Anime Expo 2023

The Largest Anime Convention in North America Continues To Impress
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Anime Expo was back in a big way for 2023. The largest anime event in North America attracted people from around the world and the excitement for this year’s convention was palpable. Social media was alive with posts about cosplay con-crunching, eagerness to meet guests, and hopes of getting exclusive items from the vendor hall. Admission sold out the weekend prior, leaving many people with regrets for waiting until it was too late to purchase admission.
Ticket prices for the four day event started at $145 before taxes and fees.
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Ticket prices for the four day event started at $145 before taxes and fees.

The largest anime event is also the most expensive. General admission for the four day convention started at $145 when registration became available in January and stepped up to $185 in the final month of sales. After adding in shipping and numerous fees, the lowest total cost for a four-day badge was $166. If you paid for the $185 ticket you would be in at least $206. While that’s a hefty price for an anime convention, you have to take into account what it offers.
Vendor booths feature lights, sound systems, and interactive displays.
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Vendor booths feature lights, sound systems, and interactive displays.

Anime Expo has a massive vendor hall and artist alley. If that matters to you, the ticket price might be justified. Not only do you have an incredible selection of merchandise, you get to see some impressive artists and displays and booths from the largest anime companies in the world. If you’ve only been to cons under 50k attendees then you probably have never seen these kinds of displays. They can be interactive, meaning you go inside and experience… something. A new game, a sneak peak, an interactive encounter. They can be multi-story structures, reaching to the ceiling. Lights, video walls, sound systems. They’re almost a concert-like experience.
The number and variety of guests is also a big draw. A hallmark of large conventions like Anime Expo is the ability to invite numerous international and celebrity guests. Anime Expo brings in guests from around the world including Japan and Korea. This alone is enough to bring in attendees. While fetching my badge from registration I met someone, who I’ll call “Tom”, who attends Anime Expo specifically to get autographs from Japanese guests. He’s a fan of their work, whether they’re an artist, director, or producer. He was already in line on Day 0 to get autographs. He’s met some of the guests so many times that they know him by first name. Tom doesn’t care about anything else that Anime Expo has to offer, and that’s okay. To him, it’s worth the cost of entry to meet these guests.
Rounding out the draw are staple anime convention events like panels, cosplay contests, concerts, masquerades, AMVs, and gaming. Besides the vendor and artist halls there’s a third hall which has gaming, cosplay guests, photo setups, and more. There are queues for these events also, organized under tents just outside the building. Throw in some food trucks and thousands of cosplayers and you have a complete anime convention.
Advertisements and displays fill the south hall lobby.
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Advertisements and displays fill the south hall lobby.

It’s clear that the vendor hall is the big draw of Anime Expo. When people line up for Anime Expo, they’re really lining up for the vendor hall. Queues form early in the morning and stretch around the facility. Even with multiple entrances spread around the buildings, it can take hours to get in. When the doors open, people flood inside and it's packed shoulder to shoulder. Shoppers fill up giant reusable bags with Funko Pop characters and figurines. Exclusive merch is a big deal. Sometimes you have to wait in line to get a special placeholder token just so you can return later and wait in another line to buy the actual item.
The amount of square footage dedicated for panels and other events pales in comparison to the square footage of the vendor hall and artists alley. The difference highlights the focus of Anime Expo, which is as much about the anime industry as it is the fandom. Given the size of this event, the gaming area is particularly undersized. For comparison, Otakon has perhaps one-third the number of attendees, but has at least three times as much space dedicated to gaming. Otakon also brings in just as many international guests.
Multiplying the high cost of entry by the high attendance count equates to high revenue. This convention operates on a budget that most can only dream about. This budget allows for renting the spacious Los Angeles Convention Center, flying in international and celebrity guests, and it affords a high level of professionalism in its marketing and advertising campaigns. Anime Expo is a big business and it presents itself well through its marketing materials. Take a look at its promotional videos to get a feel for the level of professionalism. They have fully animated mascots with swooping backgrounds and motion graphics. It’s above and beyond what any other convention does for its advertising.
Banners advertising anime and games cover the walls and ceilings.
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Banners advertising anime and games cover the walls and ceilings.

Additional revenue is generated through massive ads inside and outside the venue. There are banners and displays covering every surface promoting some new game or anime. The biggest banners are wrapped around the outside of the towering glass atriums of the west and south halls. This year was particularly egregious in that pretty much every surface in the south hall lobby had some kind of advertisement on it. The large concrete pillars were surrounded in displays. There was a video wall and fully decorated displays for bilibili and a mobile fighting game. The latter even hired celebrity cosplayers to portray the characters.
The feel of Anime Expo is certainly more corporate than most conventions. It’s clear that this event relishes in being in the upper echelons of conventions, anime or otherwise. There’s no pretense of being a grassroots organization. There’s no heartfelt “by fans, for fans” motto. This convention has full time staff with salaries. It has influence in the anime industry and beyond. It has a large financial impact on the region. This is the reason why people either love it or hate it. It can be too big and overwhelming to enjoy. Too soulless. The overcrowding is enough to keep some people away, and yet it still sells out every year.

In Summary

Anime Expo is the weeb event of the year. A bucket list item which people want to experience at least once. It's the place where people want to be seen. Cosplayers strut and pose, hungry for attention. Photographers and attendees alike are eager to give it to them. It’s a strange mix of casual con-goers, influencers, industry professionals, and celebrities. It’s loud, crowded, sometimes crazy, and just plain fun. It’s worth attending once just to see if you enjoy it. Maybe you will or maybe you won’t, but at least you can say you’ve been to the largest anime convention in North America. Cross it off your bucket list and move on to the next one.

Cosplay

There is certainly no shortage of cosplay at Anime Expo. Pretty much everywhere you look, there's someone in cosplay. It's the place where everyone wants to see and be seen. Get your camera ready because you'll see all kinds of cosplays, from anime to comics to movies and TV series. When the main lobby gets crowded, the cosplay moves outside near the parking garage. It's not the most glamorous shooting location, but at least has variety and space to shoot. Thanks to everyone I met and shot with at AX!
@kiyana.kxtten Misa Amane from Death Note
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@kiyana.kxtten Misa Amane from Death Note

@_jaegerb_ Camie from My Hero Academia
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@_jaegerb_ Camie from My Hero Academia

@arabella.kat Yuzuhira from Hell's Paradise
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@arabella.kat Yuzuhira from Hell's Paradise

@bananaberrybb Lucy from Cyberpunk: Edgerunners
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@bananaberrybb Lucy from Cyberpunk: Edgerunners

@_linzzbinz_ Rebecca from Cyberpunk: Edgerunners
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@_linzzbinz_ Rebecca from Cyberpunk: Edgerunners

@i.cozplay Satsuki Kiryuin from Kill la Kill
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@i.cozplay Satsuki Kiryuin from Kill la Kill

@blodvydawn Makima from Chainsaw Man
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@blodvydawn Makima from Chainsaw Man

@kryraynecosplay Shea Haulia from Arifureta
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@kryraynecosplay Shea Haulia from Arifureta

2B brides from NieR:Automata
@luckylai
@myaneki_
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2B brides from NieR:Automata @luckylai @myaneki_

@krissyvictoryy Ryuko Matoi from Kill la Kill
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@krissyvictoryy Ryuko Matoi from Kill la Kill

@hannahjoslyn Juliet Starling from Lollipop Chainsaw
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@hannahjoslyn Juliet Starling from Lollipop Chainsaw

@iamgoddesshalle Ryuko Matoi from Kill la Kill
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@iamgoddesshalle Ryuko Matoi from Kill la Kill

@darkreiofficial Makima from Chainsaw Man
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@darkreiofficial Makima from Chainsaw Man

@polewaifu__ Makima from Chainsaw Man
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@polewaifu__ Makima from Chainsaw Man

@suteroozu Rebecca from Cyberpunk: Edgerunners
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@suteroozu Rebecca from Cyberpunk: Edgerunners

@svenny_boi Ghost from Call of Duty
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@svenny_boi Ghost from Call of Duty

@whoachriswhoa Spider-Punk
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@whoachriswhoa Spider-Punk

@amanda.toast Spider-Punk
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@amanda.toast Spider-Punk

@adonyaaan Mash Kyrielight from Fate/Grand Order
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@adonyaaan Mash Kyrielight from Fate/Grand Order

@djharuharuka Makima from Chainsaw Man
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@djharuharuka Makima from Chainsaw Man

@arabella.kat 2B from NieR:Automata
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@arabella.kat 2B from NieR:Automata

@2dmimi Mid transformation Sailor Moon
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@2dmimi Mid transformation Sailor Moon

@cassalanaaBooette
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@cassalanaaBooette

@venusiangrl Nel from Bleach
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@venusiangrl Nel from Bleach

@selestia_cosplay Mihara from Nikke Goddess of Victory
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@selestia_cosplay Mihara from Nikke Goddess of Victory

@goobsarts Implacable from Azur Lane
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@goobsarts Implacable from Azur Lane

JoJo's Bizarre Adventure
@michaelmartelart Bruno Bucciarati
@sollycos Giorno
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JoJo's Bizarre Adventure @michaelmartelart Bruno Bucciarati @sollycos Giorno

@luximity Raiden Mei from Honkai Impact
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@luximity Raiden Mei from Honkai Impact

@petra.fyed Vinsmoke Reiju from One Piece
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@petra.fyed Vinsmoke Reiju from One Piece

@elainedrawz Shizuku Murasaki from Hunter x Hunter
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@elainedrawz Shizuku Murasaki from Hunter x Hunter

@hartlessdesigns Blair from Soul Eater
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@hartlessdesigns Blair from Soul Eater

@sagdragon1 Shuten-douji from Fate/Grand Order
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@sagdragon1 Shuten-douji from Fate/Grand Order

@babybatbxtch Yumemi from Kakegurui
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@babybatbxtch Yumemi from Kakegurui

@cosplay_lana Alice from Nikke Goddess of Victory
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@cosplay_lana Alice from Nikke Goddess of Victory

@kawaiiqueen Mordred from Fate/Grand Order
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@kawaiiqueen Mordred from Fate/Grand Order

@smilecosplayjamie Raphtalia from Rising of the Shield Hero
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@smilecosplayjamie Raphtalia from Rising of the Shield Hero

@amanda.toast Star Guardian Lux from League of Legends
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@amanda.toast Star Guardian Lux from League of Legends

@daniella.claire.cosplay Dark Magician Girl from Yu-Gi-Oh!
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@daniella.claire.cosplay Dark Magician Girl from Yu-Gi-Oh!

Genshin Impact
@pipcosplays Gorou
@aphoraa Kokomi
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Genshin Impact @pipcosplays Gorou @aphoraa Kokomi

@ashotofsam Bowsette
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@ashotofsam Bowsette

@backslash_alex Bewitching Janna from League of Legends
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@backslash_alex Bewitching Janna from League of Legends

Berserk
@diamondiscrash Guts
@teeth.creaks Griffith
Serpico
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Berserk @diamondiscrash Guts @teeth.creaks Griffith Serpico

@bukkitbrown Korok from The Legend of Zelda
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@bukkitbrown Korok from The Legend of Zelda

@todopokiecos Sonic the Hedgehog
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@todopokiecos Sonic the Hedgehog

@hannahjoslyn Battle Peach
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@hannahjoslyn Battle Peach

VTubers
@petra.fyed Sakamata Chloe
@himehaki La+ Darkness
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VTubers @petra.fyed Sakamata Chloe @himehaki La+ Darkness

@hoshimedley Racing Marin from My Dress-up Darling
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@hoshimedley Racing Marin from My Dress-up Darling

@jordanjcosplay Tinker Bell
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@jordanjcosplay Tinker Bell

@k8tesarkissian Riku from Final Fantasy
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@k8tesarkissian Riku from Final Fantasy

@jessicanigri Korok from The Legend of Zelda
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@jessicanigri Korok from The Legend of Zelda

@lollipopheidi13 Aqua from Konosuba
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@lollipopheidi13 Aqua from Konosuba

@maesketchbooks Diane from Seven Deadly Sins
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@maesketchbooks Diane from Seven Deadly Sins

@coreytonge Mario
@shae.cosplay Bowsette
@oxdessyxo Princess Peach
@loosh.cos Chompette
@itsmekenziie Toad
@cassalanaa Booette
@__ksweezy__ Shy Guy
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@coreytonge Mario @shae.cosplay Bowsette @oxdessyxo Princess Peach @loosh.cos Chompette @itsmekenziie Toad @cassalanaa Booette @__ksweezy__ Shy Guy

@oxdessyxo Princess Peach
@loosh.cos Chompette
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@oxdessyxo Princess Peach @loosh.cos Chompette

@varsenex Princess Daisy
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@varsenex Princess Daisy

@darkreiofficial Self destruct 2B from NieR:Automata
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@darkreiofficial Self destruct 2B from NieR:Automata

@arabella.kat Scáthach from Fate/Grand Order
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@arabella.kat Scáthach from Fate/Grand Order

@smilecosplayjamie Bride Jinx from League of Legends
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@smilecosplayjamie Bride Jinx from League of Legends

@diane.nier Nel from Bleach
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@diane.nier Nel from Bleach

@giselleium Yor from Spy x Family
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@giselleium Yor from Spy x Family

@themorganjo Agent 8 from Splatoon 2
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@themorganjo Agent 8 from Splatoon 2

NieR:Automata
@jaezmaru 9S
@todopokiecos 2B
@peach.niko A2
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NieR:Automata @jaezmaru 9S @todopokiecos 2B @peach.niko A2

@thegirlwithagreatsmile Gundam Epyon
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@bineappleslayer Poppy original character
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@bineappleslayer Poppy original character

@camislyce Bo-Katan Kryze from Clone Wars animated series
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@camislyce Bo-Katan Kryze from Clone Wars animated series

@amanda.toast Jinx from League of Legends
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@amanda.toast Jinx from League of Legends

@oharucosplay Shimakaze from KanColle
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@oharucosplay Shimakaze from KanColle

Kill la Kill
@nikkimoxxi Satsuki Kiryuin
@backslash_alex Ryuko Matoi
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Kill la Kill @nikkimoxxi Satsuki Kiryuin @backslash_alex Ryuko Matoi

@sugarvail_ Stocking from Panty and Stocking
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@sugarvail_ Stocking from Panty and Stocking

@khainsaw Ronald McDonald
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@khainsaw Ronald McDonald

@i.cozplay Ronald McDonald
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@i.cozplay Ronald McDonald

Soul Eater
@petra.fyed Liz
@pressftocosplay Death the Kid
@himehaki Patty
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Soul Eater @petra.fyed Liz @pressftocosplay Death the Kid @himehaki Patty

Code Geass
@jordanjcosplay Kallen
@cretin.cosplay Euphemia
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Code Geass @jordanjcosplay Kallen @cretin.cosplay Euphemia

@krissyvictoryy Lum Invader from Urusai Yatsuri
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@krissyvictoryy Lum Invader from Urusai Yatsuri

@maesketchbooks Tony Tony Chopper from One Piece
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@maesketchbooks Tony Tony Chopper from One Piece

@petitekitti Super Sonico Gloomy Bear
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@petitekitti Super Sonico Gloomy Bear

@khainsaw Jolteon from Pokémon
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@khainsaw Jolteon from Pokémon

@evettesniche Biblically accurate angel
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@evettesniche Biblically accurate angel

@goobsarts Marie Rose from Dead or Alive
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@goobsarts Marie Rose from Dead or Alive

@nnymphia Madoka from Madoka Magica
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@nnymphia Madoka from Madoka Magica

@_linzzbinz_ Cammy from Street Fighter
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@_linzzbinz_ Cammy from Street Fighter

@babygoth Tsunade from Naruto
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@babygoth Tsunade from Naruto

@armanidphotography Saitama from One Punch Man
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@armanidphotography Saitama from One Punch Man

@squidkid1111 Nico Robin from One Piece
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@squidkid1111 Nico Robin from One Piece

@sugarvail_ Nico Robin from One Piece
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@sugarvail_ Nico Robin from One Piece

@thegirlwithagreatsmile Kitana x Sub Zero from Mortal Kombat
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@thegirlwithagreatsmile Kitana x Sub Zero from Mortal Kombat

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