July 6 – July 8th, 2018
Hyatt Regency O’Hare
By Susan Performforthelove
If you’re in search of a con that you can explore on a more social and personal level then Anime Midwest is definitely the con for you. From the moment you enter the hotel doors, there is an overall sense of excitement and joy for all in attendance. The lobby was already full of cosplayers of various styles and themes, which extended throughout the hotel’s hallways and even out the door to those heading to the convention center. One could also hear throughout the grounds the constant exchanging of costuming compliments and wanting to take pictures.
In an attempt to even get a better sense as to what this con is all about, why not talk to the source himself Ryan Kopf, the CEO of AnimeCon, about what Anime Midwest means to him and about his company AnimeCon.org. In my chat, it was hard to believe that he was managing multiple cons at one time! It turns out the weekend after Anime Midwest is followed by Anime-Zing which happens in Davenport, Iowa. It was interesting to review the con’s Facebook page and watch all the postings as one con was taking place and one was being organized by all of his incredible staff members.
Pt. 1: Ryan Kopf
Susan Performforthelove: Tell me about Anime Midwest? What is its focus, or who/what do you gear this towards? How do you differ from other anime cons that are out there?
Ryan Kopf: Anime Midwest is an incredible 3-day weekend that focuses on bringing anime fans together with fun events that people might otherwise never see, like Epic Rap Battles of History Live. We focus on being different from any other convention and building a community of fans through our ConSweet offering unlimited rice and soda, and our events that focus on community.
SH: How long has it been going on? Why did you choose Chicago/Rosemont as its official location?
RK: I started this event in 2011 to give anime fans something fun to do in the summer in Chicago; we eventually settled on Rosemont, after holding the event in St. Charles and then in Lisle, as it offers one of the best venues for hosting such a large gathering of fans.
SH: Tell us about some of the guests you’ve had at your con.
RK: Recently we have had animators from Japan, such as Terumi Nishii, or directors like Hiroaki Inoue, some Youtube stars like Epic Rap Battles of History, musicians like Deadlift Lolita, among others. Every year we go out to Japan to try to connect with people who work directly on the anime that our fans love.
SH: In the Loop Magazine is big on covering the music scene which you seem to have a lot of options at your con between bands and DJ’s, how did that come to be such a big part to your con? They seem to be well attended by con goers based on the crowds. Is that something you will continue to have and continue to grow? What are some of the artists you’ve had?
RK: Music is a big part of Anime Midwest because it is a great way to bring people together to a big party – our dance events, concerts with bands like Steam Powered Giraffe, they’re really big parties that celebrate our nerdiness.
SH: You also have a second con that happens also in Rosemont, correct? Con Alt Delete? Tell us more about that. If you’re the same organization, why a different name? Does this have a different theme/focus than Anime Midwest? When is it?
RK: Con Alt Delete and Anime Midwest are both organized by AnimeCon.org, our overarching name. Con+Alt+Delete is held at the end of the year, and so the name reflects the year starting over. It’s a chance for all our friends and fans to get back together in December, when there isn’t much else fan-focused going on.
SH: Do you have a favorite part of the con that you like to put together/organize?
RK: My favorite part of our conventions is always music-related. That is one thing that we get to change every year, which bands we bring in. They’re also very fun to work with.
SH: Do you get the chance to cosplay at the con? If so, what do you go/dress as?
RK: Haha, not anymore.
SH:When you’re not creating/organizing cons? What do you do in your spare time?
RK: My biggest hobbies include computer programming, video games, watching anime. But I don’t get much free time.
SH: Where can we find official information about both of these cons?
RK: Check out https://animecon.org
Pt. 2: Afrodyte Charlotte
The con itself is divided into two parts. First is the hotel where you can find two main stages where much of their big venue entertainment takes place. In addition to that there is table top & board gaming, video room, panels, magna library, con sweet, maid café, photo room, karaoke and co-ops. They even offer a cosplay repair room which I thought was a fun feature. The con suggests to keep an eye on programing because these various locations do have different hours as to when they are available and some have age restrictions. It was helpful that your personal badge provided specific hours to a lot of the general locations such as the gaming, con-sweet, dealers, etc.
As I wandered the halls checking out all these features I came across a unique character that I had not seen before at my various con experiences so I figured I would find out what it was all about.
Susan Hooper: What is your name?
Afrodyte Charlotte: Hi ya’!! I’m Afrodyte Charlotte!
SH: Where are you from?
AC: I actually live in the north ‘burbs though it’s just so much easier to tell everyone “Chicago”.
SH: What is this style of cosplay are you wearing?
AC: It’s called “Kigurumi”, “Animegao” or even “doller” though the latter is more common in the East. It is a full body enclosure body suit and mask meant to portray an anime character. Think of it like, erm, Micky Mouse or Bugs Bunny, just in Anime form!
SH: Are you a particular character?
AC: Nope!! I’m an Original Character (OC)
SH: How did you get into this?
AC: How does one get into any niche hobby? The internet!! I was actually doing research on another costuming project and literally stumbled across Kigurumi through a series of odd internet searches. I originally intended to only use specific elements as inspiration and kept coming back until I was just like, “Well, I’m in far enough now, might as well try it out!”
SH: How have people reacted to your cosplay?
AC: Very positively!! Lots of requests for pictures and questions about the costume and how I see. There are of course a few, “That’s creepy” comments which I totally get ‘cause it straddles the Uncanny Valley for any masked character. Though even if they think it’s creepy they are polite and want to chat and ask questions which I’m more than happy to answer!
SH: Is this your first time at this con? How has your experience been?
AC: Yup! First time ever at Anime Midwest! It’s absolutely fantastic!! I had so much fun hanging out with my suite mates and attending the formal dance, raves and the panels!! I also loved that everyone was just super polite, gracious and welcoming!! It was a great and positive “vibe” to the entire con!!
SH: What is your favorite thing(s) about this con?
AC: I would have to say the lay out and the size of the crowd. I know it’s a little thing, but I really appreciated that they let us enter through the restaurant entrance on the Bryn Mawr side of the convention center. So convenient!! Also I liked that I could walk through the Dealers area without feeling like I was a packed sardine!
SH: If people want to learn more about your cosplay, where can they find more information?
AC: The internet!! I mean, I started with “Animegao Kigurumi” in google searches however there’s some really great information at www.kigurumionline.org as well. If people are interested in getting into Animegao Kigurumi for themselves I would say contact a performer they like or follow. And of course, people can also contact me!!
SH: Do you have a cosplay fan page if people want to follow you?
AC: Sure! Though it’s not so much a fan page, just where I post my rando’ thoughts and content, lol!! You can find me at https://twitter.com/Afrodyte87
Pt. 3: Jeff Noll
The second half of the con is located at the Donald E. Stevens Convention Center which consists of the vendor & artist alley, special guests and autographs, video game hall and additional panel rooms.
From viewing the program book, I came upon information pertaining to Credits Remaining which is a Chicago based company. So I reached out and spoke with Jeff Noll, who is one of the co-owners, that provides the arcade and VR experience at Anime Midwest.
Susan Hooper: Tell us more about your company?
Jeff Noll: Credits Remaining specializes in mobile arcade and virtual reality entertainment. We’ve traveled all across the country providing conventions with truckloads of games. The company originally started after a bunch of impulsive purchases at an arcade auction maybe ten years ago. Why was I at the auction? No idea. I just remember bidding on a whole bunch of stuff that I had absolutely no room for. After the dust settled and the credit card bills racked up from the auction, I sat down to start to think what I could do with my new machines. Turns out I knew a guy who ran the arcade for Anime Central and before I knew it I had my stuff set up at my first anime con. It was a blast. I knew right then I had to do more and get bigger. Fast forward ten years and Credits Remaining now owns over 40 arcade cabinets and several VR setups.
SH: What do you provide for the con?
JN: VR is new for us starting last December. I went to a convention in Minneapolis, 2D Con, tried my very first headset and fell in love. It really re-invigorated my love of gaming. Much like the rush I got from doing my very first arcade show, I knew this was going to be part of what I did. My hope is that when people walk away from VR they feel the same excitement I did that day. This technology is still very new and maybe not entirely where we want it yet, but it needs to be supported and shown off. Nothing makes me feel better then when someone comes back to see me over the course of a convention to tell me they just bought their first headset.
SH: How did you get involved with Anime Midwest?
JN: Anime Midwest is on the list of largest conventions in the Chicago-land area. Being so close to my home and our area of operation it was only natural to become involved at some point. We have been doing it now for at least 5 years. It’s such a joy to meet fan of gaming so close to us and to make new friends who travel from far away. It’s a really good community con.
SH: Is there something that you specialize in that other companies don’t?
JN: Right now, as far as I know I am the only provider that supplies arcade games and VR at the same time. There are many great arcade providers for conventions – Tokyo Attack, Snow Phoenix, Wedoca, Sincerely Chris, and many others. We all try to bring and do things a little different from each other, but without a doubt our specialty is classic beat’em ups and VR.
SH: What is your favorite part about providing the gaming area for the con?
JN: My favorite part of providing arcades is seeing people excited to play our great selection of retro arcade games. Classic games like the Ninja Turtles, Captain America, House of the Dead, and The Simpsons. A lot of people at conventions have never got to play some of these games on their original arcade hardware, and it’s great to see how they react. It’s also great to watch someone who was never able to beat a particular game team up with some new friends to finally make it to the final boss and finally be able to say they beat the game.
My favorite part of VR is turning skeptics into believers. There is not nearly enough coverage and belief in virtual reality. Everyone wants a future like Sword Art Online or Ready Player One, but no one wants to support it now because they have been told the technology isn’t there yet. Virtual reality technology is amazing, and I love to hear the ‘wows’ as people go into and out of the virtual world. VR is something that is on a whole different level then what I grew up on and I’ve made it a little bit of a mission to show people how game changing this can be. It does have its limitations right now, but once you give it a chance you’ll believe in it’s future.
SH: Do you ever get the chance to enjoy the con? If so, what is your favorite part besides of course your gaming area?
JN: One of my favorite things to do at a con is visit the dealers hall. It gives me the chance to see all the cool new swag coming out and learn about what’s popular now. It’s also fun to see the concerts, meet the guests, and play some table top gaming. There really is a lot to do at conventions and never enough time to get everything done.
SH: Where can we find official information about your business?
JN: All the official information about Credits Remaining including upcoming conventions can be found on our Facebook, just search for Credits Remaining. Or they can reach out directly to me at [email protected]
Pt. 4: Sunnie Farrar and Eric Rose
Next up was checking out the vendors where I came upon a cutely dressed Lolita gal named in artist alley. Upon complimenting her attire, I thought I would take the opportunity to hear what it’s like to vend at Anime Midwest.
Susan Hooper: What are your names?
Sunnie Farrar and Eric Rose: Sunnie Farrar and Eric Rose.
SH: Where are you from?
SF: We’re both from the Chicago area.
SH: What is the name of your business? What sort of items do you sell at your booth?
ER: We’ve started going by Big Orange Star Productions when selling at conventions. Currently, we have prints of our artwork available, as well as stickers and acrylic charms. We also do on-the-spot sketch commissions.
SH: Is this your first time vending at this con? If so, why did you pick this con to vend at? If not, why do you like coming back to this one?
SF: This is my third time vending at this con and Eric’s second. Not gonna lie, a big part of why we like coming back is because we’re local – it’s very easy to get to Rosemont via the CTA. It’s also very popular, so not only is there lots to do and enjoy, but we’re also always successful.
SH: What is your favorite thing(s) about this con?
SF: We’re both big fans of anime and other geeky things, so it’s great being surrounded by like-minded people. Other vendors are also friendly, so it’s nice being in a supportive atmosphere.
SH: Do you get to enjoy the con outside of vending?
ER: Yes! Usually if there’s a panel or event one of us wants to go to during exhibit hall hours, the other is willing to cover for us for a bit. There’s also a lot to do during the night, so we never really feel like we’re missing out on anything.
SH: Do you get the chance to cosplay at the con? If so, what do you go/dress as?
SF: We don’t go very hardcore as we do have to be able to sit and interact with people comfortably, but I usually try to do something fun. If the weather isn’t too hot, I like to dress up in Japanese lolita fashion, or in a big comfy Pikachu kigurumi.
SH: Do you have a website for more information about your artwork?
SF: Yeah! Our websites are sunnieart.com and ericroseart.com, or we’re on Instagram at ericroseart and bigorangestar
Even though I encountered tons of daytime activities, in actuality from many of the con-goes and Anime Midwest staff I spoke with, they said the evening events are the place to be! So I made sure to stick around for their date auction, concerts, formal ball, raves, burlesque show and masquerade. And yes, the certainly didn’t disappoint!
I had not heard about a date auction at a con before. How it works is there is a volunteer sign up by attendees to be bid on as dates for the formal ball. What the program is humble about is that money raised at the auction gets donated to the St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. A con doing good for others definitely deserves recognition.
Also don’t be fooled by the title of the Masquerade, this is actually the con’s official costume contest which is again open to all attendees. It is recommended by the con staff that you register for this ahead of time as there are a limited number of slots for both their craftsmanship and performance categories.
The winners this year were well deserved, congrats to all of you! And to top it all off are the con’s raves, which they turn the grand stage into a giant dancing venue with various DJ’s, lighting, video projection and dancers into the early morning hours. You can definitely come as you are but if you got anything light-up to wear, bring it. The con does offer sales of light up items in a pinch if you need it.
Truly, if you are looking for a con to meet tons of people who are passionate about cosplay and want to party like there is no tomorrow, make sure to check out this con next year!
For photos of the Amine Midwest Convention 2018, click here