Oni-Con 2004

Houston, Texas, USA. October 22nd – 24th 2004.
Reporter(s): DrakeZoomi

Greetings everyone, Agent Zoomi and myself have taken some time from our busy schedules to bring you a small peek into Texas’s newest anime convention: Oni-Con. Oni-Con made its debut into the anime community on October 22, 2004, and spanned until October 24, 2004 at the Sheraton Hotel in North Houston. This first year convention walked away that weekend as Houston, Texas’s largest anime convention with a surprising 2,000 guests, 1,200 more people then originally anticipated. This mission was carried out by the aforementioned agents separately, with Agent Zoomi focusing on the music and events throughout the day and Commander Drake focusing on anime viewing rooms, dealer rooms and more, along with his personal experiences of the Convention. Here now are their respective reports. Mission 1: Obsessions of a Fangirl 
By Zoomi 
Finally pulling into the parking lot of the Sheraton North in Houston TX, my family parked next to one of the coolest cars I had ever seen. Filled to the rim with plushies and lined with white fuzzy tassels, this car was a certain attention getter, not to mention the big white letters “Oni-Con or Bust” written on the back window as a makeshift bumper sticker. This was the first sign that we were in a special place. Leaving our car and entering the hotel, we were immediately engulfed in a world of otakudom. My parents wanted no part of this strange world, so they abandoned me to enjoy myself. Anime fanatics and cosplayers were everywhere! I looked around and couldn’t find a single person that didn’t draw my attention. People decked out in commonplace Inuyasha and Cardcaptor Sakura costumes were abundant, but there were also a few notable individuals who went all out, putting their heart and soul into their costumes. One particular person cosplayed as Mana from Malice Mizer, and her love for J-rock certainly showed. Another favorite duo was a pair dressed as Vash and Wolfwood from Trigun. All of the cosplayers, no matter how good or bad they looked, clearly showed that they were happy to out there doing what they loved. This aura encouraged first-time cosplayers who were new to the experience. 
For this being their first time at Oni-con, the convention staff was well prepared to entertain their guests with great performers. First up was the J-rock sensation Duel Jewel, who have been touring and performing in conventions across America. This five-member band of the visual keistyle has a unique sound that varies from touching ballads to exciting rock songs. Another guest present who’s very popular and frequents conventions was indie band Camino, also a five-member band whose style is not very concerned with costumes and makeup. Both bands offer great music to rock out to, so the concerts were anticipated and worth the wait. For people who didn’t see the concert, such as myself, Oni-Con held interviews with both Camino and Duel Jewelthe next day. In these, any fan could come up and ask any question, and I mean any! I caught the Duel Jewel set and soon realized how light-hearted and easy to understand the interviews were when one was provided with an accurate translation from a professional and some implications from the band members’ actions. One con attendee asked if Duel Jewel remembered her from Denny’s, an event that she was telling us all about while we anxiously waited for the session to begin. Apparently, the band didn’t have any recollection of seeing a wide-eyed girl staring at them while they were eating, until an epiphany hit them at the last moment. Another subject that was continuously played off of by Natsuki, member of Duel Jewel, was his profession as a porn star, to which I just shook my head and smiled. This was only one of the many hilarious events that enhanced the experience of the interview during the Q & A session. 

Late night on the Saturday, there was a J-rock panel, which was of great interest for J-rock fans and newcomers to J-rock alike. Showcasing major artists, including Dir-en-Grey, Gackt, and D’spairs Ray, it also covered less well-known artists like rising star Miyavi, new group SID, and visual kei band Nightmare. Held by Jpophouse , this panel told viewers about the bands and then showed them one PV of a select song from the artists so the viewers could get a better feel. The panel had a late start due to set up difficulties from the prior Duel Jewel acoustic set, a regrettably common occurrence at many cons. As a bonus, they held a prize giveaway but alas, it was bedtime for myself! 

Of course Oni-con had the normal activities, but the convention lived up to their name of “demon” during the Halloween season by holding an anime pumpkin-carving contest. People ramped up the holiday spirit by making their favorite characters come to live in the bubbly orange faces. When I snuck a peek in the carving room, there were only six pumpkins, a slight disappointment – but then again, pumpkin carving is usually something few people try and succeed at. One particular favorite of mine was the pumpkin carving of Edward from Cowboy Bebop. Along with this cute rendition, carved cats and anime witches fit in with the holiday spirit and their artists waited for their creations to be judged. 

After this I headed off to the gaming room, determined to try to play a game besides DDR. Oni-con had great game rooms with lots of games, including popular DDRDonkey Konga and many others. After being wretchedly defeated at Donkey Konga, I left to go to the Dealer’s Room, where sadly, I just loitered most of the time. It’s just so much fun to see the internet items in real life as opposed to being trapped in the glass screen of the computer. The Dealer’s Room was almost always crowded, but my desire to see real items served as strength to tough out the crowds. The most popular shop by far was Jpophouse/House of Anime. They catered to the likes of both J-rockers and otaku alike. When there was a big event going on in the amphitheater, the storeroom was hardly crowded, which made it the ideal time to go. Using this time advantageously, I bought CDs fromPsycho le Cému and Miyavi, managing to catch a few deals here and there. However, I didn’t have enough money to spend on anime since I splurged on j-rock, so I walked around window-shopping and looking at items I only wish I had. I was able to snag some Pocky and Ramune before I left, which made me happy on the ride home. This event was so much more than I expected, and I anxiously awaited the next year’s convention. 

Mission 2: Explore Oni-Con in less than 6 hours! 
By Drake
I heard about Oni-Con during the latter part of summer vacation from two friends I made in an IRC channel, Kitten and her twin sister Lopmon. Ever since then, I’ve done everything in my power to attend. Trust me; this was no easy feat, due to distance and personal conflicts coming up at the very last second. In the end however, my parents and I drove into Houston Friday night, and stayed with my uncle and his family who lived in the area. 

The following morning, I woke up to eat breakfast at the preset time of 5:00 AM so I could fast while at Oni-Con to honour the Islamic holiday of Ramadan, and made plans with my parents to be dropped off for the day at 10:00 AM. This plan was not executed and I didn’t end up reaching Oni-Con until noon, due to parents taking forever to get ready. Upon arrival, having already pre-registered, I went to pick up my badge and began exploring the hotel in order to get a scope of the convention. 

After getting somewhat accustomed to the convention, I called up Kitten and Lopmon, and arranged to meet them in the Dealer’s Room in a few minutes. I was currently on the second floor observing people play DDR (some people just have all the talent for these things). Anyway I made my way down to the first floor, from the gaming room. 

After figuring out that the Dealer’s Room was behind all the booths tucked in a back corner, I made my way over and found twin girls cosplaying as two characters from Pita Ten. Enter Kitten, dressed as Misha and Lopmon, dressed as Shia. After a brief introduction, the two realized they had lost track of a friend, HackerEd, while exploring the Dealer’s Room. 

Turns out HackerEd had ended up in the gaming room. After many phone calls and setting up a rendezvous point in the main lobby, we were finally all in the same spot… for the moment anyhow. Following the meeting, I asked them if they were entering the cosplay contest and it turns out they planned to enter. So we set off navigating through the crowd inquiring as to where to register for the contest. 

After scouring the full Sheraton North, we finally found someone who directed us back to a door near the Dealer’s Room (who would have guessed how close we originally were.) Upon reaching the registration room we noticed a sign on the door stating the time frame to register from, and despite running all over the place, we were still early. Seeing as we would need to wait for another twenty minutes, we decided to wait. Now you have to understand, I’m not the most patient person in the world. I like to do everything quickly. However, standing near the entrance of the registration hall for 20 minutes was not as dull as one would expect. It was pretty fun watching random anime fans stopping the Pita Ten trio for a picture, and gaping at their great costumes. Finally after twenty minutes or so, the doors opened and about five minutes later all three girls were registered and told to reconvene at a place, which I can only recall by appearance, at around four in the afternoon. 

Following that, it suddenly struck me that I had completely forgotten to check the Dealer’s Room for a Read or Die OVA DVD. I’ve wanted to buy one since I attended A-Kon the previous year; however at that time, the dealers were sold out. We planned to meet up again in the Dealer’s Room as the twins needed some money from their mom for something. HackerEd and I entered the Dealer’s Room and began looking around for the DVD. To my horror, after a thorough search, discovered that all the dealers only carried R.O.D. TV, and some were bewildered by the term OVA – *sigh* – what luck. This probably was a good thing however, considering some dealers were selling their DVDs at high prices ranging from 25 dollars to 30 dollars. Though not all of them were like that. 

Somehow, our rendezvous in the Dealer’s Room failed and the twins were nowhere to be found, so we decided to go upstairs to try and find them. Just our luck, as when we got to the second floor, some panel was just being released, and as a result I lost track of Ed in the crowd. Being slightly dismayed at losing track of all three of them, I wandered the second floor and stumbled upon the anime theatres. I glanced in a few and saw titles like Maison Ikkoku playing… I tried to watch it, but I had missed too much to grasp the plot. 

I subsequently checked in a few other rooms and didn’t see anything that interested me, so I headed back downstairs and came across what appeared to be an online anime radio show broadcasting live. I watched them for a while, pretty interested in what I saw, but knowing me and my short attention span, I got bored quickly and set out wandering again. As I was walking around, I passed by a little table with cups and water jugs., and right when I lost hope of finding them I see the twins and Edstanding there talking. I walked over to them and found out they met up a little while back and bought some Pocky in the Dealer’s Room, which was now conveniently in Ed’shands. 

A strong craving for Pocky slowly began developing inside me, but I stayed true to my fast and declined the offer to a stick. I wasn’t the only one looking hungrily at the red box though. Standing a few feet away was a girl looking at the box curiously, and she timidly walked over to us and asked what was in the box. Instantly we all launched into our own rants ranging from what Pocky is to “how can you not know what Pocky is?” After she took in everything we told her, she began begging HackerEd for a stick, and even offered to pay 50 cents for one. Ed, not being one to pass up a good business deal, obliged, took the money and handed over a stick. The second she bit into the Pocky, it was written in her eyes: she was hooked. Though the level to which she was hooked was only confirmed a moment later when she offered more money for more Pocky… to cut a long story short, Ed ended up gaining about three dollars. 

After that Ed hit the gaming room, the twins and I headed to catch a showing of DNAngel. When we entered the theatre, the previous showing of music videos was still playing. I began hopingDNAngel was in Japanese with English subtitles, and not in the dubbed form like some other theatres. Luckily, it was Japanese with English subtitles. The first episode was pretty interesting, so I figured that I might check out the whole series sometime. We ended up watching DNAngel, Petite Princess Yucie and Princess Tutu, Sister Princess before realizing it was nearly four, and the twins had to go get ready for the cosplay contest. 

Here is where my only problem with Oni-Con came. After heading downstairs and seeing the trio off (Ed rejoined us downstairs), I secured myself a place in line. For the next forty-five minutes I did nothing but wait for the crowd to be admitted to the auditorium. Rumours began circulating that there were more people then Oni-Con expected, resulting in a horde of problems. I never learned what the problems were, but eventually the staff came by and announced the contest was to be postponed for two hours. 

After the girls came back out, I then got an unexpected call from my mom saying she was on her way to pick me up; it turned out my dad had fallen severely ill and would be unable to pick me up at our prearranged time. Therefore, ten minutes later, my parents had arrived, and I said a quick goodbye to the twins and HackerEd. Thus concludes my tale of my time in Oni-Con. 

Overall, the convention did a phenomenal job, and was the biggest first time anime convention ever in the state of Texas, with about 2,000 plus in attendance. The convention was a tad bit disorganized, though I was able to find my way around the convention after a while. The problem was event changes at the last minute and no announcements regarding them, even though this didn’t really affect me much during my short stay since most of my time was really spent in the anime theatres. From what I heard, the remainder of the weekend of the convention was successful, and I have big expectations for Oni-Con 2005.