Anime Milwaukee 2014
Here we are again another year another great convention that we are ready to review. Anime Milwaukee is the first major convention to hit the winter season here in the Midwest. This year we will start a new approach in our reviews to make them more structured and more accessible. Let us know if this review is something you would like to see more of or if we should go back to a more blog styled review. This review will be broken out in several categories and we will end with a paragraph from each team member about their thoughts on the convention.
Housed under the Wisconsin Center and the Milwaukee Hyatt Regency, the location was very manageable for “out-of-towners” or anyone coming into the city just for the convention. It was located in the middle of the downtown Milwaukee area and was very accessible right off the expressway. Those not able to drive to Milwaukee the Amtrak station was only a 15 minute walk from the convention center. A 5 minute walk from the Wisconsin Center was a mall food court that provided convention goers good food for a reasonable price even providing discounts for those who showed their convention badges. Parking was easily available on street and a parking garage across the street from the Wisconsin Center. The only thing we would like to see Anime Milwaukee improve on is having a deal with one of the many parking garages to provide discount parking for all the con goers.
The registration line was typical of any con this size; it looked long and you had to be prepared to wait for a while to get your badge. From a couple of people that we talked to, preregistration was disorganized especially for those that bought badges from roadshows and because of this experience, they missed a couple of panels that they had planned on going to. The location of the registration lines were in an off location which made using the walkway from the Wisconsin Center to Hyatt feel cluttered and slow moving. When we inquired about press badges we got three different answers before we were directed to the press room in the Hyatt. We would like to see the registration be more streamlined next year and maybe have it in a different location at the Wisconsin Center.
Video Game Room/Table Top Room
Unfortunately this year Dead State Pavilion was not able to attend Anime Milwaukee due to a family emergency. The result of this was a game room lacking most of its flair from last year. Regrettably Bemani was also not in the game room this year so gone were the 10-man-Halo-LAN-party and the Beatmania and DJ Tecknika arcade cabinets. For all the people hoping to participate in a PC tournament this weekend were most likely disappointed as all of the PC tournaments were cancelled. Adding to that a majority of console tournaments were also cancelled. On the upside we would like to congratulate Anime Milwaukee for putting a complete game room in under 3 days. This year’s game room consisted of many retro console gaming and about 10 classic arcade cabinets from Credits Remaining and our friends from IPG. Smash Brothers gamers were plentiful as they gamed in one of the 5 game stations setup just for that game. Who could blame them? Tournament slots filled up quickly and according to insiders there was a lot of fierce competition going on. For the more casual gamers, the arcade cabinets consisted of the usual DDR machines and 4 player co-ops like Marvel’s X-men and Simpsons cabinets. Also for casual gamers there were many stations setup for 4 player mayhem in games like Mario Kart, Dance Central, Pokemon Stadium 64, and classic Halo. IPG made an appearance this weekend as well and brought with them several fighting tournaments which were lacking due to the absence of Dead State Pavilion. Overall the game room was average with the absence of both Bemani and Dead State there really wasn’t a lot of activity to keep people entertained for too long. The table top room was hosted by the same group from last year and they did an amazing job at stocking the most popular board games to play. Magic the Gathering/Yu-Gi-Oh/Pokemon trading card games, Apple to Apples, Heroclix, and board game, tournaments were all very organized and ran smoothly throughout the day. There was no real change from last year’s table top room which is a good thing because it was exceptional and we hope to see more next year.
Not much changed this year in the dealer room. Your usual suspects included anime vendors, artist alley stalls, and people selling video game items. Housed in the Wisconsin Center, this year we noticed that the artist alley was expanded to the main halls and the wings of the Wisconsin Center which made it feel like the number of artist doubled this year from last year. This left half of the convention center dedicated for all your anime goods. You had your basics such as wallscrolls, keycahins, plushies, figurines, and video game accessories like art books, and Japanese imported games. A very unique item brought to the vendor hall this year was a pair of anime themed pachinko machines which you could buy the metals balls for and play for as long as you had ammunition to play. We wish anime Milwaukee had more big name booths. But other than a Funimation booth, no big name label was there to give out goodies for the attendees. Overall the dealer room felt right for Anime Milwakuee and as they grow, we are sure their dealer hall will grow with them.
Out of the three years coming to Anime Milwaukee we all agreed that this was the most entertaining masquerade of them all. The Cosplay walkthroughs was superb and full of talented cosplayers, a nice touch from organizers was the distinction in cosplay classes. The classes ranged from beginner to advanced cosplayers and the competition was fierce and fair for all classes. The skits were phenomenal this year there were so many talented people that knew how to put on a show. From the Frozen sing-along to the Deadpool dance through the ages , to the show stopping Attack on Titan skit, everything was well thought out, funny and amusing. Although there were minor hiccups here and there, the masquerade was the best I’ve seen Anime Milwaukee put on in years. Keep up the good work!
Mainstay panels of typical conventions were all here in Anime Milwaukee. Speed Dating, Karaoke, and panels with industry guests we’re all well represented. Most of the panels were well organized and on time during the day, however there were more than a few hiccups for night panels. Both Friday night and Saturday night’s panel lineup was lackluster. Options for the mature crowd were very few; having to choose between one and maybe two adult panels was a bit disappointing. On Saturday night most of the 18+ panels were cancelled due to “technical difficulties” and the only options for people was choosing between the rave and karaoke before 1am, which for a convention like Anime Milwaukee is a bit sad. Some of the highlights for panels this year were; Dan and Jillian’s cards against humanity on Friday night, Dan and Jillian’s Samurai exhibition, Speed Dating, Hentai voice-overs, and the Anime Milwaukee talent show.
The rave was more crowded than other years, for those who love to dance the night away this year’s rave was bigger than ever. Meishi Smile coming all the way from Los Angeles headlined this year’s rave and for a good reason as he brought his high-energy set for everyone to enjoy. The Otoxin hailing from Columbus and the usual local DJ’s were also part for this year’s rave. A good rule that was implemented by Anime Milwaukee was the age restriction of 14+; we would like other cons to follow this implementation and have it at other conventions. This year Ani-On Live!, a cross between rock and J-rock, cover band created an amazing concert covering songs from a variety of anime openings. It was a little sad that the audience wasn’t into the music as much as we thought but there was a group of more than over excited fans who made the concert shine. Also playing this weekend was the Pillowcases cover band playing the greatest hits from the one and only “The Pillows” the band known for their music in the FLCL anime series.
In this section we will discuss some of the events that make Anime Milwaukee stand out from the rest or something unique that this convention features but other conventions do not. The Maid Café has been a mainstay event for the past three years at Anime Milwaukee but unfortunately this year it was not as organized as we had hoped. Most of the food that was on the menu was freezer burned and overpriced. Sure we did see an increase in the number of maids but that doesn’t mean it was better. Most of the maids seemed to be last minute volunteers and did not make us feel as if we were in a real maid café. This was a huge letdown as last year’s tight knit group looked more focused, organized and on top of their game. New to this year was the Anime Bar which was aimed at the over 21+ crowd, just as the name suggest was a Bar with anime themed drinks. The sad part though is that the drinks were unoriginal there was not a lot of anime that went into the names of the drink. There were only 3 drinks available “The Hammer”, “The Squirtle”, and “Imagination Mix” which were overpriced and light on the alcohol content. Another complaint that we heard through the night was the lack of bartenders. There were at least 50-100 people Friday night I can only imagine being double that number on Saturday night but only one bartender was mixing and taking orders. It was a little ridiculous as the waiting time to get a drink was almost 45 minutes probably even more on Saturday night. The Anime Bar is a cool concept but we wish Anime Milwaukee put a little more effort on their logistics so everyone has a more enjoyable night of cocktails and mingling. The Cosplay Combat Chess was moved this year to the main stage at the Hyatt and featured as a main event. According to our correspondent Anthony as a participant he concluded that the whole event was very well organized and ran smoothly throughout the whole game. With all the extra space the participants had more room for themselves and their cosplay and the audience had a better view of the whole chess match.
• This is my second year coming to Anime Milwaukee as Anime Power Level and expected things to turn out as great as they were last year. This year there were a few ups and downs, a couple of downs were mis communications with staff members by not being informed on registrations, panels being cancelled, and the game room having a sudden change of pace. I was upset on Saturday night as staff members lost my scarf and later on that night they lost my coat at the coat check. It felt like my coat and scarf were of little importance judging by the attitude that I received from the volunteer. The volunteer then asked me to go look for it and luckily I went to the back and found it myself. On a lighter note the masquerade was definitely one of the best I’ve seen in years, compared to all other conventions. Personally I think Anime Milwaukee made an excellent choice in guests this year and all of them had a flexible schedule to meet with. Highlights for me included the one-on-one interview with Lauren Landa, Bryce Papenbrook, and Patrick Seitz. Ani-On Live! was one of the most energetic concerts I’ve been to in a while. Props to Anime Milwaukee for putting together a last minute game room which was impressive. I was however disappointed that I could not be a part of the League of Legends tournament. I did not enjoy the maid experience like I did last year; our maid was distracted and didn’t seem to fit the maid role as well as others. The convention guidebook was organized in a way that was easy to follow and easy to find everything I need. The majority of staff members were very friendly and attentive. Despite having its hiccups, I will definitely be coming back next year and hope to see Anime Milwaukee improve and grow.
• Anime Milwaukee was a good convention to start off the convention season. However, I was disappointed with several things that were cut off this year. This year we saw no Poke Center area for all things Pokémon, Bemani and Dead State Pavilion were not able to attend Anime Milwaukee, and most sadly was the absence of the press tour, which we loved so much last year. Otherwise, it was a very enjoyable con and I will return next year for another year of convention fun.
• AMKE was a very fun con experience. I still feel that there are some minor issues, but it’s still a good con. It also helps that the con had a very friendly atmosphere to it, which is helpful considering how stressed out we can get sometimes. I look forward to great things from next year’s AMKE, and I will do my best to make it back.
• The Masquerade was very impressive and well organized than other conventions. I liked the idea of the sound stage staff playing the cosplayers theme song from the anime that they cosplayed on while on stage. Most of the guests that we interviewed were fantastic. The maid café was a big letdown. The food was not that great, our maid was not as enthusiastic as the other maids she barely gave us a smile. Most of the late night panels which I was looking forward to were cancelled. Some of the staff at Anime Milwaukee were not as well informed and didn’t care if they solved our problem or not. I will definitely come back next year for the masquerade and the great lineup of voice actors.