Anime Expo 2009
A Few Moments with AX Convention Chair Liyin Liang

by Zac Bertschy,
We sat down for just a few brief moments with Anime Expo 2009's Convention Chairperson, Liyin Liang, to get the skinny on what's new and what's different at this year's convention.

ANN: So this is in the same event space as it was last year, right? Any bigger, any smaller?

Liyin Liang: Yeah, it's about the same size – we did some shifting around so we'd be using the space more efficiently.

So is everything pretty much in the same place as it was last time? If someone attended last year, what's different this year in that regard?

Well, we're not using the Nokia center this year; we decided to bring that venue inside the convention center this year. All the stuff that happened in the Nokia center last year will happen this year inside Hall A of the Los Angeles Convention Center, which is where our Registration was last year, and Registration has been moved right next door to it, and that's probably the biggest change.

The other big change we have is the location of the Karaoke and Arcade rooms; those will now be upstairs in the meeting rooms, and we've added on satellite rooms in the Westin Bonaventure Hotel, so people can go there after hours.

We did notice last year a lot of attendees took the time to come from the hotels to participate in these events, but we wanted to make things a little more convenient for our attendees who are staying in the Westin and surrounding hotels. So we figured late evening events, like the dance and the tabletop gaming and karaoke rooms, would be much better accessed in the Westin Bonaventure.

And so our attending readers know, where is the Westin in relation to the convention center?

It's right down the street – if you take the shuttle buses outside it's just a short ride, and you can walk there in about 15 minutes.

So if you had to pick, what would you say the biggest thing that's happening at AX this year is?

Oh, definitely our musical concerts. We have Moi dix Mois, in addition to Morning Musume; we're really looking forward to the events these performers will have for us, and our attendees are really excited about them as well. We have a ton of other guests we're really looking forward to; we have a great selection for people to look forward to, both for old school fans and newer fans.

You've got a couple film premieres as well; can you tell us about them?

Sure; we've got the English sub premiere of the Gurren Lagann movie, and the dub of Evangelion 1.01, which is something I'm really personally looking forward to; I'm a big Evangelion fan, so I'll be taking time out of my day to check that out.

Now, for the Gurren Lagann film, you've got a big Gainax focus panel happening after the movie, around 10pm, which I think is the first time I've seen a big focus panel happening that late in the day. How'd you decide to do that?

That was at the special request of the production crew as well as the special guests that will be there for the film, in order to help present the premiere of the film.

So for a first timer, someone who's never been to AX before, what should they focus on? What advice would you have for them?

Well, absolutely they should hit up the exhibit hall; that's still one of our top attractions. They'll also want to check out the focus panels; we have more guests this year than we've ever had in a single year, and there are many guests who have a huge following, so here's their chance to get to know their favorite anime director or manga-ka.

And really, it's important to just sit back and enjoy the atmosphere. There really isn't any place like this; everyone enjoys the same media, admiring the costumes, and that's a big thing that draws fans in.

So are you expecting another growth year this year, in terms of attendance?

Well, we're encouraged with the numbers we're seeing so far; it's too early to say whether or not we'll see growth this year, and we'd be happy to see the numbers
grow, but we'd be happy if we stayed about the same as well.

For the big events – the masquerade, and the Anime Music Video contest, what would you say is a solid strategy for getting into those events?

For those attendees who can afford it, I'd strongly recommend people take advantage of our hotel voucher system, in addition to the advance ticket purchase system we have in place. Now, that doesn't mean that if you're on a budget, you can't get in; we still have a stand-by line to people free of charge if you're willing to stand in line. We've tried to make these events accessible to everyone.

So say like you're broke, and you've got to wait in the standby line. How early do you show up if you want to get in?

I'd say no more than 2-3 hours in advance. That should be enough. In fact I'm not sure you can line up any sooner than that.

So finally, what's the big thing you personally can't wait to see at the convention?

You know, I can't wait to see the Power Rangers panel. I grew up with that first generation and I'm really looking forward to seeing so many of them in the same room together; the villains as well, since I loved Rita Repulsa!

You can check out the programming schedule and everything else you need to know about Anime Expo at their website; Anime News Network will be updating throughout the day from the convention floor through Sunday with news, interviews, panel reports and staff blogs.

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