On the weekend of October 18-20, I found myself heading north from the Boston area to the Radisson Hotel in Manchester, NH for Another Anime Convention (http://www.anotheranimecon.com.) I hadn’t been to an anime convention in years, and never to this one, so I was pretty excited, but had no idea what to expect.
The drive up was gorgeous. The weather had a lovely fall crispness, but was warm enough to not need a jacket in the sun. The trees lining the highway are weeks into starting to change color, so my eyes had a feast on their yellows, reds, and oranges.
The Radisson hotel is easy to get to – it’s right off the highway, and there’s a huge parking garage right next to it that had plenty of parking. Event parking for the day was $5 instead of the usual rates. Even in the parking garage, I was seeing people in cosplay, and as I made my way into the hotel I was met by a riot of colorful costumes, laughter, loud energetic voices chatting, and the din of a large number of excited people.
I met my friend in the hallway, and we queued up for the registration line. The line was long, but it moved rapidly. There were multiple convention volunteers moving up and down the line with registration forms so that everyone arriving at the desk to get their badges had their information prefilled and were ready to pay.
Now, I pretty much act like an excited tourist everywhere I go (even in my home town), but the level of pointing, exclaiming, and crying out with delight at the all of the cosplayers was intense even for me.
“Look! There’s another Pikachu! Look! A Big Daddy! No, no, it’s definitely a Big Daddy and not Pyramid Head, they are totally different! Oh my goodness, did you see the trio in the blue armor?! I think that’s the 10th 10 I’ve seen. So many Doctors! Solid Snake! Another Solid Snake! HAHAHA! He has his own box! I have no idea what THAT costume is, but oh my god, that’s amazing!”
Basically, I was fan girling all over all of the fans. Now, I love anime, but I haven’t been to an anime convention in quite a few years as I haven’t had anyone to go with. In any case, I don’t remember ever being to a con that had this many cosplayers at it. I was completely stunned by the sheer amount of them that there were! I remember people dressing up being more rare; maybe one in twenty when I went to the Boston Anime Convention so many many years ago. Not so anymore! In fact, my companion and I looked like the odd men out! He was wearing jeans and a Starblazers T-shirt, and I had on my tentacle dress from Think Geek. So, while we looked like the geeks we are, we remarked more than once about feeling a bit underdressed.
For awhile we just people watched; sitting in the hallway next to a lovely young lady who explained to us what the costumes we didn’t recognize where. And In the hallway, a constant stream of attendees flowed past us, wowing us with their inventiveness. Outside on the hotel’s front lawn, large costumed crowds were talking, posing, and gathering in the sunshine.
We had lunch and dinner at the hotel’s tavern. The service staff was clearly overwhelmed, as they seemed to also be when I was there last winter during Birka. Someone at the restaurant had done their homework, though. There were special drinks and food items created just for the convention. The food is good, and the prices are fair. Our waitresses seemed very overwhelmed, though.
After eating, we decided to check out some of the panels and game rooms. All of the video game stations were well attended, and people seemed to be really enjoying themselves. I saw one gent wrapping up a win with Harley Quinn in Injustice: Gods Among Us, and the person next to him was mowing down aliens in Halo 4. We found a room with table top games as well, where we encountered some gents playing the Yu-Gi-Oh card game.
The panels ranged from some-what well attended, to nearly every seat full, to completely empty. There were schedules up on the walls in the hallways, and I knew my way around the hotel from having previously been there for Birka, but I think it could be confusing for first time goers. Someone mentioned a program, but then we were told there weren’t any, so we didn’t have any idea what some of the panels were, or who the presenters were. It’s possible that they ran out of programs, and I did hear that the turnout for attendance at the con was way over what they’d anticipated. I am totally happy to not know what’s going on, if it’s because of a reason like that! Still, I wish that there had been some information booth or area (if there was one, I couldn’t find it), where we could have read up about the panels.
We did slip into one in one of the larger rooms that was full, and we were there for a little awhile before we figured out that everyone on the panel was a voice actor from Full Metal Alchemist. I haven’t been to panels before with voice actors on them. When I first went to BCC, I think there was one voice actor total there, and he was fantastic, but having an entire panel full of them, joking, doing voices, answering questions, and being completely hilarious was awesome!
We stayed on for the next panel as well, by voice actress Stephanie Young (http://www.thebrehmsband.com/). Young’s panel was about her work voicing various characters that she referred to as “vixens.” She’s got a deep, sometimes sultry, voice that works best for specific characters. Having a voice much the same as hers, I found her discussion quite fascinating. What moved me the most, however, was how incredibly gracious she was about the fans and people who attend conventions. She was utterly sweet, incredibly funny, and truly seemed like someone who loves her job and her life.
Sadly, after her talk it was time for me to head home as my roommate, who’d been dog sitting all day for me, was heading to the Sox game. I was sad to miss the masquerade ball, and apparently there was also a rave!
So here are my thoughts on the event:
This is absolutely an event for cosplayers. This is where you want to go to be surrounded by your fellow peers, and craftspeople. I was totally floored by the amount of work, dedication, imagination, and skill put into these costumes. You could not go anywhere without seeing someone in costume. I was in heaven! It was like being IN an anime!
You could totally spend an entire weekend at this convention, but if you’re not really interested in the panels going on through the day, having a group of friends there, or at least knowing people would be best. Unless you’re the sort who easily makes friends and isn’t worried about showing up and making connections that way. It seemed like everyone there knew tons of other people there. People were constantly crossing rooms and crashing into each other with huge hugs, or calling out to their friends. It seems like a welcoming and very open community.
This event was full of young people. Like, high school to late twenties, young. I’m in my late thirties, and my friend is in his early forties, and we were definitely some of the oldest people there.
The merchant area could use some help. There was a lot of schlock, but not tons of fan stuff that I’ve seen at other cons. I didn’t see a lot of posters, or actual DVDs for sale. I saw a lot of the same items at multiple booths. There was a lot of room for more merchants, and even three tables right in the center of the room that were empty. This event was very well attended, and people were buying! I had a goal of finding a messenger bag, and I was blissfully happy to find a one-of-a-kind bag by Nekojin http://nj-designs.com/. There were also a few really interesting looking shops, and I think the floor could be served by having more unique shops and shops that were interesting, like the Tea & Absinth shop http://www.teaandabsinthe.com/.
While the cosplayers were predominately anime-related, we saw lots of video game and comic book characters as well. And of course the obligatory Steampunkers, who can apparently wear their brown frocks and goggles to any geeky event and fit right in with their gorgeous selves.
There is a lot to do over the weekend as an attendee to at this event. It’s worth checking out, and if you’re really a huge fan, it’s very worth going for more than one day.
Congrats to everyone at Another Anime Convention! I’m really looking forward to returning next year!