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Monday, August 15, 2011

NatsuCon 2011: The Wrap-Up Post

So, my first go around with NatsuCon has ended and although I only attended two days' worth of events, I can confidently report on my experiences this past weekend. I had come into this anime con with lowered expectations - most people who talked to me did not have a good time the years before - and ended up enjoying myself immensely, with some caveats of course. So, it's time to talk about the good, the bad, and the ugly parts of NatsuCon 2011 and answer the most important question of all: was it worth it?

Below I'll discuss the most important parts of NatsuCon: registration; gaming; vendors and artists; panels; events. Not guests, because I didn't really go to any guest panels or interact with them at all during the convention. Note that I am coming from the perspective of someone who has been going to cons since 2009 and have worked at anime cons that same amount of time. I have an understanding of how anime conventions work from the inside out and this colors my experiences at other conventions, including NatsuCon. Let's just say it was interesting to be at an anime con I wasn't also working at!

Read all the juicy details of this weekend after the jump!

Registration: This was the worst part of the entire convention, as mentioned in the first day post. Their so-called upgrade to computers ended in long lines stretching throughout the artists' alley, long waits to get signed up, and longer than usual registration time because practically no one was familiar with the program for registering and messed up their form, meaning they had to start all over again - something that never happens with good ol' pencil and paper, or at least not to the point that it seriously delays getting a badge.

Plus: if they can afford to get computers, can't they afford to get a machine to accept credit/debit cards? At that point, the 'cash only' rule seems asinine; if you have the resources for this thing, surely you can afford the other thing? But I digress. I hope NatsuCon gets an earful from congoers and pulls the computer program from its registration set-up.

Gaming: I found myself wandering into the game room a lot between panels and events, especially once I ran out of cash and didn't feel like torturing myself walking through the vendors' room and looking at all the cool merch I couldn't buy. The gaming room was a sweet retreat from the buzz of the hallways; it was packed with computers hooked up to various systems as well as a Kinect and a Dance Dance Revolution machine. The people who ran it - Nexus Gaming Alliance - seemed attentive enough to the gamers around them and their selection was rather excellent.

My only nitpick is that the right pad for the DDR machine kept breaking down, which meant there were times where only one person could play at a time while technicians worked on the other side. This seems odd - I've never seen a DDR machine break down so often since they are engineered to handle certain amounts of stress for long periods of time. Makes me wonder how durable their machine is.

Vendors/Artists' Alley: The vendors room was fairly big in size and had a variety of sellers, mostly anime DVDs and merchandise; manga seemed to be in the minority along with apparel. A lot of it was expensive, at least for my budget - a lot of objects over thirty dollars? Fifty dollars? Eh. And I still don't understand why Miku merch is so bloody expensive.

The artists' alley was splendid. So many excellent artists, so little time; I spent the majority of my money on art and fan creations. I must say, it is always good to spend at least some money at an artist table; you have to support the artists and their endeavors, after all. I wish I had more money, I saw some really awesome prints for sale and I would have loved to have bought some more amaguris from the lady who made the crochet Eleven with the fez.

Panels: I have already talked about the worthwhile panels in my past posts, so I won't touch on those particular panels so much as the overall panel experience. Panel quality was rather hit or miss. There were some, like the Tenchi Muyo panel, which was wonderful and engaging. The hosts knew their stuff and how to keep the audience interested. And then we had the Cosplay For Beginners panel which should never have happened, especially since there had been a Cosplay 101 panel the previous day. CFB was not organized at all, the panelists wandered off topic for 90% of the panel time, and it was obvious there had been no planning whatsoever. Also, any panel that forces the attendees to come up with talking points automatically fails from the beginning.

Oh, and when you backtalk people who leave your panel early, even jokingly, I think less of you. You have no idea why they have left. They might only have a moment to spare for your panel before a pressing engagement. There might be a real life emergency that requires their presence. You bloody thank them for their time, not berate them. Don't be rude!

Also: the A/V set-up for panels was, put plainly, whack. You are projecting your images on the far right wall which forces most of the room to sit at an angle? Not to mention one of the rooms had an oddly-shaped right wall which meant it was projected on barely a fourth of a normal wall's length. So either it was small and hard to see or projected huge but also distorted. Pro tip: get something to project on, some kind of screen, so you don't have to rely on the walls, and preferably behind or directly next to the people presenting, not on the other walls. Yes, this does mean putting the projector either on a table facing the back wall or on a table in front of the chair space, but that should not be too troublesome.

Events: I admit, I didn't go to many events - but the ones I did were wonderful. The date auction was hilariously run by the Nerdfit Network and was an absolute hoot to watch. The skits at the masquerade were all hilarious and well done; my favorite was the Minor Characters skit, presented by some very good Bleach cosplayers. Of course, the line into the masquerade ran through the convention center and then some, but when does it not?

The AMV contest was plagued by technical difficulties but once it got started, it was fun. Although next time, perhaps they should use something other than a Mac! There was one AMV in particular I really liked - and just my luck, I sat behind the girl who made it. Hopefully it's on YouTube because I'll be sharing it with all of you tomorrow for AMV of the Week :)

Overall: NatsuCon was a very enjoyable convention. Any problems fun-wise were because of personal issues (like, um, health pertaining to people with certain internal organs I'M JUST GOING TO STOP RIGHT THERE). I met a lot of awesome people, went to a lot of awesome panels and events, and the cosplay was amazing - and yes, I'll be posting photos!

The only issue worth a note that I have is that Natsu was only fun when I had something to do. The schedule wasn't diverse or full enough! I found myself especially during the beginning of Friday just wandering around the convention center looking for something to do and that was not fun. I like having a schedule so jam packed full of stuff that I practically have a moral struggle over which things to attend and which to skip. I know the Natsu staff can only do so much, but at least schedule it so that there is always something going on worthwhile no matter what!

Still, for my first Natsucon, I enjoyed myself and who knows, I just might attend next year as well! As long as I can pre-reg that is - I don't think I can handle that registration line again!

You can visit the Natsucon site here and check out the schedule and other things for yourself.