Anime Expo 2014: Popularity and its Problems

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Compared to the past, Japanese pop culture has become significantly more popular.  As a result, Anime Expo is also getting a lot more attendees.  While it’s awesome that the convention is getting more popular, it might be getting too popular too fast.

The number of attendees at Anime Expo this year has gone up by around 15,000 (for a total of about 86,000 attendees), roughly a 25% percent increase.  Unfortunately, the event staff might not be keeping up with this sudden increase.  This year at Anime Expo there were several cases of organization problems.

The first and most noticeable problem happened on day zero, which is a day mostly for the sole purpose of picking up your AX badge early.  While people were waiting in line, a computer error occurred that delayed badge pickup.  As a result, several people who had come to pick up their badges early had to wait for supposedly almost 6 hours (This is coming from a personal friend of mine, so give or take an hour or two).  While these were people who had waited in line for at least an hour before badge pickup began, having to wait this long is still a little ridiculous.  Luckily for those who went to get their badges later in the evening, things went along smoothly after the computer problem was fixed.

On day one, I personally experienced multiple organizational problems.  While I was on my way to get my badge with another fellow 8CN member, we asked one of the staff where press badge pickup was.  We ended up being directed to the opposite side of the convention and then back to where we came.  Every staff member we asked directed us to a different location.

We were not the only individuals who ran into problems though.  While waiting to get our press badges, we noticed a long line at the help station.  Apparently there were several cases where people could not pick up their badges because the system claimed they had already picked them up.  More notably were individuals from Artist Alley who had accidentally been double booked for one station and thus did not have the proper booth that they had paid (quite a lot) for.

There was also a case where a panel’s schedule was changed, and rather than the staff being able to inform us on what happened, a nearby attendee who just happened to check the AX twitter page helped us.  I’m not sure about you guys, but when the staff knows less about what’s happening than the attendees I think there might be a problem.

The number one problem I ran into however, was line organization.  Several times when I tried to attend a panel, no proper line was formed, and when I asked a staff member where the end of the line was they directed me one way, but then another staff member directed me another.  Ultimately I ended up not being able to attend the panels because I chose the wrong blob to assimilate into.  These problems can mostly be associated to the convention growing too quickly, and the staff not being able to organize all the additional information and people.


I totally understand why a blob organized around this Poro though.  Those things are adorable.

In my past years of attending Anime Expo, there were usually less volunteer staff working, but they still usually knew what was going on and could organize the lines.  This time around, because there were so many people it was sometimes hard to tell which people were trying to line up for a panel and who weren’t.  It didn’t help that for the past few years the Nokia Theater hasn’t been used at all, so there is even less space available to organize the massive amount of attendees.  As for why the Nokia Theater hasn’t been rented out recently?  Well, according to Anime News Network, the parent organization heading Anime Expo suffered a debt of around $1.2 million during the year of 2010.  You can’t really blame them for deciding to cut renting out the theater.

Another thing I noticed was a serious lack of walkie talkies (walkie talkies are awesome and I demand that everyone at AX carry one.  Not just the event staff).  When we were directed to several different places for the same event, it was usually by individuals without walkie talkies.  If more event staff had walkie talkies then they may have been able to better communicate and direct the crowds of people a little more efficiently.

You might ask “Why aren’t they keeping up?  Look at how many people go to Comic Con!?”  While the amount of people at Anime Expo certainly isn’t anywhere near the 130,000 or more people attending Comic Con, you have to realize that Comic Con has had over 100,000 people attending the con for almost 10 years.  Anime Expo saw a sudden increase of more than 10,000 people in 2013 when they typically only have around 2000 more people each year.  In 2013 the AX staff was somewhat able to keep up with the numbers, but noticeably had some difficulty (several rooms were not used efficiently given their size).  The additional 15,000 (for a total of 86,000) attendees this year seemed to be too much for them to handle.

Even though organization overall wasn’t too hot, it’s important to note that for ticketed events there were no problems at all.  In fact, since people were assigned seats before the event even started it didn’t matter what time people lined up (as long as it was before the event started.  You’re kinda a jerk if you show up after the event starts anyway).

While there were certainly some problems with the expo, can you really blame them in the end?  They had to deal with handling way more people than they probably expected, all the while on a limited budget because of their debt.  In fact, I’d say we should be happy that the convention is still being held.  Problems and all I still had a blast at AX this year and I am sure to go again in 2015.

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