Anime Central 2014
Con blues, who hasn’t experienced that feeling of sadness after your favorite convention of the year has come and gone? 2014 was an amazing year for Anime Central as a milestone was reached by surpassing last year’s attendee number by another 1K new attendees bringing the grand total for this year to more than 29K people. For good reasons too as Anime Central brought a phenomenal foreign guest list which featured the great composer Nobou Uematsu, fun and high energy concerts from The Wake Up Girls, and our personal favorite Angela. This year’s convention was well organized, ran smoothly, and was filled with panels, raves, events and guests.
This year, as every other year, Anime Central, or ACEN for short, was hosted at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare Hotel in Rosemont, IL and the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center. Neighboring hotels such as the Hilton, Embassy Suites, and the Double Tree were all booked and sold out. Anyone not staying at the hotels had the option of taking the CTA blue line and walking a short distance to the Hyatt Regency or the Donald E. Convention Center, which were about 15 minutes from the station. People driving down to the convention hotel had the option of parking in the Donald E. Convention Center or CTA economy parking by the train station. We feel the location is great for a convention this size even though there was some heavy foot traffic in some parts of the convention it was totally manageable. There were some changes made to improve foot traffic, like having some entrances being “exits only”, which made some things a little annoying but overall helped with the flow of everyone moving to where they needed to go. For now the convention location is fine the way it is, however if ACEN continues to grow we can see this becoming a problem where more space will be needed to accommodate everyone comfortably.
For the size of this convention, expect to see a line and be prepared for it. That is why Anime Central staff always encourage people to pre-register and have those badges mailed to your house to avoid the hassles of waiting 2-4 hrs to purchase a badge. The locations of the registration lines were in the Rosemont convention center right before you enter the Dealers Hall. Lines ran pretty smoothly this year and every booth was labeled correctly, staff knew how to handle the lines and kept the lines tidy to alleviate foot traffic in the main hall of the convention center. One of the only issues we experienced during registration was the 2 lines for the Final Fantasy concert. On that Friday morning we got into line about 2 hrs before registration was expected to be open, only to be told that the line we were in was not the correct one. We tried getting information from 3 different IRT members and were told 3 different answers. In the end, we were in the wrong line, but luckily we were given the tickets. When we inquired about press badges we were directed to a very visible booth in registration labeled as “press” and our whole registration ordeal was painless and organized.
Video Game Room/Table Top Room
We are glad that the game room is once again housed in the Hyatt, located in the ground floor basement. This year’s game room consisted of many retro console gaming and classic arcade cabinets from Credits Remaining and Geek.Kon. Fighting game players had plenty to do as tournaments were hosted by our friends at I Play Games. For the more casual gamers, the arcade cabinets consisted of the usual DDR machines and 4 player co-ops like Marvel’s X-men. Also for casual gamers, there were many stations set up for 4 player mayhem in games like Mario Kart, Dance Central, Pokemon Stadium 64, and Halo. I still insist that for a convention this size the game room should be twice as big and offer 24 hour gaming. Anime Central should look at what Youmacon is doing with their game room and try to mimic the venue. This game room was very vanilla and did not offer any unique gaming experience, tournaments aside. We did hear a lot of complaints about bag check-ins and not enough staff working the game room. This would be the only gripe with the game room this year and seems more like a logistical problem and lack of volunteers in the game room. The table top room was hosted by The Gaming Goat, they did an amazing job at stocking the most popular board games to play. Magic the Gathering/Yu-Gi-Oh/Pokemon/
One of the major attractions of Anime Central is the huge dealer room. Housed in the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center it’s the perfect place to pack so much anime products under one roof. This year Good Smile Company was a featured vendor and they did not disappoint. By Sunday, most of the figures that they brought for the show had been sold out. Funimation was there as well but sadly not so many deals or goodies were found at their booth. Crunchyroll had a huge booth where attendees had the opportunity to say something in front of a live streaming recording which was featured on their website. The Wake Up Girls also made an appearance at the Crunchyroll booth and signed autographs and took photos with all their fans. Another huge booth this year was Japanime games which demoed their brand new anime themed board game KrosMasters: Arena as well as their more popular card games Tanto Cuore and Kanzume Goddess. Your usual vendors were also there selling your regular con merchandise such as wall scrolls, keychains, plushies, figurines, video game accessories like art books, Japanese imported games, sci-fi related goods, T Shirts, etc. Again one of the biggest artist alleys in the Midwest was present, as they showcased their art and products for everyone to see and purchase. Overall the dealers room did not have any dramatic changes this year, which is good, and it is still one of largest in the Midwest. The only change to this year which kept an area very organized was the entrance through the restaurant, this year it was enforced as an “exit only” and we think this was a good move because several years back, that narrow hallway was always packed and uncomfortable to walk through. One thing we would like to see is more free goodies like previous years from all the big name companies. We would like to see more people take advantage of one of the biggest anime convention dealer rooms because it only comes around once a year.
The masquerade at Anime Central is always a special place where people come in to shine and show their talents. This year however some of the skits were unexciting and forgettable; out of all the skits, maybe one or two really shined and won over the crowd. Always popular and hilarious (debuting for the first time at Anime Central) is the Ninja Ninja Challenge which made up for the lack of skits this year. The cosplay walkthroughs is where the masquerade really took off this year; it was superb and full of talented cosplayers. Although not part of the masquerade but still an event that should have had more attention, the World Cosplay Summit Finals was held in Anime Central this year. It involved a 2-3 minute skit showcasing the best cosplay teams in the United States that will go to Japan and represent team USA in a televised cosplay international competition.
With so many exceptional main events this year it was really easy to forget about the panels that make every convention unique. Karaoke, Anime Name that Tune, Anime Jeopardy and panels with industry guests were all well represented at Anime Central. If you were looking for something more informative these panels were all about making you a better otaku; How to make a better cosplay, Adventures in Japan, Creating a video game/comic. Most of the panels were well planned and on time during the day, however there were more than a few hiccups for night panels. On Saturday and Fridaynight some of the 18+ panels were cancelled and other than the rave being the only thing open after 2am, attendees did not have many options to spend their nights. Some of the highlights for panels this year were: the overly popular Hentai Hell, the best kept secret of ACEN Lord Loki’s Theater of Mischief, the Q&A with Arnie Roth, Nobou Uematsu, Angela, and The Wake Up Girls. There were so many panels to choose from the only thing we would have liked to have is more time to attend more panels. For those of you lucky enough to enjoy the convention on Thursday, there was a particular event new this year Attack on Ram. Attack on Ram was a good ol’ fashion meet and greet with a twist, hosted in the bar grill The Ram located only 15 minutes away from the convention center. Made it the perfect place to come out and enjoy happy hour with some awesome drink specials made for otaku fans. We would like to see more events like these geared towards the adult crowd were we can all sit back enjoy a beer or three with an appetizer and talk about what else, Anime.
Every year the rave line just seems to get longer and longer but who can blame them, as Anime Central grows and grows more people are going to be attracted to one of thee main events of the night. Hardcore synergy on Friday brings some of the best Djs straight from Japan. This year’s headliners included EDM star Nhato, Banvox from Surfer Rosa and DJ Roughsketch along with DJs from last year such as Shimamura, JAKAZiD, and Noriken. This unique show brought in every rave enthusiast around the Midwest and for good reason as all the Japanese Dj’s came with their best sets for Friday night which brought the crowd into a dancing frenzy. Saturday night’s Soap bubble is the main event for all the night owls as they dance the night away with high energy sets from DJ’s that come from all around the country. This year an 18+ curfew was enforced after 12am which was bad news for the younger crowd as many ended not being able to make it inside because of the long line. The concerts for this year were phenomenal, Arnie Roth and Nobou Uetmatsu played a beautiful set, brand new to America. The Wake Up Girls and Angela rocked the main event ballroom with their anime inspired music.
For a convention this big it was a little difficult to pick out some of the best highlights as everything was the best the Midwest community had to offer. There are 3 events that for us stood out the most Nobou Uematsu’s “A New World” intimate music from Final Fantasy concert, Loki’s Theater of Mischief and Angela’s concert. Having to wait almost 2 hours for a concert ticket for Nobou’s Final Fanstasy concert was totally worth it. Limited to only 750 seats because of the format of the concert, we were treated to the debut in North America to the “A New World” concert series. Being Final Fantasy fans, we were all able to appreciate the songs of the concert even more. The orchestra was a small 20 person ensemble that filled the room richly with sound and it really did feel like a more intimate experience. Even Nobou got on the stage and performed next to Arnie Roth which was a rare sight to see. This was just such an amazing concert, we were all left without words and wish that Anime Central has more rare concerts like these in the future which we will definitely support.
Let’s now focus on Anime Central’s best kept secret the burlesque show; Lord Loki’s Theater of Mischief. The performers in the burlesque were all very talented and we could tell they take passion in their work. Luckily, all the ladies in the show did an excellent job at capitalizing on their strengths and performed beautifully. The only complaint we had about the ladies is that their performances could have been a little longer. The gentlemen in the show did well but there wasn’t really any show for the ladies in the audience which seemed a little unfair, I mean everyone deserves a good show right? Despite the show being rather amateur in some aspects all the performers exceeded expectations except, in our opinion the mime acts were a bit lackluster and do in fact need some improvement. The mimes would be a good transition into the next acts if they were to keep the same atmosphere as the surrounding performances. For example: the mimes were to perform such as the ladies in the show had, in a sexual and/or adult manner to keep the audience in an excited and happy mood. The comedy was a little cliché at times but comedy should be kept in the act but with a sensual twist. Lastly, everyone performed very well and with some improvement have a lot of potential and we look forward to seeing Lord Loki’s Theater of Mischief in the future.
You can check out their facebook HERE for more info on future event they will be holding! :] Check out our interview with Lord Loki and his team:
This year’s foreign musical guest Angela debuted their 10th anniversary CD and their much anticipated music video from Knights of Cidonia. They were at the convention the whole weekend; they hanged out, walked the con floor, visited the rave on Friday night, and gave very engaging Q&A panels. They were a blast to be around. Their concert was a main event for this year and it was a stellar performance, it was loud energetic, and most importantly fun. They played many of their old favorites and won over the crowd with their amazing music. Our favorite moment would have to be at the closing ceremonies when Katsu demanded a green card because he did not want to leave Chicago.
• My favorite part of most conventions are the table top rooms and this year I loved that there was free MTG drafts all weekend and table top games running through most of the night. My favorite part of the con this year without a doubt will have to be the Nobou Uematsu’s Final Fantasy Concert and Loki’s Theater of Mischief show.
• The Final Fantasy was a big highlight for me personally. The guest list was very impressive, and the few guest i had a chance to interview were fantastic. i was lucky enough to catch the burlesque show this year. It was a very fun and sexy time. All in all Anime Central was fantastic with a few hiccups here and there, but at the end of the day i had a great time. I can not wait for Anime Central 2015.
•My most favorite part of Anime Central would have to be all the guest that made it to the convention. Angela were thee best guest for this year, they were amazing to meet in person and performing as well! Finding out about Lord Loki Burlesque show was definitely worth every second, I look forward to seeing them again next year. Nobou and Arnie were fantastic with their intimate performance and an honor to hear them live. The attack on ram meet up was a fun experience for the adults, shout out to the guy that I out beat in attending the convention longer, because he bought me a drink lol.
• I have to say my highlight was probably the photo shoots because the ones that I went to were very well run and the people were very friendly. I feel like they needed to fix the scheduling issues. Having everything update on the app was nice but also have updates at the customer service desks for those who don’t use the app. It was nice having the panels at the convention center, I just wish the game room weren’t so crowded.