24th Annual Anime Expo Kicks Off at L.A. Convention Center

Photo courtesy of Anime Expo, Facebook
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The 24th Annual Anime Expo (AX), North America’s largest anime and manga convention, opened Thursday morning as tens of thousands of costumed attendees crammed the entrances of the Los Angeles Convention Center.

Masquerade at Anime Expo 2013
Masquerade | Photo courtesy of Anime Expo, Facebook

People dressed in costumes that ranged from superheroes to internationally famous manga characters and the simply indescribable. The costumes added to the festive and somewhat chaotic atmosphere, which included dozens of food trucks parked both on the Convention Center grounds and across Downtown L.A.’s Figueroa Street. Lines at the opening of the show ran about 45 minutes to get into the Convention Center’s South and West Halls.

Inside the South Hall, the mood was convivial as attendees milled around merchandise booths, and outrageously-dressed people snapped photos of even more outrageously dressed people. Despite having attended about 300 anime shows, 23-year-old Devin Adkins was impressed by the sheer scale of his first AX. "It's definitely overwhelming, and I definitely plan to come back next year," said Adkins, who was dressed as Yato from Noragami. "I'm going to have to take tons of photos."

"You could fit all of the Texas cons (anime conferences) into this one," added 21-year-old Houston native Sophie "Tofu" H., who was dressed as the character Shampoo from Ranma 1/2. "There's lots of pretty stuff."

The four-day Japanese pop culture show, which is produced by the Society for the Promotion of Japanese Animation (SPJA) and whose first incarnation debuted more than two decades ago in Berkeley, attracted about 80,000 people in 2014 and may bring in 100,000 this year. Last month, the SPJA and the Convention Center reached an agreement that will keep the annual show in Los Angeles through at least 2019. City officials estimate that the show generates about $55 million a year in spending for the local economy.

More than 300 exhibitors set up booths that cover more than 350,000 square feet inside the convention center. Some of the larger entertainment entities represented at the show include Warner Brothers, Sony Music, Hulu and Hello Kitty series creator Sanrio.

Momoiro Clover Z at Anime Expo 2015
Momoiro Clover Z | Photo courtesy of Anime Expo, Facebook

Activities include music-video contests, video screenings, cartoon-drawing and electronic dance music (EDM) workshops and fashion shows as well as industry panels that include talks with entertainment executives, anime and manga creators and voice actors.

Some of the more notable activities include a Thursday night concert at the Microsoft Theater (formerly the Nokia Theatre L.A. LIVE) with Momoiro Clover Z. The Japanese pop group is making their first U.S. appearance and will be introduced by Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley of KISS. Friday includes a fashion show from Sanrio, featuring the Hello Kitty character “My Melody.” Sunday features a 20th anniversary celebration of the Neon Genesis Evangelion anime series.

For AX tickets, visit www.anime-expo.org/registration.