If it could go wrong – it probably did go wrong this past weekend at the 8th annual Anime Matsuri. From the canceled events to the lost equipment to the overall disorganization, this event was frustrating in its excitement and exciting in its frustration. This disorder was not unexpected as the event was hosted at a new location, the George R. Brown Convention Center, and boasted a 28% (4,227 person) increase in the previous year’s attendance.
The difficulties began with identifying event workers due to lack of uniformity in dress wear. This made it hard to find anyone who was part of the official staff, or a volunteer, without walking directly up to them, grabbing their badge, and looking for the “staff” or “volunteer” lettering. A positive attitude also seemed to be lacking in the convention workers as Kristen Babcock, a convention attendee, said she felt the security was “too aggressive.”
When brochures and schedules became non-existent, paper schedules were placed on the event walls; however, these were 8 1/2″ x 11″ print outs that did not contain all of the available events for the day. To compensate for the lack of information, the unlisted events were placed on the Anime Matsuri website and convention center touch screens. This was a problem for people who did not own phones, tablets, or computers that could access the internet. The situation was further complicated as the Hilton Hotel, the official hotel of the convention, did not offer free WiFi to the guests. In addition, many people, including official staff, were not aware that the convention center touch screens were Anime Matsuri friendly. Not a single method of program advertising listed all Anime Matsuri events. This caused many panels and workshops to be missed by attendees who would have otherwise attended the event.
To add to the confusion, not all event rooms were clearly marked. Picking up photo-op images, getting to the workshops, and autograph rooms were considerably difficult as they were hidden down side halls and not marked with signs. To find these rooms a person first had to find a staff member or a volunteer and hope the person knew the location of the room. Shannon Muller is quoted as saying:
“I asked the people running the photo-ops where to find the photos and nobody knew what to tell me. It was a wild goose chase.”
The person who was most asked for directions was Anthony Copobianco, who was not an official staff member but the game hall monitor whose only job was to make sure the games kept working. He had to correct the misconception that he knew anything about the Anime Matsuri events by placing a double sided sign on his table that read “We have no idea where anything is :(” on one side and “but you’re beautiful :)” on the other. If only there had been other signs that were just as helpful.
The general organization of the convention and its events was lacking. “While the location was amazing, the hotel was nice, and the guests were outstanding, the organization and communication of the convention itself was absolutely poor,” said Vivian Nguyen, an Anime Matsuri attendee. Nearly every event, from the opening ceremonies to the concerts, was delayed by up to two hours due to technical difficulties and lost equipment, and many events were outright canceled with no official notifications being posted in the hallways of the convention; instead, the updates were posted to the Facebook page of the convention which many attendees could not check due to the lack of internet access. Without this knowledge, many convention attendees reached the designated rooms only to be greeted by a staff member who claimed the events were delayed, canceled, or were in progress ahead of schedule.
The most delayed events were the back-to-back Eyeshine and Nightmare! concerts, which started two hours late due to the failed delivery of Eyeshine’s lead guitarist’s, Masataka “Polo” Yazaki, amp. However, the amp arrived and the shows went on to rip roaring applause. In the reverse, panels were rushed as they were scheduled back-to-back with zero bleed time for setting up and tearing down displays. When the panel events were delayed, panelists lost up to thirty minutes of talk time and were herded out of the room by security and staff when their time expired. Guests were also disappointed with the limited number of panels occurring each day; many more were confused by the fact that a majority of the discussions seemed to have little to do with anime or manga.
A lack of rooms featuring anime had some asking if Anime Mastsuri was actually an anime convention? The limited productions included Hentai Fest with The Tentacle Guy which was restricted to an 18+ audience due to its risqué content. This restriction was also placed on the Anime Dating Game, a speed dating game hosted by “Doctor Awesome”, where guests were asked to act as their favorite character and have fun finding their ʺsoulmateʺ.
The chairperson, Deneice Trinity Leigh, officially apologized on the Anime Matsuri Convention Facebook page saying:
“It was undoubtedly the most overwhelming event we have put on thus far…We sincerely apologize for delays in some of our programming. Logistically, we had many hiccups. Thank you for understanding what our staff and volunteers had to go through. We plan to remedy a lot of convention center issues for next year.”
In her letter, Mrs. Leigh reassured event attendees that the panelists and international guests enjoyed the convention, and she claimed that they would like to return to future Anime Matsuri assemblages. This is good news for those pass holders who traveled long distances to meet specific guests but were unable to do so because of events cancelations and delays.
If Murphy had a time it was this past weekend at Anime Matsuri. The many hurdles the 8th annual Anime Matsuri had to overcome in its new location with its increased attendees has next year’s con-goers, returning and first timers, hoping that there is better organization with fewer technical difficulties and lost equipment in 2015. As for the ultimate question: will TinkTink be returning to Anime Matsuri? Yes, we will.