Anime Los Angeles 2020
A popular Southern California anime convention
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This article might seem a bit late since this convention was nearly a year ago, but I'm going to share my experience at Animé Los Angeles 2020 any way. I began this series of convention reviews over a year ago and I plan to continue writing reviews once conventions start back up. Animé Los Angeles (ALA for short) was my first of just two conventions for 2020 due to the pandemic. The other convention was Katsucon, which I'll write about in a separate article. This isn't surprising to anyone after the dumpster fire year that is 2020. With a couple of vaccines ready for distribution, we can only hope that some conventions will be operational in 2021.
ALA history shows that it has been held at no less than four locations in and around LA since it started in 2005. The 2020 convention was held at the Ontario Convention Center, which is quite a distance away from Los Angeles. This pattern of changing locations continues on because the 2022 convention will be held at the Long Beach Convention Center. The 2021 convention has been cancelled since it is consistently held in January. I will forgive them for their name not matching the actual location since I understand the complexities of holding events. It's a challenge to find a location with the right combination of size, location, cost, and function. Besides, it's the event that makes the name and not the other way around.
The Ontario Convention Center is clean, bright, and easy to navigate. While not necessarily outdated, it was due for a refresh. There was evidence of remodeling work during the convention, but nothing that really interfered with the event. The building has two floors with easy access by stairs and elevators at both ends. Entry is controlled by security staff and there was a bag check. It was no big deal and the staff seemed to have no problem with cosplay props and bags. I came through with a suitcase full of camera lighting gear with no issues. The bag check and queue area were covered by a large semi-permanent tent. The queue moved reasonably quickly, but did get a little long during the peak times of the day. It made sense to arrive early and try to stay inside unless you absolutely needed to leave. This was made easier by the presence of food trucks.
I'm a real sucker for food trucks. This usually means unique food items that are reasonably priced which you can sample throughout the weekend. ALA had at least three food trucks every day and they were very popular. They are parked right next to this great outdoor space with lots of sunlight. It's the obvious place for everyone to gather to take photos and video of cosplayers and the typical sunny California weather didn't disappoint. It was freezing and snowy back home, but 70s and sunshine down in LA. It sure beats Katsucon in February where it has been known to snow.
The Ontario Convention Center is certainly on the smaller side of things as convention centers go. I'm sure that played into the decision to move to the Long Beach Convention Center for 2022. It never felt super crowded like Katsucon or some other cons, but ALA had to supplement panel rooms by using the neighboring DoubleTree hotel. In fact, some of the more entertaining late night panels were in the hotel, perhaps to avoid issues with convention center policies? I respect a convention that has the courage and maturity to host something like Cosplay Deviants or known porn stars. I don't think that was the specific group present, but it was something like that. After all, anime definitely has it's risqué elements. You can be family friendly, but still offer adult entertainment. Holiday Matsuri knows how to do this as well. The surrounding area is all commercial, with plenty of sit-down restaurants, fast food joints, and convenience stores. They aren't right next to the convention center, but aren't more than 10-15 minutes away by foot. I attended a photographer meetup at the nearby Denny's with no less than 10 people. Try doing that at a restaurant near Katsucon. I don't mean to keep bashing Katsucon, it's just that it's the last convention I attended and is different is so many ways. Look for my Katsucon review once it goes live.
Flying into the Ontario airport was the best choice. LAX is a good hour drive away and that would have meant a rental car or a very expensive Uber ride. The convention center was literally a block or two from the airport and surrounded by a number of hotels. They were all within walking distance and reasonably priced. I once again stayed with complete strangers I met on the ALA Facebook Group. I think this was my third time and I have had no problems yet (fingers crossed 🤞). I stayed at the Holiday Inn, which was quiet and had a good, affordable $9 breakfast buffet. It's safe to say that most of the attendees are locals, or at least are from the greater LA area. I met a number of photographers and cosplayers that I've seen online. There is definitely a California contingency that doesn't necessarily travel to the Midwest or East Coast cons. That's no insult. California is a massive state with enough conventions to hold its own. Why travel far from home when some of the biggest and best events are at your doorstep. I didn't need to drive or rent a car, so I don't know how the parking situation was. There is definitely a parking lot for the convention center, but it looked like it filled up pretty quickly. I'm not sure how the overflow parking was either. I have a feeling it gets a little tricky trying to park, but it can't be any worse than it is for Anime Expo.
I'd like to give special mention to the main events room and the AMV event. The production quality in general was very good with professional lighting and audio systems. The AMV event was among the best I've ever seen. The videos were organized into sections and each section had an intro video that was very well produced. The selection of AMVs was also very good. Whoever is in charge of this event certainly knows what they are doing.
This is actually one of the more affordable conventions for me. This is mostly because it's not as far as the Midwest and East Coast cons. I could have saved $100 if I bought my plane ticket a few days earlier, but I didn't even know I was going until late December! I'm a little surprised to see that meals cost more than the hotel. You have to remember that this is a four day con, so that's one extra day of eats. The hotel was affordable since it's just a simple Holiday Inn and I split it with some roommates.
California has a lot of cosplayers, including some of the most popular cosplayers in the USA. Even for a relatively small event like ALA (10-15k attendees), it draws a lot of great cosplayers. I was fortunate to meet some very friendly photographers who introduced me to their cosplayer friends. In fact, meeting the photographers was one of the highlights of my visit. Without that experience I probably wouldn't have enjoyed the convention so much. Thanks to all of the cosplayers and photographers I met!