Sunday, March 18, 2012

Koukou Chibicon 2012

While those who are fortunate enough to be attending WonderCon or Anime Conji were having fun there, I found myself attending a smaller convention. Much smaller. So small, in fact, that the name includes a mention of how small it is: Koukou Chibicon, held at Branham High school.

Now, while Koukou Chibicon is still a convention, it is one to the same extent that a high school drama club's production of "Guys and Dolls" is a musical. You know they're trying their best with what they have, but on their limited budget and experience, you can't expect it to compare to a Broadway production. That said, I will be fair and take all things into consideration, but I do intend to offer constructive criticism.

I arrived about an hour after they opened, when the rain was barely starting to drizzle. After I bought my badge, I found that the con was limited to the school cafeteria, split into a main hall and a game room. They made the best with the room they had, lining up the artist alley along the back wall, chairs set up for main events and panels near the front, and to the side was a Maid Cafe. Well, it wasn't the usual type of Maid Cafe, where you sit down and get great service from a maid while paying too much for too little food; you could buy brownies, cup ramen, and Capri Sun drinks from maid-ish cosplayers, but at least it was affordable.

Inside the game room, there were a few tables set up with Nintendo Wii systems, two of which were playing Smash Bros. I played some Just Dance for a bit, then continued around. At the back was a table made for Yugioh duels, particularly for a tournament. After playing a few games, I opted not to enter the tournament, due to the types of players. Poor sportsmanship and broken netdecks abound; that sort of thing completely sucks the fun out of dueling.

Afterwards, there was an announcement about a cosplay contest, which I decided to enter. I was cosplaying as Yuuji from "Baka Test," although I don't have the wig for it yet, while my girlfriend was Shouko. We figured a little in-character skit sort of thing would be fun, and I thought her craftsmanship is worthy of merit (although I can't say the same for my own). The actual contest, though, consisted of everyone standing on stage and saying who they cosplayed, then the winners were picked by the volume of the audience's cheers. That meant that those with the loudest friends would win, regardless of anything else. Now, I'm not saying those who won were undeserving of any sort of credit, as there were some very good costumes there. But we didn't have the option of doing any sort of skit, and there was no craftsmanship judging at all - it was simply a popularity contest. I know that at least a few of the staff there are accomplished cosplayers, certainly they could have done some judging, instead of just picking whoever had the most friends in the audience.

After hanging out with some friends, I participated in the "Battle Royale" capture the flag. (No relation to the "Battle Royale" book, manga, and movie.) It was a good idea - four teams competing in Capture The Flag, although in the game I played, there was some difficulty with teamwork and too many people defending. Still, any issues with the teams is not the convention's fault, and it's a clever concept that they should be given due credit for.

Following that, I went off to get lunch with some friends. Upon our return, we spent time chatting and hanging out with other friends of ours. There was a silent auction for various videos and manga, so I decided to enter, starting with a low bid and planning on outbidding any competitors at the last minute. In the end, I won a volume of the Ranma 1/2 manga and an old Pokemon VHS for $1 each.

As the convention wrapped up, I was treated to a pleasant surprise: Improv games. Those who know me know that I enjoy improv (In fact, I'm co-hosting a gathering next month called "Doctor Who's Line Is It Anyway," featuring cosplay, Doctor Who, and improv games), so of course I was sure to participate. As with most improv games, the quality of the game depends on the participants, so while the games we did were hit and miss, I still had fun with mine. Sadly, they had to end pretty soon for the closing ceremony.

The main hall

Now, while I may have mentioned a few problems, this con did have some positive aspects. It's clear that the organizers were really trying, and their effort is to be applauded. The improv games at the end were a welcome touch, as was the silent auction, and the four-team Capture The Flag was a novel idea. And of course, let's not forget that these are just teenagers trying to put a convention together, which is quite an undertaking regardless of its size.

When I was in high school, I was the president and founder of our Anime Club. I had hoped that one day we would be able to host a small con, but the members were so disorganized, I couldn't even get them to turn in their registration forms for an actual convention, much less try to make one. The fact that they manage to hold this every year is worthy of praise, in spite of its flaws. For that, I applaud them.

It does not, however, excuse some of the problems I had with it. The size is perfectly understandable and not a problem. I can't fault them for the weather, or any issues the guests may have caused, so they get a pass on that. Other things, however, such as the variety of video games they offered and the cosplay contest, those I hope they improve on next time. In the end, I got the show I paid for from a group that, while inexperienced, did the best they could with what they had. I suppose that's all that can really be said.

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