Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Hipster Anime Fans! Anime Detour 2014 in review

Once again, Anime Detour takes over the Doubletree by Hilton in Bloomington, MN.  Last weekend, 5,000 people descended upon the hapless hotel staff to party, congregate, and discuss the intricacies of "the manga was better."  This year was awesome, in so, so many ways.

Thursday is usually bustling with staff setting up all the equipment needed for the convention.  This year was no exception.  Video gaming, which I run, moved this year to behind the front desk.  The hotel had this space that was originally a restaurant, but were planning on gutting for new space.  The hotel department had approached me about moving over there, and I jumped on the opportunity as soon as I could.  Looking back, it was definitely the right idea.  We set up consoles and arcade cabinets around the perimeter of the room, and set up a projector with theater style seating in the middle of the room.  It looked awesome.  We had a lot more cabinets available this year, partly because we had a lot more power to work with in the new space.

One of the new additions was Beachhead 2002, shown in the background of this picture.  There were also three "multi-ROM" arcade cabinets, sporting games like Defender, Galaga, Pac-Man, Joust, and others.  In addition, this was our first year with a pinball machine in video gaming.  One of our staff had a Hot Hand table, which was first produced in 1979.  It's kind of funny.  He randomly said to me on Thursday afternoon, "I have a pinball table in storage.  Want me to go get it?"

I look at him, shrug, and say, "sure, why not?"

So he runs off with two of my staff and bring it back about two hours later.  For a spur of the moment grab, it turned out really well.  People on staff would walk past, checking out our area, and stop when they saw the table.  It wasn't played a whole lot because it wasn't always working, but when it was working, it drew a crowd.

One of the perks of working on staff is the staff gala on Thursday night.  After running around like mad for six hours or more, we get to take time to enjoy the small things.  Like meeting our guests and chatting with them.  I took the time to talk to Dai Sato, known for his work on shows like Cowboy Bebop, Space Dandy, and Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. This was huge for me, because Cowboy Bebop was one of the series that first got me into anime to begin with.  While talking with him, he mentioned that there's been a renaissance of sort, and a push to go back to hand drawn animation instead of computer generated graphics.  Shows like Space Dandy are now mostly hand drawn, if not completely devoid of CG altogether.  Stuff like this is great to hear, especially from someone so involved in the production process.

During the gala, Chairman Stephen Gifford got up and made a speech.  2014 was Gifford's last year as chairman, who will be stepping down to become programming department head.  Customarily, the chairman makes a speech during the gala.  It's an opportunity to rally the troops and get everyone fired up about the upcoming con.  This year, he noted that every year he's been chairman, he's started crying during the closing ceremonies.  So he announced that he's going to make it through the entire closing ceremonies without crying.  We laughed, but appreciated the sentiment.

During the convention, I was amazed by the level of quality cosplay.  Attack on Titan was a popular choice this year, what with its growing popularity and the announcement of a dub coming.  There was also a lot of League of Legends cosplayers, which you can see in the gallery below:

This picture took a good five or six attempts to finally take.  I had to back up at least three times, Chie lost her balance, and other attendees walked into Yukiko's fan at least once.  Eventually, it turned out.  I kind of hope they see this, because I really appreciated their patience.

The video game room had an awesome addition this year that was absent in prior years.  The new space had enough room to set up a tournament theater in the middle of the room.  It was a perfect setup for the space.  Attendees would come in to check out something else, walk past, see a tournament in place, and join the crowd watching.  It was great.  I also started live tweeting during the tournaments, posting pictures as the events were happening.

The tournaments went over really well this year, too.  A full 18 people signed up for the random tournament, which was chaotic and hilarious.  Every match was a different game, so nobody knew what game they were going to play, adding to the insanity of the tournament.  And there there's...well...perhaps it's best described by the tweet that I posted during the tournament:

During one match, the dealer room department head walked past as a pocketbike racer match was loading up.  She looked over and said, "What are you playing?"

"Burger King Pocketbike Racer," I said.


Only at the random tournament can something like this happen!  It was awesome and so much fun.

Now, the tech department had a nice little something planned for Gifford during the closing ceremonies.  They had heard Gifford's assertion that he wasn't going to cry during the closing ceremonies.  Upon hearing this, they decided to accept that challenge, and vowed that Gifford wouldn't even make it to the stage.  During the weekend, they set out to talk to every staff member they could, and make a montage of multiple staffers thanking Gifford for the work that he did.  Sure enough, he didn't even make it to the stage.  They might have broken him, had he not regained composure on the stage.  The big thing during closing ceremonies was the announcement of funds raised for the American Red Cross.  Gifford handed the foreman's helmet to the new chairman, Jayson Stob, and the next convention's theme was announced.  Detouritis: There is NO CURE!!!  Those looking forward to next year can be assured that video gaming is already coming up with all sorts of ideas for the next con.

And once again, we as a convention did a whole lot of good.  As announced during the closing ceremonies, Anime Detour raised $17,197.34 for the American Red Cross.  Another attendee ran a room party that gave out free waffles and accepted donations for the charity Child's Play.  This drive raised over $600, which will be used by the charity to buy toys and games for kids in hospitals.  If you ever get the chance, donate to Child's Play.  They do a whole lot of good, and every little bit helps.

This year was not without its trouble.  Like every year, there will be at least a handful of medical emergencies, disorderly drunks, and other instigators.  Overall, though, the people that show up do so because they love attending.  They come because they love what we do.  They come because they want to contribute just as much as the staff.  And that's what makes this con awesome.  I can't wait for next year, and I can't wait to see what Stob has planned to combat the detouritis.  Hopefully I'll see you among the infected.

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