Normally I’d add pictures and actually organize and edit this more. But this is something I put together more last minute so bear with me on this.
Well it that time of the year again, Anime Expo is once again upon us, and having gone for the last two years, I have learned many things. So I’m here to give some real advice on navigating the convention floor if you’re going this year. Note that as of the time I’m writing this, I am basing these tips on my experiences going the last two years. So some of these tips might not work anymore if AX has changed their policies. Also, these tips are more related to planning and navigating AX, so I can’t really help with any hotel or transportation related matters. Without further ado, let us start.
Let’s start on planning and stuff you should do before AX actually starts.
When to buy tickets
Before I begin on actually navigating the convention floor, I’d like to take a moment to say that if you do ever plan on attending AX in the future, the best time to buy tickets I’d say is definitely on Black Friday. I discovered this last year, and it appears so did everyone else on AniTAY this year. Actually, looking at their prices buying a four-day pass on Black Friday is actually cheaper than buying a one day pass at the door. Also even you don’t have to go to all four days, only attending 2 ends up being worth it.
Follow AX website
Use this website to plan in advance, as AX will announce their guests and events on their main website. See who will be holding autograph sessions, so you can bring in things for them to sign. Basically, use this to do some sort of pre planning on what you want to do at AX.
Follow company’s social media
If you’re on Facebook, I would follow the pages of companies like Sentai, Funimaiton, Aniplex, Atlus, etc., because more than likely they will be at AX and will advertise promotions, events, or merchandise you can get at their booths on them. See any merchandise you like? You can plan ahead and try to pick up that special wall scroll or keychain before they sell out. More on what booths to visit later.
Zero day is basically an entire day starting at 12PM when you can pick up your badges. This will save you a lot of time, so if you can pick up your badges on zero day. Otherwise you might end up spending a good chunk of time waiting to just pick up your badges on the day you actually attend. Though I did hear last year they have vastly improved the way you pick up badges, so there’s that.
Also, for the love of God do not pay for parking on Zero day. I made that mistake last year, and ended up paying I think $15 for about 7 minutes of parking, which is actually a testament to how fast I was able to pick up my badge on Zero day.
What to bring
Rather you are going for only one day or more, here is a list of items you should have on you when you attend
Download Guidebook: This is probably a tip for any con, but download the mobile app a con tells you to download. For AX 2016 its Guidebook. I find it more convenient to use your phone than having to flip through pages of the guide book they give you. This should contain an up to date list of events that are happening. Though note what it says in the app might be different than what it says in the actual book so I’d ask a volunteer to find out what up with that. These apps also have features that let you plan out your schedule. There are also events listed in the app that may not necessarily appear in the guide book, such as cosplay gatherings.
A portable phone charger: depending on when you get there, you can potentially end up spending 12 hours there. Depending on how your communicating with friends, using your phone to take pictures of awesome things, and browsing the web while waiting, a portable phone charger is a life saver. Though there are also areas where you can charge your phone so there’s that. Just obviously remember to bring the cables and plugs.
Food/Snacks: Convention food. Food that I think is overpriced, to greasy, and actual food I’d never want to eat again. I mean, do you really want to spend $12 on a rice bowl at the convention center? I can tell you that the pizza in their cafeteria was not worth it. Sure there’s also food trucks outside the convention center seems good, but just the food and even a drink might end up costing you about $12. Going multiple days, and that will add up. I’d recommend maybe buying food from the food trucks for one day, might as well try something new. Though for last year, I just ate a hefty breakfast, and brought a whole bunch of snacks. Personally I prefer Nature Valley granola bars. Maybe you can even wrap a slice of pizza in tin foil or save a fast food burger for later.
And hey if you’re from out of state and have not tried one, the closest In N Out burger seems to be about a 20 minute drive, so you might as well try one just to see why California hypes it. I’d recommend getting your burger with grilled onions and asking for the fries well done. Emphasis on well done (this means your fries are crispier, which is good because personally I think In N Out has the worse fast food fries).
Water Bottle and Sunscreen: It’s LA, and it is Summer after all.
3DS (or any other gaming portable): If you plan on attending any big panels and want to get a good seat, get ready for a lot of down time just waiting in line. You’ll need something to keep you occupied, and playing a game by yourself, or more preferably with a group of friends, is definitely a good way to pass the time. You can bring any gaming portable really, but if you own a 3DS, your obligated to bring it to AX, and pretty much any con because of Streetpass. Seriously the last two years I have gone, I have been able to fill out every puzzle panel. Just remember to prioritize the pink pieces.
Also be sure your systems are up to date, either on a console level or a software level to ensure you can play multiplayer games with your friends. Otherwise you’ll end up watching your friends play Smash Bros on their 3DS while you’re their having no idea what to do, speaking from experience = (
Now let’s talk about what to do when you get there
What booths to stop by first
As mentioned earlier, some companies advertise what they will be selling once the exhibit hall opens. From my experience these are the places you’ll want to stop by first if you plan on buying stuff from them.
Good Smile: They usually have one of the largest booths. I heard a lot of thing about how large the line was for this booth last year. People really wanted to get that special nendoroid or whatever exclusive figure they have on the floor. So as soon as the hall opens, if you really want that figure, find the line and get in it fast. Also, it appears their cheapest item will sell out, so if you want it, buy it fast (I’m still sad on not getting that art book of Little Witch Academia).
Atlus USA: this is another booth you should get in line for immediately if there is something you want to buy. I got separated from my friend trying to and failing to get in that line. They will most certainly sell out of whatever exclusive items they have at their booth. In fact, last year the line was so long, there was another line just to get into the main line, and that line got so long they actually had to close it for 15 minutes. According to people I talked to last year, people were basically there for an hour.
Any booth that has early released blu ray: So sometimes a company will have the home video release of certain anime out sometimes about a month before it is officially released. For example, last year Sentai sold the Collectors Edition of No Game No Life at their booth last year, and I heard they sold out pretty fast. In my honest opinion though I would wait since they sell their home videos nearly at their listed price, when you could get it cheaper on Amazon. Though if it’s worth it to you, then go ahead.
Things to note
This section will be more opinion based. Actually, this will also be more of a random list of tips and things to note, with no real organization. Sorry about that.
- Prioritize: It seems that in almost any comments section I look at when AX announces new guest, I see people say something along the lines of “AX has gotten to big, and there’s just so many guests. You’re never going to see everything you want to.” I can see what they are saying. But AX is the biggest anime convention for a reason. So prioritize, and pick what and who you want to see and plan accordingly. Think of it like that episode of K-On! where Mio wanted to see all of her favorite bands at that summer music festival. You’re going to have make tough choices, so choose wisely.
- I cannot stress the how important it is to go in with a plan if there are things you absolutely want to see. I planned and was able to do everything I wanted to do, but only because I actually got in line early for the things I wanted to go to.
- So I’m not sure if this still works, as I’ve been told some cons are cracking down on this practice, so I would check with a volunteer if this still applies. But if there is some panel/event you really want to go to, and there is another panel that immediately preceded it, go to the one before it and they might let you stay for the next panel. That’s what I did for LWA: Enchanted Parade last year; attended the Funimaiton panel, and stayed for the premiere since it was held in the same hall.
- If you’re a fan of any English VA, bringing Fire Emblem Awakening or Fates is a good idea because there is a good chance the ones who are holding autograph sessions are in the game.
- Speaking of Funimation, it seems as though any Panel they host will have a large crowd, so line up early to guarantee a spot. Also don’t expect much in terms of any big license announcements, it seems they save those for Otakon.
- The line for ticketed events is different from the line to get tickets for autograph sessions. I learned that the hard way and wasted almost an hour and a half. Be sure to ask volunteers if you are in the right line. The autograph ticket line has its own line basically.
- Idolm@ster or Love Live Plushies will sell out, so get those fast if you want them.
- Some merchandise ends up costing more if you try to buy it online. Sometimes even impossible to find. So if there is something you truly want, I’d say be impulsive and just buy it. What the hell? I wish I had that attitude when I saw the chibi Girls Und Panzer tanks, which as it turns are harder to come by at reasonable prices online.
- The lines for events in West Hall B and Petree Hall (the main two show rooms) are easy to find and are usually outside near that area. The other rooms that will have programs however, can get a bit complicated. Assuming they are using the same rooms as last year, panels in rooms upstairs actually have lines form down stairs, so I would ask volunteers to check where exactly you have to wait in line. Maybe even go an hour early to the actual room where the event will be, and ask any volunteers near to know exactly where the line is forming.
- I myself, have not gone to a ticketed events or concerts, but everyone I have talked to who has, says they are definitely worth the extra money to pay. Actually it seems obvious, since it’s typically the fans who are the most willing to pay for it. I actually regret not forking over the extra cash for that once in a life time Kill La Kill event. So if you’re a fan of something and they are having some special ticketed event, I say just go for it.
- The arcade area has DDR and other Japanese rythym games, so if you ever wanted to play it, bring quarters and spare cash to play.
- Premieres: So my rule on premieres, if it’s a movie, then it’s probably worth it to line up early and attend it. If it’s only the first episode or two of a new anime series, I would really consider if it is worth it. At least with a movie you get a complete experience. With the TV series, you’re essentially getting a glorified viewing party, with a lot of eager fans (which can be awesome), but I would take more things into consideration.
Here’s an example, in 2014 one of the big premieres was the first episode of Sword Art Online II. This was a big event that many people waited in line for a long time, again to watch only the first episode, which was available on Crunchyroll in, I believe, less than 24 hours later. Now granted, sometimes there is a panel right after and those might make it more worthwhile. But some people I talked to who went, said in retrospect it wasn’t really a big deal. I would really consider weighing in your fandom of something to how much time you have at the convention. If you are only at AX for one day, I honestly would suggest you just walk around the exhibit hall, or go to some other smaller panels.
This is all I have so far. I again apologize for how poorly written this may be. I even know there are more things I should add, but right now I can’t think of it, as I’m still planning and getting ready for AX. If I come up with anything else, I’ll update this article. Feel free to ask any questions and I’ll see if I can answer it as best as I can. You can also add any more tips in the comments.