Con Review: A-Kon 25

a-kon25by Rob Balder

 

A-Kon 25
June 6–8, 2014
Dallas, Texas 
http://www.a-kon.com

Big, loud, hot, and amazing. Dallas’ huge Hilton Anatole plays host to one of the ten largest anime cons on the continent, and the match-up between convention and venue is about perfect. This event ranks up there with DragonCon for the overwhelming spectacle of cosplay, but unlike DC you can actually get an elevator.

That’s partly because of the hotel’s sprawling design, in which almost everywhere you want to go is on the ground floor or accessible by a flight or two of stairs. But the combined great management of the con staff and hotel staff have a lot to do with it as well. A-Kon truly has their act together in terms of scheduling, instructions, volunteers and management, and they really should be commended because it’s hard to handle a crowd that size at all, let alone as well as this.

Our only complaint this year was that the hotel kept out the food trucks until after 9 pm, and tried to cash in on the crowds with a concession monopoly of overpriced hot dogs and crappy barbecue (by Texas standards). When the food trucks finally rolled in, they were so swarmed it took an hour’s wait to get anything at all. Not cool, Hilton Anatole. 😛

The programming has something for everyone, and the size of this con attracts some top talent in voice acting, game design, art, and writing. They also had two full J-pop bands (Ra:IN and GEEKS) performing. You could go there and never leave the massive gaming rooms. The dealers, artists, and exhibitors rooms alone would be worth making the trip. But A-Kon is just fun all around. If you can brave Texas in June and 25,000 screaming otaku, this con is definitely worth the trip.

 

Con Review: A-Kon 24

AKONby Rob Balder

 

A-Kon 24
May 31–June 2, 2013
Dallas, Texas
http://www.a-kon.com

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.