The Saturday is usually the main day of a convention, and Alcon followed this tradition with a packed schedule from morning to night. For most attendees Saturday was the day they were waiting for, as it featured both the Cosplay Masquerade and the opening of the Dealers Room.
The day kicked off at 10am with another breakfast club screening,
this time of the excellent The Girl Who Leapt Through Time.
The games room, artists alley and second screening room opened at
the same time, whilst 11am brought the first part of Sonia Leong's
superb Manga Workshop and the opening of the Bring & Buy.
However, the day kicked off properly at midday when most of the
people nursing hangovers from the day before arrived...and promptly
began queuing for the dealers room. As a whole Saturday went
far better than Friday, but if there was one black mark against it
then it was around the dealers room. In both 2007 and 2008
Alcon suffered a lot of bad press about the dealers room both
from attendees and the dealers themselves. The con tried to
address the issues from last year around security, size and
congestion by setting up a one way system through the room with the
dealers arranged so that there was just a single path through.
However, once again the room was too small for the task (even though
it was probably the largest the building had to offer) and the
decision to put the popular United Publications near the
entrance caused a massive bottleneck that left many fans queuing
outside for hours, even though the majority of the room was empty.
Once inside the room there was a decent selection of retailers, with
United Publications joined by the likes of Neon Martian,
Genki Gear, Gundam Nation, Kamika-Z and
Terratag alongside art collectives Sweatdrop Studios and
Dimensional Entertainment. However, it was
disappointing that it took several hours for the gophers to get the
hang of the crowd control, and it was also a shame that there were a
handful of stalls in the room that were selling bootlegs. It's
pretty rare to find this at conventions as the organisers know what
to look for, so we were very disappointed to find them there.
The dealers room issues aside though, the Saturday was a big improvement on Friday with the delays about what you get at any convention. The tech and support for panels - something that was conspicuously absent on Friday - was largely in place, and the various screenings, panels and competitions after lunch mostly went according to plan - although a handful of screenings were cancelled as the convention did not have the equipment to play Region 1 DVDs. Once again the excellent Cosplay Café opened at 12, offering drinks and cakes until 4pm for a one-off daily entry fee, and the Iron Artist competition and Mario Kart and Street Fighter III tournaments kicked off
at around the same time in the Artist Alley and Games Room respectively. The bar hosted a practice session for the Cosplay Masquerade before moving on to screenings of Dragon Ball Z Abridged and various anime music videos plus a Dance Dance Revolution tournament. However, it was the panels held early to mid afternoon that proved the major attraction on the day. Despite the cancellation of the Cosplay Makeup Panel there was plenty more to enjoy, including the second part of the World Cosplay Summit panel. The World Cosplay Summit is held in Japan once a year to celebrate costumes from around the world. It is in effect the world cup of cosplay, each country that participates must create their own costume and be involved in a 3 minute performance with prizes up for grabs in both categories. The panel's aim was to raise awareness of the event and to encourage future UK participation. An Animeleague Meetup panel was also on the bill, but we were mostly intrigued by the special guest panels hosted by Niki Hunter and Littlekuriboh. Niki hosted panels on character design and portfolio compilation in the Artists Alley, showing an audience of fans her portfolio and explaining the techniques she used to create a number of characters. Whilst Niki seemed to lack some of the presentation experience Sonia Leong demonstrated earlier in the day she was a friendly and down-to-earth host and her panels were enjoyable and informative. We were particularly impressed by her artistic skill when she designed a character on the spot based on suggestions from the audience!
After Niki's panels it was upstairs for one of the convention's big
coups. Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series has quickly become
an internet hit and series creator Littlekuriboh was hosting a panel
on the series in the Queens Building's superb 1st floor Lecture
Theatre. The panel was very well attended and the
Littlekuriboh proved an amiable and entertaining host as he fielded
questions about the series and performed a live commentary during
screenings of several episodes. The panel easily overran its
projected two-hour time slot as Littlekuriboh slipped in and out of
his various character voices as he covered topics including why the
series now confuses voice actor Dan Green and why he decided to give
Egyptian mystic Shadi the voice of Sacha Baron Coen's Borat!
The day's other activities and panels had a lot to live up to after
this and to be honest some of the things on in the late afternoon
fell a bit flat. The Cosplay Masquerade - normally the
centrepiece of a convention - was less well attended than last year
by both cosplayers and audience, and some of the evening panels
suffered because of scheduling. The Cosplay Fever and
Fuyucon panels had to compete with a special screening of the
live action film 20th Century Boys, a live band, pub quiz and
the Hentai Panel, all of which took away large parts of their
potential audience. Another thing that put some people off was
the 'Manga Industry Panel' which preceded them, several congoers
thought it would be a panel by the leading anime distributor
Manga Entertainment, but instead it was about creating UK
comics. This led to many potential attendees heading to the
bar early and as a result the panel fell flat, something that wasn't
helped by it being hosted solely by Dimensional Entertainment.
For an industry panel it would have made more sense for them to
share the stage with comic artist collective Sweatdrop Studios
or artists Niki Hunter and Sonia Leong - all of whom were at the
convention - to give a more balanced view of the comics publishing
industry in the UK.
The bar's evening programme kicked off with a live performance by rock act Machina Shogunate, a British band in the Japanese visual kei style fronted by the multi-talented Niki Hunter. It was one of the band's first appearances and Niki was visibly nervous to start with, but put in a good performance nonetheless. The audience grew as their set progressed, with Niki's surprisingly strong voice backed up admirably by a talented band, and their performance set the night up nicely...or would have done if it had been immediately followed by the party. However instead it was followed by the pub quiz, which was a bit of a change of pace after a rock gig and caused
some of the energy to drain from the venue. However the party that followed was great, much in the same mould as the previous night's, and there was always the Hentai Panel, video games team night and a screening of Afro Samurai Resurrection to keep you occupied if you didn't want to do the quiz.
The Saturday was a big improvement on the Friday as far as we were concerned, but it was disappointing that a power cut caused the cancellation of the Japanese Cookery Workshops that were due to take place in the afternoon. However, the panels were better supported and there were plenty of things going on all day, whilst the Machina Shogunate gig and Littlekuriboh panel lived up to the hype. It was a shame that the dealers room had issues once again but they seemed to learn from it during the day so we were not expecting a repeat on Sunday. So did we get a repeat or did the con end strongly? Read on...