By Erica Friedman
Anime Expo (AX) is known for being the largest anime convention in the United States, with an estimated 110,000 turnstile attendees in 2018. Begun in San Jose, California in 1991, Anime Expo has been a fixture every July 4th weekend in the Los Angeles area. Run by the Society for the Promotion of Japanese Animation (SPJA), AX has run events outside their area twice; an original attempt to crack the New York market in 2002 and Anime Expo in Tokyo in 2004. This year AX is taking their winning formula on the road once again, co-developing the Anime Fest @ NYCC in partnership with ReedPOP.
Anime Expo expanding into New York may in part be a reaction to Otakon, America’s second largest anime event’s recent expansion. Otakon was held every August from 1999- 2016 in Baltimore, Maryland moving to the new Washington DC Convention Center in 2017, where they had just under 30,000 attendees. Otakon established a toehold in Las Vegas in 2014, which may have inspired the SPJA to look east for opportunities. Otakon Vegas has not posted any attendance number since 2016, when it listed 2243 total unique badges sold.
But more remarkable, this Anime Fest comes after previous attempts by ReedPOP at developing a space for anime from 2007-2012 within New York Comic Con. New York Anime Fest was eventually absorbed into the larger event and effectively disappeared. In 2017, Peter Tatara, former ReedPOP Director of Content and Marketing, launched Left Field Media, in part to develop a separate anime and manga focused event, AnimeNYC, also held at Javits Convention Center. In 2017, AnimeNYC reported 20,000 unique attendees. This year’s Anime [email protected] is popularly regarded as a controversial attempt to address this new event.
Can Anime Expo and ReedPop’s new event withstand two rivalries and the tough streets of New York City? It remains to be seen if it can make it there.