Anime Expo 2023 Attendees Say Crowd Sizes Were So Bad They Were Shoved Into Walls

Anime Expo 2023 Attendees Say Crowd Sizes Were So Bad They Were Shoved Into Walls

Anime Expo 2023, the self-proclaimed largest anime convention in the U.S., is coming to a close today. While some in attendance will have cherished witnessing panels where they got to meet their favourite voice actors, purchase craftwork from their favourite artist, or witness the world premiere episodes of their favourite shows, many in attendance have said that the convention was way too crowded and disorganized.

Having attended the event myself, videos circulating online of how crowded the event space was in the morning of July 1 don’t do it justice. On the first day, it felt to me like there was no air conditioning whatsoever, especially unpleasantly felt in the artist’s alley which took place in the basement of the event space. Anime Expo attempted to handle overcrowding by closing off a major street next to the Los Angeles Convention Centre to allow people more space to walk, while trying to control the flow of entrants. However, many in attendance wondered whether the venue should have capped tickets sales to avoid the problem entirely.

I spoke with some attendees waiting for Anime Expo to open up at 9 a.m. on its final day to ask about their experience dealing with the convention’s closely packed crowds and waiting in long lines in the sweltering 80°F heat.

Jin Yao, a Los Angeles native, said Anime Expo 2023 is the first convention she’s attended since covid. Despite saying the event had gradually improved how it handled letting people into the lobby of the convention centre at the start of each day, the sheer size of the shoulder-to-shoulder crowds was still “scary.”

If there was a natural disaster, we would all die. There was no escape. You couldn’t move, especially around the corridors’ bottleneck areas getting in and out of the main halls,” Yao told Kotaku. “The artist alley in the basement [had] no airflow, and there was also a ton of people, so it got quite stuffy.”

Although the final day of Anime Expo wasn’t as crowded, Yao says she couldn’t walk the convention floor “without feeling suffocated.”

Kotaku reached out to Anime Expo for comment.

Fellow attendee Kevin Johnson, who was also at Anime Expo for all four days, said he and his friends had to sit out in the direct sun for two hours, to wait in lines that wrapped around the block, just to be told that there was a high chance they wouldn’t be let in if the event reached maximum capacity.

“On Sunday, we went to artist alley and the escalators weren’t working. There was a big crowd at the entrance, there was a big crowd trying to go down the escalator, and there was a big crowd upstairs,” Johnson said. “It was bad.”

Johnson says Anime Expo felt unorganized, saying the convention didn’t have any signage on the walls or on the floor for attendees to know where lines would lead, leaving many in attendance confused and frustrated.

Steven Jacsic, another LA native, says the crowds felt chaotic on the first two days of Anime Expo. He described himself and others being shoved into the walls of the lobby by groups of people trying to make their way to the front of the line.

“It’s a convention. I get that everybody is excited for it, but have some human decency. We’re all here to enjoy [Anime Expo]. No need to shove or anything,” Jacsic said. “I just find that sad.”

Max Aguylar, who attended the event for all four days for the first time, agreed with Yao’s sentiments about the first two days of the expo being overcrowded, saying areas could have been more air-conditioned in artist alley.

“I feel like [Anime Expo could have had] more staff on board to get the crowds more organised, and have more entryways within the expo itself. I know there are some stairs that were blocked off in some areas,” Aguylar said.

Bryson Fordhan, a South Carolina resident, says the Anime Expo’s overwhelming crowd size was to be expected because the event is always “consistently pretty crowded.”

“I guess it’s to be expected after covid that everyone is trying to get back to the con,” Fordhan said.

Another attendee, Brandan Wells, who only attended Anime Expo on its final day, said lines at the convention “get so much worse” with each passing year he’s attended the event. He described how he was not able to move around against the sea of people in attendance.

“If there was ever an emergency, it’d be complete pandemonium getting people out safely,” Wells believed.

While Wells thinks Anime Expo’s system of letting people in via staggered groups at the start of the day helps, he said it felt like a desire to get as much money as possible out of the event could potentially trump safety measures. Should Anime Expo double its efforts to prevent overcrowding next year, Wells suggests the event holders, “Let go of the corporate greed just a little bit, and cap the ticket sales earlier.”

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