Yesterday, I went to A-Kon 16. It's the first time I ever went to an anime convention, and it was an interesting experience.
First off, all of the hygiene warnings that conventions have been spewing for the last several years finally paid off. I wasn't able to identify a single attendee by scent.
Second, video game characters seem to be getting more popular than anime characters. Over half of the cosplayers I saw were playing video game characters. I also saw several dozen black and red mages from "Final Fantasy I." However, when I spoke with a few of them, they weren't cosplaying those characters. They were cosplaying Brian Clevinger's versions from "8-bit Theater." There were dozens of extremely well done Link's from "The Legend of Zelda" running around...nearly all of which were female, including an adorable set of twins dressed as Blue and Red Link. Of course, the Homer Simpson "Mr. Sparkle" box and seeing the Prince from "Katamari Damacy" not once, but twice, really threw me for a loop.
Third, cosplayers seem to be getting the hint that you should cosplay characters that fit your body type. There were very few cosplayers that nightmares are made of. Of course, the skits were another thing entirely. Talk about "Revenge of High School Theater..."
GameSnark's cosplay gallery can be seen here. Once I get my photos back, I'll try scanning them in and sticking them somewhere.
So, if you are planning on attending a local anime convention near you for the first time, here are some survival rules.
1. Pre-register. It cost me $60 to get me and my wife in for one day. In comparison, if I pre-register for AnimeFest, it will cost me $60 to get me and my wife in for four days. Do the math.
2. Comfortable shoes with well-padded feet. I can't stress this enough. I wore my most comfortable shoes, but the soles didn't have enough padding, and my feet were killing me at the end of the day.
3. Ask before you shoot. While it's fairly obvious that you should bring a camera with plenty of film, it is considered polite to ask cosplayers for a photo prior to just snapping one. Plus, you'll usually get better shots that way.
4. A place to stick your stuff, and plenty of cash. Anime conventions have a lot of great stuff for sale, but not all of it can be easily carried. Either have a vehicle trunk you can stick stuff in or a room at the hotel to drop it off. In order to get some of the stuff my wife and I had picked up home, I had to leave the convention around 5, catch the train home, then come back. I didn't get back until almost 7. Also, while several places take Visa or MasterCard, a couple take American Express, and nobody takes Discover, everyone takes cash. I recommend that if you are planning on visiting the dealer area, plan on bringing your budget in cash. If you're planning on buying clothing or weapons, make it about $500, otherwise $200 should do fine. I was lucky. I managed to get out of there spending less than $100...but it wasn't easy.
5. Cosplayers, bring along a small sewing kit and tape. I saw plenty of small tears and, ahem, slips that shouldn't have happened but did. Bring the sewing kit so you can easily trim loose threads and patch any tears, and bring the tape so that your carefully balanced bustier won't flop down at an inappropriate time.
6. Have fun. There's no way you're going to get all of the freebies and see everything, even if you carefully schedule your entire stay...so don't even try. Pick out three things you have to see per day and make sure you see them, and spend the rest of the time just having fun. After all, isn't "fun" what these things are all about?