Saturday, February 23, 2013

Working at an Anime Convention

Mr. Popo who terrifies me thanks to DBZ Abridged

            The most exhausting and most rewarding time of the year for me is Kami-Con.  If you’re not familiar with Kami-Con, it’s an anime convention run by a group of my friends every year in February.  This was the fifth year of the convention and probably our most successful year.  Of course, preparing for the convention and then working there meant that I couldn’t update my blog on Feb 16th. 
            Kami-Con had its first year in 2008 and was held on the University of Alabama campus.  We only had like 300 people show up.  It was a tiny convention, and honestly, I wasn’t very involved with the planning of it.  I only did one simple panel on Evangelion and that was it.  However, over the course of 5 years, the convention has grown and so has my role at the convention.  This year we moved to the Birmingham and had over 3,600 con goers, and currently I am in charge of the Pokemon Center, I usually run 2 or 3 panels, and I work in Crisis Management.  While the title of Crisis Management might sound important, mostly it involves a lot of walking around and telling people not to run in the corridors or go up the down escalator (happened 3 times that I know of). 
Comedian Aaron Pabon
            The downside to working for a convention is that you don’t really get to see any of the events that are happening.  In the past three years, I have not attended any panels that I was not running, nor have I been able to do much more than my job.  For the last two years, I've been meaning to catch Comdian Aaron Pabon's show, but unfortunately, I am always too busy with convention stuff to make it.  Mr. Pabon's show is great, so I've heard, and I will watch it one day!  Not to mention, he's a really great guy who has attended every Kami Con.  Mostly I do a lot of walking and standing around.  I make sure that events are running on time and that we don’t have any big problems.  The most time consuming part of this year’s convention was watching autograph lines.
Yoko from Gurren Lagann
            I really don’t understand people’s infatuation with voice actors.  I usually watch anime with subtitles rather than an English dub, so I really don’t know many of the voice actors or their roles.  I’m always surprised by how many people line up and wait for hours to get an autograph from English voice actors.  Since I spent so much time managing the lines this year, I really got a chance to see how popular some of these voice actors are.  I watched Michelle Ruff, the voice of Yoko in Gurren Lagann amongst others, sign autographs for over 2 hours, and I was equally impressed by how patiently they waited in line for autographs.  Two hours is a long time to stand up.  It’s also a long time to autograph stuff.  I know my wrist and hand would be aching long before I reached the two hour mark. 
            However, I was most impressed by voice actor, Vic Mignogna who is most famous for being the voice of Edward Elric in Full Metal Alchemist.  Sunday at the convention was a bit hectic because many of our guests were doing a final autograph session before they had to leave and catch their flights back home.  Mr. Mignogna signed autographs until the last minute.  More than just signing autographs, I watched make short videos for his fans, he took pictures with everyone who asked, and so on.  But most importantly, he took a moment to make each fan feel like they were special and important. 
Vic and Deadpool
I’ve seen lots of other autograph sessions, especially sports stars were fans stood in line for hours only to be rushed through the autograph and pushed out the door so they could get to the next person.  Honestly, I never understood why Vic Mignogna was so popular with his fans.  He draws huge crowds and the lines for his autograph are ridiculously long.  However, after watching Mr. Mignogna sign autographs on Sunday, I understand his popularity.  I may not watch many anime were he voices a character, but I am now a fan of his just because of how personable and kind he is to his fans.  He really puts his fans first, and I respect that. 
One of the things I really love about working at Kami-Con is that I get to do a panel each year, where I can introduce topics that interest me to others who share a similar interest.  This year my panel was Molls, Dolls, and Razor Girls:  Feminism in Cyberpunk Fiction.  I had a great crowd for that panel.  Ironically, I had prepared a great PowerPoint presentation for my panel only to be undone by the laptop in the room which didn’t have PowerPoint installed.  Whatever the hell LibreOffice is, I don’t like it at all.  After the panel was over, I had someone stop me and tell me how great my panel was.  In the future, I plan on doing more panels, I’ve already done panels at Play On Con and Momo Con, maybe in a few years I could do one at either Gen Con or Origins or Dragon Con. 
I really can’t say much about the Pokemon Center because I just help prior to the convention.  I have a huge staff of people who run the Pokemon Center during the convention each year, and every year they do a great job.  The only complaint that I’ve heard about the Pokemon Center is that we don’t have enough events, since I only schedule it for Saturday.  Next year, maybe we’ll expand it to the full three days, but that is something to worry about much later. 
My two favorite guests this year were The Nostalgia Critic, Doug Walker, and Leo Thompson, that Sci Fi Guy from Channel Awesome.  I’ve been a huge fan of the Nostalgia Critic for years, and I was fortunate to get him to sign my arm band.  I was managing the lines for both of them on Saturday and luckily they had a little extra time to sign my staff arm band.  I’ve seen Leo Thompson around at a lot of conventions in the Southeast since he’s based in Georgia.  I was feel a little silly when I go all fan girl around the Nostalgia Critic and That Sci Fi Guy. 
Con Girl Shio in the foreground and Con Staff in the background
Probably the coolest story of Kami Con this year was something that I wasn’t even involved in.  Apparently, during the Rave at the Birmingham Jefferson Civic Center (BJCC) on the third floor, the crowd was so big that when they started jumping up and down, they started shaking the floor.   The BJCC, it seems, was designed to flex when that much weight was put on it so the entire rave became a trampoline.  Also, the jumping shook the BJCC all the way down to the first floor, where light fixtures were shaken loose and the doors to some rooms opened.  The staff had to tell people start jumping, which upset some, but it was necessary since a giant trampoline room sounds cool in theory but in reality is going to get lots of people hurt.  The DJ is so proud that his rave broke the BJCC that he had a smile on his face all week afterwards. 
            If you went to Kami-Con Season 5 I hope that you had a great time.  And if you haven’t had a chance to visit this great convention, you should.    You can keep up with Kami Con on Facebook.  If you want to hear more about my adventures at the convention, just leave a comment.  I have plenty of stories to share. 

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