We arrived at the hotel in San Jose at approximately 11:30 AM on Thursday morning, giving us ample time to check into our hotel room and pick up our badges. Being rather tired, I decided to check out the local area and pick up my badge the next day instead. The Hyatt Place hotel was located almost directly across from the convention center, making the walk easy and pleasant. The weather was very clear and a little hot. As for the convention center itself, it seemed packed with people picking up their badges, both in and out of cosplay.
I searched around a seven block radius of the hotel and came up with many promising eateries of varying price and ethnicity, from kebabs to Chinese food, burgers to Korean dishes. The selection was excellent, and the prices were reasonable. Personally, I stuck with the tried-and-true burger chains about four short blocks from the center. Pizza was also a viable option up until around midnight, while the Jack-In-The-Box's lobby was open 24 hours, a rare find. A lack of money on my part meant that I didn't get to sample the wide variety of dishes I love, but perhaps the next time I'm in San Jose, I'll drop by the Korean food restaurant to see what they have.
The convention weekend was quite lively. A rave around midnight each night and a 24-hour gaming room meant there was always something to do if you couldn't sleep. The gaming room in particular interested me- a huge warehouse-like space combining arcade, console and tabletop gaming in one place. There was also a small ring of chairs in the center of the room for those with handheld systems, but they generally just walked around the con instead. Still, it was a nice gesture to see. There was a massive ring of tables to the fore-left of the entrance decorated with completed 3D puzzles and stacked high with every board game imaginable, while collectable card game battles took up the majority of the table spaces.
Protesters showed up sometime during Day 2 from what I had noticed. There were only a handful, though they were holding signs and had a megaphone out front. Thankfully, the police were there to keep anyone from blocking traffic, as they happened to be right next to the driveway leading to the convention center entrance. I hear they've been there before in previous years, but this being my first Fanime I was still mildly amused by the cosplayer next to the protesters holding up his own sign proclaiming his arms to be tired.
The staff at Fanime of 2012 seemed quite put together and very nice the few times I encountered them with questions or problems. They were polite, and even if they didn't know the answer to something, they worked together to figure it out. Badge pickup was neatly organized when I went, and there was someone there to answer questions regardless of where you were in line- a person patrolled through the line, one stood at the entrance, and several more were at the end to help regulate the flow of traffic. I noticed the floor upstairs had been divided into two lanes of traffic with corresponding arrows, which helped immensely. Altogether, my experience with them was quite positive. Hopefully they keep the same sort of management type for subsequent years.
I passed by the video rooms on the way to karaoke, as they were in the same hallway. The taste in anime was excellent in my opinion- subbed Evangelion episodes and the Black Jack OAVs were what I glimpsed on my way past, which left a feeling of deep contentment with me for a while. The Gong Show at karaoke was hilarious. Of course, it's a 16+ panel with heavy swearing and snark, so those who are underaged or sensitive should probably stay away, but the 'entertainment' was solid and even the judges were part of the show.
All in all, I'd say my introductory convention was good. There were some excellent cosplays, including some very obscure ones I loved to death. There weren't an overabundance of mindblowingly great panels, but I found walking around and people-watching to be just as fun. Alas, my lack of a camera...