AnimeUSA 2011: A Small Anime Wonderland (Part 1 of 3)

Report by guest correspondent Sh1zuka. First of three articles.

AnimeUSA 2011, held from November 17 – 20, 2011, is a cozy and moderately small anime convention held at the Hyatt Crystal City in Arlington, Virginia. This year’s registration rate was $58 at the door, and cheaper if pre-registered over a month in advance. If you know you will arrive on Friday, you can skip the long pre-registration line by registering at the convention, saving you lots of time.

Even though AnimeUSA is a small convention, it is still a full featured convention, with usual Artist Alley/Art Show, Dealer’s Room, Video Game Room, Video Rooms, Masquerade / Skit Cosplay Contest, Concerts, and Hall Costume Contest. The convention’s small size will have you constantly running into people you just met hours ago, perfect for making new friends!

Unique to AnimeUSA is the Themed Ballroom Dance. This year’s “Military Cosplay Ball” required dancers to follow a dress code of Western formalwear or Military-themed Cosplay in order to get in. AnimeUSA introduced “dance cards” for the ladies at the ball, letting gentlemen leave their names on a lady’s dance card for a guarantee that the two would dance together on the dance floor. I really wanted to go to this dance, but I was stopped at the door: I didn’t meet dress code.

AnimeUSA also has the best convention Maid Cafe and Host Club on the East Coast, and compared to last year, it has gotten much better. Be sure to check out the forthcoming AnimeUSA 2011: Maid Cafe & Host Club post for more details!

Layout

The convention can be best described as vertical, spanning five floors. The bottom two, B2 and B1, are dedicated to Main Events, the Artist Alley/Art Show, Video Rooms, and Dealer’s Room. If you are looking to lighten your wallet, you need only head down the escalator from the lobby and descend into the madness of beautiful fanart, handmade plushies, poseable Vocaloid figurines, and more!

Can you name the Vocaloids?

The lobby, used only by AnimeUSA for registration, is usually filled with cosplayers during the day and offers a convenient shelter from the cold November weather. For attendees of age, the lobby also contains the bar (called the “Lobbibar” by the Hyatt), making it a popular destination at night when not attending raunchy 18+ panels. With a bar on the first floor and lots of 18+ programming, AnimeUSA accommodates older convention attendees rather well.

The Iconic AnimeUSA Torii (鳥居) (red archway). Photo by plumvs.

The floors above the lobby contain the bulk of the fan programming. Three panel tracks, two workshop tracks, and the Video Game Room are on the 3rd floor; an Events track, Manga Library, and the “My Cup of Tea” Maid Cafe are on the 2nd floor, while the “Club Ikemen Paradise” Host Club, located on the 20th floor, is only accessible via elevator from the 2nd floor.

“I choose YOU!”

All of the floors except for the 3rd floor are connected together via escalators. The 3rd floor is only connected to the 2nd floor via hard-to-access stairs, making getting to the workshops, panels, and the game room difficult.

Nearly-free Medicine

Something AnimeUSA does that’s awesome and unique is nearly giving away medicine to attendees, for a nominal fee of 25 cents per packet. Apparently there’s a law in Virginia that prohibits them from giving away medicine for free, so they charge a quarter.

I can say from personal experience based on the instructions I was given at the con that the entire leadership of the con has one goal. That goal is [to] put on [a] great convention where every attendee goes home saying they had a great time.” –forum post from one of AnimeUSA’s Medical Staff

I’m not aware of any other convention that does something like this, and it’s a great idea to help attendees stay healthy and comfortable during the convention. If you’ve ever been unlucky enough to get sick during a convention, having medicine is essential to being able to enjoy the precious little time you can spend at the convention.

Elevator Hell… No More!

I always made a point of never wanting to stay at the Hyatt for AnimeUSA because in previous years, attendees staying in the hotel rooms above the convention space fought with convention attendees who wanted to use the elevators to get from floor to floor.

This year, AnimeUSA disabled access to the lower floors (Lobby, B1, B2) from the elevators, an excellent decision that made elevators much faster and more efficient by reducing elevator demand. It’s really a blessing in disguise: you might make a few friends on the way up the escalators! The only downside is that getting to panel rooms requires more exercise.

Another welcome improvement is that access to the Host Club is only via one elevator on the 2nd floor, which only goes between the 2nd and 20th floor and is controlled by staff to prevent the host club from being full when you get there.

How many people are in the elevator?

Overall, AnimeUSA 2011 was tons of fun, even though I wasn’t allowed to go to the Military Cosplay Ball. Check out the next post on AnimeUSA’s Maid Cafe and Host Club, the attraction that I consider the best part of AnimeUSA.


Photos by scout, Shizuka, and plumvs.

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