By: Peggy Sue Wood | @peggyseditorial
I unexpectedly became ill at the end of Day 2, so I missed the last half of the convention, but while I was still there I had a blast!
The lines this year were as long as the last time I went, but this time there wasn’t as much of a claustrophobia-inducing-feeling from being crowded into a tight space during the “line-con” that precedes entering. This probably due to the entrance lines wrapping around the building on either side. By the time I got into the building on Day 1, it was time for my first panel, “Japan’s Amazing Manga Magazine.” Hosted by Dark Horse editor Carl Horn, I found the most interesting part of the panel to be Horn’s speculation on why comics and manga are not as mainstream as they are in Japan. In Japan, comics are fully immersed in their media, so major characters might be seen standing next to actors on a cover of a magazine or driving a sports car in an add. Contrasting to American media, it is hard to find characters like Batman advertising sports cars in any magazine.
I went to a handful of other panels that day too, but the last one I went to and the one I found most enjoyable was ANN’s (Anime News Network) panel. (I’m working on an application to them now, fingers crossed!) I went to talk to everyone who was on the panel that stayed a little after and networked a bit. Christopher Macdonald, ANN’s CEO and Publisher, was kind enough to agree to an informational interview with me, but I was too ill to reach out the following day. I am incredibly grateful to him as he reached out after the convention, and I was able to send him my questions. He is very nice, and I hope to have the opportunity to work with him and ANN’s fantastic editorial team in the future.
On Day 2 I hit-up some more panels before getting sick. I’ll be sure to add my notes from the first two days to my “Notes from 2019” story on Wattpad for those interested in what I learned while at the expo (to be published August 1st)!
Now onto the goods:
AX 2019 had a plethora of anime merchandise, as per usual. Though smaller series that haven’t gotten a lot of media hype had minimal goods available–for example, Aggretsuko gear would only be found at a handful of stands, same with The Rising of the Shield Hero. While a lot of well-known anime reviewers have discussed these shows, they’ve primarily gone by without a huge following. Even with some of them reaching critical acclaim, it isn’t surprising to see a lack of merchandise for “mainstream” hits at AX for at least a few years. I would say that AX is always behind by about 2-3 years on merchandise for the latest anime series out there and I wonder why? I’ve been to other conventions consistently, like Sakura-Con, and they appear to be rarely behind by more than a year when it comes to hit shows or mainstream animes’ merchandise that gain hype on Tumblr or with reviewers. Regardless, the exhibitors’ hall featured a lot of things any anime lover would be interested in, even if the merch isn’t from the latest series that came out in the last few seasons.
I personally enjoyed looking out for the That Time I Got Reincarnated as Slime merchandise. Pretty much all of it was limited to the front stands of the exhibitors’ hall, like with Crunchyroll or Yen Press–but who cares when they had so much of it to enjoy? They even had a fun passport event where you could travel to the different stalls of companies licensing the series to get stamps. After collecting all the stamps, you get a poster.
I also met Something Witty Entertainment, the creators of my favorite abridged series ever–SAO Abridged! They’re so awesome; I came back twice just because I couldn’t pass up the chance as a Kirito “Out of Mercy” shirt and a second Sheeptar the Sheep King poster.
Artist Alley was in a different part of the building again this year and was way more crowded than before despite the extra space and large hallways. This year hosted an interesting exchange for a series I love, Mo Dao Zu Shi. No one was selling Mo Dao Zu Shi merchandise in the exhibit hall or Artist Alley. Though in Artist Alley you could exchange for fan-art of the series. However, you could only exchange Mo Dao Zu Shi pieces for other Mo Dao Zu Shi pieces. At first, this was upsetting to me. I love the series and felt aggravated that only artists could participate given the no-sell-only-trade rule. However, if you could find a stall that would “gift” you a piece with a purchase of more than a certain amount than that issue would disappear (which is what happened for me). While it probably could have been a fun exercise/game, I didn’t really enjoy participating in the exchange. I tried looking up information about it, but I haven’t found a reason for it yet and the handful of artists I spoke to also didn’t seem to understand the reasoning for it–just that they all agreed to do it.
If you fought the crowds in Artist Alley, I applaud you. They had a lot of great stuff this year and, like always, I found a few new animes and webcomics to look into post-convention.
Despite the fun that I had and the networking I did, I’m not sure it’s worth it to continue going.
I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again, AX needs to limit their ticket sales. The fact that it took hours to get in the door is too much. So is the overcrowding in Artist Alley and pretty much every hallway. It took too long to get food or even get into panels in most cases for me. This isn’t Disneyland, this is an industry/fan convention.
I mean, when I first started going, AX tickets would sell out in June at the latest with only a set amount of at the door ticket purchases. This year, I’m pretty sure they were still selling 4-day tickets online right up to the first day. The building was way overbooked. It was overcrowded to the point that it took almost 3 hours to get in the door and hallways were so full at lunch that I probably tripped over four or five people just trying to get to the bathroom. Moreover, when they closed down one of the four passes to get into the south side from the west side, the number of people backed up for the rest of Day 2 was probably enough to warrant a fire hazard. Event staff who were not wearing volunteer jackets had almost no idea what was going on if you asked them where things were (such as lost and found).
*As a side note for attendees, please do NOT spray body spray or other scented things on yourself or around you while outside of a bathroom or private space. Someone there on Day 2 was going around spraying a potent fruit-scented spray that caused several people, myself included, to feel nauseous. I met one girl who was violently ill in the restroom from being scent-blasted. I completely understand wanting to smell good while being in a tight space where it is hot and sweaty, but spraying that much all around the convention center can cause harmful effects.
The ticket price was reasonable, but the parking was impossible. Despite circling the building twice ho0urs before the doors open, all of the parking lots seemed closed off for the convention center (though I heard the staff was able to use it) which means that a lot of us turned to outside parking which was incredibly expensive, mine was $25+ per day depending on my time of arrival.
The exhibit hall was fun, but artist alley (like the lines outside) suffered from overcrowding. In conclusion, I don’t think I’ll be purchasing a four-day pass again until they start limiting ticket sales again.
There are just too many people and not enough time to get to a significant number of the things you may want to do, simply because the lines for the panel are too long. I’ve missed panels before for other panels, and that’s to be expected, but to miss a panel you want to go to because another panel you’d like to see or have to see for work has a line that is filling up an hour beforehand is a bit too much for me. If I was going again for four days, I think I would do so only with a press pass. Instead, I recommended a 1 Day pass where your main goal is to see a panel or artist you really want to go to/meet and the exhibit hall.