Anime Central (ACEN) celebrated its 20th anniversary this past weekend and I was luckily enough to be able to attend this year. I had my last day of classes on Friday so I had to miss the first day, but that only gave me more incentive to spend every moment at the convention the second and third days. This was my first convention experience, and in many ways it met my expectations, but it also surpassed them. I’m going to briefly run through my experience, talk about the panels I visited and show off some of cool stuff I got my hands on.
I walk into the convention center on Saturday morning and am immediately greeted by the sight of dozens of cosplayers in the main lobby. It was quite impressive to see so many people dressed as their favorite characters, since prior to this I had only seen pictures of cosplay online and not in person. After moving past the lobby, I went to the registration table and there was luckily no line so I was able to pick up my lanyard and event book fairly quickly. I turned around and looked into the entrance and saw a massive room full of anime fans. I went into the vendors area and was greeted by the industry booths and large anime posters. I casually strolled around the first few rows before remembering that I had a panel to go to, and I was meeting my friend there. This is when I encountered my first problem- I had no idea where the panels were being held. My friend had texted me earlier that it was panel room 6 on the second floor, so I began looking for stairs and found some in the lobby area. I followed the flow of people up the escalators and through a hallway until I finally found a sign indicating that the panel rooms were ahead. I later found out that I had taken the longest possible route to the panel room.
Prior to even going to ACEN, I had downloaded the official app to help plan my schedule and add panels to my list of to-do. I did not hold back and added a dozen panels to my list that I wanted to attend. I later found out that I wanted to spend more time in the vendors area and artist alley than I initially expected, so I ended up only making two panels out of the dozen I had planned.
I quickly find panel room 6, locate my friend and sit down to listen to the presenters. My first panel was about the history of Type-Moon and their humble beginnings as a small game company. The presenters seemed to be very knowledgeable about their topic and had a nice Powerpoint with various video clips and relevant pictures to help. Overall, this was a informative panel and was what I had in mind- a presentation by anime fans for anime fans.
The second day I attended a panel about mythology hosted by Crispin Freeman, one of my personal favorite English voice actors. It was a intriguing insight to looking at the differences between western and eastern influences and how they directly affect their respective entertainment styles. He explained the differences between manga and comics, the influences and compared and contrasted Disney princesses and magical girls. In the later half, Crispin analyzed the Revolutionary Girl Utena film as a way to further explain his points, and delved a bit into mysticism as a means to wrap everything up. I was very surprised how knowledgeable Crispin was about mythology and mysticism, and I was able to take a lot of information about this panel.
I have never seen so much anime merchandise all in one place, it was almost overwhelming. Me and my friend snaked through all the vendor’s displays to try to scope out the all various figures, DVD’s, shirts and plushies before breaking out wallets. We spent a good hour just walking between booths and looking at all the wonderful anime goodies for sale. I quickly found out that there was multiple booths selling the same figures for different prices, so I was a good thing we scoped out all the booths first before making an uninformed purchase. There was also an impressive display of anime DVD’s at one booth, and I could not help but look though all of them with the hopes of finding something rare, and ended up succeeding in that aspect. At one vendor, I managed to find a copy of Satoshi Kon’s Perfect Blue for only $35, and that was a steal considering it’s difficult to even find a copy online for under $80. I also ended up impulsively buying The Melancholy Of Haruhi Suzumiya because I’ve been meaning to add that to my collection since I watched it two years ago.
Prior to heading to the con, I had been in “idol hell” after getting into Idolm@ster, then Love Live. Because of this I was planning on looking for idol figures and possibly other idol merchandise. Luckily, there was no shortage of that. By far my favorite stand was the idol merchandise booth. It was towards the middle of the vendor’s area, and was immediately overwhelmed with Love Live posters. As I walked around the booth, I saw dozens of figures, Figma, art books, CD’s, imported games, posters and random collectibles that were all so tempting to buy!
Playing it smart, my friend suggested that we scope out the entire vendor’s area before making an impulsive purchase and end up paying more than another vendor was asking. This almost worked, because we ended up finding a guy selling figures that gave a discount if you bought two at a time. He bought a Ranko Kaznaki figure (which I kinda wanted too) and I got my Chihaya figure, both characters being from Idolm@ster Cinderella Girls and Idolm@ster respectively. We later found out that that purchase was fairly priced and the Ranko figure was the only one we were able to find, so it ended up not being a poor decision.
Strolling around, being completely immersed in all the anime goodness was a completely different experience from browsing the manga section at your local bookstore. I’m always awestruck when I see items for sale that I could previously only see through a computer screen. Countless of posters, hundreds of anime DVD’s for sale, countless figures, anime apparel and plushies galore. The experience was quite overwhelming in a sense, I had to really prioritize what I bought or else I would have ended up wasting all my budget before seeing everything. That being said, being overwhelmed with anime merchandise was not a bad thing, it was more of an eye-opening experience for me. I was able to finally see the sheer scale of anime fans in my area who all shared my passion for Japanese animations who were all interested in buying anime related goodness.
Me and my buddy spent a ton of time in this area, and it was one of the best parts about my convention experience. The atmosphere itself made me feel at ease despite the overcrowding and lack of personal space. Walking from booth to booth gave off the feeling of a bazaar with slightly less chaos. A multitude of tables, each displaying wonderful artwork and friendly artists who were happy to talk with you. We met one guy who wrote, drew and published his own graphic novel series. He was really passionate about his project and I enjoyed talking with him for that reason. We made sure to take business cards from artists we could not afford, and made sure to look at everything. I was also very impressed by a few artists who were working on commissions or just doodling at their respective booth. Personally, I’ve been working towards improving my own art, so watching these incredibly talented men and women draw with such ease on the spot was awe inspiring.
I ended up spending a larger amount of my budget than I was expecting, but I do not regret any of the purchases I made here. There were great deals, bundles and nice people so I was happy to support the artists in their creative endeavors.
I’m so glad I was able to have such a big anime convention in my area. Going to ACEN really opened my eyes to the more social aspects of the anime community (not online) and the sheer amount of like minded fans from the same subculture. I love the merchandise I bought and being able to see everything the community had to offer all in one place was a very special experience. You also have the opportunity to experience a sense of comradery amongst the other anime fans which is something I have never felt before in any other gathering of a particular interest.I highly recommend to go to at least one convention, bring plenty of cash and maybe a friend or two. Bringing a large group will only complicate moving through crowded areas and will likely separate you from them. Good walking shoes are also a must since I was sore from all the walking.
Perfect Blue and The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya DVD
Yazawa Nico and Chihaya figures
Rem and Umi small figures.
Rem and Ram Re:Zero shirt
“Haruka Haruharu vs The World” shirt
Artist Alley Haul:
Thanks for reading everyone, have a nice rest of your day.