Ai-Kon 2015 Post-Show!

My favourite event of the year has come to a close. Attendees met some of their favourite voice actors, were reunited with old friends once again, browsed the enlarged marketplace, binged on the wide array of anime the showing rooms had to offer, and were amazed by the artistic talents of the cosplayers roaming the halls.

That is, once they got through the impresive lineup of initial registration. The lineup was longest I’ve seen at the event – spanning the entirety of the convention centre’s main floor, wrapping around to the back exit.

Noh Face

Starting on Friday, we were disappointed to find out that they hadn’t taken the electronic pre-registration into account with initial entry on opening day. Fortunately, despite that, the line seemed to move fairly quickly. We had a few things to take care of, so we left and returned about an hour later. When we returned, even though there was a constant flow of people coming in, the line was less than half as long and continued moving fairly quickly. This was a pretty noticable improvement over last year, and it could be made even faster in the future by separating electronic pre-registration.

It was fast enough that we were still able to make the Opening Ceremonies. This was the first time we’ve managed to attend them, and I am very glad we did. The Opening Ceremonies were entertaining and informative… the highlight: Fubuki Daiko, a Japanese Drum group, provided an energetic and exciting start to the convention with their unique performance. It was good to see most of the guests and the new committee president. They also asked performers in the 404s improv troupe to lend their talents as MCs for the event – both the opening ceremonies and the cosplay contest. In the past the MC has been awkward, but having comedians on stage helped make it feel more natural.

Fubuki Daiko

Up next: The Marketplace and the special new hall, known as the Expo Hall. Now, when I say the Expo Hall, I refer to their new room – located across from the Marketplace – which allowed them to get groups and clubs into their own room and free up space for more artists in the Marketplace. It’s hard to say for sure, but I definitely feel that there was more room for smaller artists to get tables this year. There were many artists offering 1-2 types of products, especially plushies (there were a lot of plushes) but there seemed to be fewer people selling art prints. The variety was noticably better than in previous years, which was great to see. And with the ridiculous lineup to get into the marketplace on Saturday, I sincerely hope these new artists did well!

The biggest let down for me was a panel by our cosplay guest, VickyBunnyAngel, about cosplay culture and social media. First of all, the convention seemed to have no staff on hand to hel with technical issues which led to a ~20 minute delay in starting the panel. Fortunately, there was very little content, so it was still over before the scheduled end. But what really bothered me was the message, which was a combination of a very hipster ‘things were better back before other people started cosplaying’ and a warning to new cosplayers. What I took away from the panel was ‘if you’re looking to start cosplaying, beware for you will be judged in the harshest possible light and unless you have a unique niche you might as well not even bother’. If I were a new cosplayer attending that to learn something, I likely would’ve come away with a fear of continuing. This was really unfortunate because she was incredibly charismatic and she could’ve easily delivered a more positive message to a lot of eager listeners if she had been so inclined.

Phoenix Quinn

I had questioned whether they might have organization issues after Winterfest, but clearly my fears were not realized. The lines were well organized, the schedule was clean and easier to read than ever… overall, I was impressed by how well they had matters in hand this year. It was good to see that they were aware of what they did right in previous years, and didn’t try to fix things that weren’t broken. I’ve never been so pleased to be wrong.

The event seems to have grown a great deal since previous years, which is so deserved. They’ve done a great job learning from past mistakes and working to push their limits and each year they stretch it a bit further. There were so many amazing cosplayers everywhere, even more than previous years. It was simply fantastic to see.