We’re Back! Blurricon, Anime USA, and Miku on the Late Show!

The crew is back! With the season three opener of Otaku Drive Time, they discuss their recent experiences at Blurricon 2 and Anime USA 2014. They wrap the show up talking about Hatsune Miku’s appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman.

Blurriecon 2014 Review

If necessity is the mother of invention, then in September 2013 necessity gave birth to Blurriecon, a small convention in Erie, PA that ran in lieu of the then-recently dissolved Erie Anime Experience. The birth was unexpected and very early–the show ran with only about three full weeks of preparation and promotion–but the show was successful enough that it ran again this year.

If we drag the baby analogy out a little longer, we can note that this show is essentially 14 months old.  If it was an actual child, this would be the exciting milestone time, where it’s likely a baby will begin to walk and talk. Blurriecon is showing those signs of development, but, like a child, they aren’t necessarily fully formed. There was a good amount of signage, but most of it was on Post-It notes. The show was three days, but Dealer’s Room didn’t open until Saturday and had weird hours as a result.  There was programming galore, including the return of their awesome, old-school-console-filled game room, but for a 300-or-so-person show, it was too much programming.  Staff all seemed willing and eager to please, but rule enforcement felt lax, and forethought seemed absent at the wrong times. At a cursory glance, you would think that Blurriecon was run by people who have been to enough conventions to know what’s needed, but don’t know how they actually work.  This isn’t necessarily a problem at this stage of a baby con’s life, but if these types of missteps continue to happen at later shows, I’d be consulting a pediatrician.

What may buy Blurriecon some time to develop is its attendees.  Every convention is different in terms of demographics and interests, partially due to every convention being in a different location. Erie does have a selection of colleges, but its largest enrolls less than 10,000 and the combined enrollment of the major schools is still less than the University of Pittsburgh. Throw that in with a metropolitan population of about 200,000 (one-tenth Pittsburgh’s metro population) and you are looking at a majority of attendees with a very “small-town” mindset. It likely would not have mattered what Blurriecon actually did do for programming, because the biggest attraction was finally meeting other people that liked anime.  As a long-seasoned attendee, it was nostalgic and somewhat refreshing to see meeting and socializing be the biggest priority. However, if you were a programmer or a vendor, the show was likely a disappointment.

Now that Blurriecon had a full year to conceptualize and develop, it showed signs of an excellent show, but it’s not there yet.  It’s up to the staff to learn and apply the proper skills and techniques of a professional-looking convention in future years.  We like many others will be eagerly awaiting these developments, camera in hand to capture every important step along the way.

Tricon Review

On 22 March 2014 the Pittsburgh IPMS held their annual model competition, Tricon. At first glance at the name long time convention goers would question the “con” nomenclature used for nothing more than a competition, but as defined by Meriam-Webster as “a large meeting of people who come to a place for usually several days to talk about their shared work or other interests or to make decisions as a group.” This of course defines Tricon.

What brought me to the event were the hopes of seeing anime based models. This fell flat. The competition had a single Gundam, an Age-1 from Gundam Age.

The event was held at AW Beattie Center in Allison Park Pennsylvania and ran for one day. It was held in a single large classroom/meeting room of the facility. This room was split in half, with one half being the competition and the other being a vendor’s area. The event hosted a number of raffles, some free, some pay.

The event did something that I had not seen done at a model convention before, they had folding tables that were either about 4 foot tall or had very unique leg extenders on them. This raising of the kits on display eliminated the typical back and neck ache incurred with looking down at tables holding the kits. For anyone who has gone to an convention art show, general craft show, or other event displayed on traditional height 6 foot folding tables can completely understand how significant and positive this is.

The competition itself was very enjoyable to look at. The kits entered were incredibly done. The competition was “open judging” which is interesting as the judging of the kits were done based on their individual merit. Each kit had the potential of winning a bronze, silver, or gold medal and there were many of each medal in each of the eleven classes. The classes for the competition were:

  • SCI-FI
  • AUTOMOTIVE
  • FIGURES
  • REAL SPACE
  • SHIPS
  • DIORAMA
  • AIRCRAFT
  • MILITARY VEHICLES
  • MISCELLANEOUS*
  • RAILROAD*
  • DIORAMA*

The price for this convention was incredibly reasonable; $10 for an Adult to enter the competition with up to 3 kits, $1 for each additional kit, juniors were $4 with unlimited model entries, and it was $3 to walk in the door and look around, and vendors were $25 a 6′ table. The club also had food available for incredibly reasonable prices.

It was incredibly nice to see the junior category, and even nicer to see the winners of medals called up during the awards ceremony to receive their prize. This actually added to the atmosphere of the event. I looked at the actions taken with the juniors as a good way to include younger modelers and encourage them to participate in this and other events. Thus, the hobby will continue on and the event will survive and thrive in this digital age.

This brings about the short comings of this event. First, the website was lacking useful information. The link to the “For Contest Rules, directions to the show, and FAQ, download the contest flier,” links to a one sheet PDF that is very well laid out, but only shows most of the categories, prices, and an address to the event. I discovered the Miscellaneous, Railroad, and Diorama categories at the event. Also there were a significant number of “Sponsored Awards” that were not listed completely and were discovered at the event. As an outsider to the organization and the model competition scene this lack of rules made it impossible for me to give more specific details about the event. I was told the organization advertised with Facebook, fliered local hobby shops, and a comic/gaming store, as someone who does not frequent the comic/gaming store that they fliered at, and only visit the local hobby shops when I need something, I did not encounter advertisements for the event. If I did not know a member of the Three Rivers IPMS club, I would not have known when and where the event was.

The following is both a positive and a negative; the event is a dealer’s room and the competition. For a casual fan or someone not interested in competing this event is great as they can walk in, look around, and leave. For the price it is perfect! Now, as a negative, for the competitors, they are stuck in the room all day with little to do other than shop, make small talk with other modelers, wait for the frequent raffles, and the end of event award ceremony.

In conclusion I will say that this event, for the price of being a walk in attendee is a good bargain. You see numerous high quality art pieces and can meet the artist and learn from them, if they are willing to share. As a competitor the price seems reasonable to me, especially as this is probably the only game (there is a competition that is automobile kits only) in town and open judging makes it possible to win something. The vendor’s table prices, for any sort of convention, were insanely low priced. While the attendance and market is small, the price makes it very easy for any vendor of model kits, supplies, and related items to turn a profit for the event. I would love to see more publicity to the general public in other locations that allow fliering and maybe other activities at the event, but that is me. I was told by a source that the organization does not want the event to grow beyond its current scope, list of activities, or length. The reality is that everyone there was having a good time and the atmosphere showed.

A Look at Setsucon 2014

Every year in January, a small fan run anime convention known as Setsucon takes place in central Pennsylvania. Setsucon is run by the Penn State Anime Organization which is a part of Penn State University. Coming off of the winter holidays, vacation time for most people is very scarce this early in the year. For those people, being able to attend an event that does not require a full vacation day for Friday (or having to take Thursday off as a travel day) is really important. Herein lies both a great strength and downfall of this wonderful show: it is two days. For those with weekdays to spare, the smaller two day event can be a slightly less desirable destination than the larger Ohayocon in Ohio, which usually occurs on the same weekend. While it is a significant drive from State College, PA to Columbus, OH (about 6 hours), the larger three day event siphons away some potential attendees from western Pennsylvania, which is about midway between the two.
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