Downtown will see its fair share of samurai and soldiers, demons and vampires this holiday weekend. Yes, Anime Expo is back, and the cosplaying masses are taking over the L.A. Convention Center July 1-4.
About 125,000 otaku are expected to turn out for North America’s largest anime and manga con. Fans get to meet and hear from some of the most famous anime, manga and musical artists and get into the action through everything from cosplay, karaoke and video competitions to exclusive screenings and video gaming competitions.
Oddly enough, the most anticipated guest at this year’s AX isn’t even a real person. Japanese virtual pop star Hatsune Miku—a 3D hologram created by Crypton Future Media—makes “her” U.S. debut with a concert on Saturday, July 2, at the Nokia Theater. (Alas, it’s sold out.)
Hatsune Miku is an anime girl with kiddie-pool sized eyes and flowing teal pigtails. She stars in a new Toyota Corolla commercial aimed at the Asian-American market.
Miku is huge back home in Japan. Originally invented to sell synthesized voice software, the character’s featured in a video game, she’s released hit pop songs and she sells out live concerts. (If “live” is the right word.)
“They use twelve different projectors to project her in 34D space,” explains Justin Sevakis, of the Anime News Network. “She towers. She’s a good twenty feet tall in those concerts.”
Cartoon bands for kids are nothing new, but Japanese anime has taken them to slick, sophisticated new levels — and created adult demand for them.
In addition to Miku, Akihabara singer Maon Kurosaki will perform along with Kalafina, Nirgilis and Vic Mignogna. And on Sunday, watch as people compete in the con’s own AX Idol, a singing and voice acting competition.
Other highlights include the debuts of “Last Exile: Fam, the Silver Wing,” “Mobile Suit Gundam 00 the Movie: Awakening of the Trailblazer,” “Onigamiden” and an English-language adaptation of “Supernatural: the Anime Series”; the AX Anime and Manga Studies Symposium (topics include “Between Yasashii and Bushido: The Balancing Power of Warrior Mothers in Anime,” “Open-Source Culture and the Cult of Hatsune Miku” and “Writing About Otaku: Lessons From Fandom, Academia and Beyond”); as well as Magic: The Gathering tournaments.
And while there’s nothing particularly “Jewish” about AX this year (no Seth Green with “Robot Chicken” or “Titan Maximum” clips), you can do a mitzvah while you’re there by supporting survivors of the devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan in March. Proceeds from this year’s AX Charity Auction, held on July 4, will be donated to the Japanese Red Cross Society. The auction will feature rare anime and manga art, autographed collectibles and other items donated by AX guests, sponsors and other industry professionals.
“The money raised will help people in the disaster-affected prefecture as they reconstruct their lives,” said Sayaka Matsumoto, a spokesperson for the Japanese Red Cross Society.
AX 2011 will be held July 1-4 at the Los Angeles Convention Center. $45 (single day), $75 (4-day pass). To register or for more information, visit anime-expo.org or call (805) 654-0171.