A-Kon 2018: Immortalizing Rap in Anime

A nostalgic con of modest enjoyment. Lloyd does his nearly-annual ritual of local Dallas Fort Worth conning from June 7th - Jun 10th.

Back from Korea. A not-so-free week trial of Koreabooism showed that while their food may be more palatable for everyday consumption, Japan is still bae for east Asia.

Really didn't buy much over there, so my biggest souvenir was debilitating jet lag, and I mean the major kind you get from being halfway across the world. It was the kind of jet lag I was going to spend the weekend shutting in to recover from.

As iiiif, it was A-Kon weekend!

Everything's bigger in Texas, and that includes its love of rap. Texas realized its call to solve anime's need for good rhymes, and to that end, a champion was chosen to bring the beats to anime. He was to become anime in a mission dubbed Project A-Kon. The project has since been dropped.

A-Kon is a mid-sized convention which I'd compare to Anime Central in the 10's of thousands attendance bracket. But while they roughly match the turnstile numbers, the guest list for A-Kon usually ends up short of something worth flying in for. Maybe the Japanese guests are just afraid of getting run down by cowboys in riding boots on horses sporting 10-gallon hats with 6-shot revolvers in-hand. Because I must say, that's certainly my daily struggle.

A special place in my heart is reserved for A-Kon, since it was the first anime convention I ever attended. I started going in 2015, and I've since attended most of the years between, popping in at the very least because of how convenient it is. In fact, A-Kon 2015 was possibly my favorite convention.

It was the summer of my internship in Dallas and a good last summer before becoming a corporate slave. I was just a trial wage slave at the time. We drove back and forth every day to and from the Hilton Anatole to Co__ie Ho__e, a den of degeneracy and Miku worship (is that redundant?) with a backyard I'd describe as Chernobyl in Texas. It's littered with kids toys and grass that probably hasn't been mowed for the better part of a decade.

A-Kon 2015 taught me a valuable lesson about how cons are more about police interrogations and ambulance chasing than actually going to the convention. They're about listening to people talk about the mythical activity "fansubbing" to the backdrops of Dr. Doug dry heaving, laced with profanities in between. Shoutouts to you, good doctor.

2018 was just me and Minami. Minami's the person who introduced me to the fansubbing community. Thanks a lot, friend! Usual A-Kon fellow attendee, the relatively local RHExcelion abandoned me this time due to sloth. The usual memers from Houston have long-stopped coming too. Minami crossed borders to come to A-Kon and lodged at my current place for the duration of the con.

Logistics-wise, it was pretty easy to come and go from the con. I have both a residence and a car in DFW, so the drive is a cool 35 minutes one-way.

A-Kon's draw this year was three musical guests who were all included in the cost of the general attendance: Garnidelia, Bradio, and Mika Kobayashi. That's actually a really good lineup for not having to pay anything beyond the badge cost. There was also the option of purchasing tickets to a Final Fantasy concert, which I fully intended to take advantage of. It was certainly the best A-Kon musical lineup I had ever seen.

Day 1:

Following my normal routine, I worked before the con. I try to not take days off that aren't absolutely necessary, and what's better to spice life than undue stress? Plus, I go to these things way too often to be taking off another day. After work, it was a straight shot over to the Fort Worth Convention Center to make it to the Garnidelia concert.

Traffic was horrible to say the least, and who's to expect anything better when you're leaving from 3 to 5 on a Friday? Life finds a way to balance things out though. What I paid in time spent fighting traffic to Fort Worth from Dallas was paid back in kind where I scored $.35 parking for the entirety of my day 1 visit.

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The first matter of business was the same as always, getting the badge. It used to be a meme metric with the whole Linecon joke, but that's quickly becoming a non-factor with processes for getting people in and out being greatly improved. Granted, I also arrived late, but it took all of 10 minutes to get through the line.

The only line in Linecon these days is to wait for events, and even then some more solutions are being trialed, like not allowing official queues until 30 minutes before the event to ticketing that's collected long before the event even begins.

Badge in hand, I rushed to the semblance of a lineup for the Garnidelia concert. The main music venue for this year was the Fort Worth Arena, where they provisioned about 2/5ths of the arena for the concert. This is one place where the line management could have been better.

The volunteers had a snaking line split in the center, so it was hard to tell where the line began and ended at times. Minami was a bit late thanks to all the traffic that he encountered on his journey through Texas, but we were able to get some good seats together for Garnidelia.

Garnidelia was neat. Maria was dressed as what I believe to have been Nero from Fate. Toku looked like someone out of Touhou, donning a strapped piano. Their set list for the day felt mostly like casual songs. To be honest, I didn't recognize most of the songs played because of my insufferable weebery. No Mahouka, no Gundam, and worst of all, no Children Record. I was truly saddened. And with a slight disappointment, we cleared the hall to make way for the Bradio seating.

On a quick aside, the whole proper convention center venue is a nice boon. They were actually able to provide a decent audio setup for musical guests, which was neat because it's sad how rare it is to be able to hear the words at anime convention concerts.

After a quick drink break, we went back to go join the new line formed for Bradio. I had heard some modestly good things about Bradio before, and on sampling the Death Parade opening, I had mildly positive expectations going in. But man, they blew the show out of the water. Funky music that you can dance to! They had the crowd dancing for sure, and I was even convinced to buy a towel after the concert.

The day ended with Minami and I booking it to In-N-Out burgers. There had been nowhere near an adequate pause to get food in between Garnidelia and Bradio, so we were both famished. Still don't know why people worship this place. The fries are god awfully describable as potato-flavored cardboard.

Day 2:

Enter day 2! It's Mika Kobayashi and the Final Fantasy concert, and that’s all! What, did you expect me to go to panels or something?

Mika Kobayashi was the first act of the day. Minami and I kind of had a late start in consideration of the Bradio concert and the trip to In-N-Out taking us well past midnight. We scrambled to make it on time, but of course we ended up finding our way to the room a bit late. The music was no longer in the arena because the gaming headliner was consuming that, or so I assume, and it took us a while to find the new location on the 2nd floor of the convention center.

I don't specifically look out for Mika Kobayashi, and it’s a bit hard to considering she's more of an insert song singer than anything. Not that I generally know most of the songs that these artists play anyways when they come to cons.

Mika's concert was an interesting musical experience where they combined the latter half with a sword dance ballad of sorts. She started with some solo singing, and then Mika transitioned to a dramatic accompaniment on the piano alongside a mildly entertaining samurai story featuring what I assume was tutelage, betrayal, and succession. I had an overall good time. Just wish I had half an idea what was actually happening, but it was an all-sensual story with no dialogue.

Following the concert, we went to go get a quick lunch. In Texan fashion, I went for barbecue in the form of a pulled pork sandwich. Scarfing it down, it was time to enter Final Fantasy, the final, orchestral concert of the con.

Final Fantasy is one of my favorite JPRG series in spite of having played all of 3 Final Fantasy games to completion, 1 which I cheated my way through (I really only care for story).

A part that has always stuck with me has been the music. The Nobuo age was golden, but the recent installments in the series haven't been lacking in the way of music either, so I was thrilled to have a Final Fantasy musical event. I think the same performance happened at Anime Central, but for one reason or another, I was unable to attend that one.

A New World: intimate music from FINAL FANTASY was an additional cost to attend. All of $10, woe is me. I sucked it up and put out for the privilege of attending though, pre-ordered, and got my badge tramp stamped as paid and everything!

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The line for this was surprisingly long. Honestly, I feel like it was even longer than both Bradio and Garnidelia. Finding myself on the other side of the convention center basically, I was resigned to getting terrible seats, but it turns out there were a lot of gaps that could be filled by a solo concert goer. God's way of pitying the lonely, I suppose.

For my limited experience with actually playing Final Fantasy games, there were plenty of songs that went completely over my head. It feels like they tried overly hard to incorporate the lone guitar player into as many songs as they could, but most of the songs were good anyways.

We had the likes of Decisive Battle from FF6, To Zanarkand from FF10, and One Winged Angel. I teared up a bit during Zanarkand. And in a surprise finale was a Chocobo theme medley, featuring a mashup of the title-flavored themes of the goofy, drifting yellow bird.

I was hoping for Melodies of Life from FF9 particularly, but research after attending had me find that the concert picks its set from an album with a limited number of songs to begin with. I was hoping for the impossible, it seems.

With my Final Fantasy fix obtained, I wandered around the dealer's hall for a little bit. There were a few neat things scattered about, including a Miku Expo Flyer advertising the concert which would woefully overlap Anime Expo weekend and leather goods which would compliment Jukey's Sakuracon cuffs nicely. I hadn't lost any bets to him yet, though.

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Minami and I regrouped eventually, and we went to meet RHExcelion for Korean BBQ. If there's one thing that draws the Great Leader out, it's good food. With that, this year's A-Kon came to a close.

Day 3:

By Sunday, I was ready to call it quits with all the concerts exhausted. We had a good run, and I had jet lag to slay. Can't really think of many Sundays I've stayed long for cons because those tend to be the least active days anyways with everyone packing up. Sunday's usually also the fly-out day to get back to work bright-eyed on Monday, too!

Verdict:

I'd go again, especially if they have musical guests as good as they had for 2018. This year was definitely a 5/5 on value. $80 + $10 for 4 concerts. It doesn't get much better than that. I also have it local, so this is a relatively low commitment compared to flying out to Chicago to pretty much see Fhána play album filler songs.

If they keep inviting good guests, it could very well be a con worth flying out to. Or maybe just source a Beatmania IIDX cabinet.


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Lloyd

Lloyd

I never fansubbed, and with fansubbing dead now, I'm like the archeologist who guesses at what the cavemen (read fansubbers) were intending when they translated Okonomiyaki into Osakan Pancakes.

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