Inside the Show Floor of AnimeJapan 2018
posted on by Kim Morrissy
AnimeJapan is Japan's biggest trade show for anime and other otaku-related hobbies. It's been called the “E3 of anime” because it's both an industry networking event and a consumer expo; the business days are on the Thursday and Friday, while the public days takes place over the weekend. This year's AnimeJapan took place between the 22nd and the 25th of March.
From a journalist's point of view, AnimeJapan is tricky to cover. The news announcements (of which there are many) are usually not told to the journalist beforehand. Most of them are revealed at the booths or throughout the venue itself on the public days, via the posters crammed in every inch of the hall, or through the dozens of stage events held all over the show floor at any given time of the day.
There are also droves of people at AnimeJapan, which makes maneuvering through the show floor difficult. This year's attendance was 152,331, a 5% increase from last year. Although the press were allowed in half-an-hour early on the public days, regular ticket holders seemed to get in earlier than the official 10am start time too, which resulted in the floor filling up extremely quickly on both days.
AnimeJapan may have a lower attendance than Comiket, but the event is overall denser despite being held in the same venue - large booths fill up the floor, while only half the halls of Tokyo Big Sight were in use. The west halls were reserved for a motorcycle convention on the same days, which meant that most of AnimeJapan was restricted to the east halls.
Even beyond the crowds, the displays at AnimeJapan are so overwhelming that it's hard to know where to begin exploring. I started with the Aniplex booth, having been tipped off by an Aniplex employee beforehand that this would be the biggest booth in the entire convention.
The coolest thing about the Aniplex booth is how they bring in costumes and props for so many of their shows. This is something they've done in previous years too. The biggest showcases this year were the swords from Fate/Grand Order and Fate Apocrypha.
I also enjoyed the tiny models of the sets from Fate/Extra Last Encore and Today's Menu for Emiya Family.
Darling in the Franxx was also represented through a model of the Franxx and autographs from the two lead voice actors.
The Sword Art Online area revealed a new key visual of the Alicization anime, along with the main staff list. Tomohiko Ito isn't directing the series anymore, but the area did feature the transcript of a cross-talk between Ito and the new series director Manabu Ono, where Ito expressed his confidence that Sword Art Online is still in good hands. There were also autographs from the voice actors of Kirito, Asuna, Alice, and Eugeo.
Aniplex's presence this year was so large this year that they split their Fate/Grand Order content into another booth altogether. This one had amusing stage shows throughout the day as well as lots of the merchandise for the fans to buy.
The coolest thing at AnimeJapan wasn't at the Aniplex booths, though. The Yomiuri Television booth featured a chalk artist named Mayumi Kawano drawing the My Hero Academia characters. According to her artist bio at the booth, Kawano studied her chalk art in Australia, as if there weren't already enough reasons for me to find her cool.
Speaking of My Hero Academia, the Bones booth displayed key art from that show for the second year running.
That same booth also had key animation for Mob Psycho 100, Bungo Stray Dogs, and for their upcoming anime written by Shinji Higuchi and Mari Okada, called Hisone to Masotan. It is pretty cool to see key animation for a show that isn't even out yet.
Not to be outdone, the Science Saru booth had key animation for Devilman Crybaby.
This bizarre spectacle of Levi from Attack on Titan sitting on a chair was also a thing at AnimeJapan. First drawn by Hajime Isayama for the August 2014 cover of FRaU Magazine, this red chair is now being crafted by a furniture maker from Isayama's hometown in Oita. That's one way to support the local community.
The Toei Animation booth showed off Dragon Ball Super, including a statue of Goku charging his powers in front of a poster of the movie's key visual, as well as people in Goku and Vegeta costumes.
The Toei booth also had the Butt Detective if that's more of your thing. Yes, that's the official localized title.
Just outside the booth, there was an impressive display of Gegege no Kitaro characters to promote the new anime.
The Bandai Namco booth had an entire section for mecha shows, with especially lavish displays for the upcoming Gundam Build Divers and Space Battleship Yamato 2202.
The Wild Liger design from the new Zoids anime was shown off at the Takara Tomy booth, drawing a lot of attention from passersby.
A shrine dedicated entirely to the tokusatsu hero Garo was at the Tohokushinsha Film Corporation's booth. You could clap your hands together and pray to your hero.
The anime version of Garo was also shown off at the same booth, including key frames from Vanishing Line.
Just like last year, there was an Is The Order a Rabbit? cafe at AnimeJapan. This year, they were promoting the Dear My Sister film, and, just like last year, it was incredibly popular with fans.
Another interesting thing worth pointing out was the King Blade booth, which featured the official glow sticks from every single [email protected] show. (They weren't for sale, though.)
The TOHO booth celebrated five years of their animation division with a giant gallery featuring the key shows they've produced so far. Their most prominent display was of the Godzilla shown in the anime films produced by Polygon Pictures. This was accompanied with images of the Godzillas from the various films.
Hidden at the far end of Big Sight was the Family Anime Festa, a smaller area where franchises aimed at younger audiences were exhibited. The Family Anime Festa got 14,304 visitors this year, which was a 22% increase over last year. One of the main exhibits was a Yo-Kai Watch show, where Whisper controls the house from a home speaker device (like a Google Home) as Keita and Inaho exclaim in surprise.
This was a fun collaboration stage by Level-5, Sony Music and Kyushu Electric Power, but it was a little strange when the show was immediately followed by a Sony ad for home speakers. The area also included both digital and paper drawing stations for kids, sponsored by the software developers and manufacturers respectively. Even when treated as an interactive expo, the Family Anime Festa still felt like a trade show.
Finally, there was also a cosplay area outside the halls. AnimeJapan is a pretty big deal for cosplayers, as many of them cosplay professionally at the booths. AnimeJapan is one of the venues where hobbyist cosplayers can potentially get scouted for professional modeling and cosplaying jobs (and indeed, I saw some of that happening in real time). Although I didn't spend much time in the cosplay area this year, I did talk with an aspiring cosplayer who goes by the handle of @maoha_0x0; she gave me her business card and tried to explain her Jeanne d'arc Alter Santa Lily cosplay to me, a Fate/Grand Order newbie.
Even after all that, I still don't understand why her character's wearing a school swimsuit, though.
There was, of course, much more to see and do in AnimeJapan. I felt that even with two whole days, I only scratched the surface of the convention. As I walked out of Big Sight and toward the station after closing time on Sunday, I bumped into two people dressed up as the main characters from Grancrest War. They were sitting in a horse-run carriage, waving to people as they walked by. It's little things like this, that so many people would have missed if they'd come across this place half an hour earlier or later, that make the AnimeJapan experience.
I've included more images in the gallery below; if you've been to the event, feel free to chime in about anything that stood out to you.
Additional photos by Crystalyn Hodgkins and Callum May.