Report by Jonathan Cullinane (nert) posted Tuesday 9th December 2008
The UK's largest dedicated anime convention was back in town; bigger and badder than ever for its fourth run totalling nearly 1,500 people! We figured we should probably be there, so we were.
Once again back to the Leicester site, with its sheltered main steps, twisting passages, scenic photo spots, and convenient kebab van. The AmeCon banner billowed, attached high from windows above and the faint sounds of the music festival drifted down the road. Again!
Not only has attendance risen with more places on offer, online payments and quicker turnaround of the waiting lines, but people have definitely started to make the most of the Ame weekend, with both pre- and post-con gatherings on the Thursday and Monday either side. Not to mention hitting the registration queues at opening time and partying until 2am on the final night.
Approximately 100 hungry con-goers descended on nearby Japanese restaurant Terasana on the Thursday night before the convention had even started!
With so many people turning up so early, the queues were certainly in force come the opening hour of 10am, and with the weather unable to make up its mind it was a very different start to years previous. Nonetheless the crowd cheerfully marched on through the registrations queue to acquire their treasured con badges and packs - entry passes to all the events and activities the convention has to offer. Oh, and there were pillows to buy, too.
Despite the dreary start, spirits are always high on the first day. Friends who only meet these times of year reunite, the rifling through the schedule booklet can be heard all around, and those dedicated cosplayers dressed up even at this hour of the morning are already picked out of the queues for photographs aplenty. A little rain can't dampen some spirits it seems!
With such a condensed amount of cosplayers, was the bar for costumes being raised once more? You can bet it was. This was the year of some incredible Final Fantasy costumes all around, with several group efforts and individual masterpieces alike, ranging from a small army of Yunas, to a rather scary Anima and the amazing contest-winning Kimahri!
Of course don't go believing Final Fantasy was the only source to host sizeable groups of cosplayers! Other such gatherings included Sailor Moon, Hitman REBORN, D-Gray Man, Zelda, Persona 3, Phoenix Wright, Bleach, Gurren Lagann, and Soul Calibur. No small amount to choose from.
This year several cosplay workshops were hosted in the dedicated emergency cosplay repair room, all run by volunteers and some even by our very own Cosplay Island staff, ranging from wig styling to makeup to mask making to acting in character and skit planning.
These of course are already in addition to the numerous Cosplay related activities AmeCon has to offer, not only does it feature a unique Masquerade setup - with an extended catwalk through several rooms - it is also home to the original Cosplay Ball, Omake skit event and Cosplay Cafe. It also features a separate Cosplay Competition with individual interview judging. Some mad attendees even have different costumes for each event!
After the problems experienced last year with Masquerade hold-ups, the crowds were gleeful to find this year it ran as smooth as silk, thanks to the staff, planning, and ideas that had gone into it. Some amazing costumes saw fit to stride the catwalk and the official photos are available on the Amecon website.
The Omake this year was so packed they had to open several other rooms and pipe video feeds in just to seat everyone! This sadly led to some large delays but the resulting performances were worth every minute, since the quality of skits has risen quite sharply! Unfortunately, as has the number of yaoi jokes.
The Cosplay Ball returned in full elegance, the hall decorated with lettered balloons, bells, coloured lights, and free nibbles and drinks while convention staff personally really spoilt us with trays of Ferrero Rocher! Live singing, including a special duet, and previously available ballroom dance lessons made the evening something special.
The parties each night were of course packed full, and for those not attending the ball, the Karaoke was always open.
So there's the convention as it stands. Amecon remains steadfastly in its place as the Big Summer Anime Convention, with a mild curse of rain every other year. Even with three full days there are so many events packed in it's difficult to find time to do non-essential things like eat or sleep. The level and sheer number of costumes around is mind boggling, more than any photographer could hope to take pictures of in such a short time..
I've already mentioned this was definitely the year of Final Fantasy Extreme, but one cannot ignore the vast array of otherwise-sourced costumes on display. Witch Hunter Robin, Eureka 7, Tenchi, Street Fighter, Aria, +Anima, Gorillaz, One Piece, Princess Tutu, Princess Princess, Team Fortress 2, Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni and even Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan all made very striking appearances dotted around the convention.
Here's where I normally point out the rise and decline of cosplay trends, but this year has thrown something of a curve-ball, with a huge resurgence of aforementioned SquareEnix-ness accounting for a huge proportion of costumes, a huge dip in Naruto related shenanigans, Bleach staying mostly in the background but not without a sizable presence, and all others, game, anime and manga related all being dispersed really quite evenly.. Almost as if planned..
If anything I'd say the major shift this year was in the direction of duos and groups of cosplayers over individual efforts - showing a sign of improving community cohesion perhaps? The forums this year were busier than ever and even now the echoes of forthcoming plans for the next conventions can be heard for miles.
The next Amecon won't be until 2010 as the poor committee are in need of a holiday; despite originally intending to run every two years the convention is now in its third year without a rest and the summer convention spot is left open to takers!
Will AyaCon truely return and reclaim its spot next year? Watch this space..
Okay, not this space per se. More around the front page space.