AnimeNEXT 2016 – a con in review

From the suburb to the city, AnimeNEXT starts it’s new life in a larger venue, the Atlantic City Convention Center. Much larger than the Garden State, it has room for the growing number of attendees. This year, I know many have decided not to trek it out to East coast’s own city of temptations, but they missed out on an exciting weekend of music, fashion, anime and fun.

Headlining guests is the creator of Black Lagoon, Hiroe Rei-sensei, seiyuu Matsui Naoko-san and Producer/Director Daichi Akitaro-san (Fruits Basket). TRIGGER Wakabayashi Hiromi and Koyama Shigeto returns third year in a row with Inferno Cop’s own designer Amemiya Akira-san. Stateside guests includes voice actors Richard Epcar, Todd Haberkorn, Bill Rogers, Marc Swint and more. Mint Neko is will be on the show floor with his latest from Japan along with a fashion show by Vedetta Marie. AnimeNEXT is also happy to celebrate ROOKiEZ is PUNK’D’s 10th Anniversary at AC with a Friday concert along with ZAQ’s live on Sunday. Also returning to AnimeNEXT is the World Cosplay Summit finals with the chosen winners going to compete in the 2016 WCS in Nagoya, Japan!

Atlantic City…here is AnimeNEXT!

Thursday, June 9

pre-con

For East coast attendees, traveling to the con via Amtrak or bus meant that the drop off was in the city, at either of the hotels. Transportation around the hotels were easy via walking or grabbing the jitney since they were within 10-20 walking distance. The main issue was the heat which was already pretty humid for June. Thankfully, we had gorgeously hot weather throughout the weekend. (No rain.)

The new venues also meant new photoshoot backdrops. There were beaches, stone walls, wooden walls, near the pier, streets, boardwalk, lights, grass and more. Exploration is needed in order to find the right location but for June, there weren’t crowds to deal with from the casino goers. Note to cosplayers: photography on the casino floors isn’t allowed.

It took about 10 minutes to travel from the outside of Bally’s to the con. The pre-reg badge pickup line was a good size, but it was thankfully indoors in one of the halls. (Albeit the air conditioning was not that high for Thursday, but we were grateful to be indoors.) Most shared that it was a 1.5-2 hours wait for pre-reg. There were complaints, but for a growing con like this one, within 2 hours is quite reasonable.

The initial look of the con center, the 2nd floor and 3rd floor is the main part of the con with the 2nd floor with the major events and artist alley/dealer’s room. The 3rd floor is the main panel area. It’s thankfully easy to navigate.

We returned back to the hotel via the jitney (which is free throughout the weekend of the con.) It stops at the surrounding hotels making the commute between the con and the rooms very convenient.

Friday, June 10

Dealer’s Room fun

First thing we did after picking up the press badge was head to the Dealer’s Room which is now merged with the Artist Alley.

Like always, the entrance opens first to the booths for the musical guest. ROOKiEZ is PUNK’D followed by ZAQ.

Mint NEKO was the next booth along the wall. I didn’t spot the designer, but I heard he was at his booth throughout the weekend. It was unfortunate that he didn’t have a fashion show like previous years.

There appears to be even more room for the convention booths with the usual East coast cons.

Interestingly, they had a maid from the Katsucon maid cafe at the the convention. Usually we can’t take pics, but I asked politely. ^_^

A convention favorite, Vertical’s booth sported the latest early releases including Chi’s Sweet Home omnibus vol. 2. I talked to Ed about his audio book release and noted how good they were. The voice actors chosen really bought out the characters they portrayed. Plus, there is sound effects which really drew us into the story. I also asked about No.6 novels. Ed noted that it is a higher possibility then before since light novels are doing so well and they are doing collaborations with Kodansha. Ed noted that he is personally reading volume 1 and found it to be very interesting. I noted that the political background and relationships is one that is suited for Vertical releases.

After the Dealer’s Room, we headed to the Artist Alley side of the room. I found an awesome artist mmmaoh and bought 2 postcards. Her 10 Count and No.6 art are so beautiful!

cosplay mending on the go

After the Dealer room, we headed to the 4th level so I could see the Cosplay repair room which started last year. There were two sewing machines, tape, thread, glue gun, wig stand, hair spray, mirrors and more along with a changing area for cosplay.

Rules include cleaning up after yourself, asking for help if needed and definitely ask to use the sewing machine. Oh yes, no body painting or spray painting. Guess those would be too messy to clean up.

Next door was a cosplay showcase called the Magic of Cosplay. It was a small exhibit of WCS outfits. There was also an area where people could share what cosplay means to them. There were some sweet notes. Friends and fun are both awesome reasons to cosplay.

After exploring, I headed to check out the queue hall for the line for the concert. No more waiting outside in the sun! Similar to NYCC, there is a hall just for major event lines.

The concert itself didn’t start until past 8pm…but it was well worth the wait.

ROOKiEZ is PUNK’D concert

For the 10th Anniversary, ROOKiEZ returns to AnimeNEXT for their friday night concert. It was truly a highlight of the convention being able to celebrate with the band. SHiNNOSUKE shared his voice and U his drum beats. We also got to hear RYOTA on bass with support KAT on guitar live for the first time in New Jersey. Time to rock!

ROOKiEZ autograph

Autographs were held right after the concert after giving the band a break. Photos weren’t allowed inside the autograph area and they were only signing official items. Thankfully, they sold stuff while waiting on the line and at the back of the concert hall.

Saturday, June 11

waking up to cosplay

Perhaps it’s the venue, but AnimeNEXT this year has been upping the intricacies of cosplayers. Definitely, having an enclosed larger convention center (rather than walking between buildings) allowed people to bring their more amazing outfits. Or perhaps having the WCS being represented at the convention is the reason. Either way, it seems that AnimeNEXT may be a contender for the focus on cosplays in future years.

so much testosterone

The following two panels I attended really were male focused. There were definitely females in the audience…but the scales definitely shown to be more males in the fanbase. Of course, that is to be expected when TRIGGER is in the room with the latest Inferno Cop.

The panel was followed by the latest with Sekai Project whose game releases have more than just pretty girls (and the occasional pretty boy.) I especially enjoyed their panel since they got into the nitty and gritty of licensing and went into what really goes into a release. Questions like why it costs so much when it’s technically cheap enough as is for the consumers. Provides insight for collectors and teaches us the value of the product.

more autographs

After the panel, I headed upstairs to the ZAQ signing which was thankfully still underway…or ending really. I headed inside just as ZAQ was about to leave with her entourage. She greeted us and happily signed the cds. I wished her good luck at her live tomorrow and asked her manager politely if I could take her photo. It was only half an hour into her photo session, I really hope that her fans won’t think about attending at the very end.

The Daichi-san line was created soon after and we sat down to wait for the hour. We were thankfully near the front of the line and was sent in shortly after 6pm. Because of the number of people, Daichi-san agreed to draw a little pic for all his autographs. Photos were allowed too. I mentioned that Kodomo no Omocha and Fruits Basket were favorite series of mine. He drew Sana on the shikishi. I noticed that for some older series, Daichi-san’s manager may look up the character and draw from the picture for fans. That is really nice of him.

I told Matsui-san that I have been watching Detective Conan since I was little and was honored to meet her, the voice of Suzuki Sonoko. ^____^ Truly, this is amazing.

Masquerade x2!

Since the masquerade and the autograph signing was at the same time, I was late in heading to the Main Events hall for the masquerade. It started a bit late since when I arrived, they were only on the 6th performance. This masquerade is special since aside from the usual main performances, it also housed the World Cosplay Summit US finals where Team USA will be chosen to compete in Japan this year. Go Team USA!

Sunday, June 12

last minute shopping

It’s unfortunate that I couldn’t check out the Dealer’s Room on Saturday. However, I doubt there would have been a problem in the aisles. They were much larger than previous areas. The extra space is much appreciated.

We found Mint Neko at his booth and I could grab a picture of his designs. (I’m still disappointed that there was not Lolita or punk fashion show from Japan. Others have noted that perhaps Mint Neko designs are not varied enough for a show but seeing from what was displayed and at the booth, I highly doubt that.)

The Dealer’s Room closed at 3pm and security pushed us out closing one of the last moments of the convention. There is always cosplay though.

con in review

Holding the con in Atlantic City changed the feel of the entire convention. Not a bad thing, but it lost it’s intimate feel. At the same time, holding it at a convention center eliminated the crowdedness. I was not in the dealer’s room on saturday, but on even on friday, there were more room in the aisles and less fear of trampling on people’s cosplay. Also, holding the Artist Alley in the same area as the Dealer’s room helped with the sales of the Artist Alley items since the attendees would naturally flock to the back area and make their purchases.

The panels were placed on the 3rd level and it was easy to go from one area to another. The Video game and cosplay as well as the autograph area was on the 4th level. No more travelling between buildings which brought everything and everyone together. Though we lost the small intimate feel, it was definitely easier to move around and see things. No longer were things spread out, taking time to travel from one side to another. From the farther hotels to the convention center was a 10 minute walk through Tanger Outlet. And even for traveling, the Jitney was free for convention goers and they went to the major hotels and the con center. They came frequently and though there was limited space (and no standing rule for safety) people made do. Also, there were little incidents from what I could see. No one was pushing each other to get on the bus. Instead, people pointed out to others that they or others were there first. There was a certain level of decorum that is to be respected. Con attendees are not all immature and rude!

For photographers and cosplayers, the addition of the streets, malls, boardwalk and casino provided different backdrops for cosplays and shoots. The beach was a wonderful spot to shoot and wasn’t overcrowded even during the day. No more crowding over a single spot for shoots! Unfortunately, that also meant that we lost the ability to see friends and acquaintances while waiting at a single spot. However, the convention has not grown exponentially that people get lost in the background. Within the con center alone, it is still small enough to find people easily.

The major disaster of the weekend was about the rave on Saturday night. Turns out, the 411 room (where autographs were held) was also the rave room. And the dancers broke the floor by accident. They moved the rave to the ground level which I feel was definitely better, though lost some of the atmosphere of the enclosed room. Unfortunately, they couldn’t hold the rave at the Main Events hall since the Cosplay Burlesque is always held there. Hopefully, they’ll find a better room next year.

The air conditioning was acceptable. Not blasting at the con center, but sufficient. And thankfully, there was free wifi as well. Definitely, Anime Next has stepped in quality.

It’s unfortunate that we weren’t able to have a Japanese fashion show this year despite Mint Neko’s presence. Instead, there was a fashion show from 50% Dangerous, Vedetta Marie. Uncertain if WCS will continue to hold it’s finals at Anime Next, but that certainly is an exciting event. And now, Anime Next is certainly a venue worthy of holding this event.

Next year, Anime Next will be held from June 9 to June 11 2017. Though the final numbers are not out yet, people have noted that many who usually attend did not attend this year since it’s a new venue. However, I imagine next year’s number to grow since the weekend has shown that Anime Next has made a good start in Atlantic City. Let’s keep the party going strong next year!

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