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Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Anime Riverside 2023: Starts Off Summer Right!

 By Jonathan Bilski

Didn't expect to see that giant frog from Naruto or so many fans at the 2nd Anime Riverside. Taking place over Memorial Day weekend, this only 2-day con got people from all over the Inland Empire to celebrate anime. Every part of the Riverside Convention Center was used for the event, including its lovely outdoor area and it was hardly enough to contain so many folks. This con already looks like its already outgrown its location.

If you've been to downtown Riverside, you know there's a stretch that has all the food and isn't far from the modern arcade/food hall Game Lab and Food Lab. We found ourselves walking past those places into a farmer's market. When we started seeing the cosplayers past the fresh fruit we spotted a celebration. A giant orange frog, a giant missing his skin and huge swath of fans. We found Anime Riverside.

Getting in was easy enough, badge pick-up and registration seemed easy to get through. We didn't see any long linen, except for people wanting for autographs on the other side of the convention center.

The Exhibit Hall and Artist Alley barely contained its audience. Artist Alley was breezier and easier to
move around in, but you could tell a lot more artists could've made it there if it had the space. Vendors filled up the Exhibit Hall, though it wasn't all Funko Pops. Strange booths about Furby's and other collectibles made it fun to look for that special item you could only get from Japan or was hard to find over on Etsy. It seemed liked a lot of Artist Alley booths went big and just became vendors. Both were crammed with people and there wasn't much you could do, but go at a slow pace.

The main stage couldn't even be inside. It was tented outside and had panels from the voice actors from Helluva Boss and Demon Slayers, who also happened to have a big autograph area. The autograph area was so big it had it's own outdoor lines. So, really, main events took place outside in the garden area for the most part. Very differnt from your typical con.

The smaller panel rooms inside were comfortable enough, but they could only fit two panel rooms inside.

We caught a panel, if you can believe it, on the Okamoto Kitchen OVA First Look. This is an anime based on the anime style food truck you've seen around LA. And, gotta say it was funny as Hell. You wouldn't think an anime about a food truck would be as  funny as it is, but it worked. We laughed out loud so much as a young Japanese girl in a maid outfit is trying to make it in LA, by working on a food truck. The jokes about LA culture are spot on, they nailed are idiotic parking signs. And, the bitter rivalries of food trucks makes this something we hope gets picked up as a series. Right now, it'll be a completed 30-minute anime this Fall, from a Kickstarter. One of the owners of the food trucks, Gerald Abraham and one of the writers behind it Mykal Williams were there answering the Q & A. And, of course the food trucks were outside in the parking lot.

Not too far from them was the Anime Wrestling. Seeing cosplayers knock-sense into each other from afar led us straight to the wrestling arena. Known as the Anime Wrestle-Verse from Knok Pro, throughout the day different wrestlers fought each other for the crowd's amusement for the dumbest of storylines. After the main event, we though all fights were over, but then Bowser showed up to challenge the champion wrestler. Yes, Bowser from Mario. And then, of course, Michael Myers music came on and he shortly appeared after taking down all wrestler in his wake. You don't know what fun an anime convention is until you see wrestling cosplayers duke it out like the WWE. They need to do this at all anime conventions.


Below the Anime Wrestle-Verse was The Four Empires, this was another fun concept where you sorted into one of four groups, much like Harry Potter's Houses or one of the Knights at Medieval Times. You could go on various "quests" to earn points for your side. A fun side option if you want to play along like your in a fantasy game while at the con.

Headed over to the hotel nearby to check out Anime Karaoke, that was filled to the brim with people, it was also where the Maid Cafe was and a small arcade. We were amazed, once again, how much could be crammed into basically the front of a hotel.

Karaoke came to life as people signed up so much that people were warned forget the waiting list.

There was the adult cosplay contest ending the day and it was a long day, but still there was a separate after-party you could go to if you wanted more.
For its setting, of a huge chunk of the con be set outside. Using every inch of the convention center it could and then some and getting that many anime fans in one place were floored. We had an amazing time, but saw that everyone who want dressed as Mario or Dante from Devil May Cry has a good time too.
Anime Riverside sets itself up to be hopefully even bigger next year. It's what an anime con should strive to be and should aim just to be able do more with maybe more tents outside. Hopefully, they can build or grab more room nearby. It was a great way to start of the Summer as an anime fan.

Just extra issues

The convention is convenient enough that you can find parking in the surrounding area. Anime Riverside tried to warn the best it could with a parking map, but maybe a deal with an existing lot/s could be struck. For newcomers to the area; they might have had trouble finding places to park.

Though outside food and drink, except water, wasn't allowed in, you were walking distance to grab food at reasonable prices. Some places even had deals with Anime Riverside.

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