Anime Central 2024: Wrap

Acen 2024 came and went. It was a lot of fun and I’m home now enjoying that post-con glow. Just want to jot down all the key take-aways before I have to deal with the dozens of to-dos for next week’s con trip to Animazement.

For one, a big 30,000-ft view topic is that we are so back. I will need to bring back the blog post sticky of my events for 2024. Granted I still did a lot in 2023 that probably warranted it, but I am enjoying cons with other friends who also go to cons now that it just feels more right than last year to do it. I went to Acen 2022, 2023 and 2024 since the pandemic and it’s a good slice of what happened for the US con scene for each of those years.

Second, of course, it’s HiroMaya. Hiromi Hirata plays Makoto and I have been a MakotoP for ages now. That said, in a way I think it doesn’t excite me as much as seeing Mayako Nigo because to me Nigo is one of the cast members that makes 765Pro Allstars special, especially when you compare it with other similar groups. Either way, the two young moms felt quite at home on their new-ish radio show (about a year old now?) and they brought some of that healing atmosphere to Acen. The discussion and the manzai-but-not chemistry between the two is just wonderfully charming to me. Various Ps got their long-wish goods signed and dreams came true. I brought a life-size cardboard cutout of Makoto, and with the major help of friends able to bring it to Chicago and got one signed. I saw 2 other POPs there as well which is great. (BTW, Q&A panel notes here.)

Knowing a bunch of other Ps in the US meant I also saw a lot of them at Acen, which is always a good time to catch up since I haven’t seen many in a long time. It’s also fun to see those people see each after, after so long. We were able to do a big group dinner at Fogo de Chao (mainly because they can host large groups easily), and that was a blast (of meat eating). Three JP Ps also came to visit and it was their first time at a churrasco steakhouse. They are fellow P-friends from abroad that I’ve met several times already and they got the local greeting (even if most of us weren’t from the area).

Acen’s other seiyuu guests are also impressive. Tomo Sakurai is kind of rebooting her seiyuu-idol career after being invited to the con. She’s even doing some other event later this week? It’s nice to finally meet this showa-era seiyuu idol who voiced most notably, Mylene of Macross 7. I went to one of her panels and she did a karaoke performance to Friends. That was a surprise. (As an aside, Dan, who was interpreting for Tomo, also ran a booth at the artist alley which I failed to drop by because I only found out later.) I got my Shayla-Shayla fix when she signed my El-Hazard DVDs.

The most impressive seiyuu on the list was Sora Tokui, who hopefully helped all of us get the “nico nico nii” thing out of the collective attendee’s systems. The love for her was bountiful, from flower stands (the Midwestern Liver/idol group folks knew better so everyone got a stand, leaving no seiyuu behind) to a big banner. The people were out in force here. Meltdowns and other stuff that comes with the territory, stories about getting into and out of the scene thanks to the OG Love Live school idol herself.

Which leads to the last but hardly the least seiyuu guest, Sally Amaki. This present-day idol seiyuu’s story is well-rehearsed via her popular Trash Taste interview, but Sally is more than the sum of her parts. Or the number of RTs for her various tweets. It’s just like the other dreams-come-true stories in a way, but this time our 21st century Japanese idol in her prime is also a socal shitlord turned josei seiyuu, which is a word spaghetti that means also more than the sum of their collective meanings.

I got lucky and was able to attend her “autograph session” substitute given that she doesn’t do that kind of event anymore, but the meet & greet event was just so, so good. I hope other anime cons in America can replicate this whole thing Acen has made with SME and 22/7’s management to make Sally available, because she is the bringer of a busload of hilarious idol fun.

In some ways the four seiyuu guests at Acen this year paints sort of a past-present-future look at how things are in the seiyuu idol side of the biz. That sums up how powerful the draw this year was for me personally.

The nuts and bolts of the con this year are pretty similar to the past few years, although we are ever inching closer to 2019 Acen again. What’s different is Win Morisaki, who is mostly a Toku music guest, and Lotus Juice, who’s here to suffer the Knicks getting knocked off of the playoffs. It’s a bit too bad that I barely got any time to watch their stuff due to event conflicts, but these bros don’t bring down the house by themselves. Acen needed to give them a bit more help, for no fault of their own.

Industry/production side, the one that caught my eyes the most was PILI, or the Taiwanese production group that made the Thunderbolt Fantasy puppet show. Some of their puppeteers came, and they messed around with the doll with the fans. I couldn’t find time to see the Colorido guests doing their premiere or the Kinema Citrus guests, but I did pick up the Colorido shirt from their new Netflix movie.

I couldn’t get any tasting for the Saburomaru whisky tasting because Acen booth’s lines were super long and they couldn’t process transactions fast enough, so I came back when everything was sold out to pick up the shirt and the Sally cheki thing. On that note, the biggest public enemy at Acen this year had to be the security theater. It was not very well organized and during peak morning hours people had to wait quite a while, up over 30 minutes? There were 6-7 scanners at the main con entrance and one at the hotel overpass. I’m not sure if there’s one also over the Embassy Suites side though. Anyways, for the most part it wasn’t an issue for me, but I did hear some problems over internet chatter and others I talked to, while most didn’t have much of an issue.

The autograph situation was somewhat better for me this year than the last, and some people really got it figured out. Turns out to get all the sessions you wanted you will need to create new accounts as sessions conflicted with each other. On the flip side it sucked if you didn’t get any, and some folks I know basically struck out. The system is merciless and not well-documented beyond this tweet, I think. One of the JP Ps was able to get FOUR sessions across all 3 days right away and none of the Sally oshis who flew here got hers. It’s rough. Our GR dude Sujay even translated the procedure into Japanese with pics for the 22/7 fanbase…I wish the non-Japanese even got that lol. I mean, I suppose it only tells you to install Guidebook and sign up for an account, which gets you just half way there.

The setup from last year mostly translated to this year, with most folks hanging out by the back tables at the street level of the Hyatt and the lineup going around it. It was chill and a good time to trade P cards? It was old timers reunion and good time to meet new people.

I personally was able to get both Hiromaya sessions (they were together) after coming off the waitlist, a Tomo Sakurai session, a PILI session, and one with Soramaru on Sunday. All of this is punctuated by that aforementioned lucky Sally M&G pickup. Man that was a great session. Normally this level of programming is reserved for the rare “VIP” panels that you pay $$$ for, but because Sally can’t do the normal signkai stuff, she gets to hang out with 60 of us for about an hour and a half as a compromise. It was so wonderful and it was as if her dreams are coming true and we’re all in it, and I guess we were?

One more thing to add: fan projects. It seems the con is finally set up for flower stands, so if you want to make Acen smell better, that’s one way…I jest. Hopefully we will get some kind of written method to hook those up. This year everyone got flowerstands as mentioned. Soramaru also got a banner and some other stuff. I made two business card binders with message boards from people in line as usual.

I’ll end with this. If you want to see your favorite imas or LL seiyuu (or Sally) come back, request it in the feedback form.

PS. Fooding at Chicago was so good this time, but also in general. I stayed for almost a week on this trip so I got some decent options, basically ate pizza everyday but Sunday and Monday (when I landed at 10pm). Pizza (deep, normal and tavern style), italian beef, the Chicago dog, cake shake, and others were consumed. One night I was theorygaming Vancouver vs Edmonton with friends at “the” Uno Pizzaria bar and that was an one of a kind experience. One of the JP Ps also brought me a visiting gift, his favorite butter “sando” from Hokkaido, and it was heavenly too. At the con I ate out with friends and hit up Gibson’s and the aforementioned Fogo also, which both hit the spot after long, long days at the con.

PPS. I didn’t forget Kawaiikon! But Raleigh awaits…

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