Anime North 2016: Salt

Will do a warp when I’m more caught up on more important things. I just want to address some of the salt I’m hearing from other producers who went to the show.

Most of it stems from a new system that ANorth implemented this year which gave out tickets for people who wanted autographs. They also gave out tickets to people who wanted a photo with the two voice actresses, Shimoda Asami and Hasegawa Akiko, but that line was largely inconsequential. I guess people want autographs. I wanted pictures, so I got pictures all three days despite not having a ticket one of the times. I also wanted autographs because, well, it’s a chance to meet the guests.

The line up and ticket dispensing experience, shall we say, leaves much to be desired. I think overall this was a step up from prior years where everyone just line up at the autograph area for hours on end, and in exchange you skip the con and such. Now that I said overall, which means in some ways this is inferior (namely the loss of sleep it results in) and this is purely speaking on my own behalf so I can’t say that works for everyone.

The big gain of doing a ticket at the opening of con each day is that you can do all kinds of stuff at the con other than waiting in line until the autograph session. And in either scenario you’ll be waiting in line anyway. In Anime North’s case, however, this means people in line early for the tickets are actually people in line early for the dealer’s room, since that’s where the ticket giveaway was. This complicated the line control for people getting tickets–the stampede, the runaround, the hurt feelings (because you waited earlier than everyone but they just ran around you), and the whole nine yards. Well, it’s more like 30 yards between the booth and the entrance.

The danger of that aside (and it’s important to stress this as a major problem, but I won’t belabor it), the thing is, and it adds to the subsequent salt, all of the problem with that “last mile” of the process can be easily fixed with just a couple changes. Having a lead walker is one. Having the ticket dispensing done outside of the con (there were just 1 con safety guy and 2 staffers giving away tickets–I think the booth girls are actually Berry’s maid friends) is another. Having a single entrance (instead of a 4-wide march into the dealer’s room) is another.

To add more salt to injury, some people tried to engage the ANorth safety/line control staff to tell them that their plan is going to have some issues. Unfortunately this is the kind of thing where some experience dealing with this situation can go a long way, and I’m not sure if that was available. Anyway, the situation was one where there isn’t a lot ANorth line control could do; there’s clearly some gaps between the idea of one group (GR) and another department (public safety). They can’t hold up the line for the dealer’s room, they can’t have people give out tickets ahead of time outside, and they can’t have a walker (nor will it be all that effective). This perceived indifference from the con staff was a twist of the knife.

You know what? This ain't salt water.

But, so what? I think by giving out tickets it merely materializes the reality of trying to get an autograph from a popular guest. There are many of us and only about 40 signs from Hasegawa each day. I am already very happy that I can try/get an autograph all three days and still attend their panels and photo sessions. In an average anime con this would not be even half as good. Now you know how terrible it is in terms of a concrete number: About 40.

There were other execution issues. For example, the autograph tickets allow for 2 signs (which should be changed, IMO, for Hasegawa, once they realized her sign speed is slow), but they didn’t collect the tickets. This means if you had a buddy who was in the other line (one ticket per person), you can both get a Hasegawa turn and a Shimoda turn. It would have taken almost no effort to collect the ticket upon autographing and preventing probably a handful of people looping the line and possibly screwing standby people.

This is where we enter the “security ‘theater'” aspect of the game. One thing great about Otakon is its very open-facing forums where staffs and fans converse about exactly these kind of issues. I’m really glad there are department heads at that con, in past years, who would explain to us why our ideas may not work, or why their ideas would when it doesn’t seem so obvious to me. Or even take some feedback from us and improve the problem areas. And even that is just a perception; actual execution is what matters and nobody is doing a performance review, per se, of how well things worked out year after year. Anime North, per my estimation since the very first one I attended in 2004, was not really that good of a con as far as the people running it goes. It wasn’t bad; they had a good GR and security group, but the rest I really don’t know enough to say. But the whole thing was definitely a big ball of all kinds of stuff, and you can see the tension of a convention that is more about the cosplay/hangout and a con that is somewhat serious about its guests. And its guest list always rotate the same kind of people, the same dub artists and nerd/weeb entertainment acts (wrestling is p. interesting). Pepper in there a few seiyuu and VK/cosplay guests and you have an ANorth.

And this is where I think the salt has to stop. If ANorth didn’t “care” about hardcore otaku producers it would not have had repeated IM@S guests. It would also not have a change into tickets. That’s part of the implementation flaw with doing something drastically different the first time. And it’s up to line control/public safety to do a good job with it, which they clearly did not.

A large con like Anime North is run by hundred/thousands of people, and it doesn’t matter if they are volunteers or paid, if they are not held accountable. So in this case, the fans ought to hold them accountable for problems that was within their area of influence to do something to fix. Fans themselves should also try to be more level headed, because this salt is just a figure of speech and it ain’t gonna cure meat, let alone anything else. It’s important to be reasonable and constructive in the criticism. It’s important to understand the human limitations of ANorth and its staff and volunteers.

Personally, though, I just didn’t think it was a huge deal. Maybe it’s because I got lucky and scored a ticket (about total of 80-90 were given away each day) all three days. Maybe because I’ve had worse and know that the alternatives to this system are often worse, personally. Maybe I cut ANorth some slack because they are doing a new system for the first time. Maybe because I’m old and mellow? I’m not even bothered that I bought 35CAD worth of food for the line on Friday and got $0 back in donations, but that’s probably because it was CAD and CAD is like worthless right now versus USD LOL. Maybe it’s just perspective. Which is why I think this is more about theater than actually fairly distributing tickets. It’s more about getting fan feedback and understanding what they want, which in this case, just a normal line all by itself without the need to stampede. I don’t know what is within ANorth’s power and what isn’t, so from a constructive criticism point of view this is all I can do. But the saltiness needs some bounds. I understand it’s an emotional thing and I feel the salt is necessary to a degree, if just as a coping mechanism, but don’t let that cloud rational judgment.

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