Anime Detour 2011

Friday | Saturday | Sunday

Attending Anime Detour this year was a calculated strategic move to expand Geek.Kon's exposure in the Minnesota con scene, as is my Convergence trip this July. We decided to pull out all the stops and have an epic room party, along with sponsoring a badge station that we would man all weekend and take full credit for. It was going to be a lot of work for a con we weren't staffing nor had a table at.

In other words, I finally had a perfect excuse to go back to Anime Detour.

Despite being in an awful location in downtown St. Paul for my last visit in 2009, I really enjoyed it- a medium-sized convention that offered a lot of big-con production and programming. The schedule grid was something to drool over, prompting me to go through it with a highlighter and plan out my weekend. Between the many panels I wanted to attend, the room party and badge shifts, it was sort of a throwback to the days when I could design a full itinerary for myself and bounce around the con with intent. I hadn't done that in a while, and the year I had to make Geek.Kon's workforce schedule doesn't count.

Moving And Shaking

The trip up was rough. Josh had to drop out due to Stuff (again, capitalizing means an excused absence), leaving us without one of our advertised games. I had to modify our ad that Detour would put on the hotel's closed circuit TV, so we were a bit late taking off. Despite the clear skies in Beaver Dam and the fact that it was goddamn April, we hit a snowstorm along the way. Still pretty sure it was some sort of April Fool's joke. On the plus side, we stopped at the McDonald's in Black River Falls that we couldn't find the entrance to during last year's No Brand trip. We still arrived on time, marking possibly the first time the Google Maps principle (no matter how often I stop on a long trip, Google Maps will correctly predict how long it will take) worked despite a late departure.

We showed up at a good time as there was virtually no registration line. Making sure everything was in order with our badge station, however, was pretty chaotic. We got slips of paper that attempted to list our shift hours, but they had several inconsistencies from what we had submitted to them. We also received no formal training on identifying badges or answering questions. This was an issue as Detour has had badge counterfeiting problems in the past and there was a learning curve to making your way around the two-floor, U-shaped hotel.

We checked into the hotel room, the awesome spacious hotel room with poolside balcony, and hauled stuff in. Along with assigning them swanky rooms, Detour treats its room parties well, with a prime location around the atrium, some freebies, wall advertising and a listing in the program book. Since we wanted to stock enough food and drink for everybody, we decided to wait until we arrived to do the shopping. The only problem was that the combination of money, transportation and free time proved quite elusive. Everybody lacked one of the three.

I was in the latter category. It's only the second convention I've attended with a Digimon panel.

Great crowd for a Friday afternoon panel. Unlike Ohayocon's Digimon panel, which attempted to introduce the show to the already-indoctrinated, this was pure fan wank. Structured fan wank too! Each season got its due time for people to talk about favorite parts, bring back memories and answer trivia questions. Winners of particularly difficult questions earned tags/crests a la season one. I won the crest of courage. I'll bring it to the Digimon panel Tyler, Amanda and I are running at No Brand.

What's this? Two TKs?!

And.... Marge, apparently. Considering I've had friends cosplay Family Guy before, it was still a stunner to see Simpsons cosplay.

Knowing I'd have a shift soon, I made a quick romp through the dealers room, saying hi to Drazz and picking up that Summer Wars movie I've been hearing so much about. I also attempted to deliver that advertisement for their TV. First I stopped by their room party HQ, who sent me to their con ops on the other side of the atrium... who didn't know what to do. Then one of their tech guys came in looking for me. He had just been sent to room party HQ to find me, so he had to trudge to con ops to complete the mission. Then we both had to go all the way back to main programming to load the image onto their network. Considering the alternative (“Go to Main Programming”), it was quite silly.

My badge-checking shift wasn't too bad, although the Box rule was a little irritating. The Box rule, which we had been warned about a week prior, was that any bag that didn't fit in a small box would not be allowed in the convention. Sounds fine on paper: it's better than not allowing bags at all, particularly for purse-laden ladies/crossplayers. Problems arose with the specifics- does it have to fit all three dimensions of the box? If a bag squeezes enough, is it permissible? What about bags holding beverages?

The other issue was that conventions who don't permit bags also invariably have some sort of bag check service nearby.

Once the shift was over, I made a quick Subway run and checked out the room.

Evan, Mike and Red had managed to make a food run and did a great job setting things up. We had lights, six video game consoles and a ton of board games.

Mike also put his large collection of awesome internet videos on the TV. I had to pull myself away from the “There She Is” series to take care of some other business.

One job was stopping by the Geek Partnership Society's room party and introducing ourselves. The GPS is one of the neatest concepts you'll find- a community center for promoting and helping geek gatherings from clubs to conventions. They had heard about Geek.Kon at Convergence last year and I wanted to say hi and talk shop for a bit.

While on the floor that night, I also wanted to hit a panel about TV, everyone's favorite time-dissolving website. The panel itself seemed a bit dry, as it was a lot of talk about the process of creating and contributing to the site. All well and good, but a little more hilarity would have been nice. I mainly wanted to say that as much of a productivity drain the site was naturally, when someone creates a page for your work, you may as well call in sick for the rest of the week.

Along the way, I also ran into Greg Ayres and Monica Rial. My schedule being what it was, I was afraid I wouldn't have the chance to see my VA peeps. It certainly didn't happen at Milwaukee. Thankfully, Detour's really nice about having free range guests that like to walk around during off hours, so it was nice to see them again, and have program book shop talk with Greg. He makes the program book for Ohayocon and I promised myself that we'd share a program book designer gripe session, as I've had with Crysta from No Brand and Geek.Kon guest head Sari (who makes Detour's book).

Seeing Monica again was a little weird, as it was only the third time I've actually spoken to her in seven years. There have been other conventions we've both been at, but I either don't get a chance to talk to her (like at Milwaukee this year) or completely ignore her in an effort to say hi to another VA (like I kinda did at Otakon '04 in favor of Luci Christian). Despite that, she either remembers me or acts like she does. Considering this did not happen with Vic Mignogna at Kitsune Kon (who I totally had met and spoke briefly with at ACen last year), it's impressive.

With Mike and Evan running the show upstairs, Sarah and I got a chance to check out a room party hosted by Rae (previous Geek.Kon/No Brand masquerade judge) and company. It was a very elaborate tea party arrangement, akin to the kind of room parties you get at Convergence as I understand it. Made me look forward to that show even more.

While there, Rae and I discussed some arrangements for Convergence. Mwah hah hah...

Back upstairs, the room party seemed to be slowing down a bit. Mike was demo-ing some card games and our video game room remained popular, but it wasn't exactly filled to capacity.

Leave it to Kyle Hebert to fix that.

Without warning, he and some of his posse barged in. Before I could say "hey, it's Kyle!" I was on his live UStream show. It was pretty awesome.

After I gave him my elevator pitch for Geek.Kon (which I should really start rehearsing as it's now the second time I've been prompted for it for a video), he took video off our balcony as we screamed naughty Twitter hashtags to the patrons below.

We concluded the evening with a dance running off Mike's iPod (which has some really great music, especially all the DDR stuff I never got around to loading onto my room party list). With most of ravers patronizing the actual convention dance or parties with more potent beverages, it was pretty quiet. But at least we got to test out the con's dance lighting equipment that we should really use once in awhile.

Since we all had to get up early Saturday morning, we put the beds back into place and turned in around 3:00.

Not only was I in for a long day Saturday, so was Estonia.