Recently this devil decided to make her way down to Georgia, but instead of looking for a soul to steal I went in search of cosplayers and anime merchandise. Anime Weekend Atlanta is rather large anime convention, reporting in with 18,000 in attendance this year, in the heart of the south in the city of Atlanta Georgia, making this con numbers wise much larger than Katsucon, which was previously thought to be one of the largest anime con's on the east coast, coming behind Anime Boston and Otakon.
Location and layout.
The convention is spread out between the Cobb Convention Center and connected Renaissance Hotel, even leading into the adjacent park featuring the popular group photoshoot area "The Amphitheater." Navigating AWA is very confusing in the beginning, more so than some of the other convention's I have been two because technically it takes place in two buildings, Once you have learned the layout and have walked the convention several times over it becomes second nature where to go, you even learn several short cuts. At the end of the weekend I was still discovering new passageways and routes to get from one area to the other faster than following the flow of traffic.
Downstairs of the convention center is an area known as "the mall" it features a full food court and several shops. These eating area's are relatively reasonably priced because they are retail locations and not convention food venders. I ate more subway 5 dollar footlongs that weekend than I probably have in my entire life for this reason. Unfortunately if you plan to eat in the food court I would suggest budgeting at least half an hour for meals due to line wait and finding seating, but it's worth it to not starve and to have options.
Hotel and Parking
For Anime Weekend Atlanta the Rennissance Hotel and the Sheraton, located across the street and connected to the convention center via a skywalk are the two "con hotels"In addition to these two hotels there are a large number of hotels within walking distance and all in one group of each other. There are a number of perks of staying at The Sheraton or The Renaissance, but if money is tight staying at one of the further away hotels is a wonderful money saving option, especially since parking at convention center is free. The parking garage does fill up very fast, Sunday being the worst day, so another option is to take the free shuttle to the convention. (Above- Black Butler cosplayers outside the Renaissance Hotel)
Programming and Panels.
(As a disclaimer when I critique an event or how an event was run that is my personal opinion from my experiences. My opinion in no way represents the opinions of the entire Mission Start Podcast staff)
I can not say from past AWA experience due to this being my first, but this years variety of panels was excellent. In past reviews I have played heavily on not enough diversity in fan panels approved, but paneling was something done right at this year's AWA. There was catering to every demographic of convention goer whether you were a fanboy, photographer, plus sized cosplayer or wanting to plunge into lolita fashion.
While the panels where wonderful and a nice variety, though running on "otaku time" (15 minutes late for everything) I can not say the same about other programming such as the formal ball and the rave. The AWA ball can be described as a glorified prom with food and cosplay. I have heard from numerous sources this as well. While balls are usually included in your ticket price at the con's I have attended, this ball costed extra to attend. I paid extra to listen to top 40 music in a overcrowded ballroom and eat. I will say this though, Go at least once, it is worth the experience and you might possibly enjoy it. My personal experience is just that, personal. Also I attempted to attend the rave this year. Keyword attempted. Saturday night's rave stated 2 hours later than scheduled, allowing guests in at nearly 1am, then once the ballroom it was held in filled to fire code everyone else was left waiting in line for up to 3 hours until someone left the rave and many did not get to attend at all. Once inside the rave after a 2 hour wait we left early due to no space to dance or move. During the rave there was excitement though. Before hand while waiting in line we witnessed someone steal the fire extinuisher and then be chased inside the rave by con staff, then once inside the rave one of the amplifiers caught fire causing panic and everyone to bomb rush the exits. Don't worry the fire was put out nearly instantly.
Overall Anime Weekend Atlanta is a wonderful convention with exceptionally friendly people. Though many personal events almost ruined the entire convention for me, the warm atmosphere and equally warm weather were able to put a smile back on this otaku's face. My advice to anyone attending this convention in the near future is to 1, stay hydrated. In September the south is still quite hot and humid causing you to sweat far more than if it were not humid. 2, wear good shoes and prepare for a lot of walking, having the convention center spread between 2 buildings lead for more walking than I was use to and by the end of day 1 I couldn't wear heels the rest of the weekend. and 3, come with an open mind and have fun. Also check out the dealers room and artist alley, both conveniently next door to one another. For a con it's size the dealer's room was pleasantly less crowded than at many cons and there was plenty of space to walk in, making buying items an even more enjoyable experience (until you realize how much money you actually spent.) All in all I would recommend this convention for someone who is a bit more experienced in conventions and trying to branch into going into bigger cons, but is not quite ready to face the crowds of Otakon.
By Liz High
Con reporter and Photographer
Animazement is a weekend long celebration of Japanese culture and anime which broke a record of 7,500 attendance this year all nestled in the heart of Downtown Raleigh, the capital of North Carolina. In the last 16 years Animazment has more than outgrown it's humble beginnings in the Sheraton across the street. Registration is on the graduated system. Register early and it could be as low as $45. Register at the door and a weekend badge is $60.
Hotel, Lodging, and Parking
While Raleigh Convention Center does not have a hotel connected to it, there are plenty of hotels right next to the convention center. The Marriott, the Sheraton, then a couple blocks away is the Clarion. Trying to save money my crew stayed in the Red Roof Inn, which was 2 miles down the road and we commuted back and forth. Mainly we chose this because all of the other hotels were full. If you are planning to stay on sight for AZ, the moment the hotel block opens up make sure to reserve your room. Within a few weeks the Marriott was booked solid. While the Red Roof was a nice hotel, it was not the same as walking outside and seeing the convention. Also if you are commuting prepare to pay 7 dollars per day to park in the adjacent parking garage. From what I found driving around trying to find parking there is very little free parking and if it is it is only until 5pm and towing is enforced. I had a friend have to leave a panel because her car got towed.
There have been several complaints this year on the lack of panels and the ones there were were not the best in the world to put things lightly, which I can agree to some extent, but this is not the fault of Animazement. Conventions take requests for panels and depending on what panels are requested those are the panels that are scheduled. On the topic of panel disappointment there was a huge uproar and debate all weekend about "if they would let non Japanese panels in there would be a lot more panels and a lot better panels" While yes I agree to an extent there are many panels I attend at other cons that are not Japanese related and it would be wonderful for those panels to be at Animazement, the mission statement of Animazement states they are to promote Japanese culture. No amount of bitching, moaning and whining will make that happen.
Enough with the negative more of the positive. I was very pleased to see AZ decided to host a formal ball. Katsucon was the first con I had attended that had one and it was a beautiful touch and wonderful to see so many formal versions of characters. It was a chance to dance away the night, meet new people, or have fun if you were with a significant other. Friday night there was both the rave and the formal ball, while some people who wanted to go to both thought it was over kill, I thought it was a nice touch. They were not at the same time, and if you were in formal cosplay you had to rush to get changed, but it allowed people who enjoy those things to attend both in one night.
Back this year was the Laugh out Loud comedy group from Georgia. It is almost an AZ tradition to bring them back. While I was unable to attend the regular show, I attended the 18+ show, and laughed hysterically the entire time.
Meeting Kyle Hebert was a highlight of my weekend. DBZ was a part of my childhood so it was wonderful to meet such wonderful part of it. Not only was he super nice to everyone he was funny and joked around with people. The AZ guests this year were a great choice, not just in my opinion, but all of my friends thought so as well.
At conventions I usually never have a problem with staff and they're always just the people there making sure everything goes smoothly, but this year this staff at AZ was exceptionally nice and respectful in my experience. During the Hetalia big photo shoot 2 girls badges were stolen right at the shoot. A group of us went to con ops and explained the situation. In my experience they would have had to pay $60 for a new badge, but the AZ staff was understanding and dropped a new badge price down to $25 for them. I have never seen that happen at a convention and unfortunately at most other cons it would have been $60 up front. I had been warned that the AZ staff was mean and hated Homestucks and was out to get people and rude, but that was not the experience I had at all, even in my Saturday Homestuck cosplay the staff just did their jobs and I had no staff member try to harass me. If you are respectful to them and do not block doors and entrances no matter what cosplay you are in you will be fine
Between panel hopping and raving there is a lot of down time so crazy things are bound to happen if you're in the right place at the right time, Friday and Saturday I spent a good part of the day busy and with people I had met at the con going on adventures, but sunday was when the really interesting stuff happened. Sunday the legendary pitt preachers that are seen on college campus's down the east coast came to preach about our eternal damnation. Of course no one took him seriously but it was funny to watch him attempt to say I was going to hell for wearing my Stocking cosplay. He probably would have flipped if he knew what the character and the anime was.
Then while that was going on "Gay Pride Jesus" was running around. There was a cosplayer dressed as Jesus running around with a rainbow flag as a cape. It was hilarious when the preacher saw this. Eventually the preacher left which left Jesus doing Gangnam style with the random guy who drove up to the con, got on top of his car, and danced to Gangnam style while it blasted out of his car. But wait, there's more. I was asked to play in an impromptu game of Ninja outside of the convention center, which lasted all of 5 minutes, since Caramelldansen started playing next to us and we all created a flash mob of carameldansen.
Saturday night there was also an impromptu rave outside the convention center, which attracted almost as much attention as the real rave, since there was a lot more room to dance and there was room to make a circle and break dance. DJ Zom-B of Noisy Dubs (Facebook here)
brought out his equipment, which sparked the rave. This just shows right place at the right time can create some interesting convention memories.
Overall this convention was the convention of friendship and adventure. Everyone I met was super chill and the friendliest and most willing to go outside of their normal group of friends. I came back with more phone numbers and memories that will will last a lifetime than I have at any other convention. They always say don't judge a convention based on it's reputation, and Animazement at times has a reputation of being the con of rude staff. The staff was amazing to me. If you do not want to get in trouble with staff don't cause trouble. It has been unsaid if Homestucks are banned from one of the hotels beside the convention center for having body paint in the pool and doing a "photoshoot" There was a rumor they are banned, but it has not been confirmed. Let this be a reminder to all cosplayers with heavy makeup and body paint. Do not get in pools and hot tubs with paint! It will clog the cleaning system and cause the pool to have to be drained.
If you want a convention that where you can meet a lot of people, take great photos, and make lifelong friends for life while learning a thing or two about Japanese culture, this is the convention for you.
Tokyo in Tulsa is an anime, steampunk, video games, and everything else convention in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The convention started off with a focus around anime, but has grown to embrace all of the other strange and wonderful aspects of geekdom. Back in 2010, this was my first ever anime or gaming convention to attend. It was cramped in the hotel lobby, but still a blast. Two years later, the convention has grown so large that they have expanded across the street to the Tulsa Convention Center. The convention is still small, but has a wholesome and fun feel in the atmosphere. The lay-out of the convention is easy to navigate, and you hardly bump into anyone. With that being said, over-crowding is not a problem here. I never feel like I am crammed between people and struggling to make it to the dealer room at this convention which is awesome. The staff is also one of the nicest convention staffs that I have ever been in contact with! They will help anyone (convention-goer, press, and even people off the street!) out with anything they need and provide excellent service in the nicest way possible. The volunteers are also numerous, which makes me believe that the directors are doing a pretty good job keeping their workers happy and reliable.
Gaming is not forgotten here! Tokyo in Tulsa works together with OK Gamers to provide one of the best gaming rooms I have seen at a convention. They offer a wide variety of games including table-top, fighting games, and first person shooters on a sundry amount of consoles. Also, the winners of the tournaments (Soul Calibur 5 winners pictured to the left) are rewarded generously. "TnT" takes care of their gamers very well. There is always a place for those who would like to sit and play a round or watch a tournament. The game room is a perfect spot to sit and take a break from the craziness that a convention can bring. The room is also wide and airy with lots of space so that nobody feels like they are crammed in a basement like sardines.
Cosplay is a staple at Tokyo in Tulsa. Almost half of the people you will see and meet here will be in some sort of costume! (Pictured Left is Izumi cosplaying as Juliet from Lollipop Chainsaw) The costumes that appear here are always awesome and well constructed. The cosplays also range from comic book universes, video games, graphic novels, and anime and manga. There are also a ton of original cosplays from the steampunk, cyberpunk, and furry communities. No genre is off limits to bring and cosplay at Tokyo in Tulsa. (Which is something that I love about this convention) The costume contest is also very well organized and ran with almost perfectly. The main walk on contest judges based on craftsmanship, not stage presence. You are also judged before you go on stage by a panel of around 3 seasoned cosplayers. This is great because they have experience and know what to look for in an outstanding cosplay. The contest is in a large, well-ventilated room with easy access to water. I was actually shivering after I came off stage! This was awesome because most cosplayers have problems with overheating and dehydration after a long day in the cosplay contest waiting area. The staff kept the contestants well hydrated and comfortable during prejudging and the contest. The contest also didn't last an extremely long time and wasn't delayed too long. It ran without a hitch and was absolutely a joy to watch and participate in!
Do you go to a convention to shop? Tokyo in Tulsa's Artist Alley and Vendor Room are stocked with the best artists and vendors from across the nation. One of my favorites is a nice lady who makes animal scarves out of fleece. This is the only convention she goes too near me, so I usually grab a scarf when I can! There was also a wide array of different types of artists specializing in different mediums. If you are looking for doll clothes, duct tape place mats, monocles, badges, fleece unicorn hats and more then you can find them here! The artists were also really nice and sweet whenever I would talk to them. Some would recommend commissions and other services if I didn't find what I was looking for. The vendor room this year was pretty bare, but still very enjoyable. We ended up picking up a large grab bag and everything in side of it was absolutely awesome! Even with surprises there's not much disappointment here.
Do you like music? Tokyo in Tulsa has a wide range of musical artists to see! With Bands, DJs, and much, much more every night contains an exciting and entertaining show. Some of the headliners this year included DJ Imfam0s, The Slants, Sunny Side Up!, and The Brehms. NerdRaves was also present to put on nerdy-style raves full of fun, geeky music for the convention crowd. The mixes these DJs do are always mixed at the show and preformed in front of a live crowd. The musicians that are featured at Tokyo in Tulsa always create a fun and enjoyable atmosphere for anyone to enjoy. The crowds here are never rough or rowdy either, letting everyone enjoy the show at their own pace and comfort.
Tokyo in Tulsa is a wonderful convention for anyone new to the convention scene, to a seasoned professional. The atmosphere is wonderful and fun, and so is the staff that runs the convention. My visits and experiences here are never unbearable. I recommend this convention to anyone in the United States. If you visit this summer con, you will never be disappointed.
Apple Davies is a freelance costumer in Central Oklahoma, Vice President of the Animation Society at the University of Oklahoma and head of Cosplay Functions at the University of Oklahoma. To find out more about the conventions and cosplay in the "Bible Belt" or to just talk nerdy, please contact her at (www.facebook.com/applecosplay) or email her at (email@example.com).
Photo Credits go to Heather Ball, the official photographer for Tokyo in Tulsa
you can find her page here (https://www.facebook.com/Moosterz) with more photos of the convention.
When one’s been going to the same convention over the years, they tend to notice the good, the bad and ugly that tends to come with it. SacAnime’s 2012 Winter Con was no exception. While the con had a good stock of great voice actors, gatherings, cosplayers and a great atmosphere that a con usually has; there were a few changes that came off somewhat distasteful to many of the congoers. While I can’t say that my con experience was reflective of the other attendees, I will say it felt good to go to SacAnime, something we can all agree on.
It’s no surprise that as of late, I’ve really been getting into fighting games and the whole fighter scene as of late, so I was quite pleased when I saw that they moved all the fighting game tournaments to a larger venue. Last time the fighting games were in this small room they had set up, but due to so many complaints about size being brought up (or so I would assume), they set up an additional room to better accommodate gamers, catering to casual and hardcore gamers alike. The fighting game tournaments were handled pretty well as well as the amount of hype during the action was incredible. Aside from the fighting games set up in the main room, a mix of all sorts of games -even a Simpsons arcade cabinet- was in there thanks to Armageddon Potato Games. To accommodate all audiences, plenty of room was given for people to walk around and observes all other gamers test their hand at everything from first person shooters to arcade games to dance games. What I found most interesting was when they put the Wii outside during the day where people warmed themselves up by playing various dance games, the most popular of which being Just Dance 2. All in all, the game room did a very good job this year; no hiccups.
What can I say? I’ve been going to this convention and the Vendor’s Hall, while staying the same in terms of design, has always been good. Occasionally, it’ll be overcrowded with so many people (Saturday’s the WORST) that it’s hard to get to something you want when you have to go through an army of people either walking or at one of the booths checking out stuff. But what convention doesn’t have that problem? Okay, so maybe the huge ones never ran into that problem but for small conventions like SacAnime it’s hard to get around given the limited space. The Vendor’s Hall wasn't bad at all but there are things that could have made it better. For those of us who remember back in the day when it was at the Scottish Rite Center, space has always been a bit of an issue, but hopefully Sac Anime can somehow plan a move to the Sacramento Convention Center, we’re hoping that things will turn out even better than before.
The panels were held as well as they could be, given the location of the event. The more important ones were handled fairly well but what I gathered, most other panels (including a few voice actor panels) were not handled to what we had expected from previous SacAnimes. From the ones I went to, they were handled really well; everyone acted in the right manner, and we had a lot of fun covering it. The voice actor panels in particular were a lot of fun to attend; I really enjoyed them. I can't say how the other panels were per say but, taken with a grain a salt, word is that they didn’t handle their business and had problems running the panels. Word from the other attendees at the con said that they were for the most part alright, so for any content I may have very well missed out on, I take their word for.
Artist Alley and Art Contest
The Artist Alley was nothing new to me but what was something I didn’t check out last time was the art contest they were holding in the room next to it. It served its purpose and showed off who won the art contest and other art pieces. Nothing really exciting, but it did offer something to do and give congoers a chance to get away from the craziness that was happening outside in the courtyard. Again, the only gripe I have with the artist alley is that they put them in their own room but I feel they should have more or a bigger room for people to walk around freely, arguably in a space like the vendors’ hall like what is demonstrated over in San Jose’s Fanime. At times, it felt very cramped and hard to move around in; much like in the vendors’ hall. From what I saw, the artists were all very nice, their artwork is pretty awesome to look at and hell, I even walked off with a few pieces of art, in particular couple prints from the talented artist Catarina Bragg. (Be sure to check out her stuff under our affiliates tab!)
To fans’ delight, the rave had made some vast improvements last year in their rave from music selection, DJ quality, space available and available water and much to our delight, these changes remained. The rave was opened up into two rooms combined to make one big room, roughly the size of Fanime's raves, giving plenty of space for people to dance and as mentioned earlier water was dispensed everywhere to adequately stave off dehydration. My only complaint (and a small one at that), is that the collection of songs were only between “okay” to “good.” The same DJs come by and do the same gig at the same location every time, so after a while, one might find the venue to become somewhat stale after a period of time; no offense to DJ Hellsing and the Random DJs. Discrepancies aside, I will say that there were no hiccups during the rave like previous years; smooth sailing from start till end.
The Main Convention Floor
Like always, staff and security roamed the main floor making sure the flow of traffic was going both ways and not clogging up the hallways and while there may not have been any issues with this in the past, I actually think they improved on it. There was enough room to walk around up and down the main hallways, especially during Friday’s swap meet. The swap meet in itself was nothing special, but it did offer the opportunity for people to be able to buy or look at what various attendees wished to sell off on the sides of the main hallway. I like how they also opened up the one area next to the bar and piano for people to hang out and chill and I thought it was nice to just have a relaxing social area to rest one’s weary legs. As for lines, they were kept neat and orderly, autographs were set up very nicely and handled in a timely fashion and all lines were well guided by staff so as to not cause any bubbling.
So overall the convention wasn’t bad at all but wasn't great either. While I mostly talked about the good of the con, there were some less than favorable instances that had occurred, and I really think it’s time for SacAnime to move to a bigger and better place. What I really want to see for this con is to have more stuff that the bigger conventions have that they don't such as the return of the anime viewing room, more gatherings, more events and most of all, more fan involvement to help make SacAnime an even better convention. As you may have read there is no mention of Cafe Hoshi (invite only), karaoke (overheard some less talented “singers”), or the masquerade in this report, mainly because we were not able to cover it this time around, but stay tuned this year as we cover more anime conventions this upcoming year.
My expectations were low for Kintoki, held this past weekend, since this was their first convention in Sacramento. I have heard of this convention before; with all the advertisement they pushed forward at other conventions, as well as getting help from Good Day Sacramento. To my surprise, there was a great turn out for this convention and had a very comfortable atmosphere. Kintoki-Con had all the things a convention should have: panels, anime viewing room, workshops, guests appearances, a concert, artist alley, maid cafe, dealers hall, and of course the most important part of it all, cosplayers! Let me start off the setting of this convention. Placing the convention at the Hyatt Regency was a great idea on Kintoki's part. The hotel was situated in the middle of downtown, and very close to local restaurants and shopping locations . Especially with the heat beating down on the capital and many thick costumes, the cool air condition inside the hotel was nice and kept everyone at a comfortable temperature. There were three floors dedicated to the anime convention for its use. The 1st floor, or the main floor was very spacious and easy to walk from one end to the other without getting crowded. This floor consisted of themain performance room, artist alley, dealers hall, and the maid cafe. Dealers hall was well...the dealers hall. Nothing too special about it, but it's one of the essential things an anime convention should have. Compared to other conventions the dealers hall at Kintoki is probably a good size for its 1'st convention. Sure it's not as huge as other convention dealer halls, but from the conventions I been too, Kintoki's seemed pretty right for what it was going for.
Artist alley was a bit narrower then the dealers hall, but about the same length, which hosted 44 artists. The tables were set up right next to each other, some where even back to back, so artists could comfortably talk to neighboring artists. Hopefully, future Kintoki-Cons will expand the artist alley up more, so that everyone won't have to worry about possible traffic. I managed to check out one of the panels Sunday morning held in the events ballroom. I sat in for the Mary Elizabeth McGlynn and Richard Epcar panel Q&A. There was only a handful of people there, but they were seated on the floor close to the McGkynn and Epcar. This was a nice way to run the panel and was also more intimate. Lastly, I checked out the Maid Cafe at and while its heart was in the right place, it did fall under some of the same faults as the last anime convention that had it did too. When I think of maid cafe I am thinking of entertainment, maids serving you food and drinks, a relax atmosphere. I was met halfway. The maid cafe was under staffed which would make things a bit harder to manage, I can understand that. To be honest I would rather have that idea of a maid cafe rather then buying your own food to bring with you to eat in the maid cafe. The maids were great and they did a great job, but if the setting was similar to Fanime's maid cafe then that be great. One last gripe about the maid cafe, as cheap as it sounds, but it's something that I don't want to pay for: is to simply go to the maid cafe. Putting out 5$, on top having to paying for my own food, to be in the maid cafe sounds a bit of a rip. I would like to see that fee drop and have the money flow for the food the maid serves to us even if it is hotel food.
On the 2nd floor of the convention held the video game room, workshops, anime viewing, and panel rooms. The video game room was divided into two rooms on the 2nd floor, one was the main gaming room, while the other was down the hall past the workshop room. Both were small, but had all the games you needed to run your tournaments. Some of the tournaments seemed poorly coordinated, one was even cancelled due to lack of participants. There were many new titles were available for play and the set up was just fine for its first convention. There was a vendor selling video games old and new. The workshops and anime viewing room were on the smaller side, so it seemed a bit cramped, particularly at more popular slots. But of course sitting down and relaxing with friends, watching anime is always a good time. The last floor dedicated to the convention was not the 3rd floor, but on the 15th floor of the hotel. I didn't know about it until I went up there, in fact a majority of the attendees did not know. A staff member was sent around the convention announcing the "Gamer's Lounge". When I got there, it was very laid back. There were some TV screens set up for classic video and new video games to be played on, but also tables were set up for people to play board games. Music was blaring, put on by a DJ jammin' it for people on that floor, some even danced. It was a chill atmosphere and I totally dug it. Not to mention they had the patio open with an amazing view of the city. I guess the only thing I question is maybe put the video room in the 2nd floor in a bit of a bigger place maybe move a few elements from that room to the bigger room on the 15th floor? Yea, there is probably some way, but still a great experience and I still had fun anyways.
I got a lot of promise for this convention. You have to start out small to become big one day. Kintoki made its first step this year with everyone and did all the right things. I found more positive than negative. The staff were nice to us, people there were excited to be present, there were a lot of activities to get involve with and much more. Of course, I am leaving out the masquerade, the formal black and white ball that did happen Sunday night. I did not go to those events due to the fact I had places to go, but hopefully I can go next year and experience everything Kintoki has to offer. From what I experienced this past weekend I am hoping to see a lot more next year. Tell the kids in Sacramento, there is a new anime convention in town and his name is Kintoki Con.