Anime Midwest 2013
Going on their third year, Anime Midwest has filled the void for this year’s summer cons. We have no official numbers yet, but a healthy 5 thousand souls filled the Hyatt O’Hare this hot July weekend. This year, Anime Midwest changed venues to the more convention friendly Hyatt O’Hare. Now you’re probably saying to yourself, ‘wait a minute, that sounds familiar’ and you’re right. If you are from the Midwest area, the Hyatt O’Hare also houses the biggest anime convention of the area, Anime Central (ACEN). This was a good move for Anime Midwest since the Hyatt is more conveniently located to major transportation routes, primarily the Blue Line CTA. Parking was affordably priced at the Hyatt hotel which was a refreshing change for everyone that drove to the convention. Being the only convention in the Chicago-land area this summer, Anime Midwest had the spotlight to shine; but mixed feelings resonated throughout the con. Bad press, poorly trained volunteers, understaffing, were some of the major issues this year. Highlights of this year included awesome entertaining panels, Spike Spencer, and the expanded game room/table top room.
A month before the convention was scheduled to start there were multiple rumors of staff leaving the convention for various reasons. Here at Anime Power Level we do not spread baseless rumors nor do we endorse them. These rumors stayed as just that, rumors. An official statement on their Facebook page explained the whole situation and reassured everyone that whoever was behind all of this bad press was just up to no good. Many disconcerted people voiced their opinion on their Facebook and a lot of the seasoned staff members quit. This led to a poorly staffed convention, where the few seasoned staff members were overworked and overwhelmed by the amount of events that they needed to look over. Our first taste of this happened while trying to pick up and purchase a weekend badge; we were directed to the wrong place twice. While picking up our press badge we expected some sort of confirmation that proved we were who we claimed to be, we were only asked for a name and our publication no formal ID was ever requested. While purchasing the extra convention badge, there were no obvious signs that it was cash only. Making us hunt down an ATM, pay the extra service fee to get cash out, and going through the line again. The major events of the convention, like the masquerade, were horribly handled. Many of the lines had no clear end and were mostly guided by the attendees themselves, poorly I might add. Staff were either was too busy talking to the people up front or had no desire to manage the lines themselves. From this writer’s perspective, this made it unfair for all the people that legitimately waited 45 minutes there just to be cut by a whole group of people who got there 5 minutes before the event started just because there was no staff in sight to direct the lines. The volunteers that staffed some of the smaller panels and helped out with con activities were poorly trained or had no idea what was going on. It was apparent that many of the volunteers for Anime Midwest were picked up last minute, and had little knowledge of what was going on. On several occasions when we asked a volunteer for directions they had no idea where things where, and instead of calling or asking someone else for the information they completely ignored us and walked away. At the con suite, people complained about the rude volunteer staff who nagged everyone to take only one cup of ramen. There were a couple of panels that got canceled or moved, some of the volunteers were as clueless as the attendees themselves trying to find out if their panels had been canceled. There was a clear gap in communication between the staff and the volunteers when the attendees knew more about the panel cancellations. We hope to see a more organized line of communication between the staff and volunteers so that attendees stay informed. Aside the fact that some panels were canceled, there were a many outstanding ones that made this convention very enjoyable.
This year, Anime Midwest’s panels were nothing short of amazing. We had a blast at every panel we went to. Some of the highlights include: Spike Spencer’s Don’t Kill Your Date (and cooking tips), What Happens in the Con Stays in the Con, and all 18 and up late night panels. Spike Spencer, Quinton Flynn and Todd stole the night in their 16 and up panels from convention shenanigans to real relationship talk, they had it all. Their personalities blended together to create a panel that would not be easily forgotten. In Don’t Kill Your Date, Spike took the opportunity to talk to con-goers about real relationship questions ala Q & A fashion while sprinkling in cooking recipes from around the world that would impress even the toughest opposition. He made sure every question was answered from the audience even if it meant going over the allotted time. He entertained and educated the audience the Spike Spencer way with his witty remarks and his life stories. In What Happens in the Con Stays in the Con, a less tense environment helped make this panel much more ridiculous and wild. The trio of voice actors all gave us their favorite con story and it was up to the audience to decide whether they chose to believe them to be true or be some fictional piece of work that helped set the mood. Questions were allowed from the audience in a no holds barred room directed at the beloved actors. Of course the voice actors were happy to oblige and answer adding their own personal touch to their answers. If you were looking for an even wilder time, and if you were over 18, then the late hour hentai panels were the place to be. We enjoyed the game show nature of the panels; they got the whole room lit up with people screaming for answers and jumping out of their seats just to make themselves be heard. Even though there was no definite prize to be won, people were passionate about getting the right answers. This made the whole panel even more enjoyable. The game rooms were expanded to more than twice their size, highlights included a free-to-play arcade room with your usual arcade room staples; DDR, Pump it up, Marvel Vs. Capcom 2, and an assortment of co-op and 4 player cabinets.
This year’s game room was hosted by IPG and they brought with them a slew of tournaments to satisfy everyone’s favorite game. The table top room was well staffed and carried every game you can imagine plus your usual trading card game tournaments; Yu-gi-oh, Magic the Gathering, Pokemon and Vanguard among others were all well represented in tournaments that ran all weekend long. The dealer room had at least double the number of vendors from last year and they had a wide variety of products. It was nice to see that in the mists of all the anime memorabilia there were a few gems of sci-fi, board/card game and video game products.
The main events included your typical masquerade and the raves for the night owls. The masquerade was a bit lacking in skits and performances aside from the usual cosplay showcase. During the cosplay showcase the spotlight is supposed to be directed at the cosplayers themselves, but it was a bit distracting that MC Dante wanted the same spotlight with each cosplayer passing through the stage. The highlight of the night events, the rave, were action packed with attendees packed in one room dancing the night away to their favorite electronic music. The night went long into the morning hours and if you opted for not joining the raving frenzy, there was always the more laid back, late night Karaoke. Besides the many hurdles that they need to improve; communication with attendees/volunteers, understaffing, and bad press, we had good time at Anime Midwest. Awesome friendly attendees, fun game rooms and entertaining panels made this Anime Midwest a good time to remember. We will definitely give them another try next year.