Anime Central (ACen), the largest anime and manga convention in the Midwest, inhabited the Hyatt Regency O’Hare hotel, Donald E. Stephens Convention Center and Rosemont Theatre in Rosemont, Illinois. Over 85,000 convention goers attended ACen which took place from May 20-22, 2016. Acen allows its audiences to enjoy different fandoms by bringing anime, manga, video games, music and culture to this event. This diverse event is so much more than a convention to meet up with friends and cosplay; the event also hosts exhibitors, panels, autograph sessions, numerous talented artists, cultural guests, exclusive premiers and screenings in order for convention goers to be able to enjoy the fandoms and cultures that they love so dearly. I was lucky enough to be able to attend ACen for the first time this year; here is my review of the popular event:
One of my favorite parts about attending any convention is seeing all the hard work and dedication that is put into the costumes that each cosplayer creates. The abundance of talent I was lucky enough to endure at ACen was unreal. I saw numerous cosplay mediums: video games, anime, cartoons, movies, fan art and more. I have seen amazing cosplay at other conventions, but I promise you I am not lying when I say I saw some of the best I’ve ever seen at ACen. When walking around photographing some of the amazing talent I saw that weekend, I asked one Natsu, from the on-going anime Fairy Tail, how long it took him to create his cosplay for this convention: “Over 40 hours,” he chuckled, “It’s not my best work, but I am definitely not upset with how it turned out.”
I was able to cosplay to the convention as Shinoa Hīragi from the anime “Seraph of the End: Vampire Reign,” and I was lucky enough to meet some other characters from the show including Yūichirō Hyakuya, Mikaela Hyakuya and Krul Tepes. Unfortunately I was unable to make the actual cosplay meet up for the anime I was cosplaying from, but I was able to walk past other meet ups and see the result. Here is a photograph from the League of Legends, a third-person multiplayer online battle arena computer game, meet up:
This was the first convention I have ever been to where there were food trucks outside. Typically, conventions will have food stands inside the convention center or a place to eat with assorted foods similar to the Snack Shop at St. Francis; however, this one had the food stand inside while also different food trucks throughout the day. Not only was I able to eat kick ass tacos from a Chicago food truck, but I was also able to enjoy “fluffer nutter doughnuts,” you know, melted peanut butter and marshmallow fluff drizzled all over bite-sized doughnuts. To say that this was the greatest ending to an anime-filled day would be an understatement. The numerous options of food options definitely made an impression on me.
Artist’s Alley is typically a section in a convention where amateur and professional artists can display and sell their prints, drawings, paintings, comic books, jewelry and more. The abundance of diverse art that appeared in ACen’s Artist’s Alley was impeccable. I saw so many different styles of drawing on top of so many different handmade jewelry and clothing. The talent that was featured at 2016’s ACen was enough to make me spend $100 on art alone and that didn’t include the mystery box or the “Final Fantasy” t-shirts I purchased.
While I attended Anime Central as part of the press, I did not get to experience night life at ACen. However, the stories I heard from friends who attended ACen as guests had the night of their life. There was gaming that the convention goers were able to play which included dance games, fighting games and board games. Outside of the gaming, there was the Masquerade which is a fashion show combine with skit performances so people who arrived in cosplay could show off their hard work for other convention goers. Not to mention the numerous amount of people you meet that are all interested in the same nerd culture as you. The night life, from what I’ve been told, is one of the best parts about the entire convention.
Walking into the convention, everything was extremely well organized. The layout of the floor plan was used extremely well. Every single aspect of ACen was extremely easy to navigate and exceedingly nicely spaced out. I have been to previous conventions where I couldn’t even walk through Artist’s Alley or the Exhibit Hall without feeling like I was suffocating trying to make my way through the crowd, and that was for smaller conventions too. Despite the amount of people that attended this event, ACen made it feel like everything was so spread out that it felt like I had enough room to breathe while also enjoy looking at every booth. While this event was a good time, it is an event a person probably thinks that they would not enjoy if they were not a fan of anime as that is the prime aspect of this event. However, even if you are not a fan of anime, the gaming, cosplay, night life and panels made it worth it if you are at all interested in Asian culture. While I was only able to attend one day out of this fun-filled three-day weekend due to coming down with the flu later that evening, I will definitely be attending as a guest next year so I can fully enjoy all of the panels, night life, food and art that Anime Central offers.
Overall, ACen was a 9/10 for me. I think if I were able to attend the night life and more of the panels throughout the weekend, it would have been a 10/10. I'm looking forward to Anime Central 2017, and if you are too, stay tuned for updates on the ACen website.