I attended my second Zenkaikon anime convention which was held on March 27-29, 2015 at the Lancaster County Convention Center in downtown Lancaster, PA. Zenkaikon is a small but growing con and certainly had a lot of things to do over the weekend. There were also a number of great cosplay to be seen as well. The con was run very well as most panels and events that I went to started and ended on time. Overall they had a solid lineup of industry guests and panels and I certainly look forward to returning there next year.
In terms of location there are a lot of restaurants within short walking distance of the convention center and there is also the Central Market, the country's oldest farmer's market. There certainly weren't any shortages of food options.
The convention center itself was nice, although most of the hallways were kind of narrow which can be a concern for the future as the con continues to grow. The Exhibit Hall which features the Dealers Room merchants and Artist Alley had a good mix of merchandise for purchase. One thing that I have heard a lot of people complain about is the amount of time it took to take the elevators to and from their hotel rooms since there were only a small number of elevators available. Hopefully Zenkaikon will be able to come up with a solution to that situation next year.
Over the weekend I went to a number of the voice actor guest panels. I went to both of Matthew Mercer's panels, Trina Nishimura's Q&A panel, the Voice Actor panel which included Richard Horvitz, Rikki Simons, Matthew Mercer, Lauren Landa, and Trina Nishimura, and also the Titan Talk panel which featured the three voice actors from the Attack on Titan (Shingeki no Kyojin) anime. It's always great to go to the voice actor panels to hear them talk and answer fan questions. The group panels like The Voice Actor panel that was held on Saturday is always the best though. Whenever you put a group of voice actors in the same room, hilarity will almost always ensue.
Other panels/events that I went to included Karl "Uncle Yo" Custer's stand-up comedy show and the Greggo's Game Shows: Anime Press Your Luck event. Uncle Yo is a long-time geek comedian who is always a big hit with the crowd at conventions. The Anime Press Your Luck game show was a very fun setup where three audience members competed in a simulation of the classic Press Your Luck game show but with anime-themed questions and prizes. It would definitely be cool to see Greg Wicker return next year with more of his game shows.
A great new addition to this year's Zenkaikon was the Artemis Spaceship Bridge Simulator that was set up on the third floor. This social game allows you to experience what it would be like to man the bridge of a spaceship (a la Star Trek). Each player holds a different role, such as Weapons Officer, Communications, Engineer, Helmsman, Science Officer, and the ship Captain. I got to play as the Weapons Officer and definitely had fun shooting down the enemy ships and just generally blowing things up. More information about the Artemis Simulator can be found here.
Finally, the highlight of any anime convention to me is always the Masquerade contest. Nothing speaks "By the fans, for the fans" more than the Masquerade where fans go on stage and perform skits with themes related to anime, video games, or other geek culture. This year's Masquerade only consisted of seven skits, but they were all well done and entertaining. The best moment though has to go to the surprise marriage proposal that happened during the intermission between the skits and the hall cosplay fashion show. This isn't the first proposal that I've seen at a convention (and it won't be the last), but it's always exciting to be there to witness a couple's big moment.
So in the end, I had a great time at Zenkaikon this year. I believe the attendance numbers were reported to be over 5,000 this year so they are definitely inching away from the small convention status to the mid-size convention status. The only concern is how much longer the Lancaster County Convention Center will be able to support this convention if they continue to grow. If Zenkaikon doesn't plan to move to a new venue anytime in the foreseeable future then it wouldn't surprise me to see them starting to cap the attendance in the next few years.
Click here for the Cosplay Photos album
Click here to see my photos from the Sunday Disney cosplay photoshoot which is only on my Facebook page
Click here to go to my Youtube channel see the full videos that I recorded at this convention