Anime Frontier 2022: Wrap; And Some Additional Thoughts

I was just looking on twitter randomly and noticed Holiday Matsuri. This is the annual event in Orlando, Florida, right before the end-of-year holidays. I can’t find easily the attendance numbers, but it’s held in a large resort hotel that maxes out at 10k in its largest meeting space, so it’s probably safe to say the con is not larger than 10000 per day in warm bodies. The guest list and content checks out for a mid-size con. There are several other cons in Florida of similar nature and varying sizes. None of them hit my radar because of the lack of both industry and Japanese guests. It’s not to say they never show up, just very rarely… Still, the programming at those events look really good and would be pretty great to attend, from a hangout point of view.

To the extend that there are quite a few anime-culture events that are destinations for the now-fit-for-travel Millennials, which is really the first generation who grew up with family-friendly (to the extent that you could be going before you were an adult) cons of this type, cons mixing with popular travel destinations are a thing. HolMat is on the doorsteps of Disney World, Anime NYC is in Manhattan, and Chara Expo was across from Disneyland are of any note for vacationers. There are the Colossal cons, which are basically resort cons. There are cons in Vegas. There are cons in Hawaii. And there’s always going to Japan for a couple weeks for Comiket or whatever event you fancy.

Which is also to say, “American anime cons” are its own thing. If you look at the programming available on HolMat’s site you can see it’s listed with about 13 or so events tracks, on top of various gaming, social, and the usual AA/Dealers setup. No JP guests, just a bunch of influencers, dub actors, cosplayers, DJs and the like. The content is highly tailored to indie or fan material.

On my way home from DFW, I can’t help but to think this is really what Anime Frontier should copy from to have a good jump in a year where they can’t pour in the outside help. This is what they sort of need to go in to a new place that has already established conventions around.

Anime Frontier 2022 was in Fort Worth Con center. It’s a nice and large space in downtown Fort Worth. It was also my first trip in that part of the country so I had a chance to walk around and take in the sights. If you can ignore the fact that DTFW is a giant parking lot for a good 1/4 of it, the experience was fine as the holiday vibe was on full. Given FLOW was the primary draw for me at the event and they’re gone by Saturday (I guess they were playing in Mexico City on Sunday after?), there was not much to do at the con either for the most part. The last guest they invited had to be cancelled on Sunday so I just switched my flights early to take off first thing in the morning.

I walked the dealers/AA room in full on Friday and canvassed it on Saturday. That’s probably a first in many years… Actually the quality of vending is just fine for this event, but the foot traffic and sales are low, given what I heard and seen. Gundam Base being there is a big boom but I wonder how well they sold. I was able to pick up a couple Gundam Aerial HG, which seems to be sold out in Japan but not elsewhere, or some such.

The panels at the con had a lot of industry content. What caught my eyes are the concert archive streams, but none of the show jumped out at me. The movie screenings were probably more pertinent, with Shin Ultraman on Sunday and Blue Thermal on Saturday. I passed on those and instead caught a showing of the Gotobun movie at the local theater about 8 minutes away from the con. I also went to Goldee’s, which is what I did at the other Dallas region con earlier this year. The BBQ game at these places are a full blown experience and worth every minute of it. Oh, I guess I did watch the USA Men’s National Team lose at the World Cup while having breakfast at the hotel.

Anime Frontier did have some fan-run panels, but it’s thin. There were 2 panel room tracks, that’s it. Maybe it’s a new con so few people had the ability to work it in their schedule, but this felt big time lacking. The con also basically shuts down by 10pm, and has no attached hotel presence like many other cons in these parts of the world.

There are a bunch of places in DTFW to eat, or you can cross over the highway to lounge out at spots at the south side, which is what I did on Saturday night. The places there are all legit but it’s very…what’s the word, a car kind of a city. It’s not the most pedestrian friendly. You can walk it, but it’s not a great walk. The food is good though.

As for the rest of AF, I think until they kind of gain momentum and bring the big guns to the South, I’ll probably just treat it like a “winging it” kind of an event like I did this time. Hotel and flight weren’t expensive, and probably can be had cheaper if I wasn’t winging it…

PS. I had a weird situation at this event when my hotel reservation were transferred to the wrong day in the system. I think it was using one of the event booking system. Thankfully everything worked out in the end and I confirmed it with the hotel directly.

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