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Thursday, November 16, 2023

Anime Expo Chibi: Year 2

By Jonathan Bilski
Something so small, yet so busy. I'm not sure "chibi" is the right name as this smaller con took a little effort to get into. Was it worth it? Hell, yes! For the wonderful Artist Alley, community and overall experience of seeing multiple Jesuses, Jesusie? I met Jesus a lot there, like any good anime con. And, of course dogs and babies in cosplay.

For our AX Chibi Cosplay Gallery, go here.

Getting in sucked. I'm comparing AX Chibi directly with a smaller con I attended earlier this year, Anime Riverside. At AR, we came in, they gave us our badges, we walked around the con.

Here, we got stuck in registration for probably little more than an hour. I'll give credit to the people in line with us being nice and friendly, but AX and The Society of Japanese Promotion should have this down. They've been doing it for decades now.

1. They should have allowed badges/wristbands to be shipped out. It's fine to say it'll cost extra for shipping and handling and if you don't want to, you can stand in line. But, it's crazy not to have that option.

2. No overhang or shade. It wasn't that bad with the weather, but AX should have learned by now no to have people directly in the sun. It's an hour under the sun, slowing movie back in forth in a line.

Can't complain about the staff, they're volunteers or people working possibly for the first time at the event and were trying their best to move as many people through at a time.

Parking also sucked, many lots were sold out within an hour of the event starting. Having signs ready telling people where to go would have been nice. Eventually, we parked in a little bit further as many did in the almost hidden airport lot.

All end my gripes here saying the shuttle stop for the lot was never marked with a sign. We were on on our feet all day and it would have been nice to known where it was without finding someone and asking.

Starting and ending AX Chibi should not be such a pain. The time taken away from people who want to enjoy themselves, it's waste to them an the exhibitors. Take some time AX and reassess how you treat fans.

On with AX Chibi and straight to Artist Alley. Good lord, the amount of artists was truly amazing. It took us hours to get from one end to the other. There was so much to see and to have hyper-specific love for. Be it Filipino fast food chain Jollibee or an internet meme, it had a keychain or sticker. It was all there. And, a huge surging mess of Pokémon merch.

What amazes about going to artist alley, which had row after row this year;and we liked the setiup more than AX proper, was how professional the work was. Some of the stuff their is way better than anything you'll find in stores.

It's hard not to spend more than you want to or grab gifts for friends. Or, it was good for X-mas/holiday shopping.There were so many booth and so many talented artists it's hard to go over everyone, here just a swath of our favorites. 

The Pikachus our from @jeaniedraws


Some cat/Garfield love


Love the peepeepoopoo bag

Came in shirt form too


Another booth that caught my eye was Misty Figardio's, better known as MistyFigs. She had created these wonderful VHS magnets from scans from her wife's real life collection. These mini movies were the perfect item for any film nerd who grew up with real tapes. I asked here why she came to Artist Alley at Chibi. Misty told me, "I've never done the show before, I've heard about in the past. I do a lot out of horror conventions and smaller cons like that. But, I noticed there's a lot of crossover with the anime conventions. So, I did a couple of them and it was a very well received response. So, I started looking around and my friend christadoodles was also doing the show and they were like, "Do you want to room up and try this one?" And, we came down here." Then I asked how her time was going, "It's a little slow, but there's a lot of people, definitely worth the commute from Oregon." She ended by saying she snuck away twice to grab some pork belly.

That's another difference, the food booths were really quite nice compared to AX proper. Going by Chibi Plaza the area did have a sense of relax an ease of access. This area was more consistent with that new section of AX we only just saw in July, where the booths were much more in theme with Japanese culture.

Lines didn't seem as long, except maybe for the Okamoto Kitchen food truck.

Prices remained somewhat high, but you have to plan ahead when headed to a con and food outside is always better to eat than whatever a convention center is dishing out inside.

The Ontario Convention Center coffee shop area does look like you're in an airport, it looks so universally underwhelming. 

At an airport or convention center, it may shock you

Near the airport coffee shop we could hear the live concerts at nights and outside panels during the day.

The main hall had all the goodies if you wanted merch from your favorite anime series. We noticed familiar friends like Book-Off and Kinokuniya Bookstores selling their wares. Ghibli via Bandai was selling it's goodies too. No booth stood out this much this year, there's no big anime company showing off a show, but you could still find some great items.

We saw both animal clothing and "special" official  anime and video game collars from Pawsonify.

Adjacent to Artist Alley was Retro Market, which really meant most of the video game merch was all together. We like this idea, make everything a sort of district, so you know where certain stuff is.

I wish more cons were planned out that way, like all the gamer stuff is in one section or all the fantasy stuff is in one area. Maybe, it's just to hard to get booths to fit that way. It's funny to randomly see lightsabers next to anime air fresheners. In the Main Hall, you don't know what'll be down the next row. Maybe, gasaphon as it grabbed our attention for 15 minutes looking over each machine to see what crazy thing to get as a desk toy.

Still some random booths we're everywhere like the adorable sharkeroni booth was in the Retro Market for no reason, she should have been in artist alley. 

Retro Market is a great idea and I hope it gets put into AX rroper. I would like a closer distance to the arcade. It was very close, but hopefully at a bigger con they could share the same floor/room.

The Asayoru Maid Cafe was making people happy up stairs. Panels and cosplay set rooms were being used. You could see that AX Chibi has grown. It's a smaller affair than AX proper, but it needs to be managed into something better next time.

Artist Alley was of course a highlight, I could only wish that it be given such a nice space come July.

The artist, fans, cosplayers, everyone we met was pretty helpful and nice. It's a pretty easy-going crowd that just wants to enjoy anime. And then... some of them can stay later for the more naughty stuff with more adult themed panels.

Like myself, I hope AX Chibi is more prepared for it's third year, which I know it will have. As just so many fans enjoying themselves when they finally made it in.

And, the night for us ended at a bon dance.


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