Harubruh Goes to A-Kon 28

Hello folks, it’s Harubruh here.

Well, it’s been a little while since I’ve done a solo writeup on here, like nearly two years. I’ve been thinking for a while that this issue needed to be addressed. I had started on a review of Your Name back when it first hit theaters, but that poor thing went up in smoke after some drama both online and off. However, I have another topic worth writing about, a lot of spare time, and a fair bit of motivation, so let’s do this!

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For the admittedly few of you who follow me on Twitter, you may know that I attended all four days of A-Kon 28, which ran from June 8th-11th in Fort Worth, Texas. A-Kon is one of the largest anime conventions in North America with over 30,000 people in attendance in 2016, and the longest running one at that, dating back to 1990. With the exception of 2013, I’ve been going to the Kon every year since 2012, and have watched this already bustling anime convention grow even further.

Since its inception, A-Kon has been held in Dallas, save for three years in Addison, just up the road. Its location made attending particularly convenient for me, as I live just a 15-minute drive east of downtown. Beginning this year with A-Kon 28, the convention moved west, to the Fort Worth Convention Center. I initially had sort of mixed feelings about this change of venue. I found it irksome that the 15-minute drive to a fairly familiar part of town had turned into a 45-minute one to a city that was totally uncharted territory for me. Prior to this convention, I had been to Fort Worth precisely seven times before. I found the city to be rather unremarkable in comparison to Dallas in my previous visits, so I thought my reservations about the move out west were justified.

That said, I did agree that the change of venue was needed, as the Kon had very clearly outgrown its previous venue, the Hilton Anatole in Dallas. The Anatole’s layout already didn’t lend itself well to this type of convention, with the dealer room and artist alley located in a particularly remote part of the hotel only accessible by a 15-20 foot wide hallway. It was already difficult enough to move around even during the relatively calm periods, but during peak hours, it was nearly impossible to move around there without bumping into somebody with every step you took. To add icing on the cake, because Dallas Market Hall, a showroom across the highway with ample parking, would not let Kongoers park in their frequently unused lots, parking for A-Kon the last few years had been a nightmare. While it was stuck at the Anatole, the Kon was not quite living up to its full potential and not as relaxing nor fun as it could’ve been for me.

 

The last two years, I’ve purchased passes valid for the duration of the three days of the Kon. In lieu of waiting in long on-site registration lines only to buy two separate one-day passes, even if I attended only two out of the three days, I still saved myself at least the amount of money for a one day Saturday pass, which are predicatably the most expensive of the single day passes. With A-Kon 28, there was a fourth day added to the ledger. I opted to purchase the Charity Fastpass, which granted early or priority access to stuff like the dealer room and events like screenings or concerts. Even with that, I had only planned on attending Thursday and Friday, so I prepared my backpacks and wallet as best I could on Wednesday night and made plans for which dealers, artists, events, and panels I wanted to check out. I was intent on getting maybe as much stuff as I did last year: some Blu-rays, an artbook or two, and some prints from the Artist Alley.

I was completely oblivious of just how much the Kon would have in store for me.

A very hot, humid, and sunny Thursday arrived, and my game plan was to arrive in time for the dealer room to open at 2pm and use the 30 minute buffer period between the room opening to the Fastpass line and the public line to score most of my DVDs and some manga and artbooks from the booths that are usually jam-packed from open till close. I pulled $500 out of my rainy day fund and another $200 out from the bank, figuring that would cover my costs for the Kon, then embarked on the long drive to Fort Worth.

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That drive is an unremarkable one, save for the moments you make your way past downtown Dallas and through Arlington, the home of some amusement parks and most notably, Jerry World. Past that is a stretch of uncharted territory that had me growing impatient waiting for the Fort Worth skyline to appear. When it finally did, I took my exit for downtown and parked at the same lot I had parked at for Anime North Texas last year. As it turns out, I’d found the most expensive lot in the whole city.

How much was it for a single day? Forty bucks. Fucking hell.

I bit the bullet and paid up like the sucker I was, all because I was completely done with driving by then, and I didn’t feel like going through the trouble of attempting to find a cheaper lot elsewhere in a packed downtown area in the middle of a weekday. At least this lot was literally half a block from the convention center, which made putting away my purchases from later that day expedient.

I made my way inside the convention center and picked up my badge, a process that went much quicker than my previous experiences with this and other events’ registration areas. Most of the time, registering for a convention means waiting in lines that move slower than continental drift, even if you pre-register online, an option most conventions offer nowadays. Based on that, I figured that even though I opted for a Fastpass, it would take me a fair bit of time to get my badge, but nope, it took me all of 5 minutes to get it. It actually took me longer to get the badge tags on the clip of my lanyard than to get them in the first place. As I made my way towards the line for the dealer room, I found that the main lobby was more packed than I had expected for a Thursday. I made my way around the lobby before finding the end of the somewhat discombobulated Fastpass line. After reorganizing the line a couple of times to clear a path for an entrance to the lobby, it was evident that the Kon volunteers were still getting acclimated to the layout of the new venue.

After about a half hour wait in line, 2 o’clock rolls around. The doors to the exhibit hall open for the Fastpass line. I finally make it inside, and was quickly and visibly impressed with the expansive sight of the new dealer room. It is gigantic in comparison to the halls used for dealers and artists at the Anatole. There was a wide meeting space up front, plenty of room along the aisles that ran towards the back of the exhibit hall and many, many more vendors than the previous year, of all sorts of types. There were cosplay makers, figure shops, classic video games, artbooks, and more nerd stuff than I can really describe. Some big sellers such as Kinokuniya Books are present for the first time too, as far as I can recall. Although the aisles that went across the room were smaller and some popular shops along them made for very high-traffic areas, it was much easier getting around the dealer area than any of the prior Kons.

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After my brief moment of gazing around in awe, I set my sights on my first stop, which was Sentai Filmworks’ booth right up at the front, where I bought the Momokuri Blu-ray and a mystery bag of three t-shirts. I moved quickly to Anime Pavilion’s booth, which is usually the most packed booth for the duration of the Kon. They usually have the largest variety of anime and manga of any of the vendors, and sure enough, I wound up buying the Blu-rays for Gatchaman Crowds Insight and Love Lab before moving on. It took me a fair bit of searching before I finally found a booth selling what was my main prize of the convention, the Kyousougiga Blu-ray, and that gobbled up most of the 30 minutes before the rest of the public was allowed in. I blew the remaining 10 minutes searching for the Funimation booth, only to find they weren’t selling merchandise this year. Apparently their convention team was split between here, Anime NEXT in New Jersey, and E3, with the merch sales going to the latter two events. This was probably the only big disappointment that I had with this year’s Kon, as there were a handful of Funi titles on my wishlist that had to be put off.

As the doors opened to all the Kongoers, I looked over to the entrance only to find that people were patiently making their way to the vendors. No stampedes, shoving, or bad behavior reminiscent of America’s yearly Black Friday shenanigans, just eager crowds orderly filing in to check out all the anime goodies. It was at this point I began making my way towards the back of the dealer room, where a lot of the booths selling smaller trinkets like keychains and mini wall scrolls were at. I took my time to make sure that I didn’t miss out on anything. Heavy crowds were quickly building around the booths that specialized in the popular merchandise like home video, books, video games, figures, wall scrolls, and of course, the hentai doujins and lewd dakimakuras. I bought a few new volumes of manga, another Blu-ray, and some more t-shirts, all while I made mental notes of a few out-of-the-way booths that had some smaller items of interest to me, such as Assassination Classroom & Konosuba themed playing cards, Haikyuu keychains, and the rare (one, to be precise) booth that still had Kagerou Project stuff.

As I made my around the back row of the dealers room, I ended up running into an old buddy of mine named Mark. We go back to 2004, when we used to be members of a role-playing forum online. We hadn’t ever made plans ahead of time to meet up, but we usually ended up running into each other briefly at some point every Kon since I first started attending. Since he cosplays every day he attends, he’s usually not a hard guy to miss. On Thursday, he was dressed as Roman from RWBY, so spotting him was a trivial task once we actually crossed paths in the huge exhibit hall. We spent about 20 minutes in the middle of the aisle between the dealers and the artists just talking and catching up. Because I had company with me the prior years at A-Kon, Mark and I never really had a chance to just shoot the breeze like this. He had a three hour long RWBY panel he was taking part in coming up before too long, so we made sure we had each other’s phone numbers and made tentative plans to grab a beer at a pub somewhere nearby before going our separate ways.

Making my way to the Artist Alley, I noticed a booth selling Japanese snacks and drinks, and bought myself a chilled can of Pokka Gold milk coffee, which proved to be a smooth and sweet pick-me-up ahead of having to wind through the Alley’s narrow but jam-packed aisles. As with the dealers and vendors, the additional exhibit space brought with it vastly more artists than years prior, and with them, larger crowds of attendees. As was expected, I spent more money on artworks at A-Kon 28 than at all my prior conventions. In addition to one of my favorite artists, I bought posters (mostly Nier:Automata and My Hero Academia stuff) and even some Haikyuu lapel pins from just a handful of the hundreds of artists present this year, with my favorite work being the brilliant King of the Hill/Sailor Moon crossover poster that was one of my last purchases of the day, and one of my favorites of the entire Kon.

Knowing that I had spent way too fucking much money for day one, I made my way out of the dealer room and proceeded to drop the day’s haul of stuff off in my car. Checking the time, it was around 5:30pm. I had walked a ton already and my legs and feet were dead, but I knew I didn’t want to bother with subjecting my legs to the torture of rush hour traffic between Fort Worth and Dallas in a car with a manual transmission, so I went back to the main lobby and found a spot to sit down, resting for a bit as I caught up on my social media for the day.

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Getting bored with Twitter after half an hour, I brought up Google Maps on my phone to look up bars and pubs that were in the vicinity of the Convention Center, before deciding on a place just a little walk across the street called the Brass Tap. I took nary a few steps in and was already impressed with the place. A cozy pub with plenty of seating, tons of TVs on the wall, around 60 varieties of beer on tap and hundreds more in bottles in the cooler. I took a seat at the bar and shot Mark a text letting him know where I was at. Three drinks and an hour and a half later, he showed up. We order some food and beers and proceed to catch up some more. We’d talked about going for a drink ever since our first meeting at A-Kon back in 2012, so we both agreed that this moment was long overdue. Taking in some baseball on the big screen TVs, we started making plans for the next day, quickly setting our sights on a screening of Sword Art Online: Ordinal Scale slated for 11:30am the following morning. Not long after finishing our drinks, we paid our tabs, and went our separate ways for the night.

It was only after I got home that I realized just how much money I’d spent on just the first day alone; it ended being more than I had spent in two days at last year’s A-Kon, and I thought I’d blown my cash pretty carelessly then. I resolved to spend more responsibly the next day, including finding a cheaper spot to park my car at. There was no way in hell I was spending another dime at that $40 lot.

My Friday morning began at 7:30am, about two hours before the alarm I had set. Some surprise thunderstorms blew in, and with a few rumbles of thunder, woke me up from a rather restless sleep. This was one of the few instances that a constant rain made me feel uneasy, because as Yata can confirm, DFW-area motorists cannot drive for shit in bad weather. It was still pouring buckets as I left for Fort Worth around 9:45am. Much to my surprise, the traffic flowed decently up until one little wreck in Grand Prairie made for a traffic jam that jeopardized me arriving for the SAO screening on time. Fortunately, the roads and the weather cleared as I progressed ever closer towards Fort Worth. I arrived with little time to spare and parked at a garage run by the city next to Sundance Square, about 9 blocks away from the Arena entrance of the Convention Center. Despite my lower body still being totally dead from the previous day’s walking, I didn’t care much about the extra distance. I’d found a cheaper parking lot, and my sights were set on hauling ass over to the screening. I had about 15 minutes to cover 9 blocks to the Arena at the north end of the complex, plus another 4 across the confines of the Convention Center to the ballroom where the event was taking place.

I didn’t quite run, but I was probably speed-walking the whole way through the windy-ass downtown streets before making it inside the front lobby of the old Arena, which connected to the main lobby of the more modern Convention Center via the awkwardly laid-out concourses and hallways (gotta love 60’s stadium architecture) that ran the circumference of the Arena. As the minutes ticked by, I still had a considerable distance to cover from these incoherent corridors to the grand ballroom two floors above the exhibit hall housing the dealer room. I made my way up the escalators leading to the ballroom and happened upon the huge line still waiting at a couple minutes past the listed time of 11:30am. In a fortuitous turn of events, the sound crew in charge of the screening were still working some bugs out of the sound system, and these issues delayed the start by about 10 minutes. There also happened to be a shorter Charity Fastpass line for this event, so I happily joined that line, just a stone’s throw away from Mark. He’d already been in line for over an hour, so I sent him a text saying I’d save a seat for him up front. Mark grinned and shot me the middle finger as the Fastpass line started moving.

The doors to the ballroom open, and some Aniplex staff handed me some Ordinal Scale goodies before I made my way up to the front row. Mark found me not long after I sat down, and we kicked back as we waited for the show to start. After everyone in line took their seats, a guy from the media team took the stage, apologizing for the slight delay before hyping the crowd up to start the movie.

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I won’t go into a super-deep analysis of Sword Art Online: Ordinal Scale here, but I will say that it’s probably my favorite SAO work by far. The plot is as typical SAO as it could get, but as far as presentation is concerned, it’s very clear that A-1 Pictures put some effort into making this movie, with some of the battle scenes reaching ufotable levels of quality and, for lack of a better word, epicness. I appreciated this movie’s incorporation of AR as a central theme, as opposed to the VR games we’ve seen from SAO’s prior offerings, as aside from Pokemon GO, I kind of find AR apps somewhat vexing. And how about the climactic battle, huh? That was one of the very best battle scenes that I’ve seen in any show OR movie. It really felt like sort of an SAO All-Star battle, with appearances by characters from the Fairy Dance, Phantom Bullet, and Mother’s Rosario arcs. You can rag on SAO (it does deserve it!) all you like— hell, I do too, but I’ll be damned if Ordinal Scale wasn’t a hell of a ride! It even had a nice share of precious moments and a cameo by a different A-1 series.

Also, at the very, very end of the movie was a confirmation that SAO will return for a third season in the future, so there is that to look forward to!

After the movie, Mark and I decided to grab lunch from one of the handful of food trucks scattered around the area. We ended up chowing down on some very delicious Asian BBQ pork noodle bowls from a truck parked next to his hotel before splitting up, Mark for a RWBY cosplay photoshoot, and myself, another date with the dealer room. For my second day there, my intent was to buy maybe a couple more artbooks, perhaps a figure of a character to accompany the Kanbaru figure I bought last year, and some smaller things like keychains.

Or so I had thought.

Since artbooks were my main game plan for my time in the dealer room on Friday, I decided to stop by the Kinokuniya Books booth since I really didn’t get a decent chance to check them out aside from a glance on Thursday. Right away, I found one of my top targets, another Suzuhito Yasuda artbook. I quickly found artbooks from Konosuba, Kyousogiga, and a collection of noted animator Masayoshi Tanaka’s works. Instead of exercising discipline and picking two, I ended up buying all of them. And it didn’t stop there, oh no. Just a couple rows back was the Anime Books (yes, that’s the actual name of the place) booth, where my spending discipline hadn’t yet caught up to me. I left their booth having purchased three more artbooks, specifically abec’s SAO artbook, a comprehensive FLCL art collection, and a Cardcaptor Sakura artbook by CLAMP. The weight of all seven of these books in my backpack wasn’t unlike the crushing weight of the realization of the amount of money I had blown thus far, and that I still wasn’t done spending yet.

I ran across a booth near the front of the dealer room that had a pretty cool figure of Sinon from SAO with her sniper rifle, and seeing how my first and only figure was another Miyuki Sawashiro character, I inquired on the cost, only to get sticker-shock at the triple-digit asking price. Another booth a short ways away had the same figure for even more, so I wisely moved on. I then found a vendor in the middle of the room who had a Figma of Sinon with her GGO equipment for a pretty reasonable price, so I purchased said Figma, and proceeded to retire from the dealer room for the day, but not before downing two more Pokka Gold coffee milks along the way, because (HOT TAKE!) coffee milk is the best flavored milk.

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I met up with Mark again, who had long been finished with his photo shoot, in front of the entrance facing the Water Gardens, a plaza with some neat fountains and a popular gathering spot for the entire Kon. We planned on having dinner at a Thai restaurant next door to the Brass Tap simply (and cleverly) called “Tie.” Being the closest Asian restaurant to the Convention Center, the place was about as packed with fellow Kongoers as you’d anticipate, but Mark and I still got a table rather quick. We both ordered Thai Noodle Soup; Mark got his with pork, and I had mine with beef. The food was top-notch, as were the wait-staff. After we finished up, we headed next door to the Brass Tap for more beers. Since I was was having such a good time this year, I decided I was down to attend the third day, something I had never done at a convention before. As a bonus, when I tabbed out before retiring for the night, I was only charged for one of the three beers I had, and when I got back to my car, I found out parking for the whole day had only ended up totaling $13. I left for home a happy man.

I woke up on Saturday eager to embark on the drive out to Fort Worth, which would’ve been a completely unprecedented feeling to me even just a few days prior to the convention. Mark and I had made plans to attend at least a couple of industry panels being held by Aniplex, Funimation, and Sentai Filmworks, beginning with Aniplex’s at noon. I left home with little time to spare, arrived with even less (again), and embarked on the long march from the same garage to the Convention Center. Knowing that A-Kon typically doesn’t seem to get any major reveals or announcements with these panels in lieu of the much larger Anime Expo occurring just short of a month afterward, I decided to take my time with the walk to the first event on Saturday. I ended up arriving just as the panel’s first trailer featuring the second installment of Kizumonogatari aired. I took a seat next to Mark, who snagged a couple spots on the front row. Most of the trailers and teasers were for shows that were currently airing, such as good ol’ Eromanga-sensei, stuff that had already aired followed by home video release information, like WWW.Working, or upcoming titles that most everyone knew of in advance. Apparently, the couple of special nuggets that A-Kon got from the Aniplex panel were releases of character designs for ufotable’s upcoming Katsugeki/Touken Ranbu and a confirmed release date for the new Fate mobage, Fate Grand Order. While reactions for the former were lukewarm, the latter announcement fired up a significant portion of the approximately 300 attendees. I guess I might’ve cheered if I had followed Fate at all, because apparently everybody who’s gone near it seems to love it. After that bit of fanfare, the Aniplex panel was over.

There were about four hours between the end of the Aniplex panel and the start of the Funimation panel, so Mark and I headed back to the dealer room for a couple of hours to blow some time. Along our way towards the dealer room, I instructed my partner to dissuade me from making any hasty or excessive purchases, for reasons made obvious by my wanton spending on the first two days. He ended up fulfilling that duty happily, only relenting when I bought three comparatively inexpensive artbooks from the Kinokuniya Books place with a total price tag just under 100 bucks. We both agreed that this was a reasonable haul for the day’s merchandise spending limit I had set, so we largely refrained from checking out more, instead kind of aimlessly wandering around the exhibit hall for a bit. Eventually feeling a tad snacky in the time between lunch and dinner, Mark and I grabbed some Dippin Dots and yet more of that delicious Pokka Gold coffee milk before making our exit from the dealer room for the day.

Since we still had a couple of hours before the Funimation panel began, we went out to the Water Gardens and took in the sights and sounds for a little bit. In one of the plazas, a bunch of Love Live cosplayers were putting on a performance set to music from the series; in another, some Team Skull Grunt cosplayers assembled around a Guzma cosplayer and they proceeded to put on a show for some people taking pictures. There was one spot where folks were singing karaoke to familiar songs from popular anime of days past. Everywhere you looked, there were cosplayers of all sorts, from anime and video games both new and old, of all ages, builds, and backgrounds. Then there were folks like me, the nerds not brave enough to cosplay, but still out to revel in this weekend of anime nerd-dom.

Eventually becoming a bit gassed by the sweltering weather, Mark and I went to the comfort of his air-conditioned hotel room where we chilled for a bit. After half an hour of watching some silly ghost hunting show on TV, I got antsy to get back out into the festivities. Still feeling worn out from the previous days’ travels in addition to the walking we did today, Mark opted to take a nap and skip out on the second panel. We made plans to meet up at a nearby ramen place before going out for a final night at the Brass Tap; Mark lives in the Texas panhandle and was heading home early the next morning, so we wanted to make this last night count.

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I left his hotel, just across the street from the Water Gardens, and took my time as I navigated towards the ballroom where the panels were being held. I found my place at the back of a long line, but many more folks filed in behind me as I waited the better part of an hour for the doors to open. When they did, everyone in the line quickly found their seats and the Funimation panel started. That hour and a half largely zoomed by with nothing major really announced, seeming more like an informal “State of the Business as far as you fans may be concerned” sort of event. Seriously, their biggest feature of this panel was a recap of the premiere of the new Black Butler movie. The only thing I was remotely enthused by was the announcement for a Wolf’s Rain Blu-ray set in the works, which the rest of the oft tepid crowd enjoyed, too. By the end of the event, I was kind of wishing I could’ve skipped Funi’s event and attended the Sentai Filmworks panel, but I’d already made plans for food and beer immediately after, so, no dice.

As the Funimation folks began taking Q&A in their panel’s final minutes, Mark sent me a text: The ramen place we planned on having dinner at had closed early, so he ended up getting us a table at Tie instead. After the panel wrapped up, I quickly made my way over and we chowed down on some more delicious Thai food. Tonight, Mark ordered a spicy red curry dish, and I had a spicy noodle soup dish with pork. We made quick work of our dinner, and then headed next door to what had turned into our favorite little downtown pub. The atmosphere at the Brass Tap was very different on Saturday night compared to the nights before. There were many more Kongoers present, and the group seated next to the bar was quick to welcome Mark and I to their conversation. We spent the next couple of hours talking with these guys about our old favorite cartoons, anime or not, occasionally singing to the melodies some of the shows’ opening themes, which must’ve been something of a spectacle for the bartenders. That third and final night at the Brass Tap was a blast, and a satisfying end to a day where we both had to pace ourselves a bit.

We headed back to his hotel, recalling the fun times we’d had the last three days. Mark would be headed home early the next morning, and I was pretty sure that I wasn’t coming back the next day. We bid adieu to one another at the door to his room, eagerly anticipating next year’s convention. As I made my way to the elevator, I looked up the schedule to find one last event to attend, and conveniently enough, an event was about to begin in a ballroom a couple floors down from Mark’s room: Voice Actors Read Bad Fanfics. It had enough potential for me to bother trying it out. A bunch of obscure voice actors I had never previously heard of, and honestly I wouldn’t be able to name one now, read a couple of smutty DeviantArt or Tumblr-tier fanfics while somebody put up relevant meme gifs on the projector in the room. Curious about the quality of these fics? One of the actors proclaimed the first one “the best four-page argument for more education funding in the United States,” to hearty chuckles and applause. The second one was a “platonic” in name only Yuri on Ice fic that was beyond any level of mediocre smut I could possibly conceive. I bowed out shortly after the second reading.

I began making the long walk back to the garage where my car was parked. It was well past midnight, and though the lights and fountains had long been shut off for the night, there were still plenty of Kongoers out and about around the Water Gardens, many still in their cosplay outfits. The karaoke was still as lively as it was earlier in the day. I got a tad wistful as I walked to the Convention Center with a rather talented singer performing “Sorairo Days” at the karaoke event. I typically get in this kind of mood at some point at every anime convention I go to, but it was different this year. This year’s A-Kon was special compared to all the conventions I’d been to before; this year, I really had the chance to cut loose, geek out with other anime geeks, and just enjoy myself at the Kon like I hadn’t before. I lingered inside the lobby of the Convention Center after a chat with another acquaintance I crossed paths with. After she went about her way, I briefly considered sticking around the area for a screening of so-called “Hilarious Hentai Dubs” that began at 1:30am and ran until 3am. Not feeling terribly enthusiastic about walking through downtown and the long commute at such a late time, I chose to head home. In hindsight, I still kind of feel as though I might’ve missed out on this particular event.

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As I made my way back, an overwhelming feeling took over: My time here can’t be over. It can’t end here, I don’t want it to end, not yet. My mood turned a bit sour as the thump from a rave party taking place in the Arena turned ever more quiet. I was briefly distracted by the sounds of different groups of Kongoers singing to or with one another echoed around the downtown streets. The discontent grew as I walked past some now familiar landmarks on my way to the garage. The drive home was somewhat somber. I made it home and went to bed thinking this fantastic weekend of weeaboo revelry was finished for me.

I woke up much earlier on Sunday morning than I had planned. I’d been sleeping restlessly for the last few days, so I wasn’t particularly surprised nor disappointed. I looked anxiously at my 4-day A-Kon badge hanging on the wall, then turned to my wallet to see how much cash I had left. I left the room, returned, and the process repeated for about an hour, growing more antsy each time. I finally decided to hell with it all, I was heading back for the fourth and final day. Despite not knowing what events were on the ledger for Sunday, I had a fiery determination to wring every last drop of enjoyment out of that 4-day pass that I could.

Despite a major traffic jam as a result of a wreck leading into downtown Dallas, I made it back into Fort Worth just after noon on Sunday. Yet again, I took some time getting to the Convention Center from the same parking garage, playing some Pokemon GO on my phone as I made my way through Sundance Square. It wasn’t long before I was back in the now-familiar Arena navigating the awkward path leading to the grand lobby of the venue. A few days too late, I happened upon a single video room where screenings of various anime series had been taking place the whole convention. Screening rooms like this were a staple at the A-Kon I first attended in 2012, and continue to be with other conventions like AnimeFest. As it didn’t appear in any of the printed or online schedules, I made note of the video room’s programming schedule, which conspicuously featured a 5-episode screening of ReLife from 4:00 to 6:00 pm. I figured that would make for a splendid close to my Kon.

I made my way back into the dealer’s room for the final time. With a little less than $80 to spend, I weaved my way between some of the smaller, less packed booths, where I purchased some small items like two packs of Konosuba playing cards, or a Haikyuu keychain of Sugawara, one of my favorite characters from the popular volleyball anime. At the same booth that I’d bought my Sinon Figma from, I bought two chibi figures of Seto and Mary from Mekakucity Actors to match the Kido and Kano figures I got from AnimeFest in 2014. At a table across the hall, I also snagged a neat Food Wars wood etching for only $10.

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At this point, I was running very low on cash. I looked one last time at Sunday’s schedule to find that one of my favorite voice actors, Austin Tindle, who lent his voice to Karma from Assassination Classroom and Obi for Snow White with the Red Hair, was doing an autograph session in about half an hour. I hastily made my way to the Artist Alley with the little money I had left, in search of a print relevant to one of his works. Sadly, there were literally no Obi (or Snow White with the Red Hair in general, sad day) prints available from the throngs of artists still there, so I found one that had an adorable work featuring Karma, my second favorite Tindle role, which ended up being the cheapest thing I had bought from the Artist Alley this year. I found the lines for the various voice actors’ autograph sessions; Austin’s was one of only three or four that afternoon starting at the same time, but fortuitously, my Charity Fastpass brought me nearly to the front of his line.

I sat down to wait for about half an hour, long enough for my feet to turn that painful sort of numb. As Austin and the other actors eventually arrived, the crowds cheered and the fangirls squealed in excitement. Once the actors began signing, the lines moved rather quickly and orderly. I noticed most of these actors offered photos with them or other bonuses for money, but I saw no reason to do those as my cash reserves had run nearly dry by this point. When my turn came up, I complimented Austin on his work in Assassination Classroom and Snow White with the Red Hair, for which he gave me a hearty thanks. Attempting in vain to suppress a limp as I regained the feeling in my feet, I made my way through the crowds of the Artist Alley back towards the dealer room with my final day’s main bounty in hand.

I methodically made my way back through each and every one of the aisles, trying to make sure I didn’t miss out on any of the vendors’ offerings. I found myself at the front of the room quicker than I thought I would. I went all the way to the back of the deal room again, only stopping at the booth where I’d purchased the coffee milk from the previous three days. Fittingly, I bought the very last can of chilled Pokka Gold coffee milk they had for sale. Unlike the previous few cans, I took my sweet time enjoying this drink as I recognized that I’d had my fill of merchandise from the dealer room this year. At this point, I noticed that a few vendors had already skipped town, and many others were either in the process of packing up or beginning to head out. A cosplaying saxophonist started playing the bit from my favorite song, “Careless Whisper”, as he made his way out the door. Taking that as a good sign, I left the dealer room for the final time satisfied that I’d purchased everything still available that was relevant to me.

With just over an hour left until the dealer room closed, I headed back to the little theater room where the ReLife screening was about to begin. The mood in the lobby was largely the same as my own: lively, yet anxious. Everyone was still enjoying themselves, knowing all well that the fun times were almost over. I took my seat in the theater during the last minutes of whatever was airing prior to ReLife— I honestly couldn’t even tell you what the show was. I took a spot next to the wall so I could charge my phone, just in case I decided to go to a certain pub after the screening was over.

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The ReLife screening began, featuring the English dub, which I had very little experience with beforehand. Out of about 20 people in the room, half, including myself, were familiar with the show. The other half was completely new to it, and like me, probably trying to prolong the end of their Kon. Episode after episode played out, with the folks new to the series (especially the younger fans) making the typical “Dude, you’re like 30!” comments at some of Kaizaki’s antics. As the episodes continued, the teasing relented after seeing the relative poise that ReLife had as it carried out. We all had a fun time laughing at some of the creative liberties taken with the English dub, and just like that, the 5 episodes had run their course and it was all over. The guys running the video room thanked us for coming out and hoped that we looked forward to next year.

Just like that, those four magical days of A-Kon 28 were over, and I walked out of it with a smile. I made one last trip around the Convention Center, if only to see how many stragglers were still left. A couple hundred attendees, myself included, still filled the atmosphere with a jovial, yet content mood. I walked out the front entrance of the Arena happy that I’d come back for the last day— satisfied that I’d gotten every last bit of enjoyment and relaxation out A-Kon that I could get. I briefly considered going back to the Brass Tap one last time this year, but I opted against it and headed home, choosing for the pub to be my spot to bring Mark and more friends back to for next year’s Kon…

…and that was it! A very exhaustive account of my four days at A-Kon 28. My final thoughts?

It was nearly perfect! I was extremely skeptical at first, but based on how incredible this convention turned out with the change of city and venue, I was impressed! I’ve already pre-registered for next year’s A-Kon, and am now looking at attending other anime conventions across Texas. My hopes for A-Kon 29 are that it keeps the four-day format (which already looks highly unlikely), and that a bigger variety of guests show up. The guests of note this year were English dub voice actors and the band that performed the OP for Diamond no Ace, so I’m hoping perhaps they can bring some notable directors or just a stronger general lineup next year. I do suspect that it must be difficult for A-Kon’s organizers to have to compete to book guests with the much larger Anime Expo in Los Angeles that takes place about a month afterward every year, but it still is somewhat frustrating seeing just how loaded Anime Expo’s ledger is.

Aside from some the minor teething issues that always come with the first year at a new venue, the staff managed the convention decently other than some communication mishaps with event delays. Despite the small foibles, this year was the first time I felt so relaxed at a convention. Some incremental improvements could push A-Kon even higher past the pinnacle it achieved this year.

For 2018’s A-Kon, I will very likely be getting a hotel somewhere nearby. Between the exhausting drives across DFW, to downtown Fort Worth’s exorbitant weekday parking rates, I think it’ll save me energy and effort in the long run to stick in Fort Worth for a few days next year. Aside from the cost of the room, I think everything would about even out, taking into consideration my gas hog of a car. Next year, I will also have a firm budget for the whole convention, rather than engage in the carefree spending that resulted in me burning two paychecks worth of money in four days. All this is a year away now, though. I’m already making big plans for the upcoming AnimeFest in Dallas near the end of August, and a potential road trip down to Galveston Island for Oni-Con in October, along with Anime North Texas taking place the following month! I hope you guys stay tuned for that!

I hope this was at least a mildly interesting read for you guys. In any case, I’m just glad to finally get back to pulling some of my weight here at For Great Justice! I know there’s a lot more stuff at the Kon than what little I was able to attend, so if any of you guys were also in attendance, I’d sure love to hear about some of your stories (or any commentary, really) in the comments below or on Twitter.

In addition to our Final Thoughts on Spring article that we cranked out yesterday, Yata, Catche, and I also have our First Impressions for the already-underway Summer season coming pretty soon, so look forward to it!

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2 comments

  1. Nice writeup! I followed your journey on Twitter, but still loved reading this.

    “DFW-area motorists cannot drive for shit in bad weather.”

    After having lived in the Pacific Northwet for thirty years, it often baffles me that the rest of the country can’t handle a little dampness.

    Like

    1. Thank you for giving this a read!

      Man, I figured if anyone would have experience with driving in the rain, it’d be anyone from out in that direction. It’s really not all that difficult

      – Harubruh

      Liked by 1 person

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