ANIME MID-ATLANTIC 2006
I always dread hearing that a con is moving to a convention centre. On the one hand, it means that the people running it are aware that it's getting big, and are willing to adapt to that. On the other, it meant leaving the old home hotel, where Anime Mid-Atlantic has been every year except 2003. I think a lot of people got cozy with the place, even more so after spending AMA3 in the M.C. Escher Memorial Hotel.
At first I thought that the move was about a year too early; seeing the crowds, though, I think they chose well this year. The Greater Richmond Convention Centre is actually not too much of a shock, as it still feels rather comfortable and (until you walk into Main Programming) not terribly daunting size-wise. The skywalk to the main hotel was a lifesaver, also, and I think it's going to encourage people to reserve rooms early if they stay put next year. And the food court, despite being Aramark, was a lifesaver as well.
The layout was slightly confusing when it came to panel rooms. Not when you got to the proper floor, but finding out where exactly you were supposed to be to begin with took a bit of time. Large signs help ... but the room numbering was a bit narky. That could just have been me, though; I have no sense of direction.
Placement of other things ... main programming, artists' alley, the dealers' room ... all nice. Even for me, it was almost impossible to not be able to find them. And very nice having the artists directly out in front, and Con Ops actually visible and accessible.
Panels ... good rooms, decent setup (although occasionally a bit frustrating when it came to figuring out what you had). Nice selection of panels, too. One big comment -- bring back Robot Rumble next year. And make it a big deal. This is a fabulous idea, and deserves some bigger exposure. No one really seemed to know what it was (including people who ended up sitting the panel in the end). So bring it back, talk it up, and put it at a prominent point on Saturday.
Mari Ijima concert, definitely good, although it seemed like too intimate a concert to be in that huge arena. The problem being, though, that that's the only place big enough to hold the crowd it got.
Karaoke, on the other hand ... as host, I beg and plead that it be put in Main next year, even if that means shifting it to an unconventional time. Interest has grown, and a Friday night crowd of people who want to sing are not going to behave themselves in that cramped a space. Nor will they all fit. I wasn't expecting it to explode like it did, either -- please move it somewhere larger, if only so I don't get lynched by angry kids who couldn't sing their Kingdom Hearts music.
AMA continues to get amazing guests, especially Mari and Yunmao Ayakawa (the cosplay idol). Amazing trick getting them. That alone is gonna step things up even more.
Hate to give thumbs-down to anything concerning AMA, because I adore them, but I have to give it to the setup of the Saturday night rave. And I don't mean the DJs -- no hating the DJs, especially the addition of Greg Ayres this year. I suppose the DJ table up front was okay, but the whole thing seemed a little odd layout-wise. (Personal gripe with the strobes pretty much never turning off.)
AMA continues to win at everything, nonetheless. My only big note is, as above, to take the small/new things gaining popularity and draw more attention to them. And to accomodate things that might take off unexpectedly, wherever possible. Other than that, continued applause and love to all things Mid-Atlantic.