The Fort Worth Business Press takes on North America’s longest-running anime convention

If you start seeing costumed and decked out tourists around downtown, especially around the Fort Worth Convention Center and Water Gardens — no, Halloween didn’t come early; it’s A-Kon 29.

Last year in its first ever Fort Worth appearance, A-Kon’s 28th-annual convention brought with it more than 25,000 anime, gaming, Japanese pop culture and cosplay fans for four days of events.

And this year the it’s even bigger than before, with the convention expected to bring in more than 33,000 attendees for its just under 850 events.

A-Kon was held in Dallas from 1989-2016, but seems to be finding a new home in Cowtown.

Among other things, the convention includes cosplay, TV and movie screenings with panels featuring voice actors and directors, concerts by Japanese and SteamPunk bands, Esports gaming events, and an artist and dealer exhibition.

Pictures didn’t do justice to the monstrosity that was the line of attendees trying to register and pick up their badges for A-Kon 29, which stretched from room 104-100 of the Convention Center and then wrapped back around.

From the official opening of A-Kon at noon to well after 5 p.m. the line, while moving, didn’t get any shorter due to a badge mix-up that caused a one-hour delay in attendee registration.

While the thousands of anxious A-Kon attendees moved through the line and into the registration area — which took up about a fifth of the convention center’s 250,000 square-feet of exhibit space — more than 620 tables were being set up in the rest of the exhibit area as part of A-Kon’s Artist Alley and the Dealer Center for attendees to purchase merchandise and mementos, request commissions and more.

ARTIST ALLEY

Since Artist Alley and the Dealer Center wouldn’t officially open until Friday, attendees weren’t allowed in the space, though we at the Fort Worth Business Press were able to speak with a few artists about their craft.

Carol Bamberger with her Harpielily table featured her “super cute” stickers, handmade books, prints, shirts and more.

Indie artist Ria Martinez set up her Riadoodles space to sell various keychains, buttons, posters and sketchbook concept art comic books.

Matthew Clark and his associate attended A-Kon’s Artist Alley to promote Clark’s art in the form of posters, buttons and keychains. Clark will also offer onsite commissions and is in the process of setting up an online marketplace for his company called Straightline Studios.

Emilie Victor Oscar told the Business Press she makes a life as an illustrator because “being a doctor didn’t work out for her.” She says she set up her table with her associate who goes by Chimerri to bond with people who like the same franchises she features in her art.

Houstonians Con and Jen set up a booth called Sushi Bar to feature their emoji character sushi plushes as well as anime character sushi plushes. The pair also take commissions.

Ktty Kat Kay’s booth is operated by artist Kayla Wilson who attends A-Kon to promote her illustrations.

“I like create cute things and making magical-looking girls,” Wilson said.

Jessica English, Alexis Brown and Alexandra Brown were not deterred in their excitement while waiting in the seemingly never-ending registration line. The trio were thrilled for their second time coming to A-Kon and said their favorite part of the convention is seeing all the costumes and cosplay, and exploring the dealers room.

SLOW START

Due to the hour-long reistration back-up, many events for day one of A-Kon were pushed back and even canceled including the LARP Open-Forum Q&A session, DJ’s in the Water Gardens and more.

However, the Business Press was still able to attend one event hosted by the Maid Cafe — the Yandere Escape Room.

The plot of the escape room is as follows: A ride to a photo shoot goes sour when you awake with fellow Kyutomomi Talent Agency Idols in a dark basement owned by your biggest, and most obsessive, fan. Will you and your colleagues be able to win her twisted game and escape to freedom or will you be hers forever?

Inside the Maid Cafe tables and chairs were shrouded by black covers and the lights were dim. Photos, caution tape and notes adorned the walls.

Now we don’t want to spoil the game by giving too many clues or details, but, the escape room featured various tasks the tables had to complete including getting the lights on, saving an attendee, rescuing a “dog” and finally, escaping.

These tasks were completed by using various elements and clues around the room including locked boxed, scrabble letters, playing cards, UV lights, pebbles, puzzles, vials of mystery liquid and more.

Luckily, the group was able to escape — in 43 minutes.

CHARITY

But if between waiting in line, gaming, shopping and cosplaying you need something else to do, consider supporting A-Kon’s 2018 Charity Initiative benefitting the Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children.

There are three ways to support the charitiy initiative.

Attendees can contribute to the initiative through buying a Charity FastPass – the Fast Pass will feature collectible merchandise, priority registration line access, special autograph sessions, exclusive access to the exhibit hall, priority access to the Masquerade Ball, and early entry and priority seating for main events – or purchasing a ticket for the Banquet with the Stars from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday, June 10, which will feature special guests and prize giveaways.

Or, consider getting “arrested.” Spending time in the Sky Marshals Charity Jail is $1/minute and all the proceeds go to charity. A keepsake mugshot also comes with every arrest.

EVENTS

No matter your interests, with just under 850 many events to choose from, every attendee is bound to find something they like.

A full schedule of events — with time, date, location and description — is available by downloading the official A-Kon 19 Guidebook at guidebook.com/g/a-kon29.

Friday’s events officially start at 9 a.m. with a Wake up Social at the Convention Center (though there will be programming available to watch at various locations beginning at 4 a.m.) and will run through 2 a.m. Saturday morning.

OpTic Arena will officially open at 11 a.m. Friday at the Convention Center arena and will remain open until 8 p.m., featuring various video game events that attendees can participate in for the chance to earn prizes and merchandise, as well as panel discussions and exhibitions.

Saturday’s events will officially begin at 9 a.m., though there will be programming available to watch at various locations beginning at 4 a.m., and will run through 2 a.m. Saturday morning.

OpTic Arena events will begin at 10 a.m. and run through 10 p.m. Saturday night.

Sunday is the final day of the convention and begins with the same setup as Friday and Saturday (events officially begin at 9 a.m. with programming beginning at 4 a.m.), with A-Kon events officially concluding at 6 p.m.

OpTic Arena events will begin at 11 a.m. and run through 8 p.m. Sunday night.

Did you get a chance to see the thousands of people walking about downtown Fort Worth for A-Kon today? Send us your pictures to reporters@bizpress.net for a chance to be featured on the Fort Worth Business Press Instagram and Facebook page.

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