Even if there wasn’t a literal sun shining on Portland over Labor Day weekend, KumoriCon had some kind of light shining down on it making it the place for anime fans in the northwest to be this past weekend. Hitting the 3,500 maximum capacity by early Saturday morning, the convention made obvious efforts to improve and learn from previous years with changes to the elevator system and arming staffers everywhere with click counters to keep rooms from getting overcrowded. Obviously not everything over the weekend went smoothly as long waits marred a large portion of the event; after a hellish day 0 of traveling (excessive heat + Portland traffic + getting lost [“How the f*ck did I end up in Washington?”] = not a happy morning) I was willing to take whatever I could get.
The first day of KumoriCon was marred by lines everywhere you went. Lines for the elevators, lines to get coffee, lines to get into the dealers room and worst of all, a pre-registration line which took over 3 hours to get through throwing the schedules off for many I’m sure (I missed 2 panels thanks to this). Once you got past this however, traveling the convention and hitting the sights that you wanted to see became a much easier experience than years previously. While once upon a time hitting a panel meant leaving 20 minutes (or more!) early if you had to catch an elevator, this year travel times were much shorter and getting to various floors took only a few minutes as opposed to a lot.
Guest panels got the weekend started on a high note with Funimation holding a sneak peek panel early on in the day. Throughout the rest of the day, panels held by guests Todd Haberkorn and Kevin McKeever remained popular events for fans to go when they needed to have a laugh. During his War Stories from Conventions panel, McKeever in particular had fans laughing as he shared stories of his many years traveling the convention circuit which included his run ins with convention moms trying to get a little too close as opposed to fan girls (though he did have a couple of stories about them as well).
Once the children went to bed however, it was time for the adults to play which meant plenty of panels requiring an ID stamp (as with many conventions, I hear the Yaoi panel was popular as always). For myself, this meant meant making my annual trek to the late night crossplay panel held by SakuraCon Assistant Public Relations Manager Kurt White, Soul Candy guitarist Carlos and others for another entertaining panel answering the questions that no one could ask earlier and a trip to the hotel bar for drinks and unwinding. As an aside, and this isn’t specifically con related, I’d like to give a personal thanks to the bar staff who served us throughout the weekend. Fast, courteous and friendly they always made this little corner of the hotel a quiet sanctuary from internet memes for older con attendees to rest their feet.
If you had a major ‘must see’ panel over the weekend, it was probably happening on the second day. In terms of panels and events, I don’t think I saw a longer line all weekend than the one waiting to get into the Funimation industry panel held Sunday morning. Led by Funimation events manager Josh Willingham, the panel consisted of a lot of trailers and some questions but seemed to quiet down very early.
On the plus side, information was readily available for fans provided they were curious about some of Funimation’s more anticipated titles such as Summer Wars (which might’ve been a larger section of the audience had the theatrical trailer been shown instead of a snippet of the opening animation – everyone, that movie becomes something entirely else just a few seconds later!), Sengoku Basara or Eden of the East. Other trailers, such as those for the live action films Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl, were met some some dropped jaws though I couldn’t tell which were from excitement and which were from pure shock.
In the afternoon and evening, the panels to attend were varied and generally plentiful leaving a lot of fans with multiple interests having to pick and choose where they wanted to go. In the afternoon, regular KumoriCon panelist Gia Manry hosted an interesting discussion about legal issues that have slowly been coming into focus over the last couple of years including the Christopher Handley trial and illegal downloads before later hosting a lively discussion regarding the State of the Industry as a whole with panelists Tiffany Grant and Kevin McKeever. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to attend the latter as I had somehow found myself watching the Cosplay Competition which had quite a few interesting and entertaining entries itself (best sequence of the night: “How should we end our skit?”, “We could just wander off stage and hope that someone remembers us.”, “It worked for InuYasha.”).
Wrapping the evening up were the two main events of the evening: KumoriCon favorite Anime that Scarred Me for Life and the formal ball. As with previous years, Anime that Scarred Me for Life featured the audience sharing their favorite bad and mentally damaging anime that they had seen over the years while Con Chair Beau Gentry inserted his own wise ass remarks along the way. A good time was had by all though as another aside; to the guy who called KissxSis scarring: it’s not that bad.
The formal dance this year was once again improved from last year as the masquerade portion was finally completely removed and fans were allowed to enter with very loosely applied nice dress standards. The one complaint that seemed to resonate with most of the fans however was a complete lack in music variation; as much fun as I had it took only a few songs before I was absolutely sick to death of every song played being a waltz.
All good things must come to an end and judging by the very tired faces that I saw trudging through the hotel lobby on Monday others were feeling mostly the same way (though it might’ve been just me looking in the mirror). As fans began to file out of the hotel, the convention made sure that there were still plenty of things to do as Cosplay Chess played to a packed room and Kevin McKeever held another interesting discussion regarding the future of anime conventions in the United States.
With a day job as seasonally demanding as mine, KumoriCon has become my end of the season beacon of light to look forward to every year. No matter how grueling the summer gets or how bitchy that customers that I have to deal with are, I always know that come Labor Day weekend I’ll be tucked away safely amongst my own geeky people and this year did not disappoint. While fans may have griped at the long waits to get into events, the convention staff did everything in their power to make sure people were having a good time and it showed. It’s not an exaggeration to say that I am looking forward to next year though hearing that it will be moving to Vancouver, WA (the colon of Washington State) means that I may have to remember to pack some cash and alcohol to keep me from complaining about it when the time comes. Regardless, thank you Portland and KumoriCon for another great weekend!
<Logo (c) KumoriCon>
<Updated: Original draft incorrectly identified Kurt White as SakuraCon Director of Publicity which has been corrected>