Fanime has the roughest hotel registration system I have ever seen… and I say that as someone that went through San Diego Comic-Con’s lottery system!
From the moment the website opened, I saw the hotel I needed and requested it, but the website timed out or frequently booted me out of the process. I watched as the hotels dwindled until I was left with rooms four miles from the convention. Fortunately, the waitlist process panned out very close to the convention.
We stayed at the Downtown San Jose Marriott. This is a pretty nice hotel, overall. They preferred autumn colors; crimsons, ambers, and browns. The rooms were surprisingly spacious and had room for cosplayers to work while people slept. The bell and valet staff were very helpful, as well, offering tips and insights that made the stay much smoother. The general staff were consistently courteous and patient with people, too. When we were checking out, they took the liberty of pulling my car out of their garage and loading a cart full of luggage in the back! That blew me away!
If I had one gripe about the hotel, it was that consistently during the weekend, there was a line for the elevators. The hotel must have been overstuffed with people for the convention. Sometimes, those waits could be 10 minutes or more just to have the opportunity to get back to your hotel room. It’s not something the hotel can immediately fix, but it is just odd that in 3 years of staying at the Hilton, I did not experience waits like this, and they have one less elevator than the Marriott does.
Fanime 2015 took place at its traditional location in San Jose, California. Jeremy has called Fanime one of the more fan-friendly conventions in his circuit, as well as saying Fanime has the best cosplayers in California. That’s a high bar to meet. Did this convention meet that bar, leap over the bar, or comfortably limbo under it?
There’s no way to find out other than to read our report!
I missed 2014 due to money and transportation issues. I saw the construction of the expansion to the San Jose McEnery Convention Center and had high hopes for what it would mean to the convention given that 2013 felt a bit crowded. This year, I observed the space they used for registration and for Artists’ Alley in this space. It was good uses of both.
The problem is that this convention is bursting at the seams in San Jose. Fanime is, in my opinion, at least, too large for the space it inhabits. There were often lines to get into the Dealer’s Hall, which were exacerbating waiting times for the Entertainment Hall. During Days 2 and 3, I was having flashbacks to Comic-Con and their crowded areas, which isn’t a great thing to have when you’re not showing off the latest slate of Marvel and DC movies as a reason for extra people showing up.
This crowding extended outside the convention center. Most of the customary photo and gathering spots were teeming with people to the point that getting photos was actually difficult. There were very few corners you could take a cosplayer to get a clean shot, and it sounds creepy to say, “I like your costume. Can you follow me to this out-of-the-way corner for a photo?”
That’s not to say the convention center in San Jose is bad. It is not. They have a very clean aesthetic and very large signage and numbers to make navigation very simple. They also have ample bathroom facilities in the building and the touch screens and projectors in the lobby are interesting. There is just no room left in this building.
It’s time to have a hard discussion to figure out if they are staying and limiting attendance or moving and continuing to grow.
On Day 0, we looked at the line for registration. It wasn’t much of a line, so we made a decision to run some errands. We made it back around 3:30 and I braved the line to pick up my badge. Well, that line had disappeared. People were walking through the barricades, sure, but the line had vanished, and when we entered the registration area, we walked right up to the table for our badges.
Registration is usually an area where anime conventions don’t do well, but Fanime completely bucks that trend, to my delight. Other mid-size conventions should make notes of Fanime’s system. In a nutshell, it is plain good.
The Dealer’s Hall here was pretty good. Artists’ Alley was separated, so there wasn’t as much pressure to lump your purchases together and gave people a better chance to take a good look around. There was the selection that I have come to expect in a lot of places: videos, figures, video games, statues, corsets, scrolls, posters, and a bevy of other items in between.
Some people may be put off by the increasing amount of dealers that have off-anime items like Harry Potter and Game of Thrones merchandise, but anime conventions will need to diversify to bring in more causal fans and grow their own attendance. It's not something I like, but have come to accept this facet of anime conventions..
Fanime is decent on its selections of shopping, and there is a good likelihood you will find what you're looking for.
I really do not know much about the panels, and there is a reason for that.
Due to the size of the convention compared to the size of the convention center, nearly all of the panels were held at the Fairmont Hotel. This hotel is a good 5-10 minute walk from the convention center. The issue I had with that was if I had a panel I was half interested in, I had to measure if I felt like I had the time between photo shoots, interviews, and with the exception of one panel I participated in, I didn’t feel like there was enough to get me to walk away from the main convention to go to panels. That goes to a logistical problem that I do not have a good answer on how to fix.
Fortunately, I did take part in what looked like the most-hyped panel of the weekend, the Cosplay Wrestling Federation. If you want to know more about that, listen to the Rolling 20's podcasts about Anime Los Angeles 2015 and Fanime 2015, and you will get a great insight on the organizers and performers of those events.
Cosplayers at Fanime are still very high on my list as far as quality and density. The people that come to Fanime do not have the same shuttle or walking problems of Anime Expo or San Diego, so cosplayers have the opportunity to change multiple times and show off their cache of cosplays.
The cosplayers here like to try out a lot of different things. While it’s an anime convention, I saw Disney faeries, Halo Spartans, comic book heroes, swimsuit variations. The people who come here to cosplay have higher-tier construction and design skills and show it off with gusto.
If you enjoy people-watching, this convention will get you your quota for months.
Trying to rate the organization of this convention reminds me of the Paula Abdul song with that weird animated cat: Two steps forward, two steps back.
Registration has taken a quantum leap forward in processing and quality. It was awesome.
But after the convention started, it seemed like the house-of-cards was being seriously disturbed. A lot of things felt disheveled and near out-of-sync. That may have had to do with the number of people and a bit of an inability to cover all avenues. I can say that I took part in the Swap Meet and I didn’t have information I needed for setup or the hours of the meet, and that is critical information when I’m making a six-hour drive from Los Angeles to sell my stuff.
Full marks to Fanime for not giving in to disappointment or getting frustrated in its shortcomings. They kept trying to put on the best show they can. It just didn’t feel like all of its parts came together to form a solid machine this year.
Downtown San Jose could be excellent! They have a lot of chain and hole-in-the-wall restaurants, a condensed, easy-to-walk area, public transport, and the prices are actually pretty good. This area should be much better than it is.
There is a very high likelihood that you will run directly into homeless people panhandling in the area and some of them can be oddly aggressive. I had one dry-hump my rental vehicle on Day 0. That was a strange way to start the con.
The neighborhood also gets dicey when you walk towards McDonalds to the east of the convention center. I have witnessed gang members hanging out in the street by that McDonalds and making fun of cosplayers walking by.
You have to be very, very careful in this area. When you have to walk between hotels frequently during a con, you can run into more issues than you thought you would.
San Jose has a few things to do outside the convention center. I saw a small club across the street from South Hall, but I didn’t go inside. As I said, the area can get sketchy fast when you wander around, and since the immediate area around the SJCC is office buildings, a technical school, and a museum, there aren’t a terrible amount of things to do other than go to lounges and get something to eat.
Fanime, though, does have its own MusicFest. Every year they include a concert with your badge that you have a chance to see. This year was an energetic performance by a mainstay in anime soundtracks, Back-On. They put on a rap/rock performance that was well worth the wait.
If you’re looking for after-hours activities in the area, though, there isn’t much of a list I can come up with.
I wanted to say I had a great time this year, but the reality of it is I didn’t. There’s a crowding issue and a logistical issue that do not have simple answers on how to fix it unless you do something that would be massively unpopular like moving locations or enacting some anti-ghosting policies.
I still do see tons of possibilities with this convention, and I do think they have what they need to make a truly great convention. I would recommend anime fans visit this convention above other anime conventions in California, I just wouldn’t call it a home run… yet.
Memorial Day weekend has come and gone, and with that, yet another FanimeCon in Downtown San Jose. Held at the McEmery Convention Center (and by extension, the Civic Auditorium and the Fairmont Hotel), FanimeCon returns once more to Downtown San Jose to bring a full 4-days of panels and many more! With improvements made upon the completion of a construction project in the area since its event last year, Fanime maintains its stronghold in its current location of Downtown San Jose alongside its subsidary convention, Clockwork Alchemy, in the San Jose Airport area. It continues to be a major convention attraction for people both in and out of California, and the crowds that showed up during the weekend definitely confirm that!
While on the subject of events, Fanime does not disappoint. Something I like to personally attend during FanimeCon if possible is MusicFest, a night-time concert on Day 2 featuring talent straight from Japan! FanimeCon typically has an opening act for the main attraction as with previous years, but this year's concert was solely all BACK-ON. Held in the Civic Auditorium, the event sure brought in quite the crowd as with the previous years, and the audience was sure pumped! Day 3 features both the Cosplay Spectacular (better known as the masquerade for some) and the Black and White Ball. The Cosplay Spectacular tends to be filled with quite the number of amazing entries and acting talent along with some entertainment to go in between. The Black and White Ball is a formal dance event that has a strict dress code, and there are workshops available for attendees during the first 3 days of the convention should they feel the need to brush up on those dance skills and etiquettes! To top it all off, these three aforementioned events are all included with the registration fee at no additional cost! Speed dating sessions are still held for people who want some of that action, this time being more accommodating to the LGBTQ population! Serving as a quintessential of any convention, the panels and workshops of FanimeCon are quite varied with just about something for everyone. The tradition of them being held in the Marriott Hotel right next to the convention center has been replaced by a new trend of hosting them in the neighboring Fairmont Hotel, which seems to have more spacious ballrooms and meeting rooms to better accommodate the increasing number of attendees. This seems to be working out, but it is a bit of a pain for those traveling from the main convention center itself especially with that busy intersection of San Carlos and Market. I did not go to any myself due to being late by a few seconds or so due to pedestrian traffic and all, but from what I've heard, panels went quite smoothly and were overall well-received by those who went!