This past Halloween weekend I attended the Anime USA 2015 anime convention held in Washington, DC from October 30 through November 1, 2015. The long-running convention continues to straddle between small and midsize con status and yet somehow they always seem to manage to invite a stellar roster of English Voice Actors from the industry. This year was no different as they somehow managed to invite the entire English cast from the show Cowboy Bebop. This included Steve Blum (Spike Spiegel), Beau Billingslea (Jet Black), Wendee Lee (Faye Valentine), Melissa Fahn (Edward), and Mary Elizabeth McGlynn (Julia and ADR Director for the show). In fact, they might as well just call this convention "Bebop Con 2015" instead of AUSA. Other guests at the con included Colleen Clinkenbeard and Brandon Potter.
I spent much of the weekend going to all of the panels involving the Cowboy Bebop cast. From various Q&A Panels to a Cowboy Bebop panel that included a live script reading of episode 11, "Toys in the Attic", it was just a dream come true to be able to meet these wonderful people and hear them talk about their experiences with the show and how much the fandom has continued to grow despite the show debuting 17 years ago. I also went to the "Inside the Voice Actor Studio" panel which included all of the voice actor guests which allowed audience members to ask them questions.
Another great attraction at this con was the Man At Arms: Reforged group. Matt Stagmer and Ilya Alekseyev from the popular Youtube show were at the con to show off their creations and talk to fans. They also held a panel to talk about the process in which they forge the weapons and armors for the show and we got to see a sneak peak of their new creation, the Gravity Hammer from Halo. Ilya prominently showcased the sword Excalibur from the anime series Fate/stay night during much of the panel which I quite enjoyed since I'm a huge fan of that show and of Saber in particular. What was even more awesome was that during the Closing Ceremonies of the convention Ilya came on stage to demonstrate live pumpkin slicing using Excalibur.
Then of course we have my perennial favorite event, the Masquerade Contest. This year there were a number of great skits which made for a highly entertaining night. Something to note was that the event actually started on time at around 7:00pm sharp. I've been to many Masquerade contests at many anime conventions over the years and I can't remember a single time that one of these events ever started on time, so kudos to the staff for pulling off an almost flawless event.
Overall this was an excellent convention with the historic Cowboy Bebop reunion and lots of great cosplay by the attendees. The only issue that I had and one that many others shared had to do with the Autograph Sessions. In particular, it had to do with the guests charging a fee for signing personal items. Looking at comments on social media outlets, at some points in the con the guests were signing things free of charge, and then later changed to $10 per personal item (the AUSA program book and badge could be signed for free), and then changed again to $20 per item. I was hit with the $20 when I went to get my items autographed on Sunday. It's definitely disheartening to be suddenly sprung with these charges especially since we're used to getting autographs completely free as part of our badge membership. The worst part though was the fact that it was not communicated at all by the convention and therefore the majority of people in line were not prepared with the cash needed to get items signed. I ended up biting the bullet and spending $100 to get all five of the Cowboy Bebop members to sign my figures since it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. A few of the guests were able to take credit card payments via Square but not of them did so by the time I got to Wendee Lee at the very end of the table I was out of cash so I had to run around the convention center looking for an ATM just to find that all of them were out of cash so I had to run outside and down the hill to the ATM across of the entrance to the metro station and then run back up the hill and to the autograph booth. It was certainly worth it though, even if it was a costly expenditure.
I suppose the only other minor thing to note was that AUSA had less space/rooms this year compared to last year seeing how a third of the convention center was shared with the National Model United Nations conference that was going on. Hopefully next year they can reclaim the space so all of the big and loud events are isolated and don't bleed over to the other panels. I do hope that the young adults attending the NMUM got a nice Halloween treat out of seeing all the AUSA cosplayers though!
In conclusion, Anime USA was a total blast this year thanks to the stellar guests and I hope they can continue their impressive streak, although it will certainly be hard to top this year's lineup. Check out the links below for the cosplay photos that I took during the con (which weren't many) and a link to my Youtube channel where I uploaded various video recordings that I took at the con including the full Cowboy Bebop panel and the full Masquerade Contest.
Click here for the cosplay photos.
Click here for the Youtube videos.
See You Space Cowboy!