Anime Expo Hits Los Angeles with Japanese Mania

Anime Expo or AX is an American anime convention, held out in Los Angeles, California every year during the 4th of July weekend for the past 25 years! This year the convention spanned itself across 6 days with its badge pick up day, then preview night officially Day 0 with the following days as normal Day 1 through 4. Day 0 the preview night, consisted of a handful of events in and around the Los Angeles Convention Center, JW Marriot Hotel, and the Microsoft Theater.  These events ranging from panels, film strips, television programming, and live performances.

For Day 0 the preview night of course, a live performance was one of many of the events, as people gathered the area of the Los Angeles Convention Center, picking up their badges and freebies of goodies, once in hand, everyone went off in their own directions. I myself and a friend were off to the ticketing booth, to pick up our tickets for this year's edition of the Anisong World Matsuri. This year having various themes of choices, night 1 being titled "Japan Kawaii Live".

Night 1 of this event was to be held at the Microsoft Theater, with four acts, THE IDOLM@STER CINDERELLA GIRLS, Wake Up, Girls!, Minori Suzuki from Walküre, and Aqours! Most of these groups being Japanese pop idol groups, think of America's boy and girl bands, this is Japan's take on that except with Japanese acts. Most of these acts having their music being featured in an anime based film, television series, or both if not at least one or the other. For these four, they have had their share of material tossed around the Japanese market of anime based content.

Nonetheless though, this event went off rather surprisingly well. Fans lined up early in the afternoon hours before doors were to open at 5PM. As a lot of them were there to buy merchandise that was only available for this night only. So once tickets and chosen merchandise was picked out, fans headed into the venue itself, heading to the concession stands, bathroom, more merchandise stands, or their assigned seats. I myself and my friend in tow, headed to the bathroom to freshen up then onto finding our seats for that night. We had tickets for the loge section, just above the orchestra section. Row K so not that bad off, good view, nice surroundings, sound system, lighting, it all came together nicely.

Once fans were packed in tight, talking amongst themselves before the show began, fans pulled out glow sticks and light sticks, shinning and waving them brightly, as the lights dimmed around 7:30PM, the show was about to begin! As the lights went to black the trio of projection screens lit up with the intro video of the Anisong World Matsuri event. After the intro video played through, revealing the lineup for that evening, the first act was shown to be THE IDOLM@STER CINDERELLA GIRLS!

This group of girls, total of 11 in the anime series of the same name, but tonight it was instead of 11 only 6 members, performing, as they gathered on the stage, performing 6 songs for their 30-40 minute set! Their attire of choice were dresses with hair ribbons, as each of the girls, jumped, sang, and poured their hearts and souls into their performance. Pleasing the crowd who gave them great attitude and cheers! Their pop genre choice being placed in full center as the pop melodies and vocalizations worked in all of their favors. This genre being total ease for them, that it became very catchy and bouncy, and totally upbeat! Clearly their set up was done really well indeed. The group gave off tons of energy, interacted with the crowd, who responded with immediate reaction of applause, cheers, shouts, everything and anything to see these idol girls swing their groove thing. It was entertaining from all points of view for their performance. They are surely one of those acts that will be going places not just based off their anime but as artists as well, because they got raw yet unique talent and it shows as clear as day in this night's set.

Set List:
1. Star!!
2. GOIN'!!
3. Yumeiro Harmony
4. Yes! Party Time!!
5. Onegai! Cinderella

Next up after a mere 5-15 minute wait time, was the Wake Up, Girls! Yet another pop idol group consisting of 7 members, all females just like the previous group. This group having a quality that was a lot like the group before them, except they provided more angst of energy. Their songs being very rock based with a pop edge going for them. The crowd's reaction being more hyped up than before with the openers. These girls in Wake Up, Girls! really bringing it their all with their performance. Again the crowd being on their feet, waving their arms, glow sticks, and light sticks left, right, up, and down, to the hyped up, fast paced beat of the pop rock melody of music. The girl group themselves giving off lots of praise and energy during their set. Lots of cheers and shouts coming from both the girl group as well as the crowd. All who saw the Wake Up, Girls! were in totally pleased.

Wake Up, Girls!
Set List:
1. Tachiagare!
2. Shoujo Koukyou Kyoku
3. Koi? De Ai? De Boukun Desu!
4. Beyond the Bottom
5. 7 Girls War
6. Gokujo Smile

After their set up wrapped up after another 30-40 minute set, was a brief intermission of sorts, lasting about 15 minutes. The first hour lasting from 7:30PM to around 8:45PM. The 9 o'clock hour was fast approaching, as people filed out into the lobby area to get refreshments, bathroom breaks, merchandise picking, and just taking a breather of sorts as it was gladly needed for that time period. Once the 15 minutes were up though, the crowd filed back into the venue taking their places and seats as the lights dimmed down to black, the video playing off, showing who the next performer would be which was Minori Suzuki from Walküre!

The next hour of 9:15 to around 10:30PM would showcase the last set of acts. This being a two piece member group, really kept the crowd on their feet the entire time. Lots of energy, was put forth throughout their entire set. The group interacting just as the other previous idol groups had done, with the audience, as the duo idol group asked us what was the best place to eat a hamburger! The crowd erupted in response shouting In-n-Out! So perhaps the idol duo took note! Otherwise they continued onward with their set, performing like the others had a 30-40 minute set with 6 songs throughout. Their set containing as said, energy, lots of it. Their music being pop based with a heavier direction of the rock side of things for their musical genre of choices here. Clearly their musical traits and skills worked well for them, as everyone there in the crowd, really were excited to hear and see these girls that are Minori Suzuki from Walküre!

JUNNA and Minori Suzuki from Walküre
Set List:
1. Koi! Halation THE WAR
2. Ikenai Boarder Line
3. Bokura no Senjo
4. Ichido dake no Koi nara
5. Run ga Pika tto Hikattara

But last definitely not least is the headliners and last performers of the night Aqours! Aqours performing here in the U.S. for the first time! While this is their second appearance at Anime Expo, their last time was a brief meet and greet type of format, with a panel discussion that was held at AX not that long ago. This time around, they have taken the time to perform live! All 9 members of the group of the anime series Love Live Sunshine! introduced themselves via their anime counterparts, as the crowd erupted with such please, as the first song kept that momentum of energy alive and well.
During their own 30-40 minute set just as the others, Aqours performed a 6 song set, a lot of their songs coming off their anime series of course. The opening scene and ending credits scene songs, as well as other notable songs played from the anime, as the group gave it their real all right there before everyone! Lots of jumping, running, playing off one another, interacting with the audience. Everything was put into play, as everyone group and crowd alike, really were just overjoyed with excitement really. Aqours material being pop based with some adrenaline pulse of rock mixed with some metal, a lot of their works, being very hard and heavy at times. Lots of catchy melodies with upbeat tones, that kept you wanting more! For their first time performance though  they surely did do a good job. If not the best job they could give out really. Lots of energy was put into full force this night, by both the idol groups who performed to the crowd witnessing it all unfold right there in front of them all. It was all truly magic.

Set List:
1. Aozora Jumping Heart
2. Kimino Kokorowa Kagayaiterukai?
3. Koini Naritai AQUARIUM
5. Yume Kataruyori Yume Utaou

All in all though the Anisong World Matsuri's "Japan Kawaii Live" was quite the experience to behold for those in attendance. It was a night filled with fun, excitement, joy, happiness, and lots of energy! You could not go wrong with knowing, the experiences you were about to get, when seeing these types of idol groups rock that stage the way that they did. They did it, and they did it well. Surely the anime they are based off of, will continue to expand their musical abilities ever so further, that even more ignition will flare up with fiery embraces of overwhelming passion of desire and wonder. That you will look to Japan in total wisdom of amusement. Due to the fact that such catchy music has such a grand following it can only give off so much energy, that it can withstand so much excitement it spreads quicker than possibly even possible. This is the preview night of more to come in the next following days and nights that is Anime Expo.

This year's Anime Expo was underway the first weekend of July, like it was always held during the 4th of that month. Day 0 and the previous day badge pick up, both went rather well for the people waiting in line to grab their badges, to attending brief events happening on Day 0. For after those days the real fun would begin to unfold itself....

Day 1 was in full swing that morning at the Los Angeles Convention Center in Los Angeles, California. People dressed up as their favorite characters, cosplaying the term is called, while others sported their favorite t-shirt of their favorite cartoon character or anime series. Everyone out there just embracing the vibes off everyone else who was all there to attend Anime Expo for a new year!
As morning crept onward people lined up from all sides of the convention, as well as other places in and around it. For instance the hotel JW Marriot was holding some video programming, panels, and more up top in its conference room area. People coming in full force, lining outside their room of choice waiting to get inside. While other rooms showing video programming of various anime shows, were already seated enjoying whatever anime was being shown at the time.  For me I was at the JW Marriot taking in a couple of episodes of my all time favorite anime Sailor Moon! It was fun watching the series alongside other fans of it. Soon after it's screening though, the next anime series called Cardcaptor Sakura was shown not in English like Sailor Moon's viewing. Cardcaptor Sakura was shown in Japanese without the English subtitles which was a drawback to those not able to understand Japanese. So for me that was my time to go. Having already seen the series that is Cardcaptor Sakura, I knew what to expect and decided to head on out to the convention center, to observe it's people and surroundings.


As I walked towards the convention center, people were dressed up in their outfits, while others stood around talking to other fans, enjoying their time spent there. Other people were lining up to get some grub, with the rest lining up to buy tickets for other events, to getting some tickets to snatch some autographs among other things taking place this day. As it were though I had entered the convention center with ease, heading to the Entertainment Hall, which was showing off an array of festivities and activity.

The whole room was filled with more people, tons of buzzing all over the place, as people played video games on computer screens, gaming consoles, arcade consoles, to having numerous backdrops set up for photography, for those wanting to strike a pose! Plus there was even a section for some decked out sports cars and motorcycles, with awesome paint jobs, anime characters plastered across the entire vehicle. It was totally a fun time throughout this room known as the Entertainment Hall.

Next up though would be the Exhibit Hall, where all of the merchants were selling their goods to those willing and wanting to buy stuff. Prices varying from booth to booth, lots of items to pick and choose from though. There were lots of music available in the form of CDs, DVDs, by various acts, while other merchandise came in the form of t-shirts, posters, wall scrolls, figures, video games, and much, much more! This place was filled to the max with people roaming through each of the aisles checking and buying everything they could possibly want if not more than they could afford! It was a hyped up place to be with tons of variety of items to purchase from.


During some down time after the Exhibit Hall experience, was spent walking inside the convention center, going upstairs, downstairs, this way and that way, people were all over the place. Lots were in the food courts, cafes, and food trucks outside, getting some more grub, while others laid on the floor, or sat back and relaxed until their next event was up! But before that could happen time was spent downstairs in the Kentia Hall, were the artist alley was held, as well as table top card and board games, along with some autograph signings and sessions with various guests! Lots of young artists came in full force, setting up their booths to sell their creative merchandise to lucky buyers at whelm. While others spent some time playing some games, or snagging a signature by their favorite iconic from voice over work to musicians of some type. Everyone was very chill down in that hall space.


As more lines gathered for various events, including one of the main events of this year was a screening of the anime mentioned before, Cardcaptor Sakura! This take on the anime being a prequel story, done in the same animation style as the original series was back in the 90s'. Plus the original Japanese cast and performers returned to reprise their roles for this special episode! It would be a prequel story as mentioned, of the telling of what happened at the end of the original series, into the new series due out in 2018! This event being held out in the Main Events Hall, was filled to the max with rows of seats fans awaiting to see the premiere of this special event. Anime Expo being the only convention to showcase it first hand to the audience of onlookers of course!

This screening had a brief panel with some guests who discussed the series then the screening took place soon after. Fans cheered with excitement seeing their favorite characters on screen. As the episode unfolded as well, fans were quite pleased by the end of it. Not to give anything away but the animation style, really stuck to the original style, music was superb, characters just as enjoyable as before and the story was fun and moving to see. This of course all leading to the new manga series of Cardcaptor Sakura's next chapter, the series of the anime due out in 2018 with the manga series already out! All in all this main event was quite the special one and really fun to experience with other fans who enjoyed this series as much as I did.

Wrapping up was to be made after this screening, as the evening dawned upon everyone. Day 1 of Anime Expo was done at least for now. For what would happen on Day 2, only time would tell.
Anime Expo is plowing through into its second day of an ongoing experience for convention goers alike. Day 2 is underway like no tomorrow! Thus, the crowds are lining up more and more for various events, including a video programming screening of a concert, by one of Japan's most iconic pop stars around known as Hatsune Miku! Hatsune Miku is a vocaloid digital virtual software program, used with other computing software to create a digital image that can move and sing. She has gotten quite the response and popular having been around for 10 years now. Indeed right 10 years it has been come 2017 for Hatsune Miku, as she celebrates her 10th anniversary of her software and overall debut! So without further ado, her fans dressed up as her, as well as sporting her merchandise in the form of t-shirts, posters, pins, buttons, etc. As they stood outside the JW Marriot conference halls, awaiting the screening doors to be opened for the event!

As 3PM stroke fans were able to be let into the room filing in each row of seats until the room was filled to the brim with fans! A little after 3:30PM lights toned down, as clips of Hatsune Miku began to stream, detailing her latest music and software programming now available everywhere. Soon after her concert of her 2016 performance in Tokyo, Japan on her Miku Expo Touring run, began to play. Fans all around pulled out their light sticks as well as glow sticks, waving them around, cheering and shouting as Hatsune Miku sang and danced on the screen. Performing a setlist of 26 songs, her fans reactions during her performance was superb! She went on to play a handful of fan favorites "The World Is Mine", "The Disappearance of Hatsune Miku", "Two-Faced Lovers", "Glass Wall", "Ten Thousand Stars", as well as "Blue Star". But besides Hatsune Miku's performance her friends, Luka, Rin, Len, Kaito and Meiko had sung their own songs during this set list, performing such as "Snowman" by Kaito "Change Me", by Meiko, with Rin performing Tokyo Teddy Bear", and Len performing "Butterfly On Your Right Shoulder". Rin and Len also performed a track together called "Remote Control". Each of the vocaloid's performances during this concert experience was a solid piece of effort. Fans enjoyed it, singing along, waving their glowing and or light sticks, to nodding their heads to the creative beats of the music. It was a fun yet entertaining experience for all in attendance.

After the screening of the Hatsune Miku concert was yet another concert but instead it seeing it on a live screen, it was physically a live in person experience, to be held down at the convention center, in the Longue 21 room. All in attendance having to be 21 and up to enter of course. So adults only were present enjoying a real live rock show done by Phoenix Ash! The band is from up North out in San Francisco, California, they take their infectious melodies with energetic style to beld the essences of Japanese and American rock music! In short Phoenix Ash is America's own J-Rock band! They have a major album released only in Japan and at conventions called "Cross The Blue". These guys were playing not one but two shows for Anime Expo this year. This being their third year in attendance yet performing at the Longue 21 spot at the convention itself! Their first performance being this one happening between 4-5PM, fans were already inside enjoying the show, banging their heads to the roughness of the beat of their impressive music, while others hung back sitting down, sharing some drinks, while partaking in the concert experience. Other fans took front and center of the small stage, waving their own brought in glow and light sticks of course! Those being if you could not tell a big deal to fans of the Japanese culture, when viewing performances.

In any case though Phoenix Ash went on to perform quite a set. Consisting of 11 songs, including the encore track, people in sight really digging their tunes. Like previous mentioned people there were highly entertained, really getting into it all, banging their heads, screaming in excitement to singing right along. It was tons of energy coming from the band as well, who really put forth it all into their set up.


The band with only four members was so well worth seeing. So much energy was given off these guys, everyone in that room was entertained hands down. The band also went on to interact with the crowd, clapping to get everyone else to join in, during their songs, as well as take some down time to tell us some stories about their travels, performing showcases elsewhere and what happened there. It was a funny and fun experience.

Their setlist contained such songs such as "Face the Light", "Voices", "No More Sorrow", "Afterlife", and "One Night", among other songs that were covers but still sounded hard and heavy! Just again lots of energy, pride, and passion was put into effect here from Phoenix Ash. They have already quite the following out in Japan let alone the U.S. Of A as well. So surely their fan base will continue to expand and grow ever so further with more exposure to behold.

All in all though, Phoenix Ash is an Americanized JRock band but they are one that are fresh, unique, and really rounded off to be the next big thing to come out of the U.S. and Japan in some ways. These guys are here to rock, just as they have been doing but doing it more so than ever before!

Phoenix Ash SETLIST:

1. SE
2. Face the Light
3. DPS
4. Taking Off
5. Voices
6. 99 vs. 1
7. Dress
8. No More Sorrow
9. Afterlife
10. One Night

And with that Anime Expo's Day 3 and 4 were filled with more activities and events of course, lots of panel discussions, video screenings, autograph signings, merchandise, cosplayers, the usual yet typical aspect of the Anime Expo convention experience. It is said that this convention is indeed growing more so than before, having an attendance of over 100,000 and counting. So there is no doubt that this convention will be going away anytime soon. For one it has been around for over 20 years so it will only continue to expand ever so further, that more and more people will discover it, with its relevance to the Japanese culture and its surroundings of such fun entertainment.   For shall we say many more years to come!

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