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.
Woo-Con is a nice little Anime Convention put on by the College of Wooster – about halfway between Cleveland and Columbus. When I say that it’s a nice little convention, we really need to put the emphasis on the word “little”. It may actually be the smallest show that I’ve ever been to… And I thought the dealers room at Zipcon on was tiny!
Despite being small they try extremely hard… There was one panel room located always passed the dealer area and then upstairs there is another room dedicated to Anime screenings – and open for video games when there is no anime playing.
Lots of panels going on all day, as well as inviting the Confused Greenies this year to do some improv comedy. They were one of the better parts of the show actually, where they mashed up Doctor Who and anime themes like Sailor Moon and Pokémon which they performed live. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen to Pokémon trainers try and capture a Dalek.
The Costume contest was in a charming little area in the centre of the student union – A pit area near a large fireplace. It gave the entire affair and more intimate and homey feel. Contestants were seated on the steps around the pitand would jump up when their name is called, presenting themselves to the judges. I generally avoid the costume contest at Anime Conventions because they take so long, but this one was more like a comicon and may have lasted 45 minutes. Participants were judged based categories such as video game, movies and TV or anime. Even in a small environment like this, an Anime con brings out the best in cosplayers and there were some gorgeous outfits that walked through the door, not to mention panels based on it.
All in all, they did a great job at the programming and kept us entertained all day – no small feat for a little con like this but that’s what I love about these college run shows. They tend to be very earnest affairs put on by people who genuinely love the genre. I usually come away learning something new or catching a show that I’ve never seen before. My daughter Maddie accompanied me to this particular con and had a fabulous time as well… A great experience for first time out- and you can see her review here!
The only drawback is the distance… it’s an awfully long drive for such a short small show… Yeah I’m intrigued by how much effort went into this show and would really like to see them grow. I’m not sure, but it’s just possible that I may be back. And if you live anywhere nearby, I highly recommend it.
Straight off the bat, I’ve got to tell you… I love zip con. It really has taken the place of shinboku con for me as the convention for me to get my anime fix… they do such a great job at the University of Akron, managing to take what is a fairly massive show, and maintains the relatively intimate feeling that you get from smaller shows like cinema wasteland or NEO comicon. I had the great pleasure of being a part of this convention this year – I spoke in two different panels – one on cosplaying for charity and another on cosplaying on a budget (that being the panel that Bat-Mite crashed and also took part in….) I had already prepared remarks in advance and each went very smoothly. It was interesting to talk about sourcing materials at thrift stores or rescuing interesting looking wires and sticks from the trash, then combining them into something amazing you could wear out to visit the sick, the shut-ins, the forgotten.
It was a great deal colder this year than when we went last year… This really cast a bit of a cloud for Maddie, my little Jigglypuff. Still, she managed to find her very favourite Pokémon in the dealers room and perked right up. The dealers room hasn’t grown, although I did see some different faces there this year – I don’t know, I Kinda wish they’d open up the wall between the dealers room in the masquerade room and make that whole area one bigger dealers room, and then move the masquerade next door and move the Pokémon tournament to another space – I think this still has a potential for more vendors and better shopping, it’s really the only complaint that I have! We spent the day carrying around Maddies plush Poké Ball and inviting people to try and catch her – just watch!
On a personal note, this may be the last time Voltron comes out – I did some major repair work to components including legs and touch ups, but the wings are just a little bit to beat up and I misjudged where to reattach the shoulder lions, and as a result the chest piece doesn’t close correctly… I’m cringing at a lot of the photos I see and I’m not sure if it’s worth the effort to continue repairs on this one. We’ll see. The character is in the middle of a renaissance, and I saw three or four people around with Voltron shirts on, and I still get people coming up to me just SO excited to get a photo with him. Like I said, we’ll see.
The rest of the cosplay out there however, were spot on. From the shockingly brutal Wonder Woman to the functional WALL-E that was being rolled around by remote control, there was plenty to see. I love cosplay at an anime con…you never know what you are goung to see. I still try to stick with anime, but Voltron and Mazanger z are about all i’ve got…but I also saw Harleys and Jokers, Superman and Belle, Pokemon, five nights at freddys, even a dinoasur…(Voltron fighting the T-Rex may be my new favorite thing). The next day I discovered this marvelous video that shows some of the highlights.
I was a little surprised at the video game room. It seemed fuller last year, with more variety. I wonder if someone got delayed…I did see a bunch of TV that were set up, with nothing attached to them. Maddie decided she was mre interested in the board game room anyhow. We picked up the Pokemon Sorry game.
“I just need your name and some collateral.”
“Most people are leaving a driver license or phone.”
“Will a Voltron Lion head do?”
One of the monitors looked at the other.
“Exactly how am I supposed to describe this in the log?”
Pokemon tournaments were going on in the room next to the masquerade – complete with the cartoon playing on the big screen. The judge was going around inviting people in by giving them a card and Maddie was delighted to receive a Squritle for her collection. We hung out for a bit, watching cartoons and play but didn’t really get involved ourselves. Maybe next year…
One thing I love the best about the convention scene these days, is running into people that I know. In addition to the folks I did panels with like Nick, and Taylor, Ali, Amanda, or Jerry and Eric,it was cool to see Vito there in his Batman suit, or to run into Keith from one bad day cosplay, Ryan and Mason and the guys at rubber city cosplay, Knightmage, as well as my old friend Riley – the first time I ever did a convention with her was I was wearing this exact same suit, and that she was wearing the same rogue outfit as well. The other great thing about having friends there is I can swipe their photos for blog posts and video reviews – and you better believe Maddie has something to say about this show!
I think I’ve learned another lesson about doing conventions this time. If I’m going to bring the kids – I probably shouldn’t be doing panels or getting involved in the show… It sucks up so much of the time, that we end up not getting to do as much as we normally would like to – and that’s just not fair to the kids. Maddie felt that she spent too much of the day just kind of, sitting around. She’s not wrong, considering two hours of the day we spent with me talking in panel and her watching, and considering that the remainder of the day was us trying to plan our activities around those two panels. I’ll do better next time girls, I promise.
I’m deafinately coming back next year, I may try and bring both girls with me… I may even go without a costume – whatever I do though, I wanna take better advantage of the show. It’s such a great and fun convention, and I feel like I missed too much of it. We’ll be back.
And now…pictures. SO many pictures…