Two years ago, my knowledge of anime was limited to three facts: (1) it was made in Japan, (2) the characters had weird hair and eyes, and (3) my daughter was obsessed with it. She would emerge from her room after a weekend binge, hair wild, eyes bloodshot–looking like a character herself, actually–and I would think, “What does she see in those shows?”
Then I watched Fullmetal Alchemist, then Death Note, then Black Butler, and I thought, “OK, these are pretty cool.” So cool, in fact, that I took my daughter to Ichibancon 3, my first anime convention, in 2012. We are now back from Ichibancon 5, held January 9-12 in Concord, NC, a suburb of Charlotte. It has grown a lot since our first year–bigger hotel, more dealers, more fans, and three days instead of two. Last year, for instance, there were 2-3 arcade games in the hallway. This year, a room was devoted to Street Fighter, Technika 3, Versus City, Dance Dance Revolution Extreme, Guitar Freaks, and about a dozen Playstations and Xbox 360s.
There were also more guests than before. J. Michael Tatum, Bryce Papenbrook, Cherami Leigh, Jad Sexton, and Chuck Huber all had Q & A sessions following by autograph signings. I sat in on Bryce’s Saturday Q & A, which had about 100 attendees in a ballroom that seated nearly 400. Respectable, but not great. Afterward, five or six people left, and about 300 streamed in. Soon cosplayers were standing against the walls and out the doors, waiting for the weekend’s headliner, Vic Mignogna.
Vic is the Johnny Depp of anime. I had seen him at previous conventions, and each time I was amazed at how good he was with fans. He talks to them like old friends, lets girls hug him, and signs anything you wave in his face. In his Q & A, he showed the energy and improv skills of a young Robin Williams. Someone asked him–they always ask him–for his advice to aspiring voice actors, and it was this: (1) get as much experience as you can acting, (2) move to one of the best cities for voice actors–Los Angeles, New York, Houston, Dallas, or Vancouver–and (3) find a way to feed yourself. (Voice actors don’t exactly make it rain.)
Ichibancon was fun, and I was glad to see it growing. In March, I am headed to Winston-Salem to the Triad Anime Con, which is operated by the same company, Nostalgiaconventions. Maybe I’ll see you there!