Anime Detour 2009

Arrival | NTAO/AMV Contest | Dance/Sunday 

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The decision to go to Anime Detour was pretty much decided once I started dating a Minnesota girl. Seemed the obvious way to get together and it was a nice reason to check out a con with such a varied reputation. Some say it's a wonderful combination of large con resources and small con atmosphere. Some say it's a crowded, rude, awkward experience. There's only one way to find out how true either of those are.

Unfortunately, as this was a new con for me with no established game plan, gathering a room to sleep in and a travel itinerary proved difficult. Since the primary hotel in downtown St. Paul was already booked, the first obvious person to ask was Nick K. to see if he had something available. Turned out he was vacationing in Mexico and unavailable during the planning process. With time winding down, we had to resort to booking a room ourselves and trying to fill it. We scrounged up one roommate, Brian, from the Daisho forums and pulled the trigger at a Holiday Inn a few blocks away. It's still downtown St. Paul of course, and without a convention discount the rates were astronomical. Worse yet, they immediate charge, no-refund rates. So I'm suddenly out $300 with only three people on board. Time to start packing them in.

Thankfully, Harley (the Dan Hibiki Ken cosplayer that served as my dinner date at Daisho) soon signed up and Sarah later found a random girl from the No Brand boards to jump in. Eventually, Nick returned and rather than us mooching off him, he ended up mooching off us. Six people. Much better.

No Stopping, Standing, Parking

After crashing at Matt's Thursday night (and planning out volume 5 of MST... mwah ha ha), I met up with the two Eau Claire natives I was giving a ride to- Harley and the random girl. Only it wasn't just any random girl... it was Ashley! The random girl who was part of our Cloudberry adventure at Iowa '07!

Pictured: Ashley's arm holding up Cloudberry's robe. Hard to imagine me forgetting such an integral player from a prior recap.

From Eau Claire, the three of us made the relatively-short drive to St. Paul and reached our hotel successfully.

Not a bad view from the hotel room, I must say. We got our things inside, everybody who needed to change into cosplay (everyone but me) did so, and we were off to the con proper.

Sarah had beaten us by a mere three hours and reported that she had her badge and that the lines weren't bad.

Repeat this through about four different corridors and you have a general estimate of how "not bad" our line was. The start of it may have been in Minneapolis. Given that Sarah has only been to No Brand and Daisho, I really want to see what she considers a long line. Perhaps at a future ACen.

With nothing to do but wait with our new line buddies, I started the timer on the fail-watch (also from Iowa '07!), figuring that if I was destined to wait hours upon hours in line, I'd at least get another watch picture out of it.

At some point, some kind badge-wearing folk decided to do a well-choreographed dance to entertain us. Appreciated by all, until they were viciously shooed away by security. Ah yes... Yell Con begins.

ACen is Line Con, No Brand is No Line Con. As described my most of the people I've heard from, Detour is Yell Con. While No Brand is known for an outgoing, friendly, helpful staff and ACen uses brute intimidation to keep things in line before actual assertion is necessary, Detour has the reputation of awful rapport between staff/security and congoers. Obviously, half the reason I'm here is to see if this is warranted or not. Angrily shooing away some harmless kids entertaining those of us in line... not an encouraging start.

What was encouraging was how fast the line moved. We were zipping along through St. Paul skywalks and to my astonishment, we got through the maze of tunnels and claimed our badges in less than half an hour. It was quite awesome, so +1 for that.

The next step was getting Sarah's things (which had been in limbo for those three hours) to the hotel room. And as she had two cosplay outfits and a kimono, she had lots of stuff. Thankfully, I came prepared- checking out the local bus routes. Turned out we could shave the walk time in half by catching a bus that would drop us off right in front of our hotel at only fifty cents a trip. Given the possible wait times, it wasn't necessarily faster but with heavy loads it was a lifesaver. And as luck would have it, our bus pulled up right after we arrived at the stop.

As unluck would have it, I had set down Sarah's cooler full of food to pay for the bus. Once at the hotel room, we realized that I never picked it back up again. If anyone asks, we're pretending that cooler went to someone who needed it. I'm writing it off as a charitable deduction as you read this.

On the return trip, we found a Final Fantasy photoshoot. Normally I have no business anywhere near Final Fantasy photoshoots (in fact I took the picture from across the street), but I love the location above the Mississippi River. That even tops Iowa's lakeside patio.

Sadly, Sarah and I had to go back inside and greet this throng. One of the amazing things about this location and this hotel was the way the convention seemed much more dense than it should have been. The actual attendance is just a step up from Anime Iowa but at times it felt more like a large con than a midsize.

Amazing cosplay already? No, this is the actual mascot for the local lacrosse team. The arena in St. Paul was directly across from the Holiday Inn and reps from the St. Paul Swarm were handing out giveaways and free tickets for their game Saturday. I can't imagine any of the congoers actually went to the game, but the attempt at reaching out was appreciated. Sadly, I can not come up with a lacrosse manga off the top of my head. Wouldn't surprise me if there was one.

This is closer to amazing cosplay. The metal effect was ridiculous.

In the interest of fraternal equality, here's a sweet Al too.

At this point, Sarah was waiting for the dealers room to open and were looking for a way to kill time. We tried out an episode of Beck, which definitely needs more than one episode to judge properly. It also would be useful to watch without being interrupted with text messages from Brian asking for directions to the hotel.

After that episode, we returned to the dealers room doors to continue our waiting. Normally, I don't condone charging into the dealers room the moment it opens (whistles and deletes that part of the Ohayocon recap), but she really wanted a plushie and had little faith in the availability of them inside. Because if there's one thing dealers never have, it's plushies.

The situation got so dire that this guy dove down the stairs. Not in a suicide attempt... he just thought it would be fun to dive headfirst down a flight of stairs. In fact, he did it a second time so I could get video... and a third so I could get a picture in case the video didn't work... which it didn't. My computer and the back-end of YouTube are apparently not on speaking terms after it deleted my AMVs.

Before anybody else could fling themselves down the stairs, the doors opened and the mob attempted to squeeze through. In hindsight, they probably should have opened more doors. In fact, the entire dealers room was about as narrow as those two doors. Let me show you:

This was supposed to be a lane. With the requisite line of people perusing the wares on each end, there's really no middle ground. Perhaps if there were some One Way signs, traffic lights or skywalks we might be able to get somewhere. As such, the Dealers Room was crowded and chaotic for much of the convention.

I did find Roku and Drazz however!

We totally did not coordinate this, but we both got into Paul & Storm and Jonathan Coulton at about the same time a few weeks ago. Sure enough, we both wore our Paul & Storm Minion shirts. Makes me want an "I So Need Minions" t-shirt for MST that much more.

In the meantime, Sarah found her illustrious plushie so we got out of there before the entrance caved in on us.

Holy crap it's a full Nadesico group. Well, not a full Nadesico group, that would need like 20 people. But Yurika, Akito, Ruri, Hikaru and Gai Daigouji will certainly suffice. Better yet, there was a random Nadesico panel that we were obligated to check out. Amazingly, the cosplayers here had no knowledge of the panel until they saw it in the program.

The panel was just a small group talking about how they got into Nadesico, favorite characters and stuff like that. Considering I've watched it about 5 times and have spread the word to numerous converts, Sarah included, this was right up my alley. We did have to sneak out early, though, as part of our secret lunch plan.

Restaurant-wise, downtown St. Paul is more than solid. The Subway right next door was very convenient (and very packed), so unlike No Brand and ACen there were plenty of food options. But I wanted to do one better. In my hunting for good local food, I stumbled upon a hidden pizza place called Aroma's. And I mean hidden- it was in the middle of a building, barely labeled, hardly advertised, and only open on weekdays until four. But all sources said the food was good and we didn't want to be stuck with sandwiches all weekend. We hunted that sucker down and strolled in at 3:30.

It was totally worth it. Great pizza, great price.

We were not the only congoers there and it was worth commemorating our shared moment finding this hidden location on the map.

Page Two- NTAO! Greg Ayres! Flute Solos!