It’s been thirteen years since Anime Central, or ACen for short, first made its appearance in 1998, and being my third time here, it didn’t disappoint. ACen is one of the larger anime and manga conventions in the United States and rightly so, seeing as fans of Japanese culture come from all over (myself being from Vancouver, British Columbia). This year, ACen returned to the Hyatt Regency O’Hare and Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, Illinois for all things dark and mysterious about anime, seeing as this was the thirteenth ACen.
View from the Hyatt Regency O’Hare
As per my custom of booking a hotel room at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare (seeing as I don’t like to travel too and from conventions during the day and it makes things easier to stay in the same building), our group checked in to our room. We discovered, to our delight, that we got a balcony and one that faced the entrance over Bryn Mawr Avenue. This would make for a great location when people watching over the weekend.
But back to our group – which consisted of four people: myself (as Vyse from Skies of Arcadia), Soul Eater Evans (of Soul Eater fame), Ban Midou and Ginji Amano (both from Get Backers). Of course, we had the obligatory visitors stop by for some balcony fun and dinner.
Ginji and Ban from Get Backers
This was my first time debuting another costume that wasn’t Naruto Uzumaki, this time going as Vyse from Skies of Arcadia, after I commissioned it from my friend. We set out and began our first full adventure of the convention for 2010.
The artist’s alley was spectacular again, including the return of our friend SHADi and new-comer, Joey Blondewolf2. Lots of talent and many with amazing prints and sketches and other neat trinkets were available for sale. I just wish I had space back home to display all of it.
The exhibitor’s room was expansive as always which makes it easy to get lost in, but you’d always find yourself at a booth that sold something interesting, unique or a shrine to Shaq-Fu. At the FUNimation booth, they had copies of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood and the third Soul Eater box set for sale before their scheduled retail date which was pretty neat; a kind of bonus for fans of the series at the convention.
I purchased a few shirts, some Naruto Shippuden figures, the Soul Eater box set two and the entire Higurashi no Naku Koro ni box set (the latter alone was a steal primarily because HMV in Canada sells the individual DVDs for $40 CAD where this box set at the FUNimation booth for the whole series was $40 USD).
We also took advantage of DeathCom Multimedia‘s photo booth in the Hyatt for a few professional photographs together. I’d never done this before, but seeing as the Ban and Ginji in our group had done it and had shown how well their pictures had come out, I had to give it a try. Getting your picture taken is free, but there was a fee if you wanted prints (8½ by 11 or 4 by 6). It was worth it though.
Legend of Zelda photo shoot
Later in the afternoon, I attended the Legend of Zelda and Soul Eater photo shoots. Both featured amazing costumes and a lively atmosphere as everyone in character posed for the cameras. Amusingly, during the Zelda poses, the wind had picked up, and neither Links from The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker were able to tame the breeze. My friend, as Soul Eater, had a fun time at his namesake shoot, being abused by Maka and frightened when Excalibur appeared. I unfortunately missed the Naruto and Fire Emblem photo shoots though. Need to plan better for next year.
Kouki Uchiyama signs a Soul Eater wall scroll
On Saturday, we picked up postcards from the FUNimation booth that listed the autograph schedules for the Japanese voice cast of Soul Eater. The first session was at 11:30 am with Yumiko Kobayashi (Black Star) and Narumi Takahira (Patty Thompson), where we were able to get a few wall scrolls signed. We returned at 1:30 pm when the rest of the cast would be available to sign my friend’s Soul Eater jacket. While we waited in line, Vic Mignogna made a brief appearance from behind one of the curtains dividing the autograph booths. My friend, who knows Vic quite well personally, was able to speak with him shortly until Vic’s fan girls found him and began screaming. For those who have never attended an anime convention where Vic was a guest, his fans are loud — not the good kind of loud at a concert, but the kind of loud that’s reminiscent of nails being dragged down a chalkboard. That sound even frightened Vic which was pretty amusing. After the line started moving, we were able to get our wall scrolls and my friend’s jacket signed by Kouki Uchiyama (Soul Eater) and Kaori Nazuka (Tsubaki), along with the producer of the animated series, Masazumi Kato.
People watching at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare
Most of the ACen attendees know how much trouble the elevators at the Hyatt can be, especially during the afternoon and evenings. Me and a friend had gone down to pick up our pizza from the front desk and upon entering the elevator (which also had a few other people bringing back their own dinner), we found that we were over the weight limit. Usually, the elevator makes a loud buzzing noise and the doors don’t close to alert the occupants. In this case, the doors did close and the elevator moved a foot before stopping – and then dropped about a half a foot which freaked me out. So about ten minutes later after repeating the same dropping motion over, some of the people exited and we were on our way (being stuck in the elevator wouldn’t have been half bad seeing as we all had food and drinks).
My friends however, made a smarter decision, and took the stairs instead; responding to comments of the building reminiscing the ShinRa headquarters in Final Fantasy VII.
Shinichi Watanabe strikes a pose
I found the convention to be much more organized and the staff was really friendly and helpful. I know in previous years, IRT would use brightly coloured zap straps or ribbons on approved props, but this year, they marked the back of the badges with a red star stamp. ACen badges are pretty unique among convention goers, since the administration has gone through varying styles to create something different and forgery-proof each year. This time, the badges were actual plastic badges with a printed label containing the badge name, number and other information on it.
All in all, Anime Central this year was pretty amazing. Only disappointment was that Doug Walker of That Guy With The Glasses fame wasn’t around all that much. Seeing as he’s busy making hilarious videos and was a last minute unofficial guest, I can’t fault the convention for it. But overall, it was well planned and was a fun weekend. I can’t wait to return in 2011!
Photos are now available online in Gallery. Videos will be posted shortly.