Last year my room mate went to Dallas A-Kon 22, the annual anime convention in the Dallas area. While I was unable to attend then, I had been looking forward to going this year for a long time as I knew that I would have time this Summer. While my room mate made the convention look appealing from all the photographs taken, to be honest, I was a little scared. I was not worried about staying out late at downtown Dallas or anything like that– I was scared of the people that were going to be there. Being one of those who does not tend to like cheap humor or meme propagation, I was afraid that the convention would be filled with hipster art majors.
Nevertheless, I felt that A-Kon was something that I should go to at least once, especially since this would potentially be my final Summer in Dallas (depending on where I go for medical school) and would definitely be my final Summer together with my college friends. All in all, I was looking forward to it. Things got even more interesting when Balance decided to visit Dallas as well, along with the fact that most of my medical school applications were going out on the first of June. As the week of the convention was fast approaching, I knew that I was in for a very eventful week.
Day 0: Badge Pickup
Because I knew that I would have class on Friday, the first day of the convention, and that I would be leaving for it at 11:30 AM, I asked that my friend who went last year show me where to park in downtown Dallas. While we were there, we figured that we should pick up our badges so that we could just walk in on Friday.
As Charlie, Balance, and I left at 4:00 PM, I made sure to take note of the route to the convention location. Since Balance would be staying at the convention location for the duration of his stay in Dallas, we were also bringing his luggage. I was glad that Charlie was able to show me a good place to park (and a decent shortcut to the Sheraton, where the convention was being held while he was at it) because downtown Dallas was plagued with one-way signs and unsynchronized signal lights. Having been a long time since I have been in a true hotel, I was rather surprised and a little overwhelmed by both the structure and the sheer amount of people there.
After we got in line for our badges and left Balance to go to his volunteer meeting, I was a little… overloaded. There were certainly a few people whose mere presences made me cringe, but there were a lot of interesting costumes as well. The total amount of time spent waiting in the line was about 2.75 hours, but was made a bit faster by talking to Balance and watching the Left 4 Dead cosplayers in front of us screwing around. When we finally got our badges and goodie bags, I was thrilled to see that my included random comic issue was that of Star Trek, but raged a bit when I finished reading the cover and realized that it was of the Next Generation. Charlie raged more however because he got a Nightwing issue… Oh well!
After leaving Balance at the convention and driving Charlie back home, I fell asleep quickly whilst looking forward to the next day.
Day 1: Friday
I woke up really early on Friday and had a very relaxing morning with breakfast and no rush to get to class on time. Charlie left for the convention on time before me with a few other people in our group, Bill and Steven, because he did not have any class to worry about. He did frantically leave me a note to pick up a package for him from the apartment leasing office because it would not open until 10 AM, and he needed its contents for the convention to be autographed. Genetics class was honestly pretty boring that day so I ended up skipping the rest by leaving early (10:30 AM) so that I could also make it to the Star Trek TOS Trivia panel I had my eye on at the convention. Quickly stopping to get Charlie’s package, I high-tailed it to the downtown district to park and finally begin my convention adventure.
I got to the convention earlier than any of my friends were expecting, but I decided not to tell anyone so that I could soak up the atmosphere on my own. While I did walk around awkwardly for a few minutes, this quickly wore off and I slipped into the mood of the convention so easily that I startled myself. Strangely enough, I ended up running into Charlie, Bill, and Steven anyways and was able to give Charlie his package, a Blu-ray of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood that he was hoping to get signed by Vic Mignogna, the English voice of Edward Elric. In an interesting coincidence, the Star Trek trivia panel that Charlie decided to accompany me to was hosted by Vic, who ended up being such a Star Trek nerd that he could recite the dialogue for many scenes word for word. Before the panel started, we dragged in the rest of the group, but I think only Charlie and I really got anything out of the panel since we were both Star Trek fans.
The panel was a bit of a game where it was the audience’s job to ask Vic a question about the original series (barring any redshirt names, planet names, or production questions) and if he would be unable to answer, he would give you a signed picture of himself in the pose of Captain Kirk. If Vic was able to answer your question, he would shoot you with a phaser he was carrying, which in actuality shot out water. Vic was really good at remembering the details, even across episodes… I was impressed! I had no idea what episodes Lieutenant Kyle was in and what the names of some of the random ambassadors were. I recall that one person was able to stump Vic, but I cannot remember the question. I do know that they used a smartphone, which I and some of the audience thought was kinda cheap, but Vic let it slide anyways.
Meanwhile, I had been sitting there trying to recall the name of an episode that I just so happened to read a piece of trivia from the night before. When the title finally dawned on me, I raised my hand and spoke into Vic’s mike my question, worded in as confusing a manner as I could in hope to somewhat intimidate as well: “In the episode, The Galileo Seven, Captain Kirk’s dialogue hints what inconsistency regarding the ship’s layout for which we have not seen evidence to support?” There was a brief pause on Vic’s end since the question was confusing as it had intended to be, but that just goes to show how terrified I was of Vic’s knowledge about the show as well. He asked for a hint because the question was a little vague and I obliged, but I may have spoken a little too much since I realized that the answer could be deduced from what I had just said. Vic, as a smart guy ultimately did guess the right answer– Captain Kirk hinted that there were multiple transporter rooms on the ship despite us always seeing only one. As a result, I got shot in the face with Vic’s phaser, but he thought the question was so great and had such a great time with the question that he gave me a photograph anyways, signed to me!
I must take a moment to also point out how abnormal a thing this event was for me. Rarely do I raise my hand to answer such things because frankly I do not care to get my opinion across or answer the question unless it is a really important subject matter to me. In a public setting while speaking in a microphone? The chances of me doing that would be practically zero. However, I guess the adrenaline of being in such a… stimulating environment was running through me, coupled with the fact that I was surrounded with people on my side and the fact that I enjoy Star Trek motivated me to do so. I really was caught in a thrill and even a couple people caught me as the panel was leaving to express how they were impressed with my question; only one other person (the third) won during that panel.
With the rest of my group leaving to eat lunch, I stuck around the Sheraton since I had eaten breakfast that morning and I was not hungry yet. Since Balance worked the night shift and ended up going to sleep at 8 AM, I was pretty much on my own, but also enjoyed the bit of privacy as I wandered around the convention. I found out quickly that I was naturally one of those who was not shy about asking people to take their picture. I wouldn’t have expected this (see above mentioned statement about not caring about things) but I guess I felt so at ease with the type of anime-watching and video-gaming people there that I treated them as if I somewhat knew them.
Eventually, Balance woke up and we ate at the Cornerstone Bakery Cafe since I try not to eat junk food if I can avoid it. As we finished that up, we joined up with the rest of my group (Charlie, Linh, Bill, etc) to go to the Funimation panel. Since Funimation is Dallas-based, they tend to frequent the convention and showed us some of the upcoming anime that they licensed, as well as what they plan to broadcast as a part of Toonami.
The rest of the convention rushed by while my group split up and I ping-ponged among the resulting factions. I got my picture taken with a female Tails and a Plusle/Minun (but you won’t be seeing those here~) in addition to simply taking picture of the cosplayers since Balance was with me and was able to act as my cameraman. I did end up leaving a little earlier though than the rest of my group. While it was due to something coming up, I was later told that the rest of the convention past that time (around 10 PM) was not worth it. I tried staying up that night to talk some more and possibly blog, but I was way too tired and knocked out pretty quickly.
Day 2: Saturday
After the first day, the second day went a lot smoother in the morning. I ended up splitting off from the rest of the group once again that day since the rest of the group wanted to eat. Wanting to explore certain parts of the convention more in depth, I headed for the Dealer’s Room to see if there was anything interesting being sold. Since today was Saturday and it was the day of the main cosplay contest, there were a lot of neat cosplayers wandering around even in the Dealer’s Room. In the room, I also ended up buying a small Rei Ayanami figurine for my room; most of the things being sold were simply not practical for me to have in my room so there was little point in purchasing them.
After eating once again at the Cornerstone Bakery Cafe at the Plaza of Americas connected to the Sheraton, we decided to go to the Funimation Q/A voice actor panel. The voice actors on the panel were Quinton Flynn (voice of Raiden, Axel, and Timon), Lisle Wilkerson (voice of Nina Williams), Kyle Hebert (Dragon Ball Z narrator), and Cherami Leigh (voice of Setsuna from Negima). I was a little interested in hearing them talk about their work, how much they strain their voices, and how free-lance the English dubbing industry really is. I’ve never felt comfortable with the uncertainty behind free-lance work so I gained some respect for the voice actors’ dedication. The panel itself was entertaining, especially when Kyle was asked to narrate a day in his life in the style of the Dragon Ball Z narrator. All of the voice actors were friendly and I made it a point to visit them for their autographs the next day.
After the panel began the long wait for the cosplay contest. Since this was effectively the main event for the convention, one had to get in line for the panel hours beforehand so as to avoid getting stuck too far in the back. The actual event was rather fun since it included a number of skits in addition to costumed walk-ons. Among the skits was a rendition of Ilven Polka and a Hare Hare Yukai dance performance by two cosplayers I met earlier in the day. It was also interesting to see how much effort was put into the costumes– outstanding work.
Day 3: Sunday
I had been told that Sunday the convention begins to lose steam– the cosplay contest by this time is over and many attendees had to fly back to their home towns early so as not to be too exhausted for the next working day. Sure enough, the mood was quieter and there were fewer people present, but the charm of the convention still remained.
At noon, Balance and I headed to the Neko Neko Maid Cafe. As soon as we neared the location, the overly energetic maid was overjoyed that we were pre-registers, a fact that swept an ominous wave of doom over both of our heads. As we sat outside waiting for the room to open, we hoped that we would not be the only patrons, silently questioning our life decisions up to that point. Thankfully, there were enough people to have two tables, but we were hardly out of danger.
The actual execution of the concept was a little difficult for them, it seemed. I understand that the Sheraton prohibits panels from serving food unless they are catering so the maid cafe is unable to serve food at A-Kon, despite being able to do so at other conventions. (They did however get the idea to grab things from the Genghis Grill next door and “serve” it to their patrons which I thought was some quick and intelligent thinking). Nevertheless, the idea was there, and it was still a fun and interesting event despite these difficulties.
When we were seated, the maids took their seats next to us (and strangely there was a butler as well, but he did not sit next to me) and brought out a little menu of games to play with them. Our table decided on a color-coded Jenga variation where each person was only allowed to pull the block of the color he or she is assigned. The maids then announced something that made our blood run cold (no, it was not the fact that we were not allowed to photograph or touch the maids): the person who loses the game must be “punished.” The punishment would almost certainly involve singing or dancing with the maids on stage. Shortly after this, Balance and I were fighting back tears… The pressure was on, big-time.
Our group at the table ended up being fun though. It was not full of quiet nerds, but rather enthusiastic and funny individuals. I must add that these individuals were also great buddies and honorable folks who provided excellent advice on which block to pull from the Jenga tower. By saying “excellent,” I of course mean that they would suggest you remove the absolute worst block from the tower, almost guaranteeing it to fall on you. I may or may not have been providing frequent suggestions to everyone involved. I must also add that, as respectable individuals, we would construct the tower to our best abilities when placing our removed blocks on top, which of course meant that you had the most horrid, teetering tower you could imagine. Not good for the nerves.
Luckily, the tower fell on a maid’s turn so she had to be punished (though she said she enjoyed getting punished). Despite the suggestion from the person next to me to do sit ups in her dress (which of course, instantly got shot down), her punishment was decided to perform an impromptu song based on the categories we shouted out. After our table shouted out “cupcakes!,” “kitties!” (my contribution), and “space!,” she had to sing a song about cupcake eating kitties from outer space.
The next few times was equally nerve wracking since Jenga is a bit of a nerve wracking game in general and our stakes were so high. Luckily, the tower fell twice on our friend who wanted the maid to do sit-ups which made his punishments all the more hilarious to watch (and I am sure some of that enjoyment was due to the wave of relief that it was not us being punished). His first punishment was to rap and his second punishment was to follow the dance moves of a maid. When following the dance moves, he tried at first, then eventually gave up and started doing his own thing, which had us laughing pretty hard. Another guy at our table also screwed up on like the third block being removed from the Jenga tower so he had to participate in a “Moe-Moe Battle” against a maid, in which both competed to make the most moe pose depending on the theme.
The time actually went by extremely quickly, despite Balance and I thinking that we would be doomed the entire time. Since we were “pre-registers,” we had the opportunity to get photographed with maids of our choice, but Balance decided to pay to have all of the maids in our picture (1$ extra for each) since we wanted to at least make it a good picture. I instantly claimed a couple of maids to flank me on both sides (which prompted one of them to make a comment about brunettes haha), but this was not my true goal. With maids on both sides, there was no more room for Balance to stand. I and the others promptly encouraged him to lie down on his side at the bottom of the photograph, where the male butler hilariously joined him. Truly a beautiful memory for Balance!
The experience in the end was fun for the both of us, despite it being so scary. Maybe it was fun because we didn’t get punished… I am not sure. After the event, I had one final thing to do, and that was to get the autographs of the voice actors from the panel we attended yesterday. The line for the voice actors’ autographs was long, but the line for Vic Mignogna’s autograph (a separate booth) was much, much longer. I sadly did not have anything special for most of them to sign, but they did sign the back of my badge. I had a volume of Negima?! for Cherami to sign because Setsuna was an awesome character. I was thrilled that Cherami was even nice enough to let me take a picture of her holding my volume!
With the convention winding down, Balance and I stopped for a bite to eat and finally went off to drive to the airport– Balance was leaving today.
I more or less crashed after dropping Balance off to the airport. There were not many words involved during the goodbye, but the feeling was there.
The Monday after, I went to class and promptly went back to bed upon reaching home. I slept until 3 PM and did not even feel like going to work. A-Kon lingered in my head. As someone undergoing a pre-professional schooling, a lot of my peers are uptight individuals who half the time are tactless foreigners. A-Kon was like a vacation for me… Everyone there had interests similar to mine, were similar to my own age, and were open to making new friends. It was so easy to talk for a few minutes to the Black Rock Shooter leaning against the railing all alone or the Victorique who happened to sit down nearby. It’s not often that I find these types of individuals every day.
And you know, to be honest, I am kind of sad that it is over. I usually am not one to dwell on such things, but I am sad to leave some of the people I saw behind and to leave the atmosphere of downtown Dallas. Part of the reason why I wrote this blog entry today was to record my memories as in fresh a state as possible. Part of it was also because the the end of this event has kept me from wanting to do anything else.