Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Animazing!

Pop Culture America correspondent Michael has recently attended the Animazement convention in Raleigh/Durham, North Carolina and filed this report. You're on, Mike!

ANIMAZEMENT 2009



Animazement, the local Anime, Manga and Japanese culture convention here in North Carolina. This is the 12th year that Animazement has been running. This is my third year attending the convention. Formerly the convention was in the lobby and conference rooms of the Imperial hotel in Durham but has moved to swanky new digs, the Raleigh Convention Center which recently finished construction the beginning of this year.
The convention center is a great place for the staff of Animazement to have moved the event to. There is plenty of space here. Four floors of rooms for panels, movies, programming and gaming, huge meeting rooms for the cosplay contests. This space seemed a bit underutilized in my opinion. In the Dealer room nearly 1/3rd of the space was empty. While the dealers themselves had plenty of related swag for sale and a lot of the prices were, surprisingly, reasonable for a con. I understood that some of those in charge of this part of Animazement had weeded out “redundant” merchandise prior to the event. Okay, not smart guys. This is an anime/manga based convention any dealer is going to be selling very similar stuff, and it’s a niche market. This can’t be helped. Let the dealers deal with someone else selling the same things they are by selling for better prices, a.k.a. Capitalism.



Now Artist Alley’s, a section where fan art, dollfie and craft objects are placed on display and sold. There was a lot of great artwork here. There was also some terrible artwork as well. A few things here seemed like the artist didn’t really try and be creative and just slapped some paint on something to look like it’s from an anime. I’m not here to criticize the art and a lot of hard work goes into these things, just somethings don’t work for me. Overall the Alley was a huge improvement over previous years. More room equals more art and more impulse buying. This was the section for that.
The guest speaker panels this year took a bit of a hit. Not anyone’s fault really. This whole Swine Flu scare makes getting back into Japan kinda hard. This caused about half of the guests of honor to cancel. Still there were some good panels by a few of the English voice actors. Local groups also held panels on various things. Several Asian ball-jointed doll panels seemed rather popular. Also, the Steampunk genre seemed to be infiltrating the con. A very large late night panel covered an introduction to building costumes of the subculture. Along with panels on; Japanese writing, proper ways to were a kimono, martial arts and other aspects of the culture.
Now for the biggest part of Animazement the Cosplay. That is costume play for those of you that don’t know. This is where all the people dress up as their favorite characters. Now there were some great costumes here, in fact this is my favorite game to play at the cons, “Guess the Character.” However there is a rule in cosplay that will, sadly be true; “The chosen character will be completely wrong for the cosplayer’s body type.” By this I mean that… lets say larger girls, will dress up in costumes of petite girls, often several sizes to small. I use girls in that example but guys are just as guilty of doing this. I for one am a large guy, but I have the sense to stay out of costumes that in know way should be on me. Still, there were a lot of great costumes out there from all kinds of genres. A few examples are a Big Daddy & Little Sister from the BioShock games, numerous Links and Zeldas, dozens of characters from multiple anime series’ (Bleach, Hellsing, Deathnote, etc), there was even a Capt. Crunch. *awesome*



Overall I was not impressed by the convention this year. This is not to say that it’s a bad convention, far from it. This is a good convention that could be a great one in a couple of years. There is a lot going on at Animazement and the added space is great. There was plenty of room to move around while looking at merchandise and artwork. I think the staff needs to ease up on some of the merchandise rules and allow more dealers to attend regardless of similar merchandise. Hopefully next year no swine flu outbreaks prevent guests from speaking at panels. Encourage the steampunk people, there are plenty of steampunk animes out there, Steam Boy and Desert Punk are a couple of examples which come readily to mind. Stretch the boundaries of what Animazement set out to be originally, build upon it and this con will be something to look forward to year after year.
I recommend that people go to Animazement especially next year as I think the staff now has a better understanding of how the Convention Center is regarded by the attendees.

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