Anime Central (ACen), which takes place in Rosemont Illinois, just 30 minutes from downtown Chicago, is a large convention which boast attendance of over 35,000+ people and continues to grow each year. This was my second time attending Anime Central and I can say without a doubt that it is quickly becoming a must attend convention for my friends and I. So what is making me come back for more this year?
Once again I was able to take advantage of ACen’s awesome option of mailing the con badges to its attendees. I can say now from 2 years experience this makes a huge difference because lines to get badges during the weekend filled up fast and at times were spilling out to the rest of the con from the registration area.
ACen had at the door price for badges for the convention which varied depending on which days you chose to attend. 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. Children under the age of 5 were allowed in free at the convention with a maximum of 2 children in this age group allowed per paying adult attendee. Single day passes varied same as last year 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.
Above: CKC's RenChan and Luna on the convention floor as Ranma 1/2 characters at ACEN 2019. Below: Luna, RenChan, LaKinta, and YomuChan hanging out in our hotel at ACEN 2019.
As with my experience last year the con staff and volunteers were widely spread out throughout the convention and outside of the registration area at the front of the venue, I was sparsely able to find them. Ones I did interact with were kind and professional and I honestly did not need any assistance from anyone enough through the weekend to make the lack of “present” staff an issue.
This year again Anime Central was held at the Donald E. Stephens Convention center. For those whom have never been to this location, is a very large venue and appropriately accommodates the size of this convention. The center itself was fair for photoshoots in specific areas inside however lighting was not always the best. The most photogenic areas I would have to say are the fountain outside the entrance to the convention center and the grounds surrounding it. Thankfully this year ACen also added to its photo ops area giving us more backgrounds and props to work with and kept this area separate from the vendor hall this year which meant even after the vendor hall was closed you could selfie and hangout in the photo ops area all night if you wanted. Speaking of the vendors area for ACen, this did not change from last year and once again the space was more than adequate for the large amount of vendors that ACen provides. Despite the incredible amount of people and some areas where traffic was a bit congested, overall the vendor room was easy to navigate and enjoy.
The Donald E. Stephens Convention Center (DESCC) is not always the easiest to get to. Despite being just across the way from many of the hotel locations it can be a pain with the traffic getting to and from this venue both in a vehicle or on foot. The Hyatt, a.k.a. The host hotel is connected to this convention center via tunnels which can make travel to and from easy, except when during bad weather conditions and high traffic times at the convention these became congested and not fun to travel through. The Embassy Suites, Crowne Plaza, and Doubletree hotels were also located basically directly across the street from the center as well. This made these locations ideal for ACen attendees and made them a commodity for people when trying to book their hotel spots. With ACen like so many large cons booking rooms months in advance with a sort of Hunger Games like experience does make getting a nearby room for this event a hassle. Unfortunately this can be a huge issue for new ACen attendees who are not familiar with this type of hotel craziness. Parking is also a challenge at ACen. Even if you manage to seize a great hotel location some require $25 a day parking fees and finding spots in close by walking areas was next to impossible at times.
Above: CKC along with Wicked Warlock, Digital Creme Cosplay, and YomuChan as the cast of Ranma 1.2 on the floor photo exhibits at ACEN 2019. Below: RenChan, YomuChan and Jaclyn Salmon as 3 versions of Motoko Kusanagi during a Ghost in the Shell photo shoot with Mouzycat Cosplay Photographer.
Cosplay/Voice Acting/Musical Guests
ACEN this year had some great guests. Crispin Freeman (Chobits/Witch Hunter Robin/Wolf’s Rain), Sandy Fox (AKIRA/Ghost in the Shell/Sailor Moon), Justin Cook (My Hero Academia/Yu Yu Hakusho), and Japanese voice actors Kiyono Yasuno (My Hero Academia/Cardcaptor Sakura Clear Card Arc) and Natsumi Takamori (Another/Brave Witches) are just some of the big names that attended this years convention. Other industry guests included Eric Vale (Fruits Basket/Fullmetal Alchemist/Dragonball Z), Caitlin Glass (Fullmetal Alchemist/ Free!/Tokyo Ghoul), Kenichi Sonoda (Bubblegum Crisis/Gunsmith Cats), and way too many more to list them here. Once again this year Anime CEntral was lacking in cosplay guests. I was disappointed to once again not get to see anyone represented for cosplay here at ACen, maybe it's too big of a convention and or maybe they don't feel like cosplay guests are crowd drawers… either way it was one of the things I disliked about the convention.
Once again this year, there was an unbelievable variety of panels and programing at ACEN. Whether your thing is Q&A panels, 18+ panels, panels on Japanese culture, tabletop gaming, voice acting tryouts, video gaming, miniature painting/hobby events, film screenings, or even anime theory panels...ACen once again had something for everyone. My favorite was the Arise: Ghost in the Shell panel lead by a good friend of mine named Jaclyn. In the panel she once again we deep dives into the philosophical and analytical ideas behind, inspired by, or related to Ghost in the Shell's newest incarnation.
Justin Pineda's ACEN 2019 CMV feating CKC and company as Ranma 1/2.
Anime Central is packed to the brim with vendors and artists at their con. With this being my second year in attendance, I can tell you with 100% certainty that one of the big factors for me returning this year was that just how awesome their vendor room and Artist Alley are. Once again large industry vendors as VIZ media, Crunchyroll, and Funimation were present and a hefty amount of smaller vendors with the typical con fair where littered throughout the vendor hall. I have to say without a doubt that one of my favorite parts of ACen's Artist Alley. once again I was almost overwhelmed by all the amazing handmade, local, and traveling artists that attended this convention and with each booth I was more and more excited to see what the next one would have. I have to admit that I spent more money than I would have liked to and probably would have spent more if I hadn't had to leave the artist alley early on Sunday. they definitely have their game on point when it comes to artists alley and knowing how to get those more unique items that not all conventions will have. It's hard for me to choose favorite vendors at a sad because of this but I will say that this year's favorite was Catscratch with their booths adorable pins with the perfect kawaii goth aesthetic.
So as it was with most conventions that I go to, unfortunately I was not able to attend the masquerade due to other engagements…however despite this I have seen images and footage from the masquerade and I can say that it was definitely something I am sad that I was not able to attend. anime Central is definitely a place where people bring their a-game when it comes to their cosplay construction and performances.
Con Program Book
ACEN’s program book was once again very nice and easy to read and understand. I will say that Anime Central does have a larger portion of its convention book dedicated to ads, which is something honestly I've come to expect from a larger convention. The original art featured in the book was also really cute but I am sad to say I was unable to find out who the artist was.
Our Con Highlights
My personal favorite thing about the convention itself was the Ghost in the Shell panel...but I might be bias lol. I also just really enjoyed hanging out with my friends at this convention.. even though ACen is a larger convention I still was able to really enjoy their company and enjoy the best part of convention in general for me which is spending time with my friends. Also I once again really enjoyed the Guidebook app for ACen! This app once again so helpful and my crew and I are planning out what events we were attending and when and really helped us stay on schedule. It was nice not to have to carry the convention book on you all weekend and the alerts allowed for us to be notified if we got absent-minded while skimming through the endless vendor room. as I said last year to the app included maps, panel descriptions, dates and times, and so much more literally it was a one stop go to for all things Anime Central during the weekend. Since this was my second time at Anime Central, I was already expecting a great experience from last year...and I was not disappointed. ACen in just 2 short visits has become a favorite of mine and I look forward to going again. This convention has so many wonderful things going for it, between the amazing events and panels, the undeniably awesome vendor room/Artist Alley, and the energic buzz of the weekend there was so much to love. I would definitely encourage anyone who lives in Illinois and even within several hours driving distance to go to Anime Central next year and enjoy it for themselves. I give Anime Central 2019 a 4/5.
RenChan as Kaneda from AKIRA at Anime Central 2019.
REVIEW BY RENCHAN