AnimeNEXT 2015 – a con in review

It seems like only a few years since AnimeNEXT moved from Meadowlands Exposition Center to the larger Garden State Exhibit Center. But it has been 7 years and we’re ready to move again. At over 14,000 attendees, we’re ready to hit Atlantic City. But not without a final weekend of awesomeness. AnimeNEXT always boasted a guest list which highlighted music and fashion guests and this year was no different. From the Japanese music circuit, we have FLOW and Elisa. The head of fashion, Naoto Hirooka also commonly known as the designer for h.Naoto brought two of his lines for the highly anticipated fashion show. Studio Trigger Wakabayashi and Koyama returns with more animators, Sushio and Hori Takafumi along with Suzuki Aya, an animator who spanned several continents. Stateside, we have a plethora of voice guests including Todd Haberkorn, Kira Buckland, Marc Swint along with ANEXT most loved, Michelle Knotz and Bill Rogers amongst others. To give us our anime culture, we have Neil Nadelman, Charles Dunbar, artist Jason Robinson and to humor us is Uncle Yo. That is only a portion of the guests list which grows surprisingly every year. The only sad part is not being able to see everything but everywhere you turn, everyone is enjoying the awesomeness which is AnimeNEXT. Ever growing, let’s make some memories!

Thursday, June 11

into the heat

ANext has gotten surprisingly hotter and hotter each year. Not just the guests, but the temperature. This weekend started out sweltering, but thankfully cooled off on Saturday and even more on Sunday. It doesn’t help that the Doubletree appears to have their AC on low which is the location of many of the major panels.

After checking in at the hotel, I went to check out the badge line. In order to bring more people inside, they incorporated several rows in the lobby area. Definitely, their effort was much appreciated.

The line was long but it was moving steadily. I checked out the staffing area but the press thing wasn’t set up yet. Told me to come back in the morning at 10am.

For the first day at least, one of the goodies in the program bag was green tea pocky. ^_^ (I heard it was gone by morning badge pick up.)

Friday, June 12

shopping time!

I stopped by the Press Room and got my badge. The head of press briefed me on the photog policies for the concerts: FLOW is a free for all while Elisa is no on all counts. We don’t get press seating for Elisa either since there are no pics anyway.

I started snapping pics of the cosplayers around the Dealer’s Room and Artist Alley. Took a pic of a Persona character who was also giving out instant pics of cosplayers. That was sooo nice! Those things are expensive!

I took a look around the artist alley first. So many cute things to buy. I was too tired to take any pics of the artist alley this time. This location is a fav for many people and I can see why. I see more stuff to buy at the AnimeNEXT artist alley than at other cons. I don’t know, it may be a preference or the items they have.

The music and fashion guest tables were at the head of the Dealer’s Room. They were selling the FLOW anime album along with the drawstring bags and the tshirt.

For Elisa, they were selling the album along with the shirts. I didn’t see it, but I’m sure they were also selling the glow sticks and the light up ones since I saw fans waving them around. ^_^

At the h.Naoto booth, I spotted a beautiful rendition of Shingeki no Kyoujin, Mikasa. After speaking with the cosplayer, I learned that she was a designer, vedettamarie. Her creations are inspired by anime fashion like the Mikasa outfit she was wearing. Definitely a creative twist of fantasy with fashion.

There were only a few companies that made their appearance. Unfortunately, I didn’t see Vertical but Media Blasters show their usual 18+ wares and Funimation had a good sized booth with their beautiful tapestries of adverts.

Thankfully, I didn’t find many things I wanted to buy in the Dealer’s room…except maybe some Kurobasu merch…. XD

Giant pocky…boxes. XD They’re as large as the door! ^_^

It’s common knowledge that this is last year AnimeNEXT will be at New Brunswick. The con is moving to Atlantic City and there were representatives from the Atlantic City convention center to introduce their venue. They also gave out freebies at their booth including candy and luggage tags. Time to travel!

Before Opening Ceremonies, I stepped out of the Dealer’s Room to grab a few more pics.

Opening Ceremonies

The stage was already set up for the FLOW concert in the evening. Uncle Yo hosted the opening ceremonies in his usual hilarious manner.

party with FLOW

I rested a bit before the concert of the weekend. AnimeNEXT really surprises me year after year with major fashion and music guests. For a ‘small’ (ever expanding) con in New Jersey, it gets some pretty awesome guests from the mainstream circuit. This year’s FLOW concert really blew me away.

FLOW autograph

The line for the FLOW autograph didn’t start until they were playing the encore pieces. There was a crowd gathering near the entrance of the Main Events (not allowed inside since it was filled) and I spotted them singing and dancing to the music. It was definitely an overflowing concert.

They were selling albums along the line which was very smart of them. No need to wait until we get to the front to spend money! The line was slow going but we had fun talking and sharing our fav moments from the concert…like people getting sprayed with water. XD My personal fav moment came later.

The best part came when we were at the FLOW table. Immediately, (I forgot if it was Kohshi or Keigo) one of the singers said in Japanese, ‘I saw you in the front!’ lol I was grabbing pics right in front of him. I responded that I was embarrassed in Japanese to which he asked why. XD Other photographers received similar comments. Glad to know we were memorable. ^_^ I hope the band realized that we were rocking hard since we are also fans. Yeah!

Saturday, February 13

Elisa Q&A

Left the hotel around 12pm and I rushed over to the Doubletree for the Elisa panel. No photos allowed!

Elisa autograph in the heat

The line for the autograph appeared to be only a mob in the lobby of the Somerset with no resemblance of a line yet. The creation of lines are up to the yellow shirt people. They directed us outside the side door where there was thankfully a cemented court yard with little shade. The staff was selling shirts and cds on the line. Near the front, there were people playing Elisa’s songs which were a nice touch.

The autograph started somewhat promptly and it wasn’t as long as I thought it should be. When I handed my Euphoric Fields single to her, she commented on how nostalgic it was. I told her I was a fan of her music and stated that I was looking forward to the live tomorrow. After the signing, I headed to the fashion show which was already underway.

h.Naoto fashion show frills

Spotted some very awesome Binan cosplayers on the way back to the convention center for the h.Naoto fashion show. They told me that the rest of their group was in the Artist Alley. Too bad I couldn’t get the full group.

Suzuki Aya and Studio Trigger signing

Due to the overlap of the panels with major events, I was not able to cover the Trigger panel or any of the VA panels I usually try to hit up. Instead, I went to the signing. I rushed over right after the Fashion show.

There was of course a line already at 3:30 for the 5pm signing. Around 5pm, the line proceeded inside the room which had a maze of chairs for us to walk through. That was a smart idea as we could sit down along the line. To move things along, they instilled a 1 item only policy for Trigger, meaning that everyone had to sign that one item. Suzuki-san is able to sign another item since she worked on other things.

Suzuki-san spoke English with a beautiful British accent. She drew either Yuki or Ame from Wolf Children on the shikishi that she was given. (I wasn’t the only one with a board. ^_^) She drew Yuki on mine. It is sooo cute! I told Suzuki-san that I enjoyed the Wolf Children movie very much as well as her work on The Wind Rises. All very emotional films.

From what I can tell, Trigger signing from right to left was Hori-san, Wakayashi-san, Koyama-san and Sushio-san.

One of the fans ahead of me had his case (the one which had the blades) signed by Studio Trigger. Sushio-san started drawing elaborately on the case. Wakabayashi-san was so impressed that he grabbed a pic as well.

break time!

It was already 5:50 when I finished with the signing. Went around grabbing more cosplay photos.

masquerade fun

It was after 7:30pm when I arrived at main events and settled into the press area. The masquerade actually started early…7:50. The short of it was that it was actually an acceptable masquerade. It was very good even! There were only a few dance skits and the variety was very good. I’m impressed which is a wonderful way to close the last event at Somerset.

last pics of Saturday

The event ended on time too…at 10pm. I stuck around the outside of the main events area to grab pics of the performers and more cosplay.

Sunday, June 14

a bit of Elisa

The concert for Elisa began at 12pm so we were late in getting there. However, it was fine since we couldn’t take pics anyway. There weren’t that many people and we were able to get in with no problems. It was beautiful listening to her sing live. Her outfit was also ethereal like her voice: white short dress with a sheer covering that flowed when she moved.

    1. euphoric field (English) ef-a tale of memories OP
    2. Soba ni iru yo Kakumeiki Valvrave ED
    3. EONIAN Expelled from Paradise ED
    4. Shout my heart
    5. God Only Knows (long version) The World God Only Knows OP
    6. REALISM Kakumeiki Valvrave ED
    7. Wonder Wind Hayate no Gotoku OP
    8. Mononoke Hime (accapella) Princess Mononoke ED
    9. Ai oboete imasuka Macross
    10. Millenario Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei ED
    11. Real Force To Aru Kagaku no Railgun ED

The stage was empty except for her and her voice. Yet it was a beautiful moment. For Mononoke Hime, we were able to hear a more deeper tone, while for EONIAN, her voice is high yet strong. It carries with it our feelings. The joy in the melodies is being able to hear her live. Caught up in her singing, the audience swayed and dance. There were light sticks all around moving to the motion of her hands. Without an interpreter, Elisa greeted and spoke to her fans in simple Japanese and even simpler English. It is all very endearing and we didn’t want to let her go.

It was a carefree moment to sing along. There was no encore, but everyone stayed after the last song, continuously chanting, ‘Elisa! Elisa! Elisa! Elisa!’ Finally she came back on stage to give a final wave to the crowd. Despite her disappearing offstage, we didn’t move until they turned on the lights.

last of shopping

I didn’t buy anything else at the Artist Alley, but I found the latest addition to the Survey Corps with alpacas…. I can just picture those 3DMGs now…. XD

They have Taiwanese tsum tsum figures! ^_^ I say Taiwanese since they were in Chinese characters and they were legit figures.

Swinging by the Funimation booth, I saw that they changed the adverts. Free! ^_^

just a bit of chess

Usually it’s chess first before the Sunday concert, but this is fine as well. Since I needed to leave early, I only saw them set up the ‘board’ and a lot of initial moves. And a few fights. One of my fav has to be the Free! watergun crew. ^_^

Only two of the members were on the board, the others came to help. lol

There was alot more teasing and trash talking on the stage than previous years. I think it’s because both players were female. (Despite the guy vs. girl mentality, I actually find that the guy is nicer to the girl…in the public eye anyway.) I caught sight of the Free! crew so grabbed pics of them.

retrospective thoughts

I didn’t do as much this weekend but mainly stuck with the music. I really couldn’t cover that and Studio Trigger as I would usually do, not with the overlap of the events. And I was too tired to hit the BL panels, one of which was sponsored by the new BL con, Niji-con. Many have called this FLOW-con and no wonder, with FLOW being one of the biggest acts this weekend. It truly was a wonderful way to end AnimeNEXT’s stay at Somerset.

Some things I missed out were the press panels for FLOW and Elisa which covered nicely in their interviews. And according to another press outlet, one of FLOW members was trolling the eroge gaming panel Sekai Project. Definitely wish I was there to see that! Wish I knew which member it was? (Keigo again? XD) Another interview I must plug is Suzuki Aya with Anigamers since it’s an amazing interview highlighting a rare international artist.

Despite not hosting the WCS prelims this year, the masquerade was the best in a long time. Thank goodness for improvement. I can look back to my previous years and you can read about my complaints. Thank goodness for variety and not so many dance skits. Story and music…that is what stands out. The hosting was good even without a frame for a story like they did in previous years. Uncle Yo didn’t even have to tell that many jokes during the performance!

The size of the con really got too large when it takes 4 locations to host all the events…crossing over 2 different parking lots. What really got to me is the heat though. Not blaming the weather…but the Doubletree and Somerset hotels are both really warm with all the people present. It truly shouldn’t be like that. The hallways, rooms are too warm. The convention hall is cooler…but not by much. The AC was never too high and we were literally sweating in our cosplays. There were a few spots in the con that I can say I felt the air…but otherwise, it was a warm location. Hope Atlantic City is better in that respect.

Some of the staff members are bit new to the press thing, but I won’t blame them for being new. Or not knowing what press is allowed to do. AnimeNEXT have always been very supportive of press and I hope that doesn’t change.

AnimeNEXT has already been confirmed for the Atlantic City convention center from June 10-12. The initial pre-reg at $40 special price was only for the first week and now it’s $50. ^_^ Can’t wait to party it up in AC!