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.
Katsucon 18 was held at the Gaylord National Hotel & Convention Center. This is my first time going to Katsucon and this venue and it was really superb place to have an anime convention. It is located in the National Harbor right on the Potomac River east of Washington D.C. on the Maryland side. The Gaylord has a glass atrium that is 18 stories! The Gaylord boasts 2,000 rooms with lots of other high quality dinning and shopping. Photos will be uploaded soon with Cosplay as well. The venue with the indoor glass atrium has a fountain, large gazebo, trees and some houses inside which provides fantastic opportunities for Cosplay photo shoots. This convention attracts the best quality Cosplay that I have seen in a long time with pro photographers and cosplayer's from all over the country. Most of them are there to be part of the World Cosplay Summit which I talk about below. This convention isn't to large but nor is it to small. The location still gives the convention room to grow larger in the next few years if it decides to stay. I hope it does as it is the most gorgeous convention center I have been to. Last year the numbers of attendees were 7,200 + and I just heard the unconfirmed number that it reached 12,600 this year and that they ran out of badges. I thought that it wasn't too crowded at all. Since it is a hotel/resort you still have people that are not in the convention rooms walking around enjoying themselves and watching the cosplayer's walking around. I didn't come across anyone rude at all! The convention staff were great and trying to diffuse situations and seamed to really enjoy what they were doing. Also the Gaylord Staff were really nice and always willing to help you with your bags and anything that you might need there for your stay. The attendees were nice and the cosplayer's were happy to be asked for their photos! Like I mentioned before the Guests of the Hotel and not Katsucon were also nice enjoying themselves and Katsucon Attendees. They seamed to enjoy the cosplayer's and loved to take their photos.
The dealers room had a great variety of merchandise to look for. From art books, model kits, anime figures, comics, posters, Japanese snacks and drinks, all kinds of steam punk goodies and leather works. Did I mention swords? The dealers room had lots of great things to look at and gave you a large option as what to pick up and bring home with you. There were actually two artists that were in there selling art rather then the artist alley and of course a few other conventions promoting there event later this year. On Friday the isle's in the dealers hall had a great flow for those passing by the people stopping at a booth to look or buy. Some room enough to grab a picture of some Cosplayer's. Unlike Friday, Saturday and Sunday was a lot more crowded and especially after 12pm. The isle's are difficult to squeeze by if people are stopping on both sides looking with people trying to get past. Most difficult if you are carrying merchandise that you just bought or have a rather large costume on. All in all the dealers hall was really nice.
This is the second largest Artist Alley that I have been in at a convention. There are plenty of artist all great in there own way and has a little something that anyone can find and like. Lots of prints, self portraits, personalized convention badges and plushies were scattered through out the room. This year in the Artist alley, Katsucon decided to try something different. They wanted to give some artist that are decent at creating backdrops using image manipulation tools like Photo Shop to create a backdrop for Cosplayers. They wanted four panels with different themes for a variety of cosplay portraits. There was a sci-fi, church, outdoor garden and another that was printed on a large canvas and hung up in the middle of the room. When I was in the Artist Alley looking at art and taking photographs I didn't see anyone/cosplayer using the back drops. This year was their inarguable year of the back drop but I really didn't see it being used, but a few people looking at it admiring it for the art work. The Artist Show was not that large and I personally didn't find anything that I wanted to bid on but there was a good amount of entries including 3-D pieces on display on the table. The isle’s of that artist Alley were fantastic, there was no squeezing by people just to get by.
The Game Room at Katsucon is open 24-7 for playing games well into the day, night and early morning. It was put together by NGA (Nexus Gaming Alliance). The Exhibition hall that the video game room was in also shares the dance area for the Rave. The Video game section is towards the front and there was some good games to play. The tables and such were extremely spread out, no problem getting around inside. It seamed to spread out to get to game-to-game. I was surprised that there wasn't a TV set up with Mario Kart Wii. They had about four TV's set up for Smash Brothers Brawl. Also the TV's were nice but they were all the same size of like 22 inches or something. They did have quite a variety of arcade party games set up in the back portion of the Video Game room. Beatmania, Pump it Up, Fiesta EX, DDR Extreme in the Groove 3, Guitar Freaks and a few other dance/music base arcade games. The arcade games are pay-per-play so they have a change machine and it's about 50-75 cents per play. There was a variety of tournaments that were held there as well with a Soul Caliber 5.
I played a little while in the game room but didn't spend much time in there. I dropped by the game room while the rave was taken place and since they are in the same huge hall the rave music over takes the room and the sound from the video games.
Now Katsucon also had a room called the Import Game Lounge where you can play imported games but this room was not 24-7 but ran to 10pm on Friday and Saturday nights and was opened some on Sunday as well.
I missed it this year as I got preoccupied with Cosplayer's and photo shoots. Katsucon has a Formal Ball on their Friday nights. You need to wear your best attire, a dress for girls and such. For guys, a suit or dress shirt and tie perhaps? Uniforms were accepted as well and my friend and room mate at the convention went as Colonel Mustang from FMA and was allowed in since it was a uniform. I asked him about it and he said it was a great event. It was from 8pm to 10pm in the Main Events hall. There was some traditional music for those that wanted to Waltz and other formal dancing. People were walking around the resort in fine dresses. Everyone looked great when they went in. The time of the convention also is great as it is either right before, on, or right after Valentines day so if you wanted to take a date, there is your chance!
The Video Rooms had a good variety of choices to watch from. They ran 24-7 so if you are bored at any point or looking to burn some time, people stopped by there. There was three video rooms with anime and abridge series playing. With old school series playing and new series playing.
Panels & Workshops
There were about six “Live” rooms and a workshop room. The Live rooms had panels and I think workshops in them as well. The Workshop room was specifically workshops though. With the convention in a Hotel/convention center they had panels and such running 24-7. I really only managed to make it to a panel and a half. I tried getting to a panel about Japan at 7am on Saturday morning but the panelist was a no show. Apparently that happens a lot as a few panels early in the morning had no-show panelists. I guess it being to early they are not away, figure no one will show or straight up didn't want that time. I am not sure if the convention staff was able to contact the panelist with a number or a contact to let them know but mine never showed. The variety of panels and workshop were quite nice though with over 225 panels at least. With Q&A panels with guests, sneak peeks from industry, fan panels, informative panels about Japan and their foods, culture and visiting and others. I check in on a few of the Live rooms for the panels and some of them were not that large but could accommodate from 30-50 people I think. If it is a really popular panel you would need to show up if you wanted to make it in.
I set a reservation for $5 for the Maid Cafe at Katsucon this year with my friend Andrew. The proceeds and donations at the cafe went towards Japan restoration, like the Red Cross. It is a nice breath of fresh air after walking around most of Saturday and you are hungry. They took us to floor 18 to the “club” room were you get a great view of Washington D.C. and the Potomac River. When you go up you need to decide on who you want to serve you; maid, butler, cross player of a maid or a butler. We went with a maid and they take you to your seat and offer you a menu for some Japanese themed foods. I went with the Miso soup and chicken teriyaki on skewers over rice. The food was really nice to have rather then sandwiches at the convention. When you go, your maid also spends all the time with you. She goes to place orders or grabs something for you but she sits at the table with you and talks with you. It was nice to spend time with such a cute maid and talk about anime and things in general. I recommend it if your convention offers it. Also for $1 you can take a photo with your maid or you can play a board game with her/him and win prizes!
World Cosplay Summit
The World Cosplay Summit is a World competition in Cosplay. Cosplayer's from all over the country came to Katsucon this year to compete to represent the United States at the World Cosplay Summit in Nagoya, Japan later this year. I attend the WCS Masquerade Saturday night 9-12 to watch their skits. They has some fantastic costumes and great shows to put on. Truly world class cosplay at the show.
The winners get a free trip to Japan, $250 in cash and $300 in wigs from Arda Wigs. Their group name was “ Coconut Bubble Sex Cosplay” with Katie and Diana cosplayed as characters from Princess Tutu. Second place went to Cupcake Cosplay using with gorgeous costumes from Ah! My Goddess.
Over all thoughts
I recommend going to this convention. The Price at the door was $65 for adults and even cheaper for your kids that love to run in costume. It is extremely easy to get to just hoping right off Interstate 95 towards the National Harbor. Friendly people, high quality location and hotel with great opportunities to shoot photography with high class cosplay. Also the added bonus of parts of the convention running 24 hours through out the day and night give you the chance to always be doing something if you just can't sleep!
Look forward to the upload of photos...
-Clinton Lewis (SamShio)
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)
My expectations were low for Kintoki, held this past weekend, since this was their first convention in Sacramento. I have heard of this convention before; with all the advertisement they pushed forward at other conventions, as well as getting help from Good Day Sacramento. To my surprise, there was a great turn out for this convention and had a very comfortable atmosphere. Kintoki-Con had all the things a convention should have: panels, anime viewing room, workshops, guests appearances, a concert, artist alley, maid cafe, dealers hall, and of course the most important part of it all, cosplayers! Let me start off the setting of this convention. Placing the convention at the Hyatt Regency was a great idea on Kintoki's part. The hotel was situated in the middle of downtown, and very close to local restaurants and shopping locations . Especially with the heat beating down on the capital and many thick costumes, the cool air condition inside the hotel was nice and kept everyone at a comfortable temperature. There were three floors dedicated to the anime convention for its use. The 1st floor, or the main floor was very spacious and easy to walk from one end to the other without getting crowded. This floor consisted of themain performance room, artist alley, dealers hall, and the maid cafe. Dealers hall was well...the dealers hall. Nothing too special about it, but it's one of the essential things an anime convention should have. Compared to other conventions the dealers hall at Kintoki is probably a good size for its 1'st convention. Sure it's not as huge as other convention dealer halls, but from the conventions I been too, Kintoki's seemed pretty right for what it was going for.
Artist alley was a bit narrower then the dealers hall, but about the same length, which hosted 44 artists. The tables were set up right next to each other, some where even back to back, so artists could comfortably talk to neighboring artists. Hopefully, future Kintoki-Cons will expand the artist alley up more, so that everyone won't have to worry about possible traffic. I managed to check out one of the panels Sunday morning held in the events ballroom. I sat in for the Mary Elizabeth McGlynn and Richard Epcar panel Q&A. There was only a handful of people there, but they were seated on the floor close to the McGkynn and Epcar. This was a nice way to run the panel and was also more intimate. Lastly, I checked out the Maid Cafe at and while its heart was in the right place, it did fall under some of the same faults as the last anime convention that had it did too. When I think of maid cafe I am thinking of entertainment, maids serving you food and drinks, a relax atmosphere. I was met halfway. The maid cafe was under staffed which would make things a bit harder to manage, I can understand that. To be honest I would rather have that idea of a maid cafe rather then buying your own food to bring with you to eat in the maid cafe. The maids were great and they did a great job, but if the setting was similar to Fanime's maid cafe then that be great. One last gripe about the maid cafe, as cheap as it sounds, but it's something that I don't want to pay for: is to simply go to the maid cafe. Putting out 5$, on top having to paying for my own food, to be in the maid cafe sounds a bit of a rip. I would like to see that fee drop and have the money flow for the food the maid serves to us even if it is hotel food.
On the 2nd floor of the convention held the video game room, workshops, anime viewing, and panel rooms. The video game room was divided into two rooms on the 2nd floor, one was the main gaming room, while the other was down the hall past the workshop room. Both were small, but had all the games you needed to run your tournaments. Some of the tournaments seemed poorly coordinated, one was even cancelled due to lack of participants. There were many new titles were available for play and the set up was just fine for its first convention. There was a vendor selling video games old and new. The workshops and anime viewing room were on the smaller side, so it seemed a bit cramped, particularly at more popular slots. But of course sitting down and relaxing with friends, watching anime is always a good time. The last floor dedicated to the convention was not the 3rd floor, but on the 15th floor of the hotel. I didn't know about it until I went up there, in fact a majority of the attendees did not know. A staff member was sent around the convention announcing the "Gamer's Lounge". When I got there, it was very laid back. There were some TV screens set up for classic video and new video games to be played on, but also tables were set up for people to play board games. Music was blaring, put on by a DJ jammin' it for people on that floor, some even danced. It was a chill atmosphere and I totally dug it. Not to mention they had the patio open with an amazing view of the city. I guess the only thing I question is maybe put the video room in the 2nd floor in a bit of a bigger place maybe move a few elements from that room to the bigger room on the 15th floor? Yea, there is probably some way, but still a great experience and I still had fun anyways.
I got a lot of promise for this convention. You have to start out small to become big one day. Kintoki made its first step this year with everyone and did all the right things. I found more positive than negative. The staff were nice to us, people there were excited to be present, there were a lot of activities to get involve with and much more. Of course, I am leaving out the masquerade, the formal black and white ball that did happen Sunday night. I did not go to those events due to the fact I had places to go, but hopefully I can go next year and experience everything Kintoki has to offer. From what I experienced this past weekend I am hoping to see a lot more next year. Tell the kids in Sacramento, there is a new anime convention in town and his name is Kintoki Con.