I've previously written about the lines on Day 1 at Anime Expo, and the fiasco that required a roundabout path through the convention center. The number of attendees at this year's Anime Expo was tallied to be about 44,000 throughout the four days. That is a remarkable number of people, but when compared to the chaos that is the San Diego Comic Con (with 123,000 people attending), one does wonder why AX is an experience that leaves a lot of attendees and guests dissatisfied.
The Queen of Akihabara, Haruko Momoi had some criticisms of the management of Anime Expo this year. She was invited from Japan as a guest to perform a concert, attend some panels and sign some autographs, but felt that guests weren't being treated respectfully, and that fans weren't being treated well, she had her autograph signing sessions cut short (or in some cases cancelled altogether), and nearly had her concert canceled too. A fansite of Momoi has a much more detailed account from a diehard fan's attendance of the events.
I attend quite a few conventions annually (APE, WonderCon, FanimeCon, San Diego Comic Con), and I don't think I've ever seen a convention as poorly managed as the Anime Expo of 2007. Long Beach Convention Center is a nice facility, and the Long Beach Arena are nice places for events, but without being able to cut through the corridors and hallways makes doing a convention at Long Beach in the middle of summer a bad choice.
With lots of good restaurants located in the area, one wasn't starving for food, and I'm sure the Long Beach businesses appreciated the 40,000+ otaku descending upon their city in search of meals. I'm sure the City of Long Beach would love to have us back, but if AX is held at Long Beach ever again, I'm quite certain that the fans won't be back.
Many major distributors of anime and manga were no-shows at Anime Expo 2007, which was surprising; at the very least they had a panel, even if they didn't have a booth, but no reps from Viz or Del Rey? TokyoPop was there for a very brief time to present their new releases, but gone are the days of having a Hachiroku sit on the convention floor or giving away bags and preview books.
The Long Beach Arena had a rather draconian policy in place regarding cameras, food and drinks -- they didn't allow them and they wanted to search bags for them. In a convention setting, this is a practically impossible task; just by going to the con you receive a bag, and the no food and drink policy seemed to only be in place such that their concession stands could charge outrageously for food and drink. Lemonade in the arena? 5 bucks. Shaved Ice or rather, crushed ice that had frozen into an ice block where all the food coloring had run together into a dark brown color, was 4 dollars. I didn't take a close look at the food concession stand inside the arena, but I noticed that they were selling pretzels and maybe hot dogs? No question of a very large and very healthy profit margin there, especially given the fact that there was a very large of turnover between the shows at the Arena. The bag search and the patting down of attendees definitely turned me away from the first event held in the Arena, the S.K.I.N. concert, and made me apprehensive of attending all other events in the Arena.
My problems with AX have more to do with the Long Beach Convention Center Staff than the Expo organizers -- AX Staff and Volunteers that I met with during AX2007 were generally responsive and helpful, Long Beach Convention Center Staff (people in the Yellow Shirts and the Suits) were simply rude and clueless.
While I had some issues with San Diego Comic-Con 2006's Day 1, making us walk all around the convention center, things seemed to have sorted out as the Con got fully underway. At AX2007, I kept hoping things would get better, and they did, a little, the pat down and bag searches were soon nothing more than cursory looks, and eventually they did open up the back walkway (which still sucked, but at least you didn't have to go up and down 10 different flights of stairs -- only 2).
All of this, of course, has me looking forward to the San Diego Comic Con which is likely to be three to four times as many people as AX2007, but at least they know how to run a proper convention, and the city of San Diego respects the convention goers. Of course next year, Anime Expo is moving to the Los Angeles Convention Center. The Staples Center is a mild improvement, but the complaint about the area is that there aren't enough food choices, and parking and traffic is a mess down there. Hotel lodging is a mess down there, with most of the large hotels being located miles away from the convention center.