Where do you go for some of the weirdest and wildest cosplay and anime fandom on the west coast? Anime Expo 2015!
While we’re about to step into the madness of San Diego Comic-Con 2015 in just a few hours, we had to share with you some of the highlights of this past weekend’s Anime Expo 2015 in Los Angeles. Anime Expo is a kind of madness all its own. If you’re even a little bit interested in Japanese pop culture in the form of animated film, manga (comics), or elaborate costume design, there might be no better place in the US than Anime Expo. Over 90,000 people overtook the Los Angeles Convention Center this past 4th of July weekend, breaking attendance records with fans from around the globe soaking up every bit of anime they could get their hands on.
I have to admit, I’m not a hardcore anime or manga fan, but I have a number of favorites, mostly cultivated by watching Cartoon Network late at night. But while I didn’t recognize most of the characters portrayed in cosplay or for sale on various t-shirts or art posters in the exhibition hall, I have an open mind to explore new things I’ve never seen before and feel like I may never fully understand.
Anime Expo certainly isn’t for the close minded or conservative. I have to admit I’ve seen some things there that I’ve never seen at any other convention. But as diverse and accepting as Anime Expo is, the fans certainly connect on a level in real life the way one would only expect in the anonymous 4chan site. It doesn’t take much to have them reacting to things as one mind, creating living memes throughout the event. One such event was the MYTH Magic and Burlesque show on Friday night. Even though skilled magicians boggled the mind and burlesque dancers titillated the eyes, the crowd kept coming back to one thing: a chair named Steve. Yes, a simple chair, as part of a throwaway bit from last year’s MYTH performance, drew all of the attention away from most of the planned spectacle of the night. But that’s just how that crowd thinks. They were all rightfully amazed at the sharp illusionists and the beautiful women stripping down to their pasties, but something about this crowd wouldn’t let go of something as silly and stupid as making a chair into a celebrity for a night. But you have to give the talented performers their due. While I would have preferred to see them perform in a more intimate and comfortable setting with a drink in my hand, they put on a show that thrilled the audience despite the fans’ best efforts to derail it, even if they didn’t intend to be rude. Either way, everyone had a great time and we’ll be looking forward to seeing more of MYTH again at Anime Expo 2016!
Of course, if you have the means to turn up the volume loud enough, you might drown out anything obnoxious the audience has to say. On Saturday night, I got the chance to witness two of Japan’s biggest pop and rock stars. One simply exists as a holographic girl and the other mixes traditional Japanese instruments with modern hard rock instruments of today. Once again, the experience was unlike anything we normally see here in the states. IA the “Vocaloid”, designed in a computer to be a pop superstar entranced the audience from the first note she chirped in front of the packed audience at Club Nokia. I was afraid this would have amounted to little more than video karaoke, but “she” was backed by 2 real human dancers and at least 4 band members (drums, guitar, bass, keyboards) that really filled out the performance and made the whole thing more enjoyable than I expected it to be. Even without IA, I think I would have enjoyed seeing that band play their own music in concert someday.
But the main act of the night was WagakkiBand. I had seen their music videos leading up to this event, but really didn’t know what to expect from a live performance. From their elaborate costumes to the way they deftly played their instruments both with an artful skill and an unrelenting aggression, they proceeded to blow the crowd away with each and every song in their set. Each band member got their chance to shine, regardless of their instrument’s traditional or modern origin, and had the crowd shouting for more, especially when their guitarist gave us a few licks from the Star Spangled Banner (since it was America’s Independence Day). From the warm welcome they received, here’s hoping they build an audience big enough to justify a US tour in the near future. If you get the chance to see WagakkiBand (not a misspelling) live in concert, do it.
In the end, though, it all comes down to the cosplay that fills the halls, lobbies and sidewalks surrounding the convention center. If I had the opportunity to show you every person in costume at this event, this gallery would contain tends of thousands of pictures and still probably not do the quality and craftsmanship of these costumes justice. Assuming you haven’t already skipped over all of this to check out the images below, I’m sure you already know what I mean. For those of you who actually read this far, I’m just going to stop and let you get on with checking out some of our favorite costumes alongside peeks at the show floor and shots from the WagakkiBand performance.