Japan Expo is a major convention that takes place annually in Paris. As of last year, it had record attendance of 208,000 people and recently, they hoped to expand to the United States. So for the first ever Japan Expo USA, they opted to start at Santa Clara Convention Center, the previous home of Fanime, the largest Anime convention in Northern California. With an impressive amount of guests, large buzz and excitement, Japan Expo USA had all the makings for a great new convention. Although they did run into a little snafu in the beginning, they listened to their attendees and changed the policy from no in-and-out privileges. Turns out, this is standard for conventions in Europe due to the huge amount of attendees.
Bui: With so much buzz, all of us at Cosplay Photographers were looking forward to this brand new convention. A number of photographers were in attendance: BigWhiteBazooka, Hkophoto Cosplay Photography, and JWaiDesign Photography as well as our fellow Cosplay Videographer Mamuro5254. In my own experience, I found Japan Expo to be a refreshing con. Friday, the first day, was slow. Groups of people occasionally came through to purchase badges but a number of people had already pre-registered. I do have to say, the way registration was done was quite interesting. For starters, unlike other conventions, without a badge, you couldn’t enter the convention center at all. Whereas, other conventions would at least allow you inside the public area of the convention center, but require a badge for entry into the dealer rooms, panel rooms, and etc. For those with a Premium Registration membership, however, entry and exit were less problematic with the special Japan Expo wristband. Con-goers with those special wristbands were allowed to enter and leave as they pleased with the flash of their wristband rather than to be subjected to constant QR code scanning of their purchased badges.
Airyo: Japan Expo, having started its new journey in new territory, I felt that for it’s first time in America that they did a pretty good job. Although there were previous problems in regards to online schedules, online registration and entry/leave, it still ran rather smoothly. Registration pick-up was fast and easy (moreso if you were a Premium Registration attendee like me!) and customer service was rather helpful if you had any questions or problems. As Bui mentioned, Friday was relatively slow, but allowed for early attendees like CLOVER and I to scout out the area for places of interest such as the Main Stage where the concerts were being held, the Cosplay Stage for the main cosplay gatherings, Autograph rooms, and panels! Saturday and Sunday were the days that were the most jam-packed with events. Fans of the Ace Attorney series were certainly in for a treat as Noriyuki Iwadare, the composer for the third installment of the Phoenix Wright series, Kid Icarus: Uprising, and Lunar, and Tatsuro Iwamoto, the Ace Attorney art director were present. There were so many other amazing guests at the convention who showed such amazing talent, it was wonderful to see.
Concerts & Panels
Airyo: Besides being a cosplayer, I am a huge video game fan. That being said, there was no way I wanted to miss out on the panels of Mr. Iwadare, Mr. Iwamoto, and Yusuke Kozaki, who is known for his character designs in titles such as “Speed Grapher,” “No More Heroes” and recently “Fire Emblem: Awakening.” As such, I attended mostly events that revolved around them.
On Friday evening, the Pheonix Wright Gathering was held in the Main Stage where the musical guests were mainly performing. But before Mr. Iwadare and Mr. Iwamoto appeared, the group known as Gamushara Ouendan came and rallied everyone in positively energetic spirits. Their inspirational songs and enthusiastic cheers expressed feelings of living with your regrets as a lesson in life to make you a stronger person, and that life is ultimately worth living for. Everyone present was jumping along, fired up in a craze just like the performers, that their energy carried on even after the Ouendan’s performance. Shortly after, Mr. Iwamoto and Mr. Iwadare appeared with their translators for the Conference. It was set up as a Q&A, where a questioning volunteer would stand in front of the mic before the stage and ask one of (if not both) of the guests various questions such as their inspirations, thoughts on the live action Ace Attorney movie, among many other things. Even Mr. Kozaki made a surprise appearance to ask a question, making for a interesting atmosphere.
On Saturday, I attended the “Yusuke Kozaki vs. Felipe Smith Drawing Battle,” where Mr. Smith, American author of his manga series, “PEEPO CHOO,” which was published in Japan, and Mr. Kozaki drew volunteering fan’s requests competitively. Requests included drawing portraits of each other, what they defined as “super cute,” and their “opponent’s” mascot. It was nothing short of entertaining as Mr. Smith always took a whimsical and comical take on every request, and Mr. Kozaki always included a picture of his mascot, “Do-nyatsu,” a donut cat. After that panel, I attended the last segment of 1000say‘s concert, where their intense and catchy, electronic pop-rock music permeated throughout the Stage. Not too long after their performance, Mr. Iwadare appeared with his band, and played songs previously voted on Japan Expo’s website poll, including songs from Grandia, Lunar and Ace Attorney.
Sunday morning, CLOVER and I went to watch the second and last of the Iwadare Band Showcase, in hopes of hearing new songs that Mr. Iwadare would play. He played mostly the same songs as the previous performance, with more focus on music from the Lunar series.
Bui: There weren’t too many favorable shooting locations around the Santa Clara Convention Center. Inside the convention center, there wasn’t much either but there were some workable spots on the second floor. Given it wasn’t crowded, that made doing shoots easier. Personally, I didn’t find many good areas to shoot in at the convention center.
Yet for those who ventured out to the Hyatt Regency Santa Clara, would find a gorgeous hotel with much more shooting potential. Features included lots of beautiful fixtures and lighting, including a beautiful, large pool that lit up at night.
From our personal experience, as well as speaking to a number of the attendees, it seemed that most people had fun. Using Japan Expo as a chance to see their friends, a number of people we spoke to found it a bit strange that the convention closed so early and promptly at 7 PM all three days. While it was not an issue with the convention closing at 7 PM, attendees were ushered out of the con center made the experience jarring. Will we be back next year? Maybe. We do hope attendance does go up.