Anime Expo is billed as the largest anime and manga convention in North America, and the second longest running anime convention. Attending the 2014 event this weekend, there was no doubt of its popularity. Opening day this past Thursday attracted scores of attendees who packed the wide sidewalk outside the Los Angeles Convention Center all day waiting for their chance to enter the exhibit hall.

Record attendance last year at the same venue totaled 61,000 unique guests for the four day July 4 holiday weekend, with 161,000 turnstile visits. In comparison to my last visit in 2012, it definitely appeared to be more crowded considering the sea of attendees prior to opening, as well as the multitudes who were still lining up outside with only a couple hours left before closing.

Exhibitors

Attendees come, in part, to shop the wares offered by more than 240 vendors on the massive show floor. Exhibitors displayed anime, manga and related merchandise in all kinds of mediums. Blu-rays, books, CDs, video games, figures and toys were well represented, including rare and exclusive items.

Among the merchandise that caught my eye were an Ichi the Killer: Blood Pack Special Edition, Dragon's Dogma: Official Design Works and Mulan: Rise of a Warrior. Nothing rare to my untrained eye, but the expo was the first time I'd been made aware of these items.

Cosplay vendors offered a variety of clothing and accessory options, including steampunk designs, armor, wigs and a few specializing in weapons. At an event as popular among cosplayers as this one, these booths saw regular foot traffic. There were also booths that displayed non-cosplay fashion designs.

Websites that stream anime content continue to maintain a high-profile presence at Anime Expo.

Anime and manga related merchandise is well represented by retailers and distributors offering toys and accessories such as plushies, action figures, models, key chains, purses, etc.

Blu-rays, DVDs and manga were available from several exhibitors and covered a wide range of titles and tastes.

Figurines and models came in all shapes, sizes, materials and subject, representing an array of popular characters in numerous costumes and myriad dramatic poses.

Video game publishers were on hand to showcase and sometimes demo their titles on multiple platforms including PC, handhelds and consoles. 

Different kinds of hands-on demos were available to those attendees interested in tackling skills such as drawing during their visit to the expo. Workshops were offered in areas such as sewing, origami and dancing.

Artist Alley

Amateur and semi-professional artists have an opportunity to display and sell their creations to fans who share their enthusiasm for anime and manga. Most artwork was of the pen and paper (or brush and paper) variety, with designs ranging from the whimsical to the dramatic. Other mediums such as literature were also represented. All showed great care and respect for their subjects.

Artists spent their day sitting behind a table and framed by their creations, happy to speak about their work with customers and passersby.

Attendees were grateful for an opportunity to rest their feet even one to two hours into the show, no doubt after having waited hours already in the massive line outside the convention center.

Cosplay

Many attendees showed their creativity by dressing as their favorite anime, manga or video game characters from franchises such as Final Fantasy, Zelda, Avatar: The Last Airbender and Assassin's Creed. Crafting their costumes from a variety of materials, their artistry was no less impressive than that on display in the Artist Alley.

The show floor also proved a staging ground for the Masquerade competition, a tradition at Anime Expo where cosplayers display their costumes and pose in character for an opportunity at the recognition that comes with winning such a contest.

Of course, Anime Expo is much more than what is on display on the show floor. There were also live panels, guest of honor panels (including Q&A sessions), fan discussions, announcements, anime premieres and music concerts, among other daytime and evening events.

All told, Anime Expo 2014 demonstrated once again why this annual gathering is a highly anticipated opportunity for artists, vendors and fans to interact and enjoy their favorite anime and manga titles and characters.