AnimeNEXT 2017 — That’s a Really Nice Convention You’ve Got There…

I’m fairly certain my plans for a CasinoCon—or, rather, any convention that I create, book, and give as a gift to the world—may never really come to fruition. Then again, seeing what goes into running a convention, from the booking everything to finding a venue to actually getting people to buy tickets, it seems like it would be more trouble than it’s worth. But then again, as tight as money has been with me lately, getting the starting capital to get the thing off the ground would be the first (and least) of my worries.

We return again to Atlantic City, New Jersey for AnimeNEXT 2017, taking place at the Atlantic City Convention Center. The convention seems to have acclimated itself very nicely to its new home, with everything spread out and comfortable, not feeling like everyone and everything is packed in tightly like sardines. Not to say “cozy” conventions don’t have their appeal, but little breathing room and shoulder-to-shoulder interactions with other con goers really tends to grind on you.

Some miscommunications made me think that we had the hotel—the Sheraton directly across the street from the convention center, just like last year—for Thursday as well as the con days proper. That was not the case. Still, I wasn’t too worried by it, as I had everything packed and ready in the car prior to leaving for Atlantic City Friday morning. The tolls were a…bit of a hassle (even if it did delight me to see ads for the convention on placards just before the toll booths themselves), as one was “Exact Change Only”, which I did not have. At least they give you the option to pay it off at a different toll plaza if you miss it in such a fashion. I arrived at the Convention Center a little after 8, and—and I don’t know why I was surprised by this—the adjacent parking garage was almost completely full. Employees tried to wave us into the valet parking section, however that was grossly overpriced for the convention (don’t give me any of that “special rate” nonsense, either). I managed to convince an attendant that I was there for the con—I don’t know how he thought otherwise—and managed to get a spot in the proper lot. The ticket, thankfully, was validated at the hotel’s front desk, and I had to spend significantly less for parking that weekend.

There were some issues checking in to the hotel, something concerning the presence/absence of a credit card used to book and purchase the room for the weekend, but that was resolved relatively peacefully. The rooms were just as nice as they were before, with no real surprises anywhere. And as it turns out, not only was the pool open, but the hot tub outside on the deck was as well! For one day. Apparently, the motor got burned out sometime Saturday, rendering it disabled for the rest of the weekend. At least the weather was nice enough that you could lounge outside in it and not get too overheated (by the water or the sun).

I made sure to schedule the panels I wanted to go to for the afternoon, as I was predicting it’d take some time for everyone to get to the room and get settled in before the actual convention could begin for us. Thankfully, we didn’t miss anything too important. I started out Friday in my Bear Hugger cosplay, which got plenty of good reactions from other con goers (though few pictures). The first panel I attended was “The Weirdest Consoles Ever.” This wasn’t about consoles that were weird despite being from one of the bigger video game companies (though stinkers like the Virtual Boy were mentioned). These are consoles that were put out with ludicrous gimmicks and lackluster pretenses, a few of which only had enough games to count on one hand. They also had a few bootleg consoles (ones with lots of ROMs of old 8-bit era games, some of which may or may not be hacked) on display for everyone to gawk at.

The next one after that was a video panel entitled “404 File Not Found: The Videos the Internet Forgot.” The description for the guide is hilariously minimalistic, reading “A look back on classic viral videos, all in 240p.” Unfortunately for me, my subconscious has piled all of these videos away regardless of their advertisement of being “forgotten.” Well it’s clear that they haven’t been forgotten, as they still persist in popular culture today (Leeroy Jenkins was a Jeopardy! answer, of all things; “Call Me Maybe” is just as ear-splitting as it was the first time I heard it). I left that panel early and made my way to one called “These Are a Few of My Favorite Scenes,” which was more the inverse of this—actually good scenes from series and cartoons that people might have forgotten that have little to no online presence as it is today. Granted, it did draw a little close to “making you remember something constitutes a joke,” but it was clear that these guys were legitimately trying to entertain the audience instead of just dropping memory nukes on the audience on us.

I got some dinner after that—at a McDonald’s, which I’m not too proud of—and wandered around the convention center for some time, taking in the game rooms, both video and board. I had also changed into Dan Hibiki sometime, and, when packing that cosplay, came up with an ingenious way to get around walking around as a character who goes barefoot at a public place where shoes are strongly encouraged—wooden geta sandals that I purchased several Otakons ago, which, albeit a bit snug, fit very well and posed only minor difficulty in walking around.

There was only one panel I wanted to go to at the end of Friday, and one of my roommates for the weekend was all too happy to tag along. It was called “Terrible Fanfiction from Terrible Minds.” The terrible minds were those of Nerdfit. Because of course it did. They read aloud fanfiction that was as deranged as it was nonsensical and absurd, and since it was an 18+ panel, they of course read aloud the sex scenes…in all their terrible, physically baffling glory. I was about five minutes into the panel when I updated my Facebook by saying I’ve made some kind of terrible mistake. People reading my feed actually feared for my safety. They weren’t that far off the mark.

No amount of drinking was going to get that panel out of my head, try as I might.

Saturday morning started off a little better, even if it did start with me wandering the nearby locales for some breakfast. Sure, areas around the convention center and the casinos are fairly decent, but the rest of the city leaves a lot to be desired. I busted out my third and final cosplay for the weekend, the good old standby of Ash (in Hoenn). The first thing I went to in the morning was what I had been jonesing to see since I read about it in the Guidebook app: Cosplay Pro Wrestling. The booking once again brought up the complicated rivalry that Giovanni of Team Rocket had with Uncle Yo. And while I would’ve booked it quite differently, Yo ended up losing. He made a speech about how much he loved everyone for supporting him and tried to act dramatic by throwing his signature silver tie into the audience…but it landed about halfway between the ring and the roped off area for the audience. The highlight came when Deadpool—cosplaying as Roman Reigns—came in doing Roman’s entrance. Unfortunately (or maybe that was the intention) he was on the wrong balcony and had to take the loooong way around to actually get to the ring. Also, another fan and I were doing commentary on the matches in the style of Jim Ross (me) and Mauro Ranallo (him). So it was a ton of fun altogether.

I apparently did not learn my lesson from the night before. Because I went to another fanfiction panel, “Horrors of Fanfiction.” And again, Nerdfit were the perpetrators of the proceedings. The only saving grace of this panel compared to the one the night before was that this wasn’t 18+. So, the horrible sex stuff was thankfully missing. But that didn’t stop the bad fanfiction other than that. Or the art. Good grief, the art.

I managed to avoid any permanent scarring mostly due to being called away from the panel early. I was assigned to record the Masquerade. While the massive line-forming room made the Press people get in line with everyone else, once I got to the room proper and showed them my badge, it was easy doing getting a seat up close and getting the camera in place. Of course, I wasn’t the only one with Press clearance, as a massive chunk of the center section’s first two rows were a forest of tripods. The skits oscillated wildly in quality, ranging from glorious, well put together productions to glorified walk-ons. A lot of awards were given out, as well as a lot of Brother sewing machines…which may or may not have caused people to start weeping in joy.

After that, the entire convention seemed to die down for me. Granted, everyone else seemed to be scattered to the winds, but I was content with hanging around the game rooms again, as well as drinking and relaxing back in the room once my allotted panels were done for the evening. And even on Sunday there was little of anything going on, just the usually last day stuff of getting everything packed and loaded up, killing some time at the convention before heading home. Thankfully I was able to make up the missed tolls from Friday with no issue. Sadly, I didn’t make it to Ocean City, or even the boardwalk in Atlantic City, which I had been hoping to do since I had gotten down there. Needing all available funding will do that to you.

So, another AnimeNEXT has come and gone. I enjoyed it again this year, some security issues aside, and it feels like the con is really starting to mesh well with its new venue. I obviously would’ve preferred getting there the day before, but you can only do so much with the funding you have. Maybe next year things will be different. I don’t mind losing money coming to Atlantic City if doing so means going to an anime convention and having fun; getting a cold, deathly chill up my spine from coming too close to a blackjack table is worse than con funk…but not by much.

Ari Rockefeller

When he is not training Pokémon and being the very best, the Master of the Written Word churns out convention, video game, anime and movie reviews like clockwork. No one is more productive and dangerous with a pen and paper (or, in this case, a keyboard).

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