November. The leaves are falling, the air is crisp, the otaku are taking over a hotel in Crystal City, Virginia. Anime USA has one again returned to the Hyatt Regency Crystal City near National Airport for a weekend of mirth, merriment and mischief. This particular hotel has a very long and storied history with anime conventions having hosted four separate conventions at various points in its history including such venerable conventions as Katsucon and Otakon in addition to the convention in question today, Anime USA.
Attendance this year was somewhere in the neighborhood of 4,500 this year give or take a few hundred, or about stable from the last few years. Given the lateness of the con this year, 2 weeks before Thanksgiving right in the middle of the school year, that’s quite impressive. Of course with crowds come crowding issues. In particular in the video game room, also known as a portion of the parking garage they put some walls in and kinda messed up the emergency exit signage, leading to a limit of 45 attendees in the room for a while after a visit from the friendly neighborhood fire marshal. Otherwise the crowds were quite manageable given the layout limitations of the building.
Per the usual for anime conventions Anime USA features panel programing, the main events rooms, video tracks, an artist’s alley, a dealer’s room, a maid cafe, a host club, a video room dedicated to Anime Music Video programing, workshop space, tabletop gaming, a Live Action Role Playing Game event and I’m sure more stuff I am not even remembering right now. In total there were twenty different programing tracks going on at any one times not including things the conventioneers themselves set up on their own, like the secondary rave in the artist’s alley area Saturday night and the various video games being played on the walls of the pit. Yep, people set up projectors to display video games on the walls of the underground convention space aka the pit. In their defense the walls seem perfectly set up for doubling as video screens, other than being sand brown. Gotta love that mid 70’s-early 80’s “lets make everything look like brown concrete” architecture, this particular hotel being built the same year your intrepid reviewer was born, 1981.
The paneling this year was top notch, capped off by not one but two, count ’em two sessions of Anime Parliament where, among other cases, there was a panel appointed to determine who should and should not be allowed to take up the mantels of heroes and villains from here on our due to the recent proliferation of lousy heroes and villains. Among others Chuck Norris ended up on the heroes panel, and his roundhouse kick made the villains panel. There was also another running of the exceptionally funny…if more than a little profane. “Spoiler: The Panel” by Disorganization 13. They do in fact spoil things, in the funniest way possible.
Sadly while FUNimation was there with a small booth setup and official representatives, they did not have any new acquisitions to announce. Can’t get new stuff at every con, that kind of stuff ended the lives of several companies in the past who seemed to acquire things simply for the sake of having something new to show off. FUNimation was also the only industry presence this year other than Media Blasters usual sales table in the dealer’s room. No one else sent any representative. Rather telling of the state of the sad state of the anime industry.
The hall costuming this year was, as always, impeccable. Anime USA, above and beyond other conventions, has really latched onto the steampunk and fantasy themes hard to the point where this year’s overall theme was old Arabia including a Sultan’s Ball formal dance on Friday night. Very impressive number of really well done unusual costumes, not just an endless parade of Narutos (Narutari?), Bleach characters and people throwing random bits of clothing together as a rave costume, though there were certainly a ton of ravers. I do occasionally wonder if some con goers would be happier if the con dropped all the anime stuff and went with nothing but a 48 hour rave. Quibbles aside, Anime USA 2010 was an absolute blast and I very much look forward to returning to the Hyatt Regency Crystal City for Anime USA 2011 at a date to be determined. Come 2012…well….who knows where we’ll be….
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