Hakukumo

Mar 182011
 

Aki-con 2010 was held during the weekend of November 5-7 at Hilton Bellevue Hotel. This was my second time attending this convention and I wasn’t sure what to expect of it. I had a wonderful time last year and was quite looking forward to Aki-con 2010.RA Grani

 

Travel and Location
This year, instead of being in Everett again, the convention changed location and moved into a bigger hotel further down south in Bellevue, WA.

The structure of the hotel building is quite unique.  It features a slant surface of glass on the front side of the hotel with the higher levels of the indoors looking out into the main floor of the lobby.

Travel-wise it wasn’t a bad drive either.  Like last year, except just a tad longer in the car.  We kept ourselves entertained during the ride with copious amounts of horri-bad car karaoke.  It’s actually really fun to do it!… just as long as /everyone/ in the car does it and no one feels left out.

 

Artist Alley / Dealers Hall
Being in a different venue, the placement of the AA and Dealers were changed compared to last year.  Utilizing the hallways of the lower level of the hotel, AA tables were placed like a snake along the walls of the hallway where people can look at the tables while walking towards their destinations.

There’s good and bad to this:

The good part is that AA artists get more exposure from an increase in traffic flow.  Even when attendees didn’t intend to go visit AA, they’ll still be able to look at the AA tables without making any actual effort to go there as they’ll just be on their way to head to their panels.  Increase traffic flow generally leads to an increase in purchases.

The bad part was that hallways aren’t always meant for this type of usage.  Once the traffic flow reaches a certain level, it becomes difficult for people to move in the hallway.  Especially when the width of the hallway is not big enough to accommodate the combination of pockets of people standing to look at tables and also other people trying to walk through the hallway.  If the ratio of the people standing is bigger than the people trying to walk down the hall, then the people walking would have a big difficulty getting to their destination.

But, I digress.  In any case, it’s always a lesser of 2 evils that organizers must choose.  And I’m sure attendees had a lot of fun that weekend. =)

 

Musical Guests
As I mentioned last year, I was unable to catch Rai Kamishiro‘s concert due to the fact that I had to travel back to my side of the border while her concert was scheduled on the Sunday.  Luckily, this year her concert was not on the Sunday.  It was originally scheduled on Friday night, but due to some scheduling mishaps and mis-communications, it almost got cancelled completely.  However, luckily that was remedied and her concert was rescheduled to Saturday!  I’m glad I was finally able to see her sing live, it was really fun being there and supporting her with fellow fans and friends!

Check out her facebook page for more up-to-date updates on her recent activities!

 

Food
There weren’t really much food options around the hotel compared to last year.  However, there was a cafe right in the lobby of the hotel where one can purchase a snack like this:

 But if you venture out of the hotel, there is Cheesecake Factory at the mall a few blocks away from the hotel:

Featured is Pumpkin Cheesecake with 2 MEGA HUEG dallops of cream, and I believe that was Broccoli soup on the right.

Or, if you stayed at a hotel with a kitchenette provided, you can always make your own meals to save up on funds:

 

Afterword
Small cons are great for hanging out with friends.  It’s less hectic and you get to really treat it like a vacation or a relaxing weekend if you want and have nothing too big planned!  Cons are as good as you can enjoy it.  So, enjoy it at its fullest, however which way you want!  Next time, I’d suggest bringing your swimsuits so you can take a dip in the swimming pool if you find you have nothing planned to do!

Feb 132011
 

Location
After last year’s “step up” in location for AE being held at the Vancouver Convention Centre, this year AE moved back to the campus of UBC (University of British Columbia). Whatever the reason, it was quite the “step down” in most people’s eyes in comparison to last year’s location. However, as a local convention, many attendees and fans still attended and supported the convention held at UBC.

Weather
I think all attendees would remember 2010 AE by the weather that weekend… as it was insanely hot. Apparently, it was the hottest weekend of the entire month as Vancouver was hit by a heat wave that weekend. Just, that weekend. Such is our bad luck. Not to mention that the Friday of the weekend was the 13th (wonder if that had to do with anything…). But I digress, despite many unfortunate mishaps throughout the weekend, many attendees still braved it as did cosplayers alike. Ventilation was a bit iffy in places, especially Dealer’s Hall since air conditioning hardly worked in that building (that was meant for a gym). Dealers that had to stay in the building the entire day had to keep themselves hydrated constantly and kept themselves as cool as they could with hand-held or make-shift fans as electric fans and air conditioning was but a distant dream.

The only place where I found air conditioning running, was in the basement of the Student Union Building. Fortunately, there were food options down there you can choose from and chill while replenishing yourself. I opted for the Bubble Tea store. I deemed it my best choice I made all weekend. I don’t doubt that they made a fortune from many of the attendees that weekend, what with the weather as well.

Artist Alley
Inside the Student Union Building was also where the Artist Alley located. AE had always been fortunate to have many artists attend the event, this year was no exception. As there were quite a big number of artists displaying their wares, AE decided to split up Artist Alley into several rooms. It was a bit tricky to maneuver my way throughout the rooms as they were slightly cramped and warm from the amount of people (+weather) in the room. However, it was still nice to see that there were so many artists in attendance! Not to mention that many of their wares and artworks were quite high quality. AE’s Artist Alley have always been one of my favourite haunts of the convention every year.

The Worse Cosplay Contest
This was the only panel I attended all weekend, and I’m very glad I did! Hosted by Valdrien, Weatherstone, and Becky, the contest was a very enjoyable one to sit through. Valdrien especially, was quite the humorous hostess I’ve ever had the pleasure of sitting through. Basically, the premise for the contest was to have contestants battle out with each other until the winner remains. Such winner means that they indeed, truly, have the worst cosplay amongst all contestants.

Of course, none of it was meant to be offending and was all done in good humour. Hopefully, we would see this contest happen again as it is quite entertaining to watch. Also, having the same hosts would also be delightful.

Afterword
AE2010 had its ups and downs. Most would probably say it’s bad while some still appreciated it. At the time of writing this report, I have encountered an E-mail sent out officially from the AE committee claiming that AE will not be officially occurring in 2011. Due to financial and planning problems it seems. It is sad to see a local convention go like this. It’s a fun event for most local attendees to enjoy and look forward to in the summer. Some that are able to leave the country are able to attend other conventions. However, for those that do not have this luxury would be sad to see something they look forward to every year not happening. As a commentator, I hope Vancouver would once again have a local convention. Perhaps it would be educational to learn from other local conventions (such as Sakura-con in Seattle, WA) as to how they managed to run their conventions from a small event to a big annual one that is able to invite guests from Japan. I remember in 2007, AE managed to invite Back-On as their musical guest. That was surely something to remember. I hope this would happen once again in the future.

I didn’t take any pictures at AE2010 as I was literally dying half the time at the convention from the heat. I had next to no motivation to take any pictures whatsoever. Therefore, I’m going to borrow a picture a friend took of me that weekend:


(Photo by Yuushiron)
Nov 222010
 

Travel and Accommodations
This year, the trip down was a little different than usual… I carpooled with a few friends that spent most of the day doing last minute costume-makings hence we started our drive late. Also, most of us were sleep-deprived because of said costume-makings… and thus the ride was made immensely more… “exciting”.reteks.ru

The thing that stood out most from this ride for me was: Mountain Dew in the States have caffeine, they don’t in Canada. Pro-tip!

For this year, I stayed at the Homewood Suites Seattle. I absolutely loved staying there! The room felt super comfortable, even the lobby was relaxing to be in. The dining room is just next to the lobby and there’s copious amounts of glass so it’s super bright during the day. The food at the hotel was delicious and the bed was super comfortable! My friends and I picked this hotel because they have kitchens in their rooms. We didn’t want to eat out every day so we decided we’d cook food for ourselves. Also, it was quite cheap food-wise for us too!

Convention Grounds
I couldn’t really tell if I’ve explored all of the grounds that the convention has spread out to. It just seemed so big!


Although it was nice to see signs with cosplay-friendly warnings. XD
A tell-tale sign that you are truly at a convention!

Performances
This year, Scon as able to invite High and Mighty Color as their big musical guest. I’ve only heard of their old songs so I wasn’t as interested. However! The guest that caught my attention was Ms. Tanaka Mayumi! Tanaka-san is a well-seasoned veteran voice actor in the industry. I think undoubtedly her most successful and recognizable role by far would have to be Monkey D. Luffy from the ever famous and long-time standing Jump series, One Piece. I was indeed extremely excited and happy getting to see her in person and was even more ecstatic when I heard she will have a mini performance besides having a “Meet&Greet” kind of panel.

I went in just as Tanaka-san’s son (I heard, not sure if this is true ^^;) had finished his juggling act on stage. A group of girls dressed as the K-ON band came on stage afterward and did a gig before Tanaka-san came on stage.

Apparently, one of the girls is a huge fan of Tanaka-san and even wrote her a letter that she read for her on stage. It was quite cute and she even cried on stage from being emotional. Of course, Tanaka-san accepted the letter and feelings with grace. After that, it was time for her part of the performance!


Ms. Tanaka Mayumi dressed as Luffy, performing “We Are!” from One Piece with other cosplayers dressed as One Piece characters as her back-up dancers in the background.

She performed a few songs such as: Geki! Teikoku Kagekidan (from Sakura Taisen), We Are! (from One Piece), and a song that was brilliantly (and hilariously) performed by Tanaka-san. She said this song was from a single she once put out years and years ago but wasn’t quite a big hit before she performed it, not sure if this was part of her humour or if it was the truth. What I do know is that it was amazingly performed by her on stage and I’m glad I was able to see it live! Overall, this was probably the highlight of my weekend: Getting to see Tanaka-san in person and watching her mini performance! I really hope S-con continues to bring over cool guests such as Tanaka-san as I’m sure other convention attendees would pay high dollars if they knew their favourite voice actors are making a visit at their local convention!

Panels
On Friday night, I decided to hit up one out of many of the panels scheduled at Scon: the Katekyo Hitman Reborn! panel. It was hosted by 2 of my good friends so I attended in support of them (not mentioning the fact that I’m quite a Reborn! fan myself /cough/). The panel was quite lax and everyone (or mostly everyone? the ones that left a comment about it) enjoyed the panel. The hostesses are planning another one next year and I’ll most likely be there to attend and possibly help out with figuring out the machines again.


Fran and Mukuro at the Katekyo Hitman Reborn! panel on Friday night.

Final Word
This year has been my 5th year attending Scon and it just seems like there were more people this year than last (although I’m not entirely sure how that can happen)! Scon has grown steadily bigger and bigger over the years. I still remember when it was only a “hotel-con”, still held at the Hilton+Marriott. I am really happy to see it developed so well. I hope to see it continue to flourish and the attendees to enjoy the convention as a whole.

On a surprising note, Tanaka-san made an appearance at the One Piece photoshoot gathering on Sunday of the convention! I was not there in person but I heard she was quite surprised and enjoyed the sheer numbers of the One Piece cosplayers at the gathering. It was nice to know that and I hoped she had a great time visiting us at Scon this year!


Even “Tiger Woods” say it’s good! 8D
(GJ “Tiger Woods” cosplayer! XD)

Until next year!

Feb 092010
 

This was my first year at the newly established Aki-con. It was its second year and it seemed very promising for a convention that is just starting out.достоинства и недостатки пластиковых и деревянных окон

Travel and Location
As the convention was held in Everett, WA, it was even closer to me than Sakura-con that was held at Seattle, WA. The drive down was short and sweet.


But the clouds were hovering over us since the weekend’s forecast weren’t that great.

We didn’t have any problems getting to Everett. But it was still an adventure to locate the hotel since we never went into Everett before. We did reach the Holiday Inn at Everett safely, which was the con-hotel of Aki-con 2009.

As we arrived on Thursday (Nov 5) afternoon, there was not much to do but wander around. The staff and volunteers were hard at work setting up the halls and decorations for the convention. I ran into one of the staff and he told me that they were apparently missing a bunch of volunteers that were supposed to come… but did not show up. Logically, if you signed up to help out at an event you would most likely be held liable to uphold your end of the bargain to carry out the tasks assigned to you. Now I don’t know if this was an act of miscommunication or people were just running late. But I do hold great respect to those that were working hard on Thurs, setting up everything for fellow con-attendees. The sets turned out lovely and everything looked really cool and spiffy!


The set-up.

There was a mini pre-reg line on Thurs night when we got there and went to pick up our badges. They even had helpful signs to remind attendees of conducting proper etiquette such as this one when one goes into the Manga Kissaten (aka Manga Library).

Artist Alley / Dealers Hall
I guess the only complaint that I have and from what I have heard from other dealers, artists, attendees was the location of the Artist Alley and Dealers Hall. They were both located in the underground parking lot of the Holiday Inn hotel. Being so, there were limited amount of lights. Not all of the tables nor vendors had decent amount of lights and most had to operate in low lighting. However, there were some that were fortunate enough to be placed under good lighting so not the entire layout was a complete flop.

Later, I did hear from a vendor that one of the emails sent to them had a brief suggestion saying to “bring lights”. However, it was not stressed that lights should be brought due to low lighting in the parking lot. So perhaps next time if the Dealers Hall and Artist Alley had to be placed in the parking lot again, bringing lights should be stressed as a necessity?


The entrance to Dealers Hall, and a shot of the table I shared with a friend.


A friend passed by to help promote our merchandise. XD


This year besides being a Press Member, I decided to try out selling things at Artist Alley as well. I did not have much wares by myself to sell so I shared a table with 2 other friends. As I sat at my table selling my wares, I started this piece from scratch and finished it before the weekend was over. (haha)
Also, I know my sense of colour is REALLY off…

Main Stage Performances + Musical Guests

On Friday night, I joined a few of my friends and went to check out a performance at the main stage. There were no seats for this performance, and everyone was up and dancing near the stage where the band was playing.


Rai Kamishiro is one of the guest artist that had a musical performance on the Sunday of the convention. I was quite looking to watch her perform live. However, due to the return traffic I had to leave early with my friends to return back to my side of the border on our continent. I was quite disappointed by the time her concert was scheduled at so I hope next time I will be able to see her perform live!

Food

Jack in the Box… I really wish we had this in Canada. The Triple Mini-Burger were the cutest things ever and they were the size of my fists (which are tiny). Not only that, they were pretty tasty. And speaking of tasty, you can’t NOT mention the milkshake. I am VERY looking forward to the next time I can visit a Jack in the Box, as that milkshake is unforgettable. Seriously. It is so thick you can’t even sip it through the straw. It is *that* amazing.

Aside from Jack in the Box, which me and my friends drove to get. There was a Denny’s literally across the street of the convention. There was also a Chinese restaurant as well, but I always make it a point to NEVER eat at Asian restaurants if they’re not in Asia, or Vancouver. No offense, but I just can’t trust their taste.

Weather
The entire weekend outside of the hotel was very windy and rainy, very typical of the weather in fall/winter of the local area here. The thing I was surprised with more was the wind that weekend. It seemed like we had a bit of a wind storm and it was especially strong that weekend. Everyone that went outside had to be careful of the wind. No one was safe from getting their hair and clothes messed up! You had to pull your coat tightly close to you. I remember I was nearly blew away at one point, but luckily my friends were walking with me then…

Afterword
All in all, it was a very enjoyable convention and weekend. Akicon is a small convention, but it’s just starting out. It’s got a long way to go. But as a small con, it’s got its own perks. You’re able to locate friends easier without having to walk a mile just to realize “hey, your friend just relocated! …Awww, well, shucks!” and keep walking until you eventually find the fellow.

Not much more to say except I look forward to next year’s Akicon! Oh, and one more thing: weddings and anime conventions at a hotel don’t really work…

Aug 152009
 

So 2009 AE marks the year where the convention takes a BIG step and changes location to the Convention Centre right by the heart of Downtown Vancouver.

Location
As just mentioned, being in the Downtown of a large city has its perks (and of course its downs, but we’ll touch on that later). The Vancouver Convention Centre is an award-winning building for its state-of-the-art and sustainability designs from the ground all the way to the roof. It’s situated right by the waterfront. You won’t even have to squint your eyes and you can see North Vancouver on the other side of the shore! Indeed, it’s a lovely location. The building is clean, and there are staff ready on hand to help direct the crowd.


A mascot cosplayer posing in front of the unique interior
jenga-like wooden walls of the Vancouver Convention Centre

You can check out more photos of the Convention Centre here

Convention Grounds
One of the best things why AE was held at the Convention Centre was being able to bask in the air conditioning inside and hide away from the heat outside. This was a blessing for most cosplayers since I noticed there was an abundance of mascot costumes this year.

We were fortunate to get to romp almost all 4 floors (could’ve been more like 3.5?). We didn’t get all of the main floor as that was booked by a different groups on different days (I remember a Hollywood-themed party for a prom, and a nurse convention happening).

The bigger events such as the cosplay contest and dances were in the bigger halls on the basement floor. This floor also hosted the Dealers Hall and the Artist Alley. Unfortunately, the space was not divided to the hopes of most. There was a stage that was situated right beside the Artist Alley and were only separated by partitions/dividers that didn’t go up to the ceiling. Therefore, whatever happened on stage was heard by all in the Artist Alley and the Dealers Hall. This was tolerable to a certain degree, until the lights went out for some shows happening on stage. Then, the Artist Alley aisle closest to the stage were forced to operate in darkness. Both shoppers and sellers suffered from this. It was an unfortunate incident for everyone.

Cosplayers usually loitered on the main floor, outside, or the upper floors…

But of course, you can find them just about anywhere on convention grounds. (Picture was taken inside Dealers Hall)

The staff
Most of the staff that I have encountered during the weekend were pretty friendly and helpful. Albeit most of them look a little tired due to long shifts (understandable), on the whole they were doing fairly good in upholding a good image for AE.

Meeting The 404’s
At one point during the weekend, I was fortunate enough to be invited to have an casual sit-down talk with The 404s Improv Comedy Group.
Originated from the province next door: Alberta, this group of comedy performers started with only performing at their local university animation club. They quickly grew popular with their fun twists of improv games and anime knowledge that catered well to the audience of anime conventions. They became a popular guest requested at most events.

The group shown in the pictures below is not their whole group (as their group consist of many members). They were a super friendly and fun group to talk to. I’m very glad I got the chance to get to sit down with them for a few minutes.

So be on the lookout for them at your next event! They could very well be heading there next. …Or you can check their schedule on the front page of their website.

The Cosplay Contest
I helped out as a judge once again for this contest. However, unlike the experience I had last year, things turned out a little different this year.

After the contest ended, some of the contestants came up to us judges and asked us a lot of questions about what criteria we judged on and how or what they can do next time so that they can win… I can understand how people enter a contest and would want to win. However, there are many factors to consider before announcing an entry as a winner. We honestly did not favour anyone. I was acquainted with one of the entrants of the contest but that didn’t automatically made them win. All of the skits were judged in comparison to each other and if an entrant was a veteran entry that has entered before, you should have thought of something to overcome your last and do something better… not serve the judges and the audience with something that you have done last year EXACTLY the same. No one will be impressed with repeats.

I feel ALL entries need to be videotaped and given back to the entrants to see what they looked and sounded like on stage. It doesn’t always seem as perfect as it is in your head when you’re actually up there.

The Food
As the Convention Centre was located in downtown, there were many food choices for everyone. Conveniently, there was a food court just across the street from the Convention Centre so obviously that was where most attendees flocked to to satisfy their hunger. There was also an Elephant & Castle restaurant also across the street that I dined in for dinner on Day 2.

A good note to add is the AE booklet this year was really well done I thought. There was a map inside the booklet showing the surrounding of the con center with hotels, transit, and food places. It was very convenient and a great addition to the booklet!

For my dinner on the last day, I went with some friends to a Korean BBQ restaurant to have a feast.

My Korean BBQ feast.