The annual Anime Expo (AX) held at the Los Angeles Convention Center has come and gone. Even before the Japanese government adopted the “Cool Japan” campaign in an effort to familiarize foreigners with Japanese culture, anime was the one perpetual vehicle whereby Japan was able to indirectly influence behavior and interests through cultural or ideological means.
In Japan, those that have obsessive interests in anime and manga fandom are dubbed “Otaku.” It is not only a term to describe those that exist in what is considered the outer fringe of Japanese society, but an entire subculture which has had an economic impact of approximately ¥2 trillion ($18 billion). The Otaku not only exist in Japanese society but in societies all over the world. For many, anime and manga serve as the initial introduction to Japan and Japanese culture.
Having said this, it is easy to understand why Anime Expos have been so popular.
Managed and promoted by the SPJA (Society for the Promotion of Japanese Animation), a non-profit organization dedicated to popularizing the unique and deep culture that surrounds Japanese animation, the Anime Expo is a 4-day event held during the 4th of July weekend. This year, AX took place from July 3 ~ July 6, 2014 at the Los Angeles Convention Center.
The event incorporates a Masquerade, Anime Music Video Contest, Concerts, Battle of the Bands, an AX Fashion Show as well as many gatherings for fans of different anime and manga series. It is renowned for bringing countless famous guests to the U.S. to participate in panels and concerts, and has been the site of many U.S. premiers of shows, movies, and bands. Previous headliners have included some of the hottest acts in Japan including, AKB48, Morning Musume, Anna Tsuchiya, and S.K.I.N. featuring Yoshiki, Gackt, Miyavi and Sugizo.
Many of the attendees show up in full costume representing their favorite anime characters (known as cosplay).
In the enormous Exhibit Hall you will find over 240 vendors and exhibitors showcasing merchandise straight from Japan which include thousands of unique items consisting of anime, manga, figures and models, cosplay goods, Japanese fashion, accessories, games, music and more.
In the Artist Alley, amateur and semi-professional artists gather to celebrate Japanese pop culture through art. Artists assemble from all over the country to share their original artwork, prints, crafts, clothing, and comics.
The Masquerade is one of the largest draws at AX. Folks dressed in elaborate costumes compete for the “Best of Show” trophy! It is a wonderful opportunity to see some magnificent and exotic costumes! People really put an amazing amount of effort into this event.
AX even features a Maid Cafe, seemingly straight from the streets of Akihabara, famous for its Otaku culture. But unlike the traditional Maid Cafes in Japan, this one is purely a performance & interaction based event.
After the day at the expo draws to an end, folks can relax the AX’s very own nightclub, Lounge 21! This year the club featured the musical talents of Chii Sakurabi, a rising star in the J-Pop scene, and Jennifer Cihi, the singing voice of Sailor Moon!
Oh, and did I mention the free play area which is made up of consoles from the past like the SNES and Genesis, all the way to the present with the Xbox 360 and PS3? There are multiple tournaments each allowing players to show their skill and prove that they are the best.
So whether you are a manga or anime enthusiast or just curious about this aspect of Japanese culture, you will want to participate in the next Anima Expo.
Location: 1201 S Figueroa St, Los Angeles, CA 90015
Phone: (213) 741-1151