Animation On Display (AOD) returned to Santa Clara this year, moving from the convention center to the Marriott (which resulted in more than a few attendees accidentally parking at the convention center first). With a new location ready, it welcomed another weekend of anime, cosplay, and guests.
As far as locations go, the Santa Clara Marriott was a decent spot. The hotel was just a block away from several affordable restaurants, and was large enough to comfortably hold all the attendees. The lobby was expansive enough, at least, though the hallways could get a little tight when multiple people tried moving from one end of the con to the other. There were only a few spots that were particularly good for photoshoots, but enough for photographers to work with.
Inside the convention itself, there were a few rooms of note. Finding registration took the guidance of a few signs, but the reg area itself was well organized and moved quickly. From there it was easy to find the dealer’s hall and artist alley, which contained the usual assortment of vendors and artists. Plenty of anime goods, particularly figures and plushies, were available at multiple booths, along with some unique handmade goods. On the artist alley end, there were some great works of fan art available, and most of the artists accepted commissions.
Further past that was the video game room, which had a fair assortment of arcade games, as well as several console games; all on X-Box or PS4, in spite of the scavenger hunt having “A Nintendo Switch” as one of the things contestants needed to photograph. Still, there were a few tournaments throughout the weekend, and several guests were video game streamers and speedrunners, so it was typically an active room.
Right outside there was an unusual addition for an anime convention, with foam sword fights. Normally those are reserved for fairs or LARP events, but they were set up in a nice spot outside and let anyone who wanted to get some matches in join (after signing a waiver, naturally).
On the other end of the hotel were several panel rooms, which held host to many an event throughout the weekend. There were some industry panels, fan panels of varying quality, and even a “nerdy networking” event, where attendees could mingle with fellow professionals in their fields to make important contacts.
Additionally, there was a tabletop gaming room in the same area. The assortment of games available was decent, but pretty small; there was a good blend of games available, including a few board or dice games based off anime. It lacked a few of the more popular games one often finds at conventions, but had some rarer gems to make up for it.
However, the most important room was used for main events, particularly multiple concerts. Throughout the weekend, multiple artists took the stage, performing live before the crowds. Ayakashi, Team Hideo, and Super Soul Bros were all big draws, along with Aivi and Surasshu, who have created a number of songs for “Steven Universe.”
Unfortunately, Lotus Juice was unable to attend, due to visa issues. However, the convention made up for it with an unexpected guest appearance by “Steven Universe” creator Rebecca Sugar. No one knew she was coming, but she was an amazing surprise to the concert attendees, who then nearly stampeded to the autograph room to line up to meet her. (Surprisingly, post-stampede the line was very well organized and behaved, and everyone was considerate enough to not make the people behind them wait too long.)
For those needing more to do, there was a scavenger hunt people could participate in. There was a list of types of people or activities to find and photograph, with possible prizes for getting a certain amount. However, there were a few stumbling blocks; the scavenger hunt asked for specific cosplayers, such as Vocaloids, multiple Jedi with lightsabers, or someone in a green hat, with no guarantee that any of them would actually be at the convention. Thus, some scavenger hunt goals were impossible to find. Additionally, completing it on time was no guarantee of winning anything, not even a consolation prize, so many attendees took the time to complete it, emailed their photos to the proper address, and never heard anything since. Still, it made for a decent way to pass the time.
Of course, there were plenty of great cosplayers around. Some were chilling in their comfortable costumes, others went all out with armor and massive props. The cosplay masquerade had some excellent contestants, showing off their best work or performing before a panel of equally talented judges. Those who didn’t want to compete on stage could still enter the Hall Cosplay contest, earning prizes as they walk around the con.
Overall, there was a fair amount to do, but AOD still had some slow points. The new location was fine, there were some great guests – both musical and otherwise – and it had all the typical convention go-tos. Had it not been for the surprise appearance of Rebecca Sugar, it might have lacked an extra “oomph“ to make it really stand out, but as far as good convention weekends go, Animation On Display still did well.