Anime Central 2010

Thu/Fri | Fri/Sat | Hetalia | Saturday | Sat/Sun

Strange how bringing strangers to ACen makes ACen that much more fun.

It happened in 2005 when I led the UW-Green Bay anime club into the fray, and was probably the only thing that salvaged that con experience. This year I get to lead Sarah and Evan into the chaos.

Other factors contributed to my heightened anticipation for Anime Central, such as running Name That Anime Opening and going in cosplay for the first time- and as a character from one of the hottest series out there (they scheduled two Hetalia photoshoots). I could also chill with some of the other Geek.Kon staffers that haven't gotten a lot of face time- folks like Chairman Bob, sci-fi viewings head Matt and ringer extraordinaire Deanna. As she was rooming with us, Deanna in particular was destined to help me whip Sarah and Evan into shape.

Oh yes, and all the Geek.Kon promotional blitzing and stuff. Like I'd forget that.

Thursday/Friday
Groovy!

There was a three-fold attack plan for the Geek.Kon promotion. One was the awesome full-page ad we got printed in the program book (created in a deadline-driven flurry the night before Anime Milwaukee). One was our room party in the Hyatt. The third was the constant papering job Evan was bound to do throughout the convention... until he found out unauthorized posters were unauthorized.

Instead, Evan discovered the night before that space opened up in the exhibit hall for a table with all our fellow conventions. This was good. Except that we now were responsible for manning it. This was bad. Thankfully, we had several staffers willing to help take shifts. This was good. If only we had anything to put on it. This was bad. Fortunately, Evan scrambled to came up with posters, pictures, and a makeshift table hang. This was good. He threw them together at the last minute, with no vouching for their presentation quality, especially as other conventions had months to prepare for their advertising. This was a cliffhanger.

Anyhoo, we went down on Thursday for several reasons, which can best be summarized as follows: showing up on Thursday is a hell of a lot easier. Instead of leaving at crazy hours like 7:00 am (or midnight as in 2005), we left at noon. It was strange leaving for ACen from Beaver Dam as all prior jumping off points had been from Whitewater, Green Bay or Janesville. In fact, I wasn't sure whether it was faster going through Milwaukee and Madison.

Going through Mitsuwa is a given. We ran into Deanna and her group and scoured the place for confection and bread. I picked up some ramune and yummy bread for convention breakfast. Evan also grabbed some pot stickers to go. Good thing too as we ran into a dead traffic light (and thus a traffic jam) on Higgins Road, turning the fifteen minute drive into a forty-minute slog.

Remember how I used to park in the CTA lot? Then moved into the big lot across the street from the convention center? This year, for the first time, I parked in the actual Hyatt parking lot. Granted, half the time I haven't been staying at the Hyatt, but the other lots had raised their costs so much that it was finally worthwhile to try it. The only problem was they charged upfront, so $45 of my exhibit hall moneys suddenly evaporated. As sad as that was, considering per-day pricing and the convenience of being remotely close to the hotel, it was actually quite a deal. That's how bad the other lots have gotten (I paid $28 for two nights in 2008).

Thankfully, our room was awesome. Good location on the fifth floor, plenty of tables for leaving out food, a fridge for storing drinks and even a little tray that fit my computer and speakers perfectly. We were thrilled.

The room didn't provide a butler, so Evan and I still had to lug all our bags, food and drinks to the room. We each started by grabbing two 24-packs of soda, by far the heaviest items of the load. To inflate our collective manliness, we took the stairs instead of the parking garage elevator- just for this load, just for the pursuit of Manly.

As the final dagger to our worn-out girly arms, after lugging our stuff up, we "volunteered" to help Deanna get her bags to the room. Thankfully, she gave us open access to her bottled water, which saved my life several times over the weekend (navigating a crowded exhibit hall in May wearing the uniform of a Baltic nation is not for the weak).

After boasting of our manliness, we headed to the exhibit hall to find our table and get program books, masquerade tickets and front-row seats to see how badly the con screwed up registration this year. Note that badges was not part of that: that required a pit stop along the way. The one nice thing about running an approved panel meant complementary badges for myself, Sarah (scoreboard monkey) and Evan (audience wrangler/photog). In fact, thanks to volunteering at Anime Milwaukee and staffing Geek.Kon, I'm only paying registration for half of the conventions I attend this year. Evan has me beat: he volunteered for No Brand and his Arcanine netted him a free ticket to Daisho, so he's only paying for Anime Iowa.

A familiar face was working panel registration- host of What Not To Do When Making An AMV (from ACen '06), Your Favorite Anime Sucks (Ohayocon '08 et. al.) and was the originator of the Manly Men of Anime panel. I mentioned how Richard and Nick Izumi have been running their own versions at No Brand and Daisho. He wasn't too pissed.

Then came the time for Deanna and I to run Sarah and Evan through the gauntlet Deanna refers to as the "rat maze." To pull out the graphic I've had since ACen '03:

The march was on.

To nobody's surprise, there was a huge line when we descended the escalator. In an effort to outdo themselves, it wasn't the reg line- it was the line to get into the reg line, which apparently hadn't opened yet, even though it was past the normal 4:00 start time. We learned later what the annual "ACen F's Up Registration" issue was...

*drumroll*

Failure to get their registration program synched up with their shiny new computers. The line of nearly a thousand people were held up two hours while staff found the old computers and plugged them in.

We waltzed by the line and explained to security that we were supposed to have a table inside. He happily gave us program books and let us in.

Although our contact wasn't there, Emily from Eagle Anime was on exhibit hall staff this year and showed us to our tables. While I checked out how awesome our full-page ad looked on the very back page before the cover, Evan and Deanna plotted the layout of the table.

Mitch from Kitsune Kon, our next-door neighbor, was already hard at work. Clearly, he knew he'd have a table in advance. We, meanwhile, had an ugly, bare table and two chairs. We ran back to the room and picked up Evan's provisions. While everybody else set up, I quietly sneaked around the room. I picked up one minor omission from the program book- the program schedule. It was instead printed on a separate broadsheet. This was a clever move, as it was printed well after the program book deadline and could reflect last-second changes. It was a stupid move because it was a freaking broadsheet. It barely fit in my con bag (thankfully I used Estonia's laptop bag for most of Friday and Saturday).

I also swung by to say hi to Chairman Bob, who was helping Funimation set up their booth. There I learned of Funi's sweet grab bag deal. Rather than the Naruto headbands and oversized t-shirts friends have had gambling on these things before, Funi's bag traded $30 for three random box sets from stuff not on their shelves. Full box sets. With series like Nerima Daikon Brothers inside, everybody had their own ideas of what they wanted and talks of a grab bag swap being incorporated into our room party was had.

We also bitched about having to man this stupid table all weekend. But that's neither here nor there.

Exclusive picture of the Exhibit Hall on Thursday. Just drive on in!

Bob and I returned to the table to find that they had in fact used alchemy to create a passable promo table. We also worked out a tentative schedule that involve Evan taking most of the hours and us filling in case he wanted to actually enjoy the convention. I was on duty for two hours Friday afternoon. Not bad.

Back at our room, we ordered some Giordano's pizza. Not because we wanted to try some of the finest pizza in Chicago, but because we were lazy and went for the one that had an ad in the program book rather than look up the number for Domino's. It was $40 for two large pies and almost good enough to be worth it. All it really needed was delivery service by a girl in a Lum bikini.

Yes, I'm still making This is Otakudom references and yes, I know it's 2010.

Our pizza did have entertainment, as Deanna popped in Soul Eater, the show that has a story I wouldn't dream of touching and a style that is so awesome I wanted to watch it anyway. And I did. And it's great.

After a few episodes of that, we busted out Apples to Apples. You see, Tuesday night, Evan, Sarah and I took our dusty, mundane copy of the game (officially property of Geek.Kon) and decided to truly make it Geek.Kon's edition by creating uniquely geeky red and green cards. Many of them ended up being based on internet memes, but it was an exhausting process of elimination to come up with cards that would rival Helen Keller and Hiroshima, 1945 in destructive impact.

Matt successfully used the first unique red card by playing The Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch. He later won Healthy with Boot To The Head.

We also had a cow on our floor. Appropriately, he was from Wisconsin and would probably swing by Geek.Kon.

After the game, it was about 12:30 and nobody was tired- a very bad thing as it was our only night to get any amount of sleep. I ended up taking Evan and Sarah on the grand tour of the Hyatt before it was overrun by congoers. Even so, there was a respectable crowd already, and ACen even opened up a couple of their tabletop gaming rooms for entertainment. One of the doors to Main Programming was open. I insisted that they peek inside. It was fun.

We also chilled with Bob in the open area where the pool used to be. While he showed us his many City Of Heroes characters (a few of whom suffered lag-related deaths for our amusement), we noticed that the domed ceiling acted as an acoustic mirror, allowing us to eavesdrop on folks having a quiet, civilized conversation at a table downstairs. Nothing juicy, but it was really spooky hearing chit-chat above us.

We eventually headed to bed. Evan and Deanna had to be up early to help set up the table before the exhibit hall opened at 10:00. Deanna volunteered for set-up duty in order to be that much closer to the vendors when the opening gun sounded. As we soon learned, Deanna has a vendor room prowess to rival Taishi from Comic Party. She had that place swept clean by the time Sarah and I arrived an hour later.

The Chrono Trigger was strong this year. It takes guts to pull off Ayla!

Sarah and I made a quick pass through the vendors room. I caught up on my Eyeshield volumes- purchasing, not reading. I hadn't realized how many volumes behind I've gotten. Swinging by John's booth, he handed me the Kodocha box set I had purchased online during his sale on Funi titles. Very nice since he was originally supposed to mail it and I'm moving in a couple weeks. I also nabbed the prizes for NTAO while I was there.

After Deanna wasn't so impressed with her Funi grab bag, I was suddenly hesitant, but Sarah talked me into picking one up. I wasn't too keen on any of the series inside, and one was Tenchi Muyo GXP, which I found dreadful. I ended up trading the non-Tenchi titles to Deanna for Big Windup, since I actually have an interest in baseball.

Then I realized that thanks to the parking, pizza and NTAO prizes, I only had $26 left in my wallet. For the first time ever, I was low on cash at an anime con. Even though I had a credit card and few significant purchases left to make, it was frightening.

With my bag getting heavier thanks to all the sweet anime and manga, I decided to drop things off at my room, while Sarah stayed behind to keep Evan company at the table. On the way back to the hotel, I ran into Nabeshin at a vendor booth. Said hi and shook his hand, which is as good as an autograph in my book.

Snorlax obstructed my path back to the hotel.

If that's a Mitsuru cosplayer from Persona 3, that is awesomely out of character.

When I got to the room, I took a break from all that heavy anime lifting and realized it was stupid to go back to the exhibit hall when I had a panel at 12:30 I wanted to attend. Instead, I wandered aimlessly, which is always fun. I checked out the just-opened video game room, which was a point of Evan's attention as it was the only video game room in the region larger than Geek.Kon's 10,000 square feet. He wanted to see how they handled it. Fact is, it was still an ACen video game room, which meant a lot of pay-to-play Bemani machines and a serious scarcity of consoles. Pretty lame.

Geekbot prevails! Scott made a little stand-up, willing to donate it for a table display.

This is definitely Chie from Persona 4.

Anyhoo, the panel I wanted to attend was a primer for RPG Maker. Last year at Detour and No Brand, Harley and I had discussed making an RPG Maker game for No Brand, taking the two anonymous congoers, adding the usual characters to their party and re-enacting classic NoBrandVerse adventures (and other amusing quests like picking Tiffany Grant up from the MSP airport). The project sort of fell through since we ended up getting lives instead, but I was interested in learning the program for myself in case I ever felt enterprising enough to try to make one myself for more self-serving purposes.

I walked into the panel room and found a volunteer telling us the panel had been canceled. I'm sure she loved that job.

Still, it opened up my schedule nicely! After some more hotel wanderings, I headed back to the exhibit hall.

Pedobear was in front of me, giving hugs to all the eager lolis. He's also one of our new Red Apple cards.

Told you our table cleaned up nicely. But if anyone asks, we totally didn't use a bedsheet from our hotel room for a table skirt.

Since I now had free time before my shift, I scoured the vendor room again. Sarah was dying to get a plushie of Japan from Hetalia, but didn't have quite enough money. So I used my credit card to pay for it and she gave me what she could afford to contribute to it. I used that subsequent money to buy some of Evan's grab bag titles. He hit the mother load with Nerima Daikon Brothers and Welcome to the NHK, but had some buyer's remorse as he's a tad broke. So he let me buy them. It was a sweet score, despite the fact that he wouldn't accept Tenchi GXP as a trade.

I felt bad that I forgot Merle's name. Then I remembered that I'm not a big Escaflowne fan.

And here's some more Persona 4 for ya.

Anyway, I sat down for my shift at the table and spent two hours sitting in the same spot hawking Geek.Kon for the masses.

Or did I?