The second of three guest articles about Anime USA 2011 by Sh1zuka. This one focuses on the maid cafe and host club! Photos by scout and Shizuka.
One of the advantages that AnimeUSA has is being held at a hotel with its own restaurants. During AnimeUSA, the Hyatt Crystal City’s two restaurants are converted into a wonderful Maid Cafe and classy Host Club, open on Friday and Saturday.
Since the introduction of the Maid Cafe and Host Club at AnimeUSA 2009, AnimeUSA has improved it every year. While the basic formula has remained the same, the logistics of meal tickets and accessibility have improved each year, making going to the Maid Cafe and Host Club less of a time and energy commitment. This is essential for an Anime convention with a very packed programming schedule.
Entry to the Maid Cafe and Host Club is done on the second floor, where a party can queue for entry to the perpetually busy Maid Cafe and Host Club. Food can be purchased using “tickets” bought for two dollars each at the respective location, and games can be played with the maids or hosts by paying cash. I’m not sure why food is required to be purchased with tickets, but I believe it is a regulatory issue.
The “My Cup of Tea” Maid Cafe
The AnimeUSA Maid Cafe, open during the breakfast and lunch hours of the convention, serves a variety of sandwiches, desserts, and Japanese snack food. All dishes are served by maids, who bless your food with “Moe~ Moe~ Kyun! ❤” before you’re allowed to eat!
The Maid Cafe also offers games that a customer can play with the maids, like Jenga or UNO. If a customer plays enough games, he or she can also get a picture with a maid of his or her choice. Well, it was mostly guys who wanted pictures with the maids!
If you’re not in the mood for games, that’s fine too; sometimes, a group of maids will suddenly burst out into dance! This made me wonder how much preparation AnimeUSA’s maids needed to work at the Maid Cafe. An application form is available on the website, but it does not go into detail about what kind of training is required or if talents are necessary.
So I asked one of the maids at the Maid Cafe. It turns out there isn’t much training at the convention. The training they do at the convention is about serving the customers’ food, as there is not enough time to train all of the maids to dance/sing at the convention. Thus, talents such as dancing, singing, or playing a musical instrument are considered big pluses for applying. So the “sudden outburst of dance” was only possible due to the dedication of the maids, who must have practiced popular Anime dances well before AnimeUSA.
The “Club Ikemen Paradise” Host Club
For dinner, AnimeUSA offers the “Club Ikemen Paradise” Host Club, located at the top floor of the Hyatt. This host club requires customers to be 18 years old or older to be admitted to the club, which is unfortunate since the average age of an anime convention attendee is less than 18 years old. As the Host Club serves alcohol to those of age, it may be a restriction due to Virginia law.
A queue to get into the Host Club, conveniently located on the second floor, allows potential customers to see how long the queue is before wasting an elevator trip. At the end of the queue, customers are allowed to ride the “Host Club Express” Elevator, which only goes between the second and the top floor. This is a major improvement for this year’s Host Club, efficiently using the few available elevators.
Upon arriving at the Host Club, you or your party is allowed to choose your host for your table, who will entertain you while you wait for your food. Although the food portions are small and rather expensive, the food is good and the Host Club’s service is excellent. Alcohol is even offered at the Host Club, although prices are extremely steep.
Activities at the Host Club are similar to the Maid Cafe, with games and photos available in exchange for cash. Unlike the hyperactive excitement of the Maid Cafe, the atmosphere of the Host Club is more tranquil and laid back, possibly because the Host Club caters to an older audience. While the food at the Host Club takes much more time to prepare than at the Maid Cafe, the skyline at the top floor is beautiful and the hosts seem to enjoy spending time at their tables entertaining customers.
At my table, my host played music, joked with my friends, and folded origami while our food was on the way. During my wait, I wandered around the Host Club taking pictures and noticed that almost everyone at the place was having fun: many customers played games with their host while waiting for food, and hosts would sit with their customers entertaining them if they looked bored. As with the maids, many of the hosts were very talented, knowing how to play music and engaging in fun banter with their customers.
Overall, I would say that AnimeUSA runs the best Maid Cafe and Host Club of the East Coast Anime Conventions. Although AnimeUSA is moving to the Washington Marriott Wardman Park in 2012, AnimeUSA intends to keep the Maid Cafe and Host Club running at the new hotel. If you skip these and you’re going to AnimeUSA this year, you’ll miss out!
You might wonder why AnimeUSA is changing its convention venue. Find out more on my next post, AnimeUSA 2011: Outgrowing the Hyatt—coming on Wednesday!