Report by Jonathan Cullinane (nert) posted Wednesday 14th November 2007
Your report writer tonight humbly requests the reader overlook the fact it's not exactly still August.
This year, AmeCon returned to the Leicester campus for its third iteration in sunny August, and much unlike its namesake and reputation (ame translates to 'rain', as well as 'candy') this weekend it failed to rain torrentially. It's almost a legacy that the AmeCon three-day marathon is in fact some sort of tribal ritual to open the heavens, but this year it spat for about thirty seconds on the Sunday and that was it. Maybe they didn't draw the magic circle right, who knows?
Still, complaints aren't really being made as the fine weather combined with the campus itself make for some of the best Cosplay photography opportunities any UK convention has to offer.
AmeCon started up in 2004 as a venture to become the UK's largest dedicated anime convention, it ran during alternating years to AyaCon as the major UK summer convention, but with AyaCon's now uncertain future it has taken the baton and kept going, now running annually. With pink-haired mascot Ame-chan, and now evil mustashioed villian General Error, it's running stronger than ever with each passing year.
AmeCon sets itself apart by taking over the University campus site, thus bringing in on-site accommodation from the student halls, spreading event rooms over several buildings, and utilizing the on-site minimarket and canteen hall, as well as having handy cashpoints nearby. In addition, Ame runs fully from 10am Friday morning, right up until midnight on Sunday, fitting in much more time for socialising and partying, and is the proud holder of the renowned Cosplay Ball, where a dress code is enforced, ballroom dancing lessons are available and adds something quite special to the weekend.
On the flip side, because of its size it can be quite daunting to newcomers, during your first visit the provided map is a guide to live by, and the accommodation is still quite a fair walk away from the central area for those in costume or anyone planning on returning to their room often. Luckily the entire campus is quite picturesque and even getting somewhat lost can lead to finding a fantastic photo spot. Of course, if you're lost and have no one to take pictures of in that fantastic spot.. well.. oh dear. Lesson to be learnt: always get lost with people in costume? I'll have to get back to you on that.
So, what did 2007's effort have in store for us?
Accommodation came in two flavours, normal and en-suite, making use of the much newer block of student halls slightly closer to the site. The contrast is quite surprising as the older rooms are more or less identical to the student rooms I'm fully used to: brown, beige and dear-god-what-happened-to-the-sink, whilst the newer Opal Court rooms were just shy of something I'd expect from a major hotel chain. The prices do reflect the difference, however. Also, as many occupants of that particular court over the weekend will attest to, the door guard was one of the nicest people on the planet.
10am on a Friday morning, then. Those who help with setup, or have friends in the area to crash with often travel down on the Thursday so there's no shortage of attendees even at this hour of the first day. Dedicated as ever, many showed up to the initial opening queues already in costume, some even gophering and ordering the queues, or dancing for everyone's entertainment. The con vibe ignores the earliness of the morning and already the air is filled with the sounds of first greetings, compliments on costumes and reunited friends.
As well as the traditional logo-emblazoned t-shirt for sale, this year AmeCon was offering hugging pillows with the convention logo on, ever the cynical one I originally scoffed at such a concept. After a rough night of sleep I ended up buying one of the extras they had spare and to put it simply, it's still in use today. You win this time, AmeCon Committee... ::shakes fist::
The layout of the convention takes a little getting used to, but everyone knows the main steps - as well as being reasonably central, it's where you register, and while open air, has an overhanging ceiling so even when it does rain it's still a perfect place to meet or generally mooch around.
Fursuits are certainly starting to take off, with no less than two full-fur costumes of Kyuubi from Naruto present, as well as a Red XIII from Final Fantasy.
Other common themes of the year:
- D-Gray Man - a huge unplanned group got in an excellent photoshoot
- King of Fighters - More colourful than a bag of skittles, a very sizeable group took over one of the lawns for a planned photoshoot
- Azumanga Daioh - I counted at least 5 cosplayers mimicking the schoolgirl madness, including a fantastic Chiyo-Penguin
- Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya - The Mikurus were out in force, I counted at least 6 clones attempting to take over the world. Possibly.
- Trinity Blood - Planned group, each wearing exponentially more detailed clothing than the last (!)
- Yakitate!! Japan - I believe I managed to spot 7 bread-wielding artisans
- Ouran High School Host Club - No less than two full groups of bishounen characters
- Death Note - I... lost count of Ls.
AmeCon is no stranger to filling the timetable with events. In addition to the Masquerade, which is a long catwalk affair, it separates skits and performances until the Sunday, then holds them as an Omake event on a proper stage. Not stopping there, it also holds the UK's largest Anime Music Video competition, a Cosplay Cafe where you can be served by costumes waiters and waitresses, an AMV disco to dance away Saturday night to, as well as J-Pop, J-Rock, Eurobeat and Karaoke events, a Doll meet for fans of scary diminutive plastic people, a Gothic Lolita Tea Party, Game tournaments and a plethora of informational panels about Japanese culture and the fan industry. Three days starts to look a little cramped.. Add on top of that the guest stars, including an Amecon regular - voice actress Monica Rial, Japanese Lifestyle expert Akemi Solloway and the band Gothika.. and well, it's a busy weekend, put it that way.
However, even if nothing there is to your taste, there's still the other thousand-odd attendees than yourself to get talking to.
All that's the planning anyway, how did the weekend in full go? Several events were delayed by up to an hour, and the warm weather meant queuing inside in costume became something of an exercise in endurance, but gophers were ever-present, supplying cold water and generally keeping masquerade entrants alive. The main lift broke down again, but at least only temporarily this year, while a small innocent wooden chair nearly won the Omake award by popular demand.
That's literally most of the bad points I could name, and I'm trying here.
Chair-chan, as it came to be called, was an inadvertent hero of the Omake all because of a mis-timed bit of music. Many who wish to perform skits will send in pre-recorded audio and/or video clips to show as part of the act - a rather dramatic piece - which also red-tinted the stage - intended for the pivotal moment of a Death Note skit, accidentally played whilst nothing was visible save for a humble chair. Realising the error the music was cut and the lights lifted again, but the audience opted to see that as a complete skit - and praised the 'Best Chair Cosplay Skit Ever' before it was then later paraded around as a celebrity. Con-fever in all its glory, folks!
Moving swiftly on, then. The Masquerade was dominated by the Trinity Blood group, while the Omake wowed the crowds with a fully-choreographed dance routine by a fully-staffed Host Club. People really went all-out this year, in effort and sheer size of costumes, props and even groups. We expect things to improve further still. Proceed.
So in summary: The days were bright and sunny, the nights were cool and chilled. The entire area was filled with people generally being social and having a good time all the way up until kickout on Monday morning, and the Ame-chan animations played during the major events are.. something to be seen to be believed..
Registrations for AmeCon 2008 are planned to open on the 18th of this month, be quick - places may not last long! The dates for the convention are the 8th-10th August '08 and I hope to see plenty of you there.