I’ve been an anime fan for the better part of 20 years now, but more actively involved in the last 15. My first convention was a tiny little get-together in San Francisco called JTAF, or the Japantown Anime Fair. Even though it was a small convention, it was able to get some pretty big names including Matt Greenfield, then director of ADV, voice actress Tiffany Grant and other notable movers and shakers within the anime industry. Since then I’ve been a longtime attendee of FanimeCon, but now that I find myself settled in southern California, there’s another, larger convention that now calls my name: Anime Expo.
I’ve written previously on how getting older impacts the way I look at conventions, and upon reflecting further I realized that I was ready to invest in a VIP experience. Luckily for me, Anime Expo provides such an outlet in the form of their “Premier Fan Badge”:
You are not mis-reading that number: this year the Premier Fan badge is $375. However, for that price you get a number of pretty sweet benefits, including:
- Mailed badge
- Early access to dealer’s hall
- Early access to entertainment hall
- Front of line privileges for panels (!!!)
- 1 free ticket to an event (worth up to $50)
- Exclusive swag bag
- Access to exclusive “Premier Fan Lounge” with complimentary beverages/snacks, comfy seating, etc
Now, in the past, I would say that $375 could be better used on stuff. You know, blu-rays, wall scrolls, messenger bags, etc. Well, I stream all of my anime, I have no room for wall-scrolls and as a 31 year old, anime messenger bags just don’t have the same appeal as they used to. I know, weird right?
So, I would much rather take that money I would otherwise use on stuff and invest in a pretty sweet experience. The question is: will it be worth it? During this series I’ll be covering all of the exclusive benefits of being an Anime Expo Premier Fan, and whether or not I would do it again next year. Furthermore, you might find it useful in deciding if it’s worth it to you.
What better way to start off than with the arrival of the badge itself? That’s right, today I opened up my mailbox to a large envelope just for me! Sent from the Society for the Promotion of Japanese Animation (SPJA), inside the envelope was a letter and my premier badge:
Now, I’ve been in my share of lines before for registration. Fanime in particular has gained some notoriety for their registration process in years past, lovingly (?) referred to as “LineCon”; at its worst, attendees found themselves in line for 6-8 hours to get a badge. To be fair, last year the registration was one of the cleanest experiences I’ve had to date, as I was in and out with my badge within a matter of minutes.
As for AX, when I went previously, the line was very long, but the wait itself was perfectly respectable. The luxury of having a badge mailed to me certainly helps take a weight off my shoulders and free up some time once I get to the show.
I’ve taken advantage of two other benefits to date as well: early access to hotel blocks and pre-sale period for the upcoming music festival. If con-goers are familiar with anything, it’s the struggle of finding a hotel room. Early access and getting first dibs at some of the most desirable hotel rooms at the convention is a major plus for me, and as a result I was able to land a room at the JW marriott right next to the convention center.
On a final note, I have been impressed with the customer service from AX and the premier fan services in general. The communication has been great, and the couple of times I’ve reached out with one question or another they’ve been prompt and professional with their replies.
Of course, this pre-emptive experience isn’t worth the platinum price-point just yet, but it’s well on its way to earning its keep. I will be keeping a running total of the “value” that these benefits have provided me in terms of con enjoyment. Stay tuned as I continue to assess this premier experience!
If you’re interested, there are still Premier Fan badges available on Anime Expo’s registration page.