AnimeUSA: Animated with a Side of Chaos
Not long ago, I had a chance to attend the event known as AnimeUSA. So I'm sure you asking is it worth a look? Well, have a look see below....
First though, here a quick rundown about the event as a whole:
AnimeUSA is an Anime Con previously held in VA that has since - 2012, to be exact - called the Marriott in Cleveland Park its home. While not as large in size as either Katsucon and Otakon (which are held in the area in February and August), it has a nice energy to it. The atmosphere is friendly and you don’t feel the intensity of cosplay competition that you see at larger Cons. This year, the Con organizers branched out and brought in 2 voice male actors (Jim Cummings and John Ratzenberger) for whom this was their first Anime Con. Additionlly, the Con had a nice mix of vendors and artists and a healthy Board game and arcade selection. While the organization was at times a little chaotic, this would be the ideal Con for someone to dip their toes into Anime or Manga.
Some of the things done well:
Location: The Woodley Park Marriott is ideally located right on top of the Woodley Park metro. On the weekend, there is neighborhood parking (if you are willing to drive 3 blocks up from the hotel). Also, close to the hotel on Wisconsin Avenue, there is a hub of restaurants. Aside from of these great features, the hotel is perfectly suited space-wise to accommodate the Con.
Strategic Use of Signs. Social media has an addictive quality to it that effects even how we walk. In a nod to shifting generational demographics and this focus on devices, AnimeCon has begun placing signs on the floor of the Con near main entrances. To be sure, signs were still placed at the front of each room, but signs on the floor really help move foot traffic - because people are looking up less and less as they are fixed on their phones.
Space in the Program Book to Sign. Some Cons like ShoreLeave will offer the option of having your program book signed; however, this often results in signatures across faces or written text. AnimeUSA takes care to layout their program book so that there is an actual space at the bottom of each guests page for signing. They also organize official signing times for different guests who are just signing the program book.
Manga Library. There are times at a Con when things can get to be a little too much and you just want some chill time. This is done sometimes by just going to your room. But what do you do if you don’t have a hotel room to retreat to? Well, AnimeUsa has a very well stocked Manga Library, to accommodate this matter. If you need some chill time you can retreat to the Manga Library - where you can indulge in your favorite Manga and recharge for the day ahead.
Some things to improve:
Location. It was both a strength and a weakness. The hotel (with its dual lobbies) is so large it dwarfs the attendance. It was only on Saturday night, when the dealer room closed, that you realized that there were actually a lot of people there. A Con that looks sparsely attended is not great optics look for a Con. Therefore, I feel that the Marriott in White Flint could act as a better fit in terms of the same hotel and conference room space needed to meet the needs of the Con.
No Single Signing Location. AnimeCon had signings going on in two separate areas of the hotel which can be a big ask for attendees who having walking around all day.
Time Management of Talks. I believe the Con could benefit from some buffer time between when a talk ends and a when new talk starts in the same room. The reason I say this is because I was at a panel where the it went long and people were already forming in the back of the room to get a seat for the next talk. The guest speaker was moved outside with the promise he/she would continue talking to people outside. As this person walked by me I heard them ask one of the people with her: “Is it always this disorganized?” The panels need both someone to enforce time limits and more buffer times to have people move in and out of the room to help avoid moments of chaos.
Cosplay Contest. The Cosplay Contest had a talent contest portion that was very unequal in terms of talent. As a result, I hate to admit that it was a bit of a snoozer. The hosts also seemed more engaged with themselves than the audience or the Cosplayers. Therefore I feel that the cosplay competition - should they do it again - needs a makeover in every aspect.
Overall, AnimeUSA was animated, even if the size of the hotel itself seemed to artificially dwarf the attendance. It is not Katsucon nor Otakon and the people there don’t try to be. They are their own Con which people should try out first to see if they enjoy Anime and Manga. I give it a B.