|Venue:||Sheraton Premiere at Tysons Corner|
|Date:||November 18th - 20th, 2005|
Anime USA 2005 was held November 18th - 20th, 2005, in Vienna, Virginia, just outside of Washington, DC. Still at the same hotel, the convention has experienced some growth and is now utilizing practically all of the convention space of the hotel. Despite rocky beginnings and less prestige than other area conventions, Anime USA is doing quite well, with high satisfaction from guests and attendees both. I attended a wedding on the Eastern Shore (about two hours away by car) on Saturday, which is why there are relatively fewer pictures and this report is somewhat shorter.
- Guests & Programming
- Dealer's Hall
- Cosplay / Masquerade
The Sheraton Premiere is a high-rise hotel close to the Tysonís corner shopping district, located just off of Route 7, a major commercial area. This easy-to-get-to location attracts many from the DC metro area, but is close enough to many other areas to attract more than just the locals. Partially a product of urban sprawl, the hotel is close to a number of retail outlets and food service outlets along Route 7, but getting from the hotel to any other place by foot can be difficult. Traffic is generally not a problem, but with far more attendees than parking spots, moving ones car isnít always preferable. Nevertheless, the area does offer a number of useful locations but doesnít suffer much from city congestion, unless you try to get there during afternoon rush-hour.
The Sharatonís convention facilities are fairly standard. A large hall on the lobby level provides plenty of space for a main events room and a dealerís hall. Smaller meeting rooms, many almost hidden away, are available for panels, screening rooms, and such throughout the rest of the hotel. While probably designed with slower-paced, less interacting business meetings, it does work fairly well for a fandom-based convention. The non-central nature of the facilities means plenty of space for the convention and its attendees to spread out, but requires less walking about than one would expect.
Anime USA mainly attracts local fans, filling in a gap in the late autumn long after Otakon (in Baltimore) and well before the mid-winter Katsucon (now in DC proper). So, it has a very local feel, though more and more fans are coming from out of town (in some cases far out of town) to enjoy the convention. It seems to have a good balance between ambitious plans and maintaining a laid-back atmosphere. Virtually everybody is there primarily to have fun, as many of the panels and programming are lower-key events. At the same time, though, it does attract a larger number of younger fans and children with parents in tow, meaning an element of a more structured, family-oriented event.
As mentioned, the programming is low-key at Anime USA. Thatís not to say itís not quite enjoyable. This is Otakudom the fan-made documentary which has been picked up for commercial release, premiered at Anime USA a few years ago. There are plenty of opportunities for fans to organize their own panels on pretty much any topic of choice. That means plenty of variety, and plenty of new things to be exposed to.
This year, though, the guests were by far the biggest draw, bigger perhaps than everything else combined. In a move that surprised a lot of people, Anime USA would be bringing move, a Japanese pop/techno band known primarily for their upbeat Initial D opening and closing songs, to the convention for not only a concert but panels and autograph signing sessions, as well. Their concert, held Friday, was very well organized. One very smart move by the convention staff was to keep the main events room fairly small. While it may have meant a few people didnít get it, it made sure the room was packed. This is undoubtedly a better impression to give guests used to filling clubs and even stadiums than a larger room with empty space in the back. Of course, packing the room had definite drawbacks. Over-eager fans routinely pushed their way forward, almost literally crushing others in front of them. At one point, security had to break up a crowd surfing attempt. Despite any such problems, though, the event was very enjoyable and quite exciting.
As the convention has grown, so too has the Dealerís Hall. By floor space, the dealerís room was easily the largest part of the convention, though the sprawled out Artistís Alley may have come a close second. (Main events was about half the size of either of these.) As is now often the case, merchants at anime conventions supply the same items found most places online. With a large selection of merchandise available right in front of attendees, though, Iím guessing most dealers did well enough to cover their costs.
Anime USA, for some reason, tends to be fairly unimpressive in the cosplay department. (Note that, since I was at a wedding Saturday, this only pertains to the hall cosplay. I hear the masquerade was pretty good.) Being much more of a local event than a regional one, people probably save their costuming efforts for bigger venues. Also, the demographics tend to younger and probably less experienced attendees. Everybody has to start somewhere, though, and since Anime USA does regularly provide great cosplay focus panels, these attendees are probably off to a good start.
Seeing a good friend get married is something rare and special. Iíll never have any regrets about ditching the convention on Saturday. I did, after all, get to see the move concert on Friday, which was probably the big event of the convention and what drew a lot of people to the event. As for Saturday, I doubt I missed anything particularly noteworthy. That does not mean I wouldnít have enjoyed myself. Anime USA has been the ďback yardĒ convention for a lot of locals. After a rocky start, Anime USA has actually gotten its act together and become a convention equal to any other.
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