The AnimeNEXT anime convention took place at its new home in Atlantic City, NJ this past weekend from June 10-12, 2016. Previously held in Somerset, NJ, AnimeNEXT feels right at home in the larger space that it occupies in the Atlantic City Convention Center. The location offers a number of places where con-goers and cosplayers can hang out at and take photos which includes the beach, boardwalk, and hidden parks and locales. The new location should allow AnimeNEXT to continue to grow and thrive after having outgrown the Garden State Exhibit Center.
Even if you're not a fan of casinos and gambling, Atlantic City has a number of places and sights to explore. Here are some photos that I took around Atlantic City, though most were taken in the early morning when there were few people and most businesses were not yet open.
As for the Atlantic City Convention Center itself, it doesn't really offer very many picturesque locations for good cosplay photo opportunities, but it is fairly spacious and certainly did a good job of accommodating the weekend's crowd. Here are some photos of the convention center and how AnimeNEXT occupied that space:
In terms of parking, AnimeNEXT listed two parking garages on its website for those not staying at the hotels. The cheaper option was a parking garage on New York Avenue although because of its distance from the convention center (a good 15 minutes or more on foot) AnimeNEXT offered a free shuttle bus stop to make it easier to travel to the convention center (although to be honest I didn't see any signs at the parking garage advertising where the bus stop was so I just humped it over to the convention center). One note about the New York Ave parking garage is that it is located in a rather run down/ghetto portion of Atlantic City so some people may not feel comfortable walking around that neighborhood, especially at night. The other parking option was The Wave parking garage that was closer to the convention center at the intersection between Mississippi Ave and Fairmount/Baltic Ave. The Wave is more expensive but the closer vicinity makes it a more attractive option for parking.
So how did the Con itself do? Pretty good I'd say. While there were issues that occurred throughout the weekend, overall the show was run smoothly. This was actually the first time that I've ever attended AnimeNEXT so I can't make any comparisons as to how it was run in Somerset, but I had a good enough time that I'm certain that this will not be my last AnimeNEXT.
On Friday I actually didn't get a chance to partake in very much, mostly just Uncle Yo's stand-up comedy act. I had left my house in Maryland pretty early with the intent on beating rush hour traffic but ended up arriving in Atlantic City a couple hours later than anticipated (curse you I-95!). So after Uncle Yo's act I went to get some food and spent some time learning the layout of the convention. I must add that Registration pickup was seamless as there was no line whatsoever when I got there at 6pm to pick up my badge. I don't know how badge pickup was like when the con opened Friday morning, but I don't recall seeing very large lines throughout Saturday or Sunday so it seemed like they had their act together in getting people their badges (which is a lot better than what Otakon or Katsucon can claim).
The rest of the con was standard-fare for me with voice actor panels, Masquerade contest, and cosplay photoshoots. I had a great time watching the Masquerade event, but it was during the Masquerade that I experienced the biggest gaffe committed by AnimeNEXT (at least during my experience, obviously other people would have other bad/gaffe experiences elsewhere). The problem was that they held the World Cosplay Summit preliminary contest during the "halftime" period of the Masquerade when they usually do something to try to keep the audience entertained and prevent them from leaving before the awards ceremony. It's not that holding the WCS contest during the Masquerade event in itself was bad, it was actually great for me since I had intended to watch both events anyways, but the problem was that they were two distinctly scheduled events. On the Guidebook app and on the official AnimeNEXT schedule, the Masquerade was listed for 6-8pm while the WCS contest was listed to be held from 8-9:30pm. No where did I ever see mention that the WCS would in fact be part of the Masquerade event. I kind of felt bad for people who might have showed up at 8pm thinking that they'd be able to watch the WCS contest just to find that the contest was almost over. I don't know if AnimeNEXT will host the WCS prelims next year but if they do they had better make it absolutely clear whether or not the two events will be combined into one. (Oh, and congrats to Life Cry Cosplay in winning the WCS prelims and becoming this year's Team USA representatives for the contest in Japan).
The WCS issue was the only real issue that I ran into during my weekend, but I did hear about some issues either second-hand or through reading social media. For instance, there seemed to be an issue where Rei Hiroe's autograph session had the line cut off and limited to only official products (so no fanart and such) and that information was only dissemenated while people were already lined up. Another issue was that apparently the attendees managed to break the dance floor at the Saturday Rave so they had to shut down the dance early (that must have been one hell of a party!).
But overall, the weekend went pretty smoothly from what I can tell. I would suggest to AnimeNEXT that they should have the Queuing Room for the Main Events to be located somewhere other than where they had it this year since it causes a major traffic jam whenever it came time for the line queue to move across the entire 2nd floor to get to Main Events. One last thing, I have to give major kudos to all of the cosplayers that showed up for the Cosplay Chess event that took place Sunday morning. I mean, anything scheduled on Sunday will always get a small showing, and scheduling Cosplay Chess for 9am when most people are either still in bed or packing up their things to check out of their hotels was a really bad decision in my opinion. Heck, they didn't even have a room for the event and ended up just doing it in the middle of the atrium lobby. But despite the bad scheduling, there were still a lot of cosplayers that showed up to partake in the chess game which was awesome.
To end, here's some photos of various events that I went to:
Click here for the few hall cosplay photos that I took over the weekend.
Click here for photos I took at the Saturday RWBY cosplay photoshoot.
Click here for my Youtube channel where I will upload the videos that I took from the Uncle Yo Stand-Up Comedy act, Erica Mendez's Q&A Panel, the Masquerade and WCS contests, and the Cosplay Chess event (all will be uploaded in September when the copyright strike on my channel expires).