Crunchyroll Expo Aus 2022 | Event Review
Oversold and underwhelming, Crunchyroll Expo Aus 2022 was a disappointing return to the convention circuit after years of lockdown and isolation…
If you’re unfamiliar with Crunchyroll Expo, it’s essentially a weekend-long convention for anime and anime-adjacent interests. Typically, anime-themed conventions will provide entertainment such as stages for performances and discussion panels, cosplay-oriented events and competitions, booths for fan artists and other creatives to sell their wares, and some theme-specific activities, such as manga libraries and maid cafes.
At a quick glance, Crunchyroll Expo Aus 2022 appears to have all of these standard features, and yet my first post-lockdown convention experience wasn’t as exciting as I’d hoped…
So.. what went wrong?
Considering the standard for conventions has been well established by mega hits like PAX and Supanova – and that Crunchyroll is backed by tech conglomerate, Sony – there’s no excuse for the shoddy, lacklustre attempt that Crunchyroll made this year with their 2022 expedition to Australia.
To put it into context, the convention was held at the Melbourne Exhibition Centre, an enormous complex in the Southbank area of Melbourne that’s specifically designed to host events such as this. PAX typically books out a substantial portion of this building, providing several sectioned off spaces and quieter rooms for its myriad activities.
Crunchyroll Expo, on the other hand, booked a handful of rooms towards one end of the centre and opened it all up into one cavernous, echoing space into which they plonked a variety of ‘zones’.
These ‘zones’ weren’t partitioned particularly well, so the cacophony of “ambient” noise from con-goers reverberated throughout the concrete hall in a constant, echoing din. Furthermore, the enormous slabs of monotone greys didn’t do much to excite attendees on a visual level, with the most vibrant and interesting zone being the ‘Living Lewd’ store with its pink and blue detailing and sakura branch by the entrance.
A few more decorations and a lot more detailed signage – perhaps including schedules for the various stages – would have gone a long way to jazz up the venue and make each zone more distinct. Partitioning each zone further would also have made the overall experience more enjoyable, even just to dampen the noise and provide some quieter spaces to escape the crowds.
Typically, at an anime-themed convention, the manga library provides a sort of refuge for those who need a break, but even this was just a sparse quadrant of flimsy, empty bookshelves surrounding a handful of floor cushions with enough seating for about six people at an expo that sold thousands of tickets.
It didn’t even have any walls around it to cordon it off from the rest of the con, so it was just kind of placed in the middle of a large, empty space. Bookshelves as room dividers may work in a home, but not in an exhibition centre with enormous walls and high ceilings.
Plus, in a health-conscious era, there was little to no consideration of transmissible viruses, with no obvious sanitisation stations, no mandate to wear masks, and even encouragement from the organisers to bunch up together while waiting in queues until we were way too close for comfort.
Even the Spy x Family lounge was disappointing. After lining up to get into this mysterious, walled-off section of the con, I found a “replica” of the Forger family’s lounge from the anime, along with cardboard cut-outs of the family and a friendly convention volunteer who offered to take my photo as I posed in the “set”. However, the set looked nothing like the lounge in Spy x Family, comprising instead of a generic couch, two armchairs, and a coffee table – all of which looked like they’d come from IKEA.
Overall, the activities and zones were tiny compared to the number of people attending, which meant nothing was particularly accessible, and the queues were only limited by the lack of space in which we had to queue. The ‘alleys’ between artist booths in the ‘Art Alley’ were so narrow that only a couple of people could stand in front of any one stall. If more people tried to browse, the space between stalls would become so packed that the entire walkway would come to a standstill.
This isn’t particularly pleasant for either consumers or vendors, as consumers are pushed and pulled along with the tide with no time to browse, making them far less likely to purchase from the vendors. The constant high level of ambient noise and lack of natural sunlight also made the experience more stressful, encouraging me to get through the artist alley as efficiently and quickly as possible, rather than take my time to look at everyone’s wares.
But… what did they do well?
There were elements of the convention that I did enjoy; namely, getting to see all the interesting cosplays after not being able to go to any conventions for the past couple of years, and the food trucks. The cafeteria within the exhibition building is often limited in its range and grossly overpriced. The decision to bring in food trucks was excellent, and I hope other conventions held in the exhibition centre will follow suit.
There were also some amazing artists in the Artist Alley, and when I could actually navigate the cramped laneways between booths without overheating or being bowled over, I found some cool art prints and other anime-themed merchandise. For the booths I couldn’t browse for long enough to actually buy something, I at least took business cards so I could do some online shopping later.
Crunchyroll Expo Aus 2022 was so grossly overpacked and poorly organised that it was actually insulting. Between the ramshackle set up, poor use of the venue’s space and layout, extreme overselling of tickets, and complete lack of consideration for accessibility, there’s not a lot left to enjoy.
I was primarily there to shop for art for my new home office and on that front, I was somewhat successful. But even my enjoyment of shopping was reduced by the crowded walkways and constant, unbearable noise levels. Not to mention the lack of seating, and the very real concern that if I left the expo for a quick breather, then I may not have been let back in, since I’d heard that some people who had bought tickets weren’t even able to get in to the venue in the first place due to the overall number of tickets sold exceeding the actual capacity of the venue.
In the end, my partner and I decided the only way we could make the most of the convention was to work out what we really wanted to see or do, and then speedrun them in a couple of hours and get the heck out of there by lunch time. After wandering around in a zombie state trying to remember where I’d seen the rare artist booth selling something other than genshin impact art, I was grateful to be released from the exhibition centre to find sustenance somewhere quieter and less crowded.
I was initially excited to go to a convention for the first time in years and be reunited with my real-world otaku community, but the Crunchyroll Expo Aus 2022 was wholly underwhelming and a truly poor performance for a company with so much weight and financing behind it. Anime fans deserve better – and if Crunchyroll Expo doesn’t promise to make significant improvements for next year, I won’t be attending again.
~☆ Patrons ☆~
SSR – Tarranga
SSR – Caroline
SR – Teryarel
SR – Fitzroy
SR – Tein
R – Vilicus
R – Salla Räisänen
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I’m sorry to hear your experience was not what you hoped it would be. Just imagining the constant noise level and masses of people make me feel uncomfortable. Also, thank you for explaining the different offers of an anime convention.
I heard those cars are a collaboration between manufacturers and some franchises like Pokemon. But I don’t even know if they’re just an exhibit or real cars you could order.
Thank you for including the cute fan art. I love the little Bulbasaur and the sleepy Eevee. 🙂
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Ooh that explains the cars! Thank you!
The shopping was the main reason I was interested in going, since it’s a great way to discover artists, so I’m happy with the merch I got!