Animeland Wasabi has changed a lot in the past several years. They have had their ups and downs. This convention had some issues last year though. In response they now have a new director that is aiming to improve the convention and make is a fun and respectable place. So how did they do?
What was Done Well
First thing that was noticeably improved was registration. This year they replaced the picture badges that were attempted last year with the paper / plastic hybrid wrist badges. You know the type that you have to almost cut off. The pro on this was it was a lot faster when trying to get in. The con being that people like to collect physical badges to show where they have been and when.
The dealers room and artist alley both saw a upgrades this year. Artist alley was given it's own space and left open 2 hours later then the dealers room. By having their own space more artists where at the convention this year allowing for more unique finds. The dealers room was much larger. This meant that it was not near as congested as it felt last year. Animeland Wasabi also instituted a bootlegged merchandise policy this year. If they saw bad merchandise they would be told to remove it. If it was not removed they would then be ejected from the con.
Off to the side of the dealers room was the guest signature area. This was awesome as it meant that when the guests were not scheduled for panels, or taking time to themselves, you could find them and get posters or other things signed. A good example of this was John DiMaggio sighing a stuffed Jake from Adventure Time. It made for a really great area. And that brings up something important, the guests. The convention not only had a decent number of guests this year, but some pretty big names. A few of which where Billy West (Ren and Stimpy, Futurama), the aforementioned John DiMaggio (Futurama, Adventure Time, I Know That Voice), and Johnny Young Bosch (Power Rangers) for example. Carebear was able to get I Know That Voice, a documentary on voice acting, signed by John.
Lastly there was Main Events B. This room was setup for the sole purpose of being a place for people to hang out in. There were no tables or chairs taking up space. There was a DJ, a stage for the live musical guests, a bouncy castle, and an inflated dueling arena. The main purpose of this room was to give people a place to lay down that was out of the way, or to setup card and board games to play. It made for a great random gathering area that typically happens in convention lobbies.
What Can Still Be Improved
Every convention has its hiccups. The key is how well those hiccups are hidden from the attendees. And while I felt that this year they did a much better job of hiding these this year, that does not mean it was flawless. And if the rumors of 1/2 the staff getting food poisoning on Saturday is true, then they did a really good job hiding it.
The first noticeable issue was the schedule. While they improved it this year in the way that each event said who was going to be at it, there were not enough to go around on Friday. This meant that while the schedule had good information, only those that printed the all black background schedule at home and brought it had them to reference. Also the fact that they used a black background on a PDF made it use a ton of ink to print and relatively difficult to read. Also while we did know when what happened, until you walked around several times you did not know where what was. There were no extra maps that I saw to show you how to get somewhere. A program guide or Guide Book app integration could go a long way to helping these issues.
Last, but certainly not least, is they need to communicate better. A volunteer had told me that I could not go down a certain hallway, which would not have been an issue if said hallway had not led to Main Events A and a panel that was supposed to have started in 10 minutes. But said volunteer had no clue about that until I showed him the schedule I brought with me stating said event. I think this was mainly done in an attempt to stop people from loitering in halls, but left me irritated. There were a few other issues that I had heard about that could have been taken care of by proper communication between staff, volunteers, and guests.
Overall I think the convention has improved. They didn't have near the issues they did last year. If I wanted to see a particular guest I knew where to find them whether it be for a panel or autograph. They had a huge venue for the musical guests. They even had dedicated picture areas to try and prevent hall blockage. All in all I look forward to see where the new director takes this convention, and am hoping for the best.