This was by far the largest convention I have ever attended. I heard that the body count reached somewhere over 23,000. While that may not seem like a lot when compared to Anime Expo's 44,000 people, it's still a big step from Ohayocon's measly 10,000 or so. Although it's colossal in size, bigger conventions do not necessarily mean better and that was evident at ACen.
You may wonder why I went to ACen in the first place. It's a long six hour drive from Cleveland, Ohio and the travelling expenses are not cheap. It would not have been worth it except for one measly fact; my birthday was on Saturday, May 21st, the middle and most exciting day of the convention. Now, going to ACen seemed to be a lot more worthwhile.
What were the chances that my birthday would fall on the middle day of the third largest anime convention in the US? It seemed too good to be true, and I knew without a doubt that I had to take hold of such an opportunity, because the likelihood of my birthday falling on a huge convention such as ACen was close to nil. I had to take this chance and go to Chicago.
That's how I ended up at ACen, and since none of my friends could make it, and I didn't want to go alone, I ended up roping my family into going. I mean, come on, if I had no friends to mooch off of on my b-day, at least I can mooch off my family. xD
The six hour drive wasn't all too bad. We left around 6 AM on Friday and arrived at the convention around 1 PM. The weirdest thing about the drive, though, was the fact that at every rest stop we saw the same three people getting out of their car: an Asian goth with chains all over his shirt and pants, a larger guy with a kiss t-shirt on, and some girl whose face or physical features I cannot remember for the life of me. I remember making some comment to my older brother like, "Oh, haha, I bet they're going to ACen."
Well, lo' and behold, we did see them walking around at Anime Central. It was really weird. xD
Anyway, so after arriving, I got into my Germany cosplay and we headed on over to the Rosemont convention center, 30 minutes from downtown Chicago (we never did get the time to go see the city, though). We waited in line for about 3 hours. I know that isn't too bad compared to past years when some attendees were waiting 9 hours plus, but 3 hours was the longest I've ever had to wait in line, and standing around in the sun with a hot, stuffy Germany cosplay on wasn't exactly very fun. I heard that the printers were acting up and the people working the registration couldn't actually read the attendee's name on the badge. Although the line wasn't as bad as past years, or so I have heard, I still think that the organization could've been a lot better, and the line could've moved a lot faster.
In line, I did meet some interesting people from Wisconsin. One was a bad-mouthed bartender and she was fucking hilarious, so the super long pre-registration line became a lot more bearable with someone like her around.
After we finally got inside the convention center around four, I immediately went for the Artist's Alley (said to be the biggest in America) and the Dealer's Room. I spent the next three hours roaming around the colossal room, buying lots of random stuff. While I was wandering around, my brother got a picture taken of him even though he wasn't even in cosplay. He has long curly hair and was wearing a Veil of Maya t-shirt. Apparently, some guy walked up to him, said that he loved the band and took a picture of him. xD
At 7 or 8, we went to the Hyatt and got in line for Whose Line Is It Anime, a panel that was supposed to start at 8 o' clock, but ended up getting delayed an hour and a half because the FLOW concert, which was supposed to go from 6-7, ended up going 2 hours beyond its designated time. It's simply not okay to let guests ignore the time limits and extend their panels/concerts until whenever works for them. That was completely unacceptable. I heard some people later saying that one of the reasons that they didn't let people in was because the panelists for Whose Line weren't ready which is complete bullshit because I met them in line, and they seemed as confused and pissed off as everyone else. Some people were going through the line with a stereo, though and it was pretty fun getting Rick-Roll'd in line. xD
I did finally get into Whose Line at around 9:30 PM, and even though it was cut short, their performance was fucking hilarious. One of their improv scenes was a living props one, and in this scene, one panelist acted as Simon teaching Kamina, another panelist, how to dig. It was really funny watching them pick up these girls and using them as shovels or drills. Later, they had a Whose Line scene where the prompt was "Cardcaptor Sakura tells everyone about the rapture." (My birthday was supposed to be the rapture xD) That scene was also pretty hilarious, and the panelists certainly made the long line worth it.
After that, we got back in line and went to Anime Hell, which is usually an 18+ panel, but for some reason (probably to save the time it takes to check IDs), they let me in anyway. Specifically, at the beginning of Anime Hell it said, "Anime Hell is an age restricted event. If you are under 18, GET THE FUCK OUT.... or, stay, BUT KNOW YOUR SHAME."
Of course, I stayed, and although it had mostly nothing to do with anime, it was still hilarious. Some of my favorite clips included the Manzoku commercial (it had a Renai Circulation remix, but I can't find it on Youtube), Hard Gay joins Hana Yori Dango (couldn't find it on Youtube, but the download link is surely floating around somewhere), the real director of Fast Five (here), the next batman (here), and Dr. Tran Mail.
At around midnight, during anime hell, my brother was the first one to wish me happy birthday. :3
After anime hell, we were all a bit tired, so we headed back to the room at the double tree and got some much needed shut eye. It had been a long day full of lines and tired feet.
We got up at about 8 in the morning on Saturday, and my family wished me a happy birthday. They laid out four cards on the hotel bed, which held about $120 in total. Afterwards, my mom helped me get that damn Germany wig over my two feet of hair, and we headed down to the convention center, this time with badges in hand. I bought lots of stuff in the Artist's Alley and Dealer's room, and then, at about 12:30, we went to the Bad Anime Panel to sit back, relax, and watch some hilariously shit-tastic anime. The 2 hour panel definitely delivered. We watched a bunch of clips from some so-terrible-it's-good anime, and then commented on it. After each clip was shown, the panelists would ask very easy trivia questions, and if you got it right, you would win a DVD, a soundtrack, or magazine associated with the anime watched. One of those prizes would've made a perfect b-day present, but I didn't feel like showcasing the effort to answer; I was too busy drinking hot chocolate. The list of anime was: MD Geist, Violence Jack, Garzey's Wing, and Art of Fighting. There may have been one or two more, but I don't remember them. If you actually decide to watch any of these, please remember to watch it in its English dub for the maximum viewing experience. xD
After that, we went back to the Dealer's Room and roamed around for another hour or so. We were really hungry by that point so we went to the Hyatt and ate at the really awesome restaurant there. The whole restaurant had a sort of wall around it with a cushiony overhang. It's hard to explain so look at this picture. Anyway, I ended up stuffing myself at the buffet there. I remember having a cheeseless cheeseburger, some mac-n-cheese, and some pulled pork. Completely unhealthy, but it's my b-day, so what the hell?
It was around this time that we headed back to the room, and I got changed into something a bit more comfortable. Then, my brother went to a Halo Reach tournament with my dad. He told me later that he was defeated in the first round.
After laying around for a while and resting our sore feet, we went to the Hilton for the FMA panel. The line was in a very cramped hallway that was probably only 4 feet in width. Although we got in line a whole half an hour early, we didn't end up getting in. It's ridiculous because the room had enough room for a lot more people if not for the random unneeded tables. Next year, ACen should definitely expand to a larger area. The rooms were way too small for the number of people attending this year.
Having given up on the FMA panel, we went to the AMV room and watched some videos while editors finished up the iron editing tournament. The room was extremely small and cramped. Next year, they should really expand to a larger room. Every other convention that I've gone to (which were smaller than ACen), the AMVs were shown in a large room with huge screens. ACen should do the same. I didn't stay for long because the AMVs weren't really that good. I hate to sound like an AMV hipster, but I've been watching and obsessing over AMVs for a few years and hearing all these people praise such sub-par AMVs annoyed me, so I left.
Afterwards, we went to the Saturday Night Parody Panel. This is where I met JesuOtaku which was a pretty cool reminder that people on the internet are actually real. xD The first parody shown was pretty funny as well as the second one, but the last one about illegal downloading dragged on... It also made jokes about Grave of the Fireflies. You just can't do that.
We left about half way through and my brother went back to the room. Then, my mom and I headed back to the Hilton for the Ghost of ACen panel. I was wearing a "got ghosts?" t-shirt (I had put it on without realizing), and since I'm a crazy person intrigued by the paranormal, I was fairly excited for this panel where attendees share their experiences with the "other side." Alas, this panel also filled up quickly and by the time we got there, maximum occupancy had been reached. D:
Death Note Mafia was right across the hall, so I went there instead. I ended up having a great time with some awesome people. The first round I was Kira, and since I didn't exactly know the rules completely, I made a really stupid decision and ended up losing. I definitely want to play Death Note Mafia again sometime, though. Hopefully, if I'm Kira again, I can make all the right decisions.
At around 3 AM, my mom and I went back to the Double Tree for some much needed sleep.
Nothing much happened on Sunday; I just went around the Dealer's Room and made some last minute buys.
Anime Central was far from perfect, but it definitely became a birthday that I will not soon forget. :)
Once I post my pictures of purchases and cosplays, I will link them to this post. :)