Working for UK AniFest these past few months has allowed me a unique insight into a lot of things in relation to anime; its fans, its culture and, of course, the convention circuits that accompany the bloggers lifestyle. I've since experienced the MCM Expo as well as the London Film and Comic Con thanks to Tobika (be sure to check out my thoughts on these by hitting the links), so it was with genuine interest that I attended 2013's London Anime Con, now in its 7th year and hosted at The Rocket Complex in Holloway Road, London.
How would I, The Other Guy; the guy who stands out on an anime site as the person who kind of talks about, well, anything and everything, react to a convention that is purely focused on anime and its culture? Accompanying the boys from Toymation, I set out to explore and experience what this convention had to offer.
The first thing that strikes you about the Convention is that its a little smaller in comparison to the others I’ve mentioned. However, in theory, that doesn’t mean it’s any less of a Convention. There were plenty of activities, ranging across two floors, held over the weekend to entertain the majority of the people who came by; downstairs consisted of live bands, a couple of talks, etc and, integrally for some I’m sure, the bar. Upstairs contained the dealers, each there with a unique array of merchandise, as well as a great stage where the majority of the talks and Q+A’s took place. But despite the attempted utilization of the space available, there was something about this Convention that just fell flat for me.
I’ll admit; it was difficult to shift my mindset when I first saw how small the whole event was. Even things like the Video Gaming Zone were tucked away near the back, behind the bar, and looked more like an illicit hackers den. Which is kind’ve cool I guess in a weird, grungy, cyber punk, kind of way. However, I put that mindset aside and was determined to openly enjoy the experience, taking it all in and soaking up the atmosphere.
Sure, there were events happening that seemed to please the majority of the crowd but overall the people filtering through seemed to be more curious about simply wandering around than anything else on offer; be it a stall, talk or game. With special guests such as David Vincent (voice of Grimmjaw in Bleach) and Mike Pollock (voice of Dr. Eggman) having flown in from America to attend the convention, it had to have been slightly disheartening to then partake in Q+A’s that had an audience that fluctuated so wildly from practically standing room only, to barely anyone in attendance. Couple this with poor engagement from the audience to ask questions, led the Q+A sessions to feel slightly weak. Watching David Vincent bend over and hold his ear out just to try and make out a fans question was sad to see, and surely isn’t how an actor who has flown half way across the world should be treated.
I may be totally wrong on this, but from my vantage point and if I were to be in their shoes, I would have been disappointed.
Still, with that being said there were a handful of hardcore enthusiasts there, rocking their cosplay proudly and participating in as many things as they could. The flip side to this same coin however is highlighted when you consider that the ONLY people really getting involved with a lot of the events or games were the same people time and time again. Certain scheduled events, designed for simple fun, fell horribly flat. Things weren’t on time, a couple of events seemed to have been rearranged making the nice little schedule completely moot and, somewhat to be expected I suppose, the audience participation wasn’t exactly up to scratch. Major highlight (for all the wrong reasons) being the ‘Dub That Anime’ segment wherein teams of two were to watch, and then redub, a scene from an anime. This segment was hosted by both David Vincent and Mike Pollock and, my God, they earned their fucking pay checks with it. The amount of resolve and professionalism displayed by these two men was astounding. Kudos to you both for seeing it through and maintaining your consistent PMA’s!
Things looked up when I went out to experience the visiting Ai My Maid Cafe, who had set up shop outside just off from the smokers area. My friend and I found ourselves waiting for about 10-15 minutes for a seat, which wasn’t a problem. We enjoyed just looking around and seeing the cool cosplay and chit chatting amongst ourselves. That was until we overheard a minor commotion happening over by the make shift entrance. Curious, we wandered nearby in order to see what was happening. In fairness, with the way this guy was talking to the Butler, it was impossible not to overhear and, believe me, this guy was being a major fucking prick. The way he was talking to, and attempting to belittle, the Butler was disgusting. I don’t know where this person gets off, but he clearly suffers from some sort of Napoleon complex. Surrounded by his enabling goons, guffawing at every bullshit thing that fell out his mouth, he proceeded to berate and bully the Butler the entire time they were there. Highlights? Please bear in mind, I may be paraphrasing slightly here:
“Man, I can’t be fucked to wait. I’ll come back at 4. 4, yeah, bruv? 4. Don’t let me down. Don’t disappoint me. There better be a table for me when I’m back.”
As well as;
“How much do you make? Man, this ain’t a real job. I’ve got a real job. I DEFINITELY make more than you.”
These words were being said from one human being to another. And I thought the anime crowd were meant to be friendly and genial.
What a douche.
And I told the Butler as much as he finally walked us to our table. I gave him some sage advice:
“I don’t know if you know them or not, but you don’t have to put up with their shit. Don’t give them a table at 4.”
Turns out they have “history” but, bro, if you’re reading this: if that’s the kind of history you have with somebody, it’s high time you disassociate yourself from them.
BUT, the actual experience of the Maid Cafe was a positive one. The Maid’s were all very friendly and appropriately cute in how they spoke and acted. We were served by a Maid named Rini, who was a very nice girl. Friendly and funny, quick to laugh and pretty fun to be around. The food selection however left a little to be desired. I ordered an Ice Cream sandwich and a Peach Tea; the Cookies that comprised the sandwich were rad, but the ice cream on top was super melty and kind’ve flavorless.
I guess my experience with the Maid Cafe is like the sandwich. I had to deal with a douchebag outside, the main part and experience with the maids was positive, yet the food itself was a bit of a let down. How’s that for a compliment sandwich!?
Now, before you all think that the weekend was a spiral of negativity, here’s a shining beacon of positive awesome!
The live music throughout the weekend was consistently good. Legend In Japan took the stage and rocked it out with some massive riffs throughout the majority of their songs. As a friend of mine would say, they were “big boy riffs.” Of Fire and Fate played after and, despite an unfortunate technical issue during the very first song, went on to perform a solid set. Sunday saw Suffering Silence own the stage and, of course, the Diva that is Kitty Brucknell took the stage. Kitty demonstrated great stage presence throughout her show, with costume changes throughout and some good choreography you never noticed that she was alone on that stage. That’s how much she owned it. She happened to plug her show earlier during the day in a little pitch in which she came off as funny and incredibly genuine. I hope she does well.
Another highlight was the high energy start that kicked off Sunday morning, thanks to the beautiful and talented Kimonotime and Abipop, who took to the stage and didn’t relent until people were awake, participating and, most importantly: having fun! A great set from these two, who also happened to be live streaming it for their fans worldwide to enjoy.
To say that London Anime Con 2013 was unbearable would be dramatically unfair. To judge it on how ‘big’ or ‘small’ the convention is in relation to square footage would be, in all honesty, a bullshit move. So, instead, I’ll critique it through the overall atmosphere, the events themselves and the organization of the convention as a whole. With this in mind: London Anime Con was a disappointment for me.
It’s now the Conventions 7th year, given how MCM Manchester stole the day i believe that this was not a true indication of how #LAC would normally run. With events running late, long or simply being moved, coupled with inconsistent sound levels for things as important as Q+A’s, it’s hard not to be too critical. These things can be a learning curve, with technical issues, etc, etc. Even announcing special surprise guests, such as a Voice Actor from High School Of The Dead, seemed to fall flat. The hardcore faithful, those who were the familiar faces on stage time and time again, and who the Convention was clearly skewed for by the end, evidently had a good time; and that’s awesome. The Convention as a whole felt less like a Con and more like a themed University Day; like Hawaii night at the bar. Alright for some but, in my (EDIT: humble) opinion, it felt a little lacking because of it.
Until next time manga boys and anime girls, or vice versa, this has been The Other Guy; and of course, as always, please comment below. I love hearing what you guys think. Hell, if you were there, I'd like to know what you thought of the Convention too!
Steve Russell // @stevetendo