Definitely not super late don't worry about it.
Anime Central (often shortened to ACen) is the largest anime convention in the American Midwest. Its 2018 edition took place on May 18-20 in Rosemont, a minor city directly adjacent to the O'Hare airport. ACen is a curious con, because they somehow manage to maintain a reasonable size, while at the same time bringing a number of big ticket guests. The main draw for me is definitely the annual dance, Synergy. Attack the Music brings some of the hottest Japanese DJs year after year to play their sickest tracks. Combine that with Tokyo Attack bringing an awesome arcade with music games that feature a lot of the same artists, and ACen is a can't miss convention for Japanese EDM lovers. Not to be outdone, Vertical brought over Taiwanese illustrator VOFAN, most famous for his work on the covers of the Monogatari series of novels. ACen is also known for bringing over at least one big ticket Japanese band a year, and this year was no different with fhána. The latter was enough to convince Fansubbing co-conspirator Lloyd to join me, and all the ingredients for a kickass convention were in place.
Unfortunately, no convention is perfect, and something is always bound to go wrong. What sets apart good conventions is their ability to handle those failures gracefully.
As I mentioned, Synergy was one of the biggest draws for me, but disaster struck the night before the dance. Some of the DJs started tweeting about being turned away at the border.
入国してないのに帰国することになりそうwww— ʞ sɹoʞ (@S2TB_korsk) May 18, 2018
In the end, only one of the scheduled acts, Relect, was able to make it across the border, forcing Attack the Music to cancel Synergy and come up with a replacement. While functionally identical to Synergy, they renamed it Underground Groove, a throwback to the ACen dance that was last held in 2009 before Synergy was started. It featured Relect as well as a number of American DJs who were either slated to perform the next day or were just attending as fans. Despite nearly everything going wrong, ACen and Attack the Music were still able to put on a decent dance. Shoutouts to W.T. Snacks for playing a set that featured a lot of the same stuff the guests who couldn't make it would have.
For whatever reason, ACen skews heavily toward the anime and visual novel industries, while manga and third party console video game publishers are few and far between. MangaGamer and Sekai Project both brought a number of visual novel license announcements, but ultimately with conventions like these, it felt like they were saving the big guns for Anime Expo.
Despite most major manga publishers being absent, I'm glad Vertical came to the show and were able to show off a cool exhibit by VOFAN. The VOFAN panels were probably the best ones I was able to attend, with him revealing some brand new artwork for Hanamonogatari and the Monogatari box set, as well as doing some sweet live drawing and Q&A. He was full of fun stories about his history as an illustrator, and some inside information about his process and the industry as a whole. All that while cracking jokes.
Here's VOFAN drawing Senjougahara pic.twitter.com/bf9KCmzJTR— /ku'nɑːl/ (@kunaldes) May 19, 2018
Like any convention of its size, Anime Central has a large number of large lines. That's kind of unavoidable, but enough of the lines felt mismanaged to warrant talking about it. Nearly every line at ACen starts 30 minutes before the beginning of the event, regardless of its popularity. Most notably for me, the line for picking up autograph tickets was extremely popular, but also quite poorly managed.
People were ready to line up hours before the line opened, but they refused to fill in the lines until 30 minutes before. That lead to two large clumps forming, neither of which was an official line, but both of which had people waiting for over an hour.
I was lucky enough to get every autograph ticket I wanted, but the majority of people who were there for the Sword Art Online voice actors got turned away because they were in the wrong part of the clump when they finally started forming the line. I think a little bit of flexibility in line start times would've done wonders for both attendee happiness and fire safety.
Spending time at the con itself is great and all, but the real question is, what is there to do in all the downtime? Well you'll be happy to know that there's not one but two Round 1 arcades in the Chicago area. If the idea of spending $0 on slightly older versions of music and fighting games at the convention arcade is unappealing to you, Round 1 has you covered. After the con ended on Sunday, I went to the Fox Valley Mall Round 1 with a group of friends and spent the entire rest of the day there until closing time. Highly recommended.
Anime Central is a solid convention that manages to not feel overwhelming like Anime Expo, but at the same time manages to bring some really big names from certain segments of the industry. This year definitely suffered from a lot more setbacks than 2017, at least with the events I was interested in, anyway. Despite all that, I definitely had a ton of fun, and if my schedule works out, I'll be back again next year.
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