A man in a billowing black cloak approached me.
“Where were you yesterday? You would’ve been a shoe in at the masquerade!”
By my robotic side, my diminutive companion, resplendent in her Pokémon gear giggled. It was Sunday morning at Hazard Con.
In all fairness, I’m really not much more than a tourist when it comes to anime. However, my daughter just turned 13 and is slowly finding herself more and more ensconced n the genre – and she anticipates Anime conventions now with equal or greater interest than comic book conventions. While I had previously been content to include one every year, I get the impression we’re going to be hitting more of these as time goes on.
I had recently become aware of Hazard Con, though I never attended it before. It’s been about a decade since I need to drive into Erie Pennsylvania (is Erie Horror Fest even still a thing anymore?). It’s about two hours from Cleveland, but it’s not a hard drive – you basically drive in a straight line on a single freeway for the entire trip, the convention center being attached to a hotel that sits right by the exit.
We had chosen to come on Sunday for a couple of reasons. Hazard con does not offer single day passes for Friday or Saturday, you either by the weekend pass for $40 or simply go on Sunday when the admission is reduced to $15. Because it’s Sunday, hours are little shorter as well, with things closing up around 5 o’clock. That’s fine, I wasn’t even certain that Maddie would make it all the way to 5 o’clock. Besides, this seemed like a nice low key opprutunity to try out the newly repaired Voltron costume and see how the changes held up. Maddie for her part, was looking forward to bringing out her Serena outfit again.
In addition to a vendor‘s room, Hazard Con also sports a flea market – held for half a day in one of the panel rooms. If you think the dealers room is eclectic, you ain’t seen nothing yet! Movies and toys in bits and bobs littered the tables, and we resolved to come back and check it out a little bit later – that ended up being a mistake since we misjudged how long the market would last and by the time we returned, they were all packing up.
As we pressed further into the convention center, we passed the movie room, then rounded the corner and found ourselves face-to-face with a giant robot. I don’t just mean someone in a costume like a Voltron outfit I was wearing. No, there was an actual eight or 9 foot replica of one of the giant robots from Pacific Rim. Next to it was a small one person land speeder and they were both gorgeous! We took photos by the props before hassling into Kyle Herbert’s panel. Kyle is a voice actor – and an incredibly prolific one. He was a regular at the late and lamented Shinbokou Con. It was good to hear his casual and self-deprecating humor as he hosted a very informal panel – more of a talk with those of us in the crowd and the sort of easy back-and-forth that Herbert excels at.
Once his panel concluded, we proceeded to explore further – the vendor‘s room was in an adjacent wing. It seemed bigger than the ones I’ve seen at Woo-Con or Zipcon, but perhaps it was just the floor plan. Being set up in the atrium, the bright mid-day sun poured down on the room creating a warm and positive atmosphere – it was a remarkable effect. Inside, Maddie spotted a No-Face – one of the characters from Spirited Away. I prodded her and encouraged her to go and ask for a photo. The cosplayer happily greeted her. The No-Face’s arms slowly emerged from the inky blackness of it’s costume, and you could see a gold coin offered up in the black hand. No-Face had come bearing gold, just as it had in it’s movie. They were chocolate coins, and Maddie happily accepted them.
“Come pet our table!” One vendor shouted out. We wandered over to her table and noted half of it was covered in color changing spangles, and the other half was covered in soft fur. Among the curious wares were little stuffed dumpings. Each came with an adoption certificate and back story. Maddie had already dumped her con allowance into a pokeball with a small Pokemon and candy inside. I decided to grab a dumpling to take home to Lydia. It was by far the cutest thing I found in that dealer’s room. I grabbed a “Bag of Cheap” for myself and was excited to discover the blind bag contained Tenchi and Cyber City Odeo DVDs! I was hoping for Japanese candy – some of the more interesting Kit Kats or something, but didn’t find anything that really interested me. Nevertheless, I grabbed some more deals on a Cap figure and some Cash movies, topped off with a couple of buttons for my con bag.
We briefly checked out the tabletop room but they were between Pokémon tournament, and gaming is never really been a big thing for either of us. Around the corner and down in a separate hall we discovered the arcade. This game room flat-out puts to shame every convention video game room I’ve ever seen.Sure there were the tables with old systems set up for retrogaming just as you would expect, but what really drew your eyes as you entered was the room packed full of Japanese arcade machines – over a dozen games the US has never seen. There are familiar games like Dance Dance Revolution and some 2D fighters, but they were outnumbered by rhythm games and flashing light and spectacle. Maddie’s favorite was a rhythm game that involves two gigantic drums. Two players standing side-by-side would try and keep the rhythm with the graphics on the screen. I enjoyed seeing the Genesis set up again and the other retro games, in fact I probably could’ve spent all day in this room alone, but anime was calling our names!
We broke for lunch briefly and then hit the Anime room for three episodes of Seven Seeds. The second episode is really scary with some monsters on board and I wondered how Maddie was going to react – this stuff is more serious then a lot of the light-hearted magical girl things she watches, but she was entranced – and when they finally ended this run to break for the next panel, she was already insisting that we need to find more of this. It’s on Netflix by the way, it’s some good post apocalyptic stuff which probably appeals to Maddie‘s Hunger Games and Walking Dead sensibilities. Next up was the Studio Ghibli panel. Even I’m familiar with Miyazaki, indeed Spirited Away was the first film out of his studio that I ever saw (coincidently that was at Lake Effect Comic Con). It was interesting to hear a little more about the history of the studio and the idiosyncrasies of its creators. We headed back to the Anime room, but somebody had turned the air-conditioning way up to uncomfortable levels. Perhaps they were just trying to save us from having to watch the terrible Godzilla animation. We made one last pass at the game room and decided to call it a day. I was correct, Maddie didn’t last all the way until five, though she may have if that Anime room had frozen us out. We made our way out to the car around 4:15 to start the long trip home. This is one of those cons that is the exact right size for me, not too big not too small – I just wish it was closer to home. Nevertheless it looks like this might be one we come back to next year,and I’ll be interested in seeing what the guest list looks like then.
We’re heading out this Sunday to check out this show – it’s a new one to us, but Maddie wants to do more Anime cons! Don’t just wait for us though, Hazardcon runs all weekend at the Ambassador Banquet & Conference Center 7794 Peach St ( I-90 Exit 24 ), Erie, Pennsylvania 16509!
I’ll let you in on a little secret. I wasn’t planning on going back to Woo-Con. It’s not that it’s a bad show -quite the opposite. It’s well-run by fans with lots of heart. But it is a little smaller than I’m comfortable at. However, Maddie had a great time here last year and asked by name to go back this year. She was also eager to show off her new Serena (from Pokemon) costume in an anime environment, and I was interested in exposing her to some new shows, so early on Saturday morning we packed the car and drove down to Wooster, dodging cows all the way.
We checked in and headed straight downstairs to figure out which anime room Card Captor Sakura was running in. The screenings actually feel better organized this year, with two rooms (study rooms in the lower level of the student union with clear walls you can peer into and see what’s playing) dedicated to them instead of the one classroom in the upper level that they split between anime and video games. The gaming room was across the hall, with surfaces for tabletop and card games set up. After the screening of Fairy Tale, we swung by to gawk at the Warhammer miniatures.
Upstairs, panels were back in the same room, along with the improv antics of the Confused Greenies. Watching the improv troupe is one of the highlights of the show for Maddie, who laughed until she had tears in her eyes. I’m familiar with them from ConCoction, but it’s always good to see them, especially here in their second year. The Greenies presented a new skit involving a magical girl trying to fight a supervillian, except his catgirl kept getting in the way. It may be my new favorite of thier stuff.
I’m not sure why they blocked out three hours for the costume contest. Attendance hadn’t grown significantly and even with the extra attention the judges gave each contestant, we were through in an hour or so. While we were prepping, Maddie got recognized from her Youtube channel, something that just made her con. I always say this is my favorite part of cosplay, hanging out with people before a contest. I think Maddie is seeing that too. She talked Pokemon with several other people (mostly college kids, but at a con – age dosen’t necessarily matter) and got to know everyone. She remarked about how friendly everyone is, and I really dig that.
Despite the size, the dealers pack an amazing amount of stuff on those tables. Artists, comics, anime, manga and adorable handmade oddities. I noticed that the line up had changed a bit this year, and ended up grabbing a bunch of pieces at one of the art booths. Maddie came away with a Sakura charm for a keychain that she’s going to make into a necklace.
I actually really like Woo-Con and it was cool to see it was even better run than last year. I’d love to see it grow a little more, but I don’t know if that’s really something they are interested in. Woo-Con remains a quaint little college Anime show and that’s fine just the way it is.