June 1-3, 2001
Westin Park Central & Sheraton Park Central Hotels
Dallas, Texas USA
Ahh yes, my first time attending this particular anime convention.I have nearly a dozen conventions under my belt including several Anime Expos, but this was my first A-kon. It was in its 12th year this year so my expectations for a decent, smooth-running, action packed con were high. Attendance this year was the highest in its twelve year history too. But, alas, its attandance figures were probably the only good thing I can mention about this con.
Firstly, its location, it was placed in the North Dallas Business District, roughly 19 miles from the DFW Airport and 12 miles from Dallas Love Field. Hotel shuttles only go within a 5 mile radius of the hotels so naturally, those of us who flew in were on our own in regards to transportation. For those like me who were trying to save whatever cash possible for the Dealer's Room, spending mundo bucks on a ride there and back was not going to happen. So, to get there, I opted to try Dallas' mass transit system. From plane to train, then onto a light rail train that was half subway, the ride was pleasant enough and the connection times feasible. The cost was only $2.00 one way as well as opposed to $35-40 one way via taxi or airport shuttle vans. And hey, since it was my first time visiting Dallas, I got to sight see en route too as the light rail went straight through the heart of downtown Dallas. But, one drawback, the farthest train stop fell short of the hotels by roughly three miles. That was within the hotel shuttle's radius, but uh, well, I couldn't find a decent, working phone nearby to call them for a pickup. So, a cab happened by and that became the new ride. Three miles can't be all that pricey right? Uh, wrong. When the cab driver just started on the job and had just moved to Dallas only a few months prior, he knew about as much as how to get to the hotels as I did. He even used a map I happend to print out from the convention site to get us there. Is that pathetic or what! Anyway, that socked me $13. Ah well, at least I'm now at the hotel.
I and my friend stayed at the Sheraton. The hotel was nice and check-in went smoothly. After we ploppled our luggage in our room we dashed over to the Westin where the registration booth was. It was just a little street that separated the two hotels, but with the amount of traffic on that street, it may as well been a highway.
Dodging pissed drivers who were sick of waiting for all the pedestrains to dawdle on by was testing their patience and they were going to see that all day for three days! Registration went smoothly as well though I was very thankful for pre-registering months before the con as the non-prereg line was extremely long. I quickly thumbed through my packet of stuff to find the events timetables. There wasn't one. I did happen to find one in a stack of papers on a table beside the pre-reg. This was the first time I hadn't seen them inserted in with the packets. Bad sign...that means last minute changes,etc. may have occurred. Sure enough, as the three days progressed, this became the norm.
Most of the panels/events were 'how to' events. I don't wanna know how to do everything. I'd rather hear from those in the industry or view/listen to the latest in anime happenings. Oh well. But, this wasn't the half of the problems. Panels were often cancelled, rescheduled, or moved at spur of the moment and many ended up being during other popular events. For example, the DBZ voice actor panels ended up during the CosPlay and autograph session. Therefore, some of the DBZ voice actors must have been signing while the others were conducting the panel. But, then again, it was pushed back three times then cancelled. Luckily the autograph sessions continued on though.
Now, onto the CosPlay itself. How pathetic and can I even call it a CosPlay? Firstly, the room for it was so small that those of us who lined up several hours in advance got numbers. They were only allowing three hundred of the several thousand into the room. The rest were screwed. Seating sucked. I'm not very tall as is and I got crammed behind several very tall dudes. So, I was to emulate a crane for any viewing. As the thing began, we quickly learned that the announcer seemed to know nothing about anime or at least nothing about the Japanese language. He mispronounced regularly and often didn't know when his cue was. The CosPlayers, while I give 'em credit for courage to go on stage, had skits that weren't overly amusing (most CosPlays use comedy skits) or creative. Many didn't seem to portray the character they were dressed as very well either. Those who didn't enter the CosPlay, but strolled the halls in costume put on a better show than the CosPlay.
In the middle of the CosPlay, the fire alarms blared. As we all peered at the doorways, we saw people evacuating the building. We received an announcement that we were to stay put because all the evacuation routes out of the room were blocked by hordes of others trying to get out. Swell, aren't there evac routes planned by the hotel in times such as this? Surely they host other conventions and business gatherings to know that they have to deal with large numbers of people. And as we waited to burn with the rest of the building (if it really was on fire somewhere), we silently listened and awaited another announcement. This is when the stupid CosPlayer announcer decided to try his bit at entertaining us,but he was talking as the annoucements from the hotel staff were on and wouldn't shut up for us to hear it! Idiot. Luckily enough of us did hear that it was a false alarm and all was well so we could calm the rest of the group. The CosPlay continued on as my friend and I opted to skip out of it early. We were both falling asleep during the thing anyway.
Next, the always loved Dealer's Room. I was shocked to notice that a good portion of tables were of non-anime merchandise. Granted, "sci-fi" was also listed in the con's description, but c'mon, the 90% of programming,etc. was anime, so keep the Dealer's Room with a similar ratio. It was a small room too. It didn't look like I was going to go on a spending spree this time. Oh well, I wanted to try to eat decently anyway.
The food...that was one drawback with the hotels. I tried an all-you-can-eat lunch buffet at the hotel. To me, a buffet would mean, many dishes to choose from. Well, here were the options...salad, pie, and get this...tacos. Yup, that's it. Great buffet. Goku would've cried. I paid how much for those tacos? Had I known that was going to be the main course with no others to choose from, I would have been better off finding that fast food joint several people were mentioning. Later that evening, for dinner, I did. The Jack-in-the-box a block away had much more selection of food and at half the price. To think two high quality hotels and the food didn't match the rating. How sad.
Onto the Art Room. Or was that the bathroom? The thing was small and tucked into an obscure hallway. With all the fan artists in existence, you'd think there'd be more than what was represented there. I'll say no more about the Art Exhibit.
The Con Staff soon realized that their rooms were too small for the masses in attendance this year. They announced that they were going to show many of the events on the hotel tv systems so that if the rooms filled to capacity, others wouldn't miss out on the events. Many times I returned to my room and tried to tune in to this good idea. And what did I see? They showed past A-kon events...not the current ones promised. I checked the tv each day frequently and never did I come across a current event. Again, us con goers got screwed!
Now where does that leave me? Well, most of my time was spent wandering the hallways or hanging out in the room. Oh, I did take the hotel shuttle to a nearby shopping mall and nearly did more spending there than at the con's Dealer's Room. How sad is that? Shopping at a mall when I should be at the convention I spent all that money to get too. Other con goers had similar issues as I saw many fast asleep in the lounge areas, hallways,etc. or playing cards on the floor,etc. Whatever it was they were doing, it wasn't attending con events.
Needless to say, I had a very negative first impression of this particular con. I don't think my expectations were too high given the amount of years this con had been held. They should have planning,organizing, etc. experience with that many years. I attended Animazement's first ever convention in Raleigh, NC and they had more events, a more scrumptuous Dealer's Room, and hardly any deviations from programming,etc. as compared to the veteran A-kon. It was strange to say, but I was actually glad to leave it. It'll be many a year before I return to it again (now watch, next year's will be awesome...that'd be just my luck).
Click here to see some of the pictures my friend and I took while there.
Here's hoping I have a better report for Anime Weekend Atlanta a month from now.