New Orleans, LA, USA. August 26th – August 28, 2011.
Reporter(s): Drake, Kaishi
MechaCon has just completed its seventh year in New Orleans, Louisiana at the Hilton Riverside, and I must say Convention Organizer, Jon Russo’s words about this year being Lucky Number Seven were totally spot on. In my six years of attending this convention, I have got to say this was probably the most fun I have ever had at any con in recent memory. However, as I say this, let me also preface this with this is the first convention I’ve attended where I have stayed at the convention hotel. It really makes all the difference in the world for the experience, living on-site of the convention, versus driving in from my house, or a friend’s house nearby. There aren’t as many issues with staying on-site as with staying at another hotel, or a friend’s place. For example, you can enjoy as many events as you want go get rest when you want, and not be more than a quick elevator ride from all the action. Commuting from home or a friend’s home, that luxury does not exist. Being on-site worked out really well for me this year, given once again I managed to injure my leg again (seriously, I am way too accident prone) and the hotel room was a great resource.
When you ask a typical convention goer what their favorite aspect of their MechaCon convention experience was, you’re used to receiving an answer along the lines of ‘amazing cosplay contests’, ‘the chance to cosplay as x’, ‘meeting voice actor y’, ‘the panels on z’, ‘the people’, etc. My own response to this question is a bit different – my favorite aspect ofMechaCon has and always will be the phenomenal staff and organizers behind the convention. I’ve been to numerous conventions over the years and worked with dozens more through email correspondence for AS, and I have got to say, MechaCon is not only one of the most professionally run, most organized and efficient conventions I’ve ever had the pleasure of attending and working with for years, but their staff across the board is full of energy and a passion to serve their attendees. I can’t even begin to count the number of times that I had to go to con staff for things over the course of the weekend, or saw other people approach staff for help, and each and every time, the staff member would bend over backwards to ensure the request or question was answered to satisfaction, with a smile.
With that being said, let’s discuss the actual convention experience. First of all, the Hilton Riverside was breathtaking, and extremely spacious . I don’t believe there was even one instance in which I felt suffocated on convention grounds, even in the dealer’s room. I can see us staying at this hotel for the next few years, unless attendance skyrockets significantly. The convention was divided between two floors, the first floor containing the main event rooms, artist alley, the viewing rooms, the gaming room, and a larping room; the second floor housed the tabletop games and dealer’s room.
My experience on Friday night was pretty limited to the late evening events of the opening ceremony, the meet and greet and the ball that followed, due to arriving a little later then expected to the convention. I just about had enough time to check into our hotel room, change into a fancy suit and tie and book it down to meet my fellow comrades from AnimeSecrets, who managed to arrive earlier then me, and get to the dinner. But man, was that chaotic entry worth it. The dinner was amazing once again, with a very yummy salad, and pecan encrusted chicken with garlic mashed potatoes with dinner rolls. Also we can’t forget the godly Chocolate Turtle Pecan Pie. Ah! Heaven in my mouth!
The opening ceremonies were capped off with a great concert by Mary Elizabeth McGlynn (vocals) with Steve Blum(Congas), Lisa Furukawa (piano), and Leon Monroe (guitar). They performed songs such as Call Me Call Me from Cowboy Bebop, Hell Frozen Rain, Room of Angel from Silent Hill, just to name a few. I have got to say it was great hearing some of the Silent Hill music performed live by the singer of the songs.
However the opening ceremony concert was just the beginning of an amazing concert line up for the weekend. The following morning we were treated to a wonderful concert by the ever amazing Lisa Furukawa. If you have ever read my previous reviews or interview with Lisa Furukawa, you will know I am in love with her music and concerts. So you better believe, I was up at the crack of dawn Saturday showered and garbed in my Hogwarts robes ready to go to her concert, and once again, Lisa does not disappoint. She played a lot of her original works such as Winter and Pearl Diver, along with her own cover of the popular Ghost in the Shell opening song Inner Universewhich still sends chills down my spine. That lady has a breathtaking voice.
Now to top off the music part of this convention experience, I attended the Eyeshine Concert Saturday evening. Mostly because its lead vocalist and guitarist is none other than Johnny Young Bosch, best known for his role as Adam Park in Mighty Morphin Power Rangers as the second Black Ranger and Vash from Trigun. The concert was all sorts of insane fun. The crowd was going ecstatic and the music was really good. I’m seriously considering ordering a CD or two from their website in the near future when funding allows.
Unfortunately, amongst all the greatness of the convention, I did have two complaints. The first took place at the formal ball. While there was tremendous improvement in policing appropriate attire for the ball, I was a bit disappointed in the music . Instead of classical music to dance to, we were given introduced to a fusion of classical and techno music…which, don’t get me wrong , was great, it just felt a bit out of place given the event description. Sadly I did not stay very long, as there was not very much formal dancing, and much more rave style dancing.
Secondly, the cosplay contest; Agent Kaishi hits on this in more detail in his review (to be published soon), but I felt it important to at least touch on here. The actual cosplay contest was really great. The opening act to the contest, with Darth Vader and his minions storming the contest, was especially fun, and the walk-ons and skits were fun to watch. However, I really wish the judges provided a justification for their awarding process when giving awards. It might help shed light on why certain entrants received an award over other more qualified entrants, even if it’s a small explanation of what drew them to one entrant. I won’t go into the specifics of which awards I contest the winners of, but there were a few I did.
In the grand scheme of things, these two issues were very minor in my opinion; in the scale of things, far worse could have happened. MechaCon’s ability to smoothly run an anime convention is still very efficient. Events started at their designated times and ended when they were slated to, and their security was pretty effective at preventing problems and solving problems as they came up. Plus, I had a great chance to interview two great voice actors, Scott McNeil and Johnny Young Bosch.
Overall the convention was a great deal of fun. I actually might go as far as to say that this MechaCon was the best one so far. The atmosphere, the attendees, the convention staff and guests of honor really came together to create an incredible con. I recommend that everyone makes an effort to attend this convention if opportunity arises. With that said, Commander Drake out until next time!
Mechacon 2011 was the epitome of why I love the convention’s administration. Several complaints that I remember making last year were resolved. Thanks to the move to a larger hotel, I was able to move through the waves of fangirls/boys unhindered. At the old venue, the con hallways were a death trap. Good luck getting into the dealers’ room! This year, I went into the dealers’ room at peak hours wearing my sparring pads, ready to jump into the fray. That, however, was unnecessary because, by some miracle, there was enough space between booths to move through without groping five people (which wasn’t as disappointing as it might sound ).
Do you know what that means—what sort of relief that entails? Let me put it this way: when two guys dressed as Hikaru and Kaoru from Ouran High School Host Club were conversing with me and one of our other staff members, my life flashed before my eyes – about fifteen feet away stood a short, girl getting ready to barrel at them. I heard her first; you know that terrible fangirl screech (I cannot tell if it’s a mating call or war cry ). I had to act quickly! I about-faced and had enough room to sprint away with my life and hearing intact.
Aside from those shenanigans, I spent most of my time roaming the floors and switching between the gaming rooms and the escalators (I have an addiction to those things). The tabletop games were as fun as ever, though I only played in the Star Wars: Saga Edition games. The increased number of players definitely made it more fun. I can’t wait ‘til next year to see how the story progresses. I didn’t visit the video gaming area much this year, which is surprising. I did, however, see that its capacity seemed to double (though that was how every area seemed). I was actually impressed with the foam weapon battle group that was brought to the convention since I enjoy whacking people with sticks, though I didn’t participate much. Maybe if they’re there next year, I’ll go at it some more.
As for the Artists’ Alley, I saw the same things usually offered there. It had some talented artists, but I didn’t buy anything. I usually get a few trinkets, but I didn’t find much that caught my fancy enough to want. Sadly, I don’t have much to say about this area of the con, which makes me feel guilty since it’s always been my favorite place to wander aimlessly.
In terms of the dance programming, I couldn’t get into the formal ball by taking my shirt off for the door guys (not that I did—you can’t prove it!!), so I had to miss out. The rave, however, at least had excellent ventilation! I didn’t walk into the hall and start choking on the smell of sweat and whatever else was exuding from the people there. It seemed much smaller than previous years, but that could just be due to the larger room. I did enjoy some of the creative rave costumes. Some of the dancers just went to flail in all their half-nude glory, which is cool too. It gets hot in there—pragmatism!
I suppose I’ll end this with my complaints about the convention. My first and foremost is the cost of absolutely everything in the area. That’s not the fault of the convention (except that they chose the venue), and I understand that it comfortably accommodated a ridiculous number of nerds. It’s definitely a necessity to bring your own food unless you bring a pot of gold. Seriously, one margarita shouldn’t be near twenty dollars. I did find a couple of decently priced food shops in the mall, though.
The second complaint I had was the cosplay contest. I’m going to state this now: all judging and awards are purely subjective. I’ve just got to question why a basic-looking Link costume was given best craftsmanship considering some of the other entrants. I can’t really speculate on exactly what justified it. I’d just like to know when they announce . The other awards (best walk-on, etc.) are fairly apparent to the audience because they are mostly based on presentation rather than the development process. As for the skits, I wish we could get some acts that have thought and creativity put into it. It’s nice to see an amateur choreographic skit, but it really does nothing for me in terms of entertainment or character play. Some attempted actual skits, but the microphones were either too low, or the actors were too timid. The skit that won best (again, I know it’s subjective) did nothing but roll on the stage and fall twice. If that won best act, I can either bet the other skits were terrible or the judges settled on something that took absolutely no planning or thought.
In more positive news, I found myself missing a lot of panels – due to so many schedule conflicts with other enticing offerings. I can’t describe how excited I was about the new Trigun movie playing there. Aside from showings, the voice actor panels were fairly entertaining and informative, though they were unfortunately still filled with “Can you say X with Y’s voice?” You wouldn’t believe how irritated I was when they wouldn’t stop eating up panel time with those kinds of requests . The TMI panel this year was quite an adventure, too! If you’re above the age of 18, I definitely suggest going to it every year.
Why do we all go to anime conventions? I don’t know if it’s more for the community, the events, the vacation, or the skimpy cosplays. Whatever the reason, though, Mechacon is as healthy as ever and still growing, it seems. Hopefully, it can keep going uphill and providing new content and events, more varied dealers (which seems to be something I haven’t seen much of), and more celebrities. Thank you, Mechacon crew, for the continued loyalty to your con-goers!