Anime Matsuri 2008

Houston, Texas, USA. March 21st – 23rd 2008.
Main Review by: Drake
Photographer(s): Roan Matthews

Anime Matsuri 2008 is a two-year-old convention based in Houston, Texas, run by Emotiongear, the parent company to Anime Matsuri, Showdown Championships, and Import Reactor. Ever since its conception in 2007, Matsuri has strived to set itself apart from other anime conventions by taking events from its child companies and implementing them into Matsuri, such as the Showdown Championships and Import Reactor. Given all these unique events being offered, I must confess I was very skeptical about Anime Matsuridue to the number of previous attendees warning me that I would just be wasting my time. In addition, the convention weekend was set for the weekend of Easter- not the most ideal. However, despite all the negativity, I can safely report that I was not in the least bit disappointed with my choice to attend. In fact, I thoroughly enjoyed myself! My only regret is that the Anime Secrets team was only able to cover Friday and Saturday, as a family emergency called us back home immediately. So this convention report will be focused only on Day 1 and Day 2.

As is customary for every convention I attend, one of the main things I look for is how organized it is. For Anime Matsuri, I am happy to announce everything ran like clockwork with one exception – the timing for the Main Events at 8:00 PM on Saturday. The seating for the Main Events ran at least 45 minutes past the original time, and the Events began roughly around 9:15. Though, as I tell everyone who complains about conventions being a little behind schedule, it could have been a lot worse like some larger conventions, where delays can be a few hours- not just a half an hour here and there.The Masquerade this year seemed pretty much in line with my expectations, considering that this was my first time attending one. A quick note for those who do not know – the Masquerade at Matsuri is held on Friday night and is a time for all cosplayers to exhibit their costumes for everyone by walking on stage and showing them off, while judges select winners to proceed into the Cosplay Contest the following night. The main highlight of the Masquerade, besides getting to see a number of great cosplays, was the half-time show. This year’s entertainment was a series of improv games, all of which were highly amusing. The only complaint I really had with the Masquerade was that it was held on Friday night. Considering that most attendees arrive on Saturday, the selection of cosplayers able to participate was limited to those who were able to arrive before Friday night. Despite the early timing issue, however, the Masquerade was quite enjoyable.

This year at Anime Matsuri also marked a new interest for me. The Artist Alley, which I’ve honestly never been a big fan of visiting at past conventions, was a place where I spent a good bit of time this time around. The Alley ran down most of the second floor and was filled with numerous artists showcasing their works, including handmade hats and jewelry, drawings, small knick-knacks, paintings, promotions for other conventions in the region, and much more. It was interesting to browse the Alley and talk to artists, as well as just relax between events. I also learned what kinds of items are available outside the Dealer’s Room, which was sadly a bit lacking this year.

One thing that made Anime Matsuri such a great convention for me was the Main Events held Saturday night, which opened with the Showdown Championships 2007. When I was first informed about what exactly the Showdown Championships were, I must admit I was intrigued. I’d never heard of a convention having a championship round for arcade video games in front of a live audience as a main attraction. I was a bit concerned that I would be bored watching a few people play video games that I never took interest in. Boy, was I wrong! The moment the games began, the entire crowd, including myself, was screaming and cheering for the side we favored, even though we only had a one minute introduction as to who the contestants were, with slight details like if a match was someone from North Houston versus South Houston. Some of the games were pretty one sided, and a winner was easy to predict within a few minutes.
However, this was not true in the slightest for the Tekken 6 games. Just when it seemed the game was over in a crushing victory, the losing team would make a remarkable comeback and defeat their opponents’ team. Overall, this event was simply thrilling and definitely kept the crowd on edge as the battle raged onscreen.

Following the epic battle in Tekken 6, the moment I was waiting for had arrived: the Cosplay Contest. Unlike the Masquerade, the Cosplay Contest was broken down into two parts, the walk-ons and the skits. Given that there was a judging process to eliminate ‘mediocre entrants’ and present only the best, there were only one or two competitors in the contest that I felt did not warrant acceptance to this level. I also got to see some impressive cosplays – namely a Super Vandread. Overall, the contest was pretty fun and some of the skits got a good laugh out of me…

Game Room by: DuckKing

The best way to explain Anime Matsuri’s console room setup is to imagine a large room with four long rows of tables with approximately thirty to thirty five TVs total on them. When Drake and I arrived at the scene Friday afternoon, a large number of TVs were not in use at all while a handful were hooked up to Wiis with Super Smash Brothers Brawl on them. Each TV had a crowd around it watching the game, waiting for their turn to play the hottest new release from Nintendo. Given the crowds and number of open TVs, I approached the Matsuri staff and asked if it would be alright if I hooked up my own Wii (which was sitting in my car, waiting to be hooked up in a hotel room to practice for tournaments at night) and ran Brawl. I was met with an enthusiastic yes. All Friday I kept my Wii out for attendees to play while I circulated between my own Wii and tournaments. Saturday was more or less the same, except this time there was more variety, with 360s, PS2s, PS3s, and Wiis each showcasing different games, most notably Mario Party 8 (Wii), Halo 3, and of course, Super Smash Brothers Brawl. In addition to this, the adjacent room had Japanese arcade setups with titles like Marvel vs Capcom 2, Street Fighter III, Guilty Gear XX Accent Core, Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo, and last, but not least, Tekken 6. Yes, you heard me right, they hadTekken 6, (which is still not out in the States).

Besides the games themselves, it was also amazing to play video games with some exceptionally talented people, and one of my biggest highlights was meeting Justin Wong, one of my gaming heroes in the Street Fighter world.

Conclusion by: Drake
Looking back at Anime Matsuri 2008, I can honestly say I had a blast while in attendance. The musical guests were all very enlightening in the Q&A sessions, the game room was packed with great games and even better players, the events such as the Showdown Championships and Cosplay Contest were entertaining, and the flaws were very few in number, and not major. In closing, I would like to urge everyone able to make the trip to Houston to do so to attend in 2009!