Anime Expo 2016 has officially drawn to a close. I’m thankful I have tomorrow off to recover, and also to collect my thoughts on the experience I had over the last 4 days.
As I mentioned in the first installment of this series, what I look to get out of a convention has changed a lot in the 15+ years I’ve been attending them. When I was younger, in my late high school and through the college years, I was more interested in acquiring “stuff” – DVD sets, wall scrolls, figures, etc. With the proliferation of quality streaming and with the nature of my fandom evolving, I have now shifted towards enjoying quality food and experiences.
With that being said; having the premier fan badge is certainly an experience. On numerous occasions I found myself easily getting into panels and events that were cut off to the general attendees. Quality seating at big-name events including Makoto Shinkai’s Your Name premiere, the Toonami panel, Yoshitaka Amano’s guest panel, and much more.
For example, this was the line to get into the Mob Psycho 100 premiere presented by Crunchyroll. I flashed my premier badge, and then proceeded to wait behind approximately 20 other premier fans.
However, as my own reasons and motivations for attending panels has changed over the years, I know that not everyone is motivated by the same events that I am. With that in mind I will lay out below the kinds of fans who would get the most value out of a premier fan badge, and those who might not see a good return on their investment.
You Might Want A Premier Fan Badge If…
- You are interested in convention exclusives from vendors. The hour-early access on Day 1 to the exhibit hall is key for landing some of these exclusive items, and it’s also great to be able to shop in a less congested environment.
- You enjoy attending panels. Front-of-line access for panels (granted you get there at least 15 minutes before the panel starts) means you’re more than likely going to be in the first few rows no matter how big or popular the panel is.
- The thought of not having to stand in line to pick up your badge is appealing to you. Premier badges are mailed, saving you the hassle of having to wait in line at the start of the con. Since next year’s Day 0 is supposed to be a “preview night”, this could be even more valuable.
- You usually attend at least one ticketed event. The $50 ticket credit for an event is a good value, as you can apply it towards one of the concerts for a VIP experience. In addition, early access to ticketed events means that you’ll be able to secure a good seat to enjoy the show, whether it’s the AMV competition or the cosplay competition extravaganza: Masquerade!
- You typically book a hotel for Anime Expo, and want it to be close by. Having early access to the hotel blocks meant that I was able to secure a room at the coveted JW Marriott pretty easily. This insured that it only took me 5-10 minutes to get to the convention center; no ubers or having to wait for shuttle buses!
You Might NOT Want A Premier Fan Badge If…
- You primarily seek out autographs. Premier fans (currently) receive no benefits for autograph sessions. You will still have to camp out for 4-12 hours for autographs from the bigger guests, even with a premier fan badge. Even after that, you’ll only get one autograph ticket, and looping back through the line all but guarantees you won’t secure a second autograph ticket for any of the major guests. *Pro Tip – Bring some friends with you and bribe them with coffee to get tickets on your behalf*
- You primarily attend music events. Premier fans did not get front of line access at the concerts hosted at the Microsoft theater this year. While the One Punch Matsuri did have a premier fan line, it wasn’t a proper concert as much as it was an extended panel.
- You don’t mind waiting in line. I don’t mean this sarcastically. Personally, I value my time and being able to attend multiple panels/events in a given period. Some fans are content waiting in line for a specific event for 2-3 hours just to make sure they get in, and once they’ve attended that event they’re good. Waiting in line can also be a good opportunity to make friends, people watch, and otherwise engage with other con-goers that share your interests.
That’s about it in a nutshell, and also captures much of the feedback I’ll be offering the Premier Fan team this year. I also felt like the swag bags were underwhelming, and hope they utilize some of their partnerships next year to sponsor some goodies for the Premier Fans.
In the end, the Premier Fan badge was worth it for me. 100%. I was able to experience Anime Expo in a way that not many can, and as a fellow premier fan told me “Once you go Premier, you can never go back to standard 4-day Passes”
So, take that last bit as a warning if you must: if you do decide to get a premier badge for next year, look forward to going premier in the years to follow.