Last weekend was ACEN
, which I've been going for nine years at this point, though admittedly not consistently. My interests have changed at this point so that I'm not really all that into anime anymore and barely know what's coming out and what's popular, but ACEN is still a great place to catch up with friends that are scattered around the country (or just out of our non-car-owning transit radius) but meet up for a weekend. Several of the people I saw actually didn't even buy con badges, they just came for the company. Honestly I might be getting to that point myself based on the panel content, but I like wandering around the dealer's room too much to just give up on officially attending. The selection is often more interesting than you can find online, probably because there's a lack of IP lawyers standing around like hawks.
And now, the daily breakdown.Friday
I took only a half-day off from work, because I didn't think that there would be much I wanted to see in the morning and because the AMA started it's summer half-day program on the day ACEN started, fortunately. I expected that schoolpsychnerd
and I would arrive at about the same time, but literally as she was walking out the door a student came in who needed immediate attention and she ended up staying much longer than she intended and not arriving at the hotel until around 5:45. Since I had assumed she would be coming around the same time as I did and because I didn't want to haul a lunchbag to and from the con and because I'm really cheap, I didn't have lunch with me and so I ended up mostly just lounging around the room Friday afternoon. I did wander down to the dealer's room and over to redpikachu
's booth (Natural Pop
! Made with love) to buy another cute stuffed animal. Last time it was a frog, and this time it was a corgi
, and when schoolpsychnerd
finally arrived I gave it to her, and, well:
We both ate a ton of food, because schoolpsychnerd
hadn't gotten to eat lunch either with all the chaos at her school so we stuffed ourselves on apples, bananas, Syrian cheese, olives, almonds, homemade beef jerky, and dark chocolate. Then we went and met fiendishfanfares
's husband, who had kindly offered to let us borrow his work laptop to give our panel on Saturday, for info about which see the Saturday section. Then we went back to our room again, powered up the laptop and transferred the presentation over, and ran through it once to make sure that we would be able to pull it off. Having done that successfully and confidently, we headed down to the AMV room.
Watching the AMV contest entries is somewhat of a tradition for schoolpsychnerd
and I, though it was most prevalent in 2005-2008, when we were attending multiple cons per year and could see AMVs riffing off of AMVs we had seen at previous cons (like this Azumanga Daioh AMV
, made as a parody of this Evangelion AMV
which aired six months previous). In 2012 ACEN didn't have any AMV Contest because of some leadership kerfuffle, and since we didn't attend in 2013, and since we hadn't gone from 2009-2011 at all due to the whole living in Japan thing, so I was curious what had become of it and...well, there was barely anything to it. I remember at Otakon
they'd have the AMV Contest entry viewings in one of the auditoriums, but this year at ACEN it was in one of the small video rooms and there were never more than a couple dozen people in there at a time. We didn't even get a sheet with the AMVs listed to vote on them like I remember previously. I was glad I managed to identify a VNV Nation just by the style (it was Control
, set to a racing anime called Redline
), but otherwise the contest was kind of sad, and we only stayed for a bit because a friend had invited us to go to Anime Hell.
We headed over to the place where Anime Hell was supposed to play, but they weren't letting anyone stand in line yet, so we headed up to our room for a bit to wait for the signal. When we got a text, we immediately took the stairs down and walked over to the ballroom, followed the enormous line that had somehow sprung up in the last 15 minutes, and at the very moment that we reached the end of the line, staff announced that the line was closed. While standing off to the side and trying to decide what to do, we ran into stephen_poon
and some other people we knew, and after a brief chat, schoolpsychnerd
, and I headed over to the Hyatt's lobby bar for a drink and a chat. We were there for maybe five minutes before they called last call, so after some conversation we headed over to Red Bar for a while.
After a lovely conversation about stephen_poon
's trip to Spain, and about Japan with another friend who had come to visit us in 2011, and then schoolpsychnerd
said our farewells and headed off to Let's Play Oregon Trail, which we'd been to previously and had a lot of fun watching. It was about an hour in, and while the players this year had done better than last time (where the panicked players had forgotten to buy any weapons and were only able to hunt because the organizers took pity on them and let them buy a pistol), they still kept trying to hunt fast-moving birds with shotguns and not having much luck. After basically everyone starved to death within 30 miles of Independence, Missouri
due to chronic incompetence, we succumbed to our tiredness, went back to the room, and slept.Saturday
We were planning to go to a panel on Chicago's Anime Scene, but we thought that it would be best if we didn't set an alarm, and we woke up just a bit too late to go, so instead we went down to the dealer's room again since schoolpsychnerd
had arrived too late on Friday to go before it closed. I had seen that Do Bats Eat Cats
had a space in the Artists' Alley, and after seeing their jewelry at a store near us, and now that Japan paid us
and we have money, schoolpsychnerd
wanted some new earrings.
After getting those, we looked around for a booth selling Japanese tableware to replace the ones we had that have broken over the year, but couldn't find anything. I had figured that somewhere would have chopsticks, or tea cups, or something
, but no. The most we found some was kitschy anime mugs. I know we'll be able to get them at the Ginza Festival
in August, but it would have been nice to do it now.
Then it was time for our presentation: "Seifuku and Bunkasai: Japanese Education in Anime," which was about the differences in our experience of the Japanese education system vs. how we've seen it portrayed in anime. You can download our slides here
if you didn't or couldn't attend, and we have plenty of stories to tell if you want. It's always hard to judge these things, but I think it went well. A few people came up and thanked us afterward, including a guy who had just been shortlisted for JET and was leaving in July, who hadn't been sure he would learn anything in the panel and actually learned a lot, and a woman who asked us about Keion. Also, not many people left during the panel, which is a good sign.
After a break back to our room for lunch (more homemade beef jerky, apples, olives, nuts, and cheese), we went back down to the AMV room and parked in there while waiting on word from one of our friends, and then when we got a text and he was in the General Gaming room, we headed over there and played Once Upon a Time
, about which you can read a review I wrote here
. A few games of that finished, we went back to the dealer's room again because I wanted an 8-bit Legend of Zelda heart keychain, but while we couldn't find one of those, we found this set of magnets:
On the way back from the dealer's room to the Hyatt, we ran into fiendishfanfares
and her family, and while we had missed her daughter's cosplay, we did get to see video of her doing a kamehameha as only a toddler can. Then it was back to the AMV room to catch the re-airing of the contest videos, and while this time the freestyle videos were playing instead of the drama ones, we didn't stay that long because we hadn't eaten lunch in favor of a very large brunch, and they hadn't even handed out a voting card for the AMVs.
Dinner was at the Hyatt's restaurant
, which intially looked incredibly expensive for average food, except it turned out that they had a "teriyaki buffet" for $22 that, well:
I was pleasant surprised, considering how much of a hipster foodie snob I am. They also had a dessert bar with cheesecake, which is an excellent way to my heart.
After another brief rest in the room, we headed out to a succession of room parties that lasted the rest of the night, though with one nice interruption. A friend I met in elementary school and have talked to sporadically in the years since then messaged me to let me know that he'd be in Red Bar meeting with some people he knew, and having picked up that I was at ACEN based on my Facebook posts, he asked if we wanted to meet up for a drink.
And we did, and despite all the comments I make about being aloof and having trouble with small talk and blah blah blah, we had no trouble keeping a conversation going despite not really talking in depth since middle school. He also sold us on Wizard World
, and while I'm not sure we're going to make it this year due to its proximity, though we might go for the day on Saturday, but we'll certainly try to get there in the future. I've been leery of going to comic conventions, just because I know so little about comics--I had to ask schoolpsychnerd
who the Avengers were--but since so much of ACEN was us talking to friends, Wizard World or the various other cons in Chicago could easily be the same thing. And maybe I'd learn something and no longer be a comic Fake Geek Guy.
After a nice conversation and a following succession of room parties and meeting with friends, we elected to skip the rave and the various events happening late at night and went to bed at 12:30.Sunday
We woke up late and missed the panels we wanted to go to again, including one called "ACEN over 30," which I suspect was placed at 9:15 a.m. because all of us old-timers can't stay up raving until 5 a.m. like the kiddies can. But we slept past it, and after cleaning our room and checking out, we headed down to the dealer's room for one last look around and I managed to find an 8-bit heart keychain. Then we went back to the AMV room, found it was closed, and with nothing further to do and feeling pretty tired, we headed out to the Blue Line and went home.
I'm not sure I'm really the audience for ACEN anymore. I think in the last year we've watched...maybe a dozen episodes of anime, and quite possibly less, because I don't remember when we finished Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex
. It's not that I dislike it or anything, it's just that there's so many things competing for my attention that it tends to fall into a lower tier. I didn't even attend any panels this year other than the one that schoolpsychnerd
and I presented.
Despite that, I'm probably going to still keep coming, because it's a great excuse to see people and catch up. Even if I'm not happily going to the various panels and dancing for hours, there's enough there to keep me interested. Maybe we'll even do more panels. I don't care about all the fan panels that take up a big chunk of the schedule, but living in Japan for years does give us a perspective that I suspect a lot of the attendees for ACEN wish they had.
Oh, and cosplay I liked:
Probably the most accurate Sephiroth I've ever seen. Ah, those early Playstation graphics.
Chrono Trigger is one of my favorite games, and this is one of my favorite cosplays.
I'm dorchadas and this is my favorite Mass Effect cosplay at ACEN.
I didn't actually see this guy, I just grabbed the photo from Twitter. But that's awesome.