While Kotoricon wasn’t the first con of the season for all of the AJS staff, it was mine, and I was greatly looking forward to it. Having a small local con to start the season off with a bang helps to get the excitement for the remainder of the season flowing, and Kotoricon is a great way to do so.
Starting the weekend off by the traditional picking up of the Ranma, we made our way out to Gloucester County College in south Jersey. The weather was a bit crappy Friday night, but driving conditions weren’t horrible. Timing was however misjudged, and while we wanted to get to the con in order to see more of the bands, we were arrived at the tail end of Hsunami’s set. This excited me, as I’ve been a fan of the band since my days in college and having them preform at Ramapo due to the front man Jack Hsu also attending the school. Once the set was over, we grabbed Ari and a whole group of friends and headed out to eat, and then back to the hotel for hang out times and bacon cinnamon rolls.
Saturday came, bright and semi early, and as with last year, my plans for the day were completely changed last minute. Ranma and I rushed off early, because for the first time in a while, we were hosting a panel. Our panel went well, for all of the three people that attended, but it was fun, and informative, and helped at least one of those people, and that’s all that matters.
I missed out on any of the early panels I had wanted to go to, just as it seems always happens. But I was able to tour around the main parts of the con. Like usual, the convention was spaced out in the various campus buildings, and for the most part, luck held out and the weather was pretty decent. So decent, that the cosplay I had decided to wear to keep me warm, was overly hot because of the humidity, and I had to change.
There were a few hiccups with communication about certain interviews we had asked to do, but it was handled amazingly well and in no time, we were on our way. After our first interview, we walked the convention, made it to the dealers’ room and artist alley, and stopped to take pictures of various cosplay.
My only issue with dealers’ room is that for the most part it looked like actual dealers were few and far between. Most tables seemed to be filled with artists of one sort or another, and handmade items. I expected the dealers’ room to have more legit collectibles, DVDs, manga, and so on. The artists however were pretty good, and while there was a lot of similarity in what was being offered, there were also a lot of original concepts in the pictures, plushies, and various other art mediums being offered.
After a bit more walking around, and a few more interviews, I went and set myself up to watch the musical performances. I was going to give them a miss this year and walk around some more, but I was actually pretty excited with the lineup and gave into the entertainment and a few back to back shows.
I was able to see the full set for Hsunami and while changes had been made in the years between my first show and this one, the band has grown and really come together. Hsunami is a progressive Erhu rock band. Instead of a vocalist, a violin type instrument called an Erhu is used. It is an amazing mix of rock mixed with the elegance of the Chinese violin. You don’t miss the lyrics, because the violin conveys all the feeling. My only purchase of the entire con was to get their newest CD.
Next up was the funny and sometimes crazy standup routine of Karl Custer, AKA Uncle Yo. Seriously, if you haven’t seen this man preform, you need to. Geek centric humor ranging from Pokémon to Doctor Who and everything in between, with innuendos and the latest fandom theories, and a little bit of ADD, make this a show worth seeing.
The last show I stayed to watch was teacher turned nerd core rapper, MegaRan. Having never saw one of his shows live, I was pretty excited. Singing to tunes from some iconic video games, such as MegaMan, Final Fantasy VII, and Castlevania, just to name a few, Random pumped up the audience and got them into the show with the beats. He even did some freestyle rapping, getting off the stage and seriously interacting with the audience. I had hoped that he would be well received as popular as he is in the gaming community, but perhaps due to the age group or anime centric theme of the con, the audience was lacking. Even so, the energy was high and it was an amazing show with an amazing crowd feel.
After the concert was the costume show, a catwalk type display for those that had entered the cosplay contest. With no skits or performances, the show took almost no time at all. Some amazing cosplay was in the contest though, and for as small a con as Kotoricon is, some people still went all out in their costume and design.
From here it was a mad dash to the Voice Actors’ Q&A to attempt to see some of the discussion. Any time voice actors get together to talk, it’s usually one humorous story after another, and this time was no exception. However I did get there pretty late and missed most of the panel.
From there it was time for the Anime Dating Game hosted by +2 Comedy. Every con does this a little differently, and this was no exception. Having a comedy troupe hosting the game, I thought it would be both entertaining and hilarious. Unfortunately it was pretty mediocre at best. Being a popular game, and one of the last activities happening at the con, it had a large turnout. As such the room was fully cleared and then slowly people were let in one row at a time. Seating everyone burned up a large chunk of time from the panel, and unfortunately not everyone was able to get into the room. The first game was funny, as everyone stayed in character, but the winners acting out their date was unneeded and ate into even more of the limited time available for the panel. The next game was a disaster. Con “special guest” Naeus son of Hamilcar was the bachelor. It’s not the first time I’ve seen him in the role, but I hope it to be the last. While the questions asked of the bachelorettes may have been filled with innuendo, he took it into 18+ way too many times. His habit of physically picking up and/or kissing his chosen winner does not take into account that his bachelorette may be underage. With the whole issue of cosplay is not consent, his actions at this point seemed to mock the fact that something like this may be unwanted. I would say that it may have just been a setup with another of the comedy troupe in on the gag, but I have seen him do this at other cons where they aren’t the host.
All in all, I had a great time. Kotoricon has amazing staff that try to really make sure that everyone is having a good time. My only real issue is the fact that seemingly random people are “special guests” of the con according to the program guide. I understand that some cosplayers may be invited to conventions, but with so many of them listed as special guests, the actual voice actors, writers, and industry people got lost in the grouping. Perhaps a new listing for these guests can be created to help highlight who they are a little better. Either way, I’m excited to see the con continuing to do well, and can’t wait for Kotoricon 2015, and its Space theme!
Pro: The staff, while a bit confused at first about the whole press thing, really is amazing. Super polite, quick to get questions and issues figured out, and always willing to help, even if that means walking with you across campus to make sure everything is worked out. Even going so far as to make sure certain outside circle games are relocated if the group gets too large, which was my biggest issue from last year. So YAY for that!
Con: Not utilizing Friday as much as they should have. Saying that Kotoricon is a two day convention and then for the most part only having videos and short sets from the bands really should just be called a preshow. Most of the Friday activity was for the VIPs. I think either some panels should have been offered, or saying that it’s a preview day instead of a two day con. It gives the wrong impression.
Overall: I love this convention. From staff to attendees, for the most part, everyone is happy and welcoming and it’s such a drastic change from the way large cons treat their attendees. Keep your eyes on their Facebook, as you really don’t want to miss your chance at getting tickets before they’re sold out.