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Anime Midwest 2014
Anime Midwest 2014

With Anime Midwest deciding to expand to the same building as Anime Central, one of the biggest anime cons in the U.S., I arrived early for the usually the unbearably daunting task referred to as pre-registration. Now usually the pre-registration is one of the worst things about attending cons, they're insanely long and the lines are constant throughout the day. However, my experience was different here... I found myself briskly through the line. Typically if you're a con-goer (and especially a new con-goer who doesn't know what to expect) be prepared to wait in a VERY long unorganized line when it comes to pre-registration, nearly every one of them is quite the arduous wait. While Friday's pre-reg line was quick, I felt bad for those who decided to come Saturday and Sunday, those lines looked like they sucked hard. Midwest was off to a good start, but could it keep up the momentum?

Arguably, the main attraction for con-goers are the voice actors. Fans love to meet the voice of their favorite anime characters and Midwest pulled some fantastic guests for this con. Probably the biggest name pulled was Johnny Yong Bosch, one of the most prolific actors in the anime world, he is best known as Adam from Power Rangers, Vash in Trigun, Lelouch in Code Geass, Ichigo in Bleach, among others, along with his band EyeShine. Sonny Strait, whom is best known as Krillin/Bardock in DBZ, Lupin in Lupin The 3rd, Maes Huges in FullMetal Alchemist, Usopp in One Piece, and the original Toonami Tom. Greg Ayres, He's probably best known for Ganta in Deadman Wonderland, Tommyrod in Toriko, Chrono in Chrono Crusade, Heihachi in Samurai 7, and Yukio in BECK. Caitlin Glass whom is best known as Winry in FullMetal Alchemist, Miria in Baccano!, and Haruhi in Ouran Host High School Club. D.C. Douglas is best known as Albert Wesker in the Resident Evil franchise, and Legion in Mass Effect. Lastly we had Alexis Tipton whom is best known as Honey in Space Dandy, Moka in Rosario + Vampire, Saya in Blood C, and Inori in Guilty Crown. Also supposed to be attending was Chris Patton, whom was a huge draw for myself to attend. He's best known as Sousuke Sagara in Full Metal Panic!, Greed in FullMetal Alchemist, and Asura in Soul Eater. Sadly, Chris had to cancel due to weather conditions.

Meeting them all was a highlight for me (especially Johnny), they all seemed thrilled to be there, and nearly all of them accommodated any requests, most of them even staying longer for autograph signings so they could meet everyone waiting in line. However, as with a lot of conventions, the autograph lines were horrible! To be honest, they were poorly staffed, I watched as numerous people just walk right in front of the line and then listen as staffers tell people "well, this isn't even an official line yet, you're not supposed to be lined up more than an hour early, so I can't do anything about it." This for me was in poor taste. Then having the people split up into separate lines instead of one fluid line where you can meet each guest down one line, since they were sitting at the same table, is another thing that bothered many immensely. Just have 2 lines. 1 for VIP, 1 for regular badges, how hard is that? The lines will run much smoother, and all the con-goers will be able to meet ALL of the guests, instead of choosing one or the other.

There was an array of panels that you could choose from. If you're a fan of the guests, you could go to one of their panels, where you can typically hear their experiences on how to become a voice over professional, funny stories about their time in the recording booth, maybe hear them talk about their favorite roles, listen to them perform certain character lines. Hell, some voice actors will even bring some recording equipment with them and will hold a fan dubbing class, have the class dub an episode of anime, then watch it together. If you wanted to go to some fan ran panels, you could go discuss in depth about shows like Evangelion, or something simple where people talk about their love of Doctor Who. There was a panel for everyone to enjoy at Midwest. Much like the signings, these could be a little disorganized as well, many guests had panels scheduled at the same time, for example D.C. Douglas was scheduled for a solo panel, while he was also scheduled for the collective voice actor panel. Another example was Johnny Yong Bosch's final panel on Sunday, he was scheduled from 11:00 am until 12:30 PM, about a half hour in another person came in saying her panel was scheduled there and that Johnny was no longer on the schedule, so staff moved Johnny to main events hall, and after 10 minutes, Alexis Tipton came in saying her panel is scheduled there. Johnny acted professionally about the situation, and decided to set up an impromptu autograph signing.

If you're a person who doesn't go to cons to meet the guests or to attend their panels, and you're there for side attractions, at Midwest there are still plenty of desirable things to do. You could take a walk through the Dealer's/Artists alley, wall to wall with DVD and Blu-rays of all of your favorite anime, wall scrolls, classic action figures, Japanese imported goods such as food, The convention had 5 different game rooms, where at an time you could enjoy games like Mario, Infamous, and Fallout on the newest platforms. If you're into tournaments then you could enter the fight on various video games like Pokémon or Super Smash Bros (I wish I had time for that one!), and if you're not into standard video game tournaments, then you could always go to the other 2 game room, set aside for those who prefer to battle their friends with their card decks of various TCG like Pokémon, Yu-Gi-Oh!, Magic: The Gathering, or DBZ.

My personal con highlight was the event I was anticipating most since the schedule went live. I'm a pretty big Johnny Yong Bosch fan, and up until now I never really heard any of his music, besides a few songs. So while a lot of my friends went to the Alexis Tipton panel scheduled at the same time, I went to his concert where his band, EyeShine, were performing. He sang somewhere around 15 songs, and got the crowd really into it. There was one part of the concert during a guitar solo where a light bulb shattered. So they made it their mission to break another. The concert ran a little over, ending around 9:30. After the concert, Johnny invited everyone out into the hall where they set up a merchandise table and held an impromptu autograph signing. Johnny and his band mates, Ginny, Polo, and Maurice, were all class acts, standing around meeting fans for about 3 hours.

I was able to get interviews with 3 of the guests. #1 was Johnny Yong Bosch, where we discussed some of his favorite roles (Vash, Lelouch, and Nero), and what it was like returning to the roles of Vash and Renton after so much time had passed, sadly we had less than 5 minutes, so it couldn't be much of a real interview. #2 was D.C. Douglas, which was much better, we had around a half hour and had the interview over a drink. We discussed about half of his career, from Resident Evil, Tekken and Mass Effect, to Titanic 2, all the way to guest stints on TV shows such as 24, NYPD Blue, Castle and ER. This was my personal favorite interview as it felt like D.C. really wanted to be there and gave well thought out responses. The last was Caitlin Glass, whom was also in a hurry, but we were able to discuss her roles in FullMetal Alchemist, Baccano!, Ouran Host High school Club, along with the recording process of Space Dandy.

The con was solid, but after travelling nearly 350 miles to attend this convention, I'm asking myself if this trip was worth it. No matter what convention you go to, you're bound to have a good time, but sometimes when the con is too disorganized, it can take away from the overall enjoyment, and in the case of Anime Midwest, it did. On a rating scale, I'd give Midwest a 3 out of 5, for the awesome guests who went above and beyond for the fans, a good dealers room, and a some fun panels.


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