[Event Review] ANIME Impulse San Diego 2023 – A Good Experience!

Source: https://www.gameshub.com/event/anime-impulse-san-diego-2023-2607375/

By: Peggy Sue Wood | @pswediting


I would say that this is a good starting point for first-time attendees to anime conventions, with a single qualifier: this is a PG-13/TV-14 sort of event based on some of the items I’ve seen sold. So, be aware of that when making a final decision.

Size and Scale + Food Alley

This is definitely a small-scale type of convention. So, if you are thinking of getting a ticket, manage your expectations in regards to the space and venders. For examples of higher ranks, I would say that Kumoricon and Sakura-Con are about mid-tier conventions, requiring at least partial or full rental of a convention space. While Anime Expo and Anime NYC would be high-tier, taking up an entire convention space or more. Some may judge these higher or lower by other factors, but I typically judge by how big the space is for attendees and how many liscencing brands are there (so, for example, Seven Seas, Crunchyroll, Aniplex, etc.).

The price for an attendee ticket was more than reasonable for this kind of small-scale event. The cost was about $40, and, with that price, you gain access to ANIME Impulse and two additional events sharing the space, specifically the Sneaker Expo and K-play!

The fairground location was perfect for this kind of smaller event, thereby allowing for a lot of parking availability even as the day dragged on. Moreover, I never felt overly crowded at the event nor did I have to wait in extremely long lines. Even the opening gate line was not long, allowing for not much longer than a 20-minute slow move toward the entrance once the 10 AM opening time hit. Arguably the food lines were much longer, totaling close to 20, even 40 minutes at times, but still something that is not unheard of for events like this. In fact, I would say that it is “to be expected” as food can sell fast around meal times, leaving the staff to cook orders en masse to catch up.

Food was actually really good, at least, from the places I went to. I was pleasantly surprised by how fresh everything tasted as I usually worry a lot about having food from stalls. The price was high, as one might expect, but this was even more expensive than the OC fair prices. I don’t think I encountered a single stall where in the cost of a meal plus a drink didn’t total to $30+, which is way too much. Moreover, no outside food or drink so if you want to eat without leaving, these are your options.

Bathrooms were accessible and quick to enter if a line ever did form, and I was appreciative that security allowed people to sit along the edges of spaces when tired as seating was not always available. Regular con-attendees will know that you usually can’t sit along the walls for long without someone coming by asking you to move or keep walkways clear, but given the size of the event and the spacing that the planners gave between tables in-doors and the walls, one could find many attendees taking quick rest-stops on the floors inside and outside. It never felt in the way to walk by sitting attendees, and I appreciated that I could rest briefly at a wall when outdoor benches and other seating were not available.

Source: https://www.animeimpulse.com/

Health and Safety Policy

I’ll be honest and say I was really surprised by the lacksidasical enforcement of the COVID-19 policies at this event.

Now, I have been to several events in the last year that have made it clear what is to be expected. Either there will be no enforcement or testing and masks, or there will be a strict vaccination policy, or somewhere in between those options. The rules for this particular event stated that proof of testing or vaccination and masks would be required; however, this was not enforced.

I think that, had they stated clearly–as many other conventions have done and continue to do–that one attends at one’s own risk and that there will not be an enforcement of this ruling but that attendees are encouraged to do so, then I would not be making any sort of comment about it here. However, if you are going to make it a policy, I think it is one that should be enforced.

Additionally, lots of people entering the front gates never received a badge (and I think only vende

rs and guests received lanyards). Tickets were always scanned, which is a plus for security, and no one seemed to wander where they shouldn’t, but sometimes bags were checked, sometimes not. So I can see how people were probably sneaking in food or drinks at different parts of the day.

Security staff were always nice and very quick to get people in, and it didn’t seem like there were any issues with attendees acting up from my experience attending, but based on what I was seeing regarding enforcement of policies overall, it seemed like security staff were lacking either in manpower or management.

Source: https://www.animeimpulse.com/

Vender Hall / O’Brien Hall

This event is definitely PG-13 and up. Anime fans are sure to recognize that sometimes risky fanservice materials will enter the mix. At conventions, these sorts of things are usually moved to the back of the stall so that passerbys don’t see such materials until entering, but this small-scale convention had several stalls in the vender area with these sorts of risky-items on display. To memory, I can think of the game pads with female characters’ butts sticking out from overly tight, overly short shorts, mousepads with breasts, as well as a near-naked print of a character with a small bit of black tape over the nipples. Even before you enter the vender hall, you would likely pass a food stand that had large, phallic-shaped popsicles for sale with a sign advertising such, and two stands selling juice in giant baby bottles. Even artist alley, which always has at least one questionably smutty content creator, was visually safer.

I attended Day 1 of the event with a friend of mine who had never been to a convention prior, and they were shocked by some of the images that I probably would have glossed over otherwise when it came to the vender hall. At least, until we got towards the back where the signings/meet and greets were happening, and we discovered that many of the sellers had put their risky materials up as you get to the end of the rows. However, even with this in mind, I think that the vender hall was relatively alright and tame. While there was some adult content, there was enough coverage that less prudent viewers could probably overlook the displays.

The vender hall was mostly made up of local businesses with a few spill-overs from artist alley. So, I will take a guess that the staff managing the vender area are probably more concerned that the sellers have their licenses, are paid up, and aren’t outright selling pornography than they are worried about a few risky images.

I will shout out Pika Dude, which was the seller in D02, as being one of my favorites. They seem to be local to the area, and I’ve seen them at, at least one or two events in the last year or so. They usually have popular 90s/early-2000s anime title merchandise like Pokémon, Card Captor, Sailor Moon, etc.. What makes them stand out to me is that they also tend to have a handful of merchandise from less popular works from the time too. For example, they had a The Mythical Detective Loki Ragnarok keychain, Pandora Hearts volumes, and–a personal favorite–a few keychains from Natsume Yuujinchou for sale at this convention. I also like that the sellers know the titles, so if you name an older work, they’ll probably be able to say with a good amount of certainty if they have it or don’t. Merch does seem to lean on the cute-side of things, so keep that in mind.

I also liked The Shumi Company in K07. They had a lot of great figurines, and I appreciated their variety at this kind of smaller convention. Every time I passed, there seemed to be people there, and the prices, while a little high, were still close to regular market rates.

Overall, the layout was fine. I think there was a good mix of shops and stalls, but the space did feel a little disjointed. I can’t blame the team behind the layout of the space though, as I doubt that many conventions will know how the sellers plan to set up their spaces. Besides, I think that they did make excellent choices in picking the “front line” stalls, as I ended up liking most of the stores lining the entry.

Source: https://www.animeimpulse.com/

Artist Alley / Bing Crosby Hall

I absolutely loved Artist Alley. I felt like the spacing between rows was perfect, as it never got crowded enough for me to feel like I needed to leave or like I had become trapped within a row (a complaint I’ve had about other conventions, I assure you). K-play! performances were at one end of the building, with Artist Alley taking up most of the space. I think the team behind the layouts of this space was spot on.

Perhaps because of the K-pop ties to the convention, I was able to find a lot of merchandise for one of my favorite Korean webtoons/manhwa and novels, Omniscient Reader’s Viewpoint (ORV). I won’t lie here. I went a little overboard and purchased a lot of keychains, but that was part of what made it fun.

Adding to that, there were several stamp rallies going on wherein the creators had collaborated with sticker packs as prizes. I participated in two, both for ORV, and had a blast walking around the space looking for the stands. I liked these. I think artists getting together is fantastic and I also think that creating interactive elements probably leads to more sales, particularly if the items are for series that are not super popular in the US right now. People that know, know, and the excitement they have in searching out the right booths likely draws in others to participate. It certainly drew my friend in!

Since the two I participated in were ORV themed, each table had clear conditions like “Meow for Stamp” and “Rock Paper Scissors and Win.” These were fun and easy conditions that encouraged me to spend some time at the stall and purchase things without demanding that I do so. It also allowed my friend an easier time getting through the challenges since she was not familiar with the series and interested in playing as a first-time attendee.

While I usually expect there to be a lot of new artists with less developed art at these smaller events, I think that most of the artists at this event had a good amount of experience in working conventions and selling their art. Certainly, there were several newbies and re-sellers too, particularly for the K-pop side of the event. This might have to do with the higher-cost of tabling, as I heard that the charge was a little over $300 when events usually charge closer to $150-$200 to procure a table. High cost of tabling does tend to assure dealers that sell semi-well or shared table spaces for those that are newer/sell less well.

I’ll shout out Pandailee, Ahchouxcafe, Akikoooo, and Tangereinemesss. Part of the reason I will shout them out specifically is that they participated in the rallies, and I liked their ORV stuff. However, I think what makes them stand out is that they were patient and very happy to talk with customers. Customer service is big in this kind of industry. I know lots of people that completely drop artists, even if they love their work, over a single bad interaction. Everyone is entitled to bad days, but consequently, those bad days can come back to bite you. I noticed that all four of the listed sellers and their table partners were courteous, patient with customers that were taking a while, and eager to share in the excitement of the fan. It made me feel great as both a customer and someone waiting in line behind those taking a bit more time to decide.

Photo Credit: Peggy Sue Wood | Location: ANIME Impulse SD, 2023 – Del Mar Fairgrounds in San Diego

Cosplay Areas / Exhibit Hall, O’Brien Hall, and Bing Crosby Hall

I mostly avoided the Sneaker Expo area, which was in the Exhibit Hall. I’m just not a fan of sneakers, so I glanced through once or twice and took my leave. However, in the same area and sprinkled throughout the other buildings were photo stations for cosplayers. I took a picture or two for fun at a couple of them and I kind of liked how you would just happen upon them while walking. Shout out to @__nonoli on Instagram, a LA-based cosplay that I thought took some great photos in their Detective Conan cosplays at this convention.

Entertainment – Presenter Experience / Main Stage, Under The Big White Tent

I presented at ANIME Impulse SD a few weeks ago on Sunday, March 19th. The topic of my presentation was fan content and its relation to the industry life cycle of media with the attempt to help make fan content creators more aware of their place in the industry (you can read about the topic here, as I made a coordinated a post to come out the same weekend). I was a Main Stage performance that was added in late–definitely not a headliner–so I really appreciate being added in by the programming team.

This was the first of this kind of panel to be held at the event, from what I understand, and I think that while it ended alright if we had started at the right time, it probably would have been more successful.

I had invited a few people from Artist Alley and the Vender Hall to attend, and I saw many of them peeking in at what should have been the start time of my presentation. Several of them waiting for a few minutes before walking out as they realized that the current event, ATOWorldWide, was going to be continuing for a while and that they couldn’t leave their booths for long.

It was certainly sad for me as a presenter. I did follow up with a few that I saw come in, and several were glad to know that I had a post up for them to review–if interested–as well as made comments that they would have liked to stay had the event started close to the right time. Unfortunately, the group before mine seemed to start late. I’m not sure if it was due to another performance running late prior or something else, but regardless it cut well into the start time of my presentation. So the timetable for my presentation shifted later and later down. I thought that they may cancel my panel to move onto the next band, but appreciate that they didn’t do so.

I could tell that the staff were trying their best to make everything run as smoothly as possible, and I feel bad that my presentation may have put them further behind. I think I managed to end my panel just before the 2 PM or just a bit after, which I hope allowed the staff to get back on-track with the later performances.

A few people did end up coming to my panel and stayed–I hope for the content, but the realist in me wants to say it was probably for the impromptu giveaway of Kotobukiya and QPOSKET figurines that they had me hold at the end, which I tied into the Q & A portion.

Overall, if I had the opportunity to present at ANIME Impulse again, and if they were interested in accepting me, then I would.

I think that it was a really fun experience and unique compared to other panels I have done in the past. I think I would choose a more interactive panel from my roster than the one I presented that weekend, but I’ll have to think about it more. I hope that I get the opportunity to do so again.

Entertainment – Attendee Experience / Main Stage, Under The Big White Tent

I was a little confused by the schedule layout, which had later events at the top and earlier events at the bottom, but I think that the purpose is to highlight headliners, of which Voice Actors and 2D VTubers/Streamers were huge. The big events at night cost extra but seemed relatively fair. I did not attend, so I can’t tell you for sure whether it was worth the cost, but I have not been seeing a lot of complaints online, so I’m going to assume that they went well.

The live bands were great, as was the sound. Whoever was running microphones and sound, phenominal work!

I think that most of the bands were smaller groups, which is typical at this size of an event, and they sounded fine. I think that a bit more probably could have been done to clarify who people were and what they were doing on stage that day in regards to the schedule and social media posts. For example, Mochi Cafe does performance pieces in addition to cafes–”moe” dances and interactive things, from what I understand–while Alyy Cosmos seems to be a cosplayer, but based on the lineup I saw online, I would assume that these were solely musical performances.

If you know them already, that’s great. However, for this kind of event, which likely sees a lot of new-to-performing groups and first-time attendees, more information is key to help advertise the events and why people should attend them.

Final Judgments

Venue: 5/5 – Perfect for a small event like this.

Staff: 4/5 – Taking one point for the lacking security and the management of certain things, but overall wonderful!

Organization, Layout & Management: 3.5/5 – Great use of space. Minus 0.5 for needing more seating where people eat. Minus another 1 for Info Booths seeming to be disjointed and redirecting people to other Info Booths when asked questions about programing for K-Play! and ANIME Impulse. The event staff were wonderful and nice but seemed understaffed for an event of this size, particularly in regards to security and policy enforcement.

Organization, Media Use: 3.5/5 Finding policy rules was semi-difficult. The best way to find information was to Google it first to get redirected to the right page. Social media was the best way to gain information about events and panels and did not update as events and timetables changed. Most posts seemed to be collaborative, with the original poster not being ANIME Impulse, and therefore most captions seemed specifically set to an audience already familiar with the person/brand/group.

Attendance: 4/5 – Good numbers, perfect amount of food stalls, and no problems getting into the restrooms. However, I worry that had it not been raining a lot more people would have attended and the event may have become overcrowded and potentially unmanageable given security, so minus 1.

Affordability: 3/5 – Affordable ticket and worth the price of admission, but be aware that parking adds a $15 cost per entry. ($40 for the weekend + $30 for two days of parking = $70, not including food or parking again it you leave the event). Minus 2 for not clearly establishing parking costs online.

Overall: 3.83/5 – This convention is good for first-time attendees, with a single qualifier: this is a PG-13/TV-14 sort of event based on some of the items I’ve seen sold. I would definitely attend again, and–as mentioned–would love to present again too. This was a good experience, and I would recommend future attendees. However, I would not label it as great. At least, not yet. I think in another few years, should they keep a dedicated staff and gain more volunteers/partnerships, that this convention could become one of the big ones here in Southern California. In the meantime, I think it will be enjoyable to watch it get there!

2 thoughts on “[Event Review] ANIME Impulse San Diego 2023 – A Good Experience!

    1. I’m glad you can find it helpful. If you are looking to do reviews of events and are looking at this as an aid or are simply wondering if you want to attend this event or others like it in the future, I’m glad it helps.


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