Anime Expo 2019 maybe over, but it was an intense ride. Apparently the turnstiles saw over 350,000 people this year at AX. I am both impressed and not surprised.
It dawned on me the day before AX, that it was my 16-year attending. 16. Maybe that might be small fries to some other friends, considering Anime Expo started in 1992, but that’s 42% of my life!!!
My first Anime Expo was actually in 2003, I originally believed it to be 2001… but after some research, I realized it was 2003. An online friend of mine invited me to go with her. I had never even heard of conventions (I had heard of cosplay). It was $25 for a day pass, and I remember being HOOKED after that day.
The first year I went, I wore the worst, cheapest, Gothic Lolita outfit. It was the only one I had, and I was incredibly proud of it. I was a very poor 20-something college student with no job, completely living off my financial aid while in search of said job. I was in college to become a video game designer, because I wanted to work for Square Enix (and I did in 2018… but in Marketing! haha)
I remember taking photos with a cheap digital camera that maybe had 3.0 megapixel capability. All of it seems incredibly cringey now, but I think it was a turning point in my life.
I met future friends at that first AX. I was moving in similar circles as my future best friends IamChubbyBunny and GeekyGlamorous. I remember trying to save up every year to afford a 1-day pass to Anime Expo every year after that.
Fast forward to 2019, I’m an incredibly lucky and spoiled veteran. Over the past 10 years, I’ve been lucky enough to work in pop-culture, Anime, and geek-adjacent jobs that I’ve always been able to secure a press or industry badge. I’ve walked in fashion shows, I’ve been a part of industry parties, official livestreams, and events.
This year, I went to AX alone for the first time in years. I walked the halls alone, and almost relieved a part of my younger days. It was crowded and hot, sticky, musty, but I honestly felt like it was a bit magical.
Like so many others, I grew up being told I should hide and feel ashamed of the things I loved. I loved and still love anime. I am currently reading over 80 translated manga right now, and I religiously read up on what is happening in otaku culture.
AX was transformative. It allowed me to feel less ashamed of one of many things I loved. It encouraged me to learn how to sew (albeit poorly) and cosplay. I learned how to take great photos with limited resources, and how to edit. It gave me a wonderfully talented and creative friend group that now creates costumes, lighting, music, and edits people’s favourite shows on TV and streaming platforms.
No matter how much of a shit-show lines continue to be, or how much I bitch and moan like a jaded old weeb, AX is my home convention. And there’s something about being there that reminds me of how grateful I am to a place like AX. It gave me a place to be me.