With the popularity of anime increasing in the UK all the time, there have been a fair few new events and conventions cropping up in the last couple of years. Alcon is one of them,
The first Alcon had some well publicised problems last year,
but despite this it had no problems filling 400 places this time
round. Held in Leicester's De Montefort University, Alcon
takes place in a single University building with a variety of
activities taking place in a nearby bar which is booked by the
convention for the entire weekend. Two large and extremely
reasonably priced accommodation blocks flank the convention venue,
containing sufficient room for all 400 attendees. Best of all
the two accommodation blocks are about five minutes walk apart, and
the bar and main building are in between them. The whole site
is extremely close together and the facilities are superb, with the
accommodation featuring large kitchens for those who want to make
their own food and the bar serving cheap drinks and snacks.
Alcon is probably the most accessible convention held in the UK, covering every aspect of anime and manga fandom as well as numerous Japanese hobbies and related activities. As with all conventions you are given a 'con bag' which contains the con book and event planner as well as various other bits and bobs and your convention pass. Most of the events take place in the main convention building, which this year was the University's Business Centre. On the ground floor you will find several rooms screening anime and live-action Japanese drama (J-Dorama) series, as well as the games room which hosts console game tournaments as well as machines for
casual game playing. The main draw on the ground floor is the Dealers Room, where the likes of Neon Martian, Genki Gear, Gundam Nation and Team Giblets try to part you from your hard-earned cash. Also on the ground floor is the lecture hall, which is the venue for some panels, anime screenings and the Charity Auction, and the Artist's Alley, where you can learn how to draw from professional artists like Sonia Leong and display your own artwork. Other events held here include the Bring & Buy, Gundam Painting Workshop, Ball-Jointed Doll display and several smaller panels.
Upstairs in the same building are the main panel rooms. These
rooms host panels on a huge variety of subjects, including
hentai, ball-jointed dolls and running an anime fansite (hosted
by us!). Also held here are several Japanese cultural
workshops run by convention regular Akemi Solloway, including
Japanese language, tea ceremony, kimono, origami, calligraphy and
customs, as well as a Shamisen demonstration. Other events
held here include an Ouran High School Host Club themed Café
and trading card game tournaments. This may sound like a lot
to cram into one building, but it's not all Alcon has to
offer. For one there's the clan system. When you sign up
you choose whether you want to be a Pirate, Vampire or Ninja, not
only does this give you a con badge themed to your clan but also
provides cosplay inspiration and gives the various competitions and
events added incentive as winning gains points for your chosen clan.
The winning clan is announced at the end of the con, giving members
full bragging rights for a whole year! There's also the bar.
The bar isn't just a place to drink and eat, it's also one of Alcon's main focal points. As well as acting as a chillout bar throughout the day with Anime Music Videos playing on the numerous screens and Dance Dance Revolution machines set up on a big screen, it is also the venue for several major events. Foremost amongst these is the Cosplay Masquerade, often the centrepiece of a convention and improved massively by having beer on tap! The bar also hosts a DDR tournament, AMV Hell screenings (an epic mash-up of various anime music video clips) and radio Podcasts. It's also the venue for the Alcon Pub Quiz and parties, which as always
are the highlights of the whole event. There's a party every night in the bar, and some even involve karaoke. Beer flows, cheesy tunes blast out and the DJ will even take requests, which is a vast improvement on last year. It's also worth noting that the drinks prices are discounted to a very affordable level. The parties in the bar may end at midnight, but things are far from over. The advantage of the accommodation being so close is that people haven't lost the party mood when they get back, so the partying carries on well into the early hours of the morning!
Alcon has suffered by being held in the same city as Amecon, which has brought unfair comparisons between the two. However, Alcon is a much smaller event with less than a third of the attendees of Amecon, plus it is also only in its second year whereas Amecon is well established. Alcon has successfully demonstrated innovation and a desire to better itself, the clan system introduced last year is expanded and improved and all of last year's issues have been investigated and addressed. The sheer variety of activities and aspects of Japanese culture and hobbies covered is unrivalled by any other UK anime event, and there's a very open and accepting atmosphere that makes Alcon the perfect first con experience. For more information on the various panels and bits and bobs on show, check out our Alcon menu by clicking here!