Debuting in the Colorado convention scene this year is the Colorado Anime Fest, a new anime oriented event organized by Corey Wood and William Foss with help from numerous veteran convention staff. Knowing this, all of us here at the Gameslave had high hopes for this convention. We were not disappointed. The convention organization and programming were both really great. The contrast between a small, first year convention and the huge, established conventions that I have typically attending for the past few years is astounding. I think I had forgotten what it is like to be able to move around a hotel with ease, attend panels without waiting in lines, and generally have a good relaxing time with other fans.
Prior to the convention, my biggest concern was the venue. For most of my life, I have thought of the Renaissance Hotel Stapleton as something of a relic; a leftover from the days when Stapleton was home to Denver’s main airport. The exterior architecture of the hotel reeks of 1980s contemporary (frankly, it looks a bit like it would be more at home in Robotech than Denver). I was surprised to find a modern and attractive interior greet me when I entered the building. The neighborhood is still nothing to write home about (industrial and rough looking residential) but with some new commercial development, and a commuter rail line that will be operational in a few short months. The crowd felt like an appropriate size for the hotel: enough people to be able to say the convention was well attended without feeling crowded. I’m looking forward to returning here next year.
Organization / Operations
I feel like I don’t have a lot to say here. Everything seemed to run very smoothly. Registration and panel lines were well managed and none of the elevators broke down during the course of the weekend. The staff and volunteers were courteous and helpful.
This year, I focused on the cultural track panels that were put together by the organizers of the Colorado Dragon Boat Festival. I was not able to attend all of these panels, but those that I did attend were either fun or interesting, depending on the subject matter. Let's discuss each panel in turn.
Anime Music Video Contest
The music videos presented for the contest were of comparable quality to those I have seen exhibited at other conventions. I enjoyed this conventions categories: drama, intense, dance, and funny/random. The videos and voting were handled well, with a sound level that was audible without blaring. You can see the winners COAF's website.
How to Kick Ass and Take Names with Marisha Ray
Although I have been aware of Critical Role for some time, I have never managed to watch it. Not from a lack of interest, but because I don't often find myself with 2 to 3 hours to spend watching something. Therefore, I was not familiar with Marisha Ray, prior to the convention. I went into her panel blind, but ended up enjoying it a lot. Generally, the guests that I've had the oportunity to talk with voice actors are conventions, they are typically established actors with a large following. Marisha is a bit newer to the profession, and has a somewhat different perspective on the industry. In any case, her panel was a lot of fun, with discussion about contract negotiation (a challenging point for women), Casa Bonita, and playing D&D when you SO is the DM.
Alamo Draft House Littleton Presents: Animation as Medium, not Genre
Alamo Draft House is a chain of movie theaters that have full service restaurant and bar incorporated into the cinema experience. The Littleton location has made considerable effort to offer themed events for various specialty audiences. In this vein, three representatives of ADH (Walter, the general manager; Steve, the creative manager; and Virginia) were at COAF to discuss what types of programming that would bring fans of animation to their establishment. They also discussed some of the previous events that had done (currently they are running month of Miazaki, in the past that have done Cowboy Bebop, Dragonball Z, and Attack on Titan). I'll be watching their website for more upcoming events, especially the premiere of The Boy and The Beast.
Martial Arts Demo: Denver Buddhist Temple Judo and Aikido
Both the Judo and Aikido dojos associated with the Denver Buddhist Temple presented about their martial arts. I don't have a lot to really report about from this, but the demos were a lot of fun to watch. For one, since these are both grappling type styles, there was a lot of bodies flying around the stage after being thrown. Having spent some time practicing karate, it was interesting to see the contrast between the striking style that I am familiar with and the grappling styles. But there is still some similarities in the bio-mechanics involved in balance and strength of attack. If you are interested in practicing a martial art, you can look at the DBT Judo or Aikido websites.
Takayama Sister Cities Program
Sister Cities International is a non-profit organization founded by Dwight Eisenhower in 1956 to foster international cooperation. Under this umbrella, the City of Denver has a number of sister cities around the world, including Takayama, Japan. Steve Comstock, the Chair of Takayama Sister City board, presented about the program, trips that they make, and hosting of Japanese travelers. In additions to travelling to Japan and hosting Japanese travelers, the TSC also hosts Japanese holiday celebrations in Denver. More information is available at the TSC website.
I Was a Banana: Being Japanese-American with Gil Asakawa
Gil Asakawa told us a bit about his experience growing up as a Japanese-American, especially as one who rejected much of his cultural heritage as a youngster only to rediscover it later. His story was interesting and he has written a memoir too.
Minoru Yasui Tribute Project
Min Yasui was a Japanese-American lawyer and civil rights activist who fought the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. He also worked to help improve race relations between the various cultural communities of Denver in the 1950's and onward. A documentary about his life is currently in production. Gil Asakawa, the panel presenter, showed us a rough cut of the first half of the film. I'm really excited to see this when it is finished, to learn about an important local figure. You can find out more about the film, and help with their fundraising, here.
All told, 2,200 people attended COAF in its debut year, and I'm grateful that I was able to be part of it. I had a lot of fun, and am looking forward to attending this convention again next year.