Another year, another Anime Expo!

Earlier this month I flew out with the Japanese side of J-List for Anime Expo which takes place at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California.

After a long 13 hour flight, we arrived at San Diego International Airport and instantly went to our warehouse to make sure everything for the convention was in order since Day 0 was approaching, and that’s the day our panel for JAST USA falls on. Day 0 took place on the 4th of July, and only had a few days to prepare, while suffering from jet lag.

Since we arrived a few days earlier than usual, we were able to get all of our stock we wanted to take to the convention packed from our warehouse and hit the road early on the 3rd of July for a short road trip from San Diego to Downtown LA. Once we made it, we immediately got to work with setting up our booth and moving in all the stock we had for the show. This was great for us since we were prepared a day earlier and on the 4th of July, we went over our checklist to make sure everything was in order and ready for the public once Anime Expo officially opened to the public the following day!

On the evening of 4th of July, we met with companies we work closely with who also flew from Japan. Before the panel, we did a quick meeting with Toy’s Heart, Tama Toys, Akiba Hobby, and our guest of honor, Kaho Shibuya.

After going over everything, we were ready for our panel which took place on Wednesday, July 4th at 9:00 pm-10: 00 pm in Workshop 1 (403 AB). Despite taking place a day before the actual convention center opens, we were able to pack our panel to the brim, every chair was seated, it was an awesome feeling.

When people entered, they were greeted by Kaho Shibuya who was cosplaying as Majikoi!‘s Momoyo Kawakami! The atmosphere was astonishing, it felt like everyone was excited and on the edge of their seats for our upcoming announcements.

We were roughly 20 minutes ahead of schedule, so I took advantage of this and made sure to get some pictures for social media while people were being seated. I also made sure everyone who was working with us was feeling fine and knew what to do.

Once everyone was seated and we had a full house, the fun was ready to begin!

JAST USA first started the panel by introducing themselves, and then JAST BLUE, the boys’ love imprint of JAST USA, followed by our guest of honor, Kaho Shibuya. They then spoke about what visual novels are and why they love them.

After that, an announcement popped up on screen and the whole crowd gasped in shock. If you were lucky enough to attend, you received an Anime Expo 2018 exclusive demo of Majikoi!

Kaho Shibuya went around and personally handed everyone a copy of the demo.

After everyone received a Majikoi! demo, JAST USA then announced their new portal for visual novel developers and publishers to release their games onto the JAST store. They also spoke about creating a storefront that can connect Visual Novel developers, both large and small.

During the panel, trailers and visual were revealed for upcoming games.

During the panel, JAST USA revealed two new upcoming visual novel titles: Flowers -Le Volume sur Automne-, and Kimi to Kanojo to Kanojo no Koi.

JAST BLUE, the boys’ love imprint of JAST USA, also announced three upcoming visual novel releases: the battle royale Togainu no Chi, the vibrant cyberpunk adventure DRAMAtical Murder, and the lyrical fantasy epic Lamento -BEYOND THE VOID-, all from internationally acclaimed BL visual novel creators Nitroplus CHiRAL.

JAST USA also disclosed the official release dates for two titles: Trample on Schatten!!, and Flowers -Le Volume sur Été-, which took the crowd by surprise. They’re both now available on the JAST USA store.

It was also revealed that partnership with Dual Tail on their upcoming English release of Venus Blood Frontier.

After all the juicy parts of the panel were over with, we had free time so we decided to do something fun. We had everything stand up and ready to fight Kaho Shibuya in the Japanese equivalent of Rock Paper Scissors, Janken.

It was astonishing, not only was everyone participating and getting riled up to win, but Kaho Shibuya took out half of the room within the first round.

Once almost everyone was eliminated, we had the final few come up to the stage to battle between each other in a death match, until a winner was decided and they would then claim their prize from our guest of honor.

We had a handful of prizes, so it was great fun and went on for a few rounds until all the prizes were given out.

Once that ended, we allowed fans to line up and ask Kaho Shibuya questions for the remaining time we had.

It was quite surprising since the questions were rather tame, and nothing really out of the ordinary was asked. The most surprising request was for her to do jumping jacks, and she accepted the challenge.

Shortly after the crowd calmed down, it was time to wrap up the panel. We had everyone stand up while Kaho Shibuya climbed up onto the table for some quick pictures.

After a quick photo shoot, I asked her if she would be fine with wearing my hat for a few pictures and she was more than happy to do so!

I heard a few people in the crowd request to buy my hat after it happened, it was a surreal situation. She also made sure to get a few selfies with the crowd.

While people were leaving, she took a few selfies with fans and signed the goods people had won.

She also took the time to sign a few of the Majikoi! demo DVDs, and personally signed one for me.

At the end of the panel, we thanked everyone who took part for their hard work which made the panel successful. Then we headed to IHOP for some dinner and was there until early morning since we had a lot of work to catch up on, and the first day of Anime Expo was that morning so time was tight. We ended up sleeping at around 2-3 am or so, and only getting a few hours of sleep for the big day.

This year was rather different for J-List in terms of products, not only did we have an amazing guest of honor, we had some major convention exclusives, compared to the previous years.

We teamed up with artist Controllingtime to bring our first exclusive convention T-Shirt which everyone loved, and he also did the design for our limited edition skateboard which was only possible due to our friends over at FAKKU. Huge shout-out to Jacob from FAKKU for making the skateboards possible.

We also had limited edition cans of Megumi’s Moe Booster with illustrations done by Kätzchen. There was a total of 2 designs, one being an Anime Expo 2018 limited design.

Of course, we had our adorable Megumi-chan stickers with illustrations by chrone_co. We also made sure to include an Anime Expo 2018 limited design based on Kätzchen’s illustration, but in sticker format! We also renewed our ‘I bought hentai from J-List’ design for buttons which were also at our booth.

This year we enhanced our entrance design for our booth, we had a custom-made Noren with an illustration of J-List’s Megumi and JAST USA’s Maya, by Mallier.

Each day of the convention was phenomenal for us, not only did we constantly have lines that often wrapped around our booth three times or more, but everything overall went well.

We also had signings for 4-hours each day by Kaho Shibuya. You were able to get a selfie and something signed by her. Every day she went the extra mile to show up in a different cosplay.

She was really embracing with western fans and even offered to sign adult toys they had bought from the J-List booth!

She was also a fan of our energy drink and ended up becoming a model for them.

We also had some goods signed for social media giveaways!

During the convention, Kaho Shibuya was more than happy enough to meet two of our partners who happen to be cosplayers, Bunny Ayumi and Swimsuit Succubus for a quick photo shoot!

They also popped by in casual wear for a quick meet and greet the following day since we scheduled it before signings.

While the convention was in full swing, I saw Reina Scully and was able to ask her for a picture with Kaho Shibuya since they were both cosplaying as Street Fighter‘s Chun-Li and I couldn’t miss this opportunity!

On the second night of the convention open to the public, we had a shokujikai (ceremonial dinner) with Toy’s Heart, Tama Toys, Akiba Hobby, and our guest of honor, Kaho Shibuya.

Kaho Shibuya and Tama Toy’s sales representative, Mochiko, appeared in cosplay!

It was a wonderful experience since I got to practice my Japanese with co-workers, drink beer, and eat delicious steak.

At the end of the convention on every day, wild Pikachus would infiltrate our booth and took Kaho Shibuya as a hostage.

We also made sure to pop by the FAKKU booth at the end of the day since she wanted to see the ahegao wall and meet the people from FAKKU. Thanks once again Jacob for making this happen! It was awesome to witness in person.

On the last day of the convention after the hall closed, we parted ways with the companies from Japan who flew over and thanked them for their support and hard work.

Overall, the convention this year was a thoroughly enjoyable experience. We were able to see our months of hard work pay off and projects come to life. The best thing of all? We were able to see people’s thrilled expressions in person while at our booth.

I personally want to thank Toy’s Heart, Tama Toys, and Akiba Hobby for their support and hard work as always. Kaho Shibuya for being a delightful guest of honor. The artists who worked with us to make certain projects possible. FAKKU for collaborating with us on skateboards. Bunny Ayumi and Swimsuit Succubus for taking the time to stop by our booth for some pictures.

Of course, I want to also personally thank every fan of J-List and JAST USA for the support. It means a lot to have such support and motivates me to work harder.

I’m Swaps4 and I consume too much coffee and never gets enough sleep. I enjoy writing about anime, video games, and bits & pieces of Japanese culture. Enjoy my work? Support me on Patreon or treat me to a coffee!