Do you guys remember the first Crunchyroll Expo? It was a very well-received convention that many prolific members of the fandom sung praise for in regards to management and activity. It didn’t have many prolific guests aside from a few Anitubers, but after the disaster that was AX 2017 and Animefest 2017, the fact that the company’s debut convention had panels you could actually get into was a welcome breath of air. Back when I paid some attention to Anitwitter, people made it sound so fun that I had to go the next year and observe its growth. Would it be even more impressive in its second go-around? Or is it all downhill from there?
Unfortunately, the down slide in quality was inevitable before the convention even started. While Crunchyroll has always had controversy regarding its low-quality streaming service, racist forums, mass layoffs, and bad cloud services, the company’s issues became so bad over the last year that it makes MAL’s controversies look like the reaction to a popular Youtuber giving an unpopular opinion on a product. There’s still hate involved there, but at least it’s not #ChangeTheChannel. I’ve mostly avoided the issues with that website by using VRV (which works well for the most part, but I know it’s not available outside the US, and a lot of the issues CR is facing is due to how the higher-ups want to concentrate more on VRV now) and not reading any articles on there. I haven’t even checked if some of my online colleagues like Kim or Isaac still write on there. That site has always been kinda shit and I’ve never supported any of the changes they’ve made once they decided they wanted to be more than just a streaming service.
Hell, I didn’t even hear about that High Guardian Spice thing until an Answerman article on ANN rightfully called out Digibro for his badly-researched views. Now that I have (and discovered the existence of MANY Youtube videos calling CR out on that series’ advertising), I can safely say that I have completely lost all respect for Crunchyroll’s staff and am glad to not be associated with anyone important there. Well, maybe Kim is doing something important with them, but I think he’s mainly associated with ANN. And yes, I’m aware ANN is also mostly unprofessional and sides with Crunchy and all that, but let’s stick to talking about the convention for now.
Crunchyroll Expo disappointed right off the bat by starting off with a pre-party that you needed to pay $25 for. I didn’t go to it myself because it looked like an awful and overpriced idea from the description alone, but my friends from Dallas who came with me to the convention told me it had no water and food that was about mediocre as the Chinese place across the street was good – and let me tell you, the food at said Chinese place was phenomenal. We ended up meeting at the lobby and chatting for an hour before preparing for the actual first day in our hotel rooms. I wanted to pass the time by playing Yakuza Kiwami 2 on that large PS4 I lugged on the airplane ride to San Jose, but it turns out I forgot my controller and the Hilton TVs can’t render PS4 HDMI on their screens to begin with.
Oh, and while the Hilton is great for going to and from the convention, the hotel service there stunk royally. One time when I left some anime posters as well as my toothbrush and dental floss out in the open whilst doing con activities, the cleaning ladies decided they were synonymous with trash so I came back to my room without a means to brush my teeth. And let’s not even get into how thin the walls are there to the point that I can hear how fake the sex sounds my neighbors make are. Or how the Wi-Fi stunk to the point that whenever I tried to stream something on VRV or Youtube, I’d be met with buffering issues.
As for the actual convention, I’ve been to the San Jose Convention Center for Fanime before so I had no trouble navigating it. Having said that, while I knew beforehand that CR Expo is a small convention with room to grow, I wasn’t expecting everything I usually enjoy about an anime con to be as limited as it ended up being.
The cosplay was pretty minimal with barely any of the popular choices like Voltron Legendary Defender, Monster Musume, or any of the Disney princesses. Even Love Live was very limited in terms of cosplay, and I only realized this whilst writing the post, but there wasn’t one Love Live cover band dancing/lip-synching to the songs from that show, unlike the last five cons I went to. I think Cells at Work was the only anime where I saw more than one group of people recognizing its existence through costume, and that’s mostly due its recency and the fact that the platelets are easy to dress as. When somebody brought their boom box in order to convince attendees to do the Cupid Shuffle, very few people joined in, and the battery died halfway through the song. K-pop was limited to a few songs by the DJ in the hall and one of the booths with nobody actually dancing to BTS’s Idol. The dealer’s hall was pretty small. In fact, I think the artists’ alley was larger. And while I’m glad there were no lines to struggle with whenever I wanted to see something, there were barely any events where lines even mattered if you get what I mean.
Management was pretty meh as well. I will say that it was great to have a lot of security guards within the area, especially given some recent convention-related troubles like the White Supremacists within the Otakon area and the death threats at Anime Expo. Having said that, I think there’s something wrong with metal detectors when your own cosplay as well as your badge has metal in it. But the biggest issue I had was how none of the Expo staff seemed to know what was going on at the convention. Whenever you asked them a question regarding a panel or event, they always said “I don’t know” or “Can you ask someone else?”. And they frequently gave you the wrong direction when you wanted to go somewhere.
Most of the people I knew online and haven’t erased me from their existence weren’t here this year, but meeting Appropriant again in his Danbo cosplay without getting swallowed by large crowds is always a plus in my book. Unfortunately, I didn’t have nearly as much luck socializing with a lot of the attendees like I did in Canada or Dallas. Way too many couples or kids with their own schedules, and my cosplay wasn’t exactly turning heads due to Fafnir not being the most popular Dragon Maid character and Shuichi not functioning all that well at a con where Danganronpa cosplay was few. Even meeting EeveeVoShoh in her Prinny outfit had limited appeal. One of the highlights was finally getting to meet with Geoff Thews, Gigguk, and Tenleid in person (as well as seeing Arkada again), but they obviously had their own friends and responsibilities to deal with at the convention so I couldn’t talk with them for more than a minute without turning into a stalker. Was definitely awesome being in a photo with all of them though.
It wasn’t until later that I found out the reason that the convention felt less populated than it should have was because SAC Anime was happening around the same time, and all of the cosplayers dressing as the usual suspects were over there. Crunchyroll becoming the cancer that’s killing anime certainly didn’t help, but this is just proof that dueling anime conventions are never a good idea. Especially when I choose to go to the lesser one.
So let’s talk about the panels since that’s supposed to be the main reason you pay for conventions in the first place (and before you ask, no I didn’t go to the High Guardian Spice one). If you read my A Place Further Than the Universe review, you’d know I met with the director, Atsuko Ishizuka. It was a decent panel and she has a lot of fun things to say about her career, but that experience was hampered by the poor video quality of her presentation. I’m not sure what was up with the HDMI, but it was functioning as well as Crunchyroll’s Flash players, and that’s pretty bad. Still, Atsuko Ishizuka is a really fun director to talk to in general so in no way did I consider my time wasted. She’s sort of like Cardi B in that I don’t like most of her output, but she is really talented and deserves to be recognized as one of the anime greats.
The Anitubers one was okay. It was mostly just Geoff, Gigguk, and Arkada saying their opinions on anime, but as a trio, they’re more entertaining to listen to than most anime fans. I had to leave halfway through the panel to eat lunch with my Dallas friends, but they pretty much all agreed that A Place Further Than the Universe was one of the best of the year and Megalo Box was a good show that people are going to forget about because it had no staying power. I did like how Geoff praised Planet With and I was the only one in the audience who reacted to the name, which caused him to point me out. Some of you are probably aware that I find Geoff (and Gigguk for that matter. Arkada is a lot more consistent) to be hit-and-miss. He’s decent when making videos about anime openings and anime that are finished, but his reactions to stuff that isn’t finished and his many SAO videos that he uses to pay the rent are mostly crap, and he really needs someone to moderate his tweets, especially compared to how much more approachable his girlfriend is on social media. Nevertheless, I respect the guy for doing what he loves without overstepping any boundaries, plus he’s a lot friendlier and more charismatic in real life.
Battle Angel Alita and Anime Crimes Division panels were definitely worth going to in my opinion. Seeing Robert Rodriguez in real life after seeing so many of his films was a treat, and the staff of both projects were a lot of fun in general with their insight into anime and how they wanted to realize their visions to a large audience, along with their hilarious Q&A answers. I even got to see the first episode of Anime Crimes Division S2, which was funny (and you can watch it on Youtube right now). And some of the behind-the-scenes stuff that Sungwon Cho did was definitely worth watching. Looking forward to when both projects get proper releases.
I attended the Darling in the Franxx panels as well and frankly, they were a massive disappointment. You can read some of what transpired on Anime News Network, but basically the creators had nothing interesting to say about the show that I didn’t already get from the interviews released in-between episodes, which weren’t all that insightful either. Just about the only thing that surprised me was when the creator mentioned Zero Two was originally designed to be more meek, but then had elements of Madoka from Kimagure Orange Road added to her.
Also, Evan Minto was doing the interview and I’ll be honest: I’ve never liked any of the reviews or articles that he’s written for Otaku USA and other platforms, and his tweets aren’t any better. I find them to be lacking in personality and he never says anything about an anime or anime production that we couldn’t get from someone else (although to be fair, that’s true for most of CR’s main staff). But I didn’t think that his public persona in real life would be just as lackluster with his dull questions and how he instantly lost me the moment he said what interested him about the project was how it was a collaboration between the “talented studios” of A-1 Pictures and Trigger. It’s like the complete opposite of how Geoff is (incidentally, I ditched the second Franxx panel in favor of Geoff talking about his Youtube career more).
Still, it was nice to see Franxx cosplayers show up for a decent hurrah after the massive amount of Zero Twos that came to AX but will most likely fade out of existence within the next year. Even found someone cosplaying as Goro for the first time, while his girlfriend dressed as Ichigo. I had more fun talking about how and why Zero Two lost her personality after she got together with Hiro with people sitting behind me than I did listening to the actual creators.
Final panels worth noting were the abundance of premieres that were at the convention. The first one I attended was a showing of Penguin Highway, a new anime film licensed by Eleven Arts that flew completely under the radar because it had no big names attached to it. While my friends and the general audience were impressed with what they saw, I found the movie to be incredibly lacking. I’ll publish some fuller thoughts if it ever gets a blu-ray release in the States, but to put it lightly, I found the narrative to be overlong and lacking in substance. I found the main character to be an unlikable sexual harassing prick who never grows throughout the course of the story. Visuals were good and the comedic timing was spot on, although the latter loses appeal by repeating the same joke fifty times over the course of this two-hour movie. Apparently the writer of The Tatami Galaxy and The Eccentric Family wrote the original novel the film is based off of, and oh my god his dialogue gets annoying when it’s not pushing the narrative forward. He’s like the Aaron Sorkin of anime.
The premieres for upcoming series fared a little better. RErideD started off a little slow and it has that Yoshitoshi ABe problem of the art translating poorly to animation (the animation in general was pretty limited as well), but once the main character gets sent into a dystopian future, the show picks up tremendously. Definitely my favorite premiere at the convention.
Rising Shield Hero mostly annoyed me in the first episode due to how contrived it was combined with how reactionary the main character is, but the second episode just made me laugh due to how edgy the main character became due to all of the contrivances in his life pissing him off. If you’ve played any RPG in recent times, you’d know that shields are actually really good weapons for both attack and defense, so the fact that everyone looks down on shields in this universe is just laughable. On the bright side, Kinema Citrus is giving it their all with this light novel adaptation in terms of production. They even got Kevin Penkin, the guy who made the Made in Abyss OST, to do the score.
Double Decker’s first two episodes were pretty entertaining. Some of the Sunrise/comic book camp gets annoying and overdone, but it’s shaping itself up to be a good buddy cop series and I hope the female teams get to shine in later episodes. Not expecting it to be great, but very few anime actually are.
However, the quality of the actual premieres were hampered by how conventions are just bad venues to watch anime at in general combined with how with the exception of Penguin Highway, I could just watch these anime within a few months anyways (or to be more accurate, one month in RErideD and Double Decker’s cases). Especially considering how I very rarely watch anime as it’s airing anymore, I certainly don’t write about anime as it’s airing anymore, and I prefer to binge-watch and get it all over with because I don’t like episodic discussions and pondering over cliffhangers. Unlike most anime fans, I have patience, and while I generally try to stay in the present, I’m not confined by it. Not really impressed by how Crunchyroll expected me to think better of them by using these exclusive anime screenings as a main draw.
And I’m just less impressed with Crunchyroll Expo 2018 the more I look back on it. Yeah it had some good moments, and it was really refreshing not to deal with horrendous lines or crowds in order to go to events I wanted to attend. There were still cosplay highlights like a couple dressed as the Ice Climbers, a girl dressed as Construction Majima, and some folks cosplaying as Ugandan Knuckles. Not to mention, meeting Dan Salvato again and buying some keychains from him, along with getting a Planet With T-shirt and a copy of the movie, Aura, meant the Dealer’s Hall had life to it. But on the whole, CR Expo feels so much lesser compared to all of the other conventions I went to this year, no matter how many Bananya pits they try to get me to participate in. Less cosplay. Less K-pop. Less Love Live. Less impromptu dancing. Less socialization. Less management. Less good hotel service. Less dealer’s hall space. Less reason to care about Crunchyroll in general.
And here’s the kicker: every convention I went to in the last year or so had a Danganronpa panel. Did Crunchyroll Expo have a Danganronpa panel? Well then I should have gone to SAC Anime instead!
- Also, Bardock Obama had a room near mine (he’s a Twitch streamer who has been known to lead large harassment campaigns against people for crappy reasons in case you don’t know), but thankfully I never ran into him after figuring this out. And thank god he took himself off the guest list.
- Fun fact: if you type in “Crunchyroll” on Youtube’s search algorithm, you get a ton of videos saying “Crunchyroll sucks” before you even get to their channel.
- If you’re wondering why I’ve chosen to cut myself off from Anitwitter and the majority of the online community in general, Crunchyroll being synonymous with the Bubonic Plague isn’t one of them, but I’m definitely not even considering going back now.
- Still not going to pirate anything myself it’d be wrong for me to critique an anime I watched for free on here. Except for some of the recent movie reviews, but I made sure to watch them legally afterwards even if I didn’t like them.
- And the VIP passes were a waste of money as well.