I’ve been walking the halls of Anime Expo in Los Angeles for nearly a decade now and I have to wonder every year, “just how much bigger can it get?”
Anime Expo 2016 brought a whole new crop of cosplayers (and many, many veterans) dressed in some of the most outlandish and (to Americans not well-versed in the culture) obscure costumes I’ve ever seen. Everyone has their own fresh take on classic characters and more than a few new ones that have cropped up in the ever expanding line of original Japanese anime and manga slowly making its way across the Pacific.
Of course, thanks to the internet, the wait isn’t as long as it used to be, so it’s no surprise that the styles and creative licenses the Anime Expo crowd takes with their favorite characters only gets only more broad with each year. Here’s just a few examples of our favorites:
Of course, Anime Expo isn’t just about cosplay. There’s an endless array of panels, workshops, and gaming to take part in. Then there’s the jam packed artist alley, moved to a dedicated (if not air conditioned) downstairs area filled wall to wall with the most creative independent artists and crafts-people you’ll find at any convention, anime or otherwise. Virtual reality gaming was popular at the show, garnering lines that stretched far beyond the booths of any exhibitor that featured the devices. And for those fans who prefer a more old school approach, there were Japanese exclusive arcade machines side-by-side with dozens of console and PC gaming rigs over in the west hall. Right next to that were rows of custom styled racing cars and motorcycles, outfitted with popular animated pop stars, including the ever popular Vocaloid Hatsune Miku. And if you just needed to go home with something plastic or plush in your hands, there were plenty of exhibitors and vendors to feed your craving for Japanese collectibles and toys.
And when each day came to a close, there was almost always a sold out concert to take in across the street at the Microsoft Theater at LA Live or somewhere else nearby. This year, I was lucky enough to experience a number of popular-yet-new-to-me Japanese music acts in the form of the Anisong-World Matsuri concert, which included energetic performances from Eir Aoi, JAM Project, Luna Haruna, Sphere, Minami, T.M. Revolution, and Yoko Ishida. I’m always open to discovering new music, especially from outside the US, so this was a special treat. Besides, last year, I saw a concert at Anime Expo that featured an opening act that wasn’t even a real person, so it was great to see a lot more real musicians taking the stage this year (admittedly, the Vocaloid IA I saw last year was a hologram, but she did have a talented live backing band).
For me, the fun but exhausting weekend was topped off by my being able to get into the FLCL panel and get the latest news on the upcoming 2nd and 3rd seasons of the all-too-brief series (only 6 episodes!). They didn’t tell us much, but what we did learn made us very happy. Of course, with such a massive show and tens of thousands of people streaming through the packed LA Convention Center, everyone’s experience is unique. I can’t wait to see what next year’s show has in store for us!