If anyone ever wanted any proof of the importance of first impressions then Alcon is as good as you'll probably get.  The con's problems when it first ran in 2007 were well publicised and despite a massive improvement in 2008 some members of the anime community remained pretty hostile to it.  However, whilst many regular congoers have turned their back on Alcon, a lot of younger fans have embraced it.  Much of this support comes through the AnimeLeague, an online forum community run by the organisers of the convention, and the large userbase played an important part in filling an increased capacity of 500 attendees. 

As with previous years the convention was held in Leicester's De Montefort University, with the main con activities returning to the Queen's Building used in 2007 rather than the Business Centre used last year.  Onsite accommodation was once again available for all attendees, despite the university changing the bookings at the 11th hour, and the privately-owned Quay Bar was again exclusively hired for the entire weekend.  The move back to the Queen's Building spread the convention site out a bit more than last year (when everything was on the same road, and the bar and the Business Centre were next door to each other), but there was still less than a five minute walk between each building.  The accommodation, as with previous years, is the the cheapest of any UK con and the facilities are excellent.  You are also given the opportunity to choose which block you want to be in to ensure you are with your friends, although a mix-up with the keys this year unfortunately led to some people being split up.  Still, each block contained a large communal kitchen/dining area which gave you a good chance to meet with your friends, and the restrictions about visiting other blocks were relaxed this time round so it wasn't as much of an issue as it could have been.

As always each attendee got a 'con bag', which this time was a nice cotton 'bag for life' - something that appears to be the convention norm nowadays.  The bag contains the conbook and event planner, along with Alcon badges and posters plus a free box of Pocky and a handful of leaflets.  You could also pick up the convention t-shirt, which was black and had a reflective silver print of the Alcon mascots dressed like Queen Emeraldas and Captain Harlock.  Most of the events at the convention took place in the Queen's Building, which was used far more effectively than in 2007.  The ground floor had two screening rooms, which had a full program of anime and

Japanese drama, plus a games room which hosted several games tournaments (the Mario Kart one was won by our very own MattDark) and had a variety of retro and next-gen consoles on offer for casual play.  The larger rooms were used to host the Dealers Room, Artists Alley and Cosplay Café, with the remaining rooms hosting panels, trading card game tournaments and 'traditional' games such as Twister.  The only other room used in the Queen's Building was the superb Lecture Theatre on the 1st floor, which was used for larger panels such as the Hentai Panel, Yaoi Panel and the Yu-Gi-Oh! Abridged panel hosted by series creator LittleKuriboh.

The bar was also a major area of the convention, not only acting as a chill-out area but also hosting the parties, Karaoke, Cosplay Masquerade, opening/closing ceremonies, pub quiz and Dance Dance Revolution tournaments.  It also hosted two live bands - The Skull Branded Pirates, who tie in with the Alcon 'clan' system, and Machina Shogunate, a 'visual kei' style band fronted by the multi-talented Niki Hunter.  The 'clan' system is one of Alcon's unique aspects, and it is one which is brought to life mostly in the bar.  When you sign up for Alcon you choose whether you want to be a Pirate, Vampire or Ninja, and you get a con badge themed to your chosen clan when you go to the convention.  The clans not only provide cosplay inspiration but it gives the gaming competitions and competitive events added incentive as winning gains points for your chosen clan.  The winning clan is announced at the end of the con, giving members bragging rights for a whole year!

Alcon has always been an innovative convention and one that's very open to new ideas.  The strangest of these this year was probably the battle re-enactments that took place in the Bede accommodation hall's central quad!  There were also more relevant events, one of the best of which was a daily 'breakfast club' where bleary-eyed con-goers could watch an anime film in the morning and tuck into free toast and cereals.  There was also a specific 'BJD' (Ball-Jointed Dolls) area in the Artists Alley where enthusiasts could enter competitions, show off their dolls and buy accessories.  Other new events included a cosplayer auction with the proceeds going to charity, a multi-part

panel on the World Cosplay Summit and a panel by Niki Hunter on creating video game art.  Unfortunately the Japanese Cookery Workshops, which suffered from a poor choice of venue last year, continued a bad run of luck when they were cancelled due to the kitchen's electricity supply being cut off.

 As with any convention there are things Alcon does well and there are things it doesn't, and we will be looking at these over the coming pages.  Click the 'Next' button below to read the next part of the article or check out our Alcon menu by clicking here!