Anime Expo has long been at home in Southern California; this year saw its return to a location in Anaheim. However, Anime Expo did not return to its previous host hotel; its new home was the Anaheim Hilton and Towers, the largest hotel in Southern California. And even that hotel was not big enough to provide all the function space necessary, so once again several rooms in the Anaheim Convention Center were used.

In the lobby of the hotel, a large banner was hung, leaving no room for doubt what was going on in the hotel that weekend.

Not much happens for the attendees on Thursday. In fact, the only event, aside from arriving at the hotel and checking in, is waiting in line for pre-registration badge pick up. Attendees were pleasantly surprised at how quickly the line moved for Pre-Registration on Thursday night, as badges were quickly handed out the night before Expo officially began.

At the registration desk: the calm before the storm...

The day started early for many attendees, as those who had not preregistered or were unable to make Thursday night's preregistered badge pickup started standing in line early. Undoubtedly due in no small part to the record number of fans that attended last year, many attendees planned for the worst, getting in line at five or six in the morning for the 8:00am registration.

However, with the Registration Staff better equipped with a larger number of terminals and an increase in manpower, what could have been an all-day wait was reduced to a much shorter time period. Thus, with badges in hand, attendees had a choice to make, and it was a big one: Stand in line for Opening Ceremonies or stand in line for the opening of the Exhibit Hall...

The registration desk: "Here they come!"

Opening Ceremonies
This year's Opening Ceremonies saw fans standing in line outside the Anaheim Convention Center for seating. With a seating capacity of over 1300, however, the room in the convention center provided ample seating, especially compared to last year, when the main programming room seated only 600.

At the Opening Ceremonies, the various Guests of Honor were introduced and clips of their work shown to an obviously appreciative audience. This year's guests of honor included (in alphabetical order): Akitaka Mika, Hayama Junichi, Kamiya Akira, Naito (aka "Nightow") Yasuhiro, Kitakubo Hiroyuki, Watase Yu, and Yoshimatsu Takahiro. They all expressed their enthusiasm and excitement at attending Anime Expo and being able to meet and interact with their American fans.

The official Anime Expo '98 Daruma was the brought out, and SPJA President Mike Tatsugawa asked Ms. Watase to fill in the eye as the wish was made for a successful convention. A performance by the UCI Taiko group ended the opening cermonies with a very literal bang, and the fans were off to enjoy three days of festivities.

Exhibit Hall
Some brave folks opted out of the Opening Ceremonies and chose instead to form part of the line that would eventually lead into the Exhibit Hall. Once again, the enthusiasm of the attendees was not damped even though the line snaked back and forth down the hallway and even down the stairs and out the fire exit.

When the protective doors of the Exhibit Hall were finally opened, a torrent of fans was unleashed on the dealers. They, however, had plenty of things to sell, from videos to CDs to cels to those hard-to-find plush items and garage kits. Throughout the hall, wherever one looked there was a throng of people, jostling for the best position to see goods and make purchases.

With over 65 Exhibitors, the Anime Expo Exhibitors was the largest to date, and the largest Exhibit Hall of any anime convention. Of course, all the mainstays were there, including AD Vision, AnimEigo, Pioneer, Central Park Media, and Manga Entertainment. But there were also some newcomers, most notably Bandai/ and Japanese company Future Bee.

Take Me to Friday's Autograph Sessions and more!