Review of Anime Banzai 2014, Day 1

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Anime Banzai 2014

Layton, Utah

Day 1, Friday, 17 October 2014

Review by: John Fragglepuss Evans

Anime Banzai is the largest Utah strictly anime convention. It is a convention that I have been attending for a few years and I am glad to be able to cover this convention. This is a convention that started as a gathering of a Salt Lake Community College anime group ten years ago and has grown to be a convention that brings several thousand people over a three-day weekend. There are aspects of the convention that shown its veteran status as a ten-year convention and other aspects that make it look like a small convention that is experiencing growing pains. All of those aspects will be addressed in the summary at the end of the review.

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I started off the convention on Thursday by picking up a pre-registration badge. This is where one of the small convention problems set in. The pre-registration line was somewhat sloppy and the volunteers were not sufficiently informed of where anybody besides the regular pre-registration guests needed to obtain their passes. However, the actual Anime Banzai staff were available and willing to help. My suggestion for the future is follow the lead of other conventions and have a separate, clearly marked area for special guests, such as press and panelists, to pick up their passes since they are helping the convention be what it is. Another problem is the strict stipulations with picking up passes. The staff claim that is it for “legal reasons”, but if that is the case then why do I not run into the same problem at other conventions? My suggestion, allow the volunteers to use their brain and common sense to let people pick up passes for their spouses/relatives. The last problem, which is not a large problem, but simply shows that this is a small convention that needs to embrace growth and quality, is that panelists have to pay for a pass to get into the convention. The panelists are helping to make the convention what it is. They are providing entertainment for the paying customer. The panels are the reason why a lot of individuals attend the convention. If the panels are not the sole reason the individual attends the convention, they are a definite benefit of the individual attending the convention. My suggestion is to give the panelists a complementary pass to the convention as thanks for bringing other individuals into the convention. This will not only show thanks to the panelists and make them want to provide quality panels, but it will also attract more quality panelists to provide panel content for your convention and help it grow. That is all for my review of the Thursday pre-registration. Let us move onto Friday, day one!

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The convention started bright and early, with registration beginning at 8am. The line was long at the start of the day, but appeared to move at a steady pace. By noon the registration line was diminishing. I started off the day by attending “cosplay chess”. This involved people in cosplay standing on a chess board as if they were chess pieces. With each move of the board, the cosplayers would move. When a piece was going to be taken, the two pieces in question would battle with the appropriate piece taking the victory. It was entertaining to watch.

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I then attended a panel on Discoverers of Anime: Fans in the 80’s. This was an entertaining panel hosted by two Anime Banzai veterans. They had a wide variety of nostalgic anime and manga related stuffs on display. For example, there were several Studio Ghibli plushes and an original Bubblegum Crisis poster. The panelists were ready to discuss and answer many questions of 80’s anime and also of them living in Japan in the 1980’s.

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The next panel was on the Making of Kimono. The panelist was quite knowledgeable on kimonos and the appropriate wearing of said kimonos.

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Next was a dance competition. The dance competition has been popular at Anime Banzai for the last few years, when such dance crazes as Gangnam Style and What Does the Fox Say were occurring, but it was not as popular this year. I suppose there needs to be a catchy dance song each year around October to really get the convention crowd going.

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The Artist Alley and Exhibit Hall were good this year as they have always been at Anime Banzai. The problem is that there is not a large enough space for both of these. There are not a lot of vendors and there could be many more if there were a larger space. Additionally, there were only a certain amount of people allowed into these areas at any given time, which resulted in long lines throughout the day. The second-hand sale was also good to walk through, with a lot of merchandise being sold at great prices.

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Old School Anime Challenge was the next panel of the day. This panel was run in a Jeopardy-style of asking and answering questions. It was well put together and there were prepared panelists running the panel. The only concern was that some questions were very obscure and left the contestants with no idea of how to answer.

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The Opening Ceremonies occurred in the main ballroom. The special guests were announced and joined the stage. This was immediately followed by a Q & A session with all of the special guests. The special guests include: Chris Patton, Jan-Scott Frazier, Vic Mignogna, Chuck Huber, Warky T. Chocobo, and Sonny Strait. The special guests were both cordial and sassy on stage.

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The next event on the main stage was the Who’s Line is it Anime. This was an improve reminiscent of Who’s Line is it Anyway. It was entertaining to watch.

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There were two viewing rooms that showed anime throughout the day. I was able to watch Kill La Kill episodes 1-3 in the viewing room and it was a lot of fun to have a full room cheering and “ahhh”ing throughout the episodes.

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There was a formal ball on Friday night in the main ballroom that had a strict dress code. It was so strict that I was unable to enter with my entertaining attire. I instead elected to attend the attached bar activities for the night. There is a bar attached to the convention center and they were well-prepared for the convention crowd. There were drink specials and sufficient staffing for the convention goers.

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That concludes the activities that I experienced for day one of Anime Banzai 2014. In regards to my overall thoughts of day one and the convention in general, I have the following to state. I mentioned earlier in the review some of the growing pains that Anime Banzai is experiencing. It appears they need to decide soon if they want to stay a small convention in a small convention center, or if they want to move to a larger convention center in a more convenient location that will allow for growth. My vote is for them to move to Salt Lake City and be more convenient for the majority of individuals that attend the convention. Besides the growing pains I have mentioned, day one was a success in my opinion. The convention was a lot of fun. There was always something to do and always somewhere to be. I enjoyed myself throughout the entire day, from early morning to late at night.

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Photos courtesy of John Fragglepuss Evans and Lindsay Starke. Feel free to share but please give some credit to Fragglepuss.com

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