This year (2019) marks the 20th anniversary of Japan Expo which is the biggest Anime / Manga convention in Europe. It’s one of the few European based conventions that can attract some of the biggest names in the industry. This year they even debited 10 minutes of Evangelion 3 + 1 and had the Shinji voice actor to introduce it. We also saw Go Nagai one of the biggest manga legends doing signings.
Overall it was a great convention but had a lot of down sides too.
The venue itself is huge being based at Parc des Exposition which is located between the Paris city centre and the Airport (Paris Charles-de-Gaulle). Unfortunately being a huge venue it suffers from the fact there isn’t much around without train ride into the main part of town. This makes it a bit expensive getting around for the four days. If you are planning on going make sure you have a good think about what you want to do when you’re not at the convention. I’d recommend going for for a hotel near the city centre and close to a RER train station as that in will take you direct to the convention. If you aren’t too bothered about doing anything in Paris outside the convention maybe go for one of the airport hotels as they will be a short taxi ride to the convention.
The guests were a big attraction to this convention for me, I’ve dreamt about meeting Go Nagai and getting an original sketch from him and going to Japan Expo really got my hopes up. Unfortunately he was only signing for 1 hour a day like most of the guests and places seemed poorly organised. Basically it was made on a lottery system, you queue up for 45 minutes to over an hour each day to play a slots game to see if you have won a ticket. I tried each day as did my friends and none of us won, in fact I looked at dozens of fans while queuing up and I didn’t see anyone win. Doing the maths I think the odds must have been about 1 in 1000 of you getting the chance to get an autograph. By the end of the convention I felt a little ripped off that I’d lined up each morning with little to no chance of getting a signature. I think it would have been better if the time slots were paid for or you could queue up and guarantee a signature. It seemed too unfair to expect maybe thousands of people to line up each morning with nothing to show for it.
One thing the convention was good for was shopping for anime and manga merchandise, the venue was full with hundreds of stalls with all sorts of memorabilia from statues to toys and manga. For a visitor it was especially good as there was a lot of price wars to make sure they made a sale. I picked up a few Dragon Ball Z statues from as little as 10 Euro which on ebay or alike would have been 3-4 times that price at the cheapest. Most stalls were happy to haggle prices a little too. With it being the 40th anniversary of Gundam too it was a great opportunity to pickup a few model kits which were pretty cheap too. Shopping wise it was great but could have done with a bit more variation, I only saw one stall selling video games, also most of the manga and anime were in French which was fair since it was a French event but with visitors coming from all over the world I think they could have made more money if a few more retailers had some English language anime and manga.
Finding your way around the convention was easy enough as they had colour coded carpets which lead to different areas making it easier to get around. Although some parts of the contention were very hard to find, due to the layout I probably spent 90% of the time wondering around about 30% of the venue, it seemed like they funnelled people into certain directions. They also didn’t provide convention maps or printed guides, instead everything was put on the app which at times wasn’t too helpful, I wanted a map I could scribble on and make notes.
The duration of the convention spans from Thursday to Sunday, it’s a very big convention so even at a fast pace I’d say it would take two days to just walk past each stall. By day three though I’d had enough and skipped the Sunday. One thing I learnt to do was not to second guess my judgement on things to buy, I’m used to seeing things, walking away and coming back maybe a few hours later once I’ve had a think about if I want a Gundam kit or not. That wasn’t possible at this show. It was so busy if you blinked there is a chance someone else will have bought it. There was a few items I wanted to buy but though I’d browse round a bit, when I came back an hour later they were gone. This is a very busy convention and things sold out quick, especially with it being a four day convention. In fact a lot of the best stuff was probably sold out by the close of Friday. So if you do go to Japan Expo for the shopping I’d recommend buying as four day ticket and doing the bulk of your shopping on Thursday / Friday. because by Saturday a lot of the good stuff had already sold out.
One thing that can be a problem with conventions abroad is the language barrier, I don’t speak much French unfortunately which wasn’t a problem with the convention in general as most of the staff spoke English as a second language but the presentations were a bit difficult as they were all in French. I think if they could have added English sub titles to the screen it would have helped for none French speakers.
Overall the convention was a lot of fun and I’d recommend giving it a try as it does pull in some big names in manga and anime, although the way it’s setup you won’t get to meet any of the special guests. It almost felt like a bit of a scam at times getting in line for nearly an hour to play a slots game maybe 1/100 might win. Shopping was fun as they all had to be very competitive with prices and it was easy to pick up a few deals.
Posted by Adi Mursec on July 8, 2019
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