The days are getting shorter. The air is getting colder. People are dressing up in various costumes. This can only mean one thing: it’s time for my traditional final convention of the year, Anime USA.

This year, Anime USA took place on Halloween, and when I first heard the news about the date last year, I didn’t know if I’d be attending this year. The reason for this: a couple of days before Halloween is my niece’s birthday. As such, I didn’t know if my family would be heading up to Philly the weekend of the con to celebrate her birthday, or if we’d celebrate it a week early. It turns out, the “main” type of party that my niece wanted to have this year wasn’t really something that my family was interested in. Thus, we had a smaller party the weekend before, giving me a chance to attend Anime USA the following week.

When compared to the previous year in general, I kinda consider it somewhat of a downgrade. It was still worth the time, but somewhat lacking when compared to last year. To me, I kinda blame it on two things. The first is the fact that with Anime USA sharing the hotel with another conference this year, the “con space” did feel somewhat smaller, not to mention there wasn’t any real panel this year that screamed “Must attend”. Second, with all the other cons happening during Halloween weekend, I wouldn’t be surprised most of the bigger dealers focused on those instead, resulting in Anime USA only having one dealer that had a decent supply of anime DVD’s/BD’s for sale (with the only “need to buy” title on the shopping list available there being the DBZ Resurrection ’F’ movie). Of course, just because the Dealers Room was lacking this year didn’t mean the DBZ film was my only purchase at the con, I as did pick up the first season of Non Non Biyori, a few figures, and this adorable plushie of a kitten in a cup of latte.

However, the lack of interesting programming and a “lacking” Dealers Room were just mere hindrances, as the real issue of the convention was the handling of the autograph sessions. To understand the problem, let me explain the trouble I had Friday evening during one session. At Anime USA this year, one of the main attractions was that the con was able to get the English cast of Cowboy Bebop as guests, and, as a last minute thing, I decided to try my luck getting a couple of the actors to autograph my Amazon exclusive Blu-Ray box, with me waiting in line at the regular line once the line started to form an hour before the session. At the con, there was also an advantage to those who are Sponsor (as well as Silver members who want to use the “Get Sponsor Benefits for One Event” Pass for this event) in which they get first dibs at getting autograph. The issue: Anime USA eventually kept the Sponsor line open for a half hour before closing it, and by the time the half-hour has passed, the Sponsor line was long enough that by the time it’s finally cleared, it would be time for the autograph session to supposedly end. While I understand wanting to give the Sponsors an advantage (and I should have not listened to those who told me to hold off the pass until tomorrow and use it here ASAP), to me, it feels unfair that the Anime USA gave Sponsors a half hour to get in the “special” line, as it could end up screwing over those people who were waiting in the regular line ever since it started to form (especially when the guests worked on a title like Cowboy Bebop). Given some of the other problems I read about autograph sessions on later days, Anime USA really needs to fix this problem in the future.

Despite my issues with the autograph sessions, it didn’t keep me down when it came time for what I considered to be the big event of the weekend, the AMV contest. While there was some technical difficulties getting the show started on Friday night (it’s a mix of the computer containing the contest trying to update during the con and having to get the playlist back to the intended order), given the reasons that I’ll get to later, I eventually stuck around and waited while the problems were fixed.

As for the contest itself (and the AMV Room in general), it was definitely an improvement from last year, with the coordinator putting some effort to returning the room back to its original glory (there’s still some areas of improvement, with me actually being tempted to help with that). Eventually, there were two categories in the contest that I had a tough time deciding for who to vote for: Upbeat and Comedy.

For Comedy, there were a pair of videos that this category that I felt would easily win the audience vote. The first video has various anime characters (and a few American titles) represent the various characters in the PokeRap (from the first season of Pokemon), with a number of choices being genius (i.e. Frieza as Mewtwo, Osaka as Slowbro). The other video, entitled “Contest Trolling 101”, is a comical jab at a number of “upbeat” video that tend to be big hits on the convention circuit via Pop Up Video. Along with some of the common traits found in these videos (i.e. the excessive use of lip sync and anime OP’s), there’s some humor from various “troll” pop-ups, references to some Internet memes (i.e. “It was me, Dio”; Sweetie Bot), and a nod to one of the creator’s previous videos.

Upbeat, on the other hand, was a completely different story. In terms of the category, I had a good idea of which video was going to win it: a Haruhi/Baka and Test video in which the Haruhi section was done in stop-motion animation using the Figma figures of the show’s female cast. Adding to this was the fact that the video was made by an AMV creator who is well known for the AMV community for two of the best AMV’s to ever be made, Euphoria and Skittles. If that video was the favorite in that category, then how come it was a hard time for me to vote for that category?

Remember in my Otakon report how I was beta-testing an AMV while at that con? Well, after putting the video online, I eventually entered it at various AMV contests. Given how this year was an excellent year for upbeat AMV’s, my chances of making it into the contest have been “hit or miss”, as my entry can easily get lost in a sea of entries consisting of videos that I knew were far more superior than mine. However, it’s when my video scores a hit that things get interesting (for instance, I was very surprised to see my video finish runner-up in the Upbeat category at Saboten Con 2015). As such, when I found out that my video made it to the finals at Anime USA, I definitely knew that a good part of my weekend was going to be focused on that (with me being even more surprised that I even made it in once I found out the other videos I was going up against in the category) Given the situation, it was hard to decide whether to go with a technically superior video or stay loyal to my creation. In the end, I decided to follow my heart in terms of which I had more fun watching, and while the Haruhi video was impressive in terms of stop-motion animation, if I wanted to watch a random video, I’m more likely to watch my creation over that.

Since I had a video in the AMV Contest, I eventually attended all three showings of the contest (more specifically, I attended all of the Friday showing and joined the Saturday showings already in progress during the Romance category) to gauge the audience reaction of the video. In the end, I felt the response was decent. Those who’ve already seen the video beforehand were definitely getting into it, with them clapping along to the instrumental section of the video. Also, the Potemayo section and the ending (which mixed Mio’s tripping on stage cord to audio from Xmas teaser trailer to The Peanuts Movie) got a good laugh from the audience, a reaction that I was definitely hoping for, given the lighthearted feel of the video. If you haven’t seen my video yet, you can find information about it here (I did have it on Youtube, but I eventually took it down due to SME’s strict “blocking” measures). Also, I’d highly recommend checking out the Peanuts Movie (the source of the song that I used in my AMV), as the film is a clear demonstration of how a classic franchise can be brought to today’s standards without “modernizing” it and removing all the charm that made it so great to begin with.

As for the cosplay this time around, given how this was taking place on the weekend of Halloween, cosplayers were in full force this weekend. As such, this was one of the busier Anime USA’s this year when it came to cosplay photos, whether it’s hot (when it comes to the female ninja’s of Mortal Kombat, I’ve always preferred the maskless version of the MK II outfits), silly (be it a Donald Trump cosplay or someone dressed as the “floating shopping list” from Spongebob), or cool (i.e. in an outfit fitting for Halloween, someone dressed up as the Babadook). To see the various photos that I took over the weekend, please visit here.

Some additional notes:

-One thing that noticeable the week of Anime USA was all the American cartoons that were making reference to anime/Japanese culture this week. As such, I made the following sign to reflect it. BTW, if you wondering how I was able to get the My Little Pony image before the episode actually aired, that was due to iTunes accidentally leaking the episode a month early (with the service inadvertently releasing the 15th episode in production order instead of the 15th episode in broadcast order).

-Speaking of My Little Pony, while at Artist Alley, I found out that a lot of people working there were not up to date with what’s been going on in the series. Thus, it was hard to talk to anyone concerning the the insane game-changing moments that happened in the last few weeks (more specifically,

Spoiler ->the Cutie Mark Crusaders finally getting their Cutie Marks, as something tells me that this will relight the “pony” spark in some Artist Alley workers).

-One thing that was definitely noticeable at Anime USA this weekend was the amount of people in the hotel with dogs on leashes. In fact, I saw at least one Cowboy Bebop cosplayer with a Welsh Corgi, the breed of dog that Ein is on the show. Also, given how it was Halloween weekend, some people that were seen with dogs also dressed their dogs up for the day.

-In case you’re wondering, I do have two AMV projects in the pipeline at the moment, with me doing editing on one project days before the con (and having a short clip of the work that I done on my phone during the con), while another project idea popped up my head while having lunch at the nearby McDonald’s. Given how I’m recovering from “con flu”, I haven’t really done that much progress on then in the past couple of days (although I’m about 20% complete with the project that I started to work on after the con, and I hope to have that finished in time for the winter 2016 cons).

With my 2015 convention season over, it’s time to start focusing on 2016, and boy is next year going to be somewhat of a messy start, with two conventions happening on back-to-back weekends while I’m still going to need money for not just the video games that will be coming out during the first quarter of 2016, but also for a “secret” trip that I’m planning to take in January.