North Carolina Doesn’t Mess Around!
Raleigh, North Carolina is home to 20 year old Animazement. Though I wasn’t able to arrive at the convention until Saturday, I still felt like I had enough fun to fill up an entire weekend! Badge pick up at Animazement this year was one the easiest registration experiences I have had at a con, with a small line and easy to find staff. Once I passed badge check, thousands of cosplayers and anime fans filled the halls. While I have only been going to Animazement since 2014, I believe the con has easily doubled its attendance in its last four years. Last year’s attendee estimate was 14,000, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they passed the 16,000 mark for 2017. While the con was crowded this year, it won’t at all keep you from checking off everything on your to-do list! Animazement’s layout of their events has been well organized in the past, and this year was no different. The Vendor’s Room, Artist Alley, Concert Hall, and Autograph room are all on the bottom floor in the RCC’s enormous exhibit halls conveniently placed next to each other in a line. Even in the immense crowds, I could easily escape the dealers room and walk over to the autographs area in a few minutes. The panels are placed on the second floor; on one side of registration, the Japanese culture panels, and on the other side there are fan and anime panels. Getting from place to place is very easy at Animazement, and this is significant since I can’t say this is true for every convention. Even with several other anime conventions taking place the same weekend on the east coast, Animazement seems to just have a charm that attracts so many people every year!
I really do believe that every year Animazement has the best guest lineup that you can find at a con on the east coast. In the past, Animazement has had huge anime industry guests, like Aya Hirano (Lucky Star, Death Note) and Shinichiro Watanabe (Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo). For 2017, Animazement brought in guests such as Ryuusei Nakao (Frieza in Dragonball Z), Masuo Ueda (chairman of Aniplex and director at A-1 Pictures), Masao Maruyama,the producer of Yawara!, Card Captor Sakura, Claymore, and Death Note, and the visual kei musical guests, Noiz. My personally favorite set of guests were Rachel & Jun, a couple who lives in Japan and makes cultural and educational Youtube videos. Rachel & Jun are important guests because it is the only anime convention in the entire world they attend, so they are Animazement exclusives! Rachel and Jun ran a panel with fellow guest and Japan specialist, JP Yates, on Saturday with nearly a full room! Autographs for the guests at Animazement are some of the best ran events I have seen at cons. The line for both Rachel & Jun and Noiz, went by quickly and painlessly, and you still got to spend enough time with the guests to get a photo and ask a question. The AZ staff running this department were very reasonable and easy to work with while getting your autograph.
Animazement is a convention where it’s impossible to get bored! The con’s dealers room is the largest I’ve seen of any anime convention in the Carolinas. The same goes for AZ’s Artist Alley. A few years ago at AZ you could find the Artist Alley in the hallway, but in the last few years its gotten its own exhibit hall, sharing it with the Art Auction and AZ’s unique Artist Classroom area. AZ’s Artist Alley was one of my most exciting experiences all weekend. With art from the newest popular shows like Yuri on Ice, Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid, and Your Name, there was something for every type of anime fan, it was hard for me not to buy it all up! Panels at AZ ran from morning till around 2am, and the schedule was full of Japanese culture panels mostly, which I think is great for those wanting an educational experience. Panelist, Logan Lampkins says, “My panel for best openings/endings went fantastic! No one got up and left out of boredom, which is a plus!” It seems like panelists always have a fantastic turnout to their panels at Animazement, and you won’t be disappointed as an audience member.
Conventions can have all the guests, vendors, and concerts and nerd could ask for, but something that has become incredibly important in the last few years at conventions is cosplay locations. If you are a cosplayer, I don’t think you’ll have much trouble finding a perfect spot to shoot your cosplay. The most popular spot for group gatherings is the stairs right outside the entrance to the convention center. Many different gatherings were held for different series such as Persona, Haikyuu, Jojo, and more! The convention center is in the middle of downtown Raleigh surrounded by skyscrapers and cityscapes (personally I’ve always wanted to cosplay Celty from Durarara!! there, since the setting is perfect). To the left of the convention center, just a small walk away, there is a garden that many people shoot at for their more elegant costumes. About a block in front of the RCC is the famous “light wall”, a neon-colored structure that makes for a great backdrop to any photo. Animazement is truly a cosplayers paradise when it comes to getting that perfect image. Raleigh local and sixth year AZ attendee, Wesley Valkenhayn, shares his cosplay experiences at the con: “People were asking to take pictures, or complimenting me. I felt as if I pulled off the character [Akira, Persona 5] well. Which was exciting because I certainly look up to him. Oh, and talking to me as if I was him. Something like this only happens very few times for most people. So it’s worth the effort.”
You won’t be upset at all about the perfect location of Animazement. With easy access to food all around the convention center, hotels a short walk away, and easy to find parking, you AZ experience is sure to be easy going. The area is also fun if you are still a Pokemon Go player! As one myself, I had a lot of fun walking around the convention while taking advantage of the dozens of nearby Pokestops.
Animazement can be perfectly summed up from first time AZ goer, Ollie, in her experience: “I really enjoyed AZ. It was my first one and I was a bit nervous since it was a big con and wasn’t sure if I’d see my friends. However, I went and ran into them multiple times and made so many more new friends,” says Ollie. “I would definitely return again in the future and I hope the people I met there agree!”
Be sure to look into Animazement in 2018 at the Raleigh Convention Center on Memorial Day weekend! Check for updates about the con on their website: Animazement.com Until then, check out some of our favorite cosplay seen at the con below!