ACen is over 9000
Published: Monday, May 7, 2012
Updated: Sunday, May 6, 2012 21:05
Squealing fans and loud noises of awe flooded the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center during the weekend of April 27-29, as anime lovers gathered to celebrate the 15th anniversary of Anime Central, one of the biggest Japanese animation (anime) conventions in the country. Since the turn of the millennium, the convention has spread from a love of all things anime into the realms of science fiction, comic books and video games, allowing all types of fans to come and embrace their inner nerd.
Cameras flashed at every corner as fans snagged pictures of people dressed up as their favorite characters. “Oh my God!” and “Did you see that?” could be heard within feet of the entrance to the convention. “Cosplaying” is not mandatory at ACen, but it is difficult to walk two feet without bumping into a giant wing or ducking under a huge sword. Fans could also purchase merchandise from independent artists in the artist alley, cleverly located just before the featured dealers in the convention, where fans could easily support and marvel at the talent from fellow anime fans.
Like many other conventions, ACen offers panels and autograph signings as well. Panels are created by the convention itself (for the guests of honor) but fans are able to create random panels about anything, anime-based or otherwise. Panels were scheduled throughout the weekend, and many piqued enough interest to fill an entire conference room with fans. Autograph and photo opportunities with fan favorites such as Vic Mignogna (Edward Elric in “Fullmetal Alchemist”) and Chris Sabat (Piccolo and Vegeta in “Dragon ball Z”) created huge lines wrapping along the walls of the convention center. Sabat’s autographing session did not start until 2 p.m., and some fans had already been waiting in line for two hours just to get a decent spot.
Big anime companies were also spotted on the floor of ACen this year. Bandai, the producers of some of the most popular anime franchises in the world, including “Gundam”, had a huge showcase of various models from the series. A giant near-12-foot model graced the front of the showcase and drew tons of picture snapping fans.
During an exclusive press panel, Mignogna was asked if he missed walking around conventions without being bothered, to which he replied, “I am so overwhelmed with gratitude with what this industry has given me. I love interacting with and meeting the fans.”
In another press panel, Todd Haberkorn, who voices Ling Yao from “Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood” expressed his enjoyment of his many recent projects, “If you’re a voice actor and you’re on vacation, that’s not good.”
In addition to autographs and panels, fans were able to enjoy arcade, console and tabletop games, as well as view anime screenings that took place all weekend. More activities available at ACen were dances such as the Soap Bubble, The Crystal Ball and Hardcore Synergy. Costume contests like the Masquerade and Hall Contest allowed fans to show off their creative skills. The Soap Bubble, a rave that takes place on Saturday between 9 p.m. and 4:30 a.m., is one of the longest running anime convention dance parties in the United States.
With many popular anime and manga production companies closing down and stopping production in America, it is amazingly overwhelming to still see such a giant turn out for anime conventions. ACen itself had at least 23,000 in attendance.
The huge crowds and long lines were especially worth braving for Todd Richter, a “Dragon Ball Z” fan who traveled all the way from Iowa to meet Chris Sabat. “I just got to meet the voice actor for the guy that says, ‘It’s over 9,000!’ How cool is that?!”
For more information on Anime Central, visit www.acen.org and check them out next year from May 17-19 for their “Sweet 16th.”