Anime Central (Acen for short): I’ll describe it as if being a nerd in Chicago was a religious celebration. E3’s live coverage would be like one with many days of great announcements while one celebrates the online streaming or G4TV broadcasting with a feast of Doritos, Mt. Dew, Snickers bars, and Buffalo Wild Wings. Anime Central is another one with the many great gifts one can get themselves and a huge celebration with other geeks. If I haven’t confused or scared you off yet, in short, Anime Central is just a wonderful three-day getaway complete with friendly people most wearing wacky yet entertaining costumes, lots of great merchandise, 24-hour video viewing rooms, and multiple events.
Like I have mentioned previously on the site, I have attended Anime Central seven times throughout a nine-year period. I have witnessed many great improvements such as the line system. In the past, con-goers would wait anywhere from three to six hours to get in the convention to register the day of the con OR one year, pick up their badge from pre-registration. Luckily those days are gone as there are multiple booths accepting either cash or credit cards for payment and from what my friends who picked up from “will call” told me, they only spent 30 minutes at most. If you’re registering for the day, it will likely take you as little as 30 minutes at most 2 hours. In comparison to conventions such as Wizard World (Chicago Comic Con) or Flashback weekend, the wait times are large but we also have to keep in mind that ACen continuously grows each year in attendance and there are many teenagers and younger con-goers that stay at the hotels which may require them to use a little more safety precautions.
The dealer room in the Donald E. Stephens center is a big place that hosts the merchandise room and the artist alley. In there, I purchased a copy of Donkey Kong for the Original Gameboy, two T-shirts (Marvel vs. Capcom/Sonic the Hedgehog), a lovely framed painting of Poison Ivy/Harley Quinn/Catwoman, and a comic from Neil Fitzpatrick called “Neil Jam Harvest.” Around there you will see many people in costumes. Anyone from Goku of Dragonball Z, some very attractive women dressed as Cammy or Chun-Li from Street Fighter, a cross dresser that suggests “CrossTopix” should become a cross dressing website with it having Cross in the title, and a sight of Carl from Aqua Teen Hunger Force you probably wish you never would have seen. That’s the beauty of the convention though, interacting with the people. Most of us will share many common interests with each other, be it video games, anime, American comics, TV shows, obscure movie references, etc. Meeting people and interacting with them is easily one of my favorite things to do here. While people are friendly at other conventions, I feel that Anime Central stands out the most of them all with a big feeling of unity as most are willing to have conversations, participate in random conga lines in the hotel, or even have a dance off.
One complaint I do have is with the availability of most of the panels. Most of them can be pretty fun but you either have to get in line anywhere from 1 to 2 hours prior to whatever event which may lead you to miss out on other events, not spend as much time with friends, etc. One panel I did attend was Thee Bluebeard Show (Mr. Bluebeard, you better be visiting I gave you a card and I demand you be a guest on this site.) It’s pretty much a Tonight Show meets Whose Line is it Anyway-hybrid as Bluebeard will pick out interesting members of the audience (why wasn’t I called, I was Disco Stu!!! :P), he conducts an interview with his own jokes and the audience member will answers his questions either comically or nervously depending what the personality is. You make the show people. It was a fun little show and I enjoyed talking with many of the people in the line while attending. I was going to try to attend the Zombie Survival Panel following that show but was required to go back in the line because we just viewed the show (tempted to cut, but nah I love you guys too much.)
An aspect I highly recommend for people seeking new anime to watch or those that are getting into anime (like one of my buddies who attended for the first time) are the 24-hour video programming rooms. No, don’t spend your whole con at them you slacker, but find out what shows you’d like to watch, go into the room that carries them, and check them out! Thanks to these rooms, I will be looking into adding Hell Girl and Devil May Cry to my Netflix queue relatively soon. I also revisited Death Note with some of my pals who are interested in knowing more about it. This is a tiny nitpick I have but understand. I wish they would have more rooms playing the English Dub (I saw Nerima Daikon Bros. last year in English through Acen.) A dark room with subtitles gets a little tiring. I remember when they popped in the Devil May Cry DVD, I shouted “Dub please!” one or two people of the 15-20 agreed with me. Either way, it’s a nice little break from the great deal of walking there is or if your favorite panel is all filled up or there’s none that interest you.
Overall, Anime Central is a great weekend getaway for the geeks/nerds/fan boys and girls of Chicago and its suburbs to go to. People from Missouri, Minnesota, Ohio, and even Canada drive all the way over to attend! My highest recommendation is to stay for the three day weekend so you can attend multiple panels, visit the dealer room numerous times, interact with a variety of people, and if you like dancing or raves, the Soap Bubble is a decent Saturday night outing. Now if you’re only able to attend one or two days, only go to the Friday or Saturday events. Sunday there’s not as much going on in terms of panels. Most of the people who attended the weekend are putting their gigantic Mobile Suit Gundam or sexy Faye Valentine costumes away to wear normal clothes, pick up a few last minute clearance items from the dealer room, hit up Dennys, and then go home. With the lines continuing to improve each year, the only complaint I really have are the space availability for the panels to that I either recommend they rent out more hotels in Rosemont, create more space, or if possible, seek a HUGE hotel in Chicago (may I recommend the Chicago Hyatt Regency on Wacker Drive?) Easily my favorite convention out of the three I have attended, I’m planning on pre-registering as soon as I can and getting a hotel reserved very early for next year (I recommend pre-registering as you will have the required badge sent to your house AND you will save more money than registering at the convention.)
I give this year’s Anime Central: 9 out of 10!
As for the best costume this year, that honor goes to boxy Cloud of Final Fantasy 7! I mean look at him, it’s like he jumped out of the game play map of FF7 from PlayStation 1!!!
Thanks for reading the article, please comment and let me know what you thought. Tune in later this week as Nick Smith writes an article about movies that made him cry!