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Anime Expo has grown immensely since its small start in 1992. Now, anime and manga are in the mainstream, how much bigger can the Japanese import get?


The Rolomite | Daily Girth

Downtown Los Angeles will be taken over by samurai, magical girls, giant robots, comic book heroes and villains, cartoon characters, steampunks and other anime-related individuals.

It is time. Anime Expo 2012 is here.

This is the 21st AX and the fifth straight year L.A. has hosted the largest anime convention in the United States. Last year, 47,000 unique visitors and 128,000 turnstile visitors powered their way through the Convention Center to purchase big-eyed toys, sing karaoke to anime songs (most of them in Japanese), play video games, pack viewing rooms to watch anime, and, of course, take pictures of the legion of cosplayers.

That’s right, the folks who dress up put together some of the most impressive costumes you’ll ever see. Hollywood designers would envy the elaborate threads these casual fans make.

AX cosplayers don’t limit themselves to anime characters only. Walk around the Convention Center grounds enough and you’ll definitely run into Super Mario and Princess Peach. Young ones might be terrified to run into dangerous looking zombies or a tough-as-hell Predator. More than one Optimus Prime has stalked the AX grounds, some with fully functioning lights. The Joker has been quite popular during the last three years. The Jedi Council would be proud of their members who show up to AX, but be careful, Darth Maul and Darth Vader make frequent appearances.

Expect to see your favorite anime characters such as Spike Spiegel from “Cowboy Bebop,” Vash the Stampede from “Trigun,” Haruhi Suzumiya from “The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya,” Pokémon (yes, the actual animals too) and other weapon wielders such as Ichigo from “Bleach,” Cloud Strife from “Final Fantasy VII” or Kenshin Himura from “Rurouni Kenshin.”

If fan service (gratuitous titillation) is your thing, there’s plenty of that: look for Chun Li, Mai Shiranui, Sailor Moon, Morrigan and others to show up. If you don’t know who they are, that’s fine, here’s a translation: hot girls who don’t wear much.

Cosplay is definitely the most eye-catching aspect of AX. The sheer number of people who cosplay put even Comic-Con to shame.

AX’s numbers have grown quite a bit from its first convention in 1992. That small-potatoes production that garnered 1,750 attendees has grown into the giant samurai sword it is today by word of mouth, anime growing in popularity and overall nerdiness becoming mainstream.

The biggest coup AX ever conjured had to be snagging a print of “Transformers,” the 2007 Michael Bay film and showing it a day before it even hit theaters. Fans waited hours — most of them in the blistering Long Beach sun — to see the special-effects monster featuring hard core robot-on-robot action.

Who knows how big anime will get in America? Anime and manga can be found at any mall or bookstore. How can it get bigger though? Hollywood can only reboot comic books so many times. Old-school anime such as “Speed Racer” and “Astro Boy” got movies, but they were not the over-the-top spectacles they should have been. Well, “Speed Racer” was an over-the-top disappointment.

If the popularity of anime grows, it will have to be at the American box office. Look how long it took comic books to get the Hollywood treatment. Anime will get there one day.

Anime Expo 2012 runs from June 29 through July 2. You can register online at anime-expo.org or at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

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