Kayarath’s Adventures In Zenkaikon

Posted on Mar 28 2013


I’ve covered my fair share of conventions, but the hardest one for me to write about was Zenkaikon. There are no major premieres to cover and The Fan’s already interviewed practically every voice actor who does the convention circuit. I don’t have a set game plan when it comes to Zenkaikon. Despite being the closest convention to me, I never felt attached to it.

Zenkaikon was born when an anime convention and a science fiction convention both put on pieces of a magical pair of earrings, pulling them together into Zenkaikon. This new breed of convention lived happily at the Valley Forge Convention Center until it got rebooted into a casino. Desperate for a place to crash, it spent 2012 at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center. While it did beat being homeless, Zenkaikon knew that the Expo Center wasn’t the best fit for it and looked for a new place to call home. Eleven months later, Zenkaikon moved in to the humble city of Lancaster to start its new life.

For me, Zenkaikon was a mediocre convention experience. This isn’t due to Zenkaikon itself; it had more to do with how drained I was. You need a lot of energy to enjoy a con and I didn’t have nearly enough. I only got about seventy five cosplay pictures which is quite low for me. I also missed a bunch of great stuff like Richard Epcar talking about his role of Batou in Ghost in The Shell, The Slants, and the comedic stylings of Uncle Yo who buys stuff in the Dealer’s Hall just like everyone else! I barely had time to browse the Dealer’s Hall. Admittedly, I’ve seen most of these vendors before at other conventions but I still want to take the time to look!

Can't have a convention without a dance game...

Can’t have a convention without a dance game…

I did muster the strength to sample the atmosphere. Zenkaikon does come stocked with all the basic convention staples that you know and love. Dealers’ Hall, Artist Alley, rave, special guests and panels aplenty was all there to enjoy. While I failed to meet most of the guests there, I did attend a panel hosted by C.J. Henderson, science fiction author. While you may not recognize his works, you should hear him speak because he is quite the philosopher.

Unique to most conventions, there’s a fully operational tabletop gaming room. It even got a better space then the video gaming section! In most conventions, it’s the other way around. As a tabletop gamer, I found that surprisingly refreshing. I got the rare opportunity to pull out Tentacle Bento (expect a full review some time in the future) to play with some nice passer byes. There were also game demonstrations, like for Sentinels of the Multiverse. Sentinels of the Multiverse is a co-operative super hero card game. If you’ve played Magic the Gathering or done a raid in the World of Warcraft card game, you should be fine with it. While the game did end up dragging along for three hours, it’s obvious that it’s a well designed game. If you’re in the mood for a heavier table top game, then Sentinels is a good pick.

While most of the panels did elude me, I did attend closing ceremonies. The first item done was showing the AMV winners. While there were awards for best comedy, drama, popular vote, and chairman’s pick, what really got me was the winner for most annoying AMV. I had no idea you could make an annoying AMV but you can! Oh god, you can. At the start, I was groaning at how awful it was. Then I was laughing at how hard it was trolling the crowd. But the trolling was so much, I was groaning again by the end of it. Seriously, whoever made that AMV is a trolling master and I must applaud that person for being so dastardly.

Children's card games for everyone!

Children’s card games for everyone!

After the audience expressed great relief that the annoying AMV was over, it was feedback time. Last year practically no feedback was given. This year was quite difference. I guess the more intimate space made people comfortable enough to speak out. Many of the comments were of heartfelt gratitude for Zenkaikon. It was shoujo style heart warming. There was praise from wide eyed fans blown away by their first convention and hardened veterans expressing their respect. A few people also expressed concerns. When another event has to share a space with an anime convention, there’s usually trouble. While many times it’s the convention people causing it, this time it was a business dinner intruding upon the con goers. Once the issue was known, steps were taken to minimize the problem. That would explain why the third floor was closed off Saturday night. Luckily that won’t happen next year since Zenkaikon will have the entire Lancaster Convention Center to itself. It’s nice to not have to worry about dumb neighbors (ask Kanashimi about that feeling :P). More room! More panels! More events!

While people giving public praise is enough for most conventions, what really won me over was seeing two more private talks. I overhead a short conversation between Zenkaikon staff and cosplay rock band Eien Strife. He complemented the sound crew on how they knew that a booming sound check is actually okay since it’ll sound normal once the hall had people in it. He also thanked them for treating the band well. How you treat the little guest says a good deal about how you run things. I also saw a staff member returning a backpack to it’s owner. By the context of the conversation, it seems that the staff member when through great troubles trying to return it. She even explained any possible damage that may have occurred to the owner’s items while it was gone. When the staff advised the owner to put a form of contact in it so that it would be easier to return, the owner pointed to a tag with contact info placed conveniently on the backpack. Cue sitcom laugh.

Attendance for Zenkaikon 2013 was at a respectable 3,000 people. While that is a solid performance, that is hardly the biggest convention I’ve ever been too. If you’re looking for a huge spectacle of a convention, Zenkaikon’s not really the convention for you. It’s no Otakon but it doesn’t have to be. Zenkaikon is a convention you can feel comfortable in; Zenkaikon is a convention that will take care of you. You won’t get lost in some giant place trying to find out where you are. You won’t have to worry about being alienated by the locals. You won’t get ganked just because you have cat ears on. It may not have muscle but it does have heart, and that counts too. I hope to see you at Zenkaikon 2014. And hey, while you’re around, buy an Amish quilt why don’t cha?

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