Con Report: Kumoricon 2016

With Kumoricon 2017 right around the corner, now seemed like a good time to finally publish my thoughts on last year… which I meant to publish last year. Needless to say, last was good enough to make we want to return for a second year in just a few day’s time. Here’s a look back at Kumoricon of last year, my first year at the con, one much smaller than I was used to.

Day 0

Day-0. The badge pickup day. For some cons, the preview day. It’s a day that’s pretty difficult for a convention to get wrong, but it happens… notably Otakon several years ago. It was “lovingly” known as Line Con. Thankfully, that wasn’t an issue for Kumoricon, or at least not that I noticed. I attended the con as a VIP, which meant I got to pick up my badge in a room separate from the main registration hall. That said, pickup was painless: there was no line, and I was out with my badge and a very heavy bag of VIP swag shortly after I arrived. Apparently, I picked the right time to arrive too, as the last part of the VIP swag had just arrived, and I was the first to get to take home a plushy of the Kumoricon mascot, Ghost Neko.

Day 1

Day 1 I may have been too excited for. I decided to put my weekend TriMet pass courtesy of the con to good use, and caught the first bus of the day to the con from my apartment. Thankfully, the Manga Library was open bright and early, giving me plenty of time to enjoy a piece of the convention’s extensive manga collection – including materials long out of print. I’ll probably end up doing the same this year. Seating for Opening Ceremonies was scheduled to start at 9:30am, but was slightly delayed. While my VIP membership gave me front-of-the-line privileges, Line Con 2016 was in full swing behind me… if you could even call it a line. It was closer to a mob. Orderly, and yet hardly organized at the same time. The auditorium was located on the second floor of the convention center in one of the ballrooms, which meant there was certainly plenty of room outside for a line to form, but there was no formal line to be had. Even more remarkably, the mob that was forming was quickly growing, taking over the entirely 2nd floor lobby.

The slight chaos to get in for Opening Ceremonies.

Even though they started late, Opening Ceremonies ended right on time – impressive with such a large guest lineup and opening skits, including the firing of marshmallows in the audience by Studio Trigger. In just five minutes, a lot of Trigger’s quirky anime style was explained: the studio itself may well be a live-action version of the anime they produce.

Yes, those are marshmallow guns.

Right after Opening Ceremonies, it was time to take advantage of my jump-the-line perk again for a Q&A with Austin Tindle, one of the Guests of Honor. The Q&A was… well, and Q&A. Perhaps everyone was still waking up, but it was very laid back with a little bit of quirkiness here and there.

Someone asked for poses with the mic to wake the audience up. This is what happened.

Like many cons before it, my planned schedule for Kumoricon fell apart shortly after. I had originally intended to go see the panel for Laika, but my now growling stomach decided otherwise. Pro tip: There are several places around the convention center to grab lunch that are far cheaper than the food at the convention center – and the number of places has grown this for year. They offer a pretty good variety of food options too. If time isn’t of the essence, hop on the Streetcar or MAX to go in town a bit for even more options. Both run about every 15 minutes are at right outside the center: MAX to the north, Streetcar to the east. There is also Biketown across from the MAX platform, but the hilly surroundings of the convention center mean you’ll have to pedal hard to get the 65-pound bikes to go. Not sure where to go? There’s a Visitor Information desk on the mid-level of the convention center.

Despite popular belief, no, it doesn’t always rain in Portland. Mostly.

After lunch, it was time to put another VIP perk to use: checking out the vendor hall an hour early. After all, the main attraction of any con is totally the vendor hall, right? Wrong, but some times wallets just get heavy and cry out that they need to be liberated. Unfortunately, the vendor’s hall at Kumoricon fell short for being able to make that happen, but to be fair, Kumoricon is much smaller than the East Coast cons I was used too. You could still easily spend several hundred dollars on merch easily, but there were no industry booths to be found.

Spoiler alert: voice acting isn’t easy.

Calories from lunch now mostly worked off, it was time to head to head for the next panel, “So You Think You can Voice Act?” with Caitlin Glass. Originally, the panel was going to be an oppertunity for anyone willing to take the challenge to try their hand at voice acting with actual audition material. Unfortunately, the materials didn’t make it to the con, and the panel became a general voice acting Q&A instead, complete with some hugs from younger fans.

But some times it leads to hugs.
Warnings were given this would be the mostly PG-13 panel.

Thirty minutes later, just long enough for a bathroom break, it was time for the Meet D. C. Douglas panel. If you’ve played the Resident Evil games, that name might be familiar to you. I never did, so it wasn’t to me. If I had to choose a most fun guest for the year, I think D. C. Douglas would win – so long as you were ok with advanced humor for mature people.

Kudos to the con staff for fighting technology to the death to make the panel happen.

If anyone ever tries to tell you nothing ever goes wrong at a con, please call them a liar for me. My last con of the night was the Ouran High School Host Club Slumber Party (also the panel with the longest title.) There were PJs, cereal, candy… and blu-ray problems. Luckily, one of the con staff members had a Funimation subscription and just loaded up some series streaming instead. Commoner’s video to the rescue (if you don’t get that joke, go watch Ouran.)

Day 2

This is what happens when you have a camera with a screen that doesn’t flip all the way around.

Day 2 kicked off with sleeping in. Remember, eight hours of sleep is rule number one of any con. The first panel of the day was actually a private VIP autograph screening, arguably one of the best VIP perks. Every guest of honor was present and the VIP memberships were capped pretty low, making for a nice, peaceful and… who am I kidding? There shenanigans to go with the autographs. Lots of them.

Oh yes, lots of shenanigans.
Anime ruined it. All of it.
The actual first panel of the day was, "Anime Ruined My Life," with Eric Vale. If you ever want to have a really good Q&A about anime, especially the early days, ask Eric Vale. There was lots of good Q&A to go around.
Good enough to have a line size that could almost rival…
Studio Trigger
Honestly, if it hadn't been for Kiznavier, I may well have passed up the panel for Studio Trigger, even if it was the first time Kumoricon was having a foreign guest of honor. I had previously written them off as too quirky to be taken seriously. Meeting them in person explained the quirkiness a lot (see marshmellow guns and photo with them above.) No photos were allowed inside the panel as there were several announcement to be made, notably Netflix getting the rights to Little Witch Academia, one I'm still less than thrilled about.
Sake in a cup. To go. Yep.
But that was OK, because I could've easily forgotten about it with all the sake to go around at the sake tasting that followed. While this is an additional paid ticket event (and obviously 21+), this is one I'd recommend attending even if you're only a little interested in sake. It is, however, not held at the convention center; you'll need to go up the road a bit to the Doubletree. If you're staying in the con hotel, you already know where to go. Take the MAX two stops or enjoy a short walk. After a bite to eat on the way back to the convention center, it was time for some after-hours programming, starting with, "The D. C. Douglas Notorious Erotic Fanfic Show." It was exactly like it sounds like and loads of fun. That's all you need to know. See it if you're ever at a con with it. Closing out the night was, "Kieran Strange Presents: The Naughty Corner." When you have a musical guest born in the UK and it's late enough at night to throw out the PG rating, you get a very good last event of the night – good enough to miss the last train over.

Day 3

All good things eventually have to come to an end. Day 3’s arrival marked the last ten hours of con.

Kicking off the last day was another panel with Eric Vale, except Eric Vale was not himself for this Q&A. Instead, he was practically anyone else. Let’s put it this way, you asked a question for someone else, and Eric impersonated them while answering. Needless to say, recording this panel wasn’t allowed.

The final panel of Kumoricon 2016 for me was, “ADR Directing with Caitlin and Sonny.” I’ve never done ADR professionally, but I can tell you from a couple hobby projects, it’s not easy. In fact, I’d say it’s a pain in the ass. All of this was confirmed at the panel – and then some. Dubbing today is still quite difficult. Sure, you don’t have to wait for a physical tape to rewind anymore, but there’s far more that goes into making an anime dub than showing up and talking for several hours. Go back a Kickstarter that finds its way into production and/or post-production hell. You’ll see what I mean.

All hail The Chair.
After one last con lunch, it was time to watch the winners of the AMV Contest, followed by Closing Ceremonies. This was it. Everyone had survived Kumoricon 2016 (Probably. Actual survival rate not confirmed.) It was time to sit down one last time, party a little, cry a little, and recap the year. Oh, and drop a bombshell of an announcement with the unveiling of the first two Guests of Honor for 2017.
Few other cons have ever started off their next year this well.
Vic Mignogna and Todd Haberkorn, two of the biggest names in anime, would be coming to Kumoricon next year. If I could've renewed my VIP membership right then and there, I would have, but I had to wait until January.

Kumoricon 2017

Now, I just have to wait until this Friday. Obviously, I am returning again this year and most definitely as a VIP again. Last year's announcement was just the start of what looks like it will be a fantastic 15th year. See you again soon, Kumoricon. To see more photos from 2016, head on over to Flickr.
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