Anime Central was held at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare and the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center for many many years now, and has never disappointed.
The venue is a perfect location for those who live in the area and out. For those of you traveling by plane, shuttle buses were available near O’Hare that went straight to the venue. Local Chicagoan’s had the option to take the CTA public transit Blue Line which stops in Rosemont. Which is quite affordable and just a few blocks away from the venue, allowing you to save some money to for a possible splurging spree at the convention.
The Hyatt Hotel is connected via skywalk to the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center. Which makes it extremely easy and convenient to get to, back and forth between each part of the venue. It is also perfect for those surprise rainy days – and for those that know Chicago weather it happens quite often!
Every year at Anime Central the registration lines continue to grow, with some attendees saying they had to wait up to 2 hours to grab their badges. Our recommendation to anyone looking to attend ACEN, your best option is to pre-register online so that your badges can be mailed straight to your door! That way you can avoid the lines altogether and get right into the fun!
But for those picking up badges on site, you could receive them in the Rosemont Convention Center right outside the Dealers Hall. Lines ran pretty smoothly this year as every booth was labeled correctly and the Staff were patient and knowledgeable. Quickly informing all attendees to prepare their IDs and providing extra assistance when necessary to ensure the lines moved along as quickly as possible. Making it easy to go in and out giving you more time to enjoy the event.
One of the biggest attractions of Anime Central held in the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center is the dealer room. It’s the perfect place pick up almost anything, from vintage, to hard to find, rare products, just about everything under one roof. This years dealer was just like last years impressive layout, you had big name company’s such as Funimation, Daisuki, Aniplex, Crunchyroll, Good Smile Company, Sentai Filmworks, Viz Media, Sekai Project, and much much more. Bringing you the up to date and a bit of the classic anime that they can present. Good Smile Company provided exclusive items such as Nenroid Snow Miku: Snow Owl Ver. as well as the Figma, Harvest Moon Ver. Miku Nendoroid, and more!
Looking to purchase something to remember the con by but short on cash? The artist alley has you covered. Just like the previous year, the artist alley was the next row over just pass the company booths. Welcoming all attendees to walk through and to browse the arts and crafts of the many, many talented artists had on display. It is a wonderful place to be when you are looking for goodies at a lower price point. We were surprised to see how quickly the artists jumped on some of the newest crazes (Overwatch and Undertale to name a few!) and created a fantastic variety of custom made posters, key chains, wall scrolls, made-to-order-bead-art, jewelry, T-shirts and more from other popular franchises as well as plenty of original art.
We’d always recommend taking a tour through just to see what the Artist Alley is about.. and strongly suggest a second run just to make sure you didn’t miss out on anything!
This years Anime Central Brought tons of surprisingly amazing guest! The biggest guest of honor this year was Eir Aoi who sang many popular anime songs since 2011, with single like “Memoria,” “Innocence,” “Sirius,” “Ignite,” and “Lapis Lazuli” and lots more. This year line of guest were Kon Takahiko, Mint NeKo, MuarAta Yuzi, Na-Ga, Shinji Orito, Taku Takahashi, Ujico / Snail house, Relect, Takahiro Baba, Pa’s Lam System, KO3, and C-Show.
Acen also provided local guest such as: Patrick Seitz, Monica Rial, Max Mittelman, Kyle McCarley, Erica Mendez, and Erica Lindbeck. Not just anime voice actors but tons of entertainers like, Heavygrinder, Samurai Dan and Jillian, Japanese Cultural Center, and Eric Maruscak.
If we had anything to nitpick about this year it would be the community-ran panels (CPs). While we are sure there were gems to be found, our experience with the CPs were pretty underwhelming in comparison to the industry panels.
First off was the variety – something for everyone for sure which was a plus.. But at the same time there were a lot of panels with very similar subjects (Four were dissecting and analyzing Evangelion?) which feeled like a missed opportunity for something different in it’s stead. There appeared to be a distinct lack of direction at most of the panels we attended. Often the host(s) would go off subject for long periods of time – which made it seem that they were just “winging it” and hoping for the best. When comparing them to last years set, the overall quality was much less that what we we’re expecting.. Here’s to hoping the hosts in charge are more organized and professional next time around!
The one, the only- Masquerade!
This is the prime event of every ACEN and rightfully so, as it lets cosplayers step on stage to showcase all of the skill, creativity, love and hard work that goes into to bringing these characters to life!
This year was a bit different in that the Masquerade opened with three organizers of past Anime Central conventions gathering on stage. They wanted to provide some insight and a eulogy for their dear friend, Jason “Jazz” Jensen who passed away last year.
I’m sure that many like myself in the audience were unaware of who Jazz was but after a few minutes of listening in, it was clear that Jazz was a driving force for insuring that ACEN provided an excellent experience each year for attendees. We were told he was always looking for ways to improve the convention doing most of his work behind-the-scenes which is where he preferred to be. This was easily apparent on a video from several ACENs ago when Jazz got wrangled onstage for a skit. The speech ended with ACEN stating that they would be giving away pieces of Jazz’s collection to those participating in the Masquerade to allow others to appreciate the things that he – like the rest of us – love.
The eulogy was a somber and sweet opening to the Masquerade as well as a celebration for one of most enthusiastic members of the ACEN staff.
Next up was the walk-on portion of the Masquerade hosted by Zack and Jim, ACEN’s wonderful returning MCs! It was nearly thirty minutes of nonstop cosplay – With participants of all ages and of varying skill levels on display to everyone to enjoy (which we did! check out the photos in our gallery!). Following up the walk-on was ACENs skit portion of the Masquerade. You never know what you are going to get when it comes to the skits as it can be it can be hit or miss.. But this year there was a good mix of hilarious stage plays, musical performances and even a marriage proposal! Finishing up the event, judges for the Masquerade came together to hand out awards to their favorite picks for both cosplays and skits alike.
This years Masquerade was entertaining on all accounts – It was the place to be to see the best of the best for ACEN this year and it did not disappoint!
Video Game and Arcade Room:
This year’s arcade cabinets were brought to us by Tokyo Attack. We were treated to a wide variety of games you’ll rarely catch at your local hang out, such Sound Voltex, Pop’n Music, Groove Coaster and several JuBeat machines. To top it off, the arcade was open 24 hours and all the machines were set to Free Play mode. ACen’s arcade is a fantastic addition to the convention and a great way to spend time when you’re waiting for the next event or panel. The environment and atmosphere were also very friendly and welcoming. Many of the games available are Japanese exclusives with no English text, but convention attendees were consistently helping out new players and giving each other quick tutorials on how to navigate the menus and play.
When night hits during Acen, you can see a line forming outside the Haytt’s Grand Ball Room which goes clear around the building and down the block. That line belonged to the rave. Saying that the rave is a popular event is an understatement. If you are looking to dance the night away with fellow anime fans, the rave is not to be missed!
This year, Japanese DJ Synergy was back again to perform and kept the tunes pumping until 3 A.M. on both Friday and Saturday night. The music was loud – with ground shaking bass accented by an electric light show. Due to it’s popularity the rave can get extremely packed at times and I’m happy to say that ACEN had plenty of staff on hand to deal with the crowds attending the event. It gets busy enough that some con-goers end up creating their own mini-rave across the street outside. Which is fun in it’s own way but FAR less regulated due to a lack of ACEN staff present to supervise it.
This years Closing Remarks will be said on our podcast! Stay tune to hear about our highlights and our thoughts of Anime Central 2016! 😀