This weekend I had the pleasure of attending Another Anime Convention 2012 in Manchester, New Hampshire. It was a much smaller convention than I’m used to, but I definitely had a blast between old friends, new friends, and the awesome good time that comes with a convention. The convention was hosted in a new location this year, and with it came its own challenges, but I think the convention staff definitely pulled it off well, and they did an excellent job making sure everyone was safe and having a good time.
My weekend started Friday morning, when I skipped class (with my professor’s blessing!) and hopped aboard the noontime New Hampshire Express from Boston, MA to Manchester, NH, where the convention was to take place. The trip was pretty decent–a mere hour on a bus which didn’t have all that many people on it– and before I knew it, my friend Mary and I were in New Hampshire, ready for a weekend of fun and adventure. The hotel we were staying at, though not at the actual convention hall, was fortunately about a two minute walk from the bus depot, and so around 2 PM we checked into our hotel room and started preparing cosplays, securing personal effects, and arming ourselves with cameras and wallets for the day ahead. About an hour later we took a shuttle from our hotel to the convention hall.
The first thing I noticed was the ample amount of space the hotel had for the convention. Though I hadn’t been to AAC in previous years, the new location was definitely prime for the event. There was plenty of space for everyone to chill out and relax, play some card or board games, talk, and socialize, without the crammed-in-like-a-can-of-sardines feeling that one often gets at a con. Even the elevators ran smoothly, although halfway through Friday evening staff had to be posted inside to keep the hooligans from jumping in and pushing every button…but that sort of thing happens at every convention, or actually any place with a lot of fourteen-year-olds, and I consider it a small hiccup in an otherwise amazing location.
In contrast with a lot of bigger conventions, getting my badge was a breeze. There was no line, and so I just walked up to the preregistration line and was granted my press badge with no hassle and no questions asked. I was in and out in 10 minutes, which is a lot to say considering that I’ve waited an hour plus at other conventions for my badge. Sure, AAC is smaller, but they DEFINITELY had a leg up as far as organization goes (thanks to Lisa, the con chair!).
I did manage to snap plenty of pictures Friday night before heading into the spacious combined dealer’s room and artists alley. Although there wasn’t as much swag to buy as I expected (I’m used to bigger conventions like Anime Boston and PAX), I feel they utilized the space well, with limited crowding and plenty of stuff to buy–and buy I did. A half hour later I walked out with a brand new dominion set, a mini Matt Smith clay figure, a little octopus made out of modeling compound, and a new T shirt, with plenty of money left over. A few things dominated both the dealer’s room and the cosplay scene this year. Both Legend of Korra and Doctor Who cosplays were present prominently. However, one thing stole the stage, and that was my little pony. Almost every booth had some sort of pony swag, and from full-on fursuits to stylized versions of our favorite ponies, there was a MLP cosplay around every corner, in every nook and cranny, and where there wasn’t a pony, there was someone in a brony T shirt. Of course, as a fan of the show myself, it was more than welcome. It’s nice to be a fan of the big thing for once this year!
After an additional loop around the dealer’s room, I made my way to the video game room, where my friend Alex was running the Dance Dance Revolution machine, a Pop’n music setup, and IIDX (DJ hero to those of you less informed). Although the machines weren’t actual arcade machines in any case other than the DDR machine, the setup was very well done, with professional style controllers and again, minimal crowding. People were patient in line for all the equipment and everyone seemed to be having a good time. I of course hopped on the DDR machine myself for a few rounds, and I gotta say, I didn’t wait long in line at all.
Friday night finished out with the requisite nighttime fun, including an all-night doctor who marathon and plenty of missed sleep, and although I unintentionally fell asleep bit on the early side (well, if you call 3 AM ‘early’), I know that the rest of my room wandered in around 4:30 or 5:00, so I’m gonna make the general assumption that everyone had a good time somewhere or another.
The next morning dawned bright and early, and when I headed over to the hotel, the first thing I noticed was a definite increase in crowding. For those of you that have been to a weekend convention before, you’ll know that Saturday is always the busiest day. It was nothing major however, and I did manage to snap a few amazing pictures of cosplayers in and around the convention hall. I also had the pleasure of running into Tim Buckley, most well-known for writing and illustrating the popular webcomic CTRL+ALT+DEL.
“This is my first time north of Massachusetts,” said Tim, who originally grew up in Connecticut but now lives in Cape Cod, “But this is a really great crowd. Everyone’s really friendly.” Which is the sense I got as well. There wasn’t a single person that had a mean thing to say, a single dramatic moment that I witnessed, or a single person that was not willing to let me take their photo. For me, the sheer friendliness of the people at this albeit small convention definitely made my experience a better one.
This was more fully realized Saturday night, when I ran a dating panel. Due to unforseen circumstances, two of the people on the panel with me were not able to come. One of these people was in charge of bringing the laptop with my presentation on it. Of course this did not happen, so I wound up running a panel with two ill-prepared replacement panelists, no plan, and a full panel room. Now, in other cases or with a less friendly crowd, this may have ended disastrously. But due to the friendliness of the congoers, the panel went off without a hitch. When one of my replacement panelists had to duck out halfway, the audience helped us out by filling the gaps. In the end, everyone had a really great time–but it wouldn’t have worked without the patience and understanding of those at that panel.
After the panel, I headed over to the dance. For the half hour I stayed, I had an excellent time. The DJ definitely kept the tunes cranking and although the audience was small, there were plenty of people in raver gear moving to the beat. I was a little tired from my all-day photo-taking marathon, but when I left, everyone seemed to be having a great time.
Afterwards I headed to the bar for a drink or two, where the one qualm I have with the location became apparent: the hotel staff were clearly not prepared for the noise, the crowds, or the sheer volume of nerds that comes with an anime convention. The hotel staff clearly looked harried around the hallways as they tried to herd flocks of screaming 14 year olds away from the doorways, and it took me a full fifteen minutes to even be acknowledged at the bar (where I stayed sheerly because I struck up a conversation with a cosplayer from Alabama and found it too interesting to pass up). Later on, the dance was shut down due to noise complaints, which makes me wonder what the hotel staff THOUGHT was going to happen when they approved a DJ and a sound system on a Saturday night.
Sunday morning dawned bright and early, complete with the grogginess that normally comes from staying up late two nights in a row. All the same, for us checkout was at 11, and we just barely squeaked by the time limit before making our way downstairs for some of the Hilton’s delicious all-you-can-eat breakfast. After that, my compatriots and I packed up and we made our way back toward Boston in time for the Sunday evening patriots game. All in all a weekend well spent, and one I’ll likely be repeating.