We’re less than two weeks away from Anime Expo 2018! The biggest anime convention in North America is back for its 27th year this July from the 4th to the 8th. This year, they’re delivering a complete lineup full of amazing activities, panels, merch, and premieres! With the recent release of the panel schedule, we’re back to help you sort through all the incredible things happening to make sure that you make the most of your con experience.

Anime Expo 2017 saw more than 350,000 attendees, over 400 vendors, 150 special guests, and 800+ hours of programming. According to Ray Chiang, CEO of Anime Expo’s event organizer, the Society for the Promotion of Japanese Anime, in a press release, “AX 2018 will feature 400+ exhibitors, 14 premieres, including 6 world premieres, and hundreds of hours of programming, as well as multiple programming tracks like Family Day and Career Day, many interactive events and more than 100 Guests of Honor and industry appearances.” This year also marks the unveiling of a brand new Anime Expo 2018 Mobile App. This will give attendees up-to-date information on panels, guests, and exhibitors, complete with a map of the entire venue!

This guide will highlight all the must-see and do things at Anime Expo. Additionally, if this is your first time attending the convention, we definitely suggest you check out this post here. It’ll tell you all you need to know about getting around the Los Angeles Convention Center and how to prepare for four days of fun.

Now, let’s see what cool stuff Anime Expo 2018 has in store for us!

What You Should Look Out For At Anime Expo 2017

Pick up Some Exclusive Merch

Nendoroid Jiraiya & Gamabunta
Nendoroid Jiraiya & Gamabunta set | Image: Good Smile Company

Probably one of the best parts of any convention is the exclusive, once-in-a-lifetime merch. This year, Good Smile Company (Booth #1800) is selling a few Nendoroid and Figma figures ahead of public release, such as a Jiraiya and Gamabunta set from NARUTO: SHIPPUDEN, Megumin from KONOSUBA: GOD’S BLESSING ON THIS WONDERFUL WORLD!, and Snow Miku: Crane Priestess Ver. in both Nendoroid and Figma figures.

If you’re more of a fan of MY HERO ACADEMIA or POKÉMON, Viz Media (Booth #2206) will be selling limited edition totes of both series. The designs haven’t been released yet, but we’ll try to update this when they do. More of a PERSONA fan? Kotobukiya (Booth #4200) is giving away free PERSONA 5 masks. Their main exclusive, however, is a Cu-poche of Hero in his Phantom Thieves Version, which you can check out here. If you’re more of a GUNDAM fan, Bluefin Brands (Booth #3106) has a complete line up of GUNDAM figures, including a special Zaku II Type C5 whose release follows the screening of GUNDAM: THE ORIGINS.

Lights, Camera, Action! Movie Premieres!

Here’s a premiere everyone is talking about: MY HERO ACADEMIA THE MOVIE: TWO HEROES will be premiering at Anime Expo 2018! The film releases in the US this fall and is a stand-alone film taking place at U.A. Academy’s summer training camp. Izuku Midoriya and All Might are invited to a Quirk research expo called I-Expo on the mysterious I-Island. However, when the attendees of I-Expo are taken hostage, only All Might can save them. Joining the world premiere is Daiki Yamashita (voice of Midoriya), Mirai Shida (voice of Melissa Shield), and Katsuhisa Namase (voice of David Shield). English voice actors Justin Briner (Midoriya) and Colleen Clinkenbeard (Yaoyorozu) will also be joining them. While this is a non-ticketed event, you will need a wristband to attend. For more info, click here. Catch it July 5 at 12:30 in Hall B.

MY HERO ACADEMIA THE MOVIE: TWO HEROES US movie poster premiering at Anime Expo 2018

Also getting a spin-off movie is Kyoto Animation’s SOUND! EUPHONIUM. Titled LIZ AND THE BLUE BIRD, the spin-off focuses on characters Nozomi and Mizore from season two. The film shines a spotlight on their relationship and all the ups and downs that come with it. Following the premiere is a Q&A with director Naoko Yamada (A SILENT VOICE), writer Reiko Yoshida, character designer Futoshi Nishiya, and music composer Kensuke Ushio. See it July 6 at 3:30 pm in the Platinum Ballroom.

Netflix’s new anime, FLAVORS OF YOUTH, will also be premiering on July 6 at 12:30 pm in Hall B. Created by the same company who brought us YOUR NAME, the anthology movie series will be told in three chapters in three cities and follow the themes of food, clothing, and shelter. Joining the premiere is director Yoshitaka Takeuchi and producer Noritaka Kawaguchi.

Must-See Panels

Sorting through the hours upon hours of panels is scary. With so much happening on each of the five days of Anime Expo 2018, deciding what you want to attend is tough. You’ve got industry panels, screenings, creator panels, and much more. To make it easier, here is a recommended panel for each day of the event.

While you’re celebrating the Fourth of July, also be sure to join the Anime Music Video (AMV) creators for YOUR NAME at 6:30 in Room 406AB and see how they created the heart-wrenching music that invoked the feeling of “iyashikei” or “healing.” On Thursday, after you watch MY HERO ACADEMIA THE MOVIE, stop by Room 404AB at 3:30 for “East Meets West: The Influence of Anime on American Animation”. With shows like VOLTRON LEGENDARY DEFENDERS and AVATAR THE LAST AIRBENDER, this is sure to be an interesting panel. Are you a fan of manga like INUYASHA and FULL METAL ALCHEMIST? Did you know women wrote them? While these authors won’t be at Anime Expo, be sure to check out “Women Who Write Shonen and Seinen Manga” in Room 404AB at 6:30 pm on Friday, July 6.

Think you’ll be missing all the excitement of Pride Month come July? Crunchyroll will be hosting, “LGBTQ+ in Anime.” The panel, featuring unannounced special guests, is happening on Saturday at 12 pm in Room 408. Finally, on your last day of Anime Expo, check out “Play Anime Hosted by BANDAI NAMCO America Inc.” at 3:30 pm in Petree Hall where they’ll be talking about upcoming games, like MY HERO ACADEMIA: ONE’S JUSTICE and CODE VEIN, and giving away some exclusive swag. If we’re lucky, they’ll talk about their latest E3 announcement, JUMP FORCE.

To see the full panel schedule, click here.

Despite Flaws the CITRUS Anime Gives Hope for More LGBTQ Stories in Anime

See This Year’s Anime Before They Come Out

Anime Expo 2018 will be home to a few TV premieres. From new seasons to old favorites making a comeback, there are some really unique shows coming out this year. The biggest of all is probably the premiere of ATTACK ON TITAN season 3. After a four-year wait, the hit anime ATTACK ON TITAN came back with a second season just last year. Everyone was surprised when it was announced just months after the second season’s end. Catch the premiere on Sunday, July 8, at 11:30 in LACC-Main Event (Hall B). Like MY HERO ACADEMIA THE MOVIE, the ATTACK ON TITAN premiere is a wristbanded event. For more info on how to get one, click here.

ATTACK ON TITAN Season 3 Visual featuring main cast, premiering at AX 2018
ATTACK ON TITAN Season 3 visual | Image: Official ATTACK ON TITAN Japanese twitter

Studio TRIGGER will be premiering their anime adaptation of the 1993 live-action series GRIDMAN THE HYPER AGENT. During its original airing, GRIDMAN THE HYPER AGENT wowed viewers with its futuristic storyline. Now, in an era where everyone carries a mini computer in their pockets, the viruses are back to wreak havoc once again. A teaser trailer for the adaptation was released last March. The premiere will be followed by a Q&A with designers and animators Masaru Sakamoto (LITTLE WITCH ACADEMIA), Shigeto Koyama (EUREKA SEVEN), Hiromi Wakabayashi (GURREN LAGANN), and Masato Takeuchi (KILL LA KILL). Catch all of them on Friday, July 6, at 7:45 pm in LACC-Main Event (Hall B).

Saturday has the most releases with the premieres of KENGAN ASHURA ( LACC-Main Event at 2:30 pm), OVERLORD III (Platinum Ballroom at 4:30 pm), K:SEVEN STORIES R:B BLAZE (Petree Hall at 6 pm), and XOGENASYS (Live Programming 4 at 8 pm). The official schedule currently lists JOJO’S BIZARRE ADVENTURE and FLCL as premieres though it’s uncertain what they will be premiering.

Meet Your Heros

One of the best parts about any convention is meeting the creators and actors of your favorite shows and movies. At Anime Expo 2018, they’ve got a really good autograph lineup. Unfortunately for us, the complete autograph schedule isn’t out, so what is listed below is a small sample of what’s to come. We’ll update the list when it comes out.

Unlike other conventions in the West, individual production companies sponsor autograph sessions and they’ll usually happen at their booth than in one designated area. A lot of them will offer the autographs for free or with the purchase of exclusive merch. Even better, if you’re meeting with a show’s creator(s), a lot of them will doodle your favorite character for you. Just note that most autograph sessions don’t give you something to sign, so come prepared!

Talking Voice-Acting and FLCL With Actress Kari Wahlgren

From the hit series OVERLORD, mangaka Kugane Maruyama and anime director Naoyuki Ito will be having multiple signings throughout the event at the BOOK☆WALKER booth (#806). BOOK☆WALKER is also bringing Komo Kugyu, author of GOBLIN SLAYER, and Ao Jyumonji, author of GRIMGAR OF FANTASY AND ASH.

Over at the Toei Animation booth (#1606), they’re hosting a special meet and greet with English voice actors of DIGIMON and DIGIMON ADVENTURE TRI, Joshua Seth (Tai), Colleen  O’Shaughnessey (Sora), Johnny Yong Bosch (T.K.), as well as voice director Ryan Johnston. In addition to the singing, the DIGIMON ADVENTURE TRI will be re-enacting a fan-picked scene over in LP4 on July 6 at 7:30 pm.

Idols Come Alive at Anisong World Matsuri 2018

Wake up, Girls! performing at AWM 2017
Wake up, Girls! performing at AWM 2017. | Image: Anisong World Maturi Twitter

Are you an Idol fan? Anisong World Matsuri is back for its third year with three nights of Idol-filled performances. Last year’s event saw Aqours, GARNiDELiA,  THE IDOLM@STER CINDERELLA GIRLS, Mashiro Ayano, and Wake Up, Girls! during a two-night spectacular. Each night featured a specific theme, “Japan Love Live!” and “Kawaii Love Live!”. This year’s Anisong will have the same performance divisions with the additions of an Aquors solo concert titled “LOVELIVE! SUNSHINE!! Aqours World Love Live! in LA ~Beyond the Pacific~.”

Taking place in the Microsoft Theater steps away from the Los Angeles Convention center, this year’s Anisong World Matsuri features performances from Aquors, Aimer, Yuki Kajiura, May’n, Sanketsu-girl Sayuri, AKB48 Team 8, THE IDOLM@STER CINDERELLA GIRLS, i☆Ris, and Shoko Nakagawa. Tickets range from $45 to $150 with concerts happening on July 4, 6, and 7. More information and tickets can be found here.

Anisong World Matsuri is the perfect opportunity to sing and dance along to your favorite anime music while cheering for your favorite idol just like they do in Japan. It’s a fun experience you’re sure to never forget and will surely make your Anime Expo 2018 experience all the better!

Check out the Full Music Video for DEVILS’ LINE OP!

J-Pop Meets LA Nightlife at OTAQUEST LIVE

New to Anime Expo 2018 is OTAQUEST LIVE, presented by m-flo and powered by LDH USA. Last year, guests were treated to Neon District, which gave them a taste of Japan’s nightlife. While that dance party was strictly 18+, this year’s event is open to all ages.

OTAQUEST LIVE gives attendees direct access to some of Japan’s greatest J-Pop performers. The show’s lineup consists of m-flo, PKCZ®, YASUTAKA NAKATA, Crystal Kay, Hachioji P, TeddyLoid, Masayoshi Iimori, and YUC’e. According to their announcement, LDH USA, the US-branch of LDH Japan, an artist management and production company, hopes to bring J-Pop’s popularity to the US.

Right now, there are three ticket tiers: bronze ($20), silver ($5o), and gold ($75). If you want to make the concert especially memorable, $200 will get you a platinum ticket which includes priority access, seating in front of the stage, a meet and greet with the performers, a signed poster, T-shirt, towel, and a special commemorative badge and lanyard. The concert will be happening at the Microsoft theatre on July 5. Doors open at 2 pm for platinum ticket holders, 2:30 pm for silver. The concert itself starts at 4 pm. You can get tickets here.

Get Your Game On!

While not E3, Anime Expo 2018 still hosts dozens of gamers and gaming companies alike. Blizzard, Bushiroad, and BANDAI NAMCO are back again this year. In addition to its normal tabletop and video game tournaments, Anime Expo will be adding two ticketed on-site games.

The first is the ONE PIECE Puzzle Hunt. Running throughout the entire con, the game requires players to use their smartphones to solve puzzles and find treasure. According to Showclix, scenes from the ONE PIECE manga will show up on players screens using cutting-edge augmented reality tech. By playing, Anime Expo attendees will receive a game set containing nine ONE PIECE character cards and a Japanese style fan. To make things even better, the first 5,000 players will also receive a special ONE PIECE gift. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased here.

FATE/GRAND ORDER VR EXPERIENCE Anime Expo 2018 visual | Image: Type-Moon/FGO Project

If you venture next door to the JW Marriot, Viz Media is bringing a JOJO’S BIZARRE ADVENTURE Escape Game called JOJO’S BIZARRE HOTEL: THE ESCAPE. In teams of six, AX attendees have one hour to solve the mystery of DIO’s Stand and escape the labyrinth. The game also features an original character named Dija Maker, a Stand user from the House of Holy. Tickets to the game are $40 and can be purchased here.

Finally, the popular FATE/GRAND ORDER VR EXPERIENCE is coming to Booth #9A in the Entertainment Hall. The game features a new English dub, with Kari Wahlgren and Erica Mendez returning as Altria and Mash. In addition, Aniplex of America will be celebrating the anniversary of the game’s English release, which debuted at Anime Expo 2017. The event will feature special guests and exclusive giveaways! More information about the game and the anniversary event can be found here.

SHONEN JUMP Celebrates 50th Anniversary with JUMP FORCE

Anime Expo After Dark

Anime Expo is hosting a plethora of 18+ and 21+ events this year. These events are designed for people who are looking to party, or get a little risqué. Remember: to attend these events, you must have a wristband, which you can get at the main entrance’s info desk. Simply present a valid ID and you’ll be on your way.

This year, the Maid and Butler Cafes will be hosting 18+ shows every night in their designated lounges. Last year, the maids dressed in bunny girl outfits. No word on how they’ll dress this year, though I’m sure it will be similar. Meanwhile, over on the men’s side, titled “Dark Romance,” attendees will be able to enjoy this interactive experience that boasts “…a little more skin and a little more play time.”

Are you ready to dance all night? | Image: FAKKU x MOGRA

Along the same vein, tickets are now available for MYTH: Legends of Burlesque & Magic. According to the Anime Expo announcement, “MYTH is an exciting evening show combining voice actors, singers, magicians, variety talents, celebrities, cosplay, dance, and burlesque into one giant show[.]” Performing at the event are Vixen De’Ville, Mia Morte, Nova Nyx, Nikitta B. Project, William Draven, Adam Wylie, Naathan Phan, and show-stealer, Steve The Chair.

Lastly, there are two after hour dance parties happening. After Hours, previously known as Night Cafe, is a night of drinking, dancing, and entertainment. Performing this year are Steven D’Onofrio, Andrea Kim, Lady Mekaella, and Marcella Raya. Looking to just let loose? FAKKU and MOGRA have teamed up for their first dance party with performers straight from Japan’s Akibahara district. Catch Taku Inoue (iM@S), DJ WILDPARTY, D-Yama, Oblongar, Meesh ミ, and Mowtendoo live on July 6. Doors open at 8 pm and tickets can be bought here.

Anime Expo 2018, Here We Come!

Anime Expo 2018 is just around the corner! Hopefully, if you were feeling a little lost, this guide provided some much-needed help. The clock is ticking so get ready. Finish up that cosplay, pack your bags, and let’s have some fun! Tickets are still available too so it’s not too late to join in on the action.

What are you most excited to do at Anime Expo 2018? What panel are you dying to attend? Let us know in the comments below!

Featured image via Anime Expo Official Facebook.

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