Anime Los Angeles 2022
Fun in the California sun (and fog?)
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Animé Los Angeles is an anime and Japanese culture convention currently based in Long Beach, California. After taking a break in 2021 due to COVID, it returned in fine form for 2022. Attendance was good and the weather wasn't too bad either. So how did this year's convention stack up to the 2020 con?
Table of Contents
A Change of Venue
Anime Los Angeles, or ALA, was previously held at the Ontario Convention Center in 2020. Ontario is quite a bit further inland so it's warmer and sunnier than Long Beach. Long Beach is situated right along the coast and that comes with the coastal fog and overcast skies. Still, when the sun broke through it was nice and warm. January in much of America is cold and snowy, so it's a nice change for anyone flying in from out of state. Although neither Long Beach nor Ontario are technically in Los Angeles, the name of the convention is still appropriate since it did officially begin in Los Angeles. Conventions often move around to different venues as they grow and change. As I mentioned in my article about the 2020 event, the convention is somewhat nomadic. I suppose it had grown a little too large for the Ontario location and the next best place was the Long Beach Convention Center. The move is welcome since the new location is quite nice.
The Long Beach Convention Center is nestled in a retail shopping and dining destination, so there are plenty of places to eat and stay. There are regional attractions such as the historic Queen Mary ocean liner and the Aquarium of the Pacific, as well as the usual beach and water activities. All of these things are within walking distance of the convention center.
Along the exterior of the convention center is a long boardwalk that's great for hanging out and taking photos. There were food trucks lined up feeding hungry attendees all weekend as well as a pop-up COVID testing site. The interior of the convention center is well lit thanks to an end-to-end glass wall and light wall colors. Nearby is a really neat pathway called the Rainbow Bridge which has some nice landscaping and sweeping LED lights. Adjacent to the convention center is the Hyatt Regency hotel which offered discounted rates as part of the convention's room block.
While not as large as the Los Angeles Convention Center, the Long Beach venue is plenty large enough for the current size of ALA. There was space to walk around without feeling too crowded and the large exhibit room had a lot of open floor space. I can imagine ALA moving to another venue as it continues to grow, but for now it's right-sized. The vendor hall and artist alley occupied one of the larger exhibit halls. It had a good number of booths with your average fare of anime merchandise. The adjacent exhibit hall had table top and e-gaming, a small concert stage, and anime themed Itasha cars.
What Stands Out?
If you attend a lot of anime conventions you probably can list the events and activities that they all have in common. Panels, contests, concerts, a vendor hall and artist alley, gaming, etc. They can all start to blend together. Sometimes the only things that set them apart are the venue and cosplayers. Having attended anime conventions since 2008, I've learned that those are exactly the things that stand out to me. If you think about well-loved and well-attended conventions like Katsucon, you immediately think about the Gaylord National and all of the amazing cosplayers you saw there. For Dragon Con it's the Marriott Marquis and the crazy mashup cosplays. A convention like Anime Los Angeles doesn't quite have that distinction since it moves around to different venues. The Long Beach Convention Center is nice, but I only shot inside at carefully selected locations and used additional lighting. The boardwalk and Rainbow Bridge locations were my preferred shooting locations. The convention center is positioned so that the setting sun falls on the entire boardwalk side of the building, allowing for beautiful golden hour shots. Since I wasn't acting as press in an official manner for ALA I don't feel too bad for not checking out any of the panels or events. A quick glance at the nicely produced booklet shows events like an idol showcase, formal ball, AMV Contest, fashion show, Kpop battle, and Cosplay Deviants. The AMV contest stood out when I watched it at the 2020 event, but I didn't think to watch it this time. If there's one thing that stands out about ALA it's the ribbon game. This is one of a few of conventions where people make a concerted effort to design ribbons that are shared in various ways. Sometimes you have to play a game or answer a question to get one. Most of the time you have to randomly ask someone if they have a ribbon to give out because they don't just advertise it. That's part of the game. If you get a ribbon you attach it to your badge with the pre-applied double stick tape. I've seen trains of ribbons grow to great lengths by avid collectors.
ALA has a whole system around the ribbon game including a Ribbon Station where you can earn, repair, and even create ribbons on the spot. By participating in daily ribbon activities you can earn a special achievement ribbon as a reward.
All around the convention center were poster sized photos of cosplayers. This was a program put together by ALA to offer cosplayers and photographers a chance to show off their work. This was a nice gesture and it really did decorate the convention center in a nice way. More information about this program can be found here. Aside from these special programs, ALA carries good memories for me. I've met many photographers at this particular convention and that's one of the best things about it - the opportunity to meet people with common interests. I'm sure you've also made friends at conventions like this and have memories that will last forever.
Effects of the Bug
You could say that Anime Los Angeles faired the pandemic relatively well. Since it's held in January the 2020 event happened without any issues. I distinctly remember that there wasn't even a hint of concern about COVID at that time. Just two months later we would enter fear mode and go into shutdown. There was no ALA in January of 2021. It's interesting to look back at the timeline of events to see how the situation around COVID was constantly changing. I was able to attend six convention in 2021, starting with ColossalCon in June. At that time things were starting to go back to normal. Mask requirements were dropping and we thought that perhaps we were coming out of the pandemic. By August masks were required again and the Omicron variant was starting to show up. I attended conventions through the fall and into December without any issues. Had ALA been held later in 2021 and if it wasn't in California, perhaps it wouldn't have missed a year. Missing one year isn't that bad though. Events like Sakura-Con in Seattle have missed two years.
For the 2022 event ALA required masks and vaccines or a negative test within 72 hours. This was common for events at that time since the Omicron variant was so contagious and some people were very afraid of contracting COVID. The City of Los Angeles had in place a vaccine passport mandate which meant you couldn't eat at a restaurant unless you were vaccinated. Thankfully that wasn't the case in Long Beach. Attendees complied with wearing masks while indoors and many even wore them outdoors. Here we are just a few months later and mask mandates are dropping once again. The Omicron variant is still contagious, but it's not as deadly as other variants and case numbers are dropping. While I'm hopeful we will finally move back to normal, I know that things could still go sideways. I thought this same thing in June of 2020 and look what happened.
Getting There and Cost
If you are from the greater LA area the cost to attend Anime Los Angeles is minimal. It's just the price of registration, gas to drive there (public transit is also an option), parking, food, and whatever you feel like spending in the vendor hall and artist alley. You can easily attend for under $200 and maybe even under $100 if you're very frugal. If you are traveling from further away you're in luck. There are many airports in the region including LAX and the nearby Long Beach airport (LGB). Flights are plentiful and generally affordable. Hotels aren't too expensive and you have plenty of choices for food. If you're on the fence about going, consider what else there is to do in January 😄🥶. The warm-ish weather is enough of a reason to attend. My cost to attend was on par with or slightly more expensive than other conventions that I attend. As with most things these days, inflation is making it more expensive to attend conventions. I split a room with some fellow photographers and found some decently priced flights. I did spend a bit more for meals with friends, but that's money well spent. Keep in mind that this is a four day convention.
Anime Los Angeles draws a lot of great cosplayers. The West coast crowd is a little different than in other parts of the country. I see people at this convention who I don't see at cons in the midwest or eastern US. At the current size of ALA, I found it easy to have casual conversations and take the time to walk to a shooting location. There was plenty of space to shoot, especially on Thursday, Friday, and Sunday when attendance was lower. Thanks to everyone who took the time to shoot with me.