCC, you can attend panels that host famous celebrities and have opportunities to buy exclusives that double or triple in price on eBay. Anime Expo is not at this level yet and should not be charging as if they are. Don’t get me wrong, Anime Expo has a lot potential and they are improving every year, but they need to charge appropriately for what they are providing. Aside from the price, 2017 hosted one of the best Anime Expos to date.
EDIT: I forgot to mention while the price was $80 at the door, Anime Expo did offer reasonable badge prices earlier in the year. I recommend deciding as early as possible on whether or not to attend Anime Expo to get the better deals.