My fiance and I had the opportunity to spend Valentine’s Day weekend exploring a convention we had not yet checked out: Anime Milwaukee. Now, my fiance isn’t a big anime nut (he’s more into American comics and the like), but he likes seeing the different costumes and wanted to feel involved with a big passion of mine. And I had heard GREAT things about AMKE from others, so I figured with it being a relatively small size, it would be a great first convention for him and a chance for me to network as a comedian by hosting a beginner’s workshop in improv and sketch.
Boy was I wrong…sorta.
AMKE, you guys REALLY need to get organized. I heard the attendance was around 3,800 people (from their Facebook page). That’s about the size of Anime Iowa, another convention I’d been to. Anime Iowa was well organized, lines moved quickly, and the staff was consistent (as far as my own experience went). AMKE, by comparison, was disasterous in this regard.
I was experiencing problems with organization and communication from the get-go. When I first submitted my panel, it was meant to be a nerd-themed open mic. I told the girl in charge of panel scheduling this could only be successful if we have people participating. I asked her if she’d be kind enough to have it promoted on their Facebook page and maybe their website. She assured me that would be no problem. Weeks went by, I’d seen nothing on AMKE’s Facebook or their website about the open mic. I emailed the panel chair a few times about this. The first time, she responded and told me she had asked the staff running the Facebook to do this. She said she’d ask them again. Still nothing. I knew that with so much inactivity on the forums, and a clear lack of communication between con staff, this panel as it stood would be a flop. So, I rewrote it, and sent the panel chair one more email asking if this change would be okay, and if it would be possible to make a final edit. If not, it wouldn’t have been a big deal. But this time I got no response. Not exactly professional on the chair’s part, even if the answer would have been a no.
My panel got a whopping two attendants…20 minutes after it was supposed to start. That was embarassing, to put it lightly. I wasn’t alone though. After peaking in to several panels I noticed most Friday afternoon events were a flop in attendance. I only attended one panel the whole weekend and it was possibly the worst one – Black Butler Improv (because as an improv comedian, of COURSE I wanted to see this). It was made up of what looked like a few kids in their early teens and a woman I had met in the pre-reg line (I’ll get to my complaints with that in a second) who was almost 30 but acted like she was 14. I had a sense of dread when I asked her how long she’d been doing improv and her response was, “Oh, this is my first panel”. She didn’t even know what improv was.
Now, the group seemed to understand the basics of how improv games work, but they knew nothing about improv itself. That and the “panel leader” had no sense of control over her co-panelists, who would outwardly refuse to do things or run around screaming, making yaoi jokes, and glomping each other while wearing Black Butler cosplays. It wasn’t long before we, and the five others in attendance, packed our bags and left the room. What upsets me about that is that being a panelist means you get a free weekend badge to the convention. So these kids got a free pass to act like asshats for an hour, when I actually worked and prepared a solid workshop for a crap turnout (at least I made the effort, though).
My theory behind why the Friday panels had such craptastic attendance? The registration lines. AMKE does not mail out badges, and so everyone who registered online and was also a panelist had to wait in line to get their badges. The pre-reg line was supposed to open at 11am on Friday, with panels starting at noon. The line didn’t open until 11:30 due to “technical difficulties” (apparently they had no access to wi-fi or electricity when they were told they would). On the plus side, once it did start moving, it moved…kinda. The whole process was haphazard, as we were redirected twice to different lines by con staff who didn’t actually know where to put the lot of us. Along with registration not starting on time, there was also issues with the exhibit hall being behind in set up and opening an hour late, and the Artist’s Alley didn’t seem to be fully set up and in swing until Saturday morning. Overall, pretty rough start to a con.
My review isn’t ALL harsh, though! There were a few things I did really enjoy about AMKE. First was getting to be involved with the lolita fashion show, which, although it had a really awkward start time of 9:30am (and not a big crowd because of it), was a fun event for me to be a part of and definitely lifted my spirits after being down about my panel. Second, the neighborhood around AMKE was lovely, full of good food and warm, welcoming people. I highly recommend checking out Uber Tap Room if you’re a fan of good Wisconsin beer and cheese. Third, the video game room…HOLY HELL. There was an entire WALL of just old-school systems set up, and all of it was free to play! We definitely enjoyed that, particularly my fiance because when he would get bored he would wander in that direction. Lastly, although the exhibit hall was on the crowded side, I was pretty pleased with the variety and amount of vendors AMKE offered. I didn’t end up buying much “con swag” except for an “Attack on Titan” poster and some prints of vintage Disney movie posters, but that is because I save the majority of my con spending for ACen.
On a scale of 0-10, I’d give AMKE about a 5 1/2. While there were some really good aspects to the convention that made it enjoyable, the lack of organization and communication on the con’s part really made the experience go downhill for me. I’m sure, had I JUST been an attendee and not a panelist, I’d be able to give this a higher rating. But my negative experiences in this area have caused me to dock some extra points.
My suggestions to you, AMKE? Please, find a way to make registration less insane, and please PLEASE find a way to monitor your panels for quality. It truly made me sad that a panel so disorganized and awful was allowed to pass through, and that those panelists were given a free weekend badge for not taking their jobs seriously. When I first got home, I was convinced I’d never come back to this convention. I might be willing to give it a second chance down the road, but only for one or two nights instead of three.
Now, enough chatter – on to what you all really want: a PHOTO DUMP:
Outfit from Friday: Red Ranger Dress (Hot Topic), Black Tights, Black Boots, Beret, and Brown Wig with Green Circle Lenses
Saturday (morning) outfit for the Lolita Fashion Show: Dress is by Angelic Pretty. Beret, wristcuffs, and tights are offbrand. Shoes are by Bodyline and the wig is by GLW. I’m wearing the Venus Circle Lenses in Aqua.
Also for the Lolita Fashion Show: JSK is by Mossbadger, a fantastic Indie Brand from Chicago
My Saturday afternoon cosplay: Rarity from “My Little Pony”. I added the rhinestones to the corset and choker by hand and made the bustle. The rest was ordered online. The shoes are from Bodyline, the wig is by Purple Plum.
Just a few of the nice cosplays I saw: Cordelia (American Horror Story: Coven), Demon…thing (Silent Hill???), Tuxedo Mask and Sailor Moon, Sanouske (Rurouni Kenshin), Genderbend Thor and Loki, Catbug (Bravest Warriors), Female Titan (Attack on Titan), and another AoT cosplayer 🙂
And a few con snapshots of the video game room, the crazy registration line, and the Black Butler Improv panel.