Friday | Fri/Sat | Hetalia | Saturday
The whole concept of converting my reserved hotel room into Geek.Kon's for room party purposes began with Anime Iowa. Sure, it was perpetuated at Anime Milwaukee and ACen (although Chairman Bob lent one from his block to us), but it all boiled down to that night when Jasmine and Spencer bailed and Evan and Natalie signed on. This year we took care of the room and room party arrangements early on. No troubles there.
Unfortunately, in all the post-No Brand/ACen excitement, and moving to a different apartment Memorial Day weekend, I hadn't realized that a couple critical deadlines were June 1. One was for panel registrations. The other was for convention registrations. I missed both.
Now, the date for panel registration was understandable. AI is a couple weeks earlier than it was last year and placing the deadline two months out is very reasonable. Geek.Kon does the same thing and it worked just fine. This didn't stop me from asking KORfan to see if there was any way to sneak Name That Anime Opening in there, but he said that would mean begging and pleading with the panels guy who had apparently just finished the schedule. As a fellow panels guy, I assumed that feeling would be wonderful and relieving, so I didn't bother him. Having just finished Geek.Kon's schedule, the feeling is even better than advertised.
I didn't ask about the pre-reg deadline, since I could handle their increased rate and at-con reg lines (historically short). But a pre-reg deadline two months before the con? Most cons not only wait until a month before (even a behemoth like ACen), but decide to "spontaneously" add an extra week at the end, out of the "goodness" of their "hearts," to catch the stragglers. Lord knows we did.
But no, it's at-con registration for us. And apparently Anime Iowa's at-con rates are the same as Anime Central's. What are we supposed to make of that?
Apparently... a lot.
Long Lines & Warning Signs
First thing's first, let me reacquaint you with the fail watch. In 2007, Iowa staff passed out slips of paper to certain people waiting to register to gauge how long the line was. They made the mistake of giving a slip to me. That year, a printer malfunction led to a three-hour wait, so I added a concise editorial statement to their form. The only other time the fail watch has emerged was at their AMV contest the following year (I no longer recognize the existence of an AMV contest at Anime Iowa). Much as other cons earn it sometimes, I reserve it solely for Iowa since they do a good job and don't earn it very often. The fail watch is special like that.
Sarah and Evan have been in my party for a while now. Good company, but I'm starting to long for the days when I'd travel alone and room with whoever had the best accommodations (based on price, distance from con and body/floor space ratio). This year, Geek.Kon's vendor head Erin joined the trip. Once again, we were running a room party and once again, we just barely had enough room in the car. Evan and Erin shared the backseat with several cosplay outfits, a couple bags and a revamped Geekbot stand we picked up from Scott along the way. It's a three hour drive from Madison to Coralville.
Despite the backseat baggage and persistent rain, we arrived
without incident around noon and got in line for at-con registration, certain to
be a breeze since Iowa worked all the bugs out of their reg system after holy
Squigley on a stick...
The line went down to the vendor room, then looped all the way back to the registration table in front of main programming. And it wasn't moving all that fast the way it did at Detour last year. To make matters worse, there was the looming issue of their registration cap. Iowa has had an attendance cap for years, but this year they really put the fear of God into people with posts reminding people of the cap and telling everyone to make sure to show up on Friday. They could have, you know, kept pre-reg open a little longer to account for this, but even Iowa's up for a little brute intimidation every once in a while. This and the early deadline contributed to the long line more than any failures in manpower, technology or basic knowledge of the alphabet.
Regardless, it was a two hour wait for us. Good thing I didn't get NTAO in because we probably wouldn't have made it in time to host it. Sadly, bad as it seemed, this does not qualify for fail watch. Remember that the fail watch originated with a three-hour wait in the pre-reg line, so a two-hour wait in at-con doesn't cut it.
Along the way, we ran into assorted cool people like Shannon,
Drazz, Emily from Eagle Anime, various No Branders, Hetalia folks and that giant
Chiyo's Dad plush that used to follow me around at Acen all the time.
Tyler was so happy to see us that he stayed and chatted all the way through the moment that we finally got our badges... and picked up his too, shaving about an hour off his wait time. Oh those sneaky Danes. We did have some issue with other folks in line magically receiving reg forms to fill out, but Evan and Tyler snuck out of line to grab some. Don't think that was proper protocol, but anything goes when you don't know what proper protocol is. All in all, it may not have been fail watch-worthy, but it wasn't one of Iowa's better moments.
Buddy Christ still loves AI.
Due to the delay, we had to strike several items off our Friday afternoon agenda (naps, showers, plastering the convention with Geek.Kon posters, etc.), but getting into the hotel room was a must. Evan and I again did our best GAR impersonations to get stuff upstairs. Erin had been advised of a panel on how to spot bootlegs and was gone pretty quickly. She spent much of the convention doing weird stuff like going to panels and anime viewings. Remember when I used to do that? Good times.
That's one giant Gilbird.
Sarah and I morphed into Hungary and Estonia and checked out the Hetalia panel. For some reason, I was relieved that we weren't running NTAO since its usual time would have been right up against the Hetalia panel. I don't know what caused this reaction as Hetalia panels are normally very irritating and I didn't lose any sleep when the two panels conflicted at Acen.
It started out with their computer going kaput, to the point where I hoped they wouldn't call on Estonia to fix it like the No Brand panelists (I later found out they had considered it). Also, all of them said their favorite character was America, which was a little unsettling. But it was all rosy from there as they discussed the origins of the franchise, the way the show is usually not historically accurate but generates an interest in history, and how the over-arching theme of global peace should be heeded by the fandom during sub-dub debates. Attendees asked smart questions regarding whether prissy eyebrow man is England or the United Kingdom, which countries should be added (Ireland and Mexico were popular; I want to see Czech and Slovakia) and the show's blissful ignorance of history's long list of Bad Stuff. All in all, I approve, and hope the Hetalia panel at Geek.Kon (spearheaded by Sarah and Erika) turns out just as well. Eric Vale (Geek.Kon guest and voice of America) will be joining them as well... which Sarah made sure to mention at the panel.
Glad to see the Chrono Trigger love is still kicking after ACen.
And this is just a win. I saw a Purple Parrots t-shirt at ACen, but full Legends of the Hidden Temple cosplay (including the moat-ready water shoes!) gets the full pendant of life.
After the panel, the next objective was going to be the vendor
room, but the line to check bags was too long. We settled for making sure our
two impromptu roommates could get into the room. Mike's roomed with us at Anime
Milwaukee, but video game room mastermind Chief is new to the party. Actually,
he's only here because he was helping Mike move and decided to tag along to
check out how they run their video game room. Worth pointing out now that Iowa
has always had a weak video game offering... and Chief happened to bring a few
consoles he had lying around.
He walked in and damn near transformed the place.
Apparently, Chief has never been to a convention as a regular attendee. Apparently, he didn't plan to start now.
Not that we were particularly normal ourselves. I saw Chris Ayres setting up his Mock Combat For Cosplay panel and walked in to check up with him on the best room arrangements for it.
We left our bags upstairs and hit up the vendor room. At first
glance, it looked like its usual gigantic self, but the deeper we went, the more
barren it got. There was no clear distinction on which part of the room had
vendors and which had artists, especially as they both had the same ten-foot
booth spaces. There were also more empty booths than usual, so much that they
didn't bother setting up tables at the concession stand and people simply ate at
an empty vendor booth. Perhaps we were being spoiled before, but the whole
arrangement made it look disappointing.
Autumn from Day Glow Studio was there to model off the new Geekbot plushies they'll be selling. He's so cute!
After chatting with a few friendly vendors/artists, I offered to help John out at the Fast Food Anime booth. He had a few helpers bail on him and was working with a bare bones staff, so I jumped in for a few hours. Even pulled out the School Rumble charm I bought at Daisho to show someone how cell phone charms fit. Strange how enjoyable it can be to work retail during a vacation from working online retail.
Keen eyes will spot a pair of Mighty Eggplants, the dominant team in last year's NTAO. They, among others, made sure to give me crap for not hosting it this year.
I feel better now.
So good, in fact, that we'll head to Page Two.