Sorry this report is later than expected. Personally, I'm lucky that I'm even writing this report, because in the past few days, I lost the USB stick that I was using to store my report. In fact, this blog post was originally going to be about me explaining the issue of how I lost the memory stick containing the file until I decided that maybe I was looking in the wrong place and checked the load of laundry that I washed over the weekend. Sure enough, the memory stick fell out as soon as I opened the dryer door, and as I checked it on my main computer, it was still working despite the trip to the washer. Hence, I'm able to post my report of Anime USA like I had planned to do.

Every year since 2003, my convention year always ends the same way, with me attending Anime USA, which is the smallest of the regular cons that I go to on a regular basis. As a regular attendee, I have gotten used to its major flaws (the two main ones being it's current location, which is hell to get to by car due to it being right in the middle of Washington D.C., and the fact that the Dealers' Room tends to be hit or miss, with it being a huge "miss" this year, with the only purchases being DVD's). However, the main factor of my con experience is whether or not I enjoyed myself and if the enjoyment outweighed the big problems. In the case of Anime USA, a good part of the experience this year is about two things: the programming, and what is different when compared to last year.

One thing that didn't help in terms of the experience was the fact that Anime USA was happening on such a "packed" weekend in terms of my interests. For starters, this was the weekend that Smash Bros. for the 3DS was finally being released stateside. Second, this was the weekend that some more Christmas ornaments became available at Hallmark (my mother and I are into Hallmark ornaments), and while I did pre-order the ones that I want to get for me and the family, I would have also wanted to go to the store that weekend as well. Finally, AMV Hell 7 was finally getting an Internet release, and that was pretty much a "must download" for me. Luckily, things weren't too bad, as I managed to download Smash Bros. and AMV Hell 7 before the con (with AMV Hell being a pre-load), and I did get to go to Hallmark on Sunday afternoon (with my mother picking up the ornaments that we ordered while I was at the convention on Saturday).

Getting back to the convention, one thing that was a big improvement from last year was the attendance. Last year, Anime USA was pretty much a "ghost town" in some places. While some people point the blame to the location (which I could understand given how hard it is to get to the hotel, not to mention how Katsucon had a drop in attendance when it was held inside D.C.), I personally felt the problem had more to do with the fact that it was happening earlier than usual, with most East Coast con attendees having not yet recovered from Otakon. In the end, it appears that my theory that the low attendance was due to a September date was proven to be correct, as Anime USA regained the decent "small con" attendance that it usually has this year. To give an example of it: whereas last year I only took about four or so cosplay pictures, this year I was able to take more cosplay pics than I did at Anime USA 2012 by the end of Friday (although photos were light on Saturday). Other improvements include the convention learning their mistake from last year and having more people man pre-reg badge pick-up on Friday morning (as well as having the Silver/Sponsor gear at the badge pick-up area) and lower level section of the hotel finally done with renovations, which allowed for bigger panel rooms this year.

Speaking of panels, there were a decent amount to keep me busy on Saturday. Viz had an industry panel that, while it didn't have any news, gave people an idea of what to expect in the next few months. There was a panel about the world of mahou shoujo anime that I attended and stayed for most of the two hour duration. Also, Awesomely Bad Japanese Music Videos returned for another round of Japanese weirdness (no Tarako this time around, although there was still the usual craziness that makes me come back for more). However, there's two panels that really impressed me at this convention.

The first panel is Defaming the Sacred: Critical Looks at Popular & Classic Anime. As the title suggests, the panel involves criticizing a number of anime titles that tend to be hugely popular among many fans, but are considered overrated to others. As someone who doesn't give a crap about Attack on Titan and finds Puella Magi Madoka Magica to be one of the most overrated titles in recent years, it's great to see these titles be taken down a notch and their problems pointed out in detail. Given how I enjoyed this panel, I would definitely love to see similar panels involving movies (I'm looking at you, Frozen) and My Little Pony episodes (sorry, but I'm not really that impressed with Flutterbat).

The other panel worth mentioning is Before "An Unexpected Journey". As the title suggests, the panel is about the Hobbit. More specifcally, it's about the Peabody Award winning Rankin/Bass adaptation of the special and how Rankin/Bass played a big role in the world of Japanese animation. If you're someone who is interested in animation (such as me), it's worth checking out, as it not only gives you an idea of some of the anime greats that have worked on Rankin/Bass productions, but also gives you an idea of how their method of outsourcing the animation to Japan would eventually affect the industry of television animation in America.

However, with all the stuff that gave me a positive vibe, there was still one thing that bothered me when I was at the convention (one that I was aware of since Otakon): the change in terms of the people running what is usually my favorite part of Anime USA, the AMV Room.

When I first attended Anime USA in 2001, I was very fascinated with the world of AMV's and while I initially wasn't interested in attending the con when I heard about them not having an AMV Contest this year, the news about them having an "AMV Forum" instead perked my interest and got me to attend the convention just two weeks before the main fall convention that I did plan to attend, Neko-Con. That decision ended up being a very wise one, because as I eventually discovered, the "AMV Forum" was a smaller version of the Video Art Track room at Anime Weekend Atlanta, a convention that was one of the first to devote an entire room to AMV's. A strong devotion to the world of AMV's eventually lead to me returning back to the convention for many years, with me becoming a regular at that room to check out various programming, be it the AMV Contest (which returned the following year), Iron Editor, MEP videos (i.e. the DDR Project and AMV Hell), or My Little Pony videos.

Sadly, after a combination of checking the schedule for the programming and seeing what the room was like Friday afternoon, one major concern that I had with Anime USA 2014 was being realized: the new person in charge of the room doesn't really have a full grasp of how modern day AMV Room programming works. Some of the problems that the room had this year include the following:

*Not opening up until around 4:00PM after Opening Ceremonies (in past years, AMV Programming would be starting around the same time the Dealers' Room opens);
*A lot of the programming on Saturday being more towards AMV creation panels rather than programming that screen AMV's (I don't mind a couple of AMV-creation based panels, but FOUR on Saturday).
*While the "Influential AMV's" screening utilized a laptop, most of the AMV-related screenings were running off of a DVD player (whereas your usual AMV Room has the programming being played off a computer system that is specifically set up for this room);
*The AMV Room pretty much repeating most of the "non-contest" related programming at least once during the convention as a result of the DVD set-up (with the fan parody This is Otakudom being screened THREE times during the weekend)
*The idea of screening AMV Hell 7 late at night AFTER a screening of AMV's intended for the 18+ crowd (AMV Hell 7 is PG-13 at worst).

I could excuse the head of the AMV department for the disappointing AMV Room this year given how this was not only his first year running the room at Anime USA, but also my hunch that he really only had two months to prepare the AMV programming (as news about the change of staff in the Anime USA AMV department wasn't really announced on AMV.org until August). Heck, if I'd known how the Influential AMV panel was handled before I attended it Saturday morning, I could have done a couple of AMV-related panels myself (as I have been preparing a playlist of AMV's using music from Disney films). However, if things aren't improved by 2016, I may have to permanently consider an alternative to Anime USA.

Why 2016? Well, it turns out that I may not be attending Anime USA next year (and may look for an alternate convention to attend). The reason for it is not because of the convention itself (as I'd prefer to stay local). Rather, the reason has to do with taking place Halloween weekend. Besides the chaos of navigating through DC on Halloween night, the real problem stems from the fact that Halloween weekend has, in recent years, become a weekend where my family heads up to Philly for the day to celebrate my niece's birthday. While the trip usually has us going up to Philly in the morning, spending some time with the niece, and then leaving by 6:00PM, I still feel like I'm pushing it in terms of traveling home from Anime USA late Saturday night and getting little sleep as a result of knowing you have to get up early in order to visit family. I still have over a year to figure out what I plan to do for a Fall 2015 convention, but I am fine with weighing the options of trying something different (be it a new experience like Anime Weekend Atlanta or New York Comic Con or making my first trip to Neko-Con since 2002).

To conclude my report, here's the usual link to the cosplay pictures that I took at the convention.