Whether you grew up watching “Naruto” or like to binge “Neon Genesis Evangelion” on Netflix, you’ll know the world of anime opens the door to far more of Japanese pop culture than just TV. From July 4 to July 7, Anime Expo is expected to attract 110,000 fans to the Los Angeles Convention Center, showcasing everything from cosplays and AMVs to soundtrack composers and manga authors.
It’s going to be a chaotic four days of hustle and bustle, so to help you out, we’ve prepared 10 tips that’ll help you skip the lines and get right to your favorite vendor’s booth in Artist Alley.
1. Get Autograph Tickets In Advance
Anime Expo has invited a myriad of industry professionals who will be offering autographs—some free, and some for purchase. But you can’t just hop in any line to grab a signature. You’ll need to check the ticket distribution info for each guest, particularly the popular Guests of Honor, like Ouran High School Host Club creator Bisco Hatori. These individuals will have stricter time limits and rules.
2. Check Out Original Art At The Annex And Artist Alley
Artist Alley, which allows creatives to show off and sell their work, has become extremely popular at most conventions, so expect heavy foot traffic. Although you should allow some time for exploration, create a route to your favorite artists to maximize on time. Right next door at the Annex, artists Shinnosuke Uchida and Jared Yamahata will be creating large-scale art that’ll make for awesome photo ops.
3. Prepare For Long Lines Outside And Inside
For this type of event, it’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to safety and comfort, so prepare a bag of essentials. Bring sunscreen, a hat and water to protect you from the beating rays while you line up outside the L.A. Convention Center (here’s to hoping we don’t have to go through a Line From Hell like 2017). You may end up waiting for hours for popular panels, so preoccupy yourself with your Wii U’s and Switches—and never forget the portable chargers at home.
4. Hang Out At The Maid And Butler Cafes
Unfortunately they won’t serve food at these cafes, but you can still taste a bit of Akihabara culture through the interactive experience. While you relax and chat with friends, the maids or butlers may suddenly break into a choreographed dance or begin playing cards with you. There are also after-dark, 18+ editions of the cafes, which will woo you with even more captivating performances. As Renge-kun from “Ouran” would shout, “Moe!” Get tickets for the Maid Cafe or Butler Cafe online.
5. Consider All The Food Options Before You Go
Whatever your priorities are, whether it’s staying on budget or seeing the most panels, you’ll want to study all the courses of action for meals. Anime Expo will have food trucks serving a variety of cuisines, but by the time you’re hungry, lines will likely already be snaking through the Convention Center South Hall. If you’re not willing to wait, you could bring your own food to eat, and if you want to explore, you could try local eats like El Parian and the Original Pantry Cafe.
6. Watch dramatic cosplay performances with your favorite characters.
Running for over 25 years, the Masquerade is a must-see. It combines two of the greatest creative elements of the community, cosplay and performance, in a grand competition of kawaii and glamour. Even if you’ve never been, you may have seen a performance—The Try Guys competed as different Sailor Moon characters in 2015. Get tickets online before they sell out.
7. Follow Your Favorite Exhibitors On Social For Updates And Giveaways
Conventions are a great time to nab free or discounted merchandise, and even better, exclusive items that you can’t get anywhere else. Companies often advertise giveaways on their social media, so make sure to follow their pages for your best shot at loading up. Be sure to check out the full list of exhibitors to see where they’re at.
8. Hear The Soundtracks From Tiger & Bunny And Shadowverse Live
This isn’t your run-of-the-mill con panel—Anime Expo is bringing Japanese composer Yoshihiro Ike overseas for an international debut performance. Directing a 50-person orchestra, Ike will put you back in the worlds of Sternbild City and Sengoku-period Japan. The tickets range from 20 to 45 dollars—not bad for one of Japan’s most recognized composers.
9. Escape The Chaos By Taking The Free Shuttle To Little Tokyo
As much as you’ve been anticipating these four eventful days with ill-contained excitement, you may find you want to escape the claustrophobic convention center for some L.A. exploration. Get back to nature at Kyoto Gardens, or try traditional mochi from Fugetsu-Do. The free shuttle will run from July 4 to 6 between 12pm to 8pm.
10. Plan In Advance… And Have Fun!
There are literally hundreds of programs and activities you can check out at Anime Expo, so carefully look through the schedule and customize a plan for yourself—with backups. Generally get to know the space and download maps, so you can lead your directionally-challenged friends and avoid issues with erratic phone service. You can even get the convention’s app for information and updates. Most of all, however, accept that there will be mishaps and detours. Just go with the flow, and enjoy Anime Expo!