Ari Rockefeller presents: Castle Point Anime Convention 2011 — What the Hell Am I Doing in Hoboken?

                When you mention the small north Jersey town of Hoboken, there are several images that initially come to mind. The first of which is that it’s the birthplace of Ol’ Blue Eyes himself, the Chairman of the Board, Mr. Frank Sinatra. It’s also where the first baseball game was played in the United States, in 1846. Some of the younger crowd might know that it’s also the home of Carlo’s Bake Shop, which is the setting of the TLC series Cake Boss. You don’t really think of “anime conventions” when you think of Hoboken..


                At least, I didn’t make a connection between the two, which is why I was surprised to learn of the city – or rather, Stevens Institute of Technology – playing host to Castle Point Anime Convention. It was a one-day affair that had been told to me by a member of my adventuring party, with the phrase “minor league” being tossed around rather haphazardly. Unless a convention goes out of its way to make its guests feel uncomfortable, provides service that’s utter shit or practically dares you to attend and/or be a fan, it’s typically not cool to knock a convention for being small. Even the largest conventions in the country had to start somewhere. Will Castle Point Anime Convention ever rise to the same heights as something like Otakon, Anime Central, Sakura-Con or Anime Expo? Well…I only have about twelve hours of experience in Hoboken to go by, so my data is a little inconclusive.

                In all honesty, this was my first time visiting Hoboken, and one of the few times I’ve visited a part of north Jersey for a significant amount of time; most of the time I’m passing through on my way to New York City. My view of the place was colored by jokes about how bad of a place it, and by extension New Jersey, was (I didn’t say they were good jokes). The ones that stuck with me the most were the ones that made going to the state’s major cities was something you didn’t do unless under extreme duress; hence the title of this recap. The first thing I noticed about the city itself is that is has the feel of a city much larger than it, in that parking in this city is fucking horrendous. Practically every street was bereft of unblocked curb space that wasn’t painted yellow. Equally omnipresent were signs proudly announcing that they were by permit only and their eagerness to tow offending vehicles. I even tried parking on campus. Seemed like a good idea, since there plenty of free spaces. This plan was soon torpedoed when a security announcer was only too glad to tell me that there was no parking for con attendees. The general consensus to that stipulation was, “That’s bullshit!” Parking garages were better, but not by much. I got lucky and found a garage a few blocks away that was reasonably priced, but required you to pay in advance for however much time you’re going to be there. It felt…backwards.
                At the very least, the weather was nice, and aside from the hills leading up to the campus, walking around wasn’t that big a problem.
                I arrived around 10-ish, and was able to get my badge with no trouble. I was escorted to the third floor of one of the buildings to pick up my press pass. The staff was glad to hear of my press credentials, which made the con get off to a good start. The first panel I attended was “Bill and Michele’s Power Hour,” which was run by voice actors Michele Knotz and Bill Rogers. Both are voice actors who are local to the greater NYC area. They both discussed their various roles, with Bill lamenting that he only gets recognized when he tells people that he works on Pokémon (Brock, primarily). They both have appeared in numerous series, as seen in the demo reels they played for the audience, as well as a few…offbeat appearances.
                Speaking of Pokémon, there was lots of competition, as lots of con goers had their DSs out and were battling one another. Aside from the typical interacting that Pokémon Black and White offered, there was a special challenge you could sign up for. It essentially came down to an abridged version of a Pokémon journey. You’d do battle with gym leaders (specially indicated staffers) in an attempt to earn the necessary eight Badges. I don’t know what happened from there, as I did not sign up for the challenge.
                Not only do I feel compelled to visit panels that have writing as the subject material, but I also feel a little obligated to visit Pokémon-related panels as well. The second panel was “Pokémon: A Trainer’s Review.” The panel was half-Pokémon discussion half-Team Rocket recruitment; even the girl running the panel was acting the role of a Team Rocket grunt. The first part of the panel was a rundown of the history of Team Rocket, and a breakdown of the agents within its ranks, what they do and how they behave. Then it moved on to a discussion about the games and the anime. There was a big point clarified between the games and the anime in that Ash, Red and Fire (the protagonist from the Gen. III games) were not the same people. She also gushed about how badass Red was, boasting that he never lost a single battle, ever. I didn’t really see that as a selling point, since it sucks out most of the potential drama the work can convey. Not to mention that bouncing back from a loss and learning from mistakes is the kind of thing that shows up in Character Development 101. With the exception of early-TNA Samoa Joe and WCW-era Bill Goldberg, long undefeated streaks don’t work as attention grabbers. Another big thing she pointed out is that the fandom loves and hates Gary Oak for the exact same reason—he’s an asshole. There was also discussion about the various “creepy-pasta” memes and events that come not just from hacked game cartridges, but from things implied in the games (Gary’s dead Rattata comes to mind). I had to bail on the panel, as DJ Ranma wanted to meet me for lunch. The last thing I remember her saying was that she liked Tracey, but thought he was a faggot. What a charmer. At the very least, the girl was an avid PokéShipper, and berated Ash for letting Misty (presumably) slip through his fingers.
                There were plenty of decent restaurants in town, though we didn’t want to get too far away from the convention. So we settled on a quick bite at a Dunkin’ Donuts before heading back to the convention. I checked out the other attractions CPAC had to offer. The Artists’ Alley and Dealers’ Room were combined and put in one gymnasium, with the artists on one side and the dealers on the other. As most of my money was tied up in parking and gas for getting home, I didn’t buy very much. I spent a good deal of time in the game room as well, which had console gaming set up around the edge of the room and tabletop gaming (read: playing the Yu-Gi-Oh! trading card game) in the middle. The highlight of my gaming experience came from amassing an 8-game winning streak in Marvel vs. Capcom 3 before heading off to one last panel.
                The last panel of the con I attended was “Jaw-dropping Moments in Anime.” I made it a point to visit this panel simply from the title alone. I assumed the panel was essentially going to be “Crowning Moment Of Awesome – The Panel.” Turns out, I was partially right. As it turns out, anime can make your jaw drop for several reasons, but something being awesome doesn’t always have to be the reason. Granted, there were a few awesome moments on display, but the majority of them were designed to elicit reactions ranging from laughter to “what the fuck?!” The guy running the panel even had to remind the attendees to breathe, seeing how in previous iterations of this panel, a few people have come close to passing out they were laughing so hard.
                After this, the convention was essentially winding down. DJ Ranma was at a stand-up routine by Uncle Yo, so sadly we had to part ways via TXT message. Also, I only had about an hour left on my parking garage receipt, and said garage warned that they ticketed, towed, and/or booted people who parked longer than they were allowed. So around 7:00, I left Castle Point Anime Convention, and the city it was held in. It took me about two hours to get to and from Hoboken, and surprisingly, I did it on one tank of gas. My car gets considerably better gas mileage during the warmer months (despite bombing up the New Jersey turnpike at an average of 80 MPH), which I am very grateful for.
                As I said earlier, it’s usually bad juju to insult a convention for being small. Rather, I have to give it up for Stevens Institute. From what I was told, the con was being run by the college’s anime club, and all things considered, it was run rather smoothly. It also speaks well of the club itself, being able to land their share of well-known (if local) guests for a one-day con. To say nothing of the fact that the college had an anime club to begin with; I certainly never saw anything like it during my college days. I would like to see the convention get bigger – rumors were floating around of going for two days next year – but I don’t want it to get too out of control for the club to handle. The events of the convention were spread out among six of the campus’ buildings, which were close to one another, at least, but as awesome as it would be for the convention to completely take over the campus, it sounds like the club would find themselves in way over their head. And I would not want that to happen.
                It could be manageable, however, if campus security actually allowed con attendees to park on the fucking campus.

Ari’s Pic(k) of the Con!

                 As this was a smaller convention than I’ve been attended, I didn’t take nearly as many pictures as I usually take. Thus, while there isn’t a Top 10 this time around, I will point out three cosplays that really drew my attention:

Sazh (Final Fantasy XIII)
It’s nice to see XIII get some cosplay love. The Chocobo Chick in his afro really tied this cosplay together.
 
 Coop (Megas XLR)
This made my day. It also puts the “We could try Hoboken…” “Yeah, but that’s Hoboken…” exchange in a much more hilarious light.
Todd (Pokémon Snap)
Quick! How many episodes of the Pokémon anime was Todd in?
Ari Rockefeller

Ari Rockefeller

When he is not training Pokémon and being the very best, the Master of the Written Word churns out convention, video game, anime and movie reviews like clockwork. No one is more productive and dangerous with a pen and paper (or, in this case, a keyboard).

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