Anime Expo 2011: The Year of the Fan Hits its Mark
By Ko Ransom
This year’s Anime Expo, held from July 1 to 4, was dubbed “the year of the fan” in celebration of the event’s 20th anniversary, a fitting subtitle for the convention which drew more fans than ever while continuing to support and be supported by the shifting and recovering Japanese content industry in North America.
While sudden changes in management, rival simultaneous events, and of course the disasters in East Japan may have caused some to be apprehensive about how this year’s Anime Expo would turn out, satisfaction with the quality of the event was the general mood among the record-breaking 47,000+ attendees (125,000+ turnstile).
■ The Vibrant Exhibitor’s Hall: a Positive Sign for the Industry?
The entrance of this year’s exhibitor’s hall provided a good visualization of the current state of the American anime industry, as booths from Funimation and NIS America, as well as a combined Bandai Entertainment/Aniplex booth were front and center.
Though Funimation was actively promoting a number of properties, Last Exile -Fam, The Silver Wing-, with its world premiere event and many staff in attendance, was surely the most memorable Funimation title for many attendees.
With fan-favorite voice actress Miyuki Sawashiro at the convention, NIS America’s big title for the event was Arakawa Under the Bridge, while Bandai’s promotion of K-On! featured an energetic live concert with the American voice cast.
As mentioned earlier, Bandai shared their space with Aniplex USA titles, including what could have been the highest-profile license of convention, Madoka Magica, though many fans seemed unsurprised by the announcement.
Crunchyroll’s large stage flanked these displays on one side, while beyond them, deeper into the exhibitor’s hall, was Media Blasters as well as Sentai Filmworks, which focused its marketing efforts on its popular High School of the Dead release, as well as its newly-released Angel Beats!
Anime Expo also marked the further diversification of the English-language anime streaming and simulcasting field, as Niconico’s appearance at Anime Expo coincided with their announcement that they would simulcast six titles from the summer 2011 season.
Between their liberally-distributed and widely-worn shirts as well as their large live streaming booth, Niconico’s presence was certainly apparent at Anime Expo, as was their intention to make a strong impact in international markets.
Additionally, while San Diego Comic-Con is only a few weeks away, Viz Media certainly did not skip over Anime Expo, their most conspicuous activities at the event being their promotion of their iPhone application as well as their continued diversification through franchises with crossover potential such as Mameshiba and Professor Layton.
The exhibitor’s hall was vibrant beyond the front line of booths, as well. While there has now been an official announcement that attendance at the event was at its highest levels ever, it was not a stretch to guess that this was the case with just a look around the bustling room.
Across the entire hall, pleased vendors happily reported increased sales from last year, with some stating that in terms of sales, this year was the best Anime Expo they had ever participated in, going so far as to reduce their presence at other concurrent events in order to more adequately meet demand.
While it would be hard to draw conclusions about the state of the core North American market for Japanese content based on one weekend alone, the mood among vendors was certainly far from grim.