Oh boy, did Acen blow it up this year with guests. As a typical weekend American anime con, 72 hours did not seem long enough. There were too many things I wanted to see and do. Unavoidably I had to pick and choose, and cut my losses.
For one I did not land until Friday. I had barely any sleep. And Friday was loaded. The weekend would unfurl more sanely, given I stayed at a hotel about a 10-minute uber ride away, that made late partying difficult but sleeping in pretty attractive. Not like I really did that anyways.
As a result of that I did not see any m-flo at all this weeked. The DJ-rapper unit even had an autograph session. I did not do this at all and I feel kind of bad about this in hindsight.
But I felt pretty good about the rest of the con, almost. Seeing Ayappe in person, in this environment, was a lot of fun. I did enjoy a lot about her panels. I enjoyed a lot about her autograph session. I even got a photo op at the end of her last one. I didn’t enjoy so much having to ditch part of one (to get autograph tickets) and part of the other (to get autographs). Thus the almost.
At some point, having so much power guests in this chronologically cramped con is going to blow up that almost into something worse and much bigger. Part of what ails is, some of the lining up and management just is too time consuming, and some of it is inconsistent. Let me try to briefly explain.
In prior years (like 2018) Acen autographs are ticketed, and the tickets are given out twice a day. Morning autographs (1:30p or earlier) are given out the night before (6:30p), and later-PM/evening autographs are given out the morning the day of (11a). The autograph ticketing actually overlapped with the Friday night concert, and some of the ticketing overlapped with the guests own panels. This was kind of hastily fixed by the con a bit last-minute.
The worse thing was the enforcement of ticket-use. There were a lot of tickets given out but somehow people who had tickets still had to camp, because too many tickets were given out for Fri and Sat. This was kind of fixed on Sun, so people who had tickets generally got it. But the over-ticketing was a pain point and a point of confusion. Also, it was retarded that they did not match the number of tickets given out to people allowed to queue. In essence, there was a queue at the autograph area by each autograph table, but for each session there was 1) a standby queue and 2) a standby ticketed queue. This is just really poor planning. Good thing Acen this year got more space in the entertainment hall so Autographing had plenty of space for these extra queues.
The worst thing is how these factors made sure that we had to skip a lot of things to try for autographs. I skipped half of the concert to line up for Maisan’s autograph Friday, although I could have gotten it later just due to how the lines and ticketing shaked out later–not that anyone could really have known ahead of time.
Oh the autograph ticket pickup times were also terrible, plus there was still the Big Squeeze with people trying to line up 30 minutes before.
I think those were not all too bad, especially each issue on its own, but in conjunction that all made this con a bit of a waste time-wise. I could have done a lot more if I just gave up some of it. Actually all Acen had to fix were two things:
- Distribute tickets earlier in the day and once a day only
- Distribute the right number of autograph tickets
- (and maybe let more people line up at first, this “not pressuring the guest” thing is fine but you could have added more in line anyway)
What is the point of ticket distribution if you have to camp both that and the autograph session! Com’on man.
It is kind of telling that 3 weeks after the con, this is still my most memorable thing from Acen. I guess that is also because I do a lot of cons, and this is the important information people want to know for 2020.
What I really want to say to folks about Acen for their first trip to Acen is that Acen, despite being a huge con, is a laid back con where you can chill and still get your avocado toast in. I think this con still is chill at heart, but the overloading of great guests and events made that not so much this year. You can tell how the con tried to deal with it, and it’s not gonna work as a growing pain kind of a thing. But why even go there when we didn’t have to… Well, it probably is great if you didn’t try as hard as I did.
The anisong artist side of Acen was a lot of fun. I finally got my Asaka observation in. I didn’t go to her autograph session (see above gripe) but it was a lot of fun at her panel. It was probably the most fun at an anisong artist panel I’ve had in a long time, although a lot of that had to do with both the crowd and the way she approaches the panel. That she spoke English fluently probably played a role but she used interpretation most of the time, so I am not sure if it really matters. I also got her set but I already saw her live previously so it is not a big revelation or anything.
The binge expat buying thing though…
ZAQ is TENSAI. I love her as usual and I told her I went to ZAQ no Hi vol 1 and 3 and showed her a lame photo from AC. OK job’s done.
Oh, yeah, somehow the Lantis guests were a bundle while Asaka is on her own, despite performing together at the concert and what not. Record labels are gonna Record Label. At the Lantis panel (which I also had to skip partly thanks to autographing), it was also kind of stiff given the 3 people there. TRUE was kind of on her own wavelength and ZAQ had to be the comedic relief huh. Sasaki Sayaka can hold her own though.
Karasawa Miho is always great to see at a con. She wrote some great songs for Million and I have had her sign those. This time it was NO CURRY NO LIFE…but somehow I forgot to bring Sweet Sweet Soul for ZAQ though. Not like I can run out of ZAQ things to get signed. Feels bad missing a TRUE’s chunk of the Friday concert for autograph reasons.
Of the seiyuu guests at the con, we have the whole range. Three I’m Enterprise guests (Maisan, Ayappe, Miporin) plus Natsu-nee, Kiyonon and Hina. That is crazy for an anime con sort of a treatment. Naturally I could only go to some of their content, even if I wanted to go to all of their content…welp.
Let’s start with the stealth one.
The seiyuu for the slime from Tensura, Okasaki Miho, was at Acen. She was part of the Tensura group that included also the director and production team leads. Naturally I couldn’t even make it to the Tensura panel (probably because I was busy watching John Wick 3). Somehow I was able to get an autograph with the team though! The team was welcoming and I hoped us Americans gave them a welcome worthy the popularity of the series.
I didn’t even really get to see Sato Hinata. She is a cutie, but I also have seen plenty of her already I think… Supposedly she ran her panel without interpretation which is the odd twist when Asaka had to. Kind of surprising, but also not, given Asaka’s English is actually not that good (in terms of vocabulary) and Hina probably had to study it a lot.
Like Yasuno Kiyono, Hina was only there on Sunday, thanks to the heroic effort of Bushiroad and somehow Kinema Citrus coming to the con and doing some promo for Revue Starlight. This also meant people doing the Hina circuit had to buppan for a ticket on Friday for her Sunday signkai. Did not have time to deal with that at all…
Since I missed out Yasukichi North last year, this was redemption for me. I was able to go to most of her panel and her autograph session without any issue. She is kind of…exactly what I expected from seeing her at other live streams and events. It’s a nice kind of good…but also really plain, but in a remarkable kind of way. Like there’s this simple approach she takes to the questions that works for me. Hard to put into words.
I guess at her Q&A there was some talk of booze, which we know she’s into it (see: Kayano Ai’s booze web show). I guess she recs sake, which makes a lot of sense.
Of all the seiyuu at this con, Maisan stands head and shoulder in my opinion above all. She is definitely the most veteran but also literally the face of a voice acting school, plus being a definitive voice and actress for a few big time properties. You can see why I tried for her first.
It was kind of intimidating to go to her panel and stand like 3 feet away to ask her questions face to face LOL. I don’t know what to say other than she is every bit as advertised, in the best way. She also took a different approach to dealing with the challenge of “American Anime Con Panel” and it was a bit of a…not quite show-and-tell but also kind of a teacher-student dynamic. It was good contrast for Todakun’s panel in Canada the week after…
One of the joke we cracked while camping her autograph line was how everything she signed at the con was Mai-Hime, Clannad, or Higurashi. Somehow this is expected.
Ah well, I wish I could have gone to both of her panels. Nakahara Mai was the biggest seiyuu at the con for me, but my biggest draw seiyuu-wise at Acen was actually Takamori Natsumi.
It was a lot of fun watching Natsunee do her thing. She has her own approach to her first panel (like Ayappe) and it was nice to see the contrast between her and each of the other seiyuu panelists doing their first crack (or in Maisan’s case, as a veteran). She comes across as a sincere and enjoyable person, despite obviously being more my kind of a nerd. I also kind of see why she doesn’t do a lot of this kind of thing, which isn’t to say she is not as personable as the other actors or actresses, but there’s definitely a mode that turns “on” her energy and it’s hard to breach that through the language and jetlag.
As for the other guests, there was Kinema Citrus (Revue, Shield Hero), there was team Tensura. There was a big FGO thing in the dealers. There was Cygames (partnering with Animate USA in dealer) so I bought some Pricone things, okay? Gotta rep where it matters. Lumica played a set. I watched @TheBigN spin while the Gudako mascot was making her tour, and she reacted to the music. Glad I was able to see that at least. There were some surprise guests at Lumica too but lol like I had the time.
Who else was at Acen and what else was interesting at Acen? A lot of eventer types I know flew out to the con. Being in the middle of the continent helped. Having direct flights to all kinds of other airports helped, and the con is literally by the airport.
Thankfully Chicago is a proper American city with full-blown Americana to enjoy. Even as tourists from other parts of the USA there is plenty to do, to see, and to eat. The con being at around the airport was a negative for nice eats because there isn’t a lot right around there, but, hey, we are modern people living in the 21st century.
PS. Food-wise, Chicago this year was a lot of deep dish. I had some from the dealer’s room vendor. It was too expensive but it was filling when I needed it. I got delivery and 10 of us ate about 4 pies with almost 1 left by the end of the night. It wasn’t even that expensive. Gino’s East delivers to Rosemont! This is what happens when you’ve had enough Giordano’s.
As for the pie, the crust has this hard-to-describe texture. It’s not good exactly, but it is not bad and helps cut the rich pie interior. The interiors were all great, and better than the Giordano’s in Rosemont.
We ended the weekend with a steak binge at Gibson’s again, Sunday afternoon. The first timers had to try it I think. See last year for photos. And no, I didn’t find that ice cream vendor this year…