Black Moon wrote this critique of Anime Expo in the summer
of 2001. It expressed our growing frustration with the
hyper-commercialism that we felt ran counter to the spirit
of the original
fan-based appreciation for Japanese animation. Since the
publication of this critique, it is our opinion that matters
have only become worse. Gone are the days of wonder and
discovery that once imbued so much of the original grassroots
"movement" in the west. Today's anime scene
has become much too corporate for our tastes... anime
fans have largely become passive consumers instead of
pro-active and creative advocates. We hope that
our stepping back from this hyper-commercialism will inspire
others to revive the spirit of internationalism and exploration
that we originally embraced.
posted on: July 2001)
MOON Staff attended AX
2001 and found that many attendees shared our
observations that from an organizational standpoint, AX
2001 was the worst convention we've ever
attended. We've never experienced a convention so "user
unfriendly." While Anime
Expo held an onsite
"gripe session" at the very end of the convention
to allow attendees a platform for constructive criticism...
we felt that was inadequate since most attendees
had already left. We are presenting our critique of the
convention in the hopes that it will help to correct mistakes
and assure higher quality expositions in the future. In
no way are we attempting to discourage people from attending
upcoming AX Cons... far from it, we want people not only
to attend, but to become active participants. Only fan
input and participation can keep Anime Expo from
and manga are some of the greatest artforms in the world
today, and everything should be done to help promote these
popular arts. An anime convention is about the anime community
coming together to share and celebrate. The most exciting
parts of AX 2001 for us were the hands on, fan
only events like panels, cosplay, and the fansub room.
The BEST part of any convention will always be
the people who attend... and for Anime Expo 2001,
that was the only saving grace.
can write to the organizers of AX, the Society
for the Promotion of Japanese Animation (SPJA), at
the following address: SPJA, 7336 Santa Monica Blvd.,
Suite 640. Hollywood, CA 90046.
"HAS THIS CONVENTION BECOME TOO LARGE?"
AX 2001 took up the Long
Beach Convention Center, as well as three Hotels.
While the Convention Center was adjacent to one Hotel,
the others were two blocks away. If
we hadn't looked at the AX Website before we left
home, we wouldn't even have known what building the registration
was in! There were few signs
to direct you anywhere, not even to the registration area.
Attendees were exhausted trying to get from one event
to another, with the huge sprawling site an unwelcome
minefield for the elderly, handicapped, and out of shape.
The official program guide was useless except as a memento.
convention's "events schedule" (which you can see pictured
below), was a cheap printed flyer whose type was SO SMALL
it was illegible! If you had perfect vision you
would still have to squint to make out the ultra-tiny
type. For everyone else, the schedule of events was just
an unreadable blur. We gave up trying to read it and preferred
to let others guide us to worthwhile events.
is an ACTUAL SIZE scan
of a portion of the xeroxed events schedule. With
an estimated 10,000 people in attendance paying a
minimum of $25.00 each for a one day ticket, THIS
totally unreadable "guide" is all that AX
2001 could offer convention goers?
"TO HELL WITH ART... LET'S SELL STUFF."
was massive corporate presence at AX 2001. After
first registering at the convention you received a bag
full of advertising which included the official AX
2001 Program Guide and a publication from one of the
sponsors, BPM ("The magazine of Electronic
Culture"). BPM's magazine was larger
than the official program guide and completely dedicated
to the genre of Trance-Hip Hop-Rave-Techno music. It's
vapid "we're so hip and pretty" content had
NOTHING to do with the world of anime and
manga and the magazine's inclusion as a give away was
nothing more than a cheap ploy aimed at capturing "the
"Merchants Room" was like entering some grandiose
Las Vegas showroom complete with huge corporate displays,
flickering TV screens, and blaring sound systems. ADV
Films had a gigantic banner for it's non-anime title
FARSCAPE in the window of the merchant's room.
All of the commercialism made you wonder if anime was
from Japan, or from TokyoPop and Suncost Video!
While I realize everyone wants to make money (the BLACK
MOON included), can't we do so with a less mercenary spirit?
"ARTISTS IN THE ALLEY" Tucked
away in the back of the hall behind a dividing
wall where few bothered to venture... was the area AX
put aside as the Artist's Alley. In this virtually
unmarked location one could find the artworks of fans,
plus three brilliant art exhibits... original animation
cels from the latest Vampire Hunter D movie, the
Lithographic Prints of Onishi Nobuyuki (who illustrated
the credits for the classic Wings of Honneamise),
and the Digital Prints of Asamiya Kia (creator
of Silent Mobius). AX 2001 made sure attendees
had easy access to merchants and their wares, but placed
little emphasis on accessiblity to exhibits of art.
"IS THIS AMERICAN OR JAPANESE?"
Expo is staged by The Society for the Promotion of
Japanese Animation (SPJA)... so it would be nice if
they followed in the footsteps of the US JAPAN EXPO
(the largest Japanese Culture Exposition in the Western
Hemisphere, which is also held in the greater Los Angeles
area). The US JAPAN EXPO actually has the feel
of being in Japan, and one can hear and see live traditional
performances, sample delicious Japanese foods, and yes...
buy anime goods! The food available at
Anime Expo was very expensive, consisted of mostly
meat dishes (we happen to be vegetarians), and was typical
American fare only. It would be nice to be able to
buy JAPANESE FOOD at a JAPANESE ANIMATION
Festival! At the US JAPAN EXPO you
can buy snacks like onigiri (rice balls), soba (buckwheat
noodles), and mochi (sweet rice cakes)... all of which
would have been well received by attendees of AX
2001, since the anime characters they adore EAT
these foods on screen!
"PSSST... HEY KID, WANNA WATCH A FANSUB?"
The Fan Subtitled anime room
was listed only as "assorted programming" in the unreadable
events schedule. You got to the room by maneuvering through
a maze of corridors and stairwells from one of the Hotels,
and the "room" was actually an outside tent
equipped with plastic lawn chairs! It would have been
impossible for the handicapped to access this room.
From past AX conventions we expected an easel with
the show schedule outside. There was no such schedule.
talking with several volunteers, we were told that they were
not allowed to post the schedule anywhere
at all, and that they could not have any written record
of the events that occurred there. One had the feeling that
one was doing something illegal by entering
the room... it was like a 1920's "Speak easy" club. Finally,
on the second day, somebody wrote up a schedule on a mere
piece of notebook paper that was then hand held by a volunteer
the darkened room.
Anime Expo conventions featured the fan
sub room as a place to see the latest works not yet picked
up by American companies (for instance, years ago I saw a
fan subbed copy of the still unknown Vision of Escaflowne
TV series). At AX 2001, organizers stuck the fan-subbers
area in a small dark corner and pretended it wasn't there.
While the masses were feeding at the SUNCOAST, VIZ,
corporate trough... brilliant
but unknown fan subtitled anime like Grandeek,
Master Keaton, Excel Saga, Boys Be, Himeko-den,
and Yami no Matsuei
where being secretively screened in "the tent."
"WHERE DID THEY HIDE THE FREE LITERATURE TABLES?!"
the huge sprawling complex that was AX 2001...
one could find only ONE literature table
set aside for fans. As all of you convention goers know,
having such a table available and accessible to conventioneers
is a vital part of the experience. Not only does it provide
fans with a place to leave leaflets announcing conventions
taking place elsewhere... but such a table provides anime
clubs, cosplayers, small stores, and others, a platform
for reaching the anime fanbase. One of my favorite things
to do at a convention is to visit the literature table.
I've picked up incredible little fan produced zines,
weird flyers, art, stickers, posters, and all types of
otaku artifacts. But for AX 2001 all that was provided
was a single four foot long table, virtually HIDDEN
near the entrance to the dealers room! Since there was
NO OTHER PLACE for fans to leave flyers
and literature, the table filled up quickly and became
a gigantic mess. The last time I saw that table,
some jerk had spilt their drink on it... ruining
many piles of flyers. Of course, there were no AX
staff around to control and straighten out the table.
past Anime Expo conventions there were not only
MULTIPLE tables available for flyers... but there
were also bulletin boards available where fans could post
messages like, "Rei-chan, sorry I missed you at the dance,
you'll find me at the panel." There was only one
set of bulletin boards available at AX 2001, and
they were located near the tiny literature table by the
dealer's room entrance (the dealers room closed
at 6 p.m., so access to the table and bulletin boards
was impossible after six). You needed a staple
gun to post anything on the bulletin boards, and of course
there were none around, and no staff people to provide
them! There were only two or three notes on the board
as a result... and those were posted by staff announcing
raffle ticket winners.
"DOES ANYONE KNOW WHAT'S SHOWING?"
were four large screening rooms for watching movies...
three of which clearly did not have schedules
posted outside their doors announcing what was going to
be shown over the course of the day. One evening we attempted
to find screening rooms 2 & 3, and
could not figure out how to get there until a fellow fan
gave us directions. That kind young woman explained that
she had found the rooms after some effort, and had since
been directing others to them since they were so difficult
to find! (one
would think this an appropriate duty for AX Staff!).
Once we reached the fourth floor area where the
rooms supposedly were... we still couldn't find them!
Instead there was a large crowd gathered around game and
dance machines, and they were making quite a racket, by
accident we peeked behind a large cloth partition enclosing
this game area... and lo and behold... there were the
doors to the screening rooms, unmarked and without any
posted schedules! We spent some time in screening room
2 watching the terrific series Petshop of Horrors,
while the din of the dance machines outside the screening
room penetrated the walls and our peace.
"BATMAN IS FROM JAPAN?" Non-anime
titles like Iron Giant and Batman Forever
were screened at AX 2001, and while we're not against
crossovers... this was afterall a convention celebrating
JAPANESE animation, was it not? What is
the point of going out of your way to attend an anime
convention only to see what you could otherwise rent from
ANY video store?
"IS THIS ANY WAY TO RUN A CONVENTION?"
have complaints abounding.... about the lack of access,
about the impossibility of access for the handicapped
or the elderly, and about the lack of AX staff
directing people to destinations (though there were plenty
of AX staff loitering about).
about literally having to walk MILES from
one area to the next... only to find that something scheduled
was NOT being held or was filled to capacity. The Long
Beach Convention Center was ENORMOUS yet we saw hundreds
of people being made to wait in line OUTSIDE the Hall
in the boiling hot sun in order to see scheduled movies.
However, the ample space inside the Hall could easily
have accommodated such a line!
written by Jeannine Thorpe and Mark Vallen - Black Moon ©.
All rights reserved.