It was our first ever American convention. Sure, we did the program guide cover art and a bunch of other artworks for them in 2016.
However, this year, 2017 was when we took the chance to visit Anime Expo for ourselves.
Boy was it an experience.
We’ve heard so many things about AX before. It was the biggest North American convention ever. The artist alley is packed with talented artists. It boasts plenty of special guests every year. We just have to experience it for ourselves.
Plus, I figured that we better visit California before Calexit happens.
The original team to head down was Komicer, Baz and JUN. However, JUN had to fall sick just days before the flight. So he will have to stay in Singapore and keep drawing his #JUNSunday.
The flight from Singapore to LAX is an approximate 20 hours of flight/torture. After which you exit into the summer cold of California. Yes, what we expect of summer is a lie. The results were that of a pathetic Singaporean standing in the chilly LA SUMMER wind in shorts feeling slightly sorry for himself.
Since we arrived in LA on AX Day -1, we took a detour to visit Universal Studios. Cue holiday music.
At the same time, we couldn’t miss the fact that the city is decked out in anime wear.
“Every year when AX rolls into LA, otakus take over the city,”
a friend of ours from SPJA sagely said. (While commenting that the weather is cold at night because LA is a desert.)
As the anime artist studio contracted to do much of the artworks on display, it is a particularly proud moment for us.
So it is time for Anime Expo! First things first, it’s quite cool to get a pass of our own artwork in USA. It will be something we boast to almost everyone during the convention.
The booth features the bunker setup that we first tested out during Doujima. It was a ‘fun’ experience trying to transport it from Singapore to USA. We used a golf bag to bring it over, pipes and all.
Watching how the other booths did their setup was quite a learning experience. So much clamps and pipes. It also looks like it can potentially be lighter than our setup. So next time, we might try those instead.
As the biggest anime convention in North America, there are plenty of things to see and do there. Like Singapore, there are concerts, artist alley and exhibition hall. And then there’s more. All those panels tucked away at some corner of the convention center. An entire Entertainment Hall featuring more content. Movie screenings. For the inexperienced, it will stress you out since there is no way you can attend everything. You will have to pick and choose.
For us, we are mostly stuck at the Artist Alley and occasionally Exhibition Hall. We heard that on Day 1, there were massive queues of up to 6 hours just to enter the hall. Fortunately, we did not need to experience that since Artist Alley Pass.
The sales at the Artist Alley was relatively brisk. Things do move decently well and there were plenty of support. Of course, market-wise, it’s actually not that different from Singapore. There are more support for older anime items but new ones sell too. If anything, we are somewhat disappointed that the MLP art that we brought with us didn’t sell as well as we expected.
Quite a good number of people requested to use card to make their purchases. Unfortunately, we do not have access to a Square reader. Thus it is not possible. That cost us a couple of sales. The ability to use a card reader to allow for card transactions would have been quite a boon for our local conventions. That said, the cost might end up being prohibitive to your regular hobbyist artist.
At the end of the day, I’ll say that AX is very much an eye-opener for us in terms of sheer scale. It’s a couple folds bigger in scale than Anime Festival Asia. Just like anything in America is a couple folds bigger.
Participation is not exactly what I will personally recommend to everyone. Sure, the sales were pretty decent. You might even make more than what you usually make in Singapore. However, the cost of attending the convention in itself can be quite prohibitive. We are talking about up to 5k for two person for the entire trip. And that doesn’t even include food and transportation. And ALL those SWAG you will probably be tempted to buy.
So AX. It’s pretty awesome. As American as conventions can get. We had a good time there so… even though we barely broke even, we might go down again. Especially if we get the chance to illustrate more things at the convention in 2018.