Another Anime Fest has come and gone. What’s that? Did you miss it? Well, it did change dates this year. For years the convention has been held over Labor Day weekend, but this year it was moved to mid-August, the 15-18. It was still held in downtown Dallas at the Sheraton, which despite a 30% increase in attendees this year, still appears to be spacious enough. Except for the parking. I stayed at the hotel, and until Sunday evening I was unable to park in the hotel garage and had to leave my car in a lot just down the street. Obviously there were a lot of people there, but I feel if I’m paying for an overpriced room I ought to be able to park in the hotel’s garage. Not being able to do so made checking in and unloading my luggage a hassle that I shouldn’t have had.
Apart from that, the hotel stay was pleasant enough. Oh, except the woman who was screaming in the hallway at 2 am one night. And the inconsiderate jerks who stole the light bulbs out of the elevators…again. That happened last year, too, and it’s really not fun riding up 30 floors in the dark. Someone also pulled the fire alarm during Saturday night’s FLOW concert (and semi-formal ball), which disrupted events and emptied several panels out into the street. Such things are, unfortunately, expected at a convention like this, due to the crowd it draws (lots of unsupervised teenagers, for example), but that doesn’t make them any less annoying.
Other than that, however, the convention appeared to run quite smoothly, and I saw few real problems. Just a handful of oddities. The first major change I noticed this year was that the Artist Alley/Bizarre Bazaar took up the entire first floor lobby area. Usually this area is split between the Bazaar and Registration, but Registration was moved upstairs this year. Not just upstairs, but upstairs and to the back, which was odd, as I would think that would be difficult to find. Lines were minimal, however, because many badges were mailed out to those to pre-registered. Another change this year put all of the panel rooms on the bottom floor (instead of being split with the second floor), and the Main Events and Dealer Room next to each other on the second floor. Which is fine, for the most part. Personally I liked having all the panels in one area, rather than having to figure out where a panel was supposed to be. The downside was that Main Events was host to the raves/dances and the FLOW concert. During the FLOW concert in particular, this caused some disturbance downstairs, as the force of fans jumping upstairs rattled doors and swung chandeliers downstairs. Apparently the lighting equipment upstairs also swayed. Most of this can be fixed by simply switching the floor plan. Put the panels upstairs, and the Dealer Room and Main Events downstairs. The Bazaar can stay where it is, I think (aside from the larger, updated floor plan, there were more dealers this year, too).
Speaking of the Bazaar, it appeared to have no official closing time (or rather, there were listed times but they don’t seem to have been enforced). No complaint here. I heard that some tables were literally operating 24 hours a day by switching sellers around. The Dealer Room closes so early (7pm on Friday, 6pm Saturday and Sunday), and people are still milling around everywhere, so I say if they want to stay open and turn those people just standing around into customers, then they should. I know I certainly found myself wandering the tables in the evenings, and made some purchases then, too.
Everything seemed to move smoother and faster this year, a clear sign that Anime Fest pays attention to fans’ critiques and works to remedy problem areas. I couldn’t think of a single problem (outside of a couple minor Press issues) I experienced directly through the convention itself or its staff. There were some odd line issues near the autograph table regarding how long the lines were allowed to be, where the cut off was, etc., though I only went to two autographs on Monday morning and did not experience these issues myself. I also heard some reports of creators being denied Artist Alley places due to a lack of fan art, though I can’t confirm them (and I saw at least one excellent artist who only sold original work). For whatever reason, the cosplay events (runway and skit show) were combined into one event on Sunday night (instead of one being Saturday and the other Sunday), and I’m not sure if this was due to lack of interest, or due to other programming that needed the Main Events room. Another odd scheduling circumstance involved the Space Dandy premiere. With so many of the Japanese creators and American voice actors in attendance that weekend, it was odd that the premier of Saturday night’s new episode was placed in one of the smaller panel rooms. From what I hear, the room was packed. One of the dances that weekend (there were 3 DJ led dances, plus the semi-formal ball (though that was in one of the large panel rooms…of two; and looking at the schedule I can’t see anything scheduled in the second large panel room that same night that wouldn’t have allowed the premier to occur there), and the FLOW concert) could have been rescheduled or dropped entirely so the premier could have been a greater event. Also, this year panels were voted on by pre-registered members, and I’m not entirely sure that went over well. From what I could see, only a handful of people voted, compared to the more than 10,000 people who actually attended the convention. Perhaps more people will participate in future years, but it doesn’t sit right that panel content is decided on by such a small sample of attendees.
That said, there was plenty of content throughout the weekend. Trivia games, Ani-Idol, cosplay tutorials (including one on pepakura), miniature painting, plushie workshops, dances, multiple viewing rooms for anime and movies, voice actor panels, Japanese guest panels, board games and table top RPGs, video games, art workshops, ocarina concerts (with the incredibly talented Cris Gale), cosplay character Q&As, Disney cosplay panels (sing-alongs, trivia; a really great group of cosplayers that attends conventions all over the area, led by cosplayers Morgan Michelle and Scorchcake Cosplay), the FLOW concert, a semi-formal ball, and much more. The food trucks were also back this year, which made finding food extra convenient, since they park right outside the hotel. Carter also returned for another blood drive.
There’s a little something for everyone at Anime Fest, whether you’re a gamer, cosplayer, artist, manga or anime fan, or just like to party. Next year the con will be back to its Labor Day weekend dates, and you can already purchase a full weekend pass for just $25 (through December). If you’d like to see more from Anime Fest, keep coming back for videos from the cosplay skit show and semi-formal ball, as well as interviews with voice actors, and cosplay photos!