Editor’s Note: Anime Milwaukee was a one man show this year for Anime Power Level as most of the members of Anime Power Level were unavailable to make it to this year’s convention. While I will do my best to give a respectable review, I was unable to get to all parts of the convention (still needing that TARDIS). So, with that being said, lets start this review:
In my opinion, I think that Anime Milwaukee is a convention that might even rival some of the larger cons in the Midwest. It continues to have many great things going for it, but still has some minor problems that keep it from being a true go-to convention.
Once again, Anime Milwaukee was held in the heart of downtown Milwaukee at the Wisconsin Center and the Milwaukee Hyatt Regency. The area itself is easily accessible right off of the expressway. The Amtrak was a 15 minute walk to the convention. There were many food options available via the 5 minute walk to the food court in the mall or in downtown Milwaukee. We mentioned last year that we had wished the hotel offered a discount for parking in the garage. This year they did offer $5 off. This was a good start, but I still felt that staying in the parking garage was still too expensive ($20 per night).
Rather than having registration right near the walkway outside the Wisconsin Center, Anime Milwaukee decided to move it on the first floor of the Wisconsin Center outside the dealer room and main programming where it had been in 2013. While this was a big fix from last year, registration still ran into some problems. Thursday night had some technical issues with computers so some of the people had to wait in registration a long time for everything to get figured out. On top of that, I had trouble getting my press badge. I was told to go to multiple places to get my badge, and then was unable to get it until Friday morning. It was a tad bit annoying, but just a minor issue in my opinion.
Video Game Room/Table Top Room
This year, the Video Game Room was moved to the ballroom of Hyatt, which had much more space than the previous years location. The Table Top Room was at the convention center this year. While I personally feel that they should be next to each other, I was very pleased with both of these rooms. The video game room had numerous classic consoles, modern consoles, classic and current arcade games, PC gaming, and music games. Needless to say…the gaming room was HUGE. There were TONS of games, and a dedicated area for PC gaming AND even 3DS gaming. There were numerous tournaments ranging from favorites like Street Fighter and League of Legends, to some more interesting ones like a Super Mario Bros. speed run tournament and an Amiibo tournament. As for the table top room, they had a wide assortment of games to choose from and lots of space. Kudos to both of the staffs for having great rooms at AMKE this year. (editors note: I’m happy that they were able to get music games in the room….though I’m still sad at the lack of IIDX :(…though getting to play Jubeats made up for it.)
IDK if it was just me….but I felt like the vender/dealer room was much larger this year. It was once again in the Wisconsin Center in the exact same place as it was last year, but it seems as if they expanded it to multiple rooms this year cause I didn’t feel like it was a hassle to get through the aisles. On top of that, artist alley was actually in the same room as the dealer room this year. Besides Crunchyroll and Funimation, there weren’t many big name dealers giving out free stuff.. Its understandable considering that Anime Milwaukee is still considered a ‘smaller’ con (though its growing more and more). Regardless, you had many venders selling manga, anime, wallscrolls, t-shirts, plushies, etc. As always, Artist Alley had some amazing products being shown off.
The masquerade was once again held in Main Programming, but this year, Main Programming was right next to the vender room. The room wasn’t as large as the ball room was in the Hyatt and I think this caused issues with the number of people able to watch it. The masquerade itself had a lot of great costumes and skits thrown in. However, it wasn’t without its share of problems. The masquerade itself started late, and its halftime portion seemed to go on a tad bit too long. Hopefully these problems can be worked out for next year’s masquerade.
Anime Milwaukee had two concerts of note this year. The first was Arc Impulse, a Video Game cover band that played two shows on Saturday and Sunday. I only caught the Saturday show, and I it was amazing. I happened to walk in while they were playing a song from Goldeneye on N64, and I found myself walking around as if I were James Bond in a first person view. The other big musical performance was the Symphonic Anime Orchestra. From a pool of 35-40 applicants on various instruments, the orchea small ensemble got together to perform a concert featuring tunes like “Tank!” from Cowboy Bebop. Their one hour concert was a treat for con-goers. Both groups did a great job, and hopefully will return next year.
I’d like to end with some highlights of the entire convention. I had the opportunity to do a lot of events throughout the convention. Being part of press allowed me to attend a press session with Tom Wayland (the voice of many Pokemon on the series), and Bryce Papenbrook (Kirito from Sword Art Online). It was nice to have a session to ask them questions and learn more of what goes on behind the scenes during production. Also, once again I had the opportunity to be part of Cosplay Combat Chess. This year brought forth many great performers during the event, and definitely shows itself to be a staple of Anime Milwaukee. Many props need to go to Patrick Gibbons for running such an exciting event. One final event I was able to experience and take part in was one of Greg Wicker’ game shows. For those of you who don’t know who Greg Wicker is, he has been around the con scene for a while hosting game shows like “The Price is Right”, “Match Game”, “Classic Concentration” and my personal favorite “Press Your Luck”. While attending his “Press Your Luck” game show, I saw how much work he goes through to try and make each game show as authentic as its original incarnation. If you ever see that he’s a guest at a future convention, definitely go check out one of his game shows. Who knows, you might be able to be the next contestant on The Price is Right.
Also, I shouldn’t forget to mention the hotel staff. Aside from being super friendly and helpful, they also got into the spirit of things wearing Anime Milwaukee T-shirts, and even cat ears. I would LOVE to see other hotels do the same thing, because it really helps con guests feel welcome, and gets rid of that whole “hotel staff thinks con goers are weird” vibe that many guests may feel.
Once again Anime Milwaukee continues to prove that it has the makings of a great con that could rival some of the larger cons in the midwest. There still seem to be a few minor issues that still need to be addressed, but it’s nothing that makes the overall con experience negative. It still happens to be one of my favorite conventions and I highly recommend this con to anyone who is looking for a fun con during the winter.
Final Note: Next Year’s Anime Milwaukee will take place on March 11th – 13th.