The annual Anime USA convention was held at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in Washington, DC this past weekend from October 21-23, 2016. The perennial small to mid-sized con featured much of the same experience as past years which is not necessarily a bad thing. New this year were themed fandom meetups where fans of a particular show/game/fandom can meet up for either a cosplay photoshoot or just to hang out and talk to like-minded fans. AUSA also had to share the hotel with another convention that was running simultaneously over the weekend so some of the event and panel rooms were relocated from their usual locations in order to accommodate the situation.
Speaking of the venue, the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel is still probably my least favorite venue compared to other convention venues. This is in part due to the poor lighting throughout the venue which makes it harder to take photos or video. Another part is due to the spotty cellphone reception throughout the hotel. It could be just me but cell reception seemed to be worse this year than it had been in previous years. I do remember that you usually get virtually no signal when you are in the bottom floor where the dealers room and artist alley were. But this year even when roaming the first floor or upper floors I often times still had a hard time finding a signal.
Overall the con was run pretty well this year with panels mostly starting on time and the staff were very diligent in cutting off the panels at the 50-minute mark to allow time to clear the rooms. Although, whoever was running around with the 5 or 10-minute-remaining signs probably need to make them bigger and more legible because the guests/panelist never seemed to be able to figure out what the staff were waving at them from the doorway. Anime USA never ceases to amaze me with the quality of English voice actor guests that they manage to invite every year. Granted, I don't think that they'll ever match the holy grail that was last year with the entire Cowboy Bebop cast, but this year had a lot of great guests too.
Here's a short gallery of photos that I took at the Opening Ceremonies:
I mentioned the fandom meetups earlier and while it was a great idea I did notice that some of the meetups with smaller turnouts seemed kind of awkward for the people there. I think that the fandom meetups definitely should be continued although there probably needs to be someone appointed to lead the meetups so that it's not just a handful of strangers sitting around awkwardly (we otaku are known to be anti-social after all!). The only real controversy that I witnessed during the weekend was relating to a skit during the Masquerade event which featured a burlesque performance. For me, I quite enjoyed that skit and thought it was a lot of fun, but I certainly understand if the judges or other attendees had issues with the risque performance considering that the Masquerade event is meant to be for all ages.
And finally we come to the purely speculative part of my report. In terms of attendance I think that Anime USA probably saw a significant decrease in attendees this year (which obviously can't be confirmed unless AUSA decides to release the official numbers). It just felt like the crowds and hallways were a bit more sparse this year compared to previous years. Again, it's just speculation on my part and for all I know I could be dead wrong with that assumption. Although, AUSA's bizarre decision this year to not include a program book with your registration badge and only making them available for purchase in the dealer's room might be an indication that something was wrong behind the scenes. It was almost as if they suddenly realized that the attendance was down and that they didn't have any money left to print out enough booklets to give out to the attendees and so they just decided to print a small amount of booklets and try to entice the attendees to buy them by calling them a "collector's program". That's pretty shady on AUSA's part and I hope that this was only a one-time lunacy and not a "feature" for future cons. But, to leave things on a positive note at least their con T-shirts were sold at a relatively cheap $12 price point which is possibly the cheapest price among the conventions that I frequent which is nice.
Interestingly enough Anime USA has announced next year's dates to be from December 8-10, 2017. It's the first time AUSA has ever taken place in December just before Christmas, so we'll see how that goes. Til next time!
Click here to see my hall cosplay photos from the weekend.
Click here to see my photos from the Type Moon/Fate Universe cosplay photoshoot that took place on Saturday.
Click here to go to my YouTube channel where I uploaded videos from a number of panels and events that I attended throughout the weekend.