Tuesday, February 23, 2016

AOD 2016: Robbie's Report

Valentine’s Day weekend was a busy one for con-goers all over nation. There was Katsucon in National Harbor, Maryland; Gallifrey One in Los Angeles; and a few other events and gatherings across the state. But I was at a long-time favorite: AOD.

This was Animation On Display’s first time in its new location, the Santa Clara Convention Center. As much as I liked the con at the Hyatt Regency, the Convention Center has a history of successful anime cons; Fanime started there, and Japan Expo’s first year (the one people liked) was held there, so I was feeling optimistic.

The one thing that concerned me was the location of the convention hotel; the Biltmore was a decent drive away from the convention center, although they had a shuttle for taking people back and forth. On the way, the shuttle passed several other hotels, although I’m sure there are reasons why none of those were available; most likely price due to the close proximity of the football arena.

Steampunk Steven Universe
After arriving, I was directed to check-in at Con Ops, where I received my badge. The lines for badge pickup were moving at a good speed, and there were already familiar faces in the crowds.

That said, there were also a lot of unfamiliar faces, but that’s because they weren’t there for an anime con. The convention center was home to three events that weekend - in addition to AOD, there was a dance show and a bodybuilder event, which limited the space each event was allowed. But all the events managed to coexist in harmony, and there were no reports of issues between various attendees.

After checking in, I hopped in line for autographs. AOD had some great guests this year, so most of my time was spent waiting to meet them. The first one I met was Isuna Hasekura, the author of Spice and Wolf, before I got in line for Yuu Asakawa.

The lines were managed well; they mostly took up space in a hallway to the side of the autograph rooms, before they were directed by staff members into the autograph room. When there were multiple guests, there were multiple lines for them, and they moved at a decent pace.

Throughout the weekend I’d get autographs from Hato Moa and Damurushi (the team behind Hatoful Boyfriend), Ken Pontac, Lotus Juice, and Mela Lee. I won’t bother you with the details about each of them, since they all go the same: I waited in line, the line got long, the line started moving, I thanked them for being there and got autographs.
A selection of autographed cards
Love Live
When I explored the dealer’s hall, I found the options to be a little lacking. There were the usual tables of toys, manga, and videos, but not too much outside of that. In fact, I couldn’t even find Yu-Gi-Oh! cards there, although that’s more of a personal gripe. Fortunately, the usual convention staples still proved to be enough for finding a few nice things.

The Artist's Alley, on the other hand, had a nice selection of artists. Mostly prints for sale, but there were bags, homemade plushies, and other nice artistic creations for sale.

When it was time for lunch, finding a place to eat proved to be a little difficult; the nearest place that wasn’t a part of the hotel or convention center was a good half-mile away, which isn’t bad for those who drove, but parking was always an issue, and I took the shuttle. The hotel food was more than a little overpriced, but I managed to split a pizza with friends at a more affordable price point.

AOD did have a good selection of things to see throughout the day. Inside the console gaming room, there were speedrunners playing on a large projector screen. Right outside there was a small performance stage, where various singers and dancers had little shows throughout the weekend. Upstairs were a few panel rooms, and two screening rooms, so those with tired feet could sit down to watch something interesting or entertaining.

Sometime later in the afternoon, I stopped for a quick photoshoot with Toshi Studios. My girlfriend and I were cosplaying as Inami and Takanashi from Working!, so most of the pictures of us from throughout the day involved her punching me, as Inami is known to do.

Later on in the day was a swap meet, where attendees who booked a space could sell their rare or extra anime goods. The selection was somewhat small, but the space was used well, and crowding around spots wasn’t too big of an issue.

At night, there were two big events: the masquerade, and the Lotus Juice concert. Both drew big crowds, and were impressive shows, so you can find video coverage in the reviews from my colleagues Nate and Ray.

I returned to the hotel, but the distance from the hotel still proved to be a bit of a nuisance. (The thin walls did too, but that’s to be expected at any hotel.) However, it did offer a free complimentary breakfast, which is always appreciated.

Actually, the free breakfast reminded me of the time at AOD a few years ago where signs advertised complimentary breakfast, then the hotel charged us nonetheless. A random tourist from New York decided to butt in and tell me hotels never offer complimentary breakfasts, so let me take this moment to say: suck it, random intrusive New Yorker!

Anyways, putting that aside, I returned to the convention center after checking out, and resumed a new day of wandering around the con. The layout was unchanged from the previous day, and there were still autographs to get, shows to watch, and panels to attend.

The panel I attended was “Writing For Animation,” where guests who had worked on the writing staff for various shows discussed their experiences, gave some insight into the industry, and talked about past and upcoming projects. A pleasant surprise was Tom Wyner’s attendance, as I learned upon his introduction that he was on the writing team for Samurai Pizza Cats, the first anime I ever watched.

Luna and Sailor Chibi Moon
The remainder of the day was spent checking out the dealer’s hall for any last-minute deals, hanging out with friends, and enjoying the downtime. Since there wasn’t a tabletop gaming room, we found a spot off to the side of the hall to sit down for some card games until the convention closed.

All in all, the new location didn’t do AOD many favors, but there were a few factors acting against it that weekend. I don’t doubt that it could have been larger and more active if they had more of the convention center to use, but the other events going on that weekend made that a little difficult. Additionally, with three other conventions to compete with at the same time, attendance may have taken a hit. But those are situations beyond the con’s control, and it should not be taken as a mark against it.

For what they had and what it was, AOD was an entertaining weekend. They brought in some fantastic guests, had some good shows, and provided a nice time out among fellow geeks. Are there some things I feel could have been improved upon? Yes, but moving to a new location always introduces new hurdles, so I’m sure it’ll be even better next time around.
Jerry Smith, survivor of the Morty-loving mantis people apocalypse.
Carly from Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's

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