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.
By Liz High
Con reporter and Photographer
Animazement is a weekend long celebration of Japanese culture and anime which broke a record of 7,500 attendance this year all nestled in the heart of Downtown Raleigh, the capital of North Carolina. In the last 16 years Animazment has more than outgrown it's humble beginnings in the Sheraton across the street. Registration is on the graduated system. Register early and it could be as low as $45. Register at the door and a weekend badge is $60.
Hotel, Lodging, and Parking
While Raleigh Convention Center does not have a hotel connected to it, there are plenty of hotels right next to the convention center. The Marriott, the Sheraton, then a couple blocks away is the Clarion. Trying to save money my crew stayed in the Red Roof Inn, which was 2 miles down the road and we commuted back and forth. Mainly we chose this because all of the other hotels were full. If you are planning to stay on sight for AZ, the moment the hotel block opens up make sure to reserve your room. Within a few weeks the Marriott was booked solid. While the Red Roof was a nice hotel, it was not the same as walking outside and seeing the convention. Also if you are commuting prepare to pay 7 dollars per day to park in the adjacent parking garage. From what I found driving around trying to find parking there is very little free parking and if it is it is only until 5pm and towing is enforced. I had a friend have to leave a panel because her car got towed.
There have been several complaints this year on the lack of panels and the ones there were were not the best in the world to put things lightly, which I can agree to some extent, but this is not the fault of Animazement. Conventions take requests for panels and depending on what panels are requested those are the panels that are scheduled. On the topic of panel disappointment there was a huge uproar and debate all weekend about "if they would let non Japanese panels in there would be a lot more panels and a lot better panels" While yes I agree to an extent there are many panels I attend at other cons that are not Japanese related and it would be wonderful for those panels to be at Animazement, the mission statement of Animazement states they are to promote Japanese culture. No amount of bitching, moaning and whining will make that happen.
Enough with the negative more of the positive. I was very pleased to see AZ decided to host a formal ball. Katsucon was the first con I had attended that had one and it was a beautiful touch and wonderful to see so many formal versions of characters. It was a chance to dance away the night, meet new people, or have fun if you were with a significant other. Friday night there was both the rave and the formal ball, while some people who wanted to go to both thought it was over kill, I thought it was a nice touch. They were not at the same time, and if you were in formal cosplay you had to rush to get changed, but it allowed people who enjoy those things to attend both in one night.
Back this year was the Laugh out Loud comedy group from Georgia. It is almost an AZ tradition to bring them back. While I was unable to attend the regular show, I attended the 18+ show, and laughed hysterically the entire time.
Meeting Kyle Hebert was a highlight of my weekend. DBZ was a part of my childhood so it was wonderful to meet such wonderful part of it. Not only was he super nice to everyone he was funny and joked around with people. The AZ guests this year were a great choice, not just in my opinion, but all of my friends thought so as well.
At conventions I usually never have a problem with staff and they're always just the people there making sure everything goes smoothly, but this year this staff at AZ was exceptionally nice and respectful in my experience. During the Hetalia big photo shoot 2 girls badges were stolen right at the shoot. A group of us went to con ops and explained the situation. In my experience they would have had to pay $60 for a new badge, but the AZ staff was understanding and dropped a new badge price down to $25 for them. I have never seen that happen at a convention and unfortunately at most other cons it would have been $60 up front. I had been warned that the AZ staff was mean and hated Homestucks and was out to get people and rude, but that was not the experience I had at all, even in my Saturday Homestuck cosplay the staff just did their jobs and I had no staff member try to harass me. If you are respectful to them and do not block doors and entrances no matter what cosplay you are in you will be fine
Between panel hopping and raving there is a lot of down time so crazy things are bound to happen if you're in the right place at the right time, Friday and Saturday I spent a good part of the day busy and with people I had met at the con going on adventures, but sunday was when the really interesting stuff happened. Sunday the legendary pitt preachers that are seen on college campus's down the east coast came to preach about our eternal damnation. Of course no one took him seriously but it was funny to watch him attempt to say I was going to hell for wearing my Stocking cosplay. He probably would have flipped if he knew what the character and the anime was.
Then while that was going on "Gay Pride Jesus" was running around. There was a cosplayer dressed as Jesus running around with a rainbow flag as a cape. It was hilarious when the preacher saw this. Eventually the preacher left which left Jesus doing Gangnam style with the random guy who drove up to the con, got on top of his car, and danced to Gangnam style while it blasted out of his car. But wait, there's more. I was asked to play in an impromptu game of Ninja outside of the convention center, which lasted all of 5 minutes, since Caramelldansen started playing next to us and we all created a flash mob of carameldansen.
Saturday night there was also an impromptu rave outside the convention center, which attracted almost as much attention as the real rave, since there was a lot more room to dance and there was room to make a circle and break dance. DJ Zom-B of Noisy Dubs (Facebook here) brought out his equipment, which sparked the rave. This just shows right place at the right time can create some interesting convention memories.
Overall this convention was the convention of friendship and adventure. Everyone I met was super chill and the friendliest and most willing to go outside of their normal group of friends. I came back with more phone numbers and memories that will will last a lifetime than I have at any other convention. They always say don't judge a convention based on it's reputation, and Animazement at times has a reputation of being the con of rude staff. The staff was amazing to me. If you do not want to get in trouble with staff don't cause trouble. It has been unsaid if Homestucks are banned from one of the hotels beside the convention center for having body paint in the pool and doing a "photoshoot" There was a rumor they are banned, but it has not been confirmed. Let this be a reminder to all cosplayers with heavy makeup and body paint. Do not get in pools and hot tubs with paint! It will clog the cleaning system and cause the pool to have to be drained.
If you want a convention that where you can meet a lot of people, take great photos, and make lifelong friends for life while learning a thing or two about Japanese culture, this is the convention for you.
Tokyo in Tulsa is an anime, steampunk, video games, and everything else convention in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The convention started off with a focus around anime, but has grown to embrace all of the other strange and wonderful aspects of geekdom. Back in 2010, this was my first ever anime or gaming convention to attend. It was cramped in the hotel lobby, but still a blast. Two years later, the convention has grown so large that they have expanded across the street to the Tulsa Convention Center. The convention is still small, but has a wholesome and fun feel in the atmosphere. The lay-out of the convention is easy to navigate, and you hardly bump into anyone. With that being said, over-crowding is not a problem here. I never feel like I am crammed between people and struggling to make it to the dealer room at this convention which is awesome. The staff is also one of the nicest convention staffs that I have ever been in contact with! They will help anyone (convention-goer, press, and even people off the street!) out with anything they need and provide excellent service in the nicest way possible. The volunteers are also numerous, which makes me believe that the directors are doing a pretty good job keeping their workers happy and reliable.
Gaming is not forgotten here! Tokyo in Tulsa works together with OK Gamers to provide one of the best gaming rooms I have seen at a convention. They offer a wide variety of games including table-top, fighting games, and first person shooters on a sundry amount of consoles. Also, the winners of the tournaments (Soul Calibur 5 winners pictured to the left) are rewarded generously. "TnT" takes care of their gamers very well. There is always a place for those who would like to sit and play a round or watch a tournament. The game room is a perfect spot to sit and take a break from the craziness that a convention can bring. The room is also wide and airy with lots of space so that nobody feels like they are crammed in a basement like sardines.
Cosplay is a staple at Tokyo in Tulsa. Almost half of the people you will see and meet here will be in some sort of costume! (Pictured Left is Izumi cosplaying as Juliet from Lollipop Chainsaw) The costumes that appear here are always awesome and well constructed. The cosplays also range from comic book universes, video games, graphic novels, and anime and manga. There are also a ton of original cosplays from the steampunk, cyberpunk, and furry communities. No genre is off limits to bring and cosplay at Tokyo in Tulsa. (Which is something that I love about this convention) The costume contest is also very well organized and ran with almost perfectly. The main walk on contest judges based on craftsmanship, not stage presence. You are also judged before you go on stage by a panel of around 3 seasoned cosplayers. This is great because they have experience and know what to look for in an outstanding cosplay. The contest is in a large, well-ventilated room with easy access to water. I was actually shivering after I came off stage! This was awesome because most cosplayers have problems with overheating and dehydration after a long day in the cosplay contest waiting area. The staff kept the contestants well hydrated and comfortable during prejudging and the contest. The contest also didn't last an extremely long time and wasn't delayed too long. It ran without a hitch and was absolutely a joy to watch and participate in!
Do you go to a convention to shop? Tokyo in Tulsa's Artist Alley and Vendor Room are stocked with the best artists and vendors from across the nation. One of my favorites is a nice lady who makes animal scarves out of fleece. This is the only convention she goes too near me, so I usually grab a scarf when I can! There was also a wide array of different types of artists specializing in different mediums. If you are looking for doll clothes, duct tape place mats, monocles, badges, fleece unicorn hats and more then you can find them here! The artists were also really nice and sweet whenever I would talk to them. Some would recommend commissions and other services if I didn't find what I was looking for. The vendor room this year was pretty bare, but still very enjoyable. We ended up picking up a large grab bag and everything in side of it was absolutely awesome! Even with surprises there's not much disappointment here.
Do you like music? Tokyo in Tulsa has a wide range of musical artists to see! With Bands, DJs, and much, much more every night contains an exciting and entertaining show. Some of the headliners this year included DJ Imfam0s, The Slants, Sunny Side Up!, and The Brehms. NerdRaves was also present to put on nerdy-style raves full of fun, geeky music for the convention crowd. The mixes these DJs do are always mixed at the show and preformed in front of a live crowd. The musicians that are featured at Tokyo in Tulsa always create a fun and enjoyable atmosphere for anyone to enjoy. The crowds here are never rough or rowdy either, letting everyone enjoy the show at their own pace and comfort.
Tokyo in Tulsa is a wonderful convention for anyone new to the convention scene, to a seasoned professional. The atmosphere is wonderful and fun, and so is the staff that runs the convention. My visits and experiences here are never unbearable. I recommend this convention to anyone in the United States. If you visit this summer con, you will never be disappointed.
Apple Davies is a freelance costumer in Central Oklahoma, Vice President of the Animation Society at the University of Oklahoma and head of Cosplay Functions at the University of Oklahoma. To find out more about the conventions and cosplay in the "Bible Belt" or to just talk nerdy, please contact her at (www.facebook.com/applecosplay) or email her at (email@example.com).
Photo Credits go to Heather Ball, the official photographer for Tokyo in Tulsa
you can find her page here (https://www.facebook.com/Moosterz) with more photos of the convention.
_ When one’s been going to the same convention over the years, they tend to notice the good, the bad and ugly that tends to come with it. SacAnime’s 2012 Winter Con was no exception. While the con had a good stock of great voice actors, gatherings, cosplayers and a great atmosphere that a con usually has; there were a few changes that came off somewhat distasteful to many of the congoers. While I can’t say that my con experience was reflective of the other attendees, I will say it felt good to go to SacAnime, something we can all agree on.
_ Gaming Room
It’s no surprise that as of late, I’ve really been getting into fighting games and the whole fighter scene as of late, so I was quite pleased when I saw that they moved all the fighting game tournaments to a larger venue. Last time the fighting games were in this small room they had set up, but due to so many complaints about size being brought up (or so I would assume), they set up an additional room to better accommodate gamers, catering to casual and hardcore gamers alike. The fighting game tournaments were handled pretty well as well as the amount of hype during the action was incredible. Aside from the fighting games set up in the main room, a mix of all sorts of games -even a Simpsons arcade cabinet- was in there thanks to Armageddon Potato Games. To accommodate all audiences, plenty of room was given for people to walk around and observes all other gamers test their hand at everything from first person shooters to arcade games to dance games. What I found most interesting was when they put the Wii outside during the day where people warmed themselves up by playing various dance games, the most popular of which being Just Dance 2. All in all, the game room did a very good job this year; no hiccups.
_ Vendors’ Hall
What can I say? I’ve been going to this convention and the Vendor’s Hall, while staying the same in terms of design, has always been good. Occasionally, it’ll be overcrowded with so many people (Saturday’s the WORST) that it’s hard to get to something you want when you have to go through an army of people either walking or at one of the booths checking out stuff. But what convention doesn’t have that problem? Okay, so maybe the huge ones never ran into that problem but for small conventions like SacAnime it’s hard to get around given the limited space. The Vendor’s Hall wasn't bad at all but there are things that could have made it better. For those of us who remember back in the day when it was at the Scottish Rite Center, space has always been a bit of an issue, but hopefully Sac Anime can somehow plan a move to the Sacramento Convention Center, we’re hoping that things will turn out even better than before.
The panels were held as well as they could be, given the location of the event. The more important ones were handled fairly well but what I gathered, most other panels (including a few voice actor panels) were not handled to what we had expected from previous SacAnimes. From the ones I went to, they were handled really well; everyone acted in the right manner, and we had a lot of fun covering it. The voice actor panels in particular were a lot of fun to attend; I really enjoyed them. I can't say how the other panels were per say but, taken with a grain a salt, word is that they didn’t handle their business and had problems running the panels. Word from the other attendees at the con said that they were for the most part alright, so for any content I may have very well missed out on, I take their word for.
_ Artist Alley and Art Contest
The Artist Alley was nothing new to me but what was something I didn’t check out last time was the art contest they were holding in the room next to it. It served its purpose and showed off who won the art contest and other art pieces. Nothing really exciting, but it did offer something to do and give congoers a chance to get away from the craziness that was happening outside in the courtyard. Again, the only gripe I have with the artist alley is that they put them in their own room but I feel they should have more or a bigger room for people to walk around freely, arguably in a space like the vendors’ hall like what is demonstrated over in San Jose’s Fanime. At times, it felt very cramped and hard to move around in; much like in the vendors’ hall. From what I saw, the artists were all very nice, their artwork is pretty awesome to look at and hell, I even walked off with a few pieces of art, in particular couple prints from the talented artist Catarina Bragg. (Be sure to check out her stuff under our affiliates tab!)
To fans’ delight, the rave had made some vast improvements last year in their rave from music selection, DJ quality, space available and available water and much to our delight, these changes remained. The rave was opened up into two rooms combined to make one big room, roughly the size of Fanime's raves, giving plenty of space for people to dance and as mentioned earlier water was dispensed everywhere to adequately stave off dehydration. My only complaint (and a small one at that), is that the collection of songs were only between “okay” to “good.” The same DJs come by and do the same gig at the same location every time, so after a while, one might find the venue to become somewhat stale after a period of time; no offense to DJ Hellsing and the Random DJs. Discrepancies aside, I will say that there were no hiccups during the rave like previous years; smooth sailing from start till end.
_ The Main Convention Floor
Like always, staff and security roamed the main floor making sure the flow of traffic was going both ways and not clogging up the hallways and while there may not have been any issues with this in the past, I actually think they improved on it. There was enough room to walk around up and down the main hallways, especially during Friday’s swap meet. The swap meet in itself was nothing special, but it did offer the opportunity for people to be able to buy or look at what various attendees wished to sell off on the sides of the main hallway. I like how they also opened up the one area next to the bar and piano for people to hang out and chill and I thought it was nice to just have a relaxing social area to rest one’s weary legs. As for lines, they were kept neat and orderly, autographs were set up very nicely and handled in a timely fashion and all lines were well guided by staff so as to not cause any bubbling.
So overall the convention wasn’t bad at all but wasn't great either. While I mostly talked about the good of the con, there were some less than favorable instances that had occurred, and I really think it’s time for SacAnime to move to a bigger and better place. What I really want to see for this con is to have more stuff that the bigger conventions have that they don't such as the return of the anime viewing room, more gatherings, more events and most of all, more fan involvement to help make SacAnime an even better convention. As you may have read there is no mention of Cafe Hoshi (invite only), karaoke (overheard some less talented “singers”), or the masquerade in this report, mainly because we were not able to cover it this time around, but stay tuned this year as we cover more anime conventions this upcoming year.