I have gone on and on about how anime conventions are the best. I suppose this is because my first convention and cosplay experience was Dallas A-Kon (see My Cutting Edge Journey Into Cosplay). The meetups, the sheer amount and level of cosplays, the vendor hall- there is really nothing like it. And even though @skyberry13 has been attending for years she still has the best time here every year. Unfortunately, A-Kon 29 did start out by living up to this reputation we have come to expect from our years of attending. As the blog title will tell you, not only did A-Kon 29 become a trending hashtag, it also, embarrassingly, made itself into a meme. But I’m getting ahead of myself, since the disappointment began long before the convention even started.
As I have detailed in previous blogs about A-Kon (see The Tardy Cosplay), the Guidebook App is a lifesaver. Every con attendee knows how frustrating it is to try and keep track of all the panels you want to attend, especially when it is on a paper grid. Well, A-Kon has had a longstanding solution to this in the form of an app where you can create your own digital schedule all within the Guidebook App. It details locations and times, as well as, a helpful description of what the panel is about and who is presenting it. You can imagine how the A-Kon fanbase has come to rely on this useful tool. Since there is so much programming, it takes about an hour to dig through it all in order to craft your personalized schedule, so having access to this app in a timely manner before the convention has also become an expectation. This was the first ball that was dropped. In the past, the Guidebooks for A-Kon had dropped on May 27th and there was no indication this would be different. However, the A-Kon 29 guidebook did not drop until the week of the convention giving cosplayers and photographers little time to plan their cosplay lineups, photoshoots and meetups around panels along with other inconveniences. An inconvenience is all this was, though, minor if you were not a cosplayer or photographer.
Cut to Thursday, on what was supposed to be the first day of the convention. It was so ridiculously packed that the Fort Worth Convention Center’s four tiered parking garage was full so we had to park in a lot beside it. Thank god we decided not to cosplay this day as our car was as hot as the hundred degree weather we parked in since it did not have the shade of the lot. Parking was still $20/day which is the same as the parking garage, just without any of the benefits.
In the past, @skyberry13 and I had braved two hour lines to pick up our badges which can be reasonably expected from a convention of this magnitude. Such was not our fate. Thank God we got there early, not that anyone in that line was lucky. It was edging on an hour and a half in line when the staff announced that their systems were down and would be for at least two hours. This, of course, upset the line, but looking behind us there was no way we were stepping out of line now. So, we were trapped in a line which took us two and a half more hours to get to the front of, totaling over four hours. And, yes people, we were the lucky ones because we were not part of the line that snaked out of the convention center into the 100+ degree humid heat of North Texas and through the water gardens to wait for over six more hours to get their badges. Through posts in the A-Kon Facebook Groups that we follow we learned that they cut off the line at 10:00PM, meaning that some people were still getting into the line snaking around the water gardens at 10:00PM. No one apologized for this wait, in fact staff was quite rude about it once we finally got to the front. A-Kon did release a statement depicting an areal view of their absurd line which, while unapologetic, promised a better weekend.
There were hours of programming on Thursday which we and many other attendees missed standing in that line, meaning the 4 Day badge for which we waited so tirelessly and paid $75 a piece for were now 3 Day badges with no remuneration for the lost day. If this were a new convention when the planners are still trying to adjust it would be understandable. However, a convention that boasts it is the longest running anime convention in North America cannot pass this off as growing pains. They cannot even claim that the venue change was to blame as the lines last year, their first year in this location, were only two hours.
Anyway, we were so upset, exhausted and hungry from standing in line for so long that we did not want to give A-Kon any more of our money. So, instead of getting food from their cafeteria as was the plan we went in search of a nice pub. Fortunately, we found one a couple blocks from the convention center where we satiated ourselves with some wine and the best pork roast sandwiches I think we have ever had. They even served some of the roast sauce on the side to dip the sandwich in. It was absolutely delicious. This lightened our spirits a bit, but not enough to rejuvenate us to wait another two hours for the only panel left we wanted to attend. So, we drove back to the Dallas Metroplex.
We got up early to don our Honey Lemon and Hiro Hamada cosplays from Big Hero 6 and then drove to Ft. Worth. We got there just in time for our first panel “Crossplay: Advanced and In-Depth.” This panel lived up to it’s name as the best crossplay panel we have yet to attend. Not only were the presenters each able to speak well to transforming themselves into the opposite gender, they demonstrated it for the panel with in person makeup tutorials. This was a 16+ panel because they went in depth into binding and stuffing with step by step photos in their slideshow. I walked away with some new ideas, not only for crossplay but also for my daily attempts at appearing masculine.
Our next panel was later that afternoon so we spent some time in the dealer’s hall which was split vendors on one side and artists alley on the other. As always, the art was amazing and we even got some pieces from artists whom we had bought from the year before. It was really great reconnecting and sharing our love of certain characters and fandoms with these incredible artists. We did end up eating rice bowls from the convention center cafeteria as has become a tradition and they were pretty good. At this point we had shed our cosplay as few people recognized us and our wig headaches were becoming unbearable despite the allotted dosage of pain medicine. We had hoped to hold out for our cosplay sempai’s panel (most of the reason we had decided to attend A-Kon this year), but we just weren’t strong enough.
Green Jello Cosplay is a cosplay duo of internationally renowned cosplayers from Utah, one member, Garnet Runestar, who we had the pleasure of meeting at Sabaku Con a couple of years back (see Our Very First Masquerade Competition). They are incredible cosplayers with 30 years of costume creation experience between them and hearing their insights was awesome. They had a panel on Thursday which we had missed titled “Intro to Thermoplastics and Foam in Propwork,” if you want to read an overview of this panel check out the link mentioned earlier in this paragraph since Garnet Runestar gave this panel at SabakuCon as well. The panel we ended up attending was “Applique, Embroidery, and Smocking-Introduction to fabric manipulation” and boy I am glad we did. This panel was incredibly informative and comprehensive of all types of embroidery, smocking, and applique with step by step photos of actual application in their cosplays for the International Cosplay Summit. They also suggested some literary references for anyone interested in going more in depth or teaching themselves these techniques: Embroidery Techniques and Patterns and Elegant Ribbonwork. We got to talk to Garnet after the panel and she told us she would be at the Cosplay Social so we immediately added that to our Guidebook App.
It would not be A-Kon without a visit to the gaming room in order to paint a free miniature. We always have fun relaxing and painting tiny figurines to take a break from a busy weekend. They even had a photo box to get some good lighting of your characters after making them.
The Cosplay Social was a really cool new idea, it was set up in one of the ballrooms of the Sheraton with circular tables where you could sit with two reserved seats at each table. The Emcee started out with a game that everyone got to participate in: Never Have I Ever with a list of cosplay fails. We all started with ten fingers and as she read the cosplay guests were quickly picked out until there was a single audience member left with 8 fingers, which was the most left out of the entire ballroom. The questions ranged from things like “Never have I ever melted my costume” to “Never have I ever ended up in the ER because of cosplay.” The last of which I obviously lost a finger to both literally and figuratively here which you can read the account of in the first link at the top of this blog. Anyway, after this enjoyable activity the cosplay guests each took a table for five minutes to interact with the attendees and answer any cosplay questions they had. It was like Cosplay Sempai speed dating. Anyway, we got to talk to Cute Monster Props who was dressed really cool in some 80’s fashion and had some great ideas for silicone molds for making Steven Universe gems. Then we got to talk to Garnet Runestar for a little bit more before she was whisked off to another table by her handler. It was a really fun experience, I would love to see it grow at future conventions with some more time to interact with the cosplay guests. Afterwards, we headed to the dealer’s hall to buy some Ramune and mochi that we’d been eyeing that day to tide us over for the next panel.
Our next panel was “Social Marketing and Webcomics” with a notable array of comic guests: The Awkward Yeti, Sarah’s Scribbles, Shen (Owlturd) Comix, and Fowl Language. While this panel was, unfortunately, a misnomer as social media was not at it’s center, we really enjoyed hearing how these comic artists we love got into the craft and continue to motivate themselves to draw their unique comics. On our way out we swung around the corner to check out the Steam-powered Pandemonium Circus Extravaganza where, in a huge ballroom, a mini circus had been set up. There were metal bars for lyra, vendors around the edges of the room selling steampunk wares and a big bandstand at the front of the room where a band had just finished playing. We were disappointed we had not had the opportunity to spend more time here.
Today was our main cosplay day as it was only the second time we had worn our Lars and Sadie from Steven Universe. We also had a photoshoot with Phantasy Media to document this cosplay. So, we spent a little more time on wigs and makeup that morning before heading to Fort Worth. While the costumes are simple and mostly closet cosplays we did a printable iron on transfer of the big donut logo, modified Lars’ jeans and dyed Sadie’s collared shirt to be a lavender color. And the wigs of course, @skyberry13 put allot of effort into turning a long curly auburn wig into Lars’ hair by cutting off allot of it, straightening the sides and then plastering them down with Got2B Hairspray for it’s premier at Conjikan (see An Anime Winter Wonderland). We stopped for bagels at Einsteins because there is not one in Santa Fe and it is one of our stops every time we visit family in Texas and because we thought it was ironic to eat bagels as Lars and Sadie. With bagels in hand we drove to Fort Worth for our last day of A-Kon. We strolled the dealer hall making last minute purchases before our photoshoot. We have never had buyers remorse from artist alley at A-Kon and the merch we buy is entirely unique.
We had won a photoshoot by Phantasy Media through a drawing on the Official A-Kon Cosplay Group on Facebook. He was an incredible photographer, willing to get down on his knees in his white shorts to get a good shot and very responsive to learning about our characters. He took all the stances and shots we wanted. His turnaround time was incredible and all of the photos ended up perfect, check them out in our cosplay Gallery. I would highly suggest booking with him if he is at a convention near you. Anyway, after our photoshoot we ran to the car for a quick change into our winter One Piece Luffy and Nami. Yes, I said winter. We are those cosplayers who hate ourselves enough to wear our winter con cosplays at our summer con. The reasoning behind this was there was a One Piece Photoshoot/Meetup in the water gardens and those were our most recent One Piece cosplays. It was not as well attended as the photoshoot/meetup we had attended my first year at A-Kon, but there was a nice group. The organizer started out taking photos of the characters in each arc and then grouped same characters together for photos. We got hot pretty fast, but ended up toughing it out enough to be in all the photos we wanted to be in. We shed our cosplays on our way to the car, eager to jump in @skyberry13‘s family pool to cool off. That concluded our A-Kon weekend, check back next week for an exclusive interview with Cosplay Sempai, Garnet Runestar from her weekend at A-Kon.