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  • Writer's pictureSeiferNoir

Anime El Paso and Akaicon 2024 reviews

I believe enough time has passed that I can give an objective view, rather than a fully emotional one on Anime El Paso. I decided to bunch these two together so I can get out all I need to say about my major June events.


Anime El Paso took place on June 23rd and 24th, but on the convention site (until a couple months before) it said it was to be the 22nd through the 24th. I usually don't travel far for 2 day conventions, as it's a lot of work for not usually a lot of turn out, or a younger crowd. I looked on their website and at other sources and heard that last year their turnout was amazing and everyone made a decent paycheck. I was originally put on the waitlist, but found out around March that I was going to be selling there.


I knew that I was not comfortable sitting in a full car for 18.5 hours, so I rented a minivan to ensure that we'd be comfortable for this trek. I was excited, since this was my very first Texas convention. I didn't realize how close to the border El Paso was, and really should have brought my passport. Everyone I met in El Paso was kind, and I thought it was really cool that every sign had an English and Spanish translation, as I'm from St. Louis, and we don't do that here.


I arrived on Friday, after having split up the drive and sleeping in possibly the worst Wyndham I've ever seen. The only saving grace is the front desk guy. Never, ever stay at the Baymont by Wyndham hotel. The first room we received had cockroaches everywhere. The second room wasn't even made up (not even a pillow), and the third very well may have had bed bugs (luckily, we didn't bring them home with us). I still have not received a refund for that room. It's definitely not worth the headache.


We arrived early afternoon, meeting up with some really nice, but stern staffers. I was told I needed the email that had a QR code for check in, but was unable to find it for about 10 minutes. Finally, I found it, and while I understand not wanting to get sneaks who steal tables, it was a much unneeded stressor to my weekend. We were told we needed to wear wristbands all weekend, which again, just proves that their system for insuring that people aren't lying about their badges or who they are is a bit flawed. Even telling me that I could show my ID to prove who I am (I apply with my deadname) would have proved who I was as it matches both the form and the ID. We weren't given a map to show where we are to load-in, and this is a trend I see at a LOT of conventions. Please, even if an artist or vendor has sold at your event 100 times, send the map anyway. Telling someone, "Oh, it's just around the corner" with no signs, absolutely does not help.


We were only given 2 hours to set up on Friday, which I think is a little odd, as most convention centers allow dealers to unload and set up until 5 pm minimum (some are rad and let us set up until 10pm if we need it). I understand each convention center is different, but it is what it is. So we weren't entirely set up, but it wasn't anything we couldn't finish before open on Saturday.


Saturday morning, my partner went to get us breakfast while I finished setting up. There were no signs or emails stating that we couldn't have food or drinks with us. My partner called me on the other side of the hall stating that we'd have to take it outside. This was absolutely frustrating because everyone knows artists live on caffeine and snacks, so telling someone they couldn't bring their drinks into a facility that they're going to be spending the next 8-10 hours in is absolutely abhorrent. Folks have medications and dietary restrictions and expecting them to spend $15 for a hot dog or something else is ridiculous. The stands that they had available for food purchases could not accommodate my dietary restrictions (pescatarian) and definitely wasn't vegan, celiac, or halal. I ate my sandwich at the door, trying to hurry so I could finish setting up. After I finished, I went to go back to my table to have Tolia figure something out. The Con Center worker ma'am'd me (Gag) and told me I couldn't just leave my tea there. But I also couldn't just chug 36 ounces of tea in 10 seconds, or bring it to my table. I told him my partner would be back and went back to my table.


Eventually my partner just had to sneak it in, which again, I think is silly because people (especially vendors) need to eat and drink. It's very much not ADA compliant and I give the convention center a 0/10 for that. This isn't just about me, this is about all the artists and vendors that need to take care of themselves. Saturday was extremely slow as far as attendees, which I thought was absolutely bizarre as Yaya Han was a guest. You would think with that large a name, we would have had a few thousand people, but we may have had 3-400. I barely broke $100 that day. I was later told that El Paso's Pride event happened that day, which again was strange since it was over 100 degrees and muggy, you'd think you'd want to be inside.


We were assured that Sunday would be much busier, especially in the afternoon as "El Pasoan's are late risers." I really held out hope that people would show and vendors would make money. I talked with several artists and a lot of them were disappointed, except one who said it was a decent weekend for them. They later came to check out my booth and told me I "should make the crochet bees! You'd make a killing!" which is such an insult as several other crochet artists there also had bees. I pride myself on being able to make things not many others make often and bees are very very common with other crochet artists (no shame, just a common commodity.) We didn't even manage to break $50 on Sunday. I believe the crowd may have been even less on Sunday as I saw the same few groups of people coming around and around.


One very positive note is that I got to finally meet my mutual and now friend Maker's Collaborative ( https://www.themakerscollaborative.com/ ) and was able to watch her table while she took care of her business. If you bought any of her wares, thank you! It's definitely worth it and oh-so-comfortable! That was the high point of my weekend, and I really wish it wasn't the only good thing. We packed up early, which I never do, and we left. I was absolutely heartbroken, not because people didn't enjoy my stuff, but because I had poured so much money into that event, and I didn't even make back a tenth of what I paid. It definitely didn't help that my partner was laid off right after we got back.


All in all, for this event, do not expect to make money. It's not really worth it for traveling, unless you can get hella cheap flights, or you're local. I really hope the best for this convention and that they do better for themselves and for the artists and vendors depending on them for a paycheck.


I also don't really appreciate getting "Sign up for Next Year" emails less than 2 weeks after the event, rather than a feedback form. It proves that they're only looking out for themselves and their wallets. I will not be going back to that convention unless it's as a guest, and then I can justify them paying for me to show. The people I talked to were super kind, just were not interested in spending money, even on the dealer's side. I didn't see many bags with official or unofficial merch.




AKAICON 2024

To be quite honest, if I had any other convention besides Akaicon, I would have just said "Fuck it" and not gone. El Paso really took the wind out of my sails and brought me to a point where I never thought they would take me: I almost quit doing conventions. I was that downtrodden. I did stick it through because Akaicon is my favorite con of the year and am so proud to be a part of this goofy little family.


I had so many of my followers and friends come check on me and ask me what the hell happened at El Paso. I was honest and they were all surprised. Load in was good, but again, we were told we had to be out by 4 when the year before it was 5. Again, not the cons fault, but if I had that extra hour, we would have been done setting up. We went back to our hotel and hung out for the rest of the evening.


Friday was pretty good, people were actually spending (at least at my and a few others' booths) and everyone seemed to be in good spirits. I did notice it was pretty slow for a Friday, but I chalk it up to folks either not taking Friday off or not being able to take Friday off. Still, we did better than last year and that's all I could ask for. I had a panel each day and as always, staff members checked on me to make sure I was ready and taken care of. I had about the same amount of people come to my panel on Friday, and at least 20 people showed up to our Group Cosplay panel on Saturday, and a nice handful of people show up on our Sunday panel, which is better than last year!


I won't go into too much detail with the Risque contest, but seeing as how several of my friends from St. Louis were finally able to make it to Akai, I had to show them everything. I took my Grandpa nap before we left, since there was no way I'd be able to stay awake from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m.. We went and it was an amazing time, but there were some pacing issues and instead of the contest ending at 1:30, it was almost 2 before we got out. I think next year there should either be a limit on entrants, song time limit, or maybe not having the judges/guests perform. It was also an issue of letting us in at 11 when the event should have started at 11, but this is all minor fixes. One situation that kind of squicked me out was the Shibari "demonstration" towards the end where the judges were deliberating on winners (congrats to all those babes, and like, everyone else did a phenomenal job.) The person who was being tied up was dressed as a school girl, which in my opinion is kinda icky, and without someone explaining what was going on, it definitely felt like I was watching someone else's foreplay. I do hope that that is fixed for next year.


As it was almost 2 when we were let out, I needed to use the restroom before driving back to my hotel. I was met with cops and a staff member telling us we weren't allowed. (I get kidney stones and need to use the restroom when I need to go.) Instead, I was told we needed to leave, and even some of the performers were not fully dressed before being kicked out. I understand contracts and timing, but having some sympathy for people who need to take a quick potty break and/or getting dressed before possibly being arrested for indecent exposure (again, something that can be fixed next year.) would be very helpful.


Saturday was even slower than Friday, but that may have just been because folks were at other panels, including the idol fest, and the cosplay contest. My criticism of the cosplay contest is that rules may need to be rewritten so sandbagging doesn't occur in the future. If you've ever won any major award, you should probably be moved up above where you're thinking you are. Especially if you've put hundreds, or thousands of hours into a build. I'm not sure what some of the drama was about "Unsportsmanlike" behavior, but I hope we do better. To the folks who won, you absolutely deserved it, and I wasn't disappointed that I didn't win. Again, changing the rule where if you've won a "Best of" anything puts you in a higher class, or "Best in Show" immediately putting you in Master Class can help with folks not feeling jaded or resentful. I also think there should be better communication between judges and those in charge of check in. I was scheduled for 1:45 for judging, and arrived 5 minutes early, and I wasn't judged until after 2p.m. and in the hall. People who were scheduled for way earlier didn't show up until after me and should have been told, "If we have time for you after people's scheduled time, we'll judge, otherwise, you can be an exhibitionist." It wasn't fair for me to be pushed back even though I showed up early.


Sunday was such a busy day, while also not feeling busy at all. We made more than we had Friday, which was a relief, and we were very excited to finish out the con. It did essentially die during the Lip Sync contest, and right before Closing Ceremonies, but it wasn't the worst. Some artists did not make their table back though and my heart goes out for them. Please check out linktr.ee/nomadiclasers and also Steampunk.shirix (insta) at www.hexellentshirixarts.etsy.com because these folks deserve a ton of love!


I was also put in charge of the Ribbon Game, so I definitely want to critique myself with that. There wasn't a lot of time to get a ton of people on board, but now that I will be in charge of that officially next year, we aim to do better and let folks know what's going on with plenty of time before the event next year! We're also going to have games, prizes, and meetups just like the Colossalcon ribbon game and work hard to make next year better.


All-in-all, I know Akaicon takes their feedback seriously and actually cares about their attendees, artists, guests, and vendors, so I can't wait to see what they do with their Mech theme next year!



Photo Credits for Geiru go to Photo Jonin

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