I want to start this off by saying very concisely that Ichibancon is one of my favorite conventions. Maybe it's purely nostalgia, but I love Ichi, and sometimes when you love something you have to look at it more objectively. When your friends are doing something stupid, do you just sit there and watch them do it? No, you sit them down, and you have a heart to heart, and you hope they listen, and that's exactly what I'm about to do for Ichibancon.
Ichibancon takes place in Concord North Carolina, just outside of Charlotte. It's the second largest convention in the state, and frankly, they need to start treating it like it is. Like most conventions, Ichibancon has humble beginnings, but as the con has grown into the juggernaut it currently is, attracting people from everywhere between Virginia and Georgia, it seems like those in charge simply treat it as the small convention it once was. Despite the attendance and the plethora of absolutely jaw dropping cosplays, many of the panels seemed to just be repeats of last year. In fact, almost everything seemed to be a repeat of last year. To sum it up in a single word, Ichibancon is stagnating.
There are some simple steps that Ichibancon can take to really help themselves out in the future. The first is, as I stated above, it's time to act like one of the big dogs. They might not be as big as Animazement, but it's time for them to pretend they are. Speaking of Animazement, which is the largest con in North Carolina, Ichibancon could heavily benefit by teaming up with them. Animazement is in May, and is therefore no threat or competition for Ichi. The amount of influence and reach Animazement has could bolster Ichi in ways I don't think they realize are possible. I have heard many complain that perhaps the convention should change locations, but I'm not quite sure it's time for that personally. The Embassy is a great location with some awesome photoshoot opportunities, plus the hotel itself is a treat. I will admit it is starting to get a bit crowded, especially in the vendor room. I think a change is due soon, but I don't think they're at that point.
I feel the need to reiterate that some of the cosplays were truly impressive, especially for a convention of this size. I didn't get to go to the masquerade but I'm sure it was a tough competition. Many of the cosplay pieces seemed like the sort of things most would hold off for a much larger event. There were also a couple of very talented photographers this year as well. I had the pleasure of working with John Spectre of Cosplay of the Carolinas for a Legend of Zelda shoot, and John Penta of C&C Media accompanied me as a photographer and cameraman for The Variant. The con attendees themselves were all mostly friendly. In fact, I think Ichi is probably one of the easiest cons to make friends at if you're new to the scene.
Ichibancon might be the second largest anime convention in North Carolina, but it's ichiban in my heart (sorry I'm not funnier). I am not making these heavy criticisms in the hopes that anyone will be upset. This convention and its community have the power and the ability to succeed, and I want to see that happen. If you were at Ichibancon with me this year, you don't need me to tell you how legendary this particular convention is going to be. It was a good year for sure, but it was an eye opening year, and I hope through this article I'm able to open the eyes of the staff to do what it necessary. Give a toast to room #206, and check out this video of me interviewing some of the cosplayers.
*I'd like to note that the hand gesture in the first interview was because after interviewing about 5 people, they all gave the same answer. I'd follow this up by saying I'm not a dick, but I kinda am.