Location: Boston, MA
Date: April 9th - 11th, 2004
Venue: Boston Park Plaza Hotel & Towers
Anime Boston in 2003 was a smash, setting record attendance for a first year anime con -- so many, in fact, that the fire marshall had to turn away would-be attendees. So in 2004, I had the chance to go and went. Smack in the middle of Boston we found the Park Plaza hotel. It was a very nice hotel, though definitely not suited for any kind of convention which involves a lot of walking around. Most of the convention space was located on the upper level, which looked down on the lobby below. However, most of the smaller events were held in smaller rooms on the 4th floor. If you wanted to avoid the wait at the elevator, you had to take some winding stairs in the back two flights to get up to the rest of the convention. And then the meeting rooms upstairs were down many different hallways, further confusing anybody trying to get around. However, the facilities were not that big. Once you got used to getting around, it was no big problem, other than the two flights of stairs without any real air conditioning. Unfortunately, this distracted from the friendlier, more comfortable feel of smaller cons, since events were spaced apart and took a good deal of effort to get to.
Yes, the feel of a small con. Even with probably around 4000 attendees, the limit of the hotel, Anime Boston was still a small con. The programming was diverse enough to make it enjoyable and entertaining, but still small enough that you had time to go between events at your leisure. Even with the halls packed with people where ever you went, it was still small enough to bump into the same faces over and over again. I had no problem finding friends -- provided we were on the same level. It was nice to have time to wander between panels and still take pictures of cosplayers without being in a hurry. Oddly enough, despite how crowded Anime Boston was, the cosplayers seemed particularly willing to pose and take time for good shots. Perhaps because for many, it was one of the few conventions they can get to.
One of the very interesting features of Anime Boston was the dealer's room. While at every con, the dealer's room is a big draw for many due to the wide assortment of trinkets, toys, books, and clothing, the Castle was probably something very few other conventions had. Without the room in the hotel, the dealer's room had to be put in a facility across the street, a real castle!
After crossing a somewhat busy street, you came to the castle, complete with turrets and towers. It's an odd sight, even in the middle of Boston. Since the con was at or maybe even beyond capacity, it's no surprise that not everybody could get into the dealer's room right away. Though nobody had to wait in line too long, there was a sizable group of people on the sidewalk. Also there on the sidewalk was a trailer promoting TokyoPop. They were giving out free manga samplers, but it wasn't without a catch. (Normally, the samplers go for $7.99 in bookstores.) The lady handing them out was playing some sort of truth-or-dare, asking people to do silly things or admit how far they'd come for the con. I think the best part was when she walked up to a passing motorist who stopped at the light and had him honk for a free sampler. He seemed to be quite amused by all the people in costume. Again, as commonplace as it has become for anime fans to see each other in odd outfits in the middle of a city, we're always quite a sight for the locals!
Next year, Anime Boston 2005 will be held in the Hynes Convention Center, also in downtown Boston, next to the Sheradon. It's a move I'm glad to see the convention make, and definitely a big move up. The Hynes Convention Center is a large facility, and as a convention center, much better laid out than the hotel would be. The Sharaton is one of the nicest hotels I've ever been in, and I travel quite a bit. However, the hotel rooms there are much smaller than most con-goers are probably used to. Packing six or seven in to a room may not work out anymore. Despite that, though, I think the move will make the convention much more comfortable and enjoyable.
I will miss the main events room at the Park Hotel, though. Even though the rest of the convention space seemed small, the main events room was large, even for a larger convention. With balconies, a permanent stage, and a huge projection screen, the events taking place in there were a blast. I enjoyed the music videos the most; each one was pretty enjoyable, and the crowd was just rowdy enough to be lively, not distracting. For the masquerade, the semi-classical decor provided a wonderful backdrop and atmosphere. With many cons moving to convention centers and large, multi-use facilities, the drab industrial setting clashes a bit with the lively atmosphere of cosplay.
All in all, though, Anime Boston was a pleasant event. This may be the last year, though, that it is big enough to draw a nice crowd and small enough to be relaxed. As far as organization goes, however, it looks promising. Whoever gets it all together seems to know what they're doing, and getting it done well. With the spat of cons popping up everywhere these days, many of them are a bit lacking in the quality department. That being said, I was slightly disappointed in one aspect. For whatever reason (probably an email server glitch) my press registration wasn't on file. They simply couldn't issue me a press badge then and there, but instead let me register for a regular badge even though nobody else was allowed to register at the convention. I still wish I could have gotten a press badge, but I really appreciate that they did everything they could to remedy the situation.Final Verdict: I'll be going back if I can, and look forward to seeing Anime Boston take over the Prudential Center which houses the Hynes Convention Center.
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Photos & content © 2004 Oliver Oberg