Orobouros.net @ Animazement 2005
Location: Durham, NC
Venue: Sharaton Imperial Hotel
Date: May 27th - 29th, 2005
Attendance: ~ 2500
Photos: 517
Movies: 3

Animazement has long been one of my favorite conventions, and this year lived up to all expectations. Now in her eighth year, Animazement is rightfully one of the "older" conventions, but has managed to keep her pleasant, friendly atmosphere. Her growth has been much slower than many other comparable conventions, allowing her to stay in the same location and draw many of the same fans year after year. The hotel is quite adequate with a sizable main events hall and plenty of room for other convention staples and lobbies for fans to mingle. Taking place on Memorial Day weekend placed her against three other conventions taking place across North America, but this was only noticeable in the lack of convention groupies, those who tend to visit every convention near or far so far as time and funds permit. Instead, the vast majority of attendees were fairly local from the Carolinas and Virginia, and the friendliness and excitement one expects from such a location came through.

The Sharaton Imperial Hotel is laid out very linearly, with hotel rooms at one end, the main lobby and registration in the middle, and a long, somewhat winding corridor of rooms and halls stretching down the other way. The lobby is well lit and the large flora display in the middle provides a nice background for photos and a relaxing place to sit down without getting away from the bustle of the convention. Registration was smartly placed right off of the lobby so getting into the convention didn't mean wading through the hoards before finding the right place. The game room and con suite were located right off of the main lobby as well, providing plenty of relaxation space away from the main convention area. Going towards the main convention area came the only real bottleneck. A table promoting the Neon Genesis Evangelion Musical squeezed everybody together through the narrow hallway, but after that a mini-lobby and wider hallways spread things out enough to allow fairly easy passage at all times other than the end of the cosplay. Past the panel and showing rooms at the far end of the convention center were the artists' alley and dealer's room. The long hallway made for plenty of space in the artists' alley, which is often the center of a convention. There's always people doing something here, and often only stuff they can get away with at an anime convention. Finally, the dealer's room was the only disapointment of the convention. With four conventions simultaneously, and many dealers attending more than one, the merchants' tables seemed somewhat sparse and bare. Despite an occasional new offering, much of the merchandice was the same as the last convention, and the one before that as well. Nevertheless, it did abound with anime and manga goods, and most people found a few things to their liking to empty their wallets upon.

While the guests and events draw a large share of people, the programming is generally fairly relaxed, and attendees' attitudes reflect this. With events spaced out and usually only one big-ticket item occurring at once, nobody is rushing around to squeeze in line or stuff down a bite to eat before the next item on the agenda. Instead, most people can take the time to share artwork, dealers' room swag, or stories with each other. For some, this may make for a boring convention; those used to the faster, more hectic pace of the quintuple-digit attendance conventions may expect to have something to attend every last second of the weekend. Instead, though, Animazement allows attendees to take the time to show up at a panel or event and learn about it. The only downside to such opportunities is the lack of new topics for more seasoned attendees, who have seen the intro to cosplay and Taiko drum performance several times over the past few years. A small price to pay, though, in order to keep the atmosphere fun and relaxed. The larger and larger conventions can tackle the cutting edge in anime fandom.

One thing nobody could miss at about any convention is the hall cosplay. Reaching a ratio of maybe even up to 1:3 for cosplayers to "regularly" dressed people, one could almost think the event was focused on dress-up with some extra panels and showings tossed in on the side. Despite her small size, Animazement still furnishes quite a variety of costumes. While Sailor Moons and Chiis are still well represented, everything from the fresh new Tekken 5 to the old skool Macross can be found, with everything in between. In the days of yore, Sailor Moon and Ranma 1/2 was so popular only the best costumes would stand out. While Inu Yasha and Final Fantasy X-2 have taken their place for the most popular costumes, Animazement this year didn't present any stifling, overwhelming theme of particular costumes. Even the huge Naruto and Full Metal Alchemist groups -- quite impressive and imposing while assembled together -- dispersed into inconspicuous groups after their photo shoot. Perhaps this fits into the low-key theme of Animazement; there's no need to push ahead for attention above others while everybody is just going about, having fun, doing their own thing. Luckily, this also meant many fewer obnoxious attention-whoring cosplayers, the kind that tend to show up in greater proportions at the larger cons. It also meant there were fewer WOW costumes, but the masquerade cosplay made up for that.
Despite missing the bulk of the cosplay, I did manage to see the advanced category perform at the end, with the amazing Angelic Layer skit at the end. Every year, they do something amazing, as overheard in the audience, but every year, they still manage to amaze me even more. Sounds about right. The whole cosplay looked like a fun deal. Many groups seemed to enjoy their chance at 90 seconds of the stage, and many of the weekend's best costumes were represented by the entrants. As an added bonus, the cosplay was available on DVD for purchase the next day. While I myself haven't had a chance to view it, that's probably a great souvenir for all the entrants.

I probably had the most fun at the convention wandering around, taking pictures and dropping by the occasional panel or showing. Despite attending conventions for nearly eight years now, panels and discussions are still interesting with new news on shows and old ideas being brought up anew. Some things, though, I may never understand, such as people with weird signs and Dollfies. Most of my time was spent talking with friends I see only occasionally -- and mostly at conventions -- and taking pictures. Luckily, Animazement facilitates doing this with several lobbies and plenty of space. I probably spent the majority of the time in the main lobby, since everybody passes through there and the flora display is easy to sit around.
The ceiling skylights were great during the day, since they let in plenty of illumination for cosplayers and my flash usually took care of any remaining shadows. The cosplayers were also generally pretty friendly; though I'd reckon anybody who dresses up for a convention wouldn't mind having a picture taken, at larger cons I often find those who are too busy for random photographers. Not that I don't understand, but I much prefer photo-accessable cosplayers.
Recently, I'd been contemplating purchasing a digital SLR, particularly after using and seeing the results of one on numerous occasions. With SLR models, the image quality is generally higher due to better components, and the photos show less noise, better color, and higher sensitivity. Very tempting even with the thousand dollar price-tag. While I'm sure to eventually upgrade, by current digital point-and-shoot is still holding up fairly well. At 3.1 Megapixels, I'm getting about as much detail as is practical, and with some smart angles and positioning, I can get good lighting, focus, and detail. However, if I can do that with a relatively low-end camera, the possibilities with SLR models excite me. Often, I get compliments on this site for the high-resolution images, because they let people see interesting details few other photo galleries capture. So, funds willing, I may be upgrading by Otakon.

It just wouldn't be a convention without parties. While they were once an open extravaganza to be found either by noise of loud chatter or the smell of alcohol, convention parties now generally have to keep a lower key. Convention organizers, now more familiar with the problems involved with room parties, need to keep their reputations clean, and party hosts, aware of the younger and younger demographic of attendees, need to keep out of any legal troubles. Though at one time all it took to find a party was an open eye for flyers, now one needs an invitation of some sort. A smart move for the hosts to control who attends their functions. Still, they are not hard to find, either by attendees, who are generally happy to share a chance to socialize with one another, or by hotel staff, who can hear the clamor of a party from down the hall. The loud ones get shut down fairly fast, but the smart host can both entertain while keeping the watchdogs at bay.

No convention is complete without a funny, sad, or add story to tell. Admittedly, I am the butt of this poor joke, but I will share it anyways in good humor. I had seen the music videos during the Friday evening showing. While only a few stood out, I did take particular notice of a Full Metal Alchemist video to Nightwish's 10th Man Down. For those unfamiliar with the song, it's heavy on beats and electric guitar, but still very melodic. The director of the video felt a visual beat should accompany the segments of the song with heavy musical beats. Saturday morning, I was once again walking by the music videos, only to see the frame stopped, the lights on, and people either standing about or leaving. Since the projectors at conventions tend to be over-worked, not to mention the computers or tape decks playing them, they occasionally die and need to either cool off or be repaired. Well, like the clod I am, I just asked, "Did it die?"
Nothing was wrong with the projector, nor any other equipment, nor the room lights or anything else. According to somebody walking out of the room, the music videos triggered an epileptic attack in somebody, which was then quaintly pointed out to me by somebody leaving the room. I'm sure the staff medic thought I was quite the sensitive person after hearing me say that. However, it turns out to be much less dramatic than that. One of the staffers explained it had nothing to do with the videos, just a near-complete lack of sleep and sustenance that lead to plain old exhaustion. Guess somebody hadn't heard of the 621 rule. At least nobody was hurt in the end and the irony has some comedic value. Overall, I hadn't heard of any other medical incident the whole weekend, which is a pretty good thing.

In conclusion, Animazement was everything I hoped it to be, and I certainly intend on returning next year. The timing is great, with warm weather coming in and a long weekend to relax with. The location is easily accessible for anybody on the mid-atlantic east cost, despite the horrendous construction detour less than a mile away from the hotel. (Many people got lost for up to half an hour while they were only a few minutes away from their destination.) And finally, the hotel is nice and the people are fun and enjoyable. If you're looking for an exciting weekend of thousands of things to do and hundreds of new things to see, Animazement isn't the best. But if you're looking for a weekend of anime and manga fun, Animazement is just right.

QUOTE OF THE WEEKEND: I'm throwing up! Quick, stick it in!
THEME SONG OF THE WEEKEND: Madonna, Die Another Day

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Photos & content 2005 Oliver Oberg