It’s that time of year again – Con Season! And like the past two years, I returned to Anime Fest for one of the best convention experiences around. Anime Fest has been a blast ever since I first ventured to my very first con experience around ten years ago. Now, I haven’t gone every year since. In fact, this was only my fourth time to attend (…maybe fifth; I honestly think I might have gone again somewhere in there, but my memory is fuzzy). It’s still some of the best fun I’ve had, though. Each year I go, my involvement in things varies. The past three times I’ve attended as press. The first year I focused on interviews and had little time for anything else, but I did meet some cool people. The second year I met up again with some of those people, attended a bunch of panels and events, but sadly left without any interviews. This year I really mixed it up. Three interviews, and three days of cosplay. Unfortunately I didn’t sit through any panels. Every time I saw one interesting, I had somewhere else I needed to be, and I was knocked out early on Saturday with a migraine. The con was still a blast, though.
Anime Fest is such a fantastic experience for so many reasons. The staff is great and puts on a good show. Since it runs Friday though Monday, the con can really stretch out its programming. This includes four dances, three cosplay competitions (runway, hall cosplay, and a skit show), tons of anime and films, a plethora of panels, concerts, gaming, autographs, and more. It’s impossible to be bored. You don’t even have to be big on anime to find something fun to do. There are multiple rooms devoted to gaming – an arcade, board games, table top rpgs, card games. There’s a room where you can check out board games from a pretty sizable collection, and the Pathfinder Society runs RPG sessions all weekend. If you just want to plop down in a cool room and watch something on a screen, besides anime, Anime Fest was also showcasing movies like Epic, Wreck it Ralph, and Brave.
If that’s still not enough, there are also workshops, crafts, even art lessons! Paint your own tabletop miniature in the Model Paint and Take room. Attend a cosplay panel and learn everything from how to make armor, design and apply your makeup, and build your props. Make your own plushie, learn origami, even take drawing lessons. Feeling charitable? For the fourth year, Carter Blood Care ran a blood drive right at the con!
If you’re the sit down and listen to other people talk type, there are panels running at all hours of the day. Fans in cosplay hosts panels in character to answer your questions. Guests talk about voice acting, directing, and the industry. Veteran cosplayers teach tips and tricks. Learn how to wear a kimono or perform a traditional tea ceremony. There were panels on everything from My Little Pony to Doctor Who.
Add to all that a huge dealer’s room, extensive artist’s alley, an art show, and a charity auction. Top it off with a solid location in downtown Dallas, at the Sheraton that’s connected to the Plaza of the Americas (which hosts a solid food court). And don’t forget the delicious food trucks parked right outside the hotel. Or the nearby Cancer Survivor’s Park which is perfect for photo shoots.
From my perspective, there were very few problems this year. I heard complaints that the badge lines moved slowly, which can result from a larger than expected crowd, or volunteers that didn’t show up (in which case, direct your complaints to people who signed up for a job and didn’t commit, rather than the con and its staff). Autograph lines appeared to move quickly, though. There did seem to be some discrepancies in panel times between the printed schedule and the pocket program, which can result from last minute changes made after the books were printed. The dealer room felt extremely over priced this year, with statues, figures, and anime running for ridiculous amounts. Even on Monday, traditionally a “discount day,” prices were higher than if you simply went to rightstuf.com or Amazon. Gone are the days where you can find a good deal at a convention, apparently. Things with the hotel ran mostly smoothly. This year, rather than have long lines at check out, envelopes were slipped under a lot of doors for keys and rooms were precharged. On the “what the hell is wrong with people” side of things, con goers were constantly removing light bulbs from hotel elevators, which was a huge nuisance. By the end of the con, a few elevators were completely out of order as well (as were nearly all escalators, though they lasted far longer than I’d expected). I really wish there was a way to ensure that attendants of certain ages were accompanied by a parent or guardian to help prevent destruction to hotel property. Those of you are are adults, learn a little self control, please. That means no hall parties that leave behind beer boxes or people passed out in front of room doors.
As for my personal experience…. I cosplayed as Black Canary on Friday and Sunday, and a white rabbit on Saturday (to go along with my friend and photographer’s Zatanna; we even did a small magic show). I ended up buying six melon breads, four packs of Hi-Chews, a book mark, some bath bombs, and a black Mokona plushie. On Sunday morning I participated in the Texas DC Cosplayers photoshoot (as a photographer – the whole set of my photos can be found here -, and in a couple photo sets), then worked with my fellow photographer Heather Amaral on an Avengers photo shoot at the Plaza. Saturday night I was unfortunately knocked out early with a migraine, which made me miss out on the Cosplay Dating Game. Over the weekend I was able to interview Greg Ayres, Stephanie Young, and Terri Doty. I also met some awesome people, including the owner of Skullsoap Natural Bath (who I hope to see again, because her handmade collection of lotions, soaps, bath salts, and more was awesome to see at Anime Fest), fellow journalist Amanda from Ani.me and Crunchyroll, Jason of Rising New Moon Studios (a fantastic cosplayer), and Zach and Krista from My Geek Confessions.
Along with today’s photos, I have audio from the three interviews, plenty of cosplay photos, photos from both main cosplay events, and even some video! So keep coming back to see all my coverage of Anime Fest 2013. Maybe I’ll see you there next year!