A guide to attending Conventions

What’s a Con all about anyway? Where do they hold these things? How do I get there? What do I do? Does this sound familiar to you? Even if it doesn’t, these are some pertinent questions faced by anime fans at one time or another.
What are these con’s I keep hearing about, how do I get to one? Perhaps if you’re new to anime or just conventions in general you will find yourself asking similar questions.
I’m here to help. Whether you’re a veteran con-goer, or an untested fan, I hope this lil guide on conventions will help you sort through it all.

To begin with, lets talk about Conventions in general. What are they? Well as any anime fan will eventually come to realize, he/she is not alone in their love of anime. And as well as finding a healthy growing online community to meet and converse with people online, you eventually are going to catch wind of conventions.
These are group get-togethers of varying sizes and purposes, but all with one goal in mind. Anime. It often is the biggest event in the Otaku’s year. From the humblest of gatherings to the multitude of thousands anime conventions are held by fans, for fans. These group gatherings are noted by a mutual love/exchange of anime and manga. A new place where you can view anime otherwise closed to you, or get access to manga or HK films you would have otherwise missed. Most cons’ are just as dedicated to the love of Asian culture in general that is prevalent among fans, as it is anime.
However, Con’s are also invariably unique in both approach and fanbase. From the All-encompassing, come all tastes of Con’s like Otakon to the more specified tastes of Yaiocon and Shoujocon, there is a multitude of choices for those who look close enough.

So now you have figured out the basic’s of a convention. Now you just have to choose which one is for you. This is never a simple answer as the varying factors of time, money and location always come into play. But it also boils down to taste. If you’re a hardcore action, violence or big robot fan, then you’re more than likely not going to fly out to Shoujocon. But if you have children, and are looking for a family time then perhaps you may wish to give Shoujocon another look, while avoiding Yaiocon at all costs. Instead of listing through the hundred’s of conventions and going over them all so you can find your personal tastes, ill make a quick reference here to the list of conventions, that is separate from this article. Each one is provided with dates and listing and should have a webpage with all available information. These will invariably provide more information than I could list here, so give them a look.

Ok, now lets assume you’ve picked a con, your biting the bullet…now what?
First off, take a closer look at the webpage for your con. Every con worth its salt will have a list on hotels, and inns related to the Con. When you book your hotel you should always mention that you plan on attending the convention. Most conventions run deals with hotels around the area, so that you get a discount on rooms. This isn’t 50 percent off or anything, but it is cheaper in the long run. Also, be sure to book your rooms way ahead of time. Conventions will list dates and times for the upcoming year far in advance. Sometimes as soon as the last con ends. Booking your room in advance will not only ensure yourself free from the hassle of last minute rushing, but from last minute price gouging. It’s a factor in this economy, but as the supply goes down and the convention looms closer, demand will increase. What once cost you a pair of rooms for about 120 a person (a group of say 6 people) for three nights, will now run your considerably higher. So book your room as early as possible. While you are doing this, you should have time to look into the area and the hotels so you can find the one best suited for you. Hotels increase and decrease in price the farther away from the center of activities you get. So sometimes you wish to save a lil bit of cash, but hoof it a bit more to the center of business. Again I make reference to early reservations. Often the price you pay in the long run will still be cheaper than a farther away hotel, but because you got the room early you are closer to the con as well. The best of both worlds.

While you have your hotel early, you also look into registration. Yes, you can just show up to a convention and get in, but not until waiting in line, or as often is the case paying a bit more for your pass. Pre-registration not only assures you of a cheaper pass (usually the earlier you register the cheaper, and pre-registration deals end about a month before the con starts), but of easier access. This is often only a problem at major cons, but waiting in line for 4 hours to receive your pass can often be avoided in part by pre-registering and getting your stuff early. (There will still be a line perhaps, but it will be shorter than regular registration and cheaper, and it’s all about the money). There are also more deals than just register and pre-register. Some conventions offer odd or unique deals. Big Apple Anime Fest offers a “super” pass for the weekend, which while running you a heft price of 300 plus dollars guarantees you premiere seats at all viewing, seating and eating arrangements with all guests of honor to the con, and other VIP bonuses. Again, check the details on the con your interested in for more info, and decide what’s best for you.

All right, you’re almost there. Providing of course you got transportation of some sort to your hotel and the convention you should be on your way to enjoying the sights. I will only mention a brief common sense blurb. If your going by plane, the earlier you get your tickets the cheaper the price, prices will often double if you wait to book them say a few weeks in advance as opposed to a few months. (And 300 round trip to blah blah from blah blah is definitely better than 600). So your at the convention center, your registered and having gone through the lines, you are all set for some anime fun…now what do you do?

Time and how you spend it will ultimately be entirely up to you. However, I can help you with the choices and sea of ideas you will be faced with.
Let’s start by dividing the con up into varying groups of time/activities.
First there is lines/waiting/walking. This is a variable depending upon size and time. For instance, a smaller convention will have a drastically shorter wait as opposed to a huge convention. But common sense and a little timing on your part too can fix this.
The line for the dealers room (don’t worry we will go into that a little later) is a prime example. At a large convention, on the first day there will always be a line for the dealer’s room. You may be tempted to wait in this line. Why not, If you’re in line you’ll be one of the first in the dealers room…right? Yes and No. You will be in line, and you will be among the first in the dealer’s room…but that doesn’t do much for you except have a wait. A dealer’s room is proportionate to the size of the con (usually) and is going to be huge if you’re waiting in line for a while. It is the first day of the convention, most people aren’t going to rush on the buying, and while you can wait 2 hours to rush into the room, other people can easily spend those 2 hours doing something else, come by ten minutes after your wait in line rush to the room and walk in without waiting, which would you rather do? The rest of the lines work similarly to this, and what you would think would be common sense. Lines for signatures of artists and the like, may not have a way around them, but overall try and limit your time in lines with a little pre-planning and thinking. And most importantly, be sure to check that the line your in, is an actual line. People may often be…less than intelligent when it comes to such things, and no one wants to spend a few hours in a line only to find out it’s the wrong one. Waiting may not always be avoided, but make sure what your waiting for is what you want. Walking is another necessity. Unless you have some slicks moves on rollerblades (and don’t get caught by staff) you will be walking to and from your activities. In some instances like Big Apple Anime Fest, this may be more of a nuisance than you would like. People will invariably get lost, especially if it’s their first time around the area. Make sure to have a map handy, most cons will supply you with one, and you can always spot other con-goers and staff to help you out.

Lets move on to the Shows/Viewing. Perhaps some of the tomatoes (or cheese if your prefer) in the sandwich of a healthy con. This consists of the scheduled showings of various anime, and live action films, or concerts. When you receive your registration packet you will get a schedule.
Look at it, keep it handy. If you plan on watching some new shows, or some old favorites you will want to know when and where to go. But of course, be prepared to cancellations. Things may fall through and at the last second, what was X has been cancelled and replaced by Y. Sometimes this is a great way to see new anime you would have otherwise missed, but don’t let it discourage you too bad. At all times, there is something to see. So you have to sort through your choices. But what if there’s something you never heard of? Luckily if your carrying that handly lil packet the con provided around, or if you read it ahead of time, you will usually see the listings of the showings. They will include a synopsis of the various showings so you can perhaps help your choices. Sometimes they will not be clear, or the synopsis will cast a show in a bad light. So be sure to at least pop your head into the rooms to see the showings if you’re on the way. Showings are a great way to kill time, and a welcome relief from all the walking you will be doing. Make sure to plan some time seeing some new or old shows, and if you just need a moment’s rest from the hectic day, stop on by. Most cons will show “adult” related viewing at night, so more violent or adult themed shows or live action films will have a showing later in the evening. If you’re a little underage horndog hoping to see some skin, you’re out of luck. There has been a rise in active carding at showings and the registration in general, so 18 and up or 21 and up mean it. This is a benefit for the rest of us, as we no longer have to abide immature or just annoying pre-teens (at least for the evening). In general the showings will be a good part of your time, and at the varied scheduling and areas they will be held should be a constant thought in the back of your mind.

Next comes some of the more interactive features of the con. First is Panels. At the very least these get-togethers are a chance to meet more likeminded people, or interests, or a new venue into new interests. Panels range the gamut from discussions to wine tastings to how to speak Japanese, to how to wear kimonos, to just hang out. Panels are the real-life counterpart of the video showings, often using the same facilities and rooms at varying times. These are also a place to rest from the activities outside, and perhaps hear some news or interesting talk. They are a place to meet and interact with others more easily. Most panels are free, you paid to get into the convention and as such you are entitled to visit them. As such, it is highly recommended to attend at least one panel function. With the assortment of panels offered there is always something for someone, and with last minute schedulings and appearances, you may find panels you wouldn’t have previously noticed. Along with these panels are the requirement panels. Such things like a small cover charge, or being over 18 or 21 is all you need. These panels are great, and interesting like the others but with slightly more to offer. There is almost always a Cel Painting workshop which for a small cover fee of 4 dollars (for supplies) you will be instructed in the proper way to paint a animation cell. These workshop and panels are often instructed by people from the industry of anime and manga and is a great way to meet some of the people behind your favorite works. Like the video showings, you should receive a schedule of these happenings along with your others. Planning around these can be tricky, but well worth it. If you’ve ever wondered how to wear a kimono properly, or just what exactly is the deal with the Macross story/timeline, or even just want to taste Sake or Plum Wine for the first time, there is panels/workshops for you to follow through on.

The next major function at conventions is Events. While this is a broad term, it is rather specific and often dependent on convention. A standard at every convention in term of events will be gone over, as well as some examples. The very first thing is “Opening Ceremonies”, this is the “technical” opening of the convention, and where various events and schedule changes will be announced. Guests of honor and others will be introduced, as well as some more details on events to come. At a large con this can be a very huge affair, with thousands of people, or at smaller cons this can be a very intimate affair where you may be sitting behind or next to a guest of honor. Opening ceremonies always happen about Midday, but don’t think that there isn’t anything to do until then. Most scheduling will pick up in the morning with some videos, and maybe a panel or two. A major function of cons that is really nonstop, is Cosplay. This is an event that’s more of a constant viewing, with a major emphasis with an event held for short skits. Cosplay is the process of dressing up in costume and/or acting like your favorite character, etc. Many Cosplayers dress up in numerous costumes throughout the convention, vying for recognition (oh yeah, I know that character) and a little fame. This obviously makes for some amusing sights, as the host of costumers will quickly recognize the con. Some good, some bad, all…slightly not sane. These people make for constant humor, great photo-op’s, and just general wackiness. For more information on Cosplaying, look up for some in-depth work from the people themselves. As well as a Cosplay competition, there is always (sometimes one wonders why, lol) a Kareoake contest or even better (worse) a open mike. This gives every single one of you Sinatra wannabe’s or Madonna’s…or Gakt’s out there a chance to sing your stuff…for everyone to hear. There is often prizes awarded (sometimes just a trophy and the knowledge that you can actually sing as opposed to the competition) and a general feeling of amusement and calm as your peers act as your judge, jury and executioner. There is also the art show and artists alley. Meet aspiring artists (perhaps like yourself) and see some amazing artwork (and some not so amazing). Take some work home for that spot on the wall you needed to fill. Or dance the night away with all those other…sweaty…costumed…people…did I mention sweaty? Well that aside, you can enjoy getting your groove on or just laughing at other people’s “groove”. Every wonder what the “robot” looks like when a 400 pound Neko”girl” does it…ok, so maybe not but worth a look at least. Also a invariable part of every con is the games and/or gameroom. Whether it’s the anime version of Taboo, or your favorite fighting game on the bigscreen the game room has a spot in your hearts.
Aside from these events, there are con-specific events or other activities that spring up. Check your con info for details. A popular event is quiz shows and the like. Be sure to see the info your con has to offer to see what you can attend. Of course to tie it all up is closing ceremonies. Much like opening…uh…except in reverse. The torch is officially passed to next year and you will get some info on what to look forward to next year.

An event that I’m giving a special overview of is…The Dealer’s room. Finally, I can hear you saying with baited breath. Now you will find out what it was I’ve been referring to for all this time. The dealer’s room is the area of the con where you will be spending much of your money, and a good deal of time. The dealer’s room is where you will find anime merchandise. And I mean merchandise. In major cons, these rooms will have corporate backing and booths, so it’s not odd to see a ADV booth and a Pioneer booth giving out freebies in a large con. (As well as showing non-stop commercials for their crap) However there is also the lovely lovely mystery dealer. The best shops are invariably the backalley, out of the way; no one sees them kind of places. These dealers and comic stores often attend these cons with bundles of their mystery love to give (AKA sell) to you. You will find dealers (so named because they “deal” in anime, and because some of the people who buy are like crackfiends…hence dealers) who will have more and varied things than you would first imagine. CD’s, VCD’s, DVD’s, T-shirts, Posters, Manga, English Graphic Novels (don’t care what the world says they are two different things), blah blah blah. You want to find that oh so hard to find Life size Tokimeki Memorial 2 life doll with two alternate outfits….uh…well then your just sick…yeah sick. But I’m sure you could find it, or get a good line on someone who could help you find it. Imported games, manga, and the like make the Dealers room a Mecca of almost any convention. Shop for deals, and don’t worry too much about sounding like a retard asking for little girl manga from the grown Japanese man. He’ll forget you 5 minutes later and you’ll have hidden it away in your bag of big macho robots to cover it up anyway. Don’t get suckered in too quickly on average items. A common practice is to mention how little of a item they have(when in reality they have another box under the table waiting for you to go away so they can put more up) and most importantly shop around the final day of the con. Dealers have to bring home anything they don’t sell, and they are more than willing to make deals in the final hours to lesson their load and increase their cash. DVD’s which go for 20 bucks each, may go for 2 for 20, or 15 each. Be sure to drop subtle hints and converse with the dealers. They are fans like you(for the most part), just fans trying to sell you some stuff.

Oh my is that all? Seems a bit much, but I’ve tried to put only the most common sense and typically needed advice here. From the conventions I’ve attended as both dealer and attendee and even with a guest or two, I think I can offer a bit of advice on this subject. I encourage you to look for more detailed info with any of the cons your interested in, and even talk to others who’ve attended in the past. Some parting wrap up advice and general conclusions, I hope will help. Plan early, get all the info you can, use common sense(this is a sparse commodity at some conventions) and have fun. Make new friends, meet old ones. It is often beneficial to attend in large groups as most cons will give you a discount on registration for groups(usually 10 or more) and hotel costs decrease exponentially when you split the cost among 10 people instead of say 6. Bring a camera, some(lots of) money, and yourself, and you should be more than prepared for any convention.

By DarknightZO

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Work in progress... not home!
Trying to get all/most of the new code working before I start on the eyecandy.