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By Shelli Anpan On 21 Jul, 2016 At 08:07 AM | Categorized As Animation, Comics/Manga, Conventions, Featured, News, News, Otaku Events, ROG News | With 0 Comments

No GravatarHi everyone! Shelli Anpan here to bring you a peek inside the halls of San Diego Diego Comic-Con (SDCC), the largest pop culture convention in the United States.

Originally geared towards the comic and graphic novel aficionados, SDCC has since grown over the past several decades to encompass all forms of art and geekdom, including (but not limited to) TV shows, big budget movies, video games, and detailed replicas. To learn more about SDCC and its history, click here.

With almost 24-hour programming, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed when attending a convention of this magnitude. To narrow it down a bit this year, here are my Top 5 for Day 1:

  1. #TheHallofFaces
    All 4 Days, L Street Fine Art Gallery
    As a huge fan of the Game of Thrones television series, this is definitely a must-see. Going off of the listed description, “The Hall of Faces activation will allow guests to enter the House of Black and White and ‘Become No One’.” Praise to the many-faced god!
  2. #SuperheroIRL
    6:30PM – 7:30PM, Room 24ABC
    Everyone has encountered bullying in some way, shape, or form in their life, inspiring writers and artists to create (super)heroes to overcome them. Nonprofit Pop Culture Hero Coalition harnesses the idea of the superhero and applies those ideals to the real world. With the advent of Internet and prevalence of cyber-bullying and recent physical attacks around the globe, heroes in the real world are needed now more than ever to stand up and be beacons of hope and strength against the bullying, against the hatred.
  3. “Geek Couture” Fashion Show
    6PM – 8PM, Harbor Ballroom, Manchester Grand Hyatt
    Although I probably will not be able to attend the Fashion Show as it conflicts with the #SuperheroIRL panel, I still can’t wait to see what beautiful works of wearable art will be showcased this year!
  4. CBLDF: Navigating The Powers & Perils of Banned Books
    12PM – 1PM, Room 30CDE
    Ever wonder why graphic novels are attacked by censors? This panel will discuss just that and and how to successfully integrate them into the classroom.
  5. Exclusives!
    Last, but not least, I’m super excited for exploring the Exhibit Hall! For all first-time con-goers, the Exhibit Hall is where you’ll find all the popular, rare, and exclusive paraphernalia you could ever desire. These include comic books, original fine artwork on canvas, highly detailed sculpted collectible figures, video games, apparel, and accessories. SDCC is well-known for their w exclusive merch, which can only be purchased at the convention. Of course, you’ll probably be able to find that special exclusive on eBay later for an arm and a leg.

That’s all for now, but to get live news and visual within the con, follow me on Twitter (@ShelliAnpan)!

Are you going to SDCC? Do you wish that you could go? Tweet at me and let me know what you want to see, and I’ll do my best to take you there!

By Charles On 29 Aug, 2013 At 05:38 PM | Categorized As Animation, Conventions, Editorials, Featured | With 0 Comments

No GravatarGoing out on a limb here, but if you had mentioned to that small collective of dedicated fans in State College, PA, who gathered on a nondescript weekend in 1994, that their meet-up of anime fans would one day go on to be the second largest anime convention event in the United States, they probably would have looked at you funny, laughed and added “maybe in our dreams,” before running off to watch some tapes or “talk shop.”

And yet, 20 conventions later, that is the truth of Otakon- the largest anime convention on the East coast, and gathering ground for all sorts of otaku, geeks, nerds, Japanophiles, hangers-on, confused parents, and anyone who appreciates either anime, fandom, or both.

Now I’ve been knew to this “game.” My first Otakon was in 2009, and it held a sort of mystery to me. I had heard of it time and again from friends online, but had no idea where it was, and little interest to attend. When I finally did cross through those doors and into the massive space that is the Baltimore Convention Center, I was immediately overwhelmed by what I had stepped into. It took me three years to finally “get it right.” And then two more thrown in “for good measure,” because as much as crowds might unnerve me at times, the prospect of friends and fellowship entices me more.

Blame it on my “history” of attending smaller conventions, but that was really where my fandom gestated. Cons like Otakon differ from smaller fare, and the dynamics of the smaller cons are less about big-name guests and announcements, and more about getting to know your fellow fans. I spent the majority of my  congoing life at those events (and I frequently cite Hampton, VA’s Nekocon as the standard by which I formed my congoer identity), and was generally accustomed to the “simpler things”- meet friends, hang in hallway, grab some food, repeat until Monday. Otakon is not that convention, and hasn’t been for over 15 years. While those types of interactions are definitely a part of the Otakon experience, more of it can best be summed up as “brave crowd-stand in line-see event- repeat until Monday.”

Read reviews for Otakon 20, and you will read a lot about lines. Lines were the order of this convention (so much that one writer quipped that “lines are part of the real Otakon experience.” True, if that’s the experience you seek).  A stark departure from the smaller events where lines seem to only exist outside 18+ content, or in front of autograph tables as anxious attendees wait for a chance to meet their idols. Lines for autographs are definitely long at Otakon. Lines for concert tickets equally so. Lines for the Dealer’s Room, lines for the panel rooms…I know plenty of bloggers and attendees who spent upwards of 7 hours standing in line.

But not me. Like Eric Cartman, I hate lines. And I usually find that what waits at the end isn’t worth the loss of time “better” spent wandering, chatting, or resting my aching body. My Otakon 20 wasn’t about getting to meet Shinichiro Watanabe (though I did, briefly). It wasn’t about snagging that coveted Sunday Concert Pass for Yoko Kanno (though I did, indirectly). It wasn’t even about attending the premieres for Oriemo 2 and Wolf Children (the former I had no interest in, the latter I had seen already).

For me, Otakon 20 was much like Otakons 18 and 19- I was there to experience the weekend as a whole, not the individual parts. I wanted to see the crowds, talk to the fans, tag up my StreetPass, and maybe decompress in the Harbor when the stimulus became too much. I wanted my “stage” to present content, then vanish for hours with friends while we people-watched and drank copious amounts of coffee. That has been my Otakon experience ever since 2011, and for me, it works.

On that level, Otakon 20 was a rousing success. Maybe not as over-the-top awesome as last year’s event, but still a successful weekend all around. They’ve been getter better, as well, since my first “road show” in 2009- part of that revolves around better programming and guest options, part around me knowing what the hell I’m doing- but as each convention passes by, I “get” it more and more.

Since I elected to eschew the lines and made it to exactly one panel that wasn’t one of mine, I can’t rightly call this exposition a review. One of the downsides to the way I experience Otakon is that I see very little of the “con,” but a whole lot of the convention space and community. On that front, I have little comments that I haven’t said before- Otakon is a frenetic mass of controlled chaos, kept in check my beleaguered volunteers who sometimes find themselves in over their heads, not unlike the attendees themselves.

Were their line management problems? Definitely. I witnessed line cuts a few times, and lines set up in the wrong places, but mostly as I passed them by on one of my “walks.” Were their rude staffers? I’d find it hard to believe there weren’t any, given the size and stress of the weekend, though I never bumped into any. Were there memes? Yes, moreso than the last two years, but nowhere near as annoying as 2009. (And one of them- a crowd of people constantly singing “I’ll Make A Man Out Of You” from the Mulan soundtrack- were less annoying than quirky. At least they were being “productive” with their hall karaoke.)

Again, nothing I haven’t seen before, and nothing unexpected given the size and scope of Otakon itself. (Although the incident with the bubble bath in the fountain was something entirely new.)

The community this year was surprising- more and more anime-centric cosplay (especially from breakout hits Free! and Attack on Titan), less visible non-anime stalwarts (like Homestuck, MLP and Doctor Who), and a healthy amount of discussion centered around the 2013 anime crop, and how “awesome it is.” One of my early Friday panels- We Con, Therefore We Are, a critical look at convention culture and otakudom, co-hosted by the indomitable Daryl Surat of Anime World Order, and Doug Wilder of AnimeconsTV- exceeded my meager expectations by leaps and bounds: I hoped for 40-50 people, I got almost 1000, and none of them were there to “troll”, only discuss and debate. Which they did, all weekend, as people kept stopping me to comment on how thought-provoking and insightful the panel was. I had intended to present my observations and research from the past five years of activity in the community, and was surprised at how many other long-term members of the same community were coming to the same conclusions, and how their general opinion of the situation wasn’t too different from my own.

Community. Yes, it always comes back to community. Because, when it comes down to it, community is why Otakon has grown by such leaps and bounds, and community is why the convention culture is so strong, fragmented as it might appear. Time and again, I will insist that community is what is driving the attendees to devote such time to their “hobby,” and through the community are their devotions validated. You see it in the smaller, more intimate cons, that thrive off their core of attendees who pop up every year to support their local fandom. You see it in the massive throngs at Anime Boston and Katsucon, who pack the halls of large convention spaces with cosplay and conversation. You see it at Otakon, where these other groups converge for a single showing of support and “insanity,” for who else would choose to brave those crowded halls, if not the “crazy ones?”

On Saturday night, I (alongside friends Kit and Haru) was sitting in Harbor East, having dinner with voice actor and theologian Crispin Freeman. At this “oasis” maybe a mile from the BCC, there were no cosplayers, or congoers of any type, and the lightly packed dining room of the pub we had selected was soon the site of a conversation between the four of us about how the community had changed. Crispin had been part of the convention community since almost the beginning. He remembered how those early cons had been very anime-centric, and the fans hungry for more information. As a media/industry guest, he also had been somewhat insulated to the shift from anime-culture to community-culture that had been so dramatic in the past 4 years. He had not seen the subtle (and not-so-subtle) shifts that altered the dynamic and motivations of the attendees as a whole. As we sat there, talking about Convergence theory and the changing times, it made me ask myself a question- one that really has no solid answer, only observations.

Has Otakon exceeded its intended scope? What is the point of the con now, as the motivations and practices of a new generation of fans have overtaken older concepts? Has Otakon, still a bastion of Japanese media and culture appreciation, evolved?

I would think so. It’s become something more than just a fan convention- its become a destination all its own. It’s  been that way for years now- all roads (at least on the East Coast) do lead to Otakon, that special pilgrimage that needs to be experienced at least once. Overwhelming or not, it’s a rite of passage all its own, but one of those rites that has the potential to pull in as many people as possible, and keep them there. New fans or old-timers, it’s still living up to its mission statement, and managing to accommodate all the needs of every fan who walks through the doors- from the staunch Japanophile to the artist and creative, to the confused teenager who’s wondering what they’ve gotten themselves into. Otakon is, and always will be, a place for every fan, everywhere.

Lines or not.

By Inactive or EX ROG Staffer On 18 Jun, 2013 At 08:44 PM | Categorized As Conventions, Otaku Events | With 0 Comments
End of panel audience

No GravatarThis year’s Mizucon was held June 14-16 to lovely weather and sunshine at the Miami Sheraton hotel. Mizucon has always been one of my favorite conventions due in no small part from the tremendous effort and love their volunteers and staff put into it. But last year the followers of the con learned Mizucon was now under new management after an amazing run. And you know how most people react to change.


The new management was under an extremely reliable group called the Japanese Anime Investment Group that run conventions like Ikkicon in Texas and Anime Crossroads in Indiana and have investors as well known as AAA Anime (the only United States distributor that sells Good Smile Company merchandise) and Yes Anime (another distributor that is the largest in the Francisco Bay area), and the con chair himself owns a store and online retailer called Anime Pavilion, also an investor. To me it seems this well funded group and the staff would be capable of pulling off another hit this year. Well let me analyze how everything went.

In terms of activities available and use of space they get a thumbs up. There were the necessities, a video game room, maid and butler cafe, vendors room, artist alley, and plenty of roaming space. But the promise of karaoke and an anime viewing room went unfulfilled. The panel rooms were spacious enough but my panel room on Saturday lacked sound and the staff had to fetch me a cable and the likes. Needless to say I believe every panel room should be prepared prior to any presentation but the staff were constantly running around doing things and I could forgive them. The panels were varied enough so there was something for everyone to do. This abundance of activities made it unlikely for anyone who decided to look at the schedule to be bored.

End of panel audience

I ended my panel earlier than expected and ended up improvising, lots of people showed up so now I have a new panel to host…

I loved the vendor’s room and walked out with some amazing deals and the vendor’s alley had great artisans but my funds were limited and I really wanted some merch. The video game room had Super Smash Bros. Brawl but other than that nothing interesting.

The cosplayer attendance was huge, I believe there were more cosplayers than casually dressed people, and the costume contest had great entries. The most impressive costume I saw during the convention was definitely the Alphonse Elric armor that won Best in Show.

Alphonse Elric cosplay

What made the con was the attendees who were hanging all over the place because there were huge problems all three days of the con. All of them were largely the fault of the hotel who caused major inconveniences for the organizers, panelists, and attendees. I’ll break the problems down by day because there were plenty.

  • Friday: Panel rooms were missing and the schedule was changed, panels were pushed back and moved around, and attendees didn’t know when certain panels were being held.
  • Saturday: Solid schedule set but late night panels were cancelled because the hallway containing all the panel rooms was closed off early. The rave was shut down early for unclear reasons and attendees that were planning to stay late were made to leave at the same time.
  • Sunday: The convention was made to end earlier than expected.

Needless to say, the con chair is now looking for a new venue for next year.

The new management of Mizucon definitely tried the best they could to create a good show and it was a pretty good show. Next year will definitely be better with a hotel capable of handling conventions, a larger staff and volunteer pool, and the knowledge gained from this year’s experience to make a show that lives up to the image Mizucon has held for so long. And I’ll definitely be looking forward to next year. All picture taken of the convention are below.

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By Inactive or EX ROG Staffer On 9 Jun, 2013 At 03:57 AM | Categorized As Conventions, Featured, Otaku Events | With 0 Comments

No GravatarIf I was to summarize my experience at Hero Hype in two words it would be “laid back.” Conventions in their first year can’t be expected to do much because technically the first year is always more of a trial than a final product. I was familiar with the location, the Ramada Hotel, from going to previous shows that were solely for buyers and collectors and knew the convention space was smaller than those of other hotels, hence why it’s ideal for buying and selling only events. On my way I reflected on that and wondered if they’ll pull it off.

This convention was a lot more fun than I expected, and a great example of a spectacular first year. I’m not even sure where to begin.


The rented space had three rooms, one large one for the main stage and all the vendors and exhibitionists and the other two were slightly smaller rooms. The first room was the video game room which had only about four or five games set up but was not fully occupied throughout the con despite having a good selection and a room with plenty of chairs and a television as the room for screenings.

Hero Hype Exhibitor/Vendor

One of the funnest parts of the conventions was definitely seeing all the short films that were screened throughout the event. Whether original flicks or fan made tributes, all of them were excellent in their own ways. Several short films were aired by Ginnungagap Filmwerks, a short Thor film featuring cosplayer Ryan Frye Thor, and Last Laff‘s Batman and Spiderman: The Chaos Continues. I signed up for a free copy of the last film, and I’m looking forward to receiving it.

The main stage had frequent giveaways with a variety of prizes given out to those who could answer trivia. The costume contest held was not only a costume contest but also included a dance off, don’t know why but it was entertaining nevertheless.

Cosplayer Dancing

The photo came out trippy. But in a really cool way.

All in all, Hero Hype was a simple but satisfying convention. With this convention’s first show concluded, I expect every consecutive year to become better and better. The atmosphere was great, the activities were great, and the convention is very promising.

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By Inactive or EX ROG Staffer On 7 Jun, 2013 At 10:34 PM | Categorized As Conventions, Featured, Otaku Events | With 0 Comments
The Hero Hype Con

No GravatarA new convention is coming to Florida tomorrow, and it’s Hero Hype Con, a promising newcomer to Florida’s convention scene. It’ll be taking place in the Ramada Hotel in Hialeah. The convention covers all areas of the geek fandom from video games to comics.

The Hero Hype Con


If you want a deal it is a cosplayer loving con, because all who attend in costume can get $5 off admission. Hero Hype also treats parents because all kids 10 and under are free with a paid adult admission.

A costume contest accepting only hand made entries shall be taking place. There will also a screening of a fan made movie called Batman and Spiderman: The Chaos Continues with a free copy of the movie if seen in its entirety.

So Hero Hype con will be taking place tomorrow, so drop by if you want to do something fun this weekend!

By Charles On 10 Apr, 2013 At 11:45 PM | Categorized As Conventions, Reviews | With 0 Comments

No Gravatarzenkaikon_rgbA few weeks ago, while the gaming world was abuzz at PAXeast over in Boston, Christians were commemorating Jesus’ ride into Jerusalem, and die-hard Westerosi were anticipating the return of their favorite soap opera reality show, I had the benefit of attending the 6th incarnation of Zenkaikon in Lancaster, PA. A mid-sized convention teeming with local flavor, ambitious guests and a location to die for, this con often falls under the radar of so many congoers in the mid-Atlantic and New England regions, which is unfortunate given how enjoyable this event has become in the past three years.

I started attending Zenkaikon in 2011, its last year at the Valley Forge convention center, before that location was turned into a casino. I had mixed reviews about both the con and the crowd that year, but since I’m (rarely) never one to judge on first impressions alone, I gave it a second try last year, when it occupied a lovely May weekend at the Expo center in Oaks. At the end of those two days of fun and fellowship, I discovered the con would be moving back to March, and into the fancier Lancaster County Convention Center, another hour away from its previous locations. I lamented the loss of mall-crawling at King of Prussia and the easy access to mass transit, but given how enjoyable the con had been at Oaks, I knew I would be going back regardless.

Needless to say, like a fine wine, Zenkaikon gets better with age.


Let me just say this: the fact that there’s a farmer’s market across the street made eating a VERY pleasurable part of the weekend. Local meats and cheeses (which I brought home in droves and gorged upon for DAYS after the con), excellent coffee roasters and surprisingly awesome cuban food made for a very happy con indeed: you couldn’t walk through the small market without seeing plenty of cosplayers interacting the the locals (for good or ill), and the local creamery offered free scoops to anyone in costume. Lancaster was happy to have the con, and the con was very happy to have Lancaster.


Seriously, you would wander into stuff like this ALL WEEKEND if you took the stairs…

The convention center itself was a fine spot, with a huge vendor room, panel seating on par with Otakon, and plenty of free space for gatherings and cosplay shoots. This is one of those sites Zenkaikon can grow into with ease, and likely will: next year the con should have access to the entire top floor of the convention center, a location they only had for Friday this year. That means more panels, more events and more “roaming” space for wayward congoers.

Plus the convention center also has an archeological site AND a back hallway system that feels like something out of Lord of the Rings. Seriously. It was like walking through the mines of Moria at one point.


Zenkaikon has always had surprisingly solid programming for a con its size. This year was no exception, as more theoretical fare found its way into panel rooms. The Friday night burlesque show, hosted by Uncle Yo (and featuring me in a creepy mask and hatchet), was easily the best one I’ve ever seen, Greggo’s Game Shows pulled off a solid reworking of the Pokemon game he debuted at Ichibancon, and the media guests were both friendly and informative. I would even go so far as to say there was more to do at Zenkaikon this year than at a lot of the smaller cons I went to last year. The audience asked for more, and more was given back to it.

I also will go on to reiterate my assertion that I had the best Friday I’ve had at a con in the past few years at Zenkai 2013. No lie, I was kept pleasantly busy all day, culminating in probably the best presentation of “Kowai” I have ever given, before hamming it up at the burlesque show. I didn’t want the day to end (and technically it didn’t, as I found myself in a huge Cards Against Humanity game a scant 90 minutes later), it was that enjoyable.



This man. Seriously, THIS MAN. Most epic cosplayer of the weekend.

I love Zenkaikon’s attendees. I really do. This con has one of the most welcoming communities of any con in the mid-Atl. From random meetups in the halls to encouragement of cosplayers, the people who attend Zenkaikon make sure everyone feels welcome and at home. Consider the case of one attendee, who found herself sitting on the Pokemon game show Saturday night: a girl dressed as Mei from White 2, found herself in a trivia battle with another potential Pokemon master. Flustered and in over her head, she attempted to throw in the towel during the final part of the opening round of the show, and requested to simply forfeit and leave the stage. The crowd, however, would have none of that, as they cheered her on and made sure she knew they were solidly behind her. And while she didn’t win the round, the ovation she got as she left the stage was nothing short of inspiring.

THAT is the power of this community, and that is why Zenkaikon is worth attending. Forget programming, guests and vendors: attend this con simply to meet other supportive, like-minded fans, and develop connections with them. I guarantee you will never be bored, nor will you feel alone. While it may not draw the numbers of some cons, the quality of the fans at Zenkaikon more than makes up for the quantity.

Zenkaikon might not have the flash or flair of PAX, or the size and variety of Otakon, but that doesn’t mean this con should be ignored. While you won’t find Funimation announcements or giant cosplay summits during the weekend, you will find a welcoming community full of frenetic (if tempered) energy and fun times. Zenkaikon manages to tread that perfect line between growth and hearth, and it shows in the excited attendees, happy gatherings and generally relaxed atmosphere that permeates that con every year. Despite being smaller, it’s definitely worth the visit (as my friend Doug made all the way from Boston, eschewing PAX this year despite living right next to it). So if you have time and some cash to splurge, consider hitting up Zenkai next year. You will appreciate it.

By Inactive or EX ROG Staffer On 28 Mar, 2013 At 09:45 PM | Categorized As Animation, Conventions, Featured, News, Otaku Events | With 0 Comments
Hurricon's Mascot

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Hurricon's Mascot

So cute you can’t deny it.

The University of Miami Anime Club is hosting their second annual anime convention, Miami Hurricon, on April 14. Yours truly will be hosting panels during the event on behalf of ROG. Although the con schedule has not been released yet both of these panels have been confirmed.

  • The History of Vocaloids and their Fandom
  • Spot the Fakes: How to Avoid Ripoffs and Other Unlicensed Goods

Hurricon does have many other things to offer. Two guests have been confirmed, Marianne Miller who’s an American voice actress for English dubs and Little Kuriboh creator of Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series. A costume contest will be held again this year and so will a video game tournament sponsored by Anime Gaming Experience. This a free event anyone who lives nearby shouldn’t miss. You can RSVP on the Facebook event page and like their official Facebook page to keep updated about their plans and future events.

I hope to see a great turnout this year, and if you can come drop by one of my panels that would be awesome!


littlekuribohUPDATE: Unfortunately, due to a scheduling conflict Marriane           Miller will not be at this year’s Hurricon. But her husband (Little Kuriboh) is still coming as scheduled.

By Inactive or EX ROG Staffer On 20 Aug, 2012 At 12:35 AM | Categorized As Animation, Comics/Manga, Conventions, Otaku Events | With 0 Comments

No GravatarWhat can be said about Mizucon this year? Mizucon has always been a great convention, but for some reason the attendance seemed to be lacking this year, which is a shame because it had the same great entertainment as the previous years. The panels provided were varied, and almost anyone could find one that would entertain them. There were also two video rooms set up showing a variety of anime from oldies to new ones.  In the video game room you could play Halo 3, Super Smash Bros., Soul Caliber V, Blazblue, and many other video games with tournaments taking place at various times. Also a stand in the vendor’s room had music playing and whoever wanted to could dance in cages. To put it in a short manner, there was no shortage of things to do. The only thing Mizucon had changed was their location from their old hotel to Doubletree Miami Airport and Convention Center which was much larger, even if they were only using the top floor.

My panels went very well. Otaku on a Budget was delayed but all the attendees were great sports by waiting a bit longer for it to start, and the Vocaloid panel was very energetic and with a hefty fandom presence. Overall most attendees are well behaved and friendly, which is what I like the most about this convention, there is an environment where you feel it’s fine to interact with strangers and be yourself.

I’m hoping to once again attend Mizucon next year, and hope more people will as well. Check out the slideshow for pictures from the show.

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By Inactive or EX ROG Staffer On 9 Aug, 2012 At 02:59 PM | Categorized As Conventions, Otaku Events, Otaku Music | With 0 Comments
August 17-19

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August 17-19

This convention is a can’t miss for geeks in Miami! The convention prides itself as an anime convention, but has expanded to include many fandoms including gaming, tabletop, and American pop culture. Panels to suit any tastes are abundant, but there are too many to cover. So all you need to know is yours truly will be hosting ROG panels the Saturday and Sunday of the con. Freebies will be given out to the lovely people who attend so I suggest you all come and enjoy yourselves, you might get something.


10-11 AM: The Birthday Panel

7:30-8 PM: Otaku on a Budget


1:30-3 PM: The History of Vocaloids

One of the main events this year is a new Masquerade Ball that will be held the Friday of the weekend. Saturday will also be host to a pool party and a cosplay contest, and while Sunday is the shortest day in convention time, it usually is the most relaxed one, perfect after two days of excitement so you can just lay back, chill with other fans and perhaps catch a few panels. Mizucon 2012 will be fun, so plan your days ahead of time to make the most of what it has to offer and just have fun!

The list of all the panels and events that will occur can be seen here.

By Charles On 28 Jun, 2012 At 07:20 PM | Categorized As Conventions, Editorials, Featured, Reviews | With 1 Comment

No GravatarI’m kind of insane. Not the bad kind, I swear there are no women in a pit in my basement trying to steal my dog to prevent me from throwing lotion at them, just the kind that comes from spending too much time and energy doing what makes my life filling. And while in the pursuits of said endeavors, I often wreck my body (especially my voice), spend hours cramped in cars and trains, and often wedge myself into impossible crowded rooms, all for a few hours worth of validation and education. And only half the time do I get paid for all this.

All I can say is: I’m an active fan, that’s what I do. Insanity comes with the territory.

It’s been about a month since I’ve written anything here, with good reason. I spent the past 3 weeks in perpetual transit visiting conventions. Two of those weekends required 7+ hour commutes, from the southern edge of Virginia, all the way to Portland, ME. While that might sound like the prime time to spend working on a flurry of articles, trust me, it’s not (most of Portcon transit was spent watching anime and staring blankly out the window). So, instead of preparing three separate reports on the three cons I hit up, I’m going to try my best to sandwich them all into this one article, and hope I can touch on everything.

June 8-10: AnimeNEXT. 6 panels, one cosplay, 10 hours in line.

What can I say about ANext that hasn’t already? Well, it certainly was crowded. And I mean CROWDED. I’ve been watching this con grow since 2003, when it was a small social con in Rye, NY. That year I had a great time hanging in the halls and watching random people (and getting glomped down a flight of stairs, but that’s pretty much a legend now). Then there was the move to the Meadowlands, then to the Garden State Expo Center, with each successive con getting bigger and bigger…

Well, this year will forever be etched into my memory as “Line-con 2012.” Everywhere you looked, there were lines. Lines for Main Events. Lines for the Dealer’s Room (even as late as Saturday afternoon). Lines for EVERY SINGLE PANEL (i’m not exaggerating). The only places I didn’t see lines were for the Artist Alley and the LARP. It was THAT crowded. At some point, the Fire Marshal got involved, and then those lines had to be relocated outside to prevent code violations. Panel rooms were packed to capacity and shut down, sometimes with half the line not getting in. If I remarked last year that the lines for the rave were Cartman’s worst nightmare, this year he likely would have summoned Cthulhu and devoured the entire con.

But if one could look past the lines, the event itself was fun. Plenty to do (if you were willing to wait), plenty to see, lots of photoshoots and random hallway hijinks. A solid variety of panels and artists. And despite the crowding, it never felt like the con was suffocating under its own weight (at least not for me). I’ve read a good deal of scathing criticism on both the forums and the blogosphere about how the event was “mishandled” and ended up an “administrative nightmare,” but honestly…it reminded me a great deal of this past Katsucon. A bit crazy, a bit frenetic, but ultimately fun. Panels staff were courteous and kept things flowing as best they could, there was a minimal amount of “glut” and I still found time to relax. Final verdict: B+

June 14-18: Anime Mid Atlantic. 18 hours travel, 7 panels, one girlfriend.

My strongest memory of AMA has to be that I “programmed” closing ceremonies. Seriously, I spent about 4 hours of my weekend working on a video project that “opened” the closing, and got one of the best reactions I received all weekend, with numerous calls to “do it again.” All I can say to that is…maybe.

AMA is my “vacation” con. Of all the cons I attend, this is the one I use to “take it easy,” (yes, that includes the 7 panels I presented). And of all the cons I attend, AMA might be best suited for it. It’s not the smallest, not the most laid back, but it does wonders to recharge me, despite the effort I put into commute getting there and back.

This year was no exception. Coming off the craziness of ANext the week before, AMA was comparably placid. No lines, no crowding, lots of relaxation outside (courtesy of the mild temperatures and consistent breeze off the bay) and a general air of mellow that kept my head clear for the entire weekend. Also given the close proximity of everything, it lent itself wonderfully to late night wanderings (mostly to Wawa) and plenty of food choices for the gourmand (or foodie, in this case) to sate their appetite.

That’s really all I can say about the weekend, honestly. I have no complaints, no criticisms, not a single bother to recount. I got there, I had fun, I hung out with some voice actors and played a late night game of “Betrayal at the House on the Hill,” and took the scenic route back home. Final Verdict: A-

June 21-24: Portcon Maine. 4 panels, 2 hotels, 5 cheap SciFi DVDs.

I got a gift bag. Full of Maine-related stuff, my favorite brand of gum, water, and a notebook that saved my life at one point.

For a con with around 2000 attendees, Portcon was a “hot damn mess,” but not in the bad way. I had a rather flat opinion of the con last year, but this year that was rectified quickly. There was an energy that swept through the con on Friday morning that blew my mind. The lines were back too, but somehow that wasn’t a bad thing either. Yes they did block the hallway a bit, and left some of the rooms packed to the hilt, but it just added to the charm of the weekend.

Portcon attendees are both forgiving, and a hoot to be around. When my panel on Supernatural TV got swapped last second with one on Anime OPs, nobody complained. In fact, I think they enjoyed the OP chronology more. When thunderstorms rocked South Portland for a chunk of Saturday, nobody fled indoors and we got some rather unique cosplay shots. From what I’ve been told, the same rain actually made “Extreme Geek” better than usual. Newbury Comics sponsored a cosplay competition in the Maine Mall (right across the street) which drew out some of the best cosplay of the weekend. And I spent a total of 4 hours playing adult “Apples to Apples” that was the perfect capstone to my nights.

Portcon is billed as the largest, and longest running, geek culture celebration in Maine. This is true. It is also one of the best multi-genre conventions anyone can attend. The friendly atmosphere, excellent location and diversity of programming ensures that there is always something to do. I used to give out this “award” called “The Best Kept Secret in New England” on my website, and I feel the need to confer it this year on Portcon, simply for maintaining the fun and making me feel welcome for 4 days of conventional irreverence. Final Verdict: A

As for those DVDs…I blame FYE and Newbury for taking my entire slush fund on Alien movies and James Cameron.

And here I now sit, in the lull weeks between cons. Up next for me are Connecticon, a personal favorite of mine in Hartford, and Otakon, where I’m a featured panelist. Pray for my sanity, I know I will need more of it.