Anime Magic 2021 Review
Good lord, it's been a long year. It's really odd that this is only my second convention for the year, since I've usually done three to five by this time. I've got a lot to write about and get down about this adventure of a weekend in Rosemont, so strap in friends, it's gonna get bumpy.
Anime Magic 2021 celebrated their 2nd year as a convention at the Crowne Plaza Chicago O'Hare, directly across the street from the famous Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, Illinois. They called this year 2.5, since they weren't able to hold the convention last year for obvious reasons.
I decided to go up on Thursday to set up since I know Chicago area traffic (and Illinois road construction) is a nightmare. Honestly, besides almost dying twice from dummies who don't understand that a car length between the car ahead and behind actually mean something and not an excuse to squeeze in, it was pretty uneventful. We arrived at the convention hotel, got checked in, and got some confusing instructions on where to park. I'm also glad we arrived on Thursday, because by Friday morning, the parking lot and garage were "full." I only put it in quotations, since I know for a fact it wasn't full. After we knew where to go and get to the loading doors, Tolia and I spent about 10 minutes looking for the vendor's hall staff to set up. Usually, conventions will have the layout at least a week in advance so folks don't have to run around looking for these staff members. I had to stop other vendors setting up to find these directors, which luckily, they were in the room. (I've been to cons where the vendor staff/directors are nowhere to be found. That's a nightmare.) They quickly got us to our table and we started setting up. We schlepped our stuff all the way across the parking lot until I got tired of it and just parked next to the doors. We got our badges, which looked like all the standard 3 day badges (we'll get to why this is important in a second) and got the heck outta there for the day.
The next morning (Friday), there were already a TON of attendees. Honestly, I was really surprised by how many folks turned up on a Friday morning. The schedule for their vendor's hall was really odd, with some just setting up around noon (which is the standard.) I do feel the convention may need to invest in another design specifically for vendors, as I had some staff tell me I couldn't go in to set up as we just had the 3 Day badge. The energy and positivity of everyone was awesome. It was just about as overwhelming as ASTL. I received a lot more love for my amigurumi than I was expecting, and sold all but Cofagrigus, Mawile, and Larvesta (whom I didn't bring.) I had a lot of folks commenting on my onesies, as well as my cosplays, which I'm excited I even had enough energy to wear! I thought I was being cheeky by cosplaying as Bishoujo Jason Voorhees, but I'm really glad I found another!
Most folks wore their masks, but the convention was pretty good about making sure that folks' vaccination cards were checked before they could run around maskless. I personally only did that when I was sitting at my booth because the vendor's hall was sweltering the first two days. I heard rumors that staff talked to the convention/hotel and were given excuses as to why they couldn't/wouldn't turn up the AC. I can't confirm them as I didn't talk to Hotel staff personally. The Vendor's Hall was open from 10 a.m. (for VIPs and disabled guests), 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, which struck me as a little odd, but it was really great for networking. The entire time was miserable for some folks (yours truly) and just made me all the more excited to get back to my room.
I did notice that there were a TON of minors, and that might just me, but the venue was crawling with attendees. It's very obvious, even from my limited interactions outside of the vendor's room, that Anime Magic has already outgrown their first venue. Which is good for many reasons, and again, we'll come back to that. I did notice that there were a lot of attendees using the wheelchair ramp to get to the elevators, which messes with our mobility-challenged friends. If you are able to walk down stairs, please do, since I noticed there were people blocking and stopping on the ramps when folks needed to get to their places too. There were also cosplayers blocking entire hallways by doing dance routines and such, which is not a great place to dance. If you can, please dance in a larger hall, apply for a panel/main event, or dance outside. If Anime Magic wasn't able to leave this venue, there's a very good chance the hotel would use these reasons to kick the convention from their contract. Please be courteous and think of others.
Saturday. Oh man, Saturday. We met a bunch of wonderful people who we were able to talk to about our Sokka and Suki cosplays, and honestly, I'm really sad we weren't able to get a photo with the Fire Nation Katara cosplayer. If you're reading this, you looked wonderful! Saturday was very busy in foot traffic, but really terrible in sales for us. Tolia was able to walk around and found that it was true of almost every other vendor as well. It did seem that everyone was able to at least break even, which I'm happy about. Again, I'm very thankful for what sales I did end up making this weekend, so thank you from the bottom of my heart. I do know a ton of folks will end up making orders at a later date, so if you've made it this far into the review, use the code "ANIMEMAGIC" at checkout for 20% off your purchase over $15. That includes patterns, paintings, onesies, plushies, and more! Just add over $15 to your cart and type in that code! The coupon is good from now until August 23rd.
I made a good decision with going up to the room and changing into Suki's Kyoshi warrior outfit before the contest, because I would have absolutely melted if I was in her all day. Despite staying hydrated, I did almost faint, which I don't blame the convention, just myself and the hotel. The cosplay competition was a little wonky, with only 2 categories, and 3 winners. I really hope they would have seen the issues with Blerdcon only having limited categories and might have fixed it before the convention, but I have no idea how hectic it is to run this. I'm very used to Beginner's, Novice, Intermediate/Journeyman, and Masters, with Judge's Choice, and Best in Show. The folks who did win put so much effort and skill into their finished cosplays, and the people who didn't were just as incredible. I made quite a few friends and was able to help some newer competitors with questions they had. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get any photos of anyone, but best in Beginner was Barbie from Princess and the Pauper (her bodice was GORGEOUS.) Best in Advanced was Victorian Lady, who based her outfit on period clothing, which was so awesome and beautiful to see up close. Our best in show this year was a Monster Hunter outfit and if I thought *I* was dying, I'm sure they were dead the moment they put the boots on. Everyone was so friendly and I *STILL* feel terrible about the "Toilet-bound Hanako-kun is the exact opposite of Boku no Pico."
Quick story time: There was a Nana who entered and the MCs weren't sure what the Hell TBHK was about, and I went, "Well, it's the opposite of BnP," and they cut me off before I could be like, "Because it sounds really weird, but it is actually really cute, whereas the other Anime is a troll for newbies." She was really sweet and rolled really well with it, but was still a bit embarrassed when the MCs asked her on stage about that. Luckily, only all of you folks who read this will understand and know this dark secret.
Saturday night, after the drag show began, is when it all hit the fan. This is speculation, as I wasn't there personally, but I talked to a few folks who were, and I gotta say, I'm really proud of how professionally Anime Magic is handling this. The drag show begins, and approximately 20 minutes in, the night manager walks onto the stage and claims that the drag show was not approved and that the convention wasn't supposed to go after midnight. The manager was apparently not on board with the convention happening in the first place, let alone having events (especially the drag show) after midnight. The manager stated that if you didn't have a room, you would need to leave the hotel, and as nerds are wont to do, they refused to leave, since programming was scheduled and they had put hard work into their routines, panels, etc. The manager made the next logical step and called the police. People were then escorted off premises or to the elevators and rooms.
Now Crowne Plaza management staff is claiming that Anime Magic was breaking contract by having programming after midnight (which wasn't a problem on Friday night) and that they "legally couldn't allow guests to stand within six feet of each other." which again, is sus since they didn't have a problem with it all day Friday or Saturday. Crown Plaza then stated that Sunday of the convention was cancelled until Magic staff spoke with management and were "allowed" to continue. They also claimed that Anime Magic never signed for 3 days of a convention, just that they signed for Friday and Saturday. Again, this is all speculation, and comes off very homophobic, since there weren't any issues with the other panels/room, but only after the Drag Show. Crown Plaza has held more adult content before, so it seems more sus the more you look into it. I'll edit this area if I get more accurate information.
All in all, it was a very fun, toasty weekend. If any staff members read this, please know that I'm not trying to be mean or rude, just trying to give my experience and opinions because I always want to see incredible shows like this do better and give certain conventions a run for their money. I hope to be back next year, in a cooler, more accepting venue that is able to handle the amount of awesome Anime Magic has in store for us. As I stated with a Director on Thursday, Staff t-shirts before the event would be helpful for ease of sight. Vendors should have their own badge (even if it's a different color or something), and maybe not as long of hours for the Vendor's hall, as I did want to participate in some of the events but was too tired to do so. I'd love to host a panel or two next year, or potentially even guest, but don't want to push my luck XD. For those of you that didn't go, I hope maybe you'll change your mind and I'll see you in Rosemont for Anime Magic 2022!
PS: I was able to get some crochet work done, so I was able to get most of Togetic done! The pattern should be written up and posted tomorrow, and if you'd like to join the crochet waitlist to only have to pay for the materials and shipping for your very own one of a kind plush, follow this link: https://forms.gle/EBorWtP7qnmaXE3E9