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Anime Milwaukee got serious in a hurry.
Not that they weren't before. It's just that stigma of being on campus, combined with their masquerade issues... and the fact that I daytripped the first two times. But this year they had a stellar guest list, a good media buzz and gave me free root beer at their room party at Geek.Kon. That last one alone was enough for me to upgrade it to a full three-day con and earn them a full-fledged recap! *cue Level Up music*
It's also because it's the first opportunity for Geek.Kon to make a serious promotional push. Remember how Iowa went from "hang out with friends" to "pimp Geek.Kon" in the matter of half an hour? Yeah, that's how we roll.
Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger
The week prior to the con was actually busier than the week of, since I was busy making flyers for the convention and room party. Everything was packed Wednesday night, because the plan was to have Geek.Kon Vendor Head Erin stay Thursday night and avoid a Madison detour Friday morning. But Erin came down with something and pulled out, so I spent Thursday night frantically doing some last-minute graphic design for an unrelated project whose deadline came up at the last possible moment. It's one advantage of having PR Head Evan living in the same city.
The other advantage was that picking him up Friday morning was only out of our way by ten minutes. Our first stop- the official con hotel to see if we can get in... or at the very least, get our room number to put on the flyers.
Not only did we get in, but for running a party we were upgraded to a suite for free. Also, they gave packets to everybody who checked into the Radisson regarding their shuttle bus, a few other events at the hotel and the one room party that was going on. It was a nice deal.
We couldn't stay for long though, as Sarah's first volunteer shift was at 1:00.
Did I mention we were all volunteering? Okay- we were all volunteering. After doing all that workforce stuff last year at Geek.Kon, I figured it might not be a bad idea to experience it from the other end.
The registration area, near volunteers, 1-3 floors below the convention itself. It's also a reminder of some of the perks of putting up with a campus affiliate.
The one tremendous flaw that everybody finds with their volunteer system is that volunteers need to pay for a badge, which will only be reimbursed upon successful completion of their required hours. The argument is that this deters people from signing up, and their schedule gaps seemed to affirm this. The counter-argument would be that it deters no-shows, but there seemed to be a lot of those too, and their verification system had its share of problems too.
I'll give them credit for one thing: Sarah's first badge-check shift was in a corridor looking over that men's room secret passage Trae found last year. Shame it wasn't staffed most of the con. Fortunately, they were wise enough to put someone directly in front of the vendor room. In this case, it was Mike, who was totally pumped that he got to turn someone away because she hadn't picked up her badge yet. High five!
Anyway, everything was more or less where it was last year, so I gave Evan the tour. We found Con Chair Momo and got approval to put up posters wherever we could. It killed the hour until my duty behind the registration table.
This was what I saw for the next four hours. If I ever have to schedule workforce again, I'm not giving anyone four hour shifts at one job ever again. Since I stupidly took my manga out of my bag as I wasn't on badge duty and didn't think I'd need it, I had nothing to do but dissect their program book for good ideas and things to avoid. Oh, and watch the entertainment they had for all the people in line. Despite the long, winding tape and stanchions, there were never more than ten people waiting, and only when one of the two UW-Milwaukee registers was closed. The entertainment was a loop of their AMV contest entries, and I was too far away to hear any of them.
Still, since this comprised my entire afternoon, you're getting yet another AMV contest rant.
Their contest had two hours worth of entries because they accept and welcome not only multiple submissions from creators, but farmed submissions as well. AMV farming is the act of sending your AMV to every major con in the country, regardless of whether or not you're actually attending. At large cons, it's considered bad form but generally tolerated. At small cons, it's usually banned outright. Here, it's welcomed but utterly despicable to see local creators overshadowed by videos such as the one I discarded last year when I found out its creator was from Pennsylvania and wasn't planning to attend.
Milwaukee's been doing this for a couple years now, but since I never paid much attention to it (their contest had always been on Fridays), I've never commented. But seeing the same glossy videos looped repeatedly for four hours tend to mess with you a little bit.
I'll be honest though: I enjoyed doing reg duty at Anime Milwaukee just as much as I did at Geek.Kon. I got to talk to all the people that check in or walk by. Scott, awesome cosplayers not named Scott, and some of the Hetalia regulars that Sarah hangs out with.
Best of all, I met some reps from places like Costume-Con, one of the most prestigious costuming conventions in the country (which happens to be in Milwaukee this year), and OddCon, a Madison sci-fi con that helps Geek.Kon with panels.
Plus when Costume Con secured permission to put flyers on the reg table, I made them less lonely. Good thing too, as the UWM security were tearing down all of our posters (and both Daisho's and the Karoshi-con posters I put up for KORfan). Bummer.
Still, I was happy to complete my hours for the day. Reunited with Sarah and Evan, we headed downstairs for some food.
Reanna, Ben and Lugia were downstairs as well. We ate with them. It was fun.
Next up was the Hetalia panel. Yes, this again...
This one I put up with solely because we had a Norway and Swedish Fish.
The panel itself was random and chaotic, but more pleasantly so than at Iowa or Geek.Kon last year. The Russia and Prussia (and Spaniard Erika helping out) running the show gave the other cosplayers time to introduce themselves and steal the spotlight for their characters briefly.
Sweden was comically in-character and we had four out of the five Nordics (with an extra Finland to compensate for the absent Iceland). There was also a Greece, Turkey and two Polands, none of whom I've seen before. So I didn't hate it. Much.
While Sarah went to their photoshoot, Evan and I dropped into Opening Ceremonies. We weren't sure how anything at 8:00 p.m. Friday could "open" anything, but we had nothing else to do.
Holy beep on a beeping sandwich with extra relish.
It started out with a brief history of Anime Milwaukee, in a similar tone to these recaps- snarky, exaggerated and with random asides and in-jokes. They didn't shy away from their faults, particularly their failure to advertise their first year in 2007 and the Great Caramelldansen Invasion of 2009.
Then our host launched into a parody of the 1812 Overture describing this year's con. Wow.
One of the most sticking things about the song was the announcement that Caramelldansen has been banned from the convention. The reaction was split between thankful cheers and stunned disappointment. Although it destroyed last year's masquerade, I'm of two minds about the outright ban. Yes, it's silly and annoying, but the silly and annoying among us (a key anime con demographic) enjoy it and it seems a little draconic to slap an outright "NO" on something harmless that people enjoy. They could have removed it simply by adapting anti-C-D rules like shortening their skit times (like Anime Iowa), not using audio at all (like No Brand) or having TWEWY cosplayers shoot offenders (like Daisho's cosplay skit). Plus they forgot to ban the equally-insipid "you just lost the game" bit, which ended up taking its place this year. The positive of the rule- no Caramelldansen!
For a better illustration of the convention rules, Anime Milwaukee turned to Little Kuriboh for help. What you are about to see just raised the bar on all Opening Ceremonies in the Midwest. Hell... in America.
Yeah, um, wow.
While you're still picking your jaw up off the floor, I'm sneaking in this picture of Nick K. dressed as Ben 10.
Although I was hoping to catch a little of the Spoony Bard's set, Sarah and Evan wanted to head back to start our room party. We figured people might start turning in and would like some entertainment back at the Radisson.
So did the convention, actually, as two of the conference rooms there were reserved for video gaming and karaoke. The only problem was that the video game room had TVs... but no consoles. Likewise, the karaoke had an odd set-up where the lyrics were projected onto a screen that the singer could only sing with his back to the audience. Plus they relied on pop music and standards and had few anime songs to choose from. I don't know if anyone was in there Friday night.
We, however, did just fine. Especially since we switched to cans of soda instead of two-liter bottles and Starburst for Apples to Apples prizes instead of bed-staining chocolate. Evan wanted to try to get a game of Mille Bornes going, a vicious French card game that I happened to have lying around at home, while Cheesus was in the back trying to get a third for their mahjongg game. Still, Apples to Apples won out most of the night.
We had some fun visitors. Mike #1, an old college buddy who gets the occasional mention in Milwaukee and ACen recaps swung by to play, and one of the Spoony Bards even stopped in to say hi. Eventually, the OddCon guy that I met in the registration trenches stopped by with another Out of the Box game called Cineplexity. This one was movie-oriented, where people had to guess movies with elements from two randomly-drawn cards. We gave it a shot. I'm not as big a movie buff and it was getting late, so I was craptacular at it, despite getting two awesomely groan-worthy wins- matching "Neighbors" and "Asian Movie" with My Neighbor Totoro and "James Earl Jones" and "Civil Rights" with Star Wars. Yes, I was that awful. But the rest of the group enjoyed it.
We decided to turn in for the night, but one of our guests had a slight problem. Mike #1 arrived by bus... which was no longer in service that late at night. This epic lack of foresight (and a scenario reminding me of the blissful days when all my friends didn't read these recaps and I could say whatever I wanted about them) was a serious problem for him as he was commuting from his home in the suburbs. The room already had four people, one of whom was already named Mike (our badge-checker extraordinaire who claimed the vacancy Erin had created). Still, we let Mike #1 crash on the floor. It's not like we didn't have the space for it.
Evan reported that the two Mikes combined their snoring to create a strangely soothing syncopation. I was busy longing for the pillow I had lent them so I could cover my ears.
Next Up- More Sitting Around! More Shameless Con Promotion! And Girls For Sale!