It’s been a couple weeks since I traveled to Anime Expo, which means I’ve had a chance to gather my thoughts about this enormous monster of a convention. So, for This Week in Anime, I thought I’d assemble some of those musings into a vaguely coherent article. The good news is that you don’t have to stand in line for an hour to read it!
Never go to a big convention without a clear set of goals.
Any event that draws nearly 100,000 attendees is destined to toss up some challenges when it comes to actually getting anything done. If you don’t have your priorities straight, you’re going to be at a loss when it comes to adapting your game plan on the fly. For me, those goals were to meet up with some of the writers and editors who I’ve been working with for the past year, go to some interesting panels, and find some cool stuff to buy, in that order. Knowing what was most important to me helped inform my decisions throughout the weekend, and I ended up accomplishing what I set out to do. The fact that I needed disaster survival tactics to enjoy myself says something about the chaotic nature of big conventions. If you just want to have a good time surrounded by fellow otaku, then it’s worth giving up on the big-name events in favor of a more relaxed local con.
It’s increasingly tough to enjoy AX without throwing money at it.
Decent hotel to sleep in at night. Real food. Premier badge to avoid as many lines as possible. Enough merch to justify the trip. Sane travel arrangements. It all adds up, and it does so much faster than it once did. Premier badge prices are set to spike yet again for next year, so don’t expect it to get any cheaper. You can go for the cheaper regular pass, but be prepared to show up to major panels and screenings much further in advance if you want any chance of getting in. The market’s apparently willing to bear quite a lot when it comes to big conventions, and even I’m starting to question the value of it all. It’s worth attending a major convention for the experience alone, but after three trips, the sparkle starts to fade just a bit. I’m not sure if I’ll be back next year, and part of that uncertainty steps from the increasing difficulty of justifying the cost to myself.
I don’t buy what I used to.
I first went to AX in 2011, when I was spending the summer in Los Angeles for a pair of internships. I bought a few shows on disc and a handful of posters, two categories that didn’t factor into this year’s purchases at all. We’ve reached the point where it’s easy to find most standard-issue anime swag for a reasonable price online year-round. These days, I spend more time looking for things that I haven’t already seen advertised at 40 percent off on the big retail sites. This typically means imported merch from more obscure franchises. Leave the big buys for when your brain is functioning at full capacity and hunt down a weird trophy or two to prove you actually went to a convention to get it.
People matter more than the convention itself.
Much more than my previous visits, this trip to Anime Expo was primarily about meeting people. I talked shop with some of my fellow writers and editors. I met the author of a manga series that I enjoy. And, of course, I bonded with random strangers over the general misery of an overcrowded convention center. All of that is worth an awful lot more than an imported art book or a KanColle wall scroll. As much as we all gripe about the tens of thousands of people who crowd into the convention center, some tiny fraction of those people make all the difference in making AX a memorable experience.
This Week in Anime is hastily cobbled together by Paul Jensen. You can follow his ramblings about anime and manga on Twitter.