Strap in folks, this is gonna be a bumpy one. I really enjoy the Anime Magic staff, but this year was a mess. I of course cannot speak to the fullest extent, as I was stuck at my booth almost all weekend, but I will include some of what I was able to read and hear from other attendees.
This past weekend was supposed to be a really successful weekend (in my mind), what with the doubled dealer's table (Went from $300 to $600, which should mean that the attendance should reflect that, right?) and the fact that my birthday was the day after we tore down. I had enough stock of everything, worked my butt off to make a ton of reusable pads, and was just really excited since last year, the staff were super friendly and helpful. There were a ton of emails just for attendees to see what they had in store, which made me feel it was going to be a pretty busy weekend. I couldn't have been more wrong. Besides the absolutely ludicrous hours (Friday & Saturday: 9am VIPs, 10am-8 pm and Sunday: 10am-5pm), plenty of artists and vendors didn't show up. I also found out that when I got there, C2E2 was happening at the same time, as well as a horror convention in the Hyatt, and GenCon in Indiana. This many conventions happening at once really put a damper on the weekend almost immediately. I tried not to let it get me down, and got to work setting up my booth.
We did have to stop by Target to grab some other stuff to finish out the little details, but once it was finished, my Fiance Tolia told me it was the best booth we had done yet. One thing that struck me as odd, was that we were only given one chair, but two badges? I feel like it was weird that we basically had to steal chairs from vendors that didn't show up. We went to our hotel shortly after that, and relaxed, dreaming of kigus sold and Snacc Pack merch bought up. We awoke, had a decent breakfast with the Comfort Inn, got ready in Red Card Katarina, and headed to the con. I saw one or two people during the VIP hour, and maybe a half dozen to a dozen for the first couple hours. Usually, I'm able to make the table costs up by the end of the first day, but we made just over half, which was not a good sign.
Apparently, Anime Magic was severely understaffed, so there was no one there to check if we had badges, let alone if the attendees had them. It wasn't until Saturday morning when one person asked as they speed-walked out of the vendor hall area. I had read that there had been theft of one of the vendors (it may have been an artist and a dealer, but I am not 100%) and on top of that, there were at least 5 vendors that were selling in bootleg merchandise. While I myself am a craftsman making kigurumis of popular fandoms, I never claim to be authentic. A vendor was selling fake gun props that did not have the orange cap, nor did the sword vendor make the customers take the sword back to their rooms. I saw a lot of props that had not been safety checked, and I had purchased one on Amazon of the same quality for my Mitsuri cosplay. Those are made of hard plastic and *will* hurt. I saw plenty of children running around, playing with these weapons and not a staff member in sight.
Saturday was unfortunately worse than Friday. I made less than $9 more than I had on Friday, which just barely covered my table. I, along with many other vendors, did not make a sale for at least 3 hours (I had a 6 hour time period where I made nothing). A lot of artists had not shown up on Friday, so luckily, those that were in the back were able to move to a better location, but were then on top of several other artists. If you wanted to go behind the table, you would have to enter behind the end tables, which could be annoying if you're in the middle of the row. I had walked around to see if there was anything I wanted to purchase and while everyone's work was UH-MAZING, hardly anyone saw it. I did manage to purchase a set of Jojo's buttons and Franky sticker, but couldn't justify spending more if I wasn't at least breaking even. I talked to many of the artists and all of them said they were doing poorly.
I'm not one to be happy that others are miserable, but at the very least, I knew that I wasn't alone in the garbage stew we found ourselves in. A prop-maker that was supposed to be across from my booth never showed up, and I was so bored, I decided to do tarot readings on Sunday. I made a little sign, got some goofy props from Target, and set up a tip jar. I didn't expect to make money off them, but I figured it would be better than sleeping under my table or being miserable. It was also really difficult to even nap because a vendor had loud music bumping the entire weekend as well as idol groups performing all weekend on the other side of the hall. I talked to more than one person that said they had a headache from all this noise, myself included. Even our buddy who was selling for Pui Illustrations (I may be spelling that wrong) had to sit down several times because there was such a long lull that he couldn't justify standing.
I ended up not breaking even this weekend, which doesn't sit well with me. How many other folks didn't either? Honestly, if enough people (over 50%) didn't make back what they should have, Anime Magic should apologize and either refund part of the table or have a coupon code for next year. I have only ever once not broken even at that was last year at Fusion. I don't really want to vend there next year if we're going to have a situation like this again. Which absolutely breaks my heart because it is a really cool convention. I was able to cross off four new awesome Pokemon (Azurill, Thundrus, Tornadus, and Munna) and talk with a bunch of cool folks, but everyone as a vendor is there to make money. I really hope this was just a fluke and they will be better organized next year. As far as the bootleg vendors go, I really hope that Anime Magic does a better vetting process next year.
Now that I'm done complaining about the vendors hall, let's talk about the food. They had an incredible Poke bowl place that for $17, you got 2 proteins and enough food to keep Tolia and I satisfied for most of the day. I bought from them all three days as the snacks we got weren't as hearty as we needed. The fact that we didn't have to leave the venue to get food was pretty great, and I wish I could have tried the moonshine fudge place, but I'm trying not to eat so many sweets. As is tradition, Tolia and I got to eat Giordano's, and if you haven't tried it, you're missing out. The cheese pull is my favorite part, and watching Tolia drool over the pizza is really funny. I don't drink, so we were unable to try out the booths that had booze.
As far as guests were concerned, Anime Magic was able to pull an all star cast. I don't much care for Yaya (for personal reasons that I will not get into), but I figured her name would pull more folks to the con. Her two assistants were cosplaying some cool dudes, so that was lit. I wish I could have seen Jonah Scott and a few other voice actors, but couldn't get too far away from my partner or table. I also didn't kn ow where they would be, as one of the voice actors was by the cars, but none of the others were. Overall it was a kind of weird decision on Magic's part. I also had read that folks had issues finding maps, as well as schedules, and luckily, one attendee made an easier to read version of the schedule.
Along with vendors not appearing, there were several panelists that decided to ghost as well. We had a few folks talk about how they were disappointed about that, and it just doesn't sit right with me that a handful of people were going to talk about something they were passionate about and just didn't show up? I'm very glad I didn't witness that personally, and even got to talk with the panelists before and after us. Everyone in the audience for "Running a Successful Group Cosplay" was super amazing and Jay and I are super glad we got to talk about Snacc Pack again! What I could see of the schedule had such a diverse range of subjects and I really hope that Anime Magic doesn't change that.
Overall, Anime Magic isn't a bad convention. I know there's going to be some growing pains, especially because they were at a small hotel convention last year that they were definitely too big for, and I absolutely don't want them to fail. I really hope they continue to grow and get better and that hopefully next year they have more staff, more volunteers, and can continue to bring a cool concept to the Chicago area. Plus, if they get big enough, they can hopefully knock a certain other summer convention down or out so people can stop supporting a monster. While this weekend wasn't what I expected it to be, I really do appreciate that I was able to come up again and sell in the Chicago area.
I also was able to get tear down done quick enough to be able to have dinner at Mitsuwa, which if you haven't been, is seriously the most amazing place I go to every time I'm in Chicago. While I'm sad my friends weren't able to join me, at least I had my fiance to gorge on food with.
If you made it this far, you can use the code "29DELIGHT" on orders over $10 to help me make up for this weekend falling short. If you want to send a belated birthday gift, you can always send me a ko-fi as well! www.ko-fi.com/seifernoir I don't expect to do too much, but I just appreciate the energies ya'll bring into my next year of life. Let's get out of my 20s in style, shall we?