Thursday, January 30, 2014

AOD 2014 Review

Animation On Display (AOD) has made a big move this year, leaving the friendly confines of Japan Town and going to the SFO Hyatt, previously home to Yaoi Con. Increase attendance made it a necessity, although many lamented the loss of the dining options and the stores around the area that appeal to the average anime fan. Let's take a look and see how the con worked out in its new location.

I arrived early enough on Saturday. The convention started at 10, but there weren't too many people crowding the area that early on. When I checked in my bags with the bellhop, I found him rather impatient and testy, but I still got my things checked in properly.

The hotel itself was excellent. The inside was filled with plants and some nice scenery, and the balconies from the rooms opened up to look inside. There were even occasionally hotel bands playing there for the people at the restaurant, which I did not eat at due to the price. The staff was also very kind and helpful, with the exception of the aforementioned bellhop, and I managed to check into my room with ease. A+ on the hotel itself.

That day, I was debuting my Apollo Justice cosplay, which is about as closet a cosplay as one can get. The only thing I actually made was the bracelet, as everything else came from pieces of other costumes I already had around. That said, it seemed to go over pretty well, and it was fun to shout "OBJECTION!" every time I posed.

This actually leads to an amusing story. At one point, I needed to catch an elevator, so as the door was closing, i shouted "HOLD IT!" and barely managed to make it. When I was inside, I turned to the other guy in the elevator and said "I had to do that at least once, considering my cosplay." It wasn't until I saw him again at the League of Legends autograph session that I learned that was Erik Braa I shared an elevator with.

At any rate, a few hours later I decided to get lunch, although the nearby options were pretty limited. There was a decent restaurant about a block away, although they were clearly understaffed for the crowds coming in from the convention. Other local places also took a bit of a walk, but the food was fine.

Back at the convention, the dealers hall did seem a little lacking. They had a lot of space, and made use of it with areas for dealers, guests, artist alley, and more, although I couldn't find too much variety in the dealers booths themselves. In fact, I couldn't even find anywhere selling Yu-Gi-Oh or Pokemon cards, which I found odd.

Later on in the day, I decided to enter the BlazBlue tournament. They had a copy of the latest game, Chronophantasma, which is only out in Japan. That made things a little uneven for those who have not been able to get the game or practice with it, as the characters movesets have changed a little between games, and there were new characters (mostly Kokonoe) who those who did import the games have had more experience with. That said, I came in knowing I was going to lose, so I just played to have fun, and I did. Not all the players were good sports, but the one I faced seemed nice enough, and I still had a good match.

Following that, I decided to check out the other gaming rooms, but they tended to be pretty full. There was a decent variety in the arcade and console rooms, but I didn't get the chance to try any of them out. Nearby was a tabletop gaming room, though I didn't bring my Yugioh or Pokemon decks with me. They did have a nice variety of games to play, though I decided to keep looking about.

Aside from that, there wasn't really too much to do there. The rest of the day was mostly spent wandering, chatting with friends, and generally hanging out. Pizza My Heart was willing to deliver to the hotel, so dinner was no problem, although many were off watching the masquerade at that time.

Speaking of, I would like to say something about the posts I've been seeing following the masquerade. I've seen a lot of people make claims of favoritism, or saying they'd prefer an audience vote to judges. I am familiar with those who won the masquerade, and any claims that they did not deserve their win are simply false. Yes, there were many wonderful costumes in the masquerade, and the people competing all spent a lot of time working on them; that does not mean that the winners worked any less hard or were any less deserving. I do not believe that judge favoritism had any effect on the outcome, and if it seemed that way because the winners were familiar, it's because they compete a lot.

As for the idea of audience judging, that's another story. Favoritism will most certainly come into play if a popular cosplayer or one with a lot of friends in the audience gets them to cheer loudly for them. An "audience's choice" award is perfectly fine, of course, but people in the audience cannot properly judge the craftsmanship of the costumes on stage, nor can they ask the questions about construction that the judges know to ask. I've been in contests decided by audience cheer, and I have to say it feels far less fair than one where judges actually examine the costumes.

At any rate, the next day came, and I was prepared to join friends in a big ol' BlazBlue group. I was cosplaying Relius Clover, and I had friends join me as Ragna, Hazama, Rachel, Nu, and Kagura; a rather nice sized group, I must say. We got some photoshoots in, then wandered together for a bit before splitting up to enjoy the con some more.

Around 3, I got in line for the League of Legends autograph session. I was mostly there to meet Cristina Vee, although I didn't have too much time, as the line had to keep moving and I didn't want to be rude to all the other LoL voice actors there. Still, I had her sign my copy of BlazBlue, and the rest signed my badge, and I got through the line quickly.

Once that was over, there really wasn't too much else to do. There was only so much in the way of activities to do, and I'd already been through the dealer's hall multiple times. So I said my goodbyes, and hit the road home.

All in all, it was a fine convention, although not really the most active. I felt that there were many times when there was just nothing to do; perhaps some official gatherings would have been helpful, though there wasn't much in the way of outside locations where those could be held. The hotel was nice, but not really near much, so it did feel a little restricted, especially when compared to all the places to go when it was held at Japan Town. I understand that it needed to move to a larger venue, but that loss is still disappointing.

That said, I still had fun hanging out with old friends and meeting new ones, and the convention brought in some wonderful guests. From the League of Legends actors to LittleKuriboh of "Yu-Gi-Oh: The Abridged Series," there were plenty of people brought in with panels to see. The new location also provided plenty of room for everyone, so crowding was not an issue.

This was an enjoyable convention, and hopefully it will improve further in future years. I had a good time, and certainly look forward to attending again in 2015.

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