I have just returned from my second and last day at Anime Central (ACen) 2013, “the Midwest’s largest anime, manga and Japanese popular culture convention”, which takes place at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare hotel and the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, IL, a suburb northwest of my beloved Chicago. ACen is an annual convention that debuted in 1998, has taken place every year since then, and is a very big deal in Chicagoland, with thousands attending each year, and many of its fans being repeat attenders. However, this is the first time that I have made my way to the convention, so the experience was brand new to me. The convention ran from Friday through Sunday, May 17-19, and I attended on both the 18th and the 19th. I’m going to do a couple of features on some of the more specific things that I have to talk about, so this is just going to be my general impressions and a walkthrough of my time at the convention. Think of it as my journal of the show.
If you have never visited Negative World before, you may be wondering what this place is. Negative World is a Nintendo fan forum and we create unique, exclusive content, including news, reviews, features, top ten lists, webcomics, a podcast, and more! “But Andrew”, you may ask, “what does ACen have to do with a Nintendo site?” That is a very good question, and you will have to keep reading to find out!
Saturday - Dawn of my first day: 48 hours remaining
Actually it was significantly less than 48 hours remaining, but come on, let me make my Majora’s Mask references here!
I arrived at the conference on Saturday at around 1 PM. Those of you who know me well know that this was no small task, as I had to break my “don’t wake up before noon on a Saturday” rule to get all the way from the southside of Chicago up to Rosemont, IL.
It should go without saying that there were cosplayers everywhere. Literally everywhere. However, I’m definitely doing a photo feature on that so I won’t fill these impressions with tons of images of cosplay. You’ll see them soon enough. But if you just can’t wait, here is a teaser:
I’m sure that you recognize those guys.
The first thing that I did upon arrival was to pick up what, for the uninitiated, those of us in “the biz” call a “press pass.” And then it was on to the show.
My first events
I first attended three events in rapid succession. The first and third were press interviews with singer / voice actor Yuu Asakawa and voice actor Brad Swaile, respectively. I am going to write about those in more detail in a bit, so at the moment I will just leave you with “they were both enlightening and engaging.” Oh, and perhaps I should also mention that I forgot to bring my notepad and was forced to take notes on my 3DS, learning quickly how terrible the 3DS “Game Notes” feature sucks for serious note taking. The second event was a panel called “Nintendo Power”, at which guests got to ask a panel of real life Nintendo characters (possibly just people in cosplay) well... anything that they wanted to ask. Considering that the word “Nintendo” was in the very name of the panel, I felt that it was my duty as a representative of Negative World to attend this panel. It also sounded pretty fun.
I was not able to stay for very long due to having to rush to my second press event, but while I was there, it was pretty entertaining. I’m paraphrasing a bit here, but these are some of the questions asked and responses given:
Mario, over 7,000 goombas are killed every year, what do you plan to do about that?
Kill some more.
What are you guys going to do with your new Youtube revenue? (It seems that many of the people in attendance were confused by this one, but I don’t think that I need to explain it to anyone here...)
Buy some candy.
Captain Falcon, how do you get your helmet so shiny and red?
With the blood of my enemies.
So yeah, it was basically pure cheese, but I suppose that was the whole point, and it was all in good fun.
The exhibit hall
After these three events I took some time to explore the exhibit hall, where the vendors, artists, etc. had booths set up. There was plenty of neat stuff to look at here, including art, clothing, action figures, and other merchandise for anime, manga, tabletop games, video games and more:
As well as a huge chalk art display by an artist named Eric Maruscak, who apparently does this kind of thing all the time at various conventions:
I also saw um, whatever this is:
So anyway, there I was just enjoying myself walking around, taking in the sights (and taking plenty of pictures), when my eyes fell upon one of the most glorious sights that I have ever seen in my entire life. That might be hyperbole. Well, no I take that back. It’s not hyperbole and when you see what it is that I saw, you will understand.
Full of Mega Man robot masters.
I tell you. It made my heart warm.
Of course I had to purchase one. To do otherwise was simply out of the question. But which one? I spent probably a good 15 minutes at this table trying to make a decision. A passer-by may have seen my eyes light up and my hand slowly move towards a specific robot master, just to pull it back quickly and subtly shake my head “no.” The owners of the booth definitely saw this... several times. How can one possibly make such a monumental decision such as this? Anyway, in the end I had to choose, so choose I did. Can you guess who I chose? I’m sure that some of the members here can guess it, if they think about things that I have said in the past.
And I know that I made the right choice. I... think? Which robot master would you have chosen? Tell me in the comments below!
My purchase made, it was time to leave the exhibit hall.
Lots and lots of gaming
My next stop was... well, maybe I’ll tell you about that one later. Here is a hint: Mr. Mustache would have loved it.
Cue George Takei: Oh myyyyyy.
Moving on. I suppose I must have eaten dinner, although I can’t quite recall when. At this point I met up with a friend / ex-coworker / ACen employee and a couple of his buddies. We decided to hit up the video game room, my friend seeming to be shocked that I had not yet visited it, me being who I am. What can I say, I was a busy bee!
The video game room was pretty awesome, complete with both arcade and console games. I suppose that a part of me was expecting to see the room full of a bunch of popular multiplayer games like Call of Duty and Super Smash Bros. And certainly that kind of stuff was present. But this kind of stuff was also there:
Pretty neat, huh?
However, this room was packed, and I didn’t really feel like standing in line to play stuff that I could just as easily play at home, not to mention I was with a group and not really making the decisions at this point, so we did not stay in the video game room for very long. I should note that there were tons of video gaming tournaments all weekend long, including tournaments for Super Smash Bros., Super Smash Bros. Melee, and Super Smash Bros. Brawl, but alas, I was busy being a fancy pants press guy and did not have the time to participate in any of them. I’m sure that I would have had my butt handed to me anyway. Probably by a grade school girl, which always seems to happen whenever I join public video game tournaments.
We next visited some tabletop gaming rooms:
In these rooms we did not stay very long. Not that they weren’t interesting, but no one in the group I was with had the time or desire to get into an involving tabletop game that late at night.
At some point the group broke up and it was just my friend and I again. My friend gave me a bit of a tour, we ran into some people that I know from the Internet, and then we decided to call it a night, and I started the long and lonely trip back to the south suburbs of Chicago.
On the trip home I ended up in a train car with what appeared to be some kind of formal wedding party, the men wearing suits and the women wearing dresses. I’m not going to say that there is anything wrong with this, of course, but it did create a stark contrast with the convention that I had just come from, where pretty much anything and everything that you want to wear (or, in some cases, not wear) goes. I won’t get all philosophical on you, but it definitely made me think a bit about what it means to have a space to truly feel free to express yourself without judgment. How many places in the world are there that are like this?
I got home safe, and pretty much went straight to bed. For a whole 4 hours of sleep.
Sunday - Dawn of my last day: 24 hours remaining
Sunday, which is the day that I am writing this. Except... really it was only about 3 hours remaining by the time that I got back to the convention.
This is the end
The first thing that I did upon arriving on Sunday was to visit the exhibit hall again. And I’m sure that you know exactly what that means. Yep, right back to the Mega Man robot masters table I went, because really, how could I not?
So go ahead, guess who I picked up this time?
You know, I don’t actually have too much else to say about day two yet, because the main thing that I did with the rest of my time was to take in two video game-centric panels called “Games as Art: 8-bit” and “Gaming in Hindsight: Retro-Relevance”, both of which I am going to write about in their own feature. I did run into another online friend of mine right as I was leaving the show, and we got to talking a bit. That was fun.
Also I saw this guy:
And then I was out of there. Sunday ended almost as quickly as it started, and I began my journey home, for good this time.
I suppose that I should not have been surprised, but riding on a southside bus an hour away from the convention I ran into a few people who had been there, and we got to talking a bit. I also informed them about Negative World, so if any of you are reading this right now, it takes less than a minute to sign up for an account here, and we’re all good people, so why not join up quick and say hello?
Well, there you have it, my ACen 2013 experience in a nutshell. It flew by so fast, and there was so much that I didn’t even get a chance to partake in (tons of neat sounding panels, live anime showings, music concerts, formal dancing, etc.) but I most definitely enjoyed myself and I would love to get the chance to go and cover the event again next year, and beyond. Keep your eyes peeled for more of my ACen 2013 coverage over the next few days, including a whole bunch of pictures of cosplayers decked out as some of your favorite Nintendo characters. I know you’re all going to love that one.
You can check out the rest of my ACen 2013 coverage right here! And if you're new to the site and it seems like a fun place, why not join us?
I had 2 people ask me what was going on in Rosemont this past weekend because they had seen several dressed up people walking around there and I had no idea. I wouldn't have been able to make it this year, but I think I'll definitely try for next year. This looks like something I'd really enjoy. I usually hit at least one of the comic conventions in the area, but skipped C2E2 this year. Haven't decided on Wizard World yet.
Quint *is* clearly inferior...to everything. Capcom really, really rushed Mega Man II out the door, and it shows in pretty much every facet of the game. And the game's exclusive Robot Master is no exception. Too bad really, the other Robot Masters are actually pretty awesome. Especially Ballade. That robot is just freakin' cool.
Oh...and the thing Quint is riding? It's called the Sakugarne.
It's a Pogo Stick kind of thing. Mega Man can bounce around on it and kill enemies with it, Super Mario Bros.-style. No kidding.
And for a special sort of hilarity, the official art work for the Sakugarne cracks ME up, LOL!
Maybe it's just me, but this...doesn't look consensual.