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.
If you are part of the otaku/nerd culture in America you have probably heard of Otakon. This year Otakon topped a record number of attendee's. 34,100 to be exact. This puts Otakon at the largest anime convention on the east coast, but ignoring all of the hype, is it worth it it? Some attendee's I talked to had traveled from as far away as Seattle to attend this convention. I have a very simple answer answer to this. Yes, I highly encourage everyone to expirence Otakon at least once in their lives, especially if you live towards the eastern United States and do not have to fly.
Baltimore is a huge city, the largest city I have been to other than DC for Katsucon and AUSA. That being said be prepared to pay a hefty fine for parking. To park for the weekend my car mates and I shelled out 58 dollars to park Thursday night through Sunday afternoon. Other than the parking situation the convention costed no more than any other conventions. A pass costs 80 at the door, but if you ordered up until the week before the convention you could get your pass for 70 as I did. Considering the size of the convention this is actually a rather nice deal, considering Animazement in Raleigh's pass, a convention 1/5 the size for this year is 60 and Katsucons pass at the door is 70 and they're half the size.
It's crowded. Baltimore CC is a large establishment, but when you throw 34,000 people into anywhere be prepared for congestion. Overall the convention did a fair job at trying to direct the flow of traffic, but there were many times where I would be trying to get from one end of the convention to the other and had to cross the sky walk and it would be impossible to cross due to the mass number of people trying to cross at once. Extreme lines did not help with the congestion. A line would be forming for a panel or a guest or the dealers room and though there would be ropes at times the lines seemed to form in the middle of a walk way and stay that way until a member of staff could redirect traffic.
Dealers Room, Panels, and more:
Due to the mass number of people in attendence the line to the dealers room extended from the dealers room, up a flight of stairs, then onto the main level and looped around a rope maze. This sounds like it would not be worth it, but the line fortunately moved rather quickly considering the size. Once inside the dealers room I was in awe of the many things you could buy. I was highly impressed by the selection offered and the number of dealers set up. I ended up spending 30 dollars solely on manga because I could find ones there I could not find anywhere else. Anything you could image was there, including the usual booth's such as the Funimation booth and the "Rainbow Yaoi booth" Yes, there is a booth selling nothing but Yaoi and Yuri that you can see across the dealers room because it waves a giant rainbow flag high above any other booths.
I only attended two panels the entire convention, that was not because they were not interesting, but because I was so busy. The panel selection was fantastic and I was pleased to see there was not six thousand of the same panel. Only one of each kind of panel was accepted so the issue of having six as a nation panels did not arise. My favorite panel at the convention was the Cosplayer Nation documentary. I even had a cameo in it! It was great to see the behind the scenes of everything cosplayers have to go through in order to make the cosplays we do and hear different stories of why we do it.
Sadly I was not able to see TM Revolution live or the Masquerade. The line for TM Revolution began to form 3 hours in advance and by the time I was able to head to the arena to see them the line was wrapped around the building, this was an hour before.
Hotels and getting around Baltimore:
Around the immediate area of the convention center are several hotels. The hotels to the side of the convention center are connected by a sky walk so con goers never have to actually set foot in the streets of Baltimore. This is a great way to go if you want to pay the extra price for being next door to the convention, but you do not get a feel for the city. There are also a plethera of hotels within a mile of the convention center that are in downtown Baltimore. My crew stayed in the Quality Inn, which is 3 blocks away. It wasn't a bad deal, but the only draw back not staying right next to the con was walking through downtown Baltimore at night wearing costumes and some of my friends very little clothes. We did not stay for the rave and my room had a 1am curfew to keep everyone safe. It is always best to be safe than sorry when dealing with your money and very expensive items such as camera's and also your life.
Another option available to those living in area is to take the light rail in. There is parking at light rail stops and many people I talked to who did not have money to stay in a hotel used the light rail to commute every day. Also City of Baltimore has a bus system that can take you to anywhere in the city so let's say if your cosplay messes up and you need a last minute walmart run, but it will cost extra to move your car? Take the city bus! It makes things quite convenient if you do not mind wandering around Baltimore in cosplay.
All in all Otakon is a huge con but if you don't mind waiting in lines it is well worth it. If it is your first time headed to Otakon my advice would be read up as much information as you can. There are many advice pieces written and they all offer the same general advice. Watch your money, don't wander Baltimore at night, stay hydrated and arrive early. Also I would like to throw in my own personal piece of advice, pick up your badge Thursday. You will stand in line for many many hours if you do not and you will loose a good chunk of your con time Friday if you do not. Thursday when I picked up my badge I waited in line for maybe 45 minutes instead of the 4 hours it would have taken me if I had not gone Thursday.
Also, never buy drinks inside of the convention. Support "Ice cold water, it's only one dollar" guy and buy from him. It will save your wallet in the long wrong and plus, he is the inside joke of all otakon goers. If you say "Ice cold water" to anyone who has been Otakon they will immediatly think back to ice cold water man.
So is it worth it? Hell yes it's worth it.
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.
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.
Report #1 of 2
This weekend in Southern California marked the 8th Anime Los Angeles Convention at the LAX Marriott. The convention officially lasted 3 days from January 6th to the 8th and also held a Day Zero event on the Thursday before. This was my first year attending ALA and it actually exceeded my expectations from a smaller sized convention. Unfortunately due to transportation problems I was only able to attend Saturday (Day 2) but one day alone was really memorable. I believe this convention can be compared to Pacific Media Expo 2011 because of similarities in location and size. Here is my extensive review on the convention based on personal experiences with the venue, staff, entertainment, merchandise, and attendees.
The first thing that I want to discuss is general location and parking. As a few of my followers already know, I had previously attended Pacific Media Expo at the LAX Hilton just a couple of months ago. This time I was back in the Los Angeles Airport area just a couple of buildings away at the Marriott Hotel. I was told that the price of parking would be somewhere around $13 plus tax with the ALA for the hotel’s parking lot. I ended up using the parking lot in between the Hilton and the Marriott for only10.50. I suggest this lot to anyone who doesn’t mind walking an extra couple of minutes to the hotel because it was not at all over crowded. I believe that the Marriott itself was an excellent choice for a convention of this size. Yes, it was small. Yes, everything was sort of packed together, but everything worked out. The main thing I enjoyed about the venue was that the lobby and the main event/panel rooms were separated. The Ballroom Level held all of the panels and video rooms while the Lobby Level only contained the Artist Alley. I overheard people saying they didn’t even know their was an Artist Alley until they had been leaving the hotel but it was still on the map anyway. Even though this room was “hidden” from the rest of the convention, it always looked crowded when I passed through so I think that artists got the attention their work deserved. Separate from these two floors was the Pool Deck. Fortunately the weather was good for photographs so a lot of people were outdoors. This area was where someone could just sit and wait for hordes of cosplayers to pass through and take photos. Another photo spot was in the Patio. This outdoor area was not as crowded as the Pool Deck but was a meet-up spot for gatherings and more ‘’personal’’ photo shoots were being taken here all day.
The organization of this convention was really impressive compared to other cons I had attended before. I made my way from Orange County to Los Angeles early and arrived just as the first panels were about to start. I registered using At-Con registration and was surprised that there was no line and it was a really quick process to get my badge. The ticket price was $35, which was more than what I had been used to at other conventions but fair for something of this size. The Program Guide was also very interesting and went into detail on everything at the con. The guide was it’s own piece of art with All of the staff were very friendly and helpful right away. I did not have a single negative interaction with any members of the staff and it seemed to me like they positioned people that really knew their stuff out in the most crowded spots. Even when I hadn’t asked a question and probably just looked lost, a staff member came up to me asking if I needed help. A big thing about ALA would have to be the ‘ribbons’ they give out to attach to your badge. Unfortunately for me they had already run out of most of them at the beginning of day 2 so I missed out! I really enjoyed the seating arrangements all over the convention. There were painted benches with anime themes on them, bean bag chairs, and couches for guests to sit on. There were also photo print posters along the halls from a previously ALA and of course water stations scattered around the halls. One thing that stood out to me was the information posters outside of each room. For example the rooms were renamed “LP3” instead of “New York”, which is common for conventions, but they also actually had nicely and neatly printed out schedules for not just that day or hour, but for the whole weekend. The sign outside would say which day and what exact times things were scheduled to happen in each room. This tiny schedule board made all the difference when instead of seeing an open room and then having to look up a schedule, I could easily and quickly find out what was going on. The rooms themselves had more than enough chairs for the panels I had attended and were a good size for the expected audiences. I didn’t really notice any mentionable schedule problems and most panels I had seen started and ended on time successfully. I briefly questioned a few people in the halls about how they felt about this convention. Some people were 3 or 4 year ALA veterans and for some this was one of their first conventions. All of the persons I spoke to had positive things to say about their experiences from this year.
For such a small convention they had a larger selection of dealers than Pacific Media Expo with fair prices. There was a lot more variety in items being sold compared to PMX because it wasn’t just clothes and plushies. I saw a lot more posters, novelty gifts, cosplay accessories, and original stores. Instead of a lot of similar items being sold in one place, Dealers’ Hall was much more like a very small section of what would be expected at Anime Expo. ALA’s Artists’ Alley was really not what I was use to. ALA had just switched to a “lottery system” for spots available to artists looking to sell but they really did a good job! I had never before seen that many GREAT artists selling in one place. I guess it was just luck but at almost every table I was really very interested in the artists’ prints and badges. Higher prices were expected for laborious work but I think a lot of it was worth it to help a struggling artist. Lastly, I think the positive atmosphere of the convention influenced the positive experiences I had with cosplayers. I had never met so many nice and friendly cosplayers at a convention before. I was running on one hour of sleep for the entire day and wasn’t too excited to deal with the usual pushing/shoving and bad body odor that comes from a convention. However, it seemed to me like all day a lot of people were very mellow, friendly, and CLEAN! Made a lot of new acquaintances and didn’t smell any bad body odor, to boot! ☺
I feel like there was no better time to be a convention newbie than at ALA 8. With such panels as “Con Going 101”, “How to get started in Artist Alley”, “So You Want To Sew Your First Cosplay?”, “Cosplay Posing”, and “Cosplay Photography”, this convention had a lot that the average attendee could enjoy. It seems to me like Anime Los Angeles takes pride in their history and reputation and really try to keep a positive image going. This convention is truly about the fans in that they think of everything for you because people like you run them. I recommend this convention to everyone because it’s a lot to take in for a smaller convention. In only one day, Anime Los Angeles has now become the second convention (after Anime Expo) I will most look forward to each year from now on. See you next year, Anime Los Angeles, this one was a pleasure!
Full Photo Album from Saturday Day 2 Available Here
Report #2 of 2
As I continue to expand my scope of conventions as part of living in Los Angeles for most of the year, I have added Anime Los Angeles (ALA) to my hit list of conventions. Being held at the LAX Marriott, which is coincidentally near the LAX Hilton, the home of Pacific Media Expo (PMX), ALA offers an entertaining and fulfilling weekend filled with panels, concerts, performances, cosplays, and a grand masquerade to top it all off.
Compared to other hotels I have been to, lodging arrangements could have gone more smoothly in my opinion. There were check-in delays throughout Day 1 and baggage storage/claim delays on Day 3. The rooms do not disappoint, and as I stated in my report on PMX, neither do the variety of restaurants in the area, which are conveniently listed on a single sheet of paper included in the goodie bag that you receive upon processing your registration. There are no food trucks, but the lobby floor contains a café, a Starbucks, and a bar. Again, as the LAX Marriott is located very close to the LAX Hilton, one can take the lengthy walk to various stores for supplies. The pool deck on the first floor is quite popular for cosplayers to hold gatherings and to have photoshoots. The convention area has also been redecorated to fit the theme with benches featuring art from anime, manga, video games, etc. along with the bathroom signs being replaced with “Fan Boys” and “Fan Girls.” On the other hand, the Artist's Alley, which featured a collection of cosplays that have won competitions, was oddly located on the lobby floor. The Dealer's Hall was more or less typical for a convention this size though I should mention there seems to be little regulation on the vendors as I have spotted quite a few questionable items while browsing there.
Even though its name implies it emphasizes anime, manga, and modern-day Japanese culture, ALA features events based on these along with Western animation, comics, and more, contributing to an ever-growing attendance. This convention features guests such as artist Stan Sakai, voice actor Chris Cason, voice actress Cristina Vee, cosplay expert Sionna Neidengard, and various music artists. Like PMX, ALA suffers from size-deficient event rooms. Compared to PMX, though, ALA’s events went more smoothly with few technical difficulties and delays.
ALA also features concerts throughout the convention during the late morning and early afternoon. These concerts may not be as big as what most people are used to, but they are worth checking out in my opinion. I believe Mikarin of Momotama gave a pretty good description of the concerts at ALA when she said, “We are like an oasis. You can come in to relax or be filled with energy,” during the duo’s concert on Sunday afternoon, featuring anime and classic song covers. The Western Vocaloid scene also continues to expand as Tempo-P (and Neutrino-P who was in the room in spirit) of Vocalekt Visions and special guest Koda-P, a notable user of English-speaking Vocaloids, present virtual performances of their hits.
For those who want to be a little more active, ALA has a tradition of collecting ribbons to be appended onto your badge upon completing certain tasks. Some of these tasks are as simple as stating that it is your first time at the convention while other tasks provide a chance to meet some of the convention staff. For the fans, ALA’s lengthy convention guides provide a space right underneath the descriptions of the various guests for them to sign during their autograph sessions or when you happen to see them in the halls. Unfortunately, these guides were printed a little too early, listing a band that would cancel not too long before the actual convention (Dig Jelly) and not mentioning a group that would bring in a fairly large crowd despite the arrangement of the room provided for the concerts (Vocalekt Visions).
As a gradually growing convention, ALA offers all sorts of programs and events for fans of anime, manga, video games, and even Western media. ALA also offers a stronger sense of community with its fan events, cosplay gatherings, and ribbon-collecting quest. Like other conventions in this day and age, it caters to the late-night crowd by hosting a dance and leaving its karaoke room open past midnight. I highly recommend checking out ALA whether you are a convention veteran or you have not been to a convention before not only for its programming variety but also for its role as a gateway to other conventions in the area as representatives from PMX, Anime Kaigi, Anime Conji, and Anime Expo were there to get the word about them.
Henry Huynh (Rin Dunois)
This past Fanime seemed different then previous FanimeCons I have been to over the years. As my friends and I experience a terrific time in Fanime, something just didn't feel right. This would be my 4th Fanime I've been to and I always had fun, but I think what really derailed this Fanime from other years is that there were not as many events I was interested in. Don't get me wrong, there were some new ones I did check out and did like, like the AMV hell videos, one of the main video rooms I didn't expect to see that at all. I only wish I stayed for the whole thing. Usually every year I make a list of things I want to check out and honestly there were not as many. The panels that were fan made were not the best in the world, but there were a few and I do know it takes a lot of work to put a panel together, but there weren't any that sparked my interest. The Blazblue and Guilty Gear panel were great, and it was a good Q&A panel, but other then that, a few other panels were not as good as previous years. The videos checked out were all of the Zero Punctuation reviews and late night laughs with the AMV Hell videos and the hentai AMVs were great. I have to say the hentai AMVs were very funny and fantastic; one of the best times I've spent in there laughing my ass off. The video game room was as great as ever; the arcade was there with a few new editions, the tables were set up for tabletop gaming, and the consoles were set up so you could sit down and play. My only complaint about the video game room is that they brought back PCs this year, but only 4. On top of that, the games you can play on them were good, but just not enough PCs for a more competitive tourrney other then Starcraft. Maybe next year they can bring more PCs and the ability to play on Steam so we can have tournaments like Team Fortress 2 and other popular titles.
The space given for cosplayers and con goers alike has always been a strong area in Fanime. There's so much space in the convention center that there is no problem. Every year somebody with big armor or anything to move around in have plenty of room to move freely. Every year, Stage Zero is always one of the best things at Fanime. Why? The game shows, the special guests, the charity tournaments. Stage Zero has always been good at these. I love the fact even in my busy times at Fanime I can walk by the Stage Zero and stay for a few minutes to see whats on stage and then go on about my day. Even then, if I am busy, that doesn't mean I'm enjoying myself. There are times when people get bored. And in those times, they can rely on Stage Zero. Sometimes they play music, sometimes they play Youtube poops, they really cater to the audience. Whatever they feel like viewing, they go for it, especially around the early morning hours.
This was probably the 1st time I've been to the Artists Alley. My initial thoughts were that it was just like the Dealers Hall, only less crowded and more quiet. I did enjoy the cool things you never see in the Dealers Hall that are in the Artists Alley, like being able to get advice and let them check out your portfolio, and buy shirts that make you more of a nerd then ever. I will say when I do have more money for next year, I will probably check out the Artists Alley more and probably ask for some advice since I am an avid fan of, well, anime and the like. I don't know but for some reason I feel right at home when I am in the Artists Alley. The Dealers Hall was just as the same as previous years but it's not a bad thing, no, actually I do like how it is. It's open enough for people to get around and there are items at a reasonable prices. It's very easy for someone to walk in there with $120 and walk out with only $4o.
Both dances, the Black and White Ball and the Rave were handled pretty well. Besides a small health incident at the Rave, it was all handled the way it should be. The B&W Ball was interesting mostly because they moved it to a much bigger room. Great idea on the Rovers part, since last year it was packed, but never the less it was great idea. There was more room to walk around and the tables that were set up for people to rest at and chat. Everyone looked very nice, both ladies and gentlemen and people in cosplay were also in appropriate attire. It was like a high school prom in many ways and it certainly did have that type of atmosphere about it. Plus it was free, bingo. (You know, cause
The last thing I wanted to say is that even though I did not get to everything I wanted to, I still had a great time. However, the sinking feeling that this Fanime wasn't as good as past Fanimes saddens me. I can't quite put my finger on it, but something about it wasn't as great, but regardless of this I still had a blast. The last thing I wanted to say is that staff (Rovers) at Fanime were great and they had a lot of patience to deal with all of us. I do applaud the staff and security for doing a great job making sure nobody did anything stupid, though I wished the police (SJPD) were not there as much as previous years. Their presence gave the folks a strange feeling of insecurity. (Though I am not everybody, this is just my opinion) Although this year's event wasn't as good as past events, it was still fun. For a lot of newcomers, this was a blast, and in some cases, this is true. However, I'm hoping the next following years to come will be enjoyable for everyone, new or old.