SoCal Anime Fans Assemble! “Anime Riverside 2023” had a robust turnout…

Stranger in a Not-So Strange Land…

For full disclosure, I have to be honest; I am not a diehard anime fan. Yes, I can appreciate the occasional Studio Ghibli production (“Spirited Away,”” “Red Turtle”), and I’ve watched a few episodes of various anime series here and there, but if you asked me to name a currently popular anime character or series off the top of my head? I’d be stumped. Fortunately for me, my wife is an anime fan, and she teaches animation. It’s only with her invaluable assistance that I’m able to bring you most of the proper cosplayer character names for this column. This is my second year attending “Anime Riverside,” and the reason for that has less to do with my liking of the genre as it does with supporting local conventions, since that support translates to more fandom events/gatherings in the Inland Empire of Southern California. Not to mention that I love the color, the energy and the general carnival atmosphere of most fandom-driven conventions; they’re a shot in the arm.

Who says L.A. has all the fun?
The Riverside Convention Center, with a naked giant, a live band, and a few hundred or so costumed attendees here and there…

Last year’s Anime Riverside (June 4-5th, 2022) felt a lot smaller, with far fewer attendees gathering at the Riverside Convention Center (a couple blocks from the famed Spanish-style Mission Inn Hotel). At this year’s Anime Riverside (May 27-28th), the place exploded. If last year was a trickle, this year was more like a firehose.  The exhibit hall was so crowded with patrons, I literally had to step outside a few times to curtail my claustrophobia. This is not a bad thing, mind you—more people brings more revenue to my corner of SoCal, and it also gives local fans a far less expensive alternative ($35 for an early bird weekend pass) than the conventions in Los Angeles, San Diego or Anaheim.  Considering the many guests this year, and all of the goings-on both inside and outside the convention center, that weekend pass is a bargain.

Welcome to Anime Riverside!

As you walk into the entrance of the Riverside Convention Center, it was obvious that this ‘little convention’ has grown quite a bit.  There were a lot more anime cosplayers this year, as well as more displays in the lobby, including life-sized statuary of anime characters, as well as a photo-op throne from the popular gothic anime “Death Note.” Despite the larger crowds this year, the convention staff did a great job of keeping lines organized, and the attendees flowing to where they wanted to be. 

The main lobby of the Riverside Convention Center was bustling with attendees this past Saturday. Colorful cosplay was on full display as well, as at least half the attendees wore costumes of some kind.
Left: “Chainsaw Man” Denji. There was a gathering of “Chainsaw Man” fans at the convention as well.
Right: “Kakashi” from “Naruto” (there were many cosplayers and voice talent from that series at the convention as well).
Left: “Bakugo” from “My Hero Academia.”
Right: “Itachi” from “Naruto” (many of the English-dub voice cast from “Naruto” were autographing as well).
The infamous “Throne of Lies” from the anime “Death Note.”
That name brings to mind Will Ferrel’s infamous GIF from 2004’s “Elf”; “You sit on a throne of lies…” (hehe).


I only attended two panels at the convention, both of them with my wife, and both were of subjects that we find interesting; cosplay, and prop-making for cosplay.  With my own long history of cosplaying (I’ve done Fred Flintstone at various conventions for the past 14 years), I was curious. 

Just some of the panels offered in Rooms A & B at the Convention Center; there were several other rooms with panels, as well.

The first panel was “Cosplay and Charity Volunteerism,” where various professional and amateur cosplayers gave advice on how to do audience appropriate-cosplaying for charities, such as children’s hospitals, or other such organizations. One of their best bits of advice was to be a character that you feel passionately about, because your own enthusiasm will trickle down to the kids. They also advised not worrying about cosplaying as a popular character, since multiples of that same character allow them to be in various places at once, as the panel’s resident “SpiderMan” (Christopher Seltsam) attested.  Other panelists included Thi Nguyen, Shai Culver, Wendy Newton and moderator “Elemental Cosplay” (an alias, as many cosplayers prefer not to use their real names).

Top: The “Cosplay and Charity Volunteerism” panelists.
Bottom: “The Art of Prop-Making” panel.

The second panel was on “The Art of Prop-Making,” and featured two panelists; Ivan Gonzales, of Phantom Zone FX, who makes props for a living, and “Natsume Cosplayer” (stage name) who does so for her own cosplay photoshoots.  Ivan prefers making props the old-fashioned way, noting that his hands are his 3D printer.  While he hopes to embrace 3D printing someday, he is skilled in multiple techniques, including hand-sculpting of rubber, foams, plastics, etc.  Natsume cosplayer—who arrived late because of a last-minute antler helmet she’d made for the panel—relies heavily on 3D printing, which is both problematic and a lifesaver.  She also offered some practical tips on what to do when a 3D printer isn’t working properly. Sadly, Natsume’s newly-made antler helmet broke during the panel (it happens to us all, doesn’t it?).  The panel was moderated by a patient cosplayer with the stage name “MagicalBlackGirlalia.”

Dealer Halls

There were two Exhibit Halls, aka Dealer Halls (tomatoes, tomahtoes…). The main dealer hall was packed wall to wall with attendees.  To be honest, I didn’t get very far into it, since I wasn’t actually buying merchandise (unlike my wife), and I felt as if I was only getting in the way of those patrons who were.  The best I could do was take a few quick, panoramic shots before I decided to boogie on out of there…

Top/Bottom: The front and rear aisles of the main Exhibit Hall.
The Artist Alley Exhibit Hall.

The second Exhibit hall was the Artist’s Alley room, where private artists/creators sold their own handmade wares; the Artist Alley dealer rooms are the convention equivalents of Etsy, as opposed to the eBay of the main dealer hall, which offers more commercial merch.  The Artist’s Alley room was not as crowded, but no less interesting.


Once again, onto my favorite part of conventions; the cosplayers!  Cosplayers are the hearts and souls of any fan-driven event like this one.  They are a great part of the carnival atmosphere I love so much about these gatherings. While I might not know all of the character names these attendees were playing (as I said above; I’m not a huge anime fan), I used my wife’s guidance to help me identify them properly for you, valued readers.  

Left: A couple cosplaying as “Gohan” and “Videl” from “DragonBall Z”
Right: Also from “DragonBall Z” is “Vegeta.” My wife says if he were the real Vegeta, I’d be ash (gasp!).
A cosplayer dressed as “Power” from the aforementioned “Chainsaw Man.” I took a second pic, trying to get a better look at her creepy contact lenses. Very dramatic presentation!
My wife was able to identify at least one character (far right) from “Soul Eater,” but we’re both stumped on the other two. All I know is that the purple makeup looked terrific and they made for a nice trio.

Autograph Areas

The top level autograph room featured voice actors from “Bleach,” “Attack on Titan,” “DragonBall Z” and many others. I have mad respect for voice actors, even if I suck at remembering all of their names (hence, my photographs of the attendees listings).  The top level autograph area was lot more accessible than the bottom level autograph area—which had a huge line waiting outside to get inside…

Given the crowds, I didn’t want to cut in front of anyone to take photos, since I wasn’t ‘official’ press at this event.
Hope the roster on the left helps (?).
The bottom level autograph room line extended outside; fortunately there was shade tenting and food trucks nearby to make the wait tolerable. Despite the relatively cool temps that day (for SoCal), standing in direct sunlight always gets toasty.

The outside waiting area for the bottom level autograph room was gathered under a large tented area in what is normally the Riverside Convention Center parking lot.  While not an especially hot day for SoCal, the sun was out, and standing in one spot always gets warm in direct sunlight.  At least shade tenting was provided, as well as a pair of food trucks nearby (the trucks were available for all attendees).  Pro Tip: When waiting in a long line at conventions, always make a ‘line buddy’; someone you trust to hold your place for restroom breaks, food runs, etc.  Do the same for them, as well.  Always a good idea!

Outdoor Activities

Continuing the carnival feel of the event, there were a number of outdoor activities as well, including live music from “Not A Phase”, giant inflatables, various photo ops and a collection of anime-themed custom cars. 

The live cover band “Not A Phase” really gave it their all, belting out songs with only an occasional prerecorded number or two playing during their breaks. They were playing when we arrived, and they were playing when we left. I salute them. Mad props!
A word of advice: Never expose your Ken dolls to atomic radiation—just saying.  
I keeeeed; this is “Colossal Titan” from the popular anime “Attack on Titan.”
Top: A giant red “Senso Dojin” from “Naruto.” I found this giant red frog most ribbit-ing…
Bottom: A not-so-pocket sized “Pikachu” from “Pokemon” (Pikachu was the big draw at last year’s Anime Riverside, as well; this year, it was eclipsed by some of the others).
Beautifully anime-themed custom cars in the parking lot; some had their proud owners standing nearby as well.

All 49 of my photos from “Anime Riverside 2023” can be found in THIS LINK from my Flickr account. Enjoy!

With weekend passes for Anime Riverside starting at a reasonable $35 early bird price, with $45-$55 for last-minute tickets (including two free kids’ passes included if needed), this is a great ‘first’ for those who seek to get their toes wet with convention-going, or simply as a nice, lower-cost alternative for local anime fans who can’t afford to attend the big name conventions in Los Angeles, San Diego or other major cities around the United States. Even seasoned convention veterans like my wife and I really enjoyed it. Anime Riverside is a good value for the price, and I hope to return next year, if only to see how much it grows by then…

Images: Author

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