On the date of June 18th, I had a decision to make. I could have gone to HeroesCon in Charlotte, NC, or Anime Mid-Atlantic in Chesapeake, VA. Knowing that RJ would certainly be at Heroes Con, and admittedly, also due to Anime Mid-Atlantic (henceforth AMA) only taking place about an hour from me, I decided to trek into some more uncharted territory for The Variant. I only attended for that Saturday and not the whole weekend, but as we all know Saturdays are always the biggest day for any weekend convention. The estimated headcount for AMA this year was about 3,000 - 4,000 which places it in the category of a smaller convention. Before I continue with my article, I'd like to thank my good friend Ghostie for taking pictures with an iPhone, as my camera malfunctioned the morning we set off for the convention.
If there's anything negative to say about AMA, it's that it may be starting to outgrow its current location at the Chesapeake Conference Center. While this was my first time attending AMA, I've been aware of it for a while and it's certainly grown quite a bit from reports I can find over the last few years. The issue is that the dealer’s room stays so congested, and the artist alley is literally the surrounding hallway. The nearby Marriott hotel would certainly miss them if they changed locations. The hotel staff was aware of what was going on, one desk clerk was even wearing a hidden leaf headband with his suit and tie and complimented my Stein cosplay by name. I was sort of impressed by this, as at most conventions I've attended that take place in or near hotels, the staff seems aloof, and generally annoyed (understandably so) by the con attendees.
AMA clearly had plenty of panels, as evidenced by the booklet they gave me at registration, but I didn't really go to any and cannot attest to their quality. Guests this year included voice actors David Vincent (English voice of Seneketsu from 'Kill La Kill', Jin Kisaragi from 'BlazBlue', and Gilgamesh from 'Fate'), Megan Emerick (English voice of Kitton from 'One Piece' and Hirono from 'Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom'), as well as Japanese rock band Neo Atomic Motor. Speaking of the booklet, I was impressed with AMA's professional presentation. Even some of the biggest conventions don't have full booklets, but instead folded lists and maps.
One thing AMA had in troves was group photoshoots. Almost every relevant fandom you can think of had a shoot at some point over the weekend. I'm quite sure Love Live was the largest group, and while not my cup of tea, there certainly were some dedicated fans going as far as to recreate dances. I also had a chance encounter with a photography group called Strike and Hide, and while they aren't affiliated with AMA, I can't pass up another chance to gloat about them. These guys are amazing, and I highly recommend booking them to anyone for any reason.
At the end of the day, AMA is a “hangout con”, (not that such cons are inherently bad, as some of my absolute favorite cons could also be described this way). It's the type of convention you go to with friends, or to see friends and just relax and revel in being a dork. AMA has a lot of potential to outgrow that small con mentality, however. They obviously have the resources, and the passion. I certainly plan on returning next year if I'm able, especially if I'm still so close.