J-1 Con 2023: It’s not you, it’s the Venue

J-1 Con is a two day event with roots in Philadelphia. The convention hosted its 2023 event in New Jersey, at the Atlantic City’s Showboat Hotel with a slew of guests and offerings such as cosplay wrestling, game tournaments, and live music.

J-1 Con is my last convention of 2023. Some of the points made in this video do echo those made in a recent podcast and mainly reflect on the venue hosting the event rather than the convention itself. 

I went to the event with DJ Ranma and Mako and after fueling up at a Wawa,  we hit the road!  The journey to Atlantic City was smooth and quick but abruptly stopped when we arrived at the Showboat. We were surprised to hear about the early check-in fee from the hotel.  I do not remember seeing an early check-in fee on the hotel website. We came up with an alternative plan. Ranma gathered everyone’s press badges and we dropped our belongings at bag check. 

Although the check-in put a slight damper on the mood, I pushed forward, changing into my cosplay in the restroom, putting up cheerful makeup, and wearing my pink wig and pastel clothing. As I smiled once more, I did get distracted by the arcade area of the hotel, with its colorful lights and tempting vending machines full of sugary options and treats. (After all, it is not a con for me without getting tempted by sugar at least once).

I quickly recognized that the convention center was poorly maintained when compared to the main hotel venue. Workers carefully cleaned carpets in the hotel lobby– and the hotel was maintained well. But the con center area did not get the same amount of attention.  The convention restrooms were a primary example. Toilet paper holders that were hanging by a few threads broke and toilet papers eventually were left across the floor. I noticed throughout the weekend that the majority of issues with maintenance were quick fixes and generally related to missing or lost screws. 

Artists and dealers sold their wares at the convention area.  The area was a big garage called Photo opportunities were offered with a J-1 themed backdrop– and anime cars by Liverly Design also made up a fun part of the con space. I did like how artists were prominently at the convention center, though the ratio of vendors to attendees seemed to be high for the event. It is common to see buyers crowd around tables at events, clamoring for cool art or merch, but I did not see many transactions while in passing. There were also booths which sold bootleg merchandise such as plushies. 

The venue had limitations in how showrunners could run panels, especially with logistics such as audio. A stage or soundproof dividers may have alleviated some of the audio issues. I had a tough time hearing panels even in one of the frontmost rows. However, I saw staffers attentively work to improve the audio as the con progressed. 

I attended Women of Pokemon, Voice Actor Q+A, and also the Costume Contest. The Pokemon panel was high energy, thanks to the talented and lively panelists!  Attendees took the microphone to ask questions. Due to the issues with the audio and the general acoustics of the room, I struggled to hear much of the interactions in the Women of Pokemon and Voice Actor Q+A panel. I was still determined to get the best out of the panels I could.  sitting up close to best grasp the audio. The guests carried the panels with confidence and patience. I was able to understand and gather the excitement the Pokemon Actresses had about the series. I also asked the actresses a question about mentorships with voice acting—and acting courses were given as a great idea and opportunity for growth. For the Voice Actor Q+A, the combination of actors provided a balance of light-hearted comedy, kindness, and patience.  I was able to grasp the encouraging atmosphere, too. 

The Costume Contest began after the two panels. It was shown in a style of an old school fashion rather than a traditional masquerade with skits. The categories caught my interest. In most cons I attend, there are categories on craftsmanship or walk-ons, however for J-1 Con, examples of categories are villains and heroes. Attendees walked on stage and posed for the judges and audience while in character. Much of my own energy declined by the time of the costume contest. I remember enjoying that parents and their kids participated in some entries, almost as a means of passing on the nerdy baton to the next generation so to speak. But the competition felt very long for the smaller scale of the event and there were so many entries, I lost count.  

Ranma and I left early to join up with Mako and a  group for a late dinner at the nearby Ocean Resort. We ate delicious plates of sushi, which made for a tasty silver lining of the less-than-stellar day. I began packing that evening to prepare for the final day. 

On day two, I woke up, tuckered out already from the event. This feeling does reflect in the length of my day two notes against day one. I spent a lot of this time sitting by the con, walking, and filling in gaps by playing Super Smash Brothers. After wandering around the convention area one last time, browsing various stalls, and recharging my phone, I sat by the con entryway. Attendees continued to file in slowly. The convention traffic peaked slightly around the end of the day from the hype which came from the cosplay wrestling area. Cosplay Pro Wrestling occasionally appears at conventions in the Upper East Coast area. Characters from video games duke it out in a manner similar to WWE fights, fanfare, hilarious roasts, and all. 

I was eager to get home. Ranma, Mako, and I packed up the car earlier that day so we could ease into a smooth exit from the garage and back onto the road. An additional trip to Wawa concluded our weekend, and the delicious smell of baked bread, and melted cheese wafted in the air. 

Conventions are arguably in a transition period–I may have mentioned this in prior articles–but cons are changing and experimenting. I am seeing conventions innovate and take new approaches to events. In my opinion, J-1  is moreso a marketplace with aspects of a con. Some panels, a small tabletop area, and events. 

 There is a lot of love, time, and energy poured into J-1.  A massive amount of guests, a big variety of vendors, and touches such as photography backdrops were good ideas! As suggested in the podcast covering J-1 Con, the amount of guests can be scaled back due to the smaller size of this con. I shared the same thoughts with the sheer amount of cosplayers and vendors in the contest and exhibit hall area respectively. 

Sometimes, it’s good to go big or go home! As for this con, it may be best to scale back. Go small and grow after the pandemic. 

As long as vendor policies are expanded on, I do see a chance for J-1 Con to be successful as a marketplace with the approach of vendors. Perhaps the event can get some new life in this approach? A place to buy gifts for friends, and family, and some nerdy activities to explore?


CinnaKnight has been in the convention-scene for over a decade! C.K. runs on candy, coffee, and sometimes ...chaos! She's an avid writer, foodie, and a big fan of the Kirby franchise. She will also remind you to hydrate and almost always has safety pins and Advil handy.

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