Every Fourth of July, a little part of me misses engaging in traditional Fourth of July activities. Anime Expo is invariably scheduled over Independence Day weekend, so instead of grilling, persecuting minorities, or watching fireworks like our Founding Fathers intended, I spend the Fourth running around buying plastic statuettes of cartoon characters. Deep in my heart, I thought somewhere a majestic bald eagle was crying for my lack of patriotism. But this year I realized that spending a weekend at a convention dedicated to Japanese cartoons is actually the embodiment what America is all about.
Anime Expo is a beautiful potpourri of rabid capitalism, shoddy planning, and astonishing bureaucratic inefficiency. We arrived on Tuesday for Day 0, Shinmaru and I lining up at 3 PM to get our press credentials. There could not be more than ten people in front of us, yet over the course of an hour the shadows on the ground moved farther than we did.
It turns out that the computer system that handles pre-registration went down just before lines opened, resulting in a 2 hour delay during which the lines did not move. There was no backup plan, and the entire process was outsourced so they had to contact the vendor for help. Complete lack of foresight and planning? That’s how we do things the American way. All throughout the weekend, Anime Expo has been hilariously managed. Directions and scheduling has been a confusing puzzle of changes and last-minute announcements. As I write this, Koshimizu Ami’s press conference was abruptly cancelled at the last moment.
Yet despite all this, Anime Expo is undoubtedly fun. Thousands of fans — as far as the eye could see — filled the LA Convention Center in anticipation for the opening of Day 1 (which was, of course, 40 minutes late). The opening minutes of the Dealers Hall had the rabidness of Black Friday, as if all 300+ dealers were going to run out of wall scrolls after 10 minutes. Every morning there is a stampede — for autographs, for merchandise, for a good spot in panel — and it’s beautiful. The overwhelming enthusiasm for the hobby we share and the fervent, almost pathological dedication to our favorite brands is so distinctly American that I expect Lady Liberty to shed a tear of joy. The panels have been outstanding, and despite the bullshit of having to stand in line until they developed heat stroke, every fan I’ve seen was having a total blast.
There is nothing more patriotic than being at an anime convention. Spending tons of money on what amounts to idolatry, talking shit about each others’ favorite anime deep into the night, dealing with ridiculous bureaucratic bullshit… it’s what our Founding Fathers would have wanted. God Bless America.