by Rob Balder
May 31–June 2, 2013
A-Kon 24 was brilliant. Although it is focused on anime and the hallways teem with anime cosplay, this is very much an all-fandoms convention. Programming and performance tracks covered broad swaths of fannish interests from the literary to the bizarre. There was a ton of space for gaming (tabletop, PC, LARPing), and guests from all different media and genres were invited to talk in panel rooms packed with enthusiastic people.
Over the last few years, A-Kon has grown into one of those whale-class conventions. Attendance this year topped 25,000. Not every con takes a growth spurt like that in stride, but the staff did an absolutely stellar job of adapting to a new venue and accommodating guests and attendees alike.
It was A-Kon’s first year inhabiting the sprawling 1600-room Hilton Anatole, a beautiful site with LED kinetic scupltures in the halls and its own permanent art exhibit of mostly Asian antiquities (http://www.anatoleart.com/). There was a ton of walking involved, but aside from one bottleneck around the exhibitor hall badge check (which the staff and fire marshalls cleared up quickly) it was actually possible to get where you were going. The elevators were managed by volunteers during peak traffic times, so the wait was never longer than a few minutes.
The Texas heat and the lack of nearby dining were a little bit of a drawback, but an armada of food trucks rolled up to the parking lot and gourmet eats could be had in the grassy shade of mesquite trees.
This con had a fun, happy vibe to it at all times. The guests, volunteers, and attendees just seemed to be glad to be there, and that’s a very infectious feeling. As a guest/panelist, they treated me as warmly as any con I can recall, and I thank them tremendously for their hospitality.
All in all, I’d say A-Kon can take its place among the major destination cons like SDCC, Gen Con, Dragon*Con and Anime Expo. Consider making it part of your plans in future years, because you can’t help but enjoy yourself there. A-Kon 25 will be held June 6–8, 2014.