In Texas, anime conventions typically fall between late Spring and Early fall. It’s prime time for being outside and smelling like con funk. As a result, there’s a large gap in the season when there are no cons to be had and there’s not a very good reason to get blackout drunk in a stranger’s hotel room. But fear not, because there’s one, large, well-known convention that’s been saving you from this nightmare for a few years now – Ikkicon. The last Ikkicon wrapped up almost two weeks ago and we got to check it out, so let’s see how this winter bonanza fared among its warmer competitors.
Ikkicon has taken place at the Hilton Austin hotel, a fabulous location with a ton of amenities around it. Various restaurants and Austin’s infamous bar blockade Sixth Street are all within walking distance of the con. Since the actual convention is within the hotel, there’s not much need to go outside, which is definitely a plus in the winter. The hotel itself has relatively expensive con rates, which is to be expected for the primo location, but the rooms are updated and feel modern.
Unfortunately there are a number of drawbacks to this space. Ikkicon spans two floors of the hotel (4th and 6th) and as a result, Artist’s Alley isn’t in an enclosed space, but rather in the hallways. For every year past, this hasn’t been a terrible issue. Sure it was difficult walking around at high traffic times, but no more so than is acceptable. This year, however, a combination of increased attendance and the line for badges snaking from one end of the hallway down the middle of Artist’s Alley meant it was a quagmire of nerdbodies all pressed together.
Though the geographical location was killer, it’s clear Ikkicon has grown out of its venue. Next year, the convention is moving up north to a larger location, but out of downtown. It’s going to be interesting to see if the move pays off.
As far as anime conventions go, this one was relatively run of the mill. Only six industry guests attended, which isn’t terrible, but if you were debating between Ikkicon or one later in the year, that may sway you. There were raves when you’d expect them, video rooms as you’d anticipate, and a gaming room filled with mostly the new Smash Brothers.
Where this con differentiated itself from others was the wide variety of panels available. From a wrestling show on Friday night to Whose Line is it Anime? to a tattoo show, there were a few really interesting, out of the norm panels that made the schedule jump out. If you’re looking in to going and want to know how it’s different from most other conventions, it’s the location and panels.
The only real negative thing is that this year, Ikkicon staff decided to put up barriers on hallways so only people with badges could get by. You used to be able to walk around the entire two floors of the con whenever you wanted to, and only be asked to see a badge when entering a door (you know, like a reasonable convention that realizes blocking open areas makes no sense). I don’t know if they ran out of volunteer staff, or the one guy that stopped us was power hungry, but it was really off putting. Hopefully that’s alleviated next year.
Stuff to Buy
The Artist’s Alley was definitely on par with other conventions, featuring similar booths and offerings with shows you’d expect. The Dealers Room was about the same thing, mostly stuff you’ve seen before and that one figure you keep drooling over, but still can’t afford. One really interesting newcomer to the con was a couple who laser etched pint and shot glasses. They featured a number of fandoms from Legend of Zelda to Doctor Who to Metal Gear Solid. It’s been a while since I’ve walked through a Dealer’s Room and stopped because I saw something entirely new and different. Kudos.
Ikkicon is the perfect cure for your winter con blues. Though it may not have the large amount of guests and pretty standard offerings, it’s another con you can go to that has a little flavor of its own. The location is outstanding and you won’t be forced to eat coffee pot ramen because you don’t want to leave and pay for parking again. To be fair though, next year that’s going away (can’t wait to see if it’s still cool). Beware though, this year was tremendously packed and seemed poorly laid out, problems which will likely be alleviated next year. And hopefully next year, they’ll learn their lesson about badge-blocking open areas. If you simply can’t wait until A-Kon and need something to cure the post-holiday blues, Ikkicon is right up your alley.