Anime Central Chicago 2013!
We would like to thank all the people we met in the convention: Animechicago.com, Erick Maruscak, for his great art work, Kalafina, Yuu Asakawa and Head of Press Vic Walter.
The crown jewel of anime conventions in the Midwest has come and gone, but with it we celebrated its sweet 16th anniversary. Anime Central, or ACEN for short, was hosted by the Hyatt Regency O’Hare Hotel in Rosemont and the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center. Neighboring hotels such as the Hilton, Embassy Suites and the Double Tree all house the anime fandom that ACEN has created. Anyone not staying at the hotels had the option of taking the CTA Blue Line. which is only 15 minutes from the convention doors. People driving down to the convention hotel had the option of parking in the Donald E. Convention Center or CTA economy parking by the train station. Thousands of people came to visit this convention from around the country and even the world. This review will focus on the outstanding events that ACEN brought us this year and the not so much events that could have been avoided altogether.
The Game Room Table Top Room
If you have been attending ACEN for the past 3 years you should have noticed that the game room has been permanently changed to the Hilton hotel. A minor nuisance for con-goers, expecting to have everything under one roof, disappointed to know that in order to play their favorite game, they have to walk to another hotel. Now this would not be a problem if the game room was worth the walk. Most of the consoles setup were past gen (NES, SNES, Gamecube) and their game selection lackluster. A bare-bones arcade combined with a dull game library was probably the reason why there was a lack of con-goers in the room. Another change to this year was the move of the table top room to the Hilton. Now we will admit that there was a lot more space for the table toppers, but the rooms were out of the way and hidden in a corner of the convention. Information about the table top tournaments were not easily available, nor was it found in the guidebook. We had no other choice but to ask around the table top area until we were directed to another room with the tournament information.
One of the major highlights of this year’s ACEN was the Kalafina concert. Kalafina, better known for their music in the wildly popular Madoka Magicka series, made their US debut at Anime Central. Their concert took the center stage at the newly renovated Akoo Theater right across the street of the Donald E. Convention Center. Not only was the sound amazing, the light show which accompanied the music was out of this world. Yuki Kajiura, Keiko Wakana, and Kikaru all blended their extraordinary musical talents with their infectious good vibes which created a concert that we shall not forget.
One of the main attractions of ACEN is the ever popular Dealers Hall. All the vendors had unique items to offer from DVDs to PVC figures to Manga as far as the eye can see. The Donald E. Stephens Convention Center was a perfect place to house all of the artists and the vendor’s products. This year, it was bigger and better. There were a lot of new faces and special guest exhibitor, Good Smiles, sold out of almost all of their figures.
Some of the panels we went into having the lowest of expectations actually turned out to be good. But some of the panels we went into having pretty high expectations, turned out to fall short by a fair amount. We believe the reason for this was the panel descriptions were misleading to some extent. Another detail that we had somewhat of a hard time with was the map of the Hyatt (where all the panels were being held) as well as how the panel descriptions were laid out on the convention booklet. The map was hard to follow, and the panel descriptions were all listed in a random fashion with no rhyme or reason on their own separate pages. They were not separated by date, time, category, location, or even alphabetically which made looking for panel descriptions difficult.
As far as convention masquerades go, ACEN had the usual skits, singing, dances, and costume catwalks. This year was no different but there was an unusually high amount of Zelda theme violence (you had to be there to make sense of this) which made this year very memorable. The half time show featured none other than the “guy who pulled the fire alarm” last year in a 15min movie short that was both hilarious and brought a sense of justice to all the hardworking cosplayers and skits of last year.
We thank ACEN for giving us the opportunity to enjoy the convention as members of the Press. The opportunity to talk in a more intimate setting with Yuu Asakawa, was outstanding and really gave us a greater insight on what drives her and inspires her to be who she is. Insider info, Asakawa is currently playing a Resident Evil video game and is a huge Burnt Notice fan. Brad Swaile had a great upbeat attitude and gave all the people in the press room great advice on how to take your voice acting career to the next level.
We thoroughly enjoyed our time at ACEN this year and we would definitely continue to go to ACEN if the circumstances permit. The fact that we made friends, talked to people, saw terrific cosplay outfits, attended good panels, is enough to completely win us over and keep us coming back.