View from the Show Floor: Anime Contents Expoby Courtney Cummings, Mar 31st 2013
Despite its rocky start in the wake of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, the Anime Contents Expo (ACE) held its second annual event this past Saturday in Chiba, Japan, just east of Tokyo, at Makuhari Messe.
ACE began in 2011 as an aftereffect of the 10-company boycott of the Tokyo Anime Fair, in response to the December 2010 enactment of the Tokyo Youth Ordinance, a harsh law restricting the sale of “obscene” materials and widely panned as over-reaching and unnecessarily invasive by the manga and anime industry. Despite being cancelled (along with the TAF) in 2011 due to the quake, the event came back with a bang in 2012, with crowds of over 40,000 turnstile attendees attending over the 2 days of the event visiting a total of 55 exhibitions, including floor booths and live stage presentations involving prominent directors, voice actors, and other industry talents. This year, ACE drew crowds of over 70,000 (in comparison to TAF's 80,000+ public attendees).
Viewed as a chance for major (and minor, and even amateur) animation and publication houses to show off their chops, the event floor was packed with booths, convention attendees, press and staff, and everything in between.
Much of the floor space was dedicated to the powerhouses of animation and the television stations screening their works.
Frontier Works’ booth this year seemed to split focus cleanly between currently airing series—like Cuticle Detective Inaba—and immediately upcoming series—like Karneval and the Saiyuuki spinoff Saiyuuki Gaiden—as well as series a bit further afield, like Nourin, the anime version of which was only recently announced and with which Frontier Works will obviously be involved.
Aniplex's booth felt more like Aniplex's territory, taking up what felt to be a good chunk of the hall, by far the largest booth as far as I could tell. Every series currently in the spotlight was given a prominent place in mini-booths inside the area, and a long series of glass-paneled shelves housed dozens of titles old and new.
To top it off, the entire back wall was paneled with posters in a timeline celebrating the company's 10th anniversary.
TV Tokyo's booth this year played up its shounen series, with prominent posters featuring the likes of Naruto, Gintama, Mushibugyō, and Inazuma 11—as well as flyers and televised ads for the upcoming Dream Live for the Prince of Tennis musical series. The rear of the booth was draped in white paper to allow fans to pen messages.
TV Tokyo's anime satellite channel AT-X's rather slick booth highlighted several upcoming, highly anticipated shows as well as some familiar faces, including Karneval, Uta no Prince-sama - Maji Love 2000%, Hetalia, Date Alive, and Haiyore! Nyaruko-san W.
But it wasn't just the animation and manga powerhouses making a show at ACE this year—movie production company Warner Bros. was also a very tangible presence with an impressive booth showcasing mostly Western movies, riding the superhero wave of popularity with posters advertising Man of Steel and Green Arrow as well as fantasy fare like The Hobbit.
Bandai's booth, unmistakable in its bright red colors, was decorated in huge screens running constant loops advertising the best in current and upcoming series to expect from the studio, including Karneval, Hakkenden season 2, New Prince of Tennis, and Space Battleship Yamato 2199.
Over at TOHO's booth, visitors were treated to a long line-up panel featuring the cast of Psycho Pass as well as an advertisement for the upcoming Ghost in the Shell – Border 1: Ghost Pain movie, set for a 2-week (!!) cinematic run this summer. Cycling manga-turned-anime Yowamushi Pedal and St. Oniisan were featured prominently as well.
Perhaps one of the more colorful booths—in every sense of the word—was Bushiroad's, which placed front and center its advertisements for the upcoming airdate of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. Just how ready Japan is for an influx of Bronies (ブロニーズ??) is unclear, but with the booth decked out completely in pink, toys and goods stacked nearly to the ceiling, and a TV spot playing on constant loop, it was hard to imagine anything more suited to the over-the-top ACE atmosphere.
Most of the major booths (and a good few of the more minor players as well) had attractive young women in all manner of cosplay out passing out flyers and pausing for pictures, happy to strike a pose for fans eager to snap shots of their favorite characters brought to life.
Perhaps the most eye-catching display, though, went to the huge beetle-shaped cruiser in the event hall to promote Mushibugyō, which was accompanied by a stage event featuring the voice actors in the main hall.
A good quarter of the hall was dedicated to the meals and rest area and included a food court with an extensive menu of anime- and manga-themed treats available from the likes of Ao no Exorcist, St. Young Men, JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, and Hetalia, among others.
For those seeking to spend less than a small mint at the booths, though, a good dozen gashapon machines waited to spit out little figures from Magi, Amnesia, Tiger & Bunny, Nekomonogatari, Uchū Kyōdai, Neon Genesis Evangelion, One Piece, Kuroko no Basuke, Karneval, Gintama, Hunter X Hunter, Naruto, and St. Seiya.
While the booth floor may have been the major attraction for ACE, the panels set up around the hall as well as in dedicated auditoriums in other areas of the event space drew sizeable crowds, with special events being held featuring prominent industry names—voice actors, directors, musical artists and more. A number of booths like Niconico and Ameba also livestreamed the event to online viewers.
But ACE isn't just about showing off the current talent that the anime and manga industry has to offer—it's a chance to allow laypeople the opportunity to learn about how they too can get involved in developing their own anime and manga or breaking into the commercial side of the business. This particular area held workshops throughout the day touching on different steps in the process of developing an anime or manga.
Kobe Design University even had a booth to show off their up-and-coming talent. ACE clearly isn't just for big industry names or even middling players; it's an opportunity for new faces to get their foot in the door, get their work viewed by as many eager potential fans as possible. Attendees to events such as ACE are treated to the big and the little, the past, present, and future—which really is a sight to see.
Update: ACE's attendance figure added. Thanks, ash_f2d
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