Every so often, in my role as a professional technologist, I find myself attending something at the Santa Clara Convention Center. Every time, I look about, shake my head softly, and say "needs more cosplayers." I spent years attending Fanime at that venue, and for me my memories of the venue are all tied up with that most peculiarly Californian con.
But that may change. Lately we've all been rather abuzz over the new Japan Expo, to be arriving this week at the very same Santa Clara Convention Center. We know very little about it, in some ways. It's said to be the American exursion of a giant French anime convention. (Subtitled "1st impact", in a nice nod to Evangelion.)
It's certainly a big deal -- the French version drew 208,000 in 2012, according to the Wikipedia, and had a guest list to match any three U.S. conventions. The Santa Clara guest list isn't bad either, although most of them are somewhat overshadowed (in our not-terribly humble opinion) by SADAMOTO Yoshiyuki, of GAINAX fame.
I mean, that's impressive. To be sure, the Eva manga's done, and YAMAGA Hiroyuki did mention at Fanime that he was less busy now, but even so -- he doesn't come out here much. I'm really looking forward to seeing him.
That said, there are some things about Japan Expo that strike us as a little different, a bit out-of-the-ordinary, even strange.
First, the schedule is built around the guests. Very few fan panels. Most of the guests are performing multiple days, and there are three autograph rooms, with multiple signings per guest. Not much in the way of video programming -- one theater and one video room, mostly showing new releases or stuff that's related to the guests.
Second, the scheduling is designed such that you could attend the con for one day and see pretty much everything it has to offer -- all the guests, most of the events. Things are different each day, but it definitely seems designed so that each day has its own arc, and so that you'd get at least some of everything if you only made it one day. There's a masquerade both Saturday and Sunday, for example. It's an interesting change from the normal "3-day total immersion" style of American anime conventions. Almost as if they expect us to commute home each day. Sort of like Comiket, now that I think of it. There's no night programming, either, which is bound to confuse the attendees a bit.
But it does seem like they're willing to adapt to the American con style. Japan Expo suffered a recent PR flub in which each ticket was good for only one entry to the event. (Apparently this is standard in some places -- Jeff tells me that all events he's attended in Hong Kong are the same.) After some outcry, that was changed to a standard American-style "all day" ticket policy.
So that's reassuring. I'm looking forward to seeing the potential of a different kind of convention model, something different from Fanime, fun though that is. We'll take it on its own terms and find out what it has to offer.