Since its inception in 1991 and its implementation in 1992, Anime Expo, formerly known as AnimeCon, has been a staple event amongst anime fans and industry members from all over the world.
In 1992, the first Anime Expo was hosted at the Red Lion Hotel in San Jose, California, and the convention was hosted there until the Society for the Promotion of Japanese Animation (SPJA) made the decision to relocate the convention to Southern California in 1994.
Afterwards, the convention traveled all over Southern California before it found a permanent home at the Los Angeles Convention Center (LACCC) in 2008.
For the past 13 years, thousands of people have flocked to the LACC for the 4th of July weekend to shop, attend panels, and just have fun in general. As someone who was not only born and raised in a family of anime fans, but also happens to live in Los Angeles, Anime Expo was always an event I looked forward to as a kid, and to be honest, even now.
Now, many would wonder what’s so special about Anime Expo? On the surface, it may appear as a weekend where people just come together to dress up as anime characters and shop. For some, it may be just that, but for others, it’s the one time a year where they can let loose and have fun.
Of course, fun looks different for everyone. My idea of fun is waiting in line at the Atlus booth to buy Shin Megami Tensei merch and then running off to burn through the rest of my bank account at Artist Alley and at concerts with my friends who fly in from all around the country. Someone else might prefer meeting voice actors and going to industry-led panels. Others may be all about cosplaying, but at the end of the day, Anime Expo is a time where people from all backgrounds gather to celebrate anime.
Be it through art, music, panels, cosplay, shopping, there’s something here for all fans. It’s a place where you feel a sense of belonging or at least some comfort knowing you’re not the only person you know in the world that likes anime to a level where you’d go to a 4-day event that celebrates it.
Cosplay is something you can’t miss at Anime Expo. You see it on the Metro trains going in and out of LA and in the areas around the convention center. I can’t count the amount of times I was in front of a Jojo cosplayer and behind a Promised Neverland cosplayer ordering at a boba shop last in-person con. At the convention itself, you pass by people in cosplays from anime, video games, manga, and TV shows. In many cases, cosplayers will stop and take photos with you if you ask politely and if they aren’t busy. It’s kind of like going to Disneyland and asking Donald to take a photo with you.
If asking random people for photos isn’t your thing, but you’re looking for cosplayers of a specific series, Anime Expo has 9 designated spots for cosplayers of a series to meet up at a designated time slot. In these cases, cosplayers from a series will meet up at a location and time according to the Anime Expo program. For cosplayers, it’s a time and place to meet other people who have an interest in that series and cosplay and/or feel a sense of camaraderie amongst strangers.
The Anime Expo Masquerade has been a staple of the convention for the past 25 years. Each year, cosplayers perform for the audience and a panel of judges for the chance to win a large sum of cash.
Not only that, but since 2017, the World Cosplay Summit USA finals have been hosted at AX to pick the cosplayers who will represent the USA at the World Cosplay Summit in Nagoya, Japan to crown the World Cosplay Summit Champion. This gives cosplayers the opportunity to show off their hard work and love for cosplay while giving them the chance to become the cosplay champion of the world.
Since 2014, AX has taken to gathering cosplayers from all over the world to talk about their knowledge of performance, crafting, makeup, wigs, wig styling, photography, and their local cosplay communities. This serves as a chance for cosplayers to gain insight on what it takes to build great cosplays and find a community of people for support.
A big part of Anime Expo are the industry-led panels where fans can hear about the latest to come out of companies, publishers, and studios. On top of that, there are also world-wide premieres and sneak peaks at the latest anime, video games, and films. Spaces are usually limited at these events, so people camp out for hours in hopes of getting into one of these panels to get exclusive insight about the latest in Japanese pop culture and also have the chance to ask questions and meet the creators or voice actors of their favorite series.
Everyone has an anime opening or ending that they blast when they’re hyped, sad, or just want to listen to as they go plus ultra when they workout, clean, or just go about their day. The thing about being in the West is that we don’t get a lot of chances to see some of our favorite Japanese groups, but Anime Expo does us the favor and brings artists over here for the weekend instead of us having to spend thousands to get to Japan for a show.
Ranging from EDM to Rock, Anime Expo tries to bring a bit of everything to give all music fans a chance to see these performances. The most recent addition to the musical concert roster, Neon District features the latest in EDM featuring artists such as: ☆Taku Takahashi, TeddyLoid, and YUCe
Anisong World Matsuri is an all-encompassing event that features a variety of groups and soloists that perform popular anime songs. Since 2013, Anime Expo has been bringing groups to the Western audience for days of entertainment.
I, personally, can not thank Anime Expo enough for bringing OldCodex and FLOW over in 2016. I never thought I’d ever have the chance to sing the openings to Free!, Kuroko no Basket, and Tales of Zestiria in one show, but it happened. Anime Expo tends to bundle multiple groups together for the Anisong Matsuri shows, but it allows guests to support their favorite artists and hopefully discover new artists/songs. Some notable performers also include: PORNOGRAFFITI, Eir Aoi, GARNiDELiA, T.M Revolution, and many more.
Of course, it wouldn’t be the full anime fan experience if there weren’t idol groups. The list of musical guests also extends to 2D idol groups. LoveLive! and it’s various sub-groups have also been staple guests at AX for the past few years. Most recently, the Aqours sub-unit brought their BRAND NEW WAVE show to the US in 2019.
Of course, due to Covid we’ve had to put live concerts on the back-burner, but hopefully we can safely enjoy live music in the near future.
Under Exhibition Hall lies Kentia Hall, the current home of Artist Alley. It is the first place many people flock towards to get their hands on prints, keychains, zines, pins, and clothes made by artists from all over the country. It’s the perfect place to get original designs based on anime, television, video games, manga, and voice actors. Yes, voice actors, where else are you going to find a print with Joker from Persona 5 dressed as Lelouch from Code Geass and vice versa?
Of course, Artist Alley also helps artists spread their small businesses and make connections, but it also allows us to see more of our favorite characters in different art mediums to hang around our homes or carry everywhere we go.
Anime Expo’s 30th Anniversary
Due to the COVID pandemic in 2020, all conventions went online, and Anime Expo was no exception. In May 2020, the SPJA announced a two-day online convention called
Anime Expo Lite, which took place on July 3 and 4, 2020 and drew in over 500,000 views. The SPJA also addressed plans to have an in-person con for 2021, but given the state of the ongoing pandemic, this year’s convention will also be online, but that is not stopping the celebration of Anime Expo’s 30th anniversary.
This year’s program is no different from past years as it will include: panel discussions with industry leaders, industry announcements, live content, exclusive content from Japan, Q&As, community & educational segments, and community features. Of course, the content of these events will be completely different.
Cosplay Spot-Lite Competition!
One of this year’s community events is the Cosplay Spot-Lite Competition presented by Arda Wigs and hosted by Yaya Han, a Chinese–American cosplayer, model and costume designer. This year, the winner will get a round trip flight to Ireland for 2 with 3 night hotel stay and an on-location photoshoot provided by Arda Wigs to celebrate the opening of Arda Wigs Europe!
Fan Art Contest!
For it’s 30th anniversary, Anime Expo teamed up with Graphixly to launch the Anime Expo 30th Anniversary Fanart Contest! For this contest, artists were asked to use any and every medium of their choice to create an original fanart inspired by the theme ‘30th anniversary’ using any of the five mascots: Ai, Xeno, Mahoko, Kisegi, and Max. Submissions closed in October, and the winners have been announced!
Anime Expo Lite After-Party!
If you need more Anime Expo after the events of the official stream, fear not for the Anime Expo Lite After-Party is here to give you that extra boost. For both nights, there will be a two hour concert featuring some iconic names in the EDM scene and some musical performances by performers all around the world.
On July 3rd, the line-up will be very EDM heavy and feature: Graz, The Contro1freak, ZENPA, and MEIRLIN.
On July 4th, the line-up will be more on the musical side and feature: MiruDaru, Stephanie Topalian, Phoenix Ash, and Diana Garnet.
Each concert will start at 8:15 p.m. PDT. These events will not be VOD, so if you miss the stream, you will miss your chance to listen to these artists. There is no additional fee required to catch this stream, so make sure you don’t miss it!
The latest Netflix anime series, TRESE has been getting some traction all over social media due to the way it’s been promoted. TRESE follows detective Alexandra Trese as she confronts a criminal underworld filled with evil supernatural beings based on mythical creatures of Filipino folklore. The series is set in Manila, and the series celebrates Filipino traditions, heritage, and culture.
Now that all 6 episodes are up on Netflix, along with a behind the scenes discussion episode, Trese After Dark, the creators will be talking about the show and going more in-depth about the series as a whole at Anime Expo Lite.
Warner Bros. Japan Panel!
Warner Bros. Japan is joining the Anime Expo Lite lineup with a behind-the-scenes look at Record of Ragnarok which is currently streaming on Netflix. The panel will touch on how Graphinica was a big help to creating the impactful animation of the series. The panel will also feature an interview with the music composer Yasuharu Takanashi who is most known for his work in Naruto, Fairy Tail, and Hell Girl.
Of course, Warner Bros. Japan cannot get away from Anime Expo without giving fans more information about the very anticipated adaptation of Stone Ocean. The adaptation was announced during the JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure the Animation Special Event ~JOESTAR Inherited Soul ~ event in April, and fans are super excited for this 6th part about the Joestar bloodline.
For this panel, select clips will be shown to the public and the producer and editor will talk about how the past series were made and touch upon david productions growth over the years. Will there be more news about Stone Ocean? Tune in to find out.
Draw with Trigger!
Studio Trigger, known for such hits such as Promare, Gurren Lagann, and KILL la KILL!, is hosting a stream with some of the lead creatives at the studio, including Lead Designer, Shigeto Koyama, and Character Designer for KILL la KILL!, SUSHIO. Join these two on the stream and make requests, ask questions, or just go ahead and listen in to what they have to say about their design process. Maybe they’ll drop some information about what’s coming soon.
Draw with Kousuke Oono!
Kousuke Oono’s The Way of the Househusband has quickly become a favorite amongst anime fans. The Way of the Househusband follows ‘The Immortal’ Tatsu, an ex-yakuza, who is now happily married and becomes a househusband. The manga has become a favorite amongst fans for it’s humor, wholesome content, and creating new standards for relationships. This year, Anime Expo Lite will host a live chat and drawing session with Kousuke Oono as well as a chance to win Oono sensei’s shikishi drawing!
Star Wars: Visions!
When you ask anyone what’s the likelyhood of Lucasfilm crashing Anime Expo, it’d be very low on the list, but the least likely event has become reality. A sneak preview to the latest Lucasfilm project, Star Wars: Visions is coming to Anime Expo Lite.
Star Wars: Visions is an anthology of animated shorts celebrating Star Wars led by some of the best anime creators and storytellers. Media of a similar vein include: Love, Death, and Robots, Robot Carnival, and Black Mirror.
Join producer, writer, host, Chastity Vicencio; Lucasfilm’s Executive Producers, Jacqui Lopez, James Waugh, and Josh Rimes, and Qubic Pictures’ Producer Kanako Shirasaki and Co- Executive Producer Justin Leach for an exclusive sneak peak of the series before it airs on Disney+.
As we all know VTubers and AI stars have been rising in popularity thanks to the efforts of many VR companies such as Hololive and Cover, to list a few. Now in 2021, they’re bigger than ever on a global market. It’s even gotten to a point where famous voice actors are partnering up with these VR idols to produce radio shows and even variety shows, and what better way to demonstrate this partnership and advancement in technology through panels at Anime Expo Lite?
The V-Riety Show
Twitch’s rising VTubers from VShojo, Ironmouse, Projekt Melody, Nyanners, Silvervale, Zentreya, and Froot are coming together to take part in a Japanese-inspired variety show for Anime Expo Lite via VRChat. Join the members on the stream for hilarity and chaos.
Cybrid, Yuki Ono, Aimu Sora, and Show Hayami
Cybrid, publisher of the popular Ikémen Series apps, along with Cybrid producer Hiroto Kuramasu, voice actors Yuki Ono and Show Hayami, and Vtuber Aimu Sora are coming together to make a big announcement at Anime Expo Lite. Join the stream to find out what they have in store!
A team from the VR titan, Hololive will also be a part of the festivities. Members of Hololive EN, Mori Calliope, Takanashi Kira, Ninomae Ina’nis, Gawr Gura, and Watson Amelia, will be taking some time to host some fun and games for the audience. Will they have an announcement to make? Join in on the stream to find out!
Learn about V-Tubers with LazuLight!
The NIJISANJI project, a VTuber program filled with talented influencers, is coming to Anime Expo Lite to present a special panel on what it means to be a VTUBER. The panel will have appearances by some of the company’s most popular performers and VTubers such as LazuLight members Elira Pedora, Finana Ryugu, and Pomu Rainpuff.
For this panel, English-speaking VTubers of its EN division will be taking and answering questions during this live event.
Fueling the Fight Against Hate!
Anime Expo has a long history of hosting charity auctions to raise funds to assist the community. This year, SPJA is expanding its charity recipient program to a year-long partnership, starting with the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center (JACCC) in Little Tokyo to help fund and program future events for the next year.
However, the assistance does not stop there. In the past year, we have seen a sharp rise in hate crimes against the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community due to misinformation and baseless fears regarding COVID-19.
That’s why Anime Expo will be donating all ticket purchases for Anime Expo Lite 2021 to the commUNITY Action Fund by Hate is a Virus. Hate is a Virus is an organization dedicated to raising awareness of issues across the AAPI community and standing in solidarity with these communities by educating and equipping the community with tactical strategies on how to respond to the hate and racism, and raising money to provide relief to small, Asian-led businesses that have been impacted by COVID-19.
Supporting Little Tokyo
Little Tokyo has been a staple of Los Angeles and Anime Expo for decades. Hundreds of attendees flock to Little Tokyo for a taste of Japan during Anime Expo bringing a lot of commerce to the businesses in the area.
Normally, shuttles would take people to and from certain designated bus stops and one of these stops would be near Little Tokyo. Of course, taking the Metro buses/rail would also take people straight to Little Tokyo as well. However, this year, Anime Expo is partnering with the community to create an event that will promote commerce to the area.
Anime Expo Lite 2021 registered ticket holders are invited to visit the historic Little Tokyo district in Los Angeles to take advantage of a special promotion. Starting from June 25 to July 11, 2021, registered attendees can visit multiple Little Tokyo businesses to receive custom Anime Expo coasters. There are six different coasters available, and the completed set will come together to form an anime-inspired image created by Collateral Design Studios that commemorates Anime Expo’s partnership with Hate is A Virus.
Please note that some vendors may require a purchase to get the coasters. In order to get the coaster, visitors must present their Anime Expo Lite registration whenever they purchase items. For a list of the participating businesses, visit Anime Expo Lite’s official site.
Come celebrate Anime Expo’s 30th Anniversary at Anime Expo Lite 2021! Get your tickets today!