Anime Central (ACEN) is a convention which takes place in Rosemont Illinois close to Chicago. It is a large convention servicing over 35,000+ attendees and growing every year. This was my first year at Anime Central and I can definitely tell you that I will be attending it again. I was very excited to attend this con after hearing stories of the past experiences of others and also because it was my first convention with my friends outside my more local con scene. So let's talk specifics
Above: CKC on the convention floor as Yu Yu Hakusho characters at ACEN 2018. Below: Bioshock cosplayers at ACEN.
Since ACEN was a new experience for me, I was lucky to informed early on about the options for registering. Of course, just like all conventions there is an at the door price for badges. A full weekend for the adults (considered to be 13+) was $70 and a lesser fee for service members or children under the age of 13. Single day passes varied from $30 to $45 depending on which day you planned to attend. They also had discounted badge prices for pre registering for the con as most others do but the best part of this option with ACEN is being able to have Con badges mailed to your home! I can’t tell you how much I was grateful for this option! As someone who lives almost 6 hours from the convention center, I was thrilled to not have to wait in line on Friday to get my badge as the lines were quite long with all the people in attendance.
Honestly, outside of the registration area at the front of the venue, I was hard pressed to find convention staff. This is not to say that when you did find one, there was anything wrong with them. I was unfortunately only able to locate them in one place but to the few staff I did see they were courteous and up beat.
The con is held every year, from my understanding, at the Donald E. Stephens Convention center. This is a very large venue, which is appropriate for the size of this con. The center itself was fair for photoshoots in specific areas inside, such as the upstairs panel room area and a small fountain area off the front of the center but was otherwise lacking in on site photogenic areas. Finding places that would be great for cosplay photos required some creative thinking and slight travel to surrounding areas that were near the convention center. The vendors area for ACEN was very large and more than able to accommodate all the amazing vendors both big and small. The vendor area was for the most part easy to walk around in and explore. This was especially true for the industry guest portion of the vendor hall. It was however, at times difficult to get around certain vendors booths, since some were small and made it hard to navigate when a group of people would all cluster together to look at the items sold there. One other issue I had was that it was not easy to locate the panel rooms at this convention for someone who is a first timer.
The Donald E. Stephens Convention Center (DESCC) was not always the easiest to get to if you were traveling from a further away hotel/location to get there. Fortunately, the center itself is just a hop, skip, and jump from both the Hyatt and Embassy Suites hotels. The Hyatt itself is literally connected to the convention center through, what I was told is “affectionately” termed the “hamster tunnel” or the skywalk. The Embassy Suites is right across the street from the center as well. With that being said obviously these two hotels were the easiest to get to and from the convention center if you were staying at them. Unfortunately for those whom have never been to ACEN, I must inform you that there is a huge thing when it comes to booking a hotel for this Con. The convention center area hotels open up the block of rooms for this convention months in advance and if you are not quick to jump on them, then you may be stuck traveling quite a bit to get to the center.
Cosplay/Voice Acting/Musical Guests
ACEN had a variety of guests this year which included voice actors such as Vic Mignogna (Full Metal Alchemist/Ouran High School Host Club), Kyle Hebert (World of Warcraft/Devil May Cry), Lauren Landa (Sailor Moon/Puella Magi Madoka Magica), and even Japanese voice actress Kikuko Inoue known for voicing Belldandy in Ah! My Goddess! Other guests included Mitsuo Iso (Ghost in the Shell), Rosuuri ( Heart of the Woods), Josh Grelle (Attack on Titan/Yuri on ICE), Cherami Leigh (Fairy Tail/Soul Eater), and so many more. One thing I can say that was lacking from the guests at ACEN was cosplay guests. I racked my brain trying to think of a cosplay guest in attendance and after doing some back research discovered that there was none. This is disappointing to me as a cosplay because one of the reasons I attend conventions is to see cosplay and I would have appreciated having a guest represent us cosplayers at the convention.
Above: CKC's Luna, RenChan, and LaKinta hanging out at the Hyatt Hotel during ACEN 2018. Below: RenChan and LaKinta on day 2 of ACEN as Tenchi Muyo's Ryoko and Mihoshi.
There was a large variety of panels at ACEN including ones for body positivity, Japanese ghost stories, Q&A panels, 18+ panels (including a personal favorite, the Cards Against Humanity panel), and even anime theory panels. Literally there was something for everyone within ACEN’s panel line up. My favorites were the Ghost in the Shell panel and the Plus Size Cosplay panel. For the Ghost in the Shell panel, which was helmed by a Major Kusanagi cosplayer, named Jaclyn, we dived into the theoretical notions of what it means to have consciousness and other mind blowing theories within the Ghost in the Shell universe. My other favorite, the Plus Size Cosplay panel we attended, was held by Keeley Shoup, an amazing plus size cosplayer. It was awesome to meet her, as well find another person and a whole panel full of people interested in spreading the love of plus size cosplay and body positivity in our cosplay community.
RenChan with amazing Major Motoko Kusangai cosplayer Jaclyn after her Ghost in the Shell panel.
ACEN was definitely not lacking when it came to vendors and artists at their con. Not only were there large business vendors such as VIZ media, Crunchyroll, and Funimation but also a plentiful amount of smaller vendors… carrying mass amounts of all that your otaku heart could desire. My favorite aspect of the vendors/artist area in the convention was the fact that they separated out artist alley from the regular vendors. They do this to some degree at most cons however, the artist alley and dealers at ACEN were separated by a large area that was used for photo shoots and other things. Not only did this make distinguishing between the two very easy but it also gave a cute little area to take photos in some of their themed sets. I adored all the things I saw in artist alley, so much that it was very hard for me to not buy everything. Not only were there a ton of prints to choose from but also things like plushies, keychains, handmade purses, and even bath products. One of my favorite artists alley vendors was Fictitious Fragrances. They carried a large selection of geek themed lip balm, bath bombs, and even candles. I had to snatch up some Pumpkin Pasties (Harry Potter themed) and Blasting Off Again (Pokemon themed) lip balms.
So as it was with most conventions that I go to, unfortunately I was not able to attend the masquerade due to other engagements… I promise at some point I am going to sit through an entire masquerade LOL but until then I apologize I was not able to see it for myself.
Amazing Cowboy Bebop cosplayers at Anime Central 2018.
Con Program Book
ACEN’s con book is very polished and precise. The information inside was very easy to read and understand. With Anime Central being a larger convention though, it did have its fair share of ads from the larger vendor such as Crunchyroll and this media scene inside of it. It does also have one thing I very much appreciate which is a good description of each of the panels and a great map of the vendor room/artist alley. As I said with my feelings on the venue, a map of the panel rooms area would have been nice in the book. The cover art was done in the Pirate theme of the con this year by Julia Lichty.
Our Con Highlights
My personal favorite thing about the convention itself was the Ghost in the Shell panels. While I was unable to attend the first one which is a great regret of mine from my trip to Anime Central... the second one was very enlightening and I felt right at home as a huge Ghost in the Shell fan. Another thing I really enjoyed about ACEN was the inclusion of the Guidebook app! This app allowed me to plan out which panels I was going to attend, my to do list for other events, as well as provided maps and all the other things I could possibly want to know about the convention all in the convenient place in my phone. Truly it is something I hope more cons incorporate in the future as this made planning so easy. The experience of going to ACEN was awesome. It will hold a special place for me now as it was my first time going to a convention with my Curvy Kitty girls outside of our home area. The con had lots of great things going for it with the great panels, huge vendor selection, and convenient planning guidebook app. I will definitely be adding ACEN to my “must do” con list and I encourage anyone in the Rosemont Illinois area and all around the country to attend as well.
REVIEW BY RENCHAN