MechaCon IV

Lafayette, LA, USA. August 1st – 3rd 2007
Reporter(s) : Drake

I’ve attended MechaCon at the Hilton Lafayette in Lafayette, Louisiana for the last three years now, having only missed its premiere in 2005. However, before I go on to discuss MechaCon 4.0, I’d like to spend a moment highlighting something about the convention that originally gave me an immense feeling of pride (other than the pride I felt in it being in my small hometown, of course), before even attending in its second year. This convention was struck with the terrible misfortune of being held on the infamous weekend of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. When I read about the convention in the months following, and the amazing efforts by the entire staff on site to keep the morale of attendees high, as well as their quick adaptability to contend with a category-five hurricane that was causing massive destruction just a hundred miles east of them, I was deeply moved and impressed.

However, I was even more impressed with their conventions each year following the near-disaster- an event which may have dampened the spirits of most other cons to continue running the event. Jon Russo (Space Cowboy) and Peter Bares (Loki), the convention organizers, pushed right on ahead through two successful years to MechaCon 4.0. Each year, the con grew and improved on the flaws from the previous years. In the short history of MechaCon, over the past years the disorganization, delays and sudden cancelations have been minimal; the same applies for the latest year, MechaCon 4.0: Pushing the Sky. 

The only gripe I heard from people regarding disorganization was the situation following the cosplay contest as people tried to return to the Hilton hotel from Angelle Hall on the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s campus. It seemed the number of buses rented by MechaCon to shuttle between the Hilton and Angelle Hall in the time between the cosplay contest and the Ilaria Graziano concert was cut down to one. This left some people waiting in line for approximately half an hour before they could return to the Hilton floors. However, after talking to theMechaCon staff, I was able to learn the original planning never anticipated so many people would be leaving instead of waiting for an hour for the concert to begin, and who could blame them? I’d never want to leave before a concert! Especially one by Ilaria Graziano!. Given this was the convention’s first year contracting off-site for an auditorium for events, as well as their first year using a bus system to transport people, I’d say they did a spectacular job of fixing a major issue from last year. Just some quick background information – last year the Main Events hall at the Hilton was over-packed, leaving some people unable to watch the contest. However, using Angelle Hall guaranteed that everyone had a seat, though next year that is up in the air, seeing as how the auditorium was almost filled this time around.

Another issue from the previous year was the lack of room in the convention to move around in. This year, the organizers were able to relocate many of the rooms, allowing more room for people to navigate with more ease than before. In all honesty, I felt as if there were less people than in previous years, but after hearing that the number of attendees was considerably higher this year, I can safely say the changes made were necessary and effective.

Besides being very well organized, the quality of events went beyond my expectations, especially the cosplay contest. While the number of walk-ons and skits were lower then I’ve ever seen at any other MechaCon, the spirit of the crowd made up for this. At virtually every moment that the cosplay contest or half time show was not underway, attendees were treated to a light show on the ceiling put on by members of the audience with laser pointers and nothing else to do…or at least that’s how it began, but it ended up with the technicians of Angelle Hall adding their own spot light to the show, the audience up and dancing in the auditorium, singing songs, most notably ‘If You’re Happy and You Know It’ and ‘We are the Champions’ by Queen. The actual contest was interesting, as we were treated to some very well-done costumes and great skits, along with a hysterical halftime show, the Anime Dating Game.

Some of the other highlights of the weekend were the Guests of Honor and their panels, as well as the fan-run panels. I was fortunate to be able to attend the Cowboy Bebop 10th Anniversary Event andGhost in the Shell: Fan / Machine Interface, both of which were Q&A sessions with Steve Blum, Mary Elizabeth McGlynn, Beau Billingslea, and Ilaria Graziano, who gave some fascinating insights on the American anime industry. One other panel of great interest to me was the Versus a Leo V: Surprise panel. In a nutshell, this panel involves fans trying to find an opponent that the Leo mobile suit, the weakest suit in Gundam Wing, can defeat. The fans make suggestions to the panel heads, known as the Leo Brothers, who must find a way to make the opponent win. In short a panel that shouldn’t be missed! 

One of my biggest draws to MechaCon this year were the musical guests. Returning for her third year at MechaCon was the talented Lisa Furukawa, who performed a concert at the opening ceremonies and once again performed splendidly. Listening to her adaptations of anime based songs and her own original scores is simply breathtaking – especially her performance of Inner Universe and Rise by Yoko Kanno.

However, the attraction that caught my attention most this year was Ilaria Graziano, most well known for her work withGhost in the Shell and Wolf’s Rain alongside the amazing Yoko Kanno. Her concert Saturday night was a very unique experience, as she blended in songs from Italian folk with her scores with Kanno. For me, this was a once-in-a-lifetime event, as I had always loved Ilaria’s work in Ghost in the Shell, and found myself more than once putting I Can’t Be Cool on repeat for hours on end while doing my daily chores (Imagine how nervous I was interviewing her Sunday morning!).

In the end, all that can be said for MechaCon is that this is a convention that never ceases to amaze me. It has dealt with one of the biggest hurricanes to strike in Louisiana’s history, made a comeback from said hurricane, and has grown into a very well established convention that I hope will continue to prosper and grow. I highly urge anyone with the chance to attend MechaCon 5.0 to do so. I promise you will not leave disappointed! I know I haven’t yet.