Photo courtesy of NeoHazard
A crowd cheering on Luffy boxing Peter Griffin in a wrestling ring deafened me as I entered the Atlantic City Convention Center for the first time. Indeed, the match seemed so intense that at least two upper levels were filled with people eager to witness the outcome of the fated encounter. It's a scene I won't soon forget from AnimeNEXT that weekend. Unfortunately, I can't say I remember much else from the annual anime convention.
First thing's first – why do so many people seem to hate Atlantic City? From many friends that I know also went to the event, most have expressed bitter resentment for the casino metropolis. True, it's not exactly a city built for the millennial/post-millennial demographic, but there's plenty of great restaurants and vistas to uncover if you look hard enough. The beaches are fairly clean and public officials decently polite, too, making me perplexed as to why so many attendees seem to have a problem with the city.
It's fortunate that I find Atlantic City itself a pleasant place to be in, because I can't say exactly the same about AnimeNEXT. Rampart panel confusion, with some panels being scheduled poorly, not described properly in the guidebook or the (easily updatable) app, or outright cancelled, was only one of the many communication problems the convention seemed to have. Departments seemed to be kept in isolation of one another, and it wasn't uncommon to see a member of the staff rush down a hallway to get a message across to another volunteer. When it came to my own press credentials, even, the folks at normal registration had no idea where I should go, escorting me to various places throughout the con only to find out I was supposed to go to a completely different portion of the Center entirely.
Aside from that, the Artist's Alley and Dealer's Room were both nothing too out of the ordinary. In fact, most of the sellers in each were the same featured in larger anime-centric cons like Otakon, Katsucon, and Anime Boston, so if you've been to one of those, you probably won't find anything too out of the ordinary at NEXT.
Despite the impressions I may have had of it, cosplayers and general otaku seemed to have quite the good time. AnimeNEXT succeeds in its community aspect, acting as all good anime cons do as a nexus for the greater anime fandom. It's no surprise that more and more people go to the con every year, as NEXT benefits more from positive word-of-mouth and friend recommendations.
AnimeNEXT was great but far from perfect. It still lacks a certain professional aspect to usher it into the echelon of more nationally acclaimed conventions. That being said, its burgeoning community is helping it become powerhouse it wants to be. Let's hope that the staff at NEXT build a better organizational structure for, erhm, next year.