Con Report: Anime Matsuri 2011

So Anime Matsuri was this past weekend.

There was a lot of drama and problems leading up to it, so this particular report will recount a lot of specific issues/complaints in addition to my usual walkthrough of events. Honestly, I had a pretty good weekend overall, but I would definitely say that it was in spite of the hotel and con staff, rather than because of. A lot of other artists (and regular attendees) have reported rather horrific experiences, and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if a lot of them decide to skip this convention in the future, especially if AM stays at the Crowne Plaza hotel on the last weekend of the rodeo.

Table set-up at Anime Matsuri. There’s a reason I couldn’t take a full picture of the table…

Seriously though, this report is stupidly long at 6400+ words. But there are pictures!

Pre-Con Concerns

For months leading up to the convention, AM staff was unresponsive on all fronts. Emails inquiring as to the statuses of tables were left unanswered, despite my payment check having been deposited some time in November. A list of confirmed artists went up on the AM forums around Christmas, but official email confirmations did not go out until mid-February — a month before the convention. I’m a worrywart and easily get stressed out by lack of communication, so this definitely concerned me. Many other artists felt the same way, and very quickly, there were complaints about not knowing whether individual tables were going to be assigned, or if they were going to be first-come, first serve.

This was of particular concern because from the map provided on the AM website, Artist Alley was going to be split into three different areas… the area upstairs outside the panel room was quickly dubbed “the doom hall,” because it was out-of-the-way and, with only panel rooms up there, traffic would probably be slow. No one wanted to be stuck up there, so whether tables were FCFS or assigned was of great importance. Artists were ready to be up at insane hours Friday morning to ensure they got good spots if it was indeed FCFS. Many emails were sent. None were replied to. A topic was made on the AM forums. A collective chewing of nails ensued.

An email from the AA head, Leon, did not go out until March 14th, four days before the convention. Tables would be assigned. Hallelujah. Or, well, Doom Hall assignments would be left up to chance, but at least we wouldn’t have to camp out at the crack of dawn to kill each other for table positions. To his credit, Leon was friendly and helpful in those four days before the convention and was prompt in responding to any emails sent during that period. However, around the same time, another issue came up: the Crowne Plaza had apparently overbooked and canceled a lot of people’s reservations without notifying them. A topic on the AM forums prompted many people to call in, check, and report back with bad news. I wasn’t going to be staying at the hotel, but this definitely didn’t calm any nerves.

Here, I suddenly realized that this was the hotel that had hosted a rather infamous Oni-Con a few years ago. In my experience, the convention scene has always been a small and tight-knit community. Volunteer and staff for one con often work for several others in the same area. Dealers and artists that work the same circuit communicate frequently. Texas is a big place, but it’s obvious to me that the otaku here stick together. I don’t believe for a second that AM staff and management were not aware of the issues that Oni-Con had experienced in years past.

In addition to the Crowne Plaza screwing people over in regards to their reservations, there is apparently not enough parking on-site to accommodate hotel guests… which means that parking was going to be a nightmare for everyone, especially people not staying at the hotel. This is further complicated by AM taking place on the last weekend of the Houston Rodeo, which takes place at Reliant Stadium… right across the street. Thursday night, early arrivals for the con were reporting a hot mess: the main road along the hotel (Kirby Dr.) was being closed intermittently for the rodeo, limiting access to the hotel to one entrance/exit along the feeder for I-610, among other things.

So even before the convention started, I had these things to feed my anxiety and unease:

  • Mostly unresponsive staff
  • Potential of being assigned a table in the “doom hall”
  • Hotel concerns
  • Parking concerns
  • Attendance concerns as a result of hotel/parking

I didn’t sleep well Thursday night.

FRIDAY

Knowing that I would need to fight for parking, I got up at 6am Friday so I could arrive at the hotel by 7am. With the sun barely up, there were plenty of parking spaces, but it concerned me that none of the parking lots were marked as guests-only, which made me wonder how anyone was supposed to know if they hadn’t been told previously that parking would be $10/day for non-guests (with AM voucher; it was $20/day otherwise). I parked near one of the side entrances and went in to ask about it. The staff member I found did tell me that parking was for guests only, but could not tell me anything useful when I asked where non-guests were supposed to park, or if we could pay to park as non-guests. She gestured vaguely to “the back” where there was supposed to be parking available, failing to specify again whether non-guests had to pay or what. It was all damned confusing, and I was not reassured.

But I pulled around to the back, which was the farthest you could get from the main hotel entrance without getting off hotel property, where there was a very empty lot separated from the rest of the hotel parking in an open gated area. Again, no signs anywhere to indicate one way or another about guest/non-guest parking. I unloaded and dragged all of my stuff (which is a lot of stuff, trust me) all the way around the building. The exterior of the hotel was very handicap unfriendly, which meant it was very unfriendly for rolling luggage. Joy. In the lobby, there was one very inconspicuous and well-hidden sign regarding Anime Matsuri, but it only posted the schedule. No signs pointed to where I was actually supposed to go from there. Thankfully, there weren’t that many people here yet, and the woman at the front desk pointed towards a hall tucked away to the left.

Down the hall, there one or two sad signs saying “Anime Matsuri –> ” but nothing pointed to where registration was. I ran into a handful of con-goers (easy to spot, as always), but none of them knew where registration was either. One dude I asked didn’t speak English and sumimasen‘d at me. One of the guests, I guess. I got more sweaty (hauling too much shit to be lost!) and aggravated by the second, but eventually, the winding halls lead to some tables with names taped to them. Yay! Artist Alley!

I found my table tucked halfway down a very narrow deadend hallway… I would apparently be tabling in the hall leading to the Dealer’s Room entrance. Oh boy. Well… at least it wasn’t the Doom Hall, right?

View standing in front of my table, facing the entrance/exit of the hallway.

There was hardly any space behind the tables and chairs were jammed awkwardly everywhere. Apparently, the situation Thursday night was even worse, with tables half the size they were supposed to be and no chairs at all. It was only until one artist raised hell that things were the way they were Friday morning, but there was still much to be desired. Mostly: a wider hallway.

I still had no idea where I was supposed to pick up my badge. A few security guards and cops were hanging out. They were courteous, but had no idea what was going on either, and I had to explain to them what Anime Matsuri even was. One of them got on the phone with a higher-up, but nothing seemed to come of that. It was frustrating as hell being kept in the dark.

But I started setting up because I didn’t want to waste any more time and figured I would just get my badge later. While I did so, the uncertainty over parking continued to bug me, and finally, when the table was more or less presentable, I went back to the lobby to ask about parking. It was probably a little past 8am at that point, and there was only a short line at the front desk. I ranted a little at a random con-goer behind me in line. I had been at the hotel for an hour and I had yet to see a single con staff member. The woman at the front desk came off very condescendingly, but I managed to pay for three days worth of parking at the AM discounted rate without much trouble. I speed-walked back to my car to put the sticker in the window, then returned to the Artist Alley. Still no sign of staff or registration anywhere.

So I chilled at my table, tried to quell my frustrations with doodles, and watched as more and more con-goers and artists trickled in. My mood calmed as I started to deal with customers and got back into my familiar con groove, but it became very obvious, very fast, that the hallway I was in was far, far too small to accommodate both the line for Dealer’s Room and a line of AA tables.

It was hard to keep track of time that morning, but I think the line for Dealer’s Room started to form a little before 10am. In most places, the line was two-people deep from the wall because attendees were not great about standing against the wall. I wasn’t entirely opposed to this since often, their wandering eyes would land on my merchandise and they’d come over to look, but a line that was more of a mob than a line + two-way traffic between said line and the artist tables + numerous impressive cosplayers being stopped for pictures = infinite traffic jam, all day. The difference in temperature between my table and the opening of the hallway was at least ten degrees. Probably fifteen. It was a sauna in there. And it smelled.

Infinite traffic jam.

Star Hoshi Hoshi, the lovely, four-person studio I’d met at Delta H Con, arrived to set up at the table to my right some time after the hall started filling up. Chuck was a few tables down, and Kevin was at the very end of the hallway. Ladre, Amanda, JohnYume, and Silver no Miko were in the other half of the downstairs Artist Alley — in the similarly narrow hallways leading from the hotel lobby towards the Dealer’s Room area where I was. No one I knew prior to Matsuri was upstairs, but apparently that was where the Alley check-in was! I only knew this because Leon eventually wandered down to actually check on the artists downstairs. He was the first staff member I’d seen all day and was very nice, didn’t give me any crap for being there without a badge, and, since by then I was too busy dealing with con-goers to leave the table, came back about an hour later to deliver me my badge.

Still, it was a little disconcerting how easy it would have been for someone to get there early, tear off the labels on the artist tables, and lay claim to them without anyone from staff there to say anything. (Leon didn’t check my ID or the print-out of my registration confirmation, which I had been told I needed, which means really, I could have been anyone.) And since registration was so hard to find (it was apparently outside in the parking lot somewhere!) and there were still no staff members to be seen as it approached noon, it was very easy for people to be in convention areas without a badge. As a vendor, everyone is a potential customer, paid attendee or otherwise, but also as a vendor, the lax security and lack of staff presence was not a good sign.

But let’s take a break for some fun cosplay.

There were a lot of Soul Eater cosplayers this weekend for some reason. :O Saw at least three or four other Death the Kids.

I’m waiting for an actual four-year old (or however old she is) to cosplay Yotsuba, but in the meantime, this will do. :3

I’ve never played Professor Layton. But top hats are cool.

Professor Utonium was with them, but I didn’t notice him in time for this picture. :C

This girl needs to go hang out with kefanii and her shiny Espeon gijinka cosplay!

There absolutely needs to be more awesome Kallen cosplayers. Aaaaaa. <3

Despite the suffocating heat and noise from the constant crowd, once I got back into my con groove, things didn’t bother me nearly as much. Since I only left the table twice the entire day (for bathroom breaks), I didn’t interact much with con or hotel staff, but from the complaints of the con-goers stopping at my table, things weren’t pretty outside of my cramped, sweaty hallway. The lines for registration were wrapping around the building, with the pre-reg line reportedly taking several hours to work through — not to mention check-in for the hotel, which was taking up to three hours. Once again, I wasn’t handed a con program with my badge, but it seems registration ran out of programs very, very early in the afternoon. Seriously? How do you run out of programs that early? Do you not know how many people freakin’ pre-registered? Did you not take count of how many attendees there were last year?

As a result, no one had a map or a schedule. No one knew where anything was. If I had a dollar for every person that I asked me if I knew where x event was taking place, I could have used it to pay parking for the weekend. People didn’t even know that the Dealer’s Room line was the Dealer’s Room line! It was ridiculous. Aside from Leon dropping off my badge, I did not see another staff member the entire day. If they were around, they were chameleons in the crowd — no staff shirts to distinguish them by. It was too crowded to look at people’s badges unless they were standing right in front of me. One volunteer posted on the AM forums:

I volunteered and even I didn’t know half of what was going on aside from where panel rooms were and when the DR closed. I worked at the DR and did badge check all weekend.

Communication though I’d say was awful. I mean even me as a volunteer didn’t know what was going on because of the lack of communication and information.

I had a small handful of commissions Friday, but otherwise had little to occupy myself with in between talking to attendees. Normally, I would use the time to crank out a few dozen random badges and ACEOs, but for once, I was just too jittery and restless to work on anything. I couldn’t concentrate on sketching or doodling either. It was too hot. It was too loud. Instead, I chatted a lot with Mimi of Star Hoshi Hoshi, who hadn’t been at Delta H Con, and who sat nearest to me all weekend. Had fun conversations with a lot of other random attendees as well, which really brought my mood up from the morning’s frustrations. Sales were also very good for a Friday. I can’t complain there, but it’s also been a while since I’ve been to a convention of AM’s size, so maybe the figures were really just average.

Hours passed. As the sun set, the crowds thinned. I was bloody exhausted by 6pm, really, but wasn’t sure how early I wanted to pack up. Leon had said it would be fine to leave up displays, but I didn’t really trust security to watch out for things overnight. They had been nice in the morning, but once the crowds starting moving in, I didn’t see them at all. There was no one trying to straighten out or organize the masses. I ended up closing shop around 9pm and packed everything back into my luggage except my banner, tablecloth, PVC, and prints displayed from the PVC. I left the extra PVC in its bag under the table, along with the bookmark stand. The tablecloth adequately covered everything under the table, so I hoped that that would be enough.

Getting out of the damned parking lot was another adventure though. The Import Reactor — the car show that sponsors Anime Matsuri, or something — was taking up a good portion of the parking lot closest to the front lobby and blocked the most obvious route to the only entrance/exit that was available in the morning (ie, the way I came in). Wow. At a hotel that’s already without enough parking space to accommodate all of its guests and the attendees to its hosted event, let’s take up a significant portion of the available parking space with a goddamn car show! This was a great idea!

Cars were packed in everywhere and parked in places that were obviously not parking spaces. It was awkward and difficult as hell trying to back up and turn around anywhere, parking/car show attendants were awful at giving directions/still didn’t speak English, and it took a good ten minutes for me to circle around to find an exit that dropped me off on the opposite side of the block. Con-goers and rodeo attendees were wandering around all over the place and it took another ten minutes to get one block over to the freeway. Ugh. As I drove home, I started to worry about wrangling for parking the next morning — especially since any hotel guests that actually manage to park at the hotel would likely avoid abandoning their spots for the weekend.

Was surprised to see a Kuragehime cosplayer! And she was surprised I recognized her! :3 (Also, Brieffffffff~!!)

Summing up Friday, the good:

  • Awesome table neighbors
  • Awesome con-goers
  • Good sales
  • Lots of good cosplay for characters I don’t see often

The bad:

  • Non-existent/invisible con staff
  • Rude/condescending/useless hotel staff
  • Nice, but useless security
  • Absurd lack of organization (no signs, no schedules, no maps)
  • Parking (also, cluelessness of hotel staff in regards to parking)

The ugly:

  • That hallway (cramped, hot, smelly)

I didn’t sleep well Friday night either, but I am forever thankful that AM is a local con for me and I didn’t have to stay in that hotel. The horror stories from the people that did are just incredible:

  • Waiting 2-3 hours just to check in
  • Very rude/belligerent hotel staff (con-goers being treated like second-class citizens in favor of rodeo-goers)
    • Reportedly, people in cosplay or obviously there for the convention were actually barred from the front entrance of the hotel and forced to walk around in the heat to a side entrance while hotel guests for the rodeo were allowed in through the front; what is this, I don’t even
  • Rooms uncleaned upon arrival (dirty bathrooms, broken appliances, leftover trash, questionable stains)
  • Non-existent room/cleaning service
  • Broken elevators (which the hotel staff were indifferent about)
  • A ton of other things; seriously, it’s astounding the number of awful experiences people had

SATURDAY

Up again at 6am to arrive at the hotel by 7am. I was hassled at the front gates until I pointed out the very obvious sticker on my window. Driving through the lots, there were still dozens of cars parked in places that weren’t parking spots and I had to wonder whether the hotel was really enforcing anything. Honestly, I don’t see how they could have towed anyone if they tried. I am thankful that arriving at that ridiculous hour allowed me to get parking relatively easily, despite the chaotic mess, and I do consider it a rather obscene hour of morning considering the first con events weren’t slated to start until 10am. But being tired and grumpy in a deserted hallway while it’s still dark outside is still better than carting my crap a mile in humid, downtown Houston because that’s the nearest available parking outside the hotel. :\

Two staff members checked my badge at the entrance of the narrow hallway as I went to set up my table. Hurray! …But they had wandered off by the time I’d finished setting up, so I kind of think they just happened to be there when I came in, rather than actually being stationed there purposefully. One of my prints got stolen in the night, but everything else was untouched. I wasn’t particularly bothered as it was kind of my fault for not taking them down, but later I heard that quite a few other artists’ tables had been vandalized or had had things broken or taken overnight. I’ve never been a fan of open, unsecured Artist Alleys, having only been to one such set-up prior to Matsuri, but if security was supposed to be hanging out all night anyway, then why did they let this happen?

One artist reports:

one security guard said “people” (we couldn’t get clarification whether “people” were con attendees or cowboys) were taking them off the tables and running around the hallways using them as capes.  Security eventually confiscated the tablecloths, but the guard I was talking to thought they’d just been thrown away, though he wasn’t certain.

Wow. Just, wow.

There were dozens of security and police officers around. I saw them more than any other “official” person, which isn’t saying a lot, but still. How hard is it to check that a person messing with a table has an artist badge? Yes, this would still allow for a situation where an artist vandalizes another artist’s table, but I really, really don’t think that’s an issue at all. We’re in this together, man. But immature teenagers or drunk people? They are notorious for messing with things they aren’t supposed to. What are you there for, if not for security?

The most adorable Soul cosplayer ever.

Saturday went well though. For most of the day, there was someone (staff member? artist? I don’t know) yelling for attendees lining up for the Dealer’s Room to stay against the wall, so crowding and traffic issues were considerably less problematic. The line seemed to move a lot faster, so people seemed to come in weird waves. For ten minutes, it would be super busy and there would be tons of people around. Then for the next ten minutes, the hall would be deserted.

I got another small handful of commissions, including yet another Horo badge, lol, but it was much less than than at my last several conventions, where on-site commissions had begun to make up a larger and larger percentage of my overall profit. At Matsuri, this wasn’t the case at all. Instead, I moved a lot more physical merchandise than usual. I sold out of one of my prints, which never happens. Seriously, I have the hardest time selling prints. I do normally sell a lot of bookmarks and buttons, but even considering the larger size of this con, I was surprised at the numbers. I almost sold out of a lot of buttons.

Another thing that blew my mind? I sold comics. I’ve had comics on the table for about a year now, but most of the time, it’s rare for me to even move two or three copies of anything, including the one that’s fifty cents. But on Saturday, I sold at least one of everything, and I almost sold out of Rainbows and Rainclouds. Granted, I didn’t bring very many copies because I never really expect to sell them at anime cons (I brought a lot more to STAPLE! and plan to bring a lot more to Comicpalooza), but still.

One couple stood at my table for a good ten minutes while the guy narrated/interpreted the wordless adventure in the book. It was awesome. Afterwards, though the guy seemed to have really enjoyed it, he did not buy immediately.  This is okay with me, honestly, and his hilarious narration made the experience more than worth it. He promised to come back, but being a cynic and having heard this before, I didn’t really expect him to follow through. …But he did! Near the end of the day, he came back and bought it! <3

Awesome people reading my book! :3

Another sale went to a mother who looked only a little out of place. She came up and asked me what she could get for her twelve-year old Aspie son and maybe her seven-year old daughter (neither of whom were present). Habitually, I went through a number of my fanart items first, but the kids were apparently not already fans of any of the series I had stuff for, and when asked to describe some of the series (such as Durarara!!) the mother concluded that they were probably too dark for them and I kind of agreed… which brought me to the other end of my table and I recommended Rainbows and Rainclouds. The mother flipped through it, loved it immediately, and was on her way in another five minutes, book in tow! *3*

While most of attendees seemed to be younger than usual (later on, another artist told me this was probably because Houston isn’t a big college town like Austin is), there were a number of older folks as well — parents and grandparents. All of them were really, really nice and showed a lot of interested in the non-anime things on my table, such as my various creepy paintings of wolf skeletons, lol. As always, it was great talking to them about and to some extent, educating them on, the fandom culture and things like that, in addition to doing the art thing for a living and what have you. There are also those adults that are already rather entrenched in fandom though, even if it isn’t anime…

I almost put in a speech bubble that said “Bowties and fezes are cool!” but decided against it, lol.

One awesome gentleman commissioned me for a badge of Matt Smith as the Eleventh Doctor. He managed to print me out a reference on a sticker! It was challenging because I’ve never drawn Smith before, but heeeeeey, he seemed to like how it turned out. XD

Mimi also commissioned me for a colored sketch card of her super detailed original character. It was a lot of fun~.

In cosplay news — with three months behind us since the series ended, there were a lot more Panty & Stocking cosplayers, and most of them were pretty awesome. Much fantarding occurred.

Brief~.

Casual Panty~.

Casual Stocking~.

Angelic Panty & Stocking~! They both had glowing weapons too! (Also, this Stocking’s boyfriend was cosplaying L and was chained to a Light. It was hilarious seeing the three of them walk around together.)

A different Angelic Stocking cosplayer — she was awesome because she had an iPod speaker wired into her corset that kept looping “Fly Away Now.” It freaked a lot of people out. XD (Her sword also glowed!)

In general, the con-goers were a pretty great bunch. While re-counting inventory yesterday though, I did notice a lot more missing items than usual. I normally don’t have a big problem with shoplifters; the only unsecured items on my table are the bookmarks, and I’m relatively confident in my abilities to keep an eye on people, but the intense crowding at Matsuri probably made it very easy to steal things in the Artist Alley. Security actually paying attention would have probably helped, but mostly, it was a reminder that you really can’t count on anyone but yourself. ;\

Sometime Saturday evening, I finally got up to make my own rounds of the Artist Alley to say “hi” to people and make a few purchases. Mimi was nice enough to watch over the table while I was gone. JohnYume confirmed that sales had been weird for her too, and that she was selling quite a bit more prints than usual. Most artists in the downstairs areas seemed to be doing pretty okay, though I don’t think anyone said that things were omg amazing. The upstairs Doom Hall had reportedly been deserted most of Friday, but it seemed to be a bit better when I went up Saturday. The placements of some tables were pretty horrendous though, including one poor bastard that had been shoved into a well-hidden nook next to the convention tables. On the bright side, the open area of the upstairs also meant less body heat, so while the cramped hallway I was in was probably 80-85 degrees, it was like 65 degrees upstairs. Crazy.

I ended up with… quite a bit more button purchases than I intended. Oops. Looks like the poor hat is gonna be retiring soon for sure. I don’t have time between now and AggieCon to find a new thing to put buttons on though, so I left a tiny bit of space on the top of the hat for potential button purchases there. I have like 7-8 buttons I bought at Matsuri that I’ll have to put elsewhere though, lol.

There are over 150 buttons on this hat now. For real. The top of the hat sags from the weight.

Upon returning to my table, Mimi informed me that I had just missed a bunch of people that wanted to buy buttons. Dang it. I figured if they really wanted those buttons though, that they would come back, and they did! It was a group of four friends, including a Celty cosplayer I’d snapped a picture of earlier, that went nuts over my Durarara!! and Pokemon things. o_o In addition to buying a ton of stuff, they also commissioned me for a derpy portrait of the group, which I awesomely forgot to take a picture of. But I did get a picture of them!

Awesome people!

More awesome people came to visit me Saturday night. Thankfully, I wasn’t nearly as exhausted and out of it Saturday as I was Friday, so I actually remember most of these awesome folks, lol.

One was a loud and cheerful Luffy crossplayer who I got into a loud and awesome conversation with about random things. She also commissioned me for a colored sketch card that was a lot of fun to do~:

Luffy and Luffy with jazz hands. :3

Another was a sweet fellow artist with a “Vote Saxon” button and various other Doctor Who-related wearables who commissioned me for a sketch of Eleven and herself. Luckily, I still had the reference left over from that other commission! XD

Her name was Chelsea, but I can’t find the link to her work right now! Will link if I find it later!

I didn’t tear down until past 10pm because there were intermittent bursts of traffic for a long while before things started to slow down. Honestly though, despite solid sales, Saturday felt oddly calm and quiet compared to Friday. I had to wonder how many people ragequit the convention because of hotel/parking issues. Almost everyone that stopped at my table had something negative to say about the hotel or the convention in general. A lot of the same issues from Friday still applied. Pulling out of the hotel was a little easier this time since I knew to avoid the car show. I had a good day, but the convention as a whole was still leaving a bad taste in my mouth.

SUNDAY

The horror stories piled on and on on Sunday. Saturday night had apparently not been a good night for a lot of people.

There had been at least two separate incidents of drunk cowboys sexually harassing minors (remember that a vast, vast majority of con attendees were underage) on top of other inappropriate/rude behaviour towards of-age con-goers at the hotel bar. It’s always a little awkward when attendees of two very different events share the same space; there was a baby/mother convention right next to AWA in 2008, and FWA 2010 was connected to a business/FBI/some very formal convention in the neighboring hotel. But while bewildered, the attendees of these other events have never displayed overtly improper behaviour to con-goers, as far as I know. It blows my mind that with all of the security and police officers around, no one did anything to prevent these incidents from occurring at Anime Matsuri.

The hotel manager had reportedly kicked at several people dozing in the hallway and lobby areas. Now, everyone knows that you’re not supposed to sleep in hallways and that it’s a pretty stupid thing to do, really. But since when is kicking people awake the right way to approach that situation? I don’t know if it was for a separate incident or not, but the hotel manager was apparently arrested for assault some time Sunday morning. I don’t even know how to express my disgust and bewilderment. It’s so surreal. How can the Crowne Plaza possibly be this unprofessional? How could they have stayed in business with these kinds of people employed there? Did they just really, really hate the AM con-goers? And if so, why the hell did they agree to host? And why the hell did AM choose to come here?

Blows my mind.

Shizuo does not approve of this shit.

Sunday was very, very sluggish. There wasn’t much programming scheduled and most of the people wandering around that day seemed bored. Inu, the guy who commissioned me for the Horo badge Friday came back to chat and hang out in random intervals until he and his friends left early afternoon. Matsuri had been his first con, and I was happy to hear that he had a good time overall, in spite of everything. I do wonder how many other con virgins didn’t have a good time though. Will the many horrible experiences at Matsuri keep some of these people from ever attending a convention again? Or will they just keep Matsuri on the black list and still check out others? The latter, I hope.

I found it a little weird that Sunday was so slow and uneventful considering how Sunday was the new Saturday at IKKiCON, but whatever. Sales trends vary so much from convention to convention that I’m starting to think there isn’t even a point in keeping track. Things are impossible to predict. There really isn’t much else to say about Sunday. The con was to more or less shut down at 4pm, so that’s when I packed up.

OVERALL

So I had a good time this weekend, thanks entirely to wonderful table neighbors and all the wonderful con-goers that came to talk to me and buy things from me. I saw so little of con staff this weekend that if I didn’t know better, I wouldn’t think they were there at all. At the risk of sounding a little spoiled, I have been very used to con staff coming around and checking to see if artists were all right and if they needed anything — usually we don’t, but the gesture is absolutely appreciated. At other cons, I’ve had staff watch my table for short periods of time while I ran to the bathroom or get me more water so I didn’t have to leave the table myself. Little things, but staff presence and help really does matter in making artists feel like they care.

Leon was a nice guy, but aside from getting me my badge Friday morning, I basically didn’t see him the whole weekend. I’ve read that others had pretty good experiences with him though, and that he fielded a lot of complaints and tried to help with a lot of the issues that came up, but he’s just one guy. It’s pretty damned ridiculous if he was the only AM staff member that gave a shit. Where was everyone else? For a large convention with a relatively good past record, I don’t think anyone expected the level of disorganization and unresponsiveness the con staff demonstrated.

Yes, the most pervasive and serious issues with this weekend were with the hotel, but the AM staff are not blameless in this matter. They should have done their research. They should have picked a different weekend. They should have put signs on things, printed more programs, been more obvious of a presence. They should have a hundred other things that could have made this weekend better for a lot of people. I am lucky to have had a good time. From the various testimonies that have come up online since Sunday, I feel like my experience was a rarity amongst attendees.

A lot of fellow artists have already said that they won’t be coming back to Matsuri if they don’t clean up their act and move to a different venue. I’ve heard that it isn’t really possible for AM go move back to their old venues at the George R. Brown Convention Center or the Marriott in the Woodlands. Wherever they choose, it’ll be hard to be worse than the Crowne Plaza, but those sorts of statements get proven wrong time and time again, right? Since I don’t need to stay at a hotel for any Houston convention, it doesn’t affect me much personally if Matsuri doesn’t move, but it’s depressing as hell hearing about other people’s bad experiences, and it isn’t worth all of the pre-con stress that came from lack of communication.

So even though I did well this weekend, I am going to be pretty wary of Anime Matsuri in the future.

In a terribly written and difficult to read message on the Anime Matsuri deviantART account, a (presumed) staff member writes:

We are sorry for the Carp hotel we are Not going to Go there again and promise Next year we be Better for you guys.

I am not at all reassured or impressed by this haphazard message, but it’s good to know the AM staff is aware that a lot of people had a bad time. Honestly, if they weren’t, then they’re even more clueless than I would dare to imagine.

On the bright side, the badges were pretty nice?

If you managed to actually read all that (6400+ words, omg), props to you! Now here’s a photo gallery. :3

This weekend! Come see me at AggieCon! Next week! Look forward to the AggieCon report that will hopefully only be a fraction of this length!

6 Comments

  1. I read it!

    I am blown away by the way that this hotel/staff seemed to “handle” the con. Having worked from the dealer’s perspective, if I had shelled out money and that had happened I would have raised hell. I’ve never heard of anything so unprofessional from either ends.

    You need to come to ACCCCC. -flails at- You can stay at my house!

  2. Agreed. It was unbelievable in a lot of ways.

    And I really do want to come to AC someyear! Do you know how many tables/seats are typically given away for Artist Alley? I’m not big on the lotto system, but I’d like to avoid the hassle of doing PA taxes if I can. (DR is sold out for this year anyway.)

  3. I think the Kuragehime was a friend of mine !!!! hahaah!
    What is AC con?
    What is DR con?
    I lost 5 pounds while at Anime Matsuri! omg… from sweating. SeriouslY!!!!!
    If I didnt ask security if they could ask about turning on AC on saturday, I think some people might have collapsed….. I thanked the guy also.

    I hope people just dont blacklist AM… I think the hotel was major fail.
    Some folks (as bad as it sounds) just create too much drama, and can ruin a event for years.
    Maybe thats good, I dont know. It screws me as an artist out of one more event a year.
    I just wish it had gone better for all.

  4. AC’s details can be found here: http://www.anthrocon.org/alley

    They do run a lotto, but you don’t need to fuss about taxes or anything like that. A lot of people will also take under-the-table commissions though AC frowns on that, but it happens. I’m not staying at the hotel, obviously, but the commute is like 10 minutes for me. Parking is a paaaain, though, but if you don’t mind a little walking you can find spots outside of Downtown and just cross a bridge. :)

    The major perk to AC’s AA is that it’s in the same room as the DD. So you walk in and can either go left (Dealers), or right (AA) which also takes you to the art show, so there’s a TON of traffic.

  5. @A@ We didn’t get to hear about ANY of that!

    Admittedly I did notice the night shift lady that we met the first day was nicer to me than the other people, because I was dressed in a nice shirt and some jeans, but she was a little curt with the people who were behind her from Building six, who had been standing around in their anime pajamas and bare feet for who knows how long because the fire alarms went off in their building.

    Even then they were having problems with towels. There was only one other hotel staff member present and he was a van driver but she had him hauling towels!

    I really think it was a horrible job on both the part of anime matsuri staff and the hotel for not realizing how many people there were that come to matsuri. It’s a ton,plus a car show! One drive through that tiny parking lot could have told anyone with a braincell that that wasn’t the venue for a proper anime convention, much less one that needed room for a car show. AND, even though Anime Matsuri makes a point to do their convention over spring break, trying to do it within a 10 mile radius of the rodeo is death. A LOT of people ragequit and just went to the rodeo for the rest of the time. You know, so they could actually get FOOD.

    Our biggest problem was getting basics this weekend. I mean, even the snacks I usually count on the maid cafe to have were lacking. If we wanted anything we had to buy it at the asscrack of dawn or shell out $4 at the concession stand. And there was only ONE place within reasonable walking distance. IT may have been poor general quality or just the fact that thousands of people were bombarding an otherwise quiet establishment but a lot of people got sick with undercooked food.

    There was no talk of leaving, even if our parking spot would still have been there, for most of the con I had a dealers truck parallel parked behind my car.I’m so glad they found a better spot by the time my parents came to fix my transmission or I would have had to hunt down a dealer and get them to move. Really. Ugh.

    We had all of those police as security for a porn star (Tia Tanaka). The number of police was greatly lessened on sunday because she was gone. This is probably why they let the cowboys get away with feeling up schoolgirls, because no one was watching them. Instead they were preoccupied with the ‘rowdy’ teenagers damaging their already shitty hotel.

    Oh, did you hear the story of how after the elevators were broken they had to get hotel staff to carry this dude’s wheel chair up the stairs. I believe he was the one who was mostly limbless, so it was not an easy carry. He had to make sure that he did EVERYTHING HE WANTED before he could come back down.

    Also, it was in the middle of houston. I don’t know who thought it would be a good idea to have a convention in the middle of houston. Even if it’s a long haul to the woodlands, at least it’s a safer area. There’s a reason that there are gates around the parking lot at that hotel.

    Conventions really should be held at CONVENTION CENTERS or hotels with the proper accomodations for large conventions. If Matsuri was small, this would have been a reasonable venue, but the staff needs to pull their head out of their behind and realize that a con with over 100 artist tables is a con that needs space.

    As for Leon, he was camped out in the doom hall, at an empty table reserved for him. He was literally the ONLY non-volunteer staff I saw the entire convention. That also meant that he was basically trapped by people coming to complain and ask questions. By the way I think he’s the dude who’s been setting up the website and doing all that fancy pants artwork. So, in a nutshell, someone should have assigned the guy some minions or something, and the rest of the staff should have stepped up to help a fellow out. It’s a shame when even the volunteers don’t know what’s going on. Matsuri really dropped the ball on this one.

  6. @Warhound, AC is AnthroCon, in Pittsburg. DR just stands for Dealer’s Room. As for the drama, I do agree that a lot of people blow things out of proportion, but I feel most of the complaints for AM are well-founded and are things that should definitely be a big deal. A friend dug into a bit more and apparently the sexual harassment thing is not new at all, and their lax security in general is part of the reason why they can’t go back to the Marriott (con-goers damaging hotel property). The hotel was awful, but these are things that are AM’s responsibility.

    In any case, there are also a lot of people saying they have every intention of going back to AM, so I don’t think it’s in danger of going under or anything. After all, it’s only real contender is Oni-Con, and Oni’s been having issues too, as far as I know, but with no other major cons in Houston, people will keep going to both, probably. And I think it’s almost guaranteed that AM will change hotels.

    @Mel, yeah. I would want to do AA over DR because of taxes. My main concern would just be snagging spots every day. I don’t think the AA info page lists how many actual spots there are, but I’d imagine that lots of people go for them? The commute’s not a big deal, especially since I’d be bringing a lot less set-up wise. Nrghhhh! I dunno. I just don’t really think I’m at the point where it’s financially worth it for me to do cons out-of-state.

    @Mossi, one artist sitting across from the concessions said that the hotel staff managing the food were terrible about keeping sterile. Half weren’t wearing gloves. They were passing open trash containers over uncovered food. One woman kept finger-combing her hair while handling food, etc. The open pitchers of water they left out was also a bad idea since, being uncovered, the smell and sweat in the air probably all sank into them, nevermind the possibility of some asshole slipping something in them. So that’s probably a lot of why people got sick, since there was very little choice but to eat the hotel’s food.

    I didn’t realize that one of the guests was a porn star, but wow. :\ I didn’t hear that specific story about the elevator, but I did hear that they were fixed halfway through Saturday and that no one bothered to take the “it’s broken” sign off so people were still confused/not using it. The hotel in general seemed very, very unfriendly towards handicapped people though.

    Leon was also the only staff person I saw all weekend — the only volunteer I saw were those guarding the Dealer’s Room. For all the fancy things AM had (nice badges, nice programs before they ran out), they should have used that money to get some goddamn staff shirts or something, ugh. All in all, I’m very disappointed with all the official folks this weekend — AM staff, hotel staff, police, security — it was everyone else that made it better: con-goers and other artists, basically. ~_~

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