It seems fitting that the first post published on my new blog should be about an anime convention, seeing as it is now 10 years since I started doing them, and that’s also about as long as it has taken to get this blog live.
For those of you unfamiliar with AmeCon, here is a quick overview: every year, 1,500 people gather in a pre-determined location to celebrate all things anime, Japanese, nerdy and geek.
In short, it is an excellent weekend where those who normally feel like outsiders in their every day lives can come and feel like part of a community.
As I said before, I have now been attending anime conventions in one form or another for 10 years. A decade of cosplays, omake skits, hardcore partying and sugar overloads. And I’ve loved every second of it.
Typically, anime conventions in the UK, such as AmeCon, Kitacon, Minami and the late AyaCon, run for three days over the weekend and take place at a University or hotel that can accommodate the large numbers they attract.
AmeCon 2016 took place at Warwick University which, rather confusingly, is in Coventry. It is, however, one of the best venues for conventions I’ve ever been too, but more on that later.
First of all, there is the pre-con celebration. This takes place on the Thursday before a convention and is sort of a warm up stage. Con-goers from all over the world arrive, get settled into their rooms, and start preparing for the weekend.
For anyone looking to get into anime conventions, I would definitely recommend joining in with any pre-con events you find as, not only do they make the weekend last longer, they are a great way to socialise and get a feel for what to expect over the coming days.
Every convention is different so it’s hard to break the weekend down into days. Instead, I’m going to cover the main events you will find at most anime conventions.
The Opening/Closing Ceremonies
As with the pre-con events, if the convention you are attending has an opening ceremony, I strongly recommend going to it. It gives you a fantastic introduction to the overall event, introduces you to the committee members and special guests, and highlights any important details/rules you need to know about.
The closing ceremony is mostly Thank Yous, prize announcements and guest good byes, although it is also your best chance to find out about any more conventions planned over the next 12 months.
Cosplay is the heart and soul of any anime convention. If you haven’t heard the word before, it basically means ‘costume play.’ Don’t worry, it’s nothing rude, it just means you dress up as characters you like.
The Masquerade is like a catwalk for those who want to show off their costume to a wider audience. Some conventions have cosplay competitions for the best costume, so you’ll often find entrants also participating in the Masquerade to show off their work.
And it’s not just for fans of anime either. At most UK anime conventions you’ll also find cosplayers of games, comics, films and TV shows.
Translating roughly as ‘extra’, the Omake is like a talent show for anime conventions. Solo and group performers get onstage and either sing, dance or perform to the audience, sometimes for prizes and sometimes just for fun.
Both the Omake and the Masquerade require ample space and this is where Warwick is an fantastic venue for a convention. The gigantic theatre space that is used for these two events easily fits in the 1,500 attendees with room to spare. Plus, the tier-seating means no craning over that particularly tall chap seated in front of you.
Most conventions run panels during the three-day event, ranging from How To Take The Perfect Cosplay Photo, to The History Of Magic Girls in Anime.
The great thing is, panels are typically run by convention attendees, so the topics are very relevant to the majority of con-goers.
It also means that there is usually a wide range of panels across the whole weekend so there’s bound to be something that catches your eye.
Again, Warwick is an excellent venue for this as most of the rooms we use for panels have ample seating and plenty of tech support for presentations, video and practical activities.
Every convention I have ever been to has run parties on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, so be prepared to keep your energy levels high all weekend.
Someone once said that cosplayers ‘drink like rugby players and behave like chess players’. Sometimes this is true, and sometimes it is not. One thing I know for sure is that the parties can be terrific fun and will feature a wide cross-section of music genres.
The Committee/the Gophers
All of the anime conventions I attend are run completed by volunteers. That’s right, these brave souls are not paid to host these events, they do it purely off their own backs.
AmeCon2016 was one of the smoothest run conventions I have ever attended so I want to thank everyone involved in making it so fantastic.
Gophers, people who help co-ordinate and manage the events and panels, are also volunteers and often give up their own convention experience to benefit the other attendees, so a big thank you to them as well.
You might think that after 10 years my interest would be waning somewhat but in fact, the opposite is true.
Finding a place where you feel truly at home is rare, so I have no plans on leaving the Con scene. In fact, I aim to become more involved and attempt my own panel at some point, so stay tuned for updates!
*featured image courtesy of Amecon.org