Back from Anime Weekend Atlanta 2009

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Anime Weekend Atlanta, or AWA (pronounced by letter or A-wa, whatever you like), took place this past weekend on September 18-20. AWA turns 15 this year. It is one of the top 10 attended anime conventions in the US. It’s particularly known for its AMV contests. I’ve been going since 2005, making this my fifth convention, a personal con attendance record rivaled only by MTAC.

If conventions are really for convening, then AWA is a great place for it. You get to meet all sorts of interesting people, including a guy grilling hot dogs right outside the con because when you got to eat you got it eat. It’s always great to meet people, and it’s especially interesting when you later find out about the odd connections you actually have with people (random cosplayer actually being friend of a friend and so on). I got to hang out with OSMcast and Akihabara Renditions on Saturday, talk tokusatsu with GaijINside and meet a lot of random people in great costumes. The whole experience is very communal, which is one of the most important parts of a convention.

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As opposed to the larger Dragon*Con just weeks earlier, AWA doesn’t feel quite as busy. There are still plenty of people around and events to go to, but everything seemed more lax in comparison. Maybe it’s just in comparison to Dragon*Con, but more than that, I think it’s the breathing room.

AWA has one of the coveted possessions I find other cons lacking – space. Nice, open lobbies and wide halls make the Cobb Galleria Centre and the Renaissance Waverly Hotel a great con hotel for the attendee. The actual used convention space is fairly spread out, which occasionally leads to a long walk between panels. Luckily though, the halls usually aren’t so crowded to hamper movement too much. AWA has been at the same location for years, and there’s still space to grow. Really makes me jealous for MTAC.

The artist alley was moved from the hotel section with registration into an exhibition hall next to the dealers’ room. I was initially worried that the lower visibility from registration would hurt artist alley attendance. However, from random artists, I’ve heard they were pleased with the new placement. I’m sure they liked having a room that locks up at night for once. With registration and main room events, the freed-up space helped lines snake around to take up less hall space.

Speaking of space, there was plenty for events. Actually went to some panels this year. The Gundam panel, ran by the hosts of Akihabara Renditions, was entertaining. Complete with videos and funny pictures, it was informative while still having a sense of humor about the franchise. Daryl Surat’s Panel of DOOM and Anime’s Craziest Deaths were both a hilarious compilation of funny videos along with witty commentary from Surat. The podcasting panel suffered somewhat by having a couple of the panel hosts scheduled for other events at the same time. This was not the only time I heard people complain about bad scheduling.

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AWA’s video rooms are particularly impressive. There are five of them: one main room for larger showings, two general anime rooms, a classic room and a room dedicated to Japanese live action. In addition to a good variety of series, AWA also had themed programming blocks scattered throughout the weekend. Everything from MANime to Shoujo Fest to Sentai Shows.

The only issue with this programming blocks that there’s no listing of the shows shown during these blocks. Despite that one oversight, AWA did a really good job listing their programming. In addition to the video room schedule being on the back of the events schedule sheets, the program guide also maintains an index of almost every series shown, complete with descriptions, genres, ratings and (if licensed) who owns the rights and distributes it.

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Oddly though, in the mall within the convention center, there is an actual movie theater that is closed down and goes unused. It would be really awesome if AWA could wrangle that for their use, but even still, their main video room is essentially a small theater, like those found on college campuses.

Can’t talk about a con without the cosplay. AWA had plenty of talented and inventive costumers this year. The Kamen Rider fan in me was especially pleased with the Kamen Rider Den-O and Kamen Rider Kiva costumes. I appreciated people with an eye for classics, like a Ginrei from Giant Robo the Animation and Lum from Urusei Yatsura (helps that they’re attractive too). Full body suits also showed up, with a Diddy Kong, a Ryo-Ohki and even a Rodimus Prime. Who knew Rodimus had fans?

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Then there’s the dealers room. I actually managed to find some stuff I wanted. Typically, I find myself wanting less and less stuff because of my increasing interest of tokusatsu heroes over some anime. Most of the anime I even want doesn’t really go down in price much either, making them unattractive buys. Many figures I wanted, including a Revoltech of Super Galaxy Gurren Lagann, were way overpriced.

That said, I still came away with some neat stuff. It was as big as usual, probably even bigger with the addition of booths on the back wall. Thanks to some awesome deals on Sunday, I managed to snatch up some great manga and DVD. Also got a cool Kamen Rider Kuuga kick pose figure, which goes great with my Kamen Rider 1 kick pose figure.

AWA is a fun con to go to with a bunch of friends. Everyone hangs out together, attends fun events, buys plenty of crap, meets new people and laughs it all away. Looking forward to going back next year.

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(To find more of my AWA photos, check them out on Facebook.)

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