PopLurker would like to thank Anime Los Angeles for providing us with Press Passes in exchange for event coverage.
Anime Los Angeles celebrated their fifteenth year, and this year’s show was…interesting.
I had been to the show the last two years, not as press, but simply as a patron. And for the most part back then, I had a good time. I thought it was a nicely packed show with a lot to do and see. The other convention dwellers always seem happy and people look like they’re actually shopping and spending money. What could be the problem here?
Well…once you start doing press/reviews of shows, plus you’re involved in the actual planning of several shows, you start seeing conventions with new eyes. And start listening to what people say with open ears.
Like the fact that Anime Los Angeles is known for its sexy hotel parties. Word around the playground is that it’s a party show all around. Hell, you live your best life, Anime Los Angeles. All of you kids have safe, consensual fun and I’ll be over here shopping.
Anime Los Angeles did one interesting thing– it was the first convention I’ve been to in quite a while that didn’t have any press itinerary for me. Meaning there were no companies, brands, or artists who were looking to be interviewed for press promotion. When I work shows, I go with a full calendar of booths to stop by, pictures to take, and brands that want to show off their newest comic book, video game, art book, or so on. I was very surprised that in spite of being present for fifteen years, there was no well-known publisher or distributor with any kind of ‘presence’.
It strikes me even stranger than there’s no large brand presence because the show is clearly growing. Anime Los Angeles today is already significantly larger than Anime Expo 15-20 years ago. Attendance is now likely in the five-digits and it’s a solidly medium-sized show. Another two years and they will easily outgrow the Ontario Convention Center if they haven’t already. Not only does the show sufficiently fill the OCC, but they’ve spilled over into the Double Tree Hilton next door. So, we have tons and tons of programming and entertainment inside the convention center, and then we have tons of panels bleeding over into the hotel.
Personally, I thought it was overkill. When the same groups are hosting more than two panels (thirteen in the case of one) and certain panels have maybe five attendees, it starts to make you wonder if quantity is really better than quality. And that’s not an attack on any panel moderators, nor am I trying to denigrate or discount their efforts. I think ‘Hey, does this convention really need 5+ panels happening at the same time literally all day?’ is a fair question to pose.
Also, things were a little weird in the Double Tree. It felt like it wasn’t even part of ALA, like whatever was happening in there was an entirely different convention. I walked into the Manga Library, took one picture, and was immediately told I needed to “Sync my badge”. I had no idea what that meant, nor did the young man managing the room have the fortitude to educate me. Instead, he kept repeating the words until I just left, not understanding that I was a press member and just wanted some action shots.
Where the show had a big improvement was in the Artist’s Alley placement. The main Exhibitor Hall isn’t really that big, so Anime Los Angeles (ALA) doesn’t try to integrate artists in there like some other convention centers do. Last year, the artists were shoved outside under a tent. No one really knew they were there and it felt like they were whisked away and forgotten about. Not only did Artist’s Alley have its own room this time, but that room was packed. Really, it shows that ALA truly is a fan event and that people in the community are tight knit and there to see their favorite artists and makers.
One terrible thing about the show was how people came back inside. There is absolutely no easy way to leave the building and come back during ALA. Security gave exhibitors a hard time who wanted to come back through the loading dock entrance (when coming back through the back way is a standard at most shows), and re-entering the building as a patron was even worse. You had to walk around barricades, through the cold, wet registration entrance, and through bag check every single time. Truthfully, it was exhausting. And while I appreciate that clearly, the convention center did it in an attempt to keep everyone safe, I found myself craving a regular-ass door to walk through.
Anime Los Angeles is definitely a cosplay heavy show, and She-Ra cosplays ran rampant, which made me very happy. Never mind the 2-3 other groups out there that I didn’t manage to catch.
But of course, the biggest news to hit the convention scene in a while was the attack on one young woman’s car, which was targeted by a stalker. This happened on Saturday night and caused the hotel to be evacuated. The man is now in custody, but if ALA didn’t have a wild reputation already, who knows what will happen between now and next year. I personally can’t help but wonder if Ontario will give the show the boot, or forgive the occurrence as a random act of violence.
All in all, Anime Los Angeles is a fun show. It’s the first convention of the year for me and kicks off the local winter convention season. Do I want this show to continue to grow and thrive? Definitely. I feel like it’s starting to bend around some curve where we aren’t quite positive what’s on the horizon. Change is in store for this event, it just needs to figure out what that change is. With a few procedural tweeks, ALA could be a really organized show. But this is one where the FANS make it what it is. Because otherwise…it just doesn’t quite have that electrifying pop.
PopLurker’s Anime Los Angeles 2019 Image Gallery: