Wednesday, June 5, 2013

A-Kon 24

Despite the fact that I only had two months to prepare after returning from Japan, I somehow managed to put together a very complicated costume in time for A-Kon, the Dallas anime convention. I blame this madness on my sister Rose, who talked me into it. The costumes we made were from an MMORPG called Atlantica Online. Our friend Arika, of the blog Mega Geeks, Inc., came down from Portland to go to the con with us. It was awesome hanging out and cosplaying with her again.

The week before the con is when we usually go into last-minute panic mode. Everything must be finished in a short amount of time and this time our con week was especially grueling. Arika was a life saver and helped Rose with finishing her costume and despite an all new record high of sleep deprivation we managed to get everything finished just in time for the con.

A-Kon is the longest continuously running fan convention in the U.S. You would think those twenty-four years of experience would result in a smoothly run convention, but it was easily the most disorganized con we'd ever been to. Rose and I pre-registered and still had to wait about three hours in line to receive our badges on Day 1. Arika, who didn't pre-reg, waited an absurd four hours in line. By the time we'd all checked in and gotten our badges, the first day was half over and we were hungry and tired.

Four hours of standing in line... in 4 inch heels. Whatever idiot organized registration should've been forced to endure that.
The location at the Hilton Anatole Hotel was nice. The hotel was spacious and decorated with beautiful Asian artwork, making it a great backdrop for photos. The only big problem with it were the narrow hallways connecting major parts of the con, making it extremely difficult at times to get to the Dealer's Room, Artist's Alley and Reg area. 

Our Day 1 costumes were: Rose in her award-winning Oracle costume from Hero Online, Arika in an original design and me wearing an old Miyavi J-rock costume. After wasting half the day in lines, we got a few photos, checked out a good panel on cosplay, explored the hotel a bit and went home. 

Arika in an original design.
Me as Miyavi.
Rose as the Oracle from Hero Online.
Day 2 costumes: Rose as Morgan La Fey from Atlantica Online, me as an unnamed character from the same series and Arika as Sakura from Card Captor Sakura. We got some good photos, went to a panel on cosplay run by Ana Aesthetic, got lunch and drinks at a very tasty bar in the hotel, and then went to the cosplay contest where we spent the next five hours in a green room. The contest was fun if poorly judged and once again badly organized, it was still cool to see some of the other great costumes and talk to other cosplayers. We didn't win an award this time, although we heard a rumor that we were in the running for second place. We weren't really competing just to win though, and just participating and showing off the hard work we put into the costumes was fun on its own. We finished the night with a few more drinks and some dancing at the con's rave.

Me as an unnamed Atlantica Online character.
Rose as Morgan La Fey from Atlantica Online.
Arika as Sakura from Card Captor Sakura.
Getting much-needed drinks before spending 5 hours in the green room.
Day 3 costumes: me as Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty, Arika as Ursula from the Little Mermaid and Rose in my Queen of Hearts costume from Alice in Wonderland. The last day of the con is always our chance to relax, so we basically just wandered around taking photos, checking out Artist's Alley and having an epic Disney Villain smack-down. 

We also went to another of Ana Aesthetic's panels, this time titled "Cosplay in the Media", although in reality the panel was looking at various social aspects of cosplay and how cosplayers are treated by fellow congoers and fans. There have been a number of discussions recently about the negative way cosplayers are often treated and the way that many people assume that when we put on a costume we make ourselves public domain, therefore making it acceptable to do and say things to us that would otherwise be inappropriate. For example, commenting on someone's cosplay photo saying that they are "too fat" or "too dark-skinned" or otherwise not physically acceptable enough to cosplay a certain character. Or thinking it's ok to touch or photograph a cosplayer without their permission.

The panel was very interesting and brought up a lot of the problems that we sometimes face when cosplaying. There is a movement to help correct some of these issues called "Cosplay does not equal consent." Also the head of costume events from Momo-Con was one of the panelists and it was good to know that con staff is involved and interested in fixing some of these problems.

Read more: 
Costumes Are Not Consent: Combating Cosplayer Harassment by Meredith Placko, aka Ana Aesthetic
The Beginnings of CONsent by 16-Bit Sirens

So overall A-Kon is really not a con that I would probably attend ever again. We had fun making our costumes, hanging out with Arika, meeting other cosplayers but in general the programming wasn't great, the cosplay contest and the con in general were terribly organized. Some things the con could do to improve: alphabetize the pre-reg badges and get way more volunteers working the pre-reg and reg tables, separate the cosplay contest by skill level so that novices are not competing against veterans and offer feedback to contestants after the competition. 

Arika is leaving us tonight and I really wish I could climb in her suitcase and fly back to Portland with her. She made the convention a lot more fun and it really wouldn't have been the same without her. Can't wait to see her again at our next reunion con in 2014!