Anime Milwaukee 2011

This is a special double-feature recap of both Anime Milwaukee and Kitsune Kon, held on consecutive weeks. The Anime Milwaukee recap was written in its entirety before Kitsune Kon took place.

AMKE | Kitsune-1 | Kitsune-2

Funny story, bros. So there's this new convention in Appleton that started planning more than a year ago. Evan, Sarah and I have been helping them extensively as they go through the learning process of running a convention. So we're totally committed to helping with Kitsune Kon, to the point where we're collectively running about a dozen panels, serving as assistant events manager and handling guest Vic Mignogna. When Anime Milwaukee announced their dates to be a week before, I figured it would be back to day-tripping, despite their big move to a hotel downtown. After all, there was no way I was going to have the energy to do two full conventions on consecutive weekends. The No Brand-off week-ACen combo that's cropped up a couple times has been rough enough.

Then in January, Milwaukee came to Geek.Kon and asked if they could borrow a cup of sugar. And a video game room. After helping Iowa and Daisho, this is starting to be routine. With more than a dozen volunteers willing to help out, they were more than happy to provide us with badges and reimburse our hotel rooms. In other words- we were locked in.

Two conventions in two weeks. Goody goody goody.

Anime Milwaukee
You Will Go To The Moon

To make things even more insane and idiotic, we were also running a table at the same time.

We picked up Iron Butt Challenge coordinator Matt along the way to help us with that.

His camera in the photo was also a reminder that I forgot to bring mine again. With KORfan absent, we're using Sarah's crop this time.

So here's her pictures of the video game room...

Becker, Red, guy with scissors and our Geek.Kon pixel flier hard at work.

As for me, I snuck into a seat for some Donkey Kong Country. Haven't played it in years and still aced Mine Cart Carnage.

It turned out that those of us not serving the VG room weren't actually on the volunteer schedule, so we ended being on call instead of having active slots. Sarah and I both took a shift at the Info Services that they were desperate to have filled... only to find out later that one of our other staffers, Charlotte, had already taken it. We took it anyway.

It worked out well as we could do this three-hour shift in teams. Sarah and Charlotte started things off while Evan and I got checked into the hotel... and sneak into Main Programming.

Yowsa. They booked a gigantic hall in the Frontier Airlines Center for their Main Programming and set it up to rival Anime Detour's. They were expecting 4,000 people. Given last year's attendance of 2,100, reasonable expectations would have pegged them at about 2,500. They actually drew 2,300.

In other words, not even their cosplay contest drew enough to require those bigass expensive screens thar.

Taking over for Sarah, I found the Info Services desk amusing. There was also a gymnastics event going on at the facility, and while the two events each had an escalator to use to keep things from getting too mingly, there was very little signage indicating that to either group. So we had to direct traffic a little bit. We also ended up sharing our dining information with the gymnasts as well. Figured the restaurants weren't too picky about who got their ads and menus.

This kind little bunny here was too young to volunteer, but stood next to us and pretty much did our jobs for about an hour. She was a sweetie.

One weird quirk about the setup was that the embassy tables, despite being in the atrium, had to shut down at the same time as the exhibit hall. So we had to teardown at night. At least they let us store our stuff in the exhibit hall.

After a nap and dinner at George Webb, Sarah and I, out of sheer amusement, went up to Milwaukee's Speed Dating event. Joe Zhang was running it and convinced Evan to participate, so we had to see it.

As expected from my experience witnessing ACen's version, it was pretty much all guys. The exact score was 31-12. Since Evan was too busy getting his groove on and Joe was too busy running it to talk, I ended up having a good hardy chat with No Brand Chair Cecil about their direction. Just the cool productive stuff you get when two staffers have a long conversation while one of them waits for someone to call Man #31 to a young lady's table.

Another weird quick about the setup was that the hotel enforced quiet hours in the atrium. Which is, of course, the only general gathering place at the convention. So at 11:00, everybody has to be cleared into a programming room, gaming room, viewing closet (I didn't consider them large enough to be called rooms) or hotel room. I joked with the Daisho gang the next night how they drove snow plows through the atrium, even taking out the embassy tables.

With fellow Geek.Kon staffers AJ & Deanna appearing and all of us getting swept into the Tabletop Room, we decided to play a quick game before seeing if karaoke was any good. We couldn't agree on anything, so we settled on Apples to Apples, joined by a few others. With Evan unable to secure any powerful cards, one of those others ended up dominating with an amazing knack for getting the most meat out of otherwise meh cards, like beating Girl Scouts on the word Sensual with, of all things, Carl Sagan.

Karaoke seemed promising, as they had both popular and anime music, but my head had been a bit swimmy all day and I wasn't up to the task to really unleash something. We ended up leaving and playing Smash Bros. and Rock Band in the game room. Sarah egged me into singing Under Pressure. It was awful and I promise never to sing Bowie again. Queen songs will be determined on a case-by-case.

Afterwards it was back to the Tabletop Room so AJ could show me (and thus Evan and Sarah) how to play Kill Doctor Lucky, which I've always wanted to try. One great thing is the increased visibility and selection of the Tabletop Room. Even though they didn't have much for RPGs, they had lots of good board games and it was a nice way to unwind. I killed Doctor Lucky with a Big Red Hammer.

This wall of text broken up by Cosmo and Italy, two characters that under no circumstances should ever be left alone to wander a hotel.

Saturday, I thought I was the only one who didn't have to wake up early in the morning. I was wrong: I had to give badges to day-trippers Sarah B. and Erin. Sarah B. arrived to offer whatever help they needed with their cosplay contest. She ended up as stage manager.

With the table up, the first big thing was heading up to the Maid Cafe for tea and ice cream, enjoying both the maid service and the skyline view.

Putting this at the top of the hotel was a nice touch.

After a shower, table duty and lovely chats with folks from ACen, I took a short shift at the Info Services desk back in the FAC. This time, there was a bit more signage, but a lot of questions over the costume contest tech rehearsals, namely that there was very minimal advertising about there being very mandatory costume contest tech rehearsals.

Let's get this out of the way now: there will be mandatory tech rehearsals at Geek.Kon's masquerade. There, now you know.

Sarah stopped by as I got off my shift to hit the rehearsals (and ultimately help out while participating). As the pendulum has now swung back to not attending these things (with the possible exception of Convergence), I navigated my way around both skywalk and street until finally finding the secret mall nearby with a double-secret food court. The guy at the Italian place (a Sbarro's in everything but name) was hoping to stop by the con Sunday.

I got back in time for the dueling panels of Name That Anime Tune and Pokémon Survival Guide. As I had already won at Daisho, I didn't enter this one, merely dropping in to say hi to Nikolai. He told me later that the Milwaukee's anime knowledge was far inferior than Daisho's, and that I would probably have had a much easier time winning here.

I didn't regret it because Pokémon Survival Guide was fantastic. Its organizer had to back out of Geek.Kon at the very very last second (thankfully Reanna stepped in to talk about the games for an hour), and it was a shame that he did because the panel is hilarious. Basically, it preps would-be trainers for their journey into the wild. The harsh, brutal, unforgiving jungle that apparently doesn't have infrastructure connecting cities but does have lots of angry wild animals. Which may be edible. Just not Ghastly. It was that kind of hour.

One knock against Milwaukee- while their main programming room was huge, their panel rooms were miniscule. All three panels at this time of the day were at standing room capacity, with people being turned away.

No such problem in here.

Those of us remaining took down the table and while the rest of the group went out to a (unanimously awful) Japanese place, I bummed around the grounds, talking to Kitsune Kon and Daisho Con. Daisho borrowed a table to spin an hour-long DJ set (which would almost certainly be better than the official rave).

I ended up at a guest panel for Monica Rial and Chris Cason, mostly because it was a very unorthodox alternative to the costume contest that drew a lot of attention from fellow convention staffers. It still packed the room, owing again to the lack of panel programming space. Some of it was very amusing. Eventually it degenerated into standard VA Q&A fare, with a little more "can you do the voice of..." stuff for good measure.

Everybody returned from the costume contest, which was a little better than last year's but still had some judging issues, halftime show issues and sound quality issues. And they didn't have sound quality issues last year.

Rather than hit up Death Note Mafia right away, we stayed in the room and talked geek for a couple hours, which was quite fun in itself. When we did get to Death Note Mafia, I discovered that I made a truly awful Mello (Vigilante) and a solid L (Detective).

That lasted until about 2:30 or so. We swung upstairs on the way back to see how things were going in the gaming rooms. The Tabletop Room had arbitrarily decided to close for the night. The Video Game Room had also decided they needed a two-hour airout. Thus, nothing was running at the convention... which is generally why such things are discussed as a group and planned in advance.

Anyway, here's where things got real.

With little to do Saturday night and the rave indeed sucking by all accounts, pretty much everybody decided to get drunk. Apparently, for many, that compels people to want to play Mario at 2:30 am. So while we helped the VG guys clean house a bit, we also ended up having to turn away drunks at the door, often using a firm voice. The real kicker was when we got word that a nearby drunk had committed a crime that shall remain nameless. Josh and Evan went to check it out while I coaxed Mike B. into turning on his rarely seen "security nao plz" voice. Said drunk ended up trying to barge through the closed VG room doors, leaving scrawny ol' me to push back on the door and deny him from charging in and busting up the place... and we have every reason to believe he would have. Josh and Evan tried to pull him off the doors from the other side, only succeeding when Josh subdued him with a takedown move from his military training. Security caught the guy and turned him over to police, but it was a pretty harrowing moment, to the point where I even felt obliged to console their con chair who had to deal with the aftermath of all of it. Even now it's still feels weird typing all that knowing that it really happened.

Somehow we slept that night.

This palette cleanser brought to you by Pedobear and his army of lollis. Best sight Saturday afternoon was him walking through Boston Store on the way to the mall.

Sunday brought an entirely different challenge as weather had made a triumphant return after a couple weeks of being dormant. The original plan was to head to Madison for a staff meeting before returning home. That quickly became jeopardized as the interstate turned to ice.

We checked out of the hotel and set up the table as normal. I even did a quick half-hour at info services, upping my total volunteer hours for the weekend to four, not counting time spent in the video game room helping defend it from evil and picking trash off the floor.

It wasn't long before the situation became too untenable and I moved the meeting to Skype, calling Bob to notify the team for me. We took the table down early (and in fact our VG team started packing up as well) and got it to the car. We attended the post-con feedback session to hear the comments and contribute our own. It covered pretty much all of the gripes I had already alluded to.

Milwaukee remains something of an enigma in the Wisconsin con scene in that its genes carry more ACen DNA than No Brand. Holding it at a Hyatt next to a convention center and two very expensive parking garages wasn't lost on me. It felt like it took a lot of the things that I dislike about ACen (registration problems, long hikes, crowded programming rooms, mass hysteria) and condensed them to a smaller scale, similar to what Anime Detour does with the things I like about ACen. The times I most enjoyed were the laidback moments in the gaming rooms or shooting the breeze with other convention staffers. This year felt like one big learning experience for Anime Milwaukee, especially when it came to the overnight hours and getting comfortable with their location. They have the capacity to put on one hell of a show, and won't be losing their title of biggest con in the state any time soon, but one of these years I'd really like to see them get the fundamentals down.

And Now For Something Completely Different!