Light and sweet, AnimeNext.
The move to Atlantic City is a good move, overall. The con center down there feels pretty new (probably underutilized) and spacious for a con this size. I’d say there is room to grow by a lot, but this is not going to be fun with 20,000 people in it. Thankfully this year I doubt we got anywhere close.
And as a New Jerseyan I dislike AC like how I dislike a dumpy tourist trap…on top of a cake made of slums and crime. The city’s best assets are the beach and the sights off the Boardwalk; and the nice eats in the area. The con takes advantage of almost none of the former and a bit of the latter. But along those lines, inside the nice con center sometimes you almost forget you are in AC, which is a good thing. The tourist-unfriendly environs aside, AC is also geographically annoying to get to, as it’s like an hour from a major airport, at best case. If you don’t fly Spirit or your own chartered plane, the close by ACY (Atlantic City “International” Airport) serves no one.
[“Spirit Airline” kind of sums up the craptastic feeling most people who know AC by personal association (not purely by reputation!) feels about the town, actually.]
For me, personally, losing a “backyard” con to gain a nearby a “destination” con is a big loss, but after talking to the out-of-towners who stayed AC for the weekend I think they all enjoyed it more than having the con back at the GSEC. At the ACC for the first time, it felt a lot like the Honolulu Con Center in terms of the architecture, just less glass. I think people on the whole enjoyed the facilities, and the open spaces that are not crowded. I still like a backyard con though, just because I travel for cons all the damn time and there is nothing to replace it. Maybe that fan fest thing? Not any time soon I guess.
I attended AnimeNext as a panelist, so there’ll be some panelist-specific gripe this time. Let me get that over with here. First off, they were kind of late on the communication at the con, didn’t hear anything until the day before the con in terms of all the panel details. Second, they didn’t populate the Guidebook app with my panel descriptions. Some panels had it, but not mine… Third there were some unfortunate technical issue mostly revolving around my MBP being too strict on the crappy HDMI cable they used… Nor did they have a dedicated tech guy (or any guy) in the panel room to oversee the situation, so it ate up some time until one of the staffers poked her head in to check. Other than that the con did ok for this panelist and the staff was helpful in general. There were some confusion on my part with the panel registration/refund process, but part of that is my fault for not looking into it clearly.
The panel itself went well. I got some feedback from a few friends who attended, and that was mainly I used too much jargons? It’s the kind of thing I wish I had a dry run first so I can get feedback from real people. The slides are up here. About 25 folks attended my panel and I think passing the 10th pamphlet around might have been the best move. I gave away my bottle of 10th water as a prize.
As for the con itself, I arrived at the con only on Saturday, seeing that I would miss nothing if I went on Friday. Gotta save those PTOs. The drive was uneventful if speedy. Parking cost $15 for the day, and I parked again at the hotel overnight for $12, and then again for $15. Walking to and from the hotel (Courtyard) was not a good idea. I chalk it up to the guy who arranged the hotel not knowing how much of a dump AC was, but that’s what cars and taxis are for. The same traveling logistics also impeded plans to eat around, since it cost to park anywhere, and it’s a nice walk to get anywhere good (ie., 15+ minutes minimum). As a result we went to Wingcraft a couple times.
I didn’t hit the dealer room in any meaningful way, really just dropped by to pick up CDs/bromides so I can do the photo session later. I also only attended two panels besides my own, which were the Trigger Inferno Cop panel and ZAQ’s focus panel. The latter was a lot of chatting between her and Yaz and the rest of us. I asked about Rebellion, and obviously my eventer friends there may have gave her the notion that this is a thing that is known. Well, I guess so…? ZAQ and Yaz also polled us for what’s new and hot, thus the Re:Zero nod.
ZAQ also pulled the Jersey Milk joke on us (ask me in person sometime). Also, Hoboken. She was punning a bit.
The Infernal Cop panel was a riot and I’ll skip detailing it here, but Amemiya comes across as a straight, honest, just guy. Also never expected to chant New Jersey ever.
The main salt point for me at this con was missing all the Kouno Megumi stuff. On paper, that makes AnimeNext 2016 a mission failure because it is actually my main reason for going to that con. In reality the salt wasn’t strong enough that makes me angry, just kind of mildly sad. The story behind it was largely because she was under the weather for Saturday so she skipped all those events, and that was also most of Trigger’s planned schedule events. She did show up on Sunday and I wasn’t mentally nimble enough to audible-change to her delayed panel appearance at the Luluco screening, as it overlapped with the ZAQ concert by some 30 minutes. Some folks however did make it out there, and they got rewarded. Kind of a salt-on-wound sort of thing.
I did end up missing seeing Kouno completely, let alone any tchotchke to go with, so that might not have been as bad than trying for her and missing out; I didn’t even get a chance to invest into that. I’m also not pressing at the con, so that means I missed any chance of seeing her with the Trigger guys at the press event. Realizing that was kind of a facepalm moment.
I did manage to see Hiroe Rei, Daichi Akitaro and Matsui Naoko. The latter looked like a shriveled asian woman (although she was cosplaying a ninja with full head garb) but I guess she’s older than my mom! Hiroi looked more or less the same as I’ve seen him last time. Daichi looks both older and younger than the last time I’ve seen him, so he’s probably enjoying his time more than his younger days? It was nice to briefly meet and talk to the old duo.
Highlight of the con, to me, was watching 10th with some Producers. Man I want to do that again. But that’s kind of the essence of a backyard con, where the hanging out can take front and center, and I can leverage local resources to come around that more. I wouldn’t mind if AnimeNext becomes a destination con from having good guests (and it does this year), but when that pull can double as a hangout draw it would be best, as it kind of was in the previous years. Now I have to do it in a hotel room and live with all the compromises that brings (let alone an Atlantic City hotel room). Will I deal? Yeah. But it’s an overall downgrade. Maybe the salty feeling will go away more as time passes but this AnimeNext definitely could have been better. Things like cramped crowding and line management isn’t going to stop me from seeing a guest if push comes to shove, assuming it’s the right guest. But making me unable to see the guests is a wholly separate issue, even if it is to no one’s fault.
PS. We did hit White House Subs, the branch inside the Taj Mahal. We saw a mouse! We also had some nice hoagies. This is the full AC experience, including the walk to the Boardwalk and then through the casinos to get to the food area.
PPS. Still salty? Yep. Let’s see how long this lasts.