Castle Point Anime 2024: Your Princess Isn’t In This Castle, but Your Friends are!

Castle Point Anime is a student-run anime convention, once taking place at Hoboken, New Jersey at the Stevens Institute of Technology campus, and now continuing its run at the Meadowlands Convention Center in Secaucus, New Jersey. 

I began attending conventions around 2011. Many events were run by college students, anime clubs, or a combination of both. Cons were starting to branch out into larger scale events, but still had a casual feel and were often smaller and local in scope. 

Castle Point made changes from attendee feedback that improved the experience. However,  I do have concerns from last year which continued into this year’s con. 

The convention ran from Saturday, April 27th, through Sunday, April 28th.  DJ Ranma and I decided to start the first day early, but not before getting some much-needed coffee!  After a quick ride over to Port Authority and meeting up with DJ Ranma in person, we started this two-day adventure.

We both stayed at the Harmony Suites, the closest option to the con center. It’s a doozy of a  location that I’ll get into more detail later on. 

Ranma and I picked up our badges together at registration, which is located at the first room; the process was simple and done through QR Codes, which is becoming quite common in convention spaces. 

Castle Point Anime 2024 Map

The convention activities are offered in one main thoroughfare. Artist Alley and Dealer’s room are in separate but nearby spaces. Various food and beverage options are available by the Dealer’s room, which then eases into autograph space and additional outdoor Food Truck options. 

 Gaming is beside the photography area,  followed by the Stage.

I noticed that the three Panel rooms were called ‘Main Events’ on the map, rather than being labeled on what is called the Stage.  I know this detail may seem very small, but I could see how the map may confuse newer attendees who are familiarizing themselves with cons. 

Main Events are typically offerings such as the masquerade, concerts, or idol festivals. For future CPAC Anime events, it may be best to rename the Stage ‘Main Events’ and call the three Panel spaces ‘Panel Rooms.’

The Manga Library is another activity I tend to look for: it was  located around an area where beautiful collections of figures were displayed, organized by categories such as new releases or individual franchises. This convention offering reminded me of fond times I had browsing museums. I may have mentioned this in prior years, but this idea is brilliant: I want to see other conventions put a spin on this concept.  Idol and magical girl anime made up a good part of the collection, which made me pretty happy as a fan of both! 

The manga library had its collection behind popular figure displays, where folks who saw their favorite characters took photos.

According to this year’s program guide, the Manga Library selections were offered by the currently inactive convention, AnimeNEXT. The collection appeared to be downsized from what I saw in the past. Noise surrounding the library space also discouraged me from getting a book and reading. I hoped to have more of  a quiet space. When I did visit, I did not see any active users in the library’s space. If the Manga Library is still offered in the future, I think having it in a separate hotel such as the nearby Marriott or Hyatt can increase visits to the library and decrease issues with noise. 

Even though I felt that smaller aspects of the con were a mixed bag,  the convention upgraded its ‘Stage’ area this year. The stage reminded me a lot of the setup at Zenkaikon, with high quality lights, improved acoustics, and a gorgeous backdrop. The improved setup proved to be quite popular and events such as the Idol Showcase , were relegated to  standing room.

The Sparkling Idol Showcase was an activity I look back on as a main highlight for this year’s event! Sweetheart Stars hosted the panel; they are a local idol group that focuses on fan made content relating to Love Live. 

Idol Showcases are a modern take on the masquerade. They recognize the popularity of idols among fans.  The Showcases represent what I love the most about convention’s take on idols (and something I make a point to emphasize in my reviews): anyone can be an idol. 

The pamphlets created by the event organizers made the quality panel turn from good to great. Not only were songs and performers listed, right by the songs were  illustrations of specifically colored penlights.  The inclusion of the pamphlets made the panel feel much more concert-esque. I really liked that the penlight illustrations were a guide and means of supporting the performers.

Penlights are best described as  battery-powered glowsticks, which can be switched to different colors.  Each character or performer is represented by their own ‘image color.’  Penlights are quite popular and are used in idol shows ,video game musical festivals, and K-Pop concerts.

Idol Showcases are definitely here to stay; sparkles and all! Pamphlets are an addition that will further enhance and improve this rapidly growing con staple. 

I also made my usual rounds to the Dealer’s Room and Artist’s Alley on the first day of Castlepoint. The Dealer’s room tempted me with cute plushies, figures, and idol memorabilia:  I could not resist the gachapon booth because my favorite franchise, Kirby, was displayed there. As the capsules landed one by one, I took my cute items–two of which were cute and tiny doubles of Meta Knight figures– and went back to the hotel. 

With my small haul in tow, I walked back to the hotel and started packing my belongings for Sunday.  I filled the time by watching reruns of Sonic of the Hedgehog movies on the hotel T.V.

As Sonic ran in the background, I helped Ranma take pictures of a cosplay he surprised a friend with! She cosplayed as Usagi Tsukino from Sailor Moon, while Ranma stepped out, wearing a casual Mamoru Chiba.

Day one concluded on a relaxing note–Ranma watched anime  as I caught up on some documentary series on YouTube. 

Before going into day two, let’s segway real quick into the hotel. 

I mentioned Ranma and I stayed at Harmony Suites. I  am not one to be blunt, but the only part that struck me as harmonious about this location was our sentiments about the service. 

Staff hovered over us to the extent where I felt scrutinized and uncomfortable. They were stationed in many areas, closely monitoring their guests like security guards. Charges such as a $99 early-check in fee were added on, and I do not recall seeing information posted disclosing this on the website.

Signs in the hotel rooms also warned guests about the possibility of being charged a $1,000 fee if any items were damaged. Hotels also tend to close their doors after overnight  hours for safety reasons and require a room card to enter. 

The Harmony had a sign indicating the overnight hours and when cards would be required. The hotel locked the doors sometime in the afternoon and during the convention, which didn’t make me feel welcomed as a guest. 

I have been to many hotels over my decade of attending cons, even motels here and there. Even though the room was nice, the service was poor. Though with my friends around, this experience didn’t put much of a damper on my weekend. 

Day Two started, and although the sun was quick to rise, signaling the bright  start of the morning, I curled deeper into my covers and did not want to get out of bed right away. After my alarm went off and with coffee to motivate me, I did eventually get up.  

After eating breakfast, I met up with one of my friends. She attended Castle Point for the first time! In the spirit of Ranma welcoming others to conventions, I gave her a quick tour and overview of the event. We chatted at a coffee shop, caught up on the latest real-life shenanigans, and waited for a bubble tea shop to open: a friendly place called Tsaocaa Tea which also had food options such as ramen , rice, and fried chicken. 

I played a couple of rounds of the cute and entertaining Love Live rhythm 

 game. The gameplay reminded me of School Idol Festival, but had a HD arcade spin. The arcade game had a noticeable difficulty spike in comparison to the mobile game, which made rounds all the more fun! 

Food Trucks were still in full swing and after gaming, I built up quite the appetite!  Cosplayers and nerds sat in the grass just like cons of the past, eating and talking amongst one another. The vibes reminded me of a fun picnic, one that was geeky, relaxed, and chill!  

Food Trucks did bum me out a little as someone with allergies. Many items had gluten or dairy, which I avoid. It was  disheartening to look at trucks and not being able to eat much. 

But Go! Go! Curry came to the rescue with top-notch service and delicious rice! 

Every time I see their stand, I tend to go without fail. 

I asked if I could just get some rice plain on its own and: bless!  Go! Go! Curry made my day with this small gesture and I appreciated it a ton.

I stayed at the con until around 2, going in and out of the main con area, sitting on the grass again outside, or walking around the con center entrance, where cosplayers congregated. (I swear, this con pun was initially unintended but I did get a chuckle out of it).

When I hopped on the bus, sleepy but satisfied over my fun weekend, I looked forward to attending next year and held the memories of this con and with my friends close. 


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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