It’s Friday, June 10th. The air smells like baked melon bread. The hallways are filled with colorful fabrics and rustling props. People of all shapes and sizes are beginning to form what will become a long line that snakes as far as a block away to register for A-Kon22.
A-Kon22 is currently North America’s longest running anime convention and is also the biggest one in Dallas. Boasting an attendance of 18,000+ this year, the convention ran Friday, Saturday, and Sunday and was held at the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Dallas. The panel rooms, dealer room, video rooms, gaming area, artist space, and registration area took up both buildings of the Sheraton, as well as the 2nd floor of the neighboring Marriott hotel.
After Press Check-In, I made a beeline for the dealer’s room. Lusting in advance for the purchases I know I’m going to make, I did a quick lap around the room, stopping to say hi to my boss at Keith’s Comics. Several T-shirts caught my eye and I immediately purchased an Orange Lantern shirt, because let’s face it: who doesn’t love Larfleeze? My love for Larfleeze aside, I did have a mission. Every year I search for Monster Hunter merchandise imported from Japan and yet again, I found it lacking. I spotted no figures of any kind and then, IT appeared. Like a moth to the flame I felt myself compelled to look at art books of various anime and video games and there, sitting like a fluffy delicacy to which I have no immunity, sat an art book for Monster Hunter. Absolutely elated, I purchased it and wasted no time flipping through it. More than satisfied with my bounty, I left the dealer room, mildly noticing I’d spent an hour (AN HOUR!) in there. As I exited and made my way toward the stairs, a colorful banner for Mu Epsilon Kappa caught my eye and I signed up for Anime Jeopardy, novice AND expert. I passed the preliminary questions for both and set on my way to my first event of the day: Cosplay Chess!
Squirming through mass amounts of bodies in elaborate costumes is no easy feat and after locating the room, I made it there after it ended. Saddened, I made my way back across the hotel to get to the panel for Anime Jeopardy, novice edition. Forty of us made the cut and I waited to see if my name would be drawn for one of three contestants. Growing up, no one ever said Leia correctly so I learned to respond to various pronunciations of my name, including Layla, Leah, Leela, and everything in between. Unfortunately, this trait showed itself in the form of my shouting YES! and then realizing it was not me that was called. I left the panel room embarrassed after it ended and went to grab some overpriced lunch/dinner from the food court at the Marriott, again, on the other side of the hotel. I killed about 15 minutes checking out the Artist Alley (where all items are handmade/handcrafted and sold by the artist) and buying the awesomest sticker ever before heading out to the Welcoming Ceremonies.
Apparently, my press badge allowed me a decent seat but I was unfortunately bored stiff out of my mind among the various introductions, awards, and various how-to stuff so I snuck out. Maybe it was because it’s been the fifth year or so that I’ve seen the ceremony that it was boring. It could be my ADD. We’ll never know!
Everyone was ushered out so the bands could set up so I headed over to one of the video rooms to watch some anime. I chose a room at random which happened to be playing an anime I’ve wanted to see, Kimi no Todoke. Without boring all of you, it’s a shoujo anime (meaning it’s geared toward girls) about a girl who looks scary (think Sanako from the Ring) and has a hard time adjusting to school and figuring out her feelings for a handsome gent who’s nice to her. I thought it was great! Full of humor and funny chibi really made it worthwhile and I lost track of time. Once all five episodes finished up, I realized the thumping and cheering I’d been hearing through the walls meant the bands had started. I raced around the corner and was let in immediately (again, no line!!!!) where I enjoyed the dulcet tones of Blood Stain Child. The crowd was raucous and the main singer Sophia engaged the crowd in light banter. We unfortunately were told that there was no photography allowed so we enjoyed the concert as is. D was equally amazing and absolutely beautiful. I had a hard time coming to face reality that they were all men. Effing beautiful men, but men with penises nonetheless.
I let my night end there as I floated home exhausted but full of smiles and an ass ton of pictures which I uploaded to the IHOG Facebook. I crashed around 1am so I could prepare for Day Two of A-Kon22.
Saturday for me is the zenith of the convention. Everyone cosplaying brings their A game and it feels like there are even MORE people. It’s shoulder to shoulder everywhere and that tell tale scent of body odor has meshed itself into the very carpet. Aside from people as far as the eye can see, the biggest events are Saturday, which include the autograph sessions with all the guests, Q&A’s, the big dance/rave, the cosplay competition, Ani-Idol 2011, and for me, hentai fest.
I forgot I had to work a few hours at Keith’s Comics so once I finished my shift at 4pm, I hauled ass to the train station and arrived at the con 20 minutes later. I’d gotten an email right before my shift ended that D, the band that played the night before, was having an impromptu press conference right at 4pm. I cursed myself into oblivion and sent my hubby in my stead. He regaled me with the fun he had and the pictures he took. Jealous, I listened to the recordings and wrote up a transcript, which will be published, on IHOG @ A-Kon22, part two. I decided against going to Anime Jeopardy, expert edition, due to my inability to answer half the questions of the novice edition. An IHOG co-founder has no business failing in front of a crowd of people! I instead went for another lap around the dealer room and bought the most delightful pastry stuffed with chocolate mousse and a very small figurine of a Monster Hunter Felyne that I’d missed the first time around. I met up with some friends for dinner at one of the restaurants beneath the game room before going to get in line for the cosplay competition.
The line was huge and was wrapped around the entire main ballroom by 6pm and I was disgruntled to see it had reached outside, which meant I’d be waiting two hours in the Texas heat. Pass. I walked around the Artist Alley some more and interviewed one of the web comic creators, Jennie Breeden of The Devil’s Panties, which will also be on IHOG @ A-Kon22, part two. As I walked sadly toward the end of the cosplay line, I decided to ask the staff if there was possibly (and hopefully) a second line for press at the suggestion of my husband. I was shown to two rows right up front and got to watch all the cosplay rehearsal! Every single cosplay was truly great and whilst some were more accurate than others, I respected the work and dedication each one must have taken. I think there were about five cosplays that really stood out from me.
The first was Toothless from How to Train Your Dragon (which took THREE WHOLE MONTHS!!!) and it was absolutely amazing. You can tell it was a costume that took longer than your average school girl outfit based purely on the scales and minute detail on the whole thing. I’m sure it was heavy and I’m sure the girl inside was sweating her boobs off, but it was amazing. The face was spot on and I swear, I thought it was going to take off with Hiccup on its back!
I have no idea who this cosplay was of (if I’m not mistaken, it was a Victorian interpretation of Persephone?!) but wow, talk about detailed! Not a hair was out of place, no make-up was smudged, and each dress was perfection. One of her handmaidens was downright scary but the outfits were fantastic. I think they won an award that night.
This Rapidash is what I mean by dedication. Toothless cosplayer may have been sweating but Rapidash cosplayer’s back must have been KILLING her. That’s one person in that costume and holy jeez, she spent it all crouched over to give her costume a realistic appearance. I kind of just wanted to cuddle it and ride her but I didn’t. I snapped a picture and paid attention to the rest of the cosplayers.
These two lovely ladies were cosplaying Black Butler characters, an anime I have NOT seen, but I intend to check out. Their outfits were wholly screen accurate and they won an award as well (actually, I think everyone I liked won an award). I can’t sew nearly as well as these two and it’s difficult for me to imagine spending so much time and effort on my costume. I can only imagine all the measurements needed for these! Again, I applaud them because it was fuckin’ HOT.
I also liked these two cosplayers from an anime (I think) called Panty and Stocking with a Garter Belt (I think). There were several other pairs cosplayed as the characters BUT they stood out for their attention to detail. For example, the one in white had wings at her ankles that were made out of REAL feathers. That’s an A for extra effort in my book!
Once the walk on portion of the competition was completed, we got to see about eight different skits which ranged from lackluster to hilarious and then the judges stepped out for judging. During this mini-break, we were treated to two songs sung by the 2011 Ani-Idol and he was amazingly cute! He had a great voice and I enjoyed his performance and style. Once all the awards were given out (and there were quite a few), we were hustled out so they could make way for the dance/rave that lasted until 4am. We had roughly an hour or so until Hentai Fest began so we headed to that part of the hotel. We again didn’t have to wait in line and were told to come back at midnight and we’d be let in no problem so we ambled away in search of a late night panel.
Iron Artist 18+ was something chosen off the schedule due to its location and its interesting premise. Hosted by the guest artists at the convention, the audience chose a bunch of topics that were selected in random 3s for the artist teams to draw in roughly two minutes. Since it was an 18+ panel, the topics included dirty ones. Watching them draw absurd things was very funny (for example, one of the drawings had to include Charlie Sheen, tentacles, and the Titanic) and it helped pass the time until we made it back to Hentai Fest.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. Hentai = Tentacles = Perverts. Nay, I say! This particular event has always been the most fun I have at conventions due largely in part to their choice in film, the commentary by the audience of 500+, and the AMV contest. Think of it as a very x-rated version of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Since we had a douche bag last year who took pictures of the flashers at the pre-show and posted them on the internet, we weren’t able to have a pre-show L All cameras and private parts must be kept inside of your pants at all time! It’s the only rule of Hentai Fest and needless to say, it was obeyed by all this year, if only to be rewarded next year with the chosen theme of muppet sex. It is going to be legendary. Thus ended my Saturday (early Sunday?) and I again wandered home to sleep.
Sunday is generally pretty empty. There’s roughly ¼ of the crowd left by Sunday, whether it’s because they’ve left or they’re still sleeping from Saturday night’s debaucheries so it’s easier to walk around and see some of the stuff you may have missed. There’s also a few more meet and greets, a banquet with all the guests, and time for one more trip to the dealer room for last minute deals. I wasn’t there long…maybe an hour or two but I still enjoyed my last taste of A-Kon22.
I already cannot WAIT until next year.
UPDATE: DUE TO THE LENGTH OF THE RECORDINGS TAKEN FOR D AND JENNIE BREEDEN, THERE WILL BE A DELAY IN A-KON22, PART TWO! I’LL DO MY BEST TO HAVE IT UP ASAP!
A-Kon’s official website: www.a-kon.com
The Devil’s Panties web comic: www.thedevilspanties.com
Our Facebook gallery: http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.110854855672777.20719.100002447900166