Last year, I picked on Anime Expo not being worth the $80 per day because it did not compare to San Diego Comic-Con. This year, the price for one day at Anime Expo 2018 was $94 (with fees and tax). With the triple digit weather, the question was, “Did Anime Expo bring the heat or did the heat get to Anime Expo?”
Arriving to the LA Convention Center, the first thing that was different about Anime Expo this year was the overall layout. Registration and badge pick-up was no longer located inside the LA Convention Center Lobby, but outside with tent set-ups. The set up helped spread the crowd more throughout the venue. The huge amount of people crowded in front of the convention center during Anime Expo in past years was gone. Well, not completely. There was still a huge line for the bag check, but it was still much more controlled compared to past years. In addition, this year was the first year I saw a line to enter the West Hall from the outside. From previous expos, the West Hall did not seem as popular to attend for fans. So, it was great to see the expo finding a way to attract the crowd to the other halls instead of just the main exhibit hall.
Speaking of which, adding on more to the layout, I did like the organization of the booths within the main exhibit hall. All the major companies were placed in front of the hall, getting rid of the random long lines that existed in previous expos. It was always awkward for me to go around the long Hot Topic and Crunchy Roll lines, I also never knew what the line would be for to begin with. This year it was easier to tell which line was for what booth. Kentia Hall is gaining more and more artists for Artist Alley and the Entertainment Hall in the West Hall had some great booths to check out (I recommend Bioworld and their Anime Pls merchandise). Anime Expo included more events for the older crowd this year including Lounge 21, a beer garden, and After Hours. Guests included the voice actors of Digimon Adventures Tri, Kumo Kagyu (Goblin Slayer), Kugane Maruyama (Overlord), and Yoshinori Terasawa (Danganronpa).
It was much easier to navigate and enjoy Anime Expo this year compared to previous years. The exhibit hall did not feel nearly as shoulder to shoulder compared to past years. That’s not to say less people attended. The crowd felt more spread out throughout the venue compared to everyone only wanting to be in the exhibit hall. I still believe the RFID is causing the unnecessary lines to enter the West Hall and there could have been a lot more staff for the bag check outside. The “No bag” line also seemed like a last minute addition with the staff stating people had to wait until everyone in the bag check line went in first. This didn’t hold true in the end, but that would have been ridiculous.
This year, Anime Expo drew fans from more than 70 countries and had an estimated economic impact for the City of Los Angeles and area hotels and businesses of $100 million. Attendance was purposely held at 110,000 (more than 350,000 turnstile for all show days) to ensure a quality event for fans to come together to share their passion and experiences with each other
Overall, Anime Expo 2018 stepped it up this year, I don’t believe $94 on-site is worth the price. However, I do believe that it is worth to make the effort and get the early-bird passes. I may even recommend the premier pass to get into the hall earlier, avoid the 100+ degree weather, and get access to the exclusives sooner.
“We are thrilled to have another successful Anime Expo under our belt. Each year we strive to deliver unforgettable experiences to the fans, From the unparalleled performances at Anisong World Matsuri and m-flo presents OTAQUEST LIVE to the remarkable cosplay costumes, popular Lounge 21 and film premieres like My Hero Academia; Two Heroes and the XOGENASYS pilot, we truly had some of the best and noteworthy talent in the industry to help make AX 2018 such a success.”
Ray Chiang, CEO of The Society for the Promotion of Japanese Animation
If you are already planning for next year, Anime Expo 2019 is scheduled for July 4 – 7, with Pre-Show Night on July 3. 4-day badges for AX 2019 are now on-sale for $80, with the remaining Premier Fan badges to be released at a later date. So, don’t wait last minute to get your tickets next year and wonder if it’ll be worth it. At the rate it’s going, Anime Expo will become the Comic Con of the anime world. Kanpai!