Updated: Dec 17, 2019
You know that movie all your friends talk about for years, and one day you finally get to watch it, and you're just sort of underwhelmed in the midst of all the hype your buddies surrounded it with? That, in a nutshell, was my experience with Nekocon, and while it might sound like an insult, I really don't mean it as such. Nekocon is one of the largest events in southeastern Virginia, and that's something, but in comparison, it's only about the size as a medium-sized convention in North Carolina. What I'm saying here is that if you're used to events such as Animazement, Nekocon is going to seem on the small side to you. But size isn't everything, and Nekocon has plenty of its own merits. If I had to pick a single thing about Nekocon that would keep me coming back, it's the photo opportunities. If you're a cosplayer looking for a good con to book a shoot at, or a photographer looking for the same, Neko has you covered. The fountain just outside makes for some gorgeous shots night or day, and even many spots indoors and at the surrounding hotels feature some excellent scenery. I personally had booked a shoot earlier this year that had to be pushed back to this convention due to a car accident, and while I'd certainly like my Altima back, having the date pushed back was sort of a silver lining in disguise.
Nekocon staff was very friendly, and always seemed eager to help or answer any questions. I really think they nailed the
“presence and presentation” department. I couldn't get a good picture of them, as I was in cosplay and without my camera by the time I was aware, but they even had two cosplayers manning a booth as their mascots. It seems like such a small touch, but it was adorable and that kind of effort gets noticed. I think they could possibly take this a step further and have their mascots walk around the con floor at some point, although it's possible that they did this and I missed it. The artist alley was a bit smaller than what I'm used to, but the dealers room was stocked. I was a bit shocked when I passed an STL Ocarina booth! If you didn't know, STL is a major name in the ocarina community, and I was just a little surprised to see a company I recognized. Finding anything at Nekocon is a breeze, as the con floor is essentially just one big two-floor hallway. This works positively in that respect, but it also makes things feel very condensed.
Nekocon was underwhelming to me, but not in the way that McDonalds has underwhelming food. It was underwhelming in the way of a bowl of ramen noodles from the grocery store. Was it a gourmet dish? No, but it filled you up, and it tasted alright going down. I think the biggest thing to focus on isn't that it was underwhelming, but that it was underwhelming TO ME specifically because of all the hype my Virginia friends gave it. My biggest concern is that as the convention grows its numbers in the future, it will keep the same location. That sort of “big hallway” aesthetic that I mentioned really hurts the atmosphere and makes it feel like there's less to see and do than there really is. Since most of our readers are North Carolinians, it's worth noting that Nekocon takes place in Hampton, VA so you're probably looking at a 3+ hour ride to attend. I'd certainly say it's a worthy contender with similarly sized NC conventions such as Ichibancon, and I'd definitely recommend attending at least once. If you're looking for a good place for a cosplay photoshoot, it's the cat's meow.