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Anime Expo: Inside the Return of Anime’s Biggest Event

GameRant logo GameRant 7/1/2022 Kevin Credo
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Downtown Los Angeles, the bustling heart of the largest county in the United States. A major street in the heart of the city’s biggest entertainment district is cut off as crowds assemble to get wristbands required for entry. 4K billboards built into the sides of modernist skyscrapers are displaying ads for Final Fantasy and One Piece: Odyssey. On the lawns outside of the Los Angeles Convention Center proper, giant inflatable sculptures of anime characters greet the 5’o’clock rush.

It has been three entire years since the last in-person gathering of Anime Expo, the largest anime convention—rather, one of the largest pop culture events period—in North America. After two years of pandemic-spurred virtual “AX Lite” streams in place of a physical event, the major fan-event-meets-trade-show organized by the Society for the Promotion of Japanese Animation has returned to a physical event in the heart of the City of Angels.

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Perhaps comparable to the anime and manga equivalent to San Diego Comic Con, Anime Expo combines the most exciting announcements of all the biggest studios, publishers, and more with all the best of fandom hype. The event has historically attracted over one hundred thousand attendees across four days, and after three years apart, this most recent edition is notably sold-out just from its presales.

And this isn’t just any anime convention. This weekend, AX is poised to include several major anime premieres and exclusive screenings, including the director’s cut of the newest Ultraman film, the GKIDS anime films Goodbye Don Glees and Summer Ghost, a new set of My Hero Academia OVAs, a special episode of Dr. Stone, and more.

All of the major anime, manga, and light novel publishers are gearing up for some major announcements, including Crunchyroll, Viz Media, Toei, Studio Trigger and way too many others to account. One Piece is teasing its upcoming feature Film Red with elaborate displays all weekend long, and the main exhibition hall is hosting the biggest Gundam statue found on this side of the Pacific. Every stripe of fan and professional art lines the hundreds of booths of Artists’ Alley, and portfolio reviews from the major publishers are gearing up to scout out the next generation of artists and writers.

But this is still very much a fan event, a place where the adjacent cultures of otaku fandom seep every aspect of the fans, cosplays, and programming. A live recording of the famed anime-comedy Trash Taste Podcast is set to draw crowds, as is the “Masquerade” cosplay contest and a Steve Aoki concert is to be held in tandem with Toei Animation’s marketing for One Piece: Film Red.

When asked what excites them most about the convention, attendees have shown a multiplicity of interests. Some are looking forward to the episode of Trash Taste. Others are looking forward to all of the hype surrounding Mihoyo’s presence as the creators of Genshin Impact. Others are just happy for a chance to hang out with friends in person, and still others describe the involved intricacies of rare collectible hunting. One shrugs and jokes, “the best part is the lines and parking.” For an event this scale, those can’t not be a highlight in themselves.

Anime Expo might not be your dad’s comic convention. In a world where Demon Slayer is outselling the majority of American superhero comics, though, that doesn’t sound like the worst-ever thing.

As all of the new events and announcements abound at this year’s Anime Expo, GameRant is pleased to present full coverage of all of the biggest announcements, screenings, events, and fandom. For full coverage of the event, stay tuned to GameRant’s anime section.

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