Since its inception at the San Jose Red Lion Hotel in 1992, the Anime Expo has grown bigger each year. The celebration of Japanese anime and manga now claims the Los Angeles Convention Center as its home, and this year will expand into L.A. Live’s Nokia Theatre, Club Nokia and Nokia Plaza.
Here are some highlights from the biggest anime convention in the United States, which runs Thursday through Sunday.
AKB48 takes the stage at 4 p.m. Thursday at the Nokia Theatre. The group has what Japanese refer to as “idol” status, meaning it features attractive young women who regularly dazzle the public eye. The 48-member band sings J-pop, wears identical outfits and looks irresistibly cute.
The Anime Music Video Contest showcases the work of individuals putting anime clips to their favorite songs Thursday at 8:30 p.m. at Nokia Theatre.
For the first time, the Anime Expo will offer theater. In the murder-mystery drama Kisaragi, five actors attempt to discover the truth beneath a model’s suicide. The play, performed July 2 at 4 p.m., stars Mitsuru Matsuoka, the lead singer for Japanese rock band Sophia.
Battle of the Bands, presented at 3 p.m. Friday at Nokia Plaza, lets groups compete with the ferocity of ninjas.
The world premiere of the Japanese movie “Black Lagoon: Roberta’s Blood Trail” will screen Thursday at 1:30 pm, presented by the creator and artist of the manga series that had inspired the movie, Rei Hiroe.
“Eden of the East,” a Japanese TV show, will have its premiere Friday at 4 pm, followed by a panel with the show’s creators, Kenji Kamiyama, Satoru Nakamura and Tomohiko Ishii.
Kyle Hebert is one of the expo’s most prominent “guests of honor.” The L.A.-based voice actor for anime and video games will discuss his weekly podcast of anime- and technology-related news on Thursday at 6:15 p.m.
AX Idol, the Japanese version of “American Idol,” takes over the Nokia Plaza stage at 4 p.m on Saturday. AX’s most popular event, Masquerade, lets participants show off their finest cosplay, or “costume-play” attire 8 to midnight Saturday at Nokia Theatre.
Laser Light Spectacular will illuminate Nokia Plaza at 8:30 p.m. on Thursday-Saturday. The event includes music, and the crowd is encouraged to participate in a choreographed dance.
The dancing continues each night into the wee hours, with music by a host of diverse DJs. On Thursday, an Alice in Wonderland-themed party will take place at the JW Marriott Los Angeles Hotel & Spa from 7 p.m. to 3 a.m. Club Nokia will offer the after-hours parties the next two days. On Friday, the event runs 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. with the theme of “Villains and Heroes.” On Saturday, “L.A. Harajuku Nights,” or Japanese Street Fashion theme, will overtake Club Nokia 5 p.m. to 2 a.m.
– Daina Beth Solomon
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Photos: At top, a ”cosplayer” shows off her cape and pink hair at last year’s expo. Below, an image for “J-rock” band Sophia, who will celebrate its 15th anniversary at the expo. Credits: Anime Expo 2010.