This past Labor Day Weekend, Crunchyroll Expo returned to the San Jose Convention Center. The convention’s third year brought more attendees than ever, along with an impressive variety of guests from Japan and America alike. The convention themed itself as “New Crunchy City” and promised a convention experience like no other. So how well did it succeed?
First and foremost, Crunchyroll Expo stuck to the city theme from start to finish. While of course it couldn’t construct an entire city inside the convention center, the con utilized decorations and thematic designs.
For instance, the convention center had people walk through metal detectors and scan their badges to enter, which is an annoying but necessary security precaution (except for when the security staff were being rude and disrespectful to attendees, which was an unfortunate occurrence). So Crunchyroll Expo worked that in to the city theme by designing it like an airport – IsekAir, specifically, a play on the “Isekai” (other world) genre of anime. Little touches, like a PA announcement welcoming new arrivals, added to the theme.
Similarly, there were decorations and staffers throughout the convention that helped add to the theme. The screening room had a large cinema marquee in front of it, the dealer’s hall had signs hanging from the ceiling that looked like apartment buildings and billboards while the floor featured a large Japanese-style crosswalk, and certain staffers even walked around dressed as the Mayor of New Crunchy City or other similar city officials.
It was a nice touch that added a little immersion to the event.
Crunchyroll Expo also had a little extra in the way of things for attendees to visit while wandering. While of course there were the usual attractions – dealer’s hall, artist alley, arcade room, and panel rooms – it also included several other things to check out. The Junji Ito art gallery featured an impressive assortment from one of the most famous horror manga artists (who was there as a guest of honor), while beside it was the manga library, which had a decent selection of new and popular series for people to read.
Other rooms served as expansions for the New Crunchy City theme, such as the Nightclub, which featured stage events ranging from karaoke to voice actor Eric Stuart performing his original songs. For those looking for more quiet, there was the campgrounds (based off the anime “Yuru Camp” or “Laid-Back Camp”) where people could sit in relaxing silence, accompanied by the sounds of nature.
Additionally, following the tragic arson attack at Kyoto Animation earlier this year, Crunchyroll Expo had an area set aside for origami cranes. Attendees folded hundreds of paper cranes over the weekend, as a symbolic gesture of goodwill and healing for all those wounded in the attack.
There were a decent amount of cosplay gatherings, such as for “Sailor Moon” or “JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure.” The gathering spots were similar to those at Fanime, but all of them were kept inside badged areas to prevent people from ghosting the con (attending without a badge). Of course, the attendees included a wide variety of cosplayers from a range of series – “My Hero Academia” continued to be a popular one, but “The Rising of the Shield Hero” and “Demon Slayer” also saw an uptick in cosplays this year. Many of the staff and actors behind “Mob Psycho 100” were there as guests, so the cosplay gathering for that series saw a large crowd as well.
As for the guests of honor, Crunchyroll Expo had more than a few. Perhaps the biggest name was Junji Ito, famed horror manga artist behind series like “Uzumaki” and “Tomie.” Actors and creators of anime like “The Rising of the Shield Hero,” “Zombie Land Saga” and “Food Wars” drew huge crowds as well, as did actors like Miho Okasaki (voice of Rimuru from “That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime”) and Ryo Horikawa (voice of Vegeta from “Dragon Ball Z”). There were a fair amount of English actors as well, such as Xanthe Hunyh (voice of Haru in “Persona 4”), Kira Buckland (2B in “Nier: Automata”) and Mike McFarland (Master Roshi in “Dragon Ball Z”).
If one wanted to meet any of the guests, they needed a ticket for the autograph sessions. The tickets were available early in the morning, and all the day’s tickets were made available at once. So attendees often found themselves waiting in line at 6 in the morning for a chance to get a Junji Ito autograph ticket, only to miss out because they were still sold out before getting through. This made it especially difficult for people who were only there for one day to get tickets for the guests they wanted, unless they were able to arrive especially early.
In fact, there were often long lines for many of the event’s attractions. The line for the FLOW concert was so long that attendees filled both screening rooms as the lines used them as waiting rooms (although it was, by all accounts, worth the wait). The convention is clearly growing each year, and the large crowds heading to see high-profile guests and shows meant there would be more than a bit of waiting required.
The panels were primarily industry or guest focused, including Q&A sessions with the guests of honor. Because of this, Crunchyroll Expo was able to announce several new and returning anime series. It was there that the second and third seasons of “The Rising of the Shield Hero” were announced, as well as a new anime based off Junji Ito’s “Uzumaki.”
It also gave Crunchyroll Expo the opportunity to air several new anime series and OVAs, such as a new “JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure” OVA, the season three premiere of “Chihayafuru,” and the premiere of new series like “Somali and the First Spirit” and “High School Prodigies Have It Easy Even In Another World.” Rather than air old episodes of classic series, it provided attendees with a first look at something new, which is not an experience you’ll get at many conventions.
Throughout the weekend, Crunchyroll Expo drew large crowds of engaged and excited attendees. There was rarely a lack of things to do, and it made the most of the New Crunchy City theme. While big name guests brought bigger lines, it was undoubtedly worth the wait for those who could see them.
One common feeling that Crunchyroll Expo attendees had was that the convention is still developing its identity. Will it become a purely industry convention? Will it see more fan contributions? Or will it find a new niche and balance that other conventions haven’t struck? The first few years are very formative for a con, and Crunchyroll Expo is beginning to focus on what unique things it can bring to the convention scene.
While we’ll see how the convention develops and grows in the years to come, this year’s Crunchyroll Expo earns high marks for a weekend well spent.
Keep an eye on G33k-HQ for more on Crunchyroll Expo, including photo galleries and interviews.