For the first time in Anime USA's history, the annual anime convention was held in the month of December this year from the 8th through the 10th. And of course, being December means that it was a Christmas-themed year. Not to be outdone, Mother Nature herself joined the festivities by sprinkling some snow throughout the day on Saturday.
While Anime USA has undoubtedly been on the decline in recent years in terms of attendance numbers, it's hard to say from an attendee standpoint how they fared this year. I think they probably were about the same as it was last year. However, one thing that was apparent was that they had less event space this year as the entire upper floor was either rented out to another convention that was happening simultaneously or in the case of the ballroom seemed like was closed off from the public. This meant less/smaller panel rooms and having panels next to the main stage which resulted in sound bleeding over to the adjacent panel rooms. AUSA still seems to be going strong, but I'm not sure if the December timing was necessarily helpful to their cause.
Whatever the case, the show must go on as they say. I enjoyed the voice actor guests that they invited this year (my first time seeing Chris Patton!), and was really happy to see the Triforce Quartet invited to perform a concert at this convention. I've been a big fan of the Triforce Quartet ever since I first saw their performance at MAGFest three or four years ago. A new addition this year was a dedicated Idol Showcase where for four hours they had various fan idol groups going on stage to perform their song and dance routines. It was a very neat idea and hopefully they do it again next year. One thing that I do hope that they do the next time is to post a lineup or schedule for that event so people know what groups are performing and when. Sometimes I popped my head into the showcase to enjoy a song or two but never knew what group was performing since nothing was posted.
One major issue that I observed at this convention was that some of the guests were given the wrong start or end times for their respective panels. For instance, on Saturday I lined up for Trina Nishimura's panel that was supposed to start at 1pm, however after waiting for about 20 minutes the AUSA staff cancelled the panel since Trina was nowhere to be seen. I overhead some of the staffers talking among themselves afterwards that there had been multiple occurrences throughout the weekend up to that point where panels were cancelled because the panelists didn't show up. It wasn't until I went to a later panel where Trina was also in attendance that I heard her explain that the schedule that she was given by AUSA listed her panel with a start time of 2pm instead of the 1pm that was listed on the Guidebook/master schedule. Thus she had gone out to grab a quick bite to eat while blissfully unaware that she was actually supposed to be at the Q&A panel. Another example of this misinformation that I can positively point to was that the Triforce Quartet concert was listed on the master schedule for 9:30-11:30pm (also on Saturday), whereas the schedule that the Triforce Quartet members received only listed the event lasting until 11pm, so they had planned and practiced accordingly for a 1.5 hour concert instead of a 2 hour concert.
I guess my final critique for this event is that the way that they are organizing the fan meetups is simply not working. Instead of having actual scheduled cosplay photoshoots like some of the other conventions do, AUSA instead offers a meeting room with the intent of allowing people of certain fandoms to come together and hang out with each other (which can in turn be used for a photoshoot). The problem is that many people expect this to be an actual cosplay photoshoot, but with no one actually appointed to lead the event a lot of them simply turn into quiet hangouts with people not really knowing what to do or say. And in some cases people show up and see that not much is going on so they just turn around and leave. I like the idea of having a dedicated space for fandom gatherings in general, however I just don't think that it is working as well as it was intended to.
In summary, I still had a good time at this year's convention and most likely will be back next year when they return to their regular appearance in October. AUSA certainly has its work cut out for itself though in order to attract more people to this event.
Click here to see the few hall cosplay photos that I took this year at Anime USA (basically just a few photos of Overwatch and RWBY cosplayers).
Click here to see the photos on my Facebook photography page that I took at the Fate/Type-Moon series cosplay photoshoot on Friday.
Click here to go to my YouTube channel where I uploaded the videos that I recorded of the "Voice Actors Question Your Choices" panel (with Leah Clark, Trina Nishimura, and Chris Patton), the cosplay Masquerade contest, and the Triforce Quartet concert.