Well, I guess it’s technically part two if you want to count the interview with Cherami Leigh as part one. Anyway, this year’s Anime Fest was a bit different from last year’s. The biggest difference was its change of venue. For years now Anime Fest was routinely held at the Hyatt Regency at Reunion Tower in downtown Dallas, Texas. This year it moved a few streets over to the Sheraton (formerly Adam’s Mark), which is also host to A-Kon. This meant more space. A lot more space. Which, this year, was fantastic. Even in the crowds it wasn’t ever crowded. The Artist Alley had large walkways between tables, as did the Dealer Room, so traffic flowed pretty smoothly all weekend. The escalators lasted a lot longer than I thought they would, as well. Once people learn to space themselves, or volunteers are posted to space them (which they shouldn’t have to be because people should just use a little common sense), things will go better. The hotel staff was far nicer, as well, though I do have to wonder if they bothered to warn the family reunion, wedding party, and multitude of football fans that gathered at the hotel that weekend that there was going to be a huge convention of the pop culture kind. Still, there was no policing of the elevators, which meant no twenty minute waits to board one, no paper wristbands to be worn all weekend to allow usage of said elevators, and the staff appeared efficient enough from what I could tell. Water was provided in coolers throughout the entire convention area, restrooms were kept clean, there was a room devoted to concessions (provided by Domino’s Pizza, Taco Bell, and, I want to say, Genghis Grill), and whoever orchestrated the food trucks in front of the hotel has my eternal gratitude. They were there all weekend, and provided a great alternative to the crowded Plaza of the Americas. Plus the food off them was fantastic.
The upsides to the extra space were many, aside from allowing crowds to flow far easier. There were more panel rooms, more conference/ball rooms, rooms for crafts and workshops, and all sorts of things the con offered for the first time this year. There were three DJ hosted dances (one each night), plus the semi-formal ball which had far more space this year. There was an animation workshop, a room dedicated to painting gaming figures, a writing workshop (that I want to say was hosted by Japanese guest Dai Sato), voice acting workshops and a competition, three costumes competitions (Cosplay Runway, Hall Cosplay, and the skit show), costume workshops, plushie workshops…. The list goes on and on. There was also an ongoing blood drive through the weekend. And, of course, the standard video viewing rooms and a gaming/arcade room, though I never did find those. Which is the one major disadvantage I found with this year’s layout. I think they might have been on the third floor, but I’m not sure, as I never went up there. The other two floors of the con maintained my attention through the weekend.
The weekend was filled with hanging out with friends I met last year (mainly my girls from Ani.me), running around and taking pictures of all the amazing costumes (which will come in another post), exploring the Dealer Room for good deals (which were indeed found), attending some panels, eating (because I have to eat all the time), and just walking around the convention floor. There was a lot to see, and things were relatively well organized. The extra space helped a ton, though I imagine it won’t last as the convention grows in attendance numbers. This year, it was extremely pleasant. My one complaint is the lack of guests to be interviewed. Last year the convention hosted a huge amount of American voice actors and I interviewed a good chunk of them. There were very few this year (likely not helped by the, I think at least two other conventions in the country that weekend), but it was balanced out by an excellent assortment of Japanese guests. Who unfortunately did not want to be interviewed. I had hoped to interview shoujo manga creator Arina Tanemura, but it never happened. In fact, as far as I know, no one got to interview any of the Japanese guests. First they didn’t want to be interviewed, then they did but wouldn’t sit down to arrange a schedule, then they didn’t seem to want to at all anymore. The staff press team worked hard to get those interviews for us, so I’m incredibly thankful to Candace and her team for trying their best. Things were still enjoyable, but then I didn’t have to trek far. At any rate, please enjoy some photos from around the convention! Come back again for the cosplay!
Hope to see you there next year!