This year at Otakon we cover the ongoing registration issues, the city of Baltimore, and of course cosplay, panels, anime music video contests, and raves!
Location makes or breaks a convention. Photo shoots need good diverse locations. Con-goers need food and drink (and alcohol) and bathrooms. Plus it wouldn’t hurt if the area had a diverse selection of high quality restaurants and fast food establishments. Baltimore delivers all this and more by hosting Otakon in the middle of its’ already bustling center city. The Inner Harbor, a tiny artificially straightened inlet of water, long since having lost its’ industrial roots now adorns the center of Baltimore with its’ picturesque walkways, attractions, shops, and restaurants. A perfect location to host Otakon’s own matsuri (kanji: 祭) as well as hundreds of photo-shoots throughout the weekend...
Make sure to also listen to our podcast on Otakon.
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.
Katsucon, the East coasts second largest anime convention with 13,000+ people in attendance this year, Otakon being the first with over 30,000 people attending annually, is a convention where if given the chance to attend should not be passed up. With this many people there is something for everyone whether you're there to panel hop, meet guests, network, take cosplay photographs, doing modeling, or just meeting and hanging out with others in your fandom. Everyone I encountered were so down to earth and I met and became friends with many amazing people during my time. Katsucon is held annually in The Gaylord National Hotel and Convention center, a beautiful 19 story hotel and convention center combination. The Atrium, which is the downstairs area of the hotel/convention center, is home to a restaurant several shops, and many beautiful photo op areas including the fountain. There are several hotels next door to the convention center, but the best option is to stay in the Gaylord. Being a 24 hour convention in the middle of February in Maryland it gets rather cold and it is not ideal to be walking back to your hotel at 4am after the rave or an 18+ panel.
The hotel portion of the Gaylord Hotel and Convetion Center was spectacular, except for the elevators being slow. It seems I would waiting 20 minutes just to get from my room on the 10th floor back down to the convention levels, but this is to be expected when you have thousands of people together all trying to use them. Each room comes with 2 king size beds, a balcony overlooking the convention center, (or if you're unfortunate like I was overlooking the parking garage)a mini fridge, a room safe, and a 32 in television. 6 people are allowed to be registered per room max.
It is highly recommended to pre-register, yet even then the pre-registration line can take up to 2 hours to get through at its peak. 9am is when registration opens and by 9:30 registration was wrapped around the room it was taking place in, out the door and wrapped down the hallway. Katsucon does something called VIP Registration. Regular pre-registration can cost anywhere from 45-60 depending on when you pre-reg, at the door registration is 75, and for a VIP Pass is 110 dollars, but you must pre-reg for that because there are only 200 VIP Passes available. with a VIP pass you get front of the line privileges, priority seating, chance for autographs with guests, a tshirt, and a cloth bag to put your con goodies in.
I would like to take a moment to address this for people have heard rumors about the situation with the BBYO Jewish Youth Organization. The hotel was double booked for both Katsucon 19 and the BBYO Internation Conference. There were 13,000 Otaku's and 1,500 Jewish youth from all over the world under one roof. Many of these Jewish youth had never heard of cosplay and did not know how to handle the cosplayers. There have been many rumors reguarding actions of the Jewish conference attendee's such as cornering and sexually assaulting a Scanty (from Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt) cosplayer by ripping down her top in front of a crowd of people. These rumors have not been confirmed nor denied. What has been confirmed is I was spit on by a crowd of them while I was in cosplay, and another friend of mine had things thrown at him from the 4th story balcony many of them were staying on. Also it has been confirmed by the Gaylord that the BBYO has been banned for causing 10,000 dollars worth of damages and inappropriate behavior. There will always be bad eggs that ruin the entire reputation of a group. The BBYO that I had the pleasure of talking to over the weekend we're very nice people and I had many parents while I was in a communal area of the convention center approach me and ask questions, which I am always happy to answer. I do not want the actions of a few to ruin the reputation of their organization and I ask for everyone to stop emailing and spreading internet hate. Being a bully on social media to members of their organization who most likely did nothing wrong is not the way to solve anything. Formal complaints were filed and that is all that can be done.
Guests and Panels
Yaya Han: During this convention I had the pleasure of speaking with and taking a picture of international model and cosplayer Yaya Han and also attend her Sociology of Cosplay Panel. The Sociology of Cosplay Panel talked about why people cosplay and what her reasons for getting into cosplay and offered some
really great insight that some people really don't think about. It also stressed the importance of everyone cosplays for different reasons, so there is no need to bully someone in the community for the simple reason that they buy their costumes, or they're in a different fandom than your own.
It Gets Better: Anime Convention Edition with Greg Ayers and Crispin Freeman: Many are familiar with the Dan Savage It Gets Better project, but this version of the It Gets Better project was centered around bullying in the anime and otaku community. Both Greg Ayers and Crispin Freeman shared their stories of bullying throughout their childhood and told stories of bullying he had seen at conventions, which they both stressed are supposed to be a safe haven for free expression.
While the two above we're the two panels put on by a more famous guest, there were many fan panels and something for everyone including many late night 18+ panels that
would surely put a smile on your face if you stayed through the entire panel. My only criticism was the lack of variety in panels. 6 Ask a Nation panels, at least 3 Homestuck panels, multiple pokemon panels and 3 about
webcomics. Katsucon goes on a panel request basis, so it is whatever is popular at the moment and people ask to do, but at the very least overkill could be used to describe the number of Hetalia Ask a Nation panels.
During Katsucon there is a formal ball where the attendee's dress in their finest formal wear and proceed to dance the night away in a ball room with music and merriment. Cosplay is welcome as long as it adheres to the formal attire guidelines, which can be found on the Katsucon website. Being the day after Valentines Day, the ball was a romantic and unique way to celebrate with your significant other, and if you were single, possibly a way to find someone special?
The ammount of variety in the dealers room for this convention was above average. Not as much as I have seen in other conventions, which was diappointing due to the size of Katsucon, but what it lacked in variety it made up for in numbers and price competition. If you thought a price was a little high at one booth, just walk down the isle and there would be another dealer willing to make you a deal or selling it for a couple dollars cheaper than the previous dealer. My favorite booth had to be the Funimation booth. Free stuff! You can always count on the Funimation booth to give out amazing posters and demo CD's. I got a good chuckle while watching the demo CD they gave out that had the entire season 2 and 4 of one series I will not name at this time. The dub was quite hilarous at times. I can see why they gave out entire seasons at a time. Deadman Wonderland, Baka and Test, Hellsing, and Black Lagon were among the free Funimation posters being given out this time, all of which are hanging on my wall.
All and all Katsucon is a wonderful convention willed with a wide variety of things to do, cosplay to photograph and look at, panels to attend, and all the people were so welcoming and friendly. My advice to any people who are going to this convention for the first time is budget plenty of money for food. You are going to need it. The only place to get "cheap" food around the convention is the subway on the strip outside the convention, or if you're willing to walk a little ways there is a McDonalds. The resturant inside the convention center will set you about 20 bucks including food, drink and tip. Not ideal for 3 meals a day. Also forewarned, nothing delivers to the convention center. Every pizza place my hotel mates and I called and the chinese place refused to deliver. Another tip is to remember to sleep. Being a 24 hour con it is easy to forget to sleep with all the excitement, especially if you are over 18 and can go to the late night panels.
Coming back to the LAX Marriott in Inglewood, CA for its 9th year, Anime Los Angeles brings a variety of guests from both amongst the industry and the fans and various forms of programming. Its name may be soon a mere misnomer or a name just for the sake of having a name as the events have been extended to cover more from comics, fan media, cartoons, and the like instead of anime and manga as its name would imply. Regardless, the convention still continues to keep on growing with more attendees to the point where it may have to consider moving to a different venue.
Of course, as with PMX held at the LAX Hilton last November, ALA is also near several restaurants for the attendees' convenience. On top of that, ALA has also incorporated the con suite, something seen typically at sci-fi conventions, a room that provides enough nourishment to prevent fatigue but not quite enough to satisfy hunger. Unfortunately for users of the T-Mobile and Verizon mobile services, the ballroom level where most of the events of the convention are held has little to no cellular reception, so people who are customers of those companies may want to prepare for that when it comes to arranging photoshoots, meet-ups, etc. Speaking of which, as with most hotels, the atmosphere can make for yellow-orange tinted photos, which is not too suitable for cosplay shots, but luckily, the pool area and the patio out front have been designated as the locations for cosplay gatherings, the former of which is a great spot for photographers to hang around in for nice shoots.
Various voice actors at the "Video Games Voice Acting" panel Sunday morning including Richard Epcar (3rd from left) and Johnny Yong Bosch (5th from left)
ALA had quite a bit to show off on the 3 floors it had occupied (ballroom, lobby floor, and the executive suites on the top floor). Panels featuring fan interaction, cosplay tutorials, and industry guests were amongst the live programming along with the standard anime screening room and the nightly dances. On top of that are the Starlight Ball and the Rum Party (which is alcohol-free, mind you), two events that were known to have been pretty popular that weekend due to their unique character. Convention guests included voice actor Johnny Yong Bosch (Ichigo Kurosaki from "Bleach," Lelouch Lamperouge from "Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion," and Nero from "Devil May Cry 4" to name a few), local talent Momotama, and Toastmaster Tadao Tomomatsu (has been the main MC for masquerades at other conventions and has fulfilled various TV roles along with starting up his new show, "Anime Sushi"). For people who want bragging rights for having been able to see certain guests at the convention in person, autograph sessions were set aside in a separate room along with designated areas in the convention's guide for signatures (Convention staff also got spaces.). Concerts by various fan talent are also offered as a form of entertainment on top of the masquerade (which requires one to line up really early to be guaranteed seating space) albeit in a small room (seating capacity of 30-40).
Mikari Takeriya and Tama Shinshi of Momotama
Speaking of panels, I went to a few, but I have noticed that there were times where badges would not be checked prior to entering. The panels were ran smoothly for the most part with little to no difficulties, so that's a plus. In regards to the concerts, I do wish a larger room could be provided. Yes, the talent featured is not exactly too well known, but they would definitely appreciate a larger performance venue. For consumers, the Dealer's Hall and Artist's Alley were quite standard of a convention this size with a decent selection of merchandise ranging from little trinkets to model kits to cosplay wigs and outfits and a wide variety of commissions offered by the various fan artists though a Swap Meet would be well appreciated in my opinion. Ribbon collecting, a tradition that started with sci-fi conventions if I recall correctly, continues to be a popular activity at ALA with more and more people making their own custom ribbons for people to collect after fulfilling interesting tasks or just simply running into certain people. The activity is something worth taking a look into if people want to be a little more adventurous at a convention.
Samurai are always welcome, right?
On another note, ALA came up with a way to make things more convenient for its attendees that stayed in the hotel during the weekend. Instead of having people wait in long lines in the relatively small lobby on its final day to get their bags stored, ALA attendees were re-directed to the Executive Suites on the 18th floor. People who woke up early enough were able to get their bags checked-in with little-to-no waiting. Those who decided to get up later were forced to drop their bags off at the lobby restaurant that was conveniently closed that day. This system would have been well-implemented were it not for the heavy elevator traffic during this late-morning/early-afternoon rush to the point where hotel staff had to eventually limit elevators heading down to a maximum capacity of 5, leaving people stuck waiting for half an hour or so. ALA had something going for this, but hopefully they will learn from this mistake and implement this system more effectively for next time.
This may be more of my own personal gripe with the programming, but as mentioned above, I have noticed an increasing trend of panels and such that are associated with media that is not anime or manga as the convention name would suggest. In fact, I believe such panels tended to get a larger audience and were closer to fulfilling the maximum seating capacity of the rooms or even exceeded it than those that were more in line with anime and manga. Not even the panels featuring industry guests could reach such an audience. I am in no way biased toward one way or the other in regards to this scenario, but when I go to a convention that clearly features "Anime" or "Manga" in its name in any way or fashion, I do expect to see a higher proportion of events related to such media available and more people to be attending such. Yes, events featuring other media is perfectly welcome at such conventions, but I do not think it would be suitable to emphasize them above all else. Luckily, the convention's Masquerade is still judged based on the concept that it has to be related to anime or manga (though skits and performances implementing other media can easily blur the line and raise questions regarding the distribution of awards) and there is still the standard anime screening room and anime music video (AMV) contest for those who are interested in that. Perhaps Anime Los Angeles should consider renaming itself to something along the likes of New York Comic-Con and Anime Festival?
All in all, ALA continues to grow with more and more attendees especially with its welcoming arms for all kinds of fandoms as shown in the variety in its event line-up. Bringing the staples of an anime convention and the unique features of earlier sci-fi conventions together, ALA made an environment where people can feel more welcome to establish new friendships whether it would be through meeting each other at a panel, cosplaying from similar media, or collecting ribbons. If you are looking for a convention with a friendly environment, this is definitely it. Do not be surprised to find that the name could indeed be a misnomer with the rising popularity of children's cartoons, web-comics, and the like and ALA response to the phenomenon with including more events that are related to such media, though. Of course, the days of "pure" anime conventions might as well have come to an end years ago.
Anime Los Angeles 2013 – A Small Powerhouse
This review is going to have a different feel to those that have read our past convention reviews. There’s a simple reason for that; I staff at this particular convention. In the Volunteers Department to be precise. Anyone that walked by the Volunteer window and saw a bald man sitting behind it saw me. Now that we have that out of the way…
Anime Los Angeles has a very different vibe from other conventions in California because of how social it is. There’s a lot of people put into one hotel and there’s a festive atmosphere whether you’re wandering the halls, involved in a cosplay group, checking out Artists Alley, or doing karaoke. Let’s look at the components and see how it went.
The rooms in the Los Angeles Airport Hilton are more than suitable for the convention experience. The rooms are spacious enough and they recently upgraded the televisions to flat monitors with HDMI and USB ports for your PC or gaming devices. There were only two issues with my personal room. One was with the desk. There wasn’t anything necessarily wrong with it, but the desk had this slide out component to increase the surface area. However, no matter how far back you pushed it, there was always a section sticking out. For me, this is frustrating to my OCD and was a source of minor frustration. The other item was that I checked in at 6pm on Thursday (Day 0 of the convention) and since I was one of the late comers, there was no refrigerator in my room which is usually standard. A quick call downstairs and I found out that they were just plain out of refrigerators. It was a good thing I forgot to buy milk on the way there for my raisin bran.
Other than that, the staff was very helpful and eager to problem solve. I guess my gripes are more personal issues than real problems.
Technically, the convention took place in several places throughout the hotel; the Ballroom level where most of the functions and events occurred, including the patio space underneath the Lobby driveway; the first floor where the Manga Lounge and pool deck (the primary gathering spot) are; the Lobby level (second floor) which is where Artists Alley was; and the Executive Floor (eighteenth floor) where the Maid Café took place. It sounds like Anime Los Angeles (ALA) took over the entire hotel, but we did not. Though, we did get a LOT of cooperation from the hotel in that they set aside the entire pool deck and executive suites for our use.
The hotel also made sure there was ample water on hand for the conventioneers. It was a little packed at times, but I have to hand it to the hotel staff, they did adapt well and kept things running pretty well.
This is how ALA looked at midnight... Wait... I think the butler sees something she likes...
My personal gripe is that Verizon has TERRIBLE service in the Ballroom level of the hotel. If you didn’t know where to find me ahead of time, I couldn’t be contacted. That’s frustrating when you have 3 rooms of people counting on you. My choices were to either head to another floor or outside to get any messages, and in the digital age, a message an hour old is pretty ancient.
It can be a bit crowded, but that’s because ALA has hit its attendance cap during the last two years. But, this doesn’t stop the CEO from parking himself on a couch in the main causeway and actively visiting with fans and answering their questions. That’s a rare thing these days, and I like to see it when the CEO takes such an active hand in the convention as it occurs.
"Still trying to save Zelda..."
EVENTS/THINGS TO DO
ALA has a lot of the components that are fairly well expected these days such as a Dealer’s Hall, Artist’s Alley, masquerade, anime music video competition, video gaming, table top gaming and dances. They did manage to add a few things that I’m surprised aren’t more widely used like karaoke and martial arts exhibitions and lessons. There was supposed to be a Rock Band and Dance Central room, however the person providing the gear for this room became very ill before the convention and wasn’t available. Events and rooms go well into the nights making a lot of possibilities for entertainment of all kinds. But, they aren’t the only thing to do.
In fact, this is the second most active convention during the late nights I’ve been to with the exception of Fanime. Where Fanime has the advantage of being a 24-hour convention, ALA feels like a social convention and it brings out the party animal in a more than a few people going. I think you’d be surprised to see how many fans bring out their A-game cosplay and really let their inner flag fly for the three days of the convention. I’m not exaggerating when I say on Day 3, after the convention officially ended at 5pm, the lobby still had a ton of anime fans standing, talking, and handing out Facebook and Instragram info. I sat at dinner with some friends and most of them were still there about 75 minutes later.
Pirates in Los Angeles that aren't Raiders.
A lot of conventions are starting to have formal affairs where people dress in full suits and gowns, or formal cosplay variations of characters for ballroom dancing, and ALA has its own version called the Starlight Ball. It's a little surreal as an observer to look around at the original takes on characters and trying their hand at more reserved forms of dance. There is a certain charm to it, as well, though.
One of the more interesting things I saw was Captain Jack’s Rum Party. The autograph room was turned into a series of tents and tables where you could play games for faux gold coins including Liar’s Dice and trying to toss a hoop on to a lady’s leg. Since this is a party for all ages, rum was substituted by cola and tea, but a good time was being had. There’s something special about seeing people dressed up as with capes, nekomimi, and pirate hats around a table joking and having fun. Unfortunately, Captain Jack retired with this past rum party and is handing over the reins to his lieutenant. Though, I’m sure that the party will still be boisterous and loud.
I know someone that works for another convention that rates ALA in his top 3 most fun convention list.
You’ll excuse me if I’m kind of cagey on this one. I really like the people working for ALA. That’s not a kiss-up or a dodge. I wouldn’t be staffing for them for three years straight if I didn’t like working there. They take complaints seriously and work to do things better if there’s an opportunity to do so. Are there issues to fix? Sure. There always are. They, and I, are working on them. If you have any more to forward though me, send me an e-mail, and I’ll be glad to hear them.
Like Pacific Media Expo, the Dealer’s Hall is small. It is one ballroom and it is stuffed with things to view. Like PMX, they do a good job of making sure there’s a little bit of everything of anime fandom for a person to view and gauge their interest in buying. There were more usual items than you’d think for a smaller convention of around 4,000 patrons.
The guest list is fairly robust with Mary Elizabeth McGlynn, Richard Epcar, M. Alice LeGrow, Johnny Yong Bosch and his band, Eyeshine, Justin Sevakis, and Panda Cubed, among others.
Actually, I had a fun experience where Richard Epcar made a point to come by the Volunteers desk and sign some stuff for us. As he put it, “You guys are trapped working all weekend and can’t go see anybody, so I came to you. What can I sign?” I can easily say all of us were stunned and scrambled for anything the man could put a pen to!
"Leaf Clan?" Now I've heard it all...
While ALA doesn’t have a forum on its website, it monitors the Cosplay.com forum dedicated to it as if it were its own, so it stays very dialed in to what the fans think.
I’ve mentioned before that this is a social convention, and I don’t think that’s an exaggeration. There were parties of all kinds, including a Taco Party on Night 2, the Con Suite, where convention goers could pick up snacks for no cost, the dances where people filed into after the clock struck midnight, and people working almost as hard as the convention staff to make things as fun as absolutely possible.
Personally, I ran across a late Avengers photoshoot and the people there were very fun and didn’t shoo me away for being curious. In fact, I met a pair of cosplayers who asked I not use their names dressed as Captain Marvel and Spider Woman who put up with my requests and antics. You’d think that two young girls would be more put off by the strange older guy, but we bonded a bit when there was a gathering earlier in the convention. During the Avengers Initiative gathering, I was at the back with the Captain Marvel, and neither of us are overly tall. So, I bit the bullet and put the Captain on my shoulder. If you go through ALA photos and find someone flying at the back of the group, that’s why. When I put her down, she thought it was awesome. If only I knew that trick in high school!
I’d like to see things grow further, though Anime Los Angeles is contracted to the Los Angeles Airport Marriott through 2016. That’s not a terrible thing since we’re very used to the space and know how to use it to its utmost. There’s a couple of things that need to be worked out, but I’m confident that the CEO will make sure that everything is talked about and begins the process to make things better in the years to come.
Most conventions are the place where you go to shop for those few things you didn’t know you wanted. ALA is where you go when you don’t want anything but to hang out with other fans. This is where you go to start a conversation and make new friends for no other reason than because we all share the same hobbies and want to geek out for three straight days. Come on by and see what it’s like when your Facebook anime group is brought into the real world.
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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.
_ Gaming Room
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.
_ Vendors’ Hall
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.