Anime Blues Con V was held this year at the Memphis Cook Convention Center in downtown, Memphis, Tennessee, from July 10th-12th. Within walking distance of the historic Main Street district, the newly opened Bass Pro Shop at the Pyramid, and the Sheraton Hotel, the location of the Cook Convention center offered convenience for congoers on foot. Parking was plentiful and offered at various rates for full weekend and daily needs. Pre registered and VIP weekend passes were sold online, and daily badges were available for pickup at the registration desk. The weekend pass was the best offer for your money if you planed on attending all three days. Anime Blues Con had a record breaking attendance this year of over 4,000 people that showed just how much ABC has grown over the last 5 years. I was glad to see that con policies included a zero tolerance harassment policy, and an open door policy with Con Chair George Min for addressing any issues that arose.
There were numerous activities, panels, signings, workshops and photo-op meetups. I think anyone would be hard pressed to be bored at this convention, unless they were standing in one of the many long lines while the event rooms were cleared. A lot of folks brought their 3DS’s to play Animal Crossing while waiting. There were game rooms where consoles were set up, and tables for tabletop gaming. The Dealer’s Room offered a spacious area for browsing the selection of various goods offered. I made purchases from Animax and Aardvark Tees.
Special guests included, but were not limited to: Brina Palencia (Black Butler), YouTube star and cosplayer SuperMaryFace, female impersonator PhiPhi O’Hara, Vic Mignogna (FullMetal Alchemist), and fashion designer h.naoto. Vic was super sweet and attentive to his fans, and lots of great pictures from his signing were posted in ABC5’s Facebook group. I checked out h.naoto’s booth in the Dealer’s Room, his style is a combination of gothic ,punk, lolita couture, and priced quite a bit outside of the average congoer’s shopping budget, but well worth it, in my opinion.
Main attractions worth mention: the Q&A sessions and meet & greets with the special guests, the Disney-themed Formal Ball, raves held both Friday and Saturday nights, the Cosplay Contest and the Maid Cafe. For the uninitiated, the Maid Cafe can only be attended by tickets purchased from the ABC website, as admission to the Cafe is not included with admission badges. There were also numerous scheduled photo opportunities for cosplayers of specific genres to meet up and take pictures. I had several favorites as far as the cosplayers went:anyone from Steven Universe, Yuna and Rikku from Final Fantasy X2, Vivi from Final Fantasy IX, as well as characters from Black Butler and FullMetal Alchemist. My alltime favorites were The Vault Dweller and Mad Max. Vault Dweller Chase Wages courteously allowed me to share photos of his cosplay alongside Mad Max.
Each event outside of the main attractions at ABC fell into one of six Tracks: Adult, Cosplay University, Otaku,Culture, Geek, or Gaming. On the Adult Track, I’d like to mention the Cosplay Off Contest (pre-registration online is required), which promotes body positivity towards all Cosplayers as they strip in front of congoers and a judges panel for prizes. Sometimes contestants go on to participate in the Neo Tokyo Strip Show on Saturday night, another 18+ event. The participants were talented and seemed comfortable on stage, I felt like it had a few continuity issues, though. There were several panels and workshops that helped support the strip shows, including a pole class and a striptease workshop. The Cross Play Drag Show and Taste The Rainbow: Gender and Sexuality in Anime showed how unique and diverse we all are and promoted acceptance.
The Cosplay University Track was full of workshops that could benefit both the beginner and the veteran cosplayer. There is also a Facebook group called Anime Blues Cosplay University that offers additional support. Workshops for pattern reading, 3D printing, body painting, makeup, cosplaying on a budget, prop making and wig styling were offered, as well as a competition panel called Iron Cosplay.
On the Otaku Track, panels on Attack On Titan, Dragonball Z, Naruto, and Bleach were offered, just to name a few. Mystery Anime Theater 3000 is exactly what it sounds like: MST3K with Anime. Fun!
The Culture Track focused specifically on Asian culture. Panels were offered on the subjects of fashion, kimono wearing, ParaPara dancing, and several panels on Lolita fashion. I saw several cosplayers decked out in regal Lolita attire. I managed to add some accessories to my outfit on Saturday that made me feel like the MidSouth Lolita Community would be proud.
The Geek and Gaming Tracks had fewer programs to offer than the other groupings, but I still found something to interest me on both tracks. I was so happy a Steven Universe panel was scheduled, it’s one of my favorite cartoons, and several cosplayers showed up in their versions of different Steven Universe characters. The History of Video Games panel would have been an excellent companion for a Memphis tourist, as the Brooks Museum in Memphis currently houses the Art of Video Games exhibit.
Most of the panels were well organized and either informative, entertaining, or both. A few seemed like they needed more room than they were given, mostly due to attendance. The Sched app on the ABC website made it easy to choose events that were interesting and have digital copies of event schedules.
If you are a first time con goer, or first time attendant of Anime Blues Con, I’d like to offer a few helpful suggestions. I strongly suggest preregistering, and showing up for any panels or events early. Standing in line was one of my least favorite aspects of this convention. VIP passes bought online cut down on those waits. If you’re cosplaying one character for an entire day, wear “smart” shoes, even if it’s a pair of tennis shoes you’ve painted to match your outfit. Concessions were available, but only until early evening hours. Food and cold drinks were better accessed by leaving the MCCC. Lastly, and I cannot emphasize this enough: STAY HYDRATED. I know it doesn’t look cool if you’re cosplaying and you’re having to carry a bag or backpack full of drinks around, but the heat in Memphis in July is intense, and some parts of the MCCC have gigantic windows that flood the inside with sunlight. In other words, it can get really hot both inside and outside, and attending a con in full cosplay can exacerbate heat exhaustion conditions.
This was my first time attending Anime Blues Con, and there was very little that actually disappointed me. I had fun, I was able to enjoy the con both from an adult and a family friendly perspective, as I brought my 7 year old with me on Sunday. What I gathered from other congoers was that Anime Blues has grown and improved over the years, and I hope it will continue to do so in the years to come.