Sunday, November 6, 2011

Convention Report - Comikaze Expo 2011

Comikaze Expo 2011
Los Angeles Convention Center
November 5-6, 2011

For a very long time, comic conventions were attended mainly with a small audience of dedicated fans. Hollywood's heavy involvement in Comic-Con International moved the comic convention past the small dedicated fans of comic books into a larger, more mainstream audience. Los Angeles is home to the largest anime convention in North America, Anime Expo. What the city of Los Angeles was missing for the longest time was its own dedicated comic convention. A pair of siblings, Regina and Mario Carpinelli saw the need for a convention dedicated for this market, and created Comikaze Expo. In the convention's inaugural year they had a very impressive turnout due to the low daily badge price of $12 and an impressive list of guests. As a person who has been heavily involved in running anime conventions, here is my critique of Comikaze Expo.

I first arrived at Comikaze Expo at around 10am, it felt strange going to the Los Angeles Convention Center for an event other than Anime Expo. The familiarity of the locate made it extremely easy to navigate the corridors. As we entered the South Lobby area, there was an rather lengthy line that wrapped around the hall. I headed down the stairs to pick up an industry wristband. As I reached the front of the line, I had an issue getting inside, which was odd considering I was in contact with industry representatives at Comikaze. Whatever the problem was, they decided to give me a Press wristband instead of the VIP wristband that my fellow Anime Expo executives received. I hope that in the future they will have an updated database so that this will not be an issue in future conventions. I headed back to the line to enter the convention hall over in Kentia Hall. There was some confusion in lines, and lines for ticket purchase mixed in with the line to enter Kentia Hall.

As I entered Kentia Hall, I was pleased with the layout of the convention, the outside perimeter of the convention had curtained off areas to hold panels and a variety of other events. The central core of Comikaze had a mix of guest autograph, dealers, and card games. The mix of the convention created an interesting dynamic within Comikaze since everything was housed under one roof. It is very similar to the way that Japan Expo does its convention layout. As the day moved along, the convention itself got very crowded and it became difficult to move in certain aisles, forget even taking cosplay pictures. From my observation, the crowding is due to the high number of people attending the convention due to the low ticket price combined with a nice blanket appeal that brings in a variety of different fandoms.

As a person with nearly a decade of experience running cons, I have several suggestions for the people of Comikaze to improve the experience for 2012. My first recommendation is to provide more locations for people to sit in the area of the convention center. I noticed that people migrated from the convention area in Kentia Hall to the outside steps out south hall to sit down and relax. My second suggestion would be to have some dedicated staff run line control and have then wear bright colors to have them stick out. Another issue is the issue of crowding, and this issue can be alleviated by having the traffic corridors with wider spaces so that large numbers of people can move back and forth. These issues can be dealt easily for next year's convention.

For the issues I had, the positives strongly outweigh the negatives. The guests in general were very friendly and very affable. Elvira was as nice as I imagined and she was an incredible guest, her long line was well-deserved. Ernest Borgnine was amazing, it was so great to meet his legendary actor. The convention layout mixed the guests with the booths, and I think that it actually made the con experience better since it was a pleasant surprise walking through the con and being pleasantly surprised by a guest. The atmosphere was wonderful, the people in general were nice. The organization reached out strongly to the cosplay community, and it shows because the number of cosplay was impressive for a convention that didn't have a specific focus (like Anime Expo). There was plenty of variety in terms of vendors, so I had a chance to please my inner anime fan and my inner comic book nerd. It was a wonderful experience overall and I do wish more people get to experience it in the future.

Comikaze did a wonderful job with their inaugural con, I had lots of fun. I ended up staying in the convention until it closed at 7pm. The eclectic guests and the variety of markets they are trying to attract brings in a unique hodgepodge of fans. The con had some issues that can be dealt with, but overall it is convention I highly recommend. I will definitely be back to attend Comikaze 2012 since they have done a great job with their first convention.


Comikaze said...

Thank you!
There are several things we are gonna fix to make the next years show go by even better!! We were a bit understaffed and apologize for the wrist band mix up!

Martin Johnson said...

As an outside talent coordinator for celebrities, I can also add that, for a few details we ironed out just before opening, we were all treated to one of the best shows on the west coast I have ever been lucky enough to be a part of. Regina and her staff were helpful at a moments notice, respectful and always calm with any issue that arose. I am confident that by 2012 the Los Angeles area will be home to the best Comic Con the West Coast can offer. I strongly recommend this event to everyone who missed history in the making this year. By next year, history will be made again. This event exceeded all my expectations and overwhelmed my clients with great fans, venue and staff. Well done.

Alley said...

Wow, great report. It mirrors my experience fairly well (save for that whole VIP thing).

Ashley said...

Hi there, you had taken a picture of me and my boyfriend as harley quinn and the classic joker, i was wondering if you have that photo and if so if I can get a copy sent to