1) This is my (Cheryl Hagar) opinion.
2) This review was written by me as a marketing staffer for the purposes of Anime Conji and it’s Media Zone.
3) I intend to put this article up on the Anime Conji website.
Anime Conji Media Zone - Fanime 2012 Review
Our Marketing team recently came back from a long trek to FanimeCon in San Jose, CA. Keeping all the good things we’ve heard about this con in mind, we made the 9 hour car drive up there expecting to have a blast meeting new people, letting them know about Anime Conji, and just plain having fun with people who like the same things we do. Let’s face it, that’s why you go to anime conventions, am I right?
Now first, the venue. The San Jose McEnery Convention Center is an average-sized meeting and event space in what seems to be downtown San Jose. My only problem with the venue was the construction. With the numbers of attendees that Fanime pulled in, it made that front courtyard extremely squished and made me want to escape the growing crowds of cosplayers and photographers (as nice as they were).
Gaming had a huge room, and it seemed appropriate that it did. Loads of people were there trying out different arcade machines, consoles, and PCs. There were tons of tables for tabletop/cards and a labeled handheld area smack dab in the middle of the room. Nice variety of gaming, tournaments held every hour, and open TWENTY-FOUR/SEVEN. Definitely a plus, Fanime! Keep it!
Dealer’s Hall was interesting; Of course you have the normal dealers with tons of figures, figmas, DVDs, manga, CDs, and other anime paraphernalia. But what convention sells brain wave-reading functional necomimi alongside an old-school booth run by mom and pop?! These sorts of dealers were sprinkled throughout the hall, which was nice and roomy. Artist’s Alley was the same, as it is with all conventions. Lots of artists, interesting artwork, and of course we all have our favorites. The last shopping point of interest was the swap meet. Great place to check out what others are selling, but having it in one of the hotels down the street wasn’t very convenient.
Once last thing I have to compliment Fanime on is Stage Zero. Having a stage in the middle of a crowded convention seemed odd at first, but I have to admit this stage is pretty darn cool. They screened anime and music videos, had scheduled performances (including their Fanimaid cafe), and interactive games. They always had something in this area going on, 24/7. The best part: Info Desk was right next to it. All in the middle of the convention. Convenient, right?
Now onto some issues. Yeah, Fanime has some cool things. But, and this might be a bit biased, a convention is only as good as how it’s run. This means behind-the-scenes operations, staffing, work ethic, execution (hence, my biased opinion). I don’t pretend to know everything about Fanime or its staff, heck this was my first year attending. But you can tell a lot about some of the staff by how they handle issues and problems.
First: day 0 blackout. No, the blackout itself wasn’t their fault. But if you’re running a big con like this, ALWAYS HAVE A BACK-UP PLAN. With 18 years behind their belt, this could have been avoided. Last issues: shuttles to/from hotels were advertised as 24/7, but canceled at 2 am one night leaving attendees and staff at the bus stop for hours in the freezing cold. I know some people slept in the lobby that night. There was also a panel in which something the panelist said came off as racist and offended many people.
My problem isn’t with the shuttle company or the panelist, it’s with the staff who didn’t do anything to fix the situation and told us “We’re sorry, that’s unfortunate.” and “Here is our suggestion box.” Trust me when I say I know what it’s like to be understaffed. But it’s no excuse to dismiss at-con problems.
Overall, the convention itself was great. Hopefully this year is another learning experience for Fanime staffers and that they improve their execution. It has so much potential to succeed and grow into a much larger, better convention.