The weekend of July 4 is always Anime Expo, the largest anime convention in North America. It features major industry releases for the English language market, including premieres and first looks. It draws in massive crowds for exclusive merch, amazing cosplay, a Japanese fashion show, and so much more.
This year, I was a model for the fashion show, which meant that I attended two days of the show! Because I was volunteering for this event, my badge was comped by the convention. I also didn’t have my badge mailed but I also didn’t have to wait in the crazy registration line. I think if I had to wait in some of the insane lines, I might have gone a little crazy.
Because I was comped a badge, I didn’t worry too much about making sure I did everything at the convention. As a result, I didn’t try to go to any of the premieres or get exclusive merch because I really didn’t want to fight the crazy crowds. I also didn’t have a chance to go into the dealer’s hall, so I know I missed plenty of cool vendors that other people enjoyed.
Without further ado, here were some of the cool things I saw and did at Anime Expo.
Anime Expo’s fashion show had 5 designers this year, including ACDC Rag, Vina of the Valley, Candy Trap, Forest Girl Clothing, and the Black Ribbon. The designs included all kinds of alternative fashion from casual street wear to lolita fashion to mori kei.
Models were expected to arrive at 6:30 am at the convention center. We had a special entrance where the fashion show team was waiting for us, ready to help us get through security and into the West Hall. The extra time was in order to let the models get their hair and make up done by professional artists. Unfortunately, there weren’t enough artists for all the models, so some of us ending up doing our own hair and make-up. Luckily, everyone there was patient and generous, making sure to share the supplies that they had so everyone could look their best.
The fashion show was held in the enormous Petree Hall in the West Hall in the convention Center, which can hold up to 2000 people. I couldn’t tell how full the hall was, but I do know that the line extended outside in the sun, so the people who wanted to see the show REALLY wanted to see it.
In addition to the live audience, the fashion show was streamed simultaneously on YouTube, and there was a TV set up back stage so the models could see the show in progress. I’ve never seen that at a fashion show before and it was a fun touch! If you’d like to see the whole show, it’s available on YouTube on Anime Expo’s “Anime Expo Lite – Day 2” video.
All the designers in the fashion show also had a booth located in the South Hall in the Annex, in the same room as Artist’s Alley. The fashion booths were spaced out much more generously and they were much less crowded.
In addition to the designers in the fashion show, there were plenty of other apparel and accessory designers in the Annex. I saw Egglien’s funky knits, the elegant designs of Bislovely, the adorable accessories from Starcrossed Lovelies, the fun pop designs from Sudibear, and the surreal art of Popkiller. I ended up going home with a t-shirt from Popkiller!
I always enjoy looking spending time in artist’s alley in any convention I went to. The crowds of Anime Expo meant that this experience was less pleasant than other conventions I’ve attended. I saw many familiar faces, including artists I’ve seen and bought from at other California events.
My first day exploring the convention was Monday, so unfortunately many of the booths I visited had sold out of their popular merch. I was happy that some vendors, like Forest Girl Clothing offered a code for free shipping for the merch that they sold out of. I placed that order as soon as those items were in stock on their website!
While the Artist’s Alley at Anime Expo has an amazing collection of artists, I think for me personally, I prefer to find these artists at other events that are less crowded and merch is less likely to sell out.
The entertainment hall had some huge installations, including a massive booth for Hoyoverse which was constantly packed full of people. I don’t play Genshin, but it’s obvious just how many people love it. Of course, I did have fun looking through the Studio Ghibli booth with it’s adorable merch, but unfortunately they were sold out of some of the tea set items that I was interested in by the time I got there. I also was happy to get a chance to take a picture with some Ghibli characters!
The entertainment hall also had some great photo backdrops for all kinds of environments. There were lines for each of them, but it seemed like people were being courteous and not monopolizing them. While the lighting in the convention center wasn’t ideal, the photo booths were a very cool idea that were obviously very popular!
I really liked the idea of the outdoor market and I thought the selection of food vendors was good. However, in practice, the market was almost always in the sun. It was less fun to hang out and take in the ambiance. I ultimately enjoyed a boba from Bobaful and a pork bun, but the wait in the baking sun was brutal. I would love to see this area with more shade next year because the idea was very cute!
As always, the cosplay did not disappoint at Anime Expo. There were an amazing mix of anime characters, new and old. Genshin Impact cosplays were extremely popular given the huge presence that Hoyoverse had at the convention. With the recent release of Tears of the Kingdom, there were all kinds of Zelda cosplayers. My friends and I cosplayed Koroks on Monday, but we say a different group of Korok cosplayers on Sunday!
Another surprisingly popular cosplay were characters from Across the Spiderverse, Sony’s new animated Spider-man movie. Of course, there aren’t any rules about what properties that you can cosplay at an anime convention. However, it’s unusual to see so many Western comic book characters at Anime Expo. I think it speaks to just how popular Spiderverse characters have become.
Anime Expo is right in my backyard, but the heat and the crowds make it hard to love. Despite that, I had fun this year because of the friends that were attending. Participating in the fashion show didn’t hurt either! Anime Expo is definitely a convention that you should do once in your life because there’s nothing else quite like it.