Minamicon is the most established convention in the UK to date, running for 14 years in total. The event hosts up to to 350 people at the Novotel Hotel Southampton.  For us at Animetion it was our first time attending this convention and we made the crucial mistake of assuming that all conventions are run the same way.  THIS IS WRONG!  Unlike previous conventions we have visited Minamicon has a much more intimate feeling to it.  This maybe explained by the fact that the numbers of people allowed to attend are small or the fact that it is run in a hotel instead of a university campus.  The feeling at Minami is very relaxed and it was very easy to talk to anyone in the convention whether they were a normal con goer or a gopher or a committee member.

On the surface things looked like any other convention.  You had several rooms screening anime, you had a dealers room, a games room, a bring & buy, several standard events such as a cosplay Masquerade and auction and a couple of presentations.  However, not only did it feel intimate but it was also the slickest event we have been to.  The Minami crew have been doing this for nearly 15 years, and they know exactly what they were doing.  Unlike pretty much every other expo or convention we have attended, the majority of events ran on time, and the organisation of each event was pretty much spot-on.  It was partly because of this that the atmosphere was so relaxed - people didn't end up hanging around for an hour because something had overrun, so there was a distinct lack of the frustration and frantic last-minute changes you find at other anime events.

Despite the small size of the convention there was a lot to do during the day.  As well as around three dedicated anime screening rooms, there was usually at least two panels, workshops and presentations going on.  The hotel also doubled as a conference centre and the advantage of this was that the main rooms had sliding partitions, allowing the convention staff to alter the size and layout of the rooms to suit the events.  This gave a lot more flexibility than normal, as you could fit a lot more into one space.  When the partitions were removed the room was big enough to host the cosplay masquerade or the opening party, but with the partitions it became three

or four separate rooms.  There was also a central bar area to relax in with a (pretty expensive, it is a hotel after all) pint.  The innovations didn't stop there though.

We were a little worried that with 13 events under their belt the committee would be stuck in their ways and resistant to change and new ideas, but this was simply not the case.  The committee actually held an open feedback session on the last day, asking what was good and bad and engaging con-goers to get fresh ideas.  Minami had several events that we have not seen elsewhere, including calligraphy classes, Japanese lessons, sake tasting and a maid cafe.  The Maid Cafe ran on Sunday morning and saw some cosplayers don maid outfits and serve tea, coffee and cakes to hungry con-goers.  It was good value for money and there was a decent selection of gateaux and cakes on offer too.  Probably the biggest surprise we had though was the opening party.  The party took place on the Friday evening and was not quite what we expected.  There was a bar but there was also a very good free buffet and a host of anime themed party games!  Haruhi Suzumiya Twister, an anime shooting gallery and Sgt Frog piņata were amongst the games you could play, and there were prizes galore early on.  It was great fun and the free food was a real bonus, the only problem was that it did go on a bit too long, so people were drifting away before the event's end time.  The party did eventually give way to a disco, which was a much more conventional event.  But oddly these were the only parties of the weekend.

We were surprised (and we'll admit, caught out) by the fact that there was only a night-time party on the Friday.  On Saturday and Sunday the large room had been split down for smaller events so the space for a party was no longer available.  It was a shame as although there was tonnes to do during the day, the evenings were a bit flat.  The high price of beer and limited selection of food on offer at the Novotel meant that some people went elsewhere to eat and drink.  It was a shame there weren't that many communal events after 6pm, but the friendly and open atmosphere did mean that you could easily chat with complete strangers and have a good

time in the bar area.  The lack of evening entertainment apart from screenings was Minami's only major drawback from an 'activities' point of view, but the events and activities that happened during the day more than made up for it.

One of Minami's strengths was the variety of things going on.  Japanese culture was explored by Akemi Solloway, a guest who is becoming a bit of a convention regular, who conducted Japanese language and calligraphy lessons, as well as tea ceremony and kimono demonstrations and a cultural discussion.  On top of this there was sake and Japanese snack tasting, as well as sushi workshops and a panel on 'tokusatsu' special effects series like Power Rangers.  The anime screenings were varied too, ranging from the latest UK releases to those yet to be released here.  There were even screenings of Japanese live action drama series and some fan-made parody films.  In fact it was only during the anime screenings that there was any real nod to the UK anime distributors.  Manga Entertainment had a stall in the dealer's room (more on that later), but other than that there was very little acknowledgement given to the UK industry.  Minamicon knew its audience, and they weren't new fans.