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Anime Expo 2009

July 6, 2009
For some, the Fourth of July weekend entails barbecues, fireworks, and watermelon seed spitting contests.   For others, it brings anime, costumes, and more anime.   Anime Expo 2009 descended upon the Los Angeles Convention Center from July 2-5 with an astounding 44,000 attendees, a new record for the nation’s largest anime and manga event.   Hosted by the Society for the Promotion of Japanese Animation (SPJA), Anime Expo is an anime/manga convention that serves as a meeting place for the general public to express and explore their interest in anime, manga, and Japanese culture in general, as well as for members of the industry to conduct business.

The lobby of the convention hall

Los Angeles is all about variety, and Anime Expo is no exception.   It’s quite a different scene from the beach-going holiday fare, but it’s definitely no less fun for convention attendees.   An eager group of fans wait outside of a room, waiting for a panel to start.   From another panel room echoes a roar of laughter, as the panelists relate funny anecdotes.   The lobby is filled with flashes, as costumed con-goers either pose proudly in front of the camera or run to snap a quick picture of another costume.   An adorably young costumed fan has attracted a small crowd of picture-takers, while still others admire an impressively large giant robot suit.

Fans of all ages!

A quick scan of the exhibit hall reveals a giggling group of girls, joking and referring to each other by anime character names, a rowdy crowd by a booth giving away free swag, and a quiet line of autograph seekers, waiting by a booth for their anticipated guest of honor.   As usual, AX did not disappoint in the guest of honor department.   In attendance were animator Hiroyuki Imaishi ( Neon Genesis Evangelion), video game developer Daisuke Ishiwatari ( Guilty Gear), manga artist Yun Kouga ( Loveless), director Seiji Mizushima ( Mobile Suit Gundam 00), voice actor Toshiyuki Morikawa ( Inuyasha), top Japanese female band Morning Musume, Trigun creator Yasuhiro Nightow, and voice actress Kari Wahlgren ( Samurai Champloo), to name just a few, and that’s not even counting the industry guests, which included big names like Seth Green ( Robot Chicken) and Breckin Meyer ( Ghosts of Girlfriends Past).   My Japanese fellow attendee points excitedly at his programming schedule.   “I really want to see Morning Musume,” he says.   “They dominated Japanese pop culture in the late ’90s and early 2000s, and they’re still popular!   Plus, they’re really cute.”   His friend laughs and shakes his head.   “I don’t know about him, but I’m all about the Power Rangers gathering!   They’ve got so many actors from the series.   It’s going to be epic.”

Morning Musume pumps up the audience.  Image property and courtesy of Anime Expo 2009/SPJA

Apart from the popularity of the Morning Musume concert and the star-powered Power Rangers and Robot Chicken panels, AX also hosted its usual filled-to-capacity annual events.   AX Idol (where promising young talents in singing and voice acting compete for a chance to break into the industry) started off small several years ago, but it now gets more popular by the year, while the Saturday night Masquerade (where costumers show off their most spectacular work) remained the hit of the convention – after all, it wouldn’t be a convention without amazing costumes!

Posing in the exhibit hall

The Los Angeles Convention Center remains a good venue for the ever-expanding expo, so be prepared to return there for AX 2010.   As for now, all we can do is look forward to what guests will be announced for next year.   Oh, and collect all the pictures from this year.   You can never forget the pictures.

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