For anime fans in the Northern California area, there’s rarely a convention larger or more anticipated than Fanime. Held at the San Jose Convention Center, Fanime has boasted a motto of “for fans, by fans,” and has aimed to make an event friendly to both fans and families.
The convention center has been under renovation in recent years, which provided no shortage of troubles to previous conventions. Last year’s Fanime was given the unaffectionate nickname “LineCon,” due to the extensive lines that made attendees wait hours upon hours before picking up their badges. This year, however, the renovations had finished, and the staff made sure to keep the lines moving as quickly as possible.
As such, there was an immediate improvement made clear to anyone upon arrival. The construction was complete, and the new additions to the convention center were excellent. There were more rooms, including a balcony from which photographers could get aerial shots of the cosplay gatherings below, a grassy stairway leading to a shadowed area near the entrance (which a few people did fall down over the course of the weekend), and several new rooms, used for attractions like the artist alley and registration.
Speaking of registration, badge pickup was so much easier this year. The lines started moving around noon on day zero, and didn’t stop moving once. Attendees could move through it at decent speeds and pick up their badges quickly, or reach at-con registration with minimal difficulties. LineCon had been averted.
Thus began four days of cosplay, panels, guests, and all the attractions that Fanime has to offer.
The convention center is large, and Fanime made use of all of it. Each hall held some room of importance, including a dealer’s hall, artist alley, gaming room, cosplayer hangout, and several screening rooms for various anime, Japanese dramas, anime music videos, and so on.
In the dealer’s hall, there was a wide array of goods no matter what one’s tastes may be. Plenty of tables sold anime and manga, while others had t-shirts, toys, body pillows, oppai mouse-pads, key-chains, well, you get the picture. But of more importance was a new addition to the dealer’s hall – bounce houses.
Well, the bounce houses weren’t for sale, but five dollars could get you ten minutes of bouncing, with all proceeds going to charitable causes. And let’s face it, you’re never too old to enjoy a bounce house.
The artist alley was surprisingly packed throughout the entire weekend, with a nice variety of artists selling their goods. Along with drawings, both prints and commissions, there were some crafts on sale, such as handbags designed with logos from anime like “Pokemon” or “Attack on Titan,” or even car decals and shot glasses made with a geeky flavor.
Of course, there were also the cosplayers and the cosplay gatherings. The cosplayers were plentiful, although there were a few series that seemed to be in abundance, particularly “Kill La Kill,” “Attack on Titan,” and “Free.” Those are, after all, among the most popular series at the moment, so it only makes sense there would be plenty of people cosplaying from each. However, many of the cosplays from those shows were incredibly well-made, with props like scissor blades or 3D Maneuver Gear, or required a commendable amount of courage to wear, particularly the “Nudist Beach” varieties of characters.
This year’s Fanime was supposed to be beach-themed, but somehow I doubt that’s exactly what they had in mind when they chose the theme.
For the cosplayers tired of wandering about and needing to rest their feet, there was a Cosplayer Lounge. It was equipped with all sorts of tools for cosplay repair, from hot glue to sewing needles, and provided a “photography free zone” for those tired of constantly stopping for pictures. Also in the lounge was a small area for cosplay-specific panels, demos, and discussions, and right outside was one of the many gathering spots, which also hosted games such as Cosplay Clue, Cosplay Chess, and the Cosplay Battle event, where cosplayers entered mock fights that spanned series and power levels.
There were several cosplay gatherings held by the attendees, which were overseen and approved by the Cosplay Gatherings department. While most of the gatherings were for various anime series, such as the aforementioned “Attack on Titan” and “Kill La Kill,” along with staples such as “Pokemon” and “Digimon,” and even a gathering for the collective works of Rumiko Takahashi (Ranma 1/2, InuYasha, Urusei Yatsura, and so on), there were also gatherings for non-anime series. Those tended to combine several fandoms, such as SuperWhoLock (an amalgamation of “Supernatural,” “Doctor Who,” and “Sherlock”) or the immensely popular Marvel/DC gathering, though there was always the incredibly crowded “Homestuck” gathering.
More panels were held in the Fairmont Hotel, which was two crosswalks away from the convention center. As per the “by fans, for fans” spirit, most of the panels were held by fans, covering a range of topics. There were several Pokemon panels, including a trivia panel where attendees competed in games of jeopardy and “Who’s that Pokemon?” to win prizes, panels on cosplay construction, on various fandoms, and inexplicably, panels for specific character pairings from certain series. (Hey, whatever floats their ship, I suppose.) Of course, there were also industry panels, as well as panels hosted by Fanime’s guests.
Speaking of, there was a good variety of guests at Fanime, in spite of the time it took to announce them. This include voice actors such as J. Michael Tatum and Chantal Strand, musical guests like Raj Ramayya and HOME MADE KAZOKU, and industry guests like Hiroyuki Yamaga of GAINAX and animator Hiroyuki Kanbe.
On Thursday and Friday nights, Fanime held a swap meet, where attendees had signed up to sell their old goods. The line to get in ended up being longer than the registration line tended to be, due to only a few people being allowed in at a time, though everyone did manage to get in by the end of the night.
Saturday night was the music fest, where the musical guests took the stage for a concert for attendees. That’s always a huge draw at the convention, and continues to be successful each year.
On Sunday night, there were two events for attendees to choose from. There was the masquerade, where cosplayers took the stage with their best costumes and skits, and the winners who took home the prizes worked hard in both craftsmanship and performance to earn them.
For those who weren’t in attendance, there was also the black and white ball, a more formal event. There had been issues with the dress code in previous years, and the staff was working hard to work with it, although there will always be some room for interpretation when costumes not in direct violation of the dress code are allowed as well as formal outfits that are within the code’s guidelines. Still, the ball played an interesting variety of music, with everything from formal waltzes to “Everything is Awesome,” and the night went well.
The convention center had a few booths offering food located inside, although the prices could get a bit high, especially if one was buying from any of the connected hotels. Fortunately, there was a Subway across the street (leaving many tired of sandwiches by the end of the weekend), a Johnny Rockets, a variety of restaurants and bars, and a Safeway within walking distance. Though the prices varied, the options were there. Most noteworthy was Psycho Donuts, which offered Pokemon cake pops for the occasion. (They were delicious.)
The weather was bright and sunny each day, which was good news to those who weren’t wearing heavy costumes. Hydration was essential, particularly for those in fursuits, bodysuits, or just suits in general. Heavy props and large jackets may be a part of the costume, but the blazing heat shows no mercy. A few cosplayers came out of it with sunburns, but there was enough water and shade to keep cool, and those needing to escape the sun could always go inside.
From Thursday (which was technically Day Zero) to Monday, the convention center was packed. Fanime 2014 went off quite well, and was a great step up from the problems with last year. Individual experiences may vary, of course, but the general consensus seems to be a positive one. While the road up to Fanime was bumpy, filled with late announcements, questionable decisions leading up to the con, and the always-crazy rush for rooms, the end result was worth the trouble. FanimeCon did well this year, and attendees are already preparing for the next.
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Pictures taken by Perry “Agent P” Louie. We will be adding lots more photos later