ConReview: Crunchyroll Expo 2018

Crunchyroll Expo’s second year took place over Labor Day weekend, moving from the Santa Clara Convention Center to San Jose. Throughout the weekend, it reached over 45,000 turnstile attendance, an impressive achievement for a second-year convention.

So how did this convention go? We’ll take a look at the good, the bad, and everything in-between, to provide an overview of Crunchyroll Expo 2018.

First and foremost, in spite of sharing a weekend with Sac Anime, Crunchyroll Expo managed to bring in some excellent guests from both America and Japan. It encompassed voice actors such as Justin Briner, Stephanie Sheh, Luci Christian, and Michael Sinterniklaas (who we will have interviews with posted soon), anime industry staff such as animation producer Junichiro Tamura, the team behind “Darling in the Franxx,” and even Olympic figure skater Johnny Weir. Even “Alita: Battle Angel” director Robert Rodriguez was in attendance, along with “Dragon Quest” designer Yuji Horii and famed Japanese voice actor Ryo Horikawa. Even with all those industry guests, it still included several cosplay or YouTube celebrities, such as anime YouTubers Mother’s Basement and Gigguk.

Meeting many of those guests, though, could be a challenge. As with last year, Crunchyroll Expo’s autograph system was ticket-based. People could get a free ticket in the morning and redeem the ticket at the autograph session. While tickets themselves are fine, all the tickets for the day were made available at the same time. That resulted in massive lines before the ticket booth even opened, and no one could know how many people were there for who until any guest’s tickets were sold out. Often times a person would wait through the line only to learn near the end that the guest they wanted had just sold out, at which point they’d either leave in frustration or take a different guest’s ticket instead. In spite of that, some attendees still managed to get multiple tickets for the same person so that they could get multiple items signed while denying other attendees the same chance.

Perhaps it would have been better to stagger the ticket releases throughout the day, so as to prevent the massive lines and so that attendees who couldn’t arrive at 8 in the morning to line up would still have a chance at getting one. The autograph times were also not on the schedule, so attendees would have to check the website to find out when the guests they wanted to meet were available.

It was very clear that the convention was more industry-focused, from the panels covering Aniplex and the localization of Japanese mobile games to the many booths in the exhibitor’s hall dedicated to services such as VRV. That is not necessarily a bad thing, of course, and the industry presence allowed for a wide selection of panels, events, and merchandise. It presented a rare opportunity to listen to people who work in all aspects of the anime industry.

There were some fan events, particularly cosplay gatherings. However, there was little in the way of announcements or advertising for those, so they were primarily organized and advertised by fans. Attendees also mentioned that the spots they were told the gatherings would be at were not always accurate. Cosplay gatherings are a great part of any convention, though, so hopefully they will grow and improve in future years.

The layout of the convention center was very well-organized. The main halls were all connected, but kept distinct between the artist alley, dealer’s hall, and autograph area. There was a great variety of fan artists in the artist alley, each one selling unique prints. The dealer’s hall also had a nice selection, with plenty of manga, anime DVDs, props, figures, stuffed animals, and even, for some reason, window repairs.

Near the back of the artist alley were several food vendors, in addition to the convention center’s concession stand. Particularly noteworthy among them was a stand offering free cotton candy throughout the weekend, a treat attendees were eager to enjoy.

Outside of the halls, there were several different things for people to enjoy. Both an anime screening room and a manga lounge were available for attendees to relax and find a new series to enjoy. The convention also boasted both a video game room and arcade, which saw plenty of use throughout the weekend. The downstairs area also hosted the Crunchyroll Stage, which held smaller guest sessions each day.

Of particular note for cosplaying attendees was the cosplay hangout, featuring a repair station and a wig styling expert.

A few other noteworthy additions were several photo booths with Crunchyroll backdrops, and a large wall where people could tape their photos or draw sketches on a dry-erase wall. In the dealer’s hall there was a large pool filled with “Bananyan” plushies, which people could take pictures in and enjoy their softness. In short, there were plenty of little amusements for all attendees.

CRX attendees who pre-registered received their badges ahead of time in the mail, which helped alleviate much of the time spent at check-in and registration for everyone else. As such, what lines they did have moved quickly, averting the dreaded LineCon. However, those who were picking up or buying their badges at the con encountered an inconvenience early on, as the badge pickup was located at the opposite side of the convention hall from where the parking garage let them in and from where most common routes took them to. As such, many attendees passed through the metal detectors at the entrance only to be stopped after and told they’d need to go back and all the way around the convention center before getting their badges. This is a problem easily amended next year, which hopefully the convention will do.

Security was tight at the con, which is entirely understandable after recent events. There were metal detectors at every entrance, and those entering and leaving the con would have to scan their badges first. While this did slow down entering the convention center a little, it wasn’t too much of a problem. Safety is important, after all.

Naturally, there were plenty of excellent cosplayers at the convention. The big series was “My Hero Academia,” with hero outfits and U.A. uniforms abound, although “Darling in the Franxx” and “Dragon Ball” also had a fair amount of cosplayers. New and old series alike were represented, with all ages and skill levels showing off their crafts.

Overall, Crunchyroll Expo did a fine job for its second year. It brought in some excellent guests – voice actors, influencers, and industry staff alike – offered some good event programming, and was well-organized. With that said, there were some issues (the autograph tickets, rude or misinformed staff members, and the placement of badge pickup mainly) which will hopefully be addressed in future events. But it was a successful con and one that will only keep growing and improving in the years to come.

The Original Sherlock Holmes and his Baker Street Irregulars

About rpleasant

A would-be writer, who enjoys living the geek life and indulging in comics, cosplay, anime, and more. He hopes to one day have something created that other people can enjoy and review, but until then continues to work on various projects such as parodies and short stories.

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