Anime Fest is a yearly convention held in Dallas, Texas on Labor Day weekend. The con makes use of the holiday to stretch the event out an extra day, for a four-day long convention. Anime Fest started in 1992 with just over 100 attendees. Today it’s held at the Hyatt Regency Dallas at Reunion Tower, and boasts numbers around 5-6,000. By comparison it’s a relatively small affair, but attendance is growing, and this year the con started off with a bang, with an amazing number of attendants on Friday, a day which is usually rather slow. Despite its small size, Anime Fest is a well organized and entertaining weekend, with a myriad of different activities. At Anime Fest, you can spend your day (and night) watching anime in one of the viewing rooms. You can attend panels on all sorts of topics, like how to make mascot costumes, making steam punk costumes, creating visual novels, and sometimes the guests even run panels, like Spike Spencer’s “Don’t Kill You Date (and other cooking tips)” panel where he answered questions and gave dating advice, or Greg Ayres’s “The State of the Anime Industry and You.” This year Anime Fest was able to screen two major films: Trigun: Badlands Rumble, and the upcoming Tekken: Blood Vengeance (for which Dai Sato and several of the English voice actors were present). There’s also plenty to see outside the panel rooms. Anime Fest is host to a sprawling artist alley/bazaar, as well as a sizable dealer room filled with all manner of otaku delights (I’ll be posting a picture of my personal buys shortly). This weekend, the hotel’s ballroom hosted a concert by Bowling for Soup, an entertaining evening of cosplay skits, a dance party DJ’d by voice actor Greg Ayres, Ani-Idol final performances, and the cosplay runway show. If you desire a more genteel activity, Anime Fest is also host to a semi-formal ball, which fans who wish to attend are asked to dress to the nines for, either in personal formal attire, or in character using a character’s formal dress. There was also a con-hosted scavenger hunt, a well as a fan-hosted Reaper’s Game based on the video game The World Ends With You (which I believe was also a sort of scavenger hunt game). Of course, I can’t forget to mention the gaming area for pen and paper, card, board, and other assorted games, as well as an area for video games. There’s plenty to do for a fan at Anime Fest. The con is also located in downtown Dallas, which provides a whole area to explore outside of the hotel.
For my part, I was able to attend just a couple of panels, as I was frequently returning to the press room for interviews. I managed a simple cosplay for Saturday, understated so I could wear it to the interviews I was conducting. I even managed to attend the cosplay skit show on Sunday night. I got the few autographs I wanted, bought some delicious snacks and a bundle of manga, wandered about the floor looking for some good cosplays to snap pictures of, and made some new friends. Overall, it was a very entertaining and productive weekend. Before I move on, I want to say a big thank you to the press staff led by the wonderful Candace, whose hard work made my presence and the work I got done possible.
I did learn a few things this weekend. The first is that I need a better camera next time. The one I have now is slow, and blurs badly with the slightest movement. The second is to never try to spend a full day walking the floor in heels; that caused a lot of pain that I’m still feeling as I write this. Hi-Chews, a popular Japanese candy, taste like Starbursts, but are gummier. Melon bread is amazing and I wish I could have bought an entire case of the stuff. Take the stairs; we waited fifteen minutes once for an elevator going down. About seven passed us only going up (meaning they didn’t stop on the way back down); we gave up and took the stairs, and I ended up continuing to take them after that. People still grow up in circus families. I met a very talented photographer who works for ani.me who left the con late Sunday night to join up with her family on their circus tour. How freakin’ cool is that. I could listen to J. Michael Tatum talk for hours on end. He has a beautiful, clear, refined voice that was a wondrous break from blaring music and screaming fans. A peanut butter, banana, and honey sandwich is both delicious and energizing. Super durable no-chip nail polish does exactly the opposite. Cherami Leigh sounds like a Disney princess, and I mean that as a compliment, because she’s adorable. A little respect and professionalism goes a long, long way.
Now, enough talk. On to the pictures!
The sprawling bizarre bazaar had all manner of delightful things on display, including handmade crafts, buttons, gorgeous fan art, booths for other Texas conventions, t-shirts, mascot hats, and jewelry.
The dealer room had almost anything you could want, including figures, key chains, costumes, DVDs, CDs, manga, wallscrolls, posters, nendoroids, Japanese snacks, plushies, statues, phone charms, t-shirts, video games, role playing books, board and card games, and convention souvenirs.
The con kicked off with a voice actor panel, which I was able to attend, featuring Greg Ayres, J. Michael Tatum, and Terri Doty. These were typically held in one of the larger panel rooms to allow for many fans to attend. I was able to take some good notes to aid in the interviews I would be conducting on Saturday and Sunday.
I was also able to attend Greg Ayres’s state of the industry panel, which was rather uplifting. In previous years, such a panel would be bogged down with talk of anime companies collapsing (like Geneon and ADV), but this year he was able to talk about the strides that have been made in combating piracy and offering fans a multitude of legal (and often free) ways to get their anime fix.
Saturday kicked off a day of interviews, but I did manage to attend Spike Spencer’s “Don’t Kill Your Date (and other cooking tips),” where he answered fans’ questions and provided some pretty solid dating advice. The title is from a cook book he is working on, for which he is currently searching for a publisher.
After Spike’s panel, I hurried through the lobby to the autograph room to have him sign my program book and Evangelion DVD cover.
Bowling for Soup held a concert Saturday night, which was filled with fans. I popped in for a few quick pictures before heading back to my room for the night to do a bit of work and get some sleep.
Well, OK, actually I swung by the semi-formal ball before going back to my room. This really cool event allows attendees to dress up in formal clothes, or even come in character as long as they’re wearing the character’s formal attire. It was a lot like a high school prom or an 8th grade dance. It was really quite adorable, and it looked like everyone was having fun. The gate keepers were kind enough to let me pop in for some quick pictures.
Sunday was another day of interviews and wandering the con floor for good deals and good cosplays. I wasn’t able to make it to any panels in between making sure I ate properly and running off to do interviews. However, I did attend the cosplay skit show that evening. I’d never attended one before, though I had seen some video clips here and there. Overall, it was pretty entertaining. The skits were mostly well done and several were absolutely hilarious. Get ready for a photo bomb.
This young lady got up on stage by herself and sang the entire opera number from The Fifth Element, and did a great job, I might add.
These girls danced to some random J-pop song. I can’t knock them for gathering up the courage to perform in front of so many people, but even with all the noise in the room, these choreographed dance things nearly put me to sleep. Sorry, but watching some people prancing around to some obscure song in choreography they learned over the weekend isn’t very entertaining. Fortunately such performances were scattered between the far more original and engaging skits.
This one elicited some groans from some in the audience. It was a sort of yaoi slash skit, where Cloud was all emo’d about having not told Zack how he felt before Zack died, and Reno was having trouble confessing his feelings to Rude. The one positive thing I can say is that the girl playing Cloud got him down pat. The dramatic pauses between words, the “why don’t you just slit your wrists already” emo voice, the head nods…. It went on a bit longer than it needed to, though.
In this Fullmetal Alchemist skit, Riza decided the only way to make Mustang get any work done, was to wear a miniskirt so he’d pay attention to her.
This totally hysterical and incredibly creative skit about the Game Over Jail featured villains from video games (Bowser, Dr. Robotnik, Ganon, Kefka, and Meowth) who lived in a jail run by Pac-Man. They were also joined by Cowboy Bebop‘s very own sexy thief Faye Valentine, whom you can just barely make out in the picture below.
The Joker was one of the emcee’s for the night, and this fellow stayed in character the entire evening. His character voice was amazing, and he did a brilliant job, providing a lot of laughs in between performances.
Because the press seats were a bit off to the side, it’s hard to see what’s going on here, but in this skit, Link discovered a certain pair of portals. In this particular picture, he’s sticking his hand through one, and it’s coming out of the other behind him. It was quite funny and inventive. They even killed that damn fairy.
In this skit, Naruto finally had a prank played on him when his pants were stolen. Sakura kicks the crap out of him over it. I’m not entirely sure why the one girl was dressed like someone from Vampire Knight, however.
In this Yu-Gi-Oh based skit, Yugi and the gang attend a normal day at high school, where Yugi has forgotten to study for the day’s test, and tries to buy the answers off of…I think Mokuba. Weevil pops in to cause his usual trouble, so Yugi decides to use the Millennium Puzzle to help pass his test on ancient Egypt.
This Sailor Moon skit was probably the nerdiest of the evening, filled with all manner of geeky references and visuals.
And now, the grand finale, the hilarious Pokemon meets Silent Hill skit that made some kid in the audience break down in tears.
Alright, with the events out of the way…. I also snapped some nice cosplay outfits as I was wandering the floor, so to close out, enjoy some costumed masterpieces.
A big thank you to those who posed for photos, one to the staff at the Hyatt Regency for putting up with a mob of crazy fans, another to the Anime Fest crew for putting this event together, and one last thank you to the press staff who allowed me to slip in here and there for some special photos. Hopefully I’ll have a better camera next year so I can take some better pictures. Everyone was great all weekend, even with late nights, the Texas heat, and rearranged schedules. I can’t wait for next year!