A Yankee in Texas: Anime Matsuri 2017 Report

For the last two or three years, I have always said that you should travel outside of your usual convention area.  I say that because you will expand your convention experience and culture.  Last year was NDK, the year prior was Denver Comic Con.  Coming down to Houston, Texas for Anime Matsuri wasn’t any different.  But I will say that it was quite the fun experience, and it was somewhat reminiscent of AnimeNEXT, which in my book is a good thing.

Now, I consider myself very thankful and lucky.  Friends of mine had to cancel because of bad weather last Thursday.  Me, I left last Wednesday.  I cashed out extra vacation time to take time to visit some friends before the convention, as well as enjoy the food.  Tacos down here taste so good, it’s amazing.  I also got a chance to try Texas BBQ.  Ribs, brisket, and chicken.  It was tasty.  I did try a couple of places, and I will say that Rudy’s is one of my go to spots for BBQ.  As for tacos and other Tex-Mex food, your mileage may vary on that.  Feels like every local spot is going to have something amazing.

 

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So, let’s do a daily breakdown.

Friday.  First off, props to the Hilton.  I got there around 8am and was able to check in.  I took this time to setup my mobile command center (chargers, Surface 3, camera, camcorder, etc.), catch a quick nap, and then make my way down to the convention center.  Badge pickup was easy, just head over to Will Call with ID, and you’re golden.  Plus, they also had two special limited edition lanyards, one with Hotaru Nomoto on it as Sailor Moon, the other with Yuga Yamato as Tuxedo Kamen.  Before the opening of the dealer’s room, one of the con chairs stood with the Mayor of Houston for a small presentation, declaring Friday as Anime Matsuri Day.  That way amazing.  I have never seen anything like that at a con.  And once they cut the ribbon, the Dealer’s Hall was opened.

Ribbon cutting ceremony.

Proclamation for Anime Matsuri Day.

And the hall is big… Maybe too big.  It’s become quite commonplace now for Dealer’s Room and Artist’s Alley to share one hall.  Sometimes also with signs to denote what section you are in.  But this hall had more than that.  If you went to the far right, there was the car show.  A variety of anime themed cars, parked on display.  Mostly it was Love Live cars, but sadly there was not a Nozomi car.  But there was a Minako Aino car, so that made it okay.  Now these aren’t official cars, but these vehicles belong to the fans… Proud fans who shared their love of the waifus.  To the left is the game room with tabletop games, along with Bemani / dance and rhythm games.  If you kept going left, you would have seen two bounce houses, an “ice skating” rink, and huge backdrops for taking photo.

One of the things I did for myself was get Romi Park’s autograph.  For those of you who don’t know, she’s is known for Edward Elric from Fullmetal Alchemist and Temari from Naruto.  Thankfully getting a ticket for her didn’t take long.  I waited about five minutes to get it, and then it was a 20 minute wait to get her autograph.

Romi Park’s autograph! I’m so lucky and thankful to get two!

Once that was acquired, I returned to my room, changed into Reverend Garterbelt from Panty & Stocking.  I loved that fact that I ran into several Anarchy sisters on Friday.  But due to the heat, I did not wear it for long.

Now, let me tell you about the convention center.  It’s pretty big.   The entire first floor was the dealer’s hall.  Second floor was mostly balconies, viewing spots to look into the hall, and a Starbucks.  Third floor is your panel rooms, both maid cafes, and all three main event rooms.  That’s right, three.  And if you’ve seen Robocop 2, one of the rooms would look very familiar to you.  This room really isn’t a main events room, but it was big enough to be one, it was called General Assembly.  Now, due to time constraint, I wasn’t able to hit up the Podcasting 101 panel.  I wanted see how someone else ran it, and maybe trade knowledge.  So I went to Welcoming Ceremonies.  And the stage was huge.  It was your typical stage, along with a runway, and second floor stage with stairs.  This was setup for the SeraMyu Live that was going to take place right after.

There wasn’t anything special about the ceremony though, but I will say this.  Anime Matsuri had about twenty cosplay guests from around the world.  And they were either running cosplay panels, cosplay judging, or both.  I will say, from that alone, this would be the con to see your cosplay senpai, because the odds are, that person will be there.  The only gripe I had is that I did not have a seat to take pictures and enjoy the ceremonies and SeraMyu Live.  The press pit had no chairs, so I stuck sitting and kneeling on the hard floor.

As I’ve said on previous podcasts, I am fairly new to SeraMyu.  But thanks to ChuuMousie Cosplay, Kinmoku Revolution, and my friend Lexi, I have been able to meet Anza Oyama, the first Sailor Moon from the musical perform with her band, Head Phones President, watch a couple of different musicals, and enjoy the music.  This was the main reason for my trip.  I wanted to see the new cast perform, for I have thoroughly enjoyed the new musicals that have been done.  This one is what I like to call a gaiden, a side story to the musical that just wrapped up.  This time, the Zirconia and the Dead Moon Circus was coming to Houston to steal people’s dreams.  The next 45 minutes was nonstop dancing, action, singing from start to finish.  It was amazing, I loved it.  I would love to see it again.  What was also great was that Karin Takahashi, the actress for Sailor Saturn was there!  It was reported that she couldn’t make it due to the fact that she’s the new actress for the role, and would not be ready.  Because of age restrictions is my guess, we did not have Airi Kanda, Sailor Chibi Moon.

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Right after, the cast introduced themselves, it was said by the con chair that it would be great if we could see SeraMyu in the United States.  And between a discussion with friends, I would love to see it in New York City or Los Angeles.  Takarazuka Revue has performed last year in NYC by doing Chicago.  Granted, SeraMyu isn’t as known as Chicago, but I think if they did two afternoon showings on a weekend, it would sell out in a heartbeat.

Later that night I went out and had dinner with Lucky Eight Cosplay and her friends, who are now my friends.  Now, it is usually the thing to order delivery, but we weren’t up for that.  We walked around and ended up back at our hotel eating at Pappasito’s Cantina.  But along the way, we spotted a lot of food trucks parked outside of the convention center and hotel.  Again, this is something I discussed with friends.  More cons need to have food trucks parked out front.  I know that some cons already do this, and it’s pretty damned amazing.  And due to contracts and permits, not all cons can have food trucks near the venue.  I know, it’s sucks.  But I do know that I’d rather wait 5 – 10 minutes at a food truck as opposed to 20+ minutes at a restaurant.

It’s somewhat become a norm to have two late night dances at cons.  What Anime Matsuri did on both nights was have an informal dance.  It’s two hours, and people just dancing around to regular music.  I went to check it out, I wasn’t really impressed, and I left.  It was almost as bad as NDK’s auto DJ for Friday’s dance.  For those of you who know me, I love formal dances at cons.  I love putting on a suit, and going as a formal version of a character I cosplay.  This time I went as Luigi.  And since there was no late-night dance, the formal happened in its place instead.  On the plus side, I could turn in early and get a fresh start on the next day.

Saturday.  Today was a bit of a packed day for me.  First up was the Sailor Moon photoshoot.  It was great that it was listed in the guidebook, or in this case, sched. Come to think of it, just about all of the meetups were listed.  Ours was in Main Events B3.  So we got a chance to sit down until we started.  There was two downsides to this.  One, the cosplayers for the exhibition skit were rehearsing, so their skit music was way loud, so we couldn’t hear the organizer.  Two, she didn’t call the senshis in order of appearance in the series.  It was in alphabetical order, but saving Sailor Moon for last, and she forgot about Pluto and Saturn.  On the plus side, I did bring my speaker and did play some music from the anime.  And I was able to get my picture with a Minako, Sailor V, and two Human Lunas, it was great!

Chilling in Main Events waiting for the shoot to start.

 

Right after, it was the SeraMyu Q&A.  It was 45 minutes of various questions to ask the cast, as well as getting a variety of pictures too.  I took this opportunity to grab my envelope and hand  and  a picture.  You see, IchigoGami and her friend did Myu Jupiter and Venus.  They saw the pictures and thought they were great cosplays.  And I was able to pass the photos over to them as a gift.  Then right after that, I found a Sailor Venus cosplayer and she was shocked to see me!  You see, I cosplay Human Artemis.  Not many of us out there.  And here’s the icing on the cake… She came all the way from Japan to see SeraMyu live!  So we did a couple of pictures together, and I loved every single minute of it!

She came all the way from Japan to see SeraMyu! 😀

Then it was time to get ready for the masquerade.  Went back to my room, swapped batteries, changed out of cosplay, and grab a seat… Hopefully.  I did have a seat thankfully, but I was behind the judges, and with my lens, I was not able to get close up, head shots.  Now if you remember from the podcast where I talked about NDK where they had 60 sixty walk ons and 4 skits?  It was like this here as well.  But there was a difference.  Earlier, I had mentioned that the stage was two-tiered. The cosplayers were allowed to do their walk on from the top or bottom of the stage.  And each cosplayer/cosplayers/cosplay group had an on screen intro, like if it was a fighting game.  Plus, each walk on had their own music theme and background graphic.  Also, the masquerade was hosted by Anjali Bhimani and Carolina Ravassa, the voices of Symmetra and Sombra from Overwatch, respectively.  I guess you could say that there was a couple of skits in there, because some cosplayers did say a monologue, battled, or did something that was more than just your typical walk on.  Also, the cosplay contest was late afternoon, not early evening, it allowed me time to check out one more panel.

I went to a dance panel, hosted by Syrin Cosplay.  It’s a fan panel that demonstrates a variety of dancing styles.  I took pictures of the first three or four dances.  After that I went back to my room and perused the food trucks.  There were about 8 or so food trucks, with most of them with a variant of Tex-Mex.  Bless them for taking credit cards.  Yes, food trucks are bit pricier, but you know what?  I’d gladly buy from a food truck and wait 5 – 10 minutes as opposed to wait 10 – 20 minutes on food from a local restaurant.  Imagine how much more you’d have to wait if you ordered delivery?

So, let’s talk Club AM, aka Anime Matsuri’s rave.  Now, some conventions call their rave, the informal dance, late night dance, and other names.  They do that to disassociate itself from the “stigmas” of normal raves.  But let’s be honest here, it usually doesn’t work.  Now, I’ve been to my fair share of raves, but this puts Anime Boston’s rave to shame.  The only difference is that the illegal substances were more open and out there, and no one got arrested.  And yes, I got a contact high.  Their rave ran from 12 – 4 am.  But it should have started around 10 or 11 and went to 3am.  Aural Vampire performed for the first half, and then a local DJ.  The music was good, I enjoyed it, but I’m too used to cons having multiple DJs up during the rave.  But it wasn’t packed, unless you were up by the stage.  Ever been do a con dance on a Friday night and its half packed or so?  Pretty much this.  Please people, no vaping in the rave.  But if you must, please take it to a less crowded area.  It has been announced that next year, it’s going to be 18+, something I truly think that most, if not all cons should do.

Sunday… A cool down.  Thankfully I packed most of my stuff and I was ready to go.  And what was great that I only waited between 5 and 10 minutes for an elevator.  Also, that was my wait time the entire weekend.  I was pleased and shocked.  Pleased because I can get to where I needed to be quickly.  Shocked because this only happens on Thursday or Friday morning of cons.  I did my last run of photos, ran into some Aqours cheerleader cosplayers, and went to a LLSIP dance panel.

But something really cool happened before that.

Instead of taking the escalators up to the third floor, I had to cross over to the hotel, go up to the third floor, and take the skybridge over.  On my travel there, I stopped to take pictures of a Queen Galaxia cosplayer.  And while I was doing that, Sayaka Fujioka and Karin Takahashi from SeraMyu came over and asked her for a picture!  I then showed them my Artemis bag (made by the lovely ladies at Starnigh Industries) and I got my picture with them too!  That, along with Romi Park’s autograph, I was a very happy camper.  Truthfully, if Rimo Hasegawa (Sailor Venus) came over, I would have passed out.

Karin Takahashi, me, and Sayaka Fujioka

The Love Live panel was a local μ’s troupe doing the different dances from the anime, as well as teaching others how to do it too.  Then after that, I met up with my friends, and went back to their place.  Monday I hung out with my sister, and then went home on Tuesday.

Now it was said that this year’s numbers were 36,370.  Honestly, I felt that it wasn’t even close to that, seeing how it didn’t looked packed on any of the floors and panel rooms.  If you ask me, it was at least 13,000 people.  Now I said it had that AnimeNEXT feel to it.  I say that because when the con moved to Atlantic City, there was a lot of walking I did, as well as seeing how spread out everything was, except for the Dealer’s Room/Artist Alley, which was somewhat packed.  I didn’t see this in Anime Matsuri’s Dealer’s Room/Artist Alley either.  All three days, it wasn’t packed at the tables to buy merch.  So, if you liked the feel, layout, and surroundings of AnimeNEXT, you’ll enjoy Anime Matsuri.

And yes, I understand that there’s been a lot of controversy surrounding the con.  Truthfully, other cons have their own drama.  I really felt that those issues didn’t take away from my experience.  I do hope that nothing bad comes out of the con this year, because I really am inclined to go back next year.  If you’re looking to really get into cosplay and learn more from your sempais, this would be the con to go to.  And I’m not trying to stir the pot here, but I hope other cons take notice of this, and invite SeraMyu, and perhaps other anime musical groups to the US to perform.

DJ Ranma S

DJ Ranma S

DJ Ranma S is cosplay veteran. He has won numerous performance awards with his friends over the years. He has staffed conventions in the past, ran panels, judged a couple of masquerades, a jack of all trades. He's worked dealer's room too! Running this site is his way of giving back to the cosplay community. He feels that it's his turn to give a future cosplayer their fifteen minutes of fame.

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