Hello everyone, Cruellica Kain here with a report on my adventures at Kumoricon in Portland, Oregon. It had its ups, downs, and all arounds. However, overall it was an interesting convention in a fun new town.
The hard part of going to a new convention is that you do not want to compare it to the other conventions you have been to. Not only is that not fair to the hardworking staff of the new convention, but also to the other conventions that you are putting up on a pedestal. That is my first PSA (public service announcement) of this blog post, make sure to treat every convention as a new adventure and not spend all your time comparing it to others. Enjoy what you can within the convention and work to build new relationships with fellow fans in this diverse and crazy community.
In this blog, I am going to try something new. Rather than outlining the pros and cons of Kumoricon, I am going to channel Clint Eastwood and look at the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.
The Badging System – At Kumoricon, they take family friendly to a whole new level. Rather than everyone having the same types of badges, you have Adult, Youth, and Child. I highlight this as a good thing as it eliminates concerns about safety of children and reduces confusion on who can attend what panels. While those 18 and over still have to show ID in order to obtain a stamp that will allow them to get into certain events, having the Adult and Youth badges specifically reduces confusion on adult only panels, speeding up the entry into the panel process.
The Autograph Lottery – Before I go too far, I will note that this will also be going into my ugly section as well. However, what was good or great about this is that every attendee who wants an autograph from one of the guests can enter an impartial lottery. Through their website, Kumoricon lists all of the autograph sessions throughout the entire weekend and as an attendee you can select all of the ones that you would like to be put in the lottery for. If you win the lottery or are on the waitlist, you receive a text confirming this in advance and just go pick up your ticket for a placement in the autograph line.
The Kumorimarket (Dealer’s Room, Autograph, and Artist Alley area) – There was a vast selection of merchandise and everything is well spread out so it does not feel overly cramped. Also, as this is a huge highlight of the convention, the hours for shopping are great so one can browse throughout the day and not feel rushed to get there by a certain time.
The Dance Lesson and Singing Panels – These were fascinating panels types for fans who want more something more. They can learn to dance in different styles such as tango or Kpop. Or showcase their singing abilities in a fun and open forum. Throughout the entirety of the convention, there were different sessions for attendees to get engaged and try something new. Every time I stopped by this panel room, I got to see so many people having fun.
Educational Panels – Rather than simply having fan panels, there were also fan panels talking about the history of Japanese culture, Shinto, and the apocalypse in anime. As a life long learner, it was awesome to see panels focus on teaching attendees about topics they never knew or only had a limited knowledge on. These were some of the few panels outside of main events that had the highest attendance numbers, so it appeared that many attendees valued the learning as well.
Anime Escape Room – This was the best thing ever at a convention! Forget cosplay, panels, voice actors, and everything else! Kumoricon hosted an escape room that was free that you could sign up for throughout each of the three days. It was well thought out, engaging, and definitely helped to build team work. This was by far one of the most creative things I have seen and cannot wait to see what they do next year!
So Much Sitting and a Lack of Interaction – This was disheartening for me to see as a con goer for more than 10 years. While there are times I will want to sit on the side lines and people watch, I always try to find some activity to entertain me to make the most of the experience. In speaking with several of the attendees, the reasons for the sitting around a lot and doing nothing was the lack of diversity in the panels, the lack of activities outside of panels, or just not feeling like there was something that represented themselves. Even if you are a local con-goer, the cost of admission is not cheap. To then spend that money and only sit on the side lines for hours just watching the action seems disappointing. Also, as a new attendee of Kumoricon, it made me question how fun the convention is when I can see the same people sitting in the same spot on their phones, computers, etc. all throughout the day.
Lack of Diversity in Panels and Low Attendance Numbers – Before I start here, I want to say that panel interests are completely subjective and not everyone is going to like the same things. That is always a given and is what drives the panel staff to look at new topics for attendees to host. Although I highlighted a few different panels that were great successes, these were only for a few hours in total. There were not as many panels to hold my or other attendees attention. For those that I did go to, they had the smallest attendance levels as well. Those that appeared to be big draws were the educational panels, games shows with prizes, or main events. Other panels at times had less than 30 attendees which is quite small for a convention that size.
Onsite Food Prices – Being that the convention was held in the Oregon Convention Center, I know that this is not the fault of the convention. However, the food prices for anything and everything was ridiculous. The food itself was also terrible, and due to where the convention was located, there were not a ton of alternatives, especially if you are not familiar with the area.
Charity & Silent Auctions – To me, conventions are a great way to engage the community and give back to it. We as a collective of fans get to come together once a year and have ridiculous amounts of fun supporting each other. At the end of it all, we can then give back to the community that we are a part of. Thereby showing ourselves and the world that we value each other and want to help the community stay strong. Charity and silent auctions are the best way to do that at every convention by giving everyone an opportunity to purchase signed or rare donated items, where the funds help the community. While I know I am putting these auctions on a high pedestal, it is because they are very significant to me. Not only have I spent thousands of dollars buying some cool items that were totally a one of a kind item at the charity auction, I have also had the great privilege of knowing that I gave back to help others. But I digress and need to get back on topic. The charity and silent auctions at Kumoricon were an absolute insult and a joke. Never in my con-going experience do I feel like these auctions where tacked on as a formality rather than something they prided themselves in. The silent auction was very messy in its presentation and items showcased there could have made more money in the main auction. Likewise, the charity auction itself was scheduled for 2 hours and many people were there to bid. Not only did it start late, the charity auction only lasted for 35 minutes. There was no energy from the staff to encourage attendees to bid and get involved. When someone made a comment at the end asking, “Is this really it?” the staff just shrugged and did not seem to care. Never in my life have I been so insulted for the organization that they were supporting. I am hoping that next year they get it together if they really want to give back so much.
Autograph Lottery – Earlier I talked about the good part of the autograph lottery, now I want to talk about the worst part of it. So, to recap real quick, you enter your name into a randomized lottery and get a text if you won or go on the wait list. That is great, awesome, and innovative. Now here is the ugly part. After you receive your text, you have to get in line to get your autograph ticket for either group A (guaranteed to get an autograph) or Group B (Wait list). After waiting in line for about 30 minutes to 1 hour, you then have to go in line to get your autograph which can be another 1 hour or so (depending on your placement in line). When I joined the lottery, I was under the impression that I would get accepted or denied and then simply get a texted number of what time to be in the autograph line thus saving time on waiting. However, instead of simply just waiting in one line to get an autograph, it is double dipping and having to stand in two separate lines for an extensive amount of time. What even made this process more frustrating was recieving a text 20 minutes before an autograph session telling me I won a ticket, then having to drop what I was doing to get my ticket, and then head across the convention center to get into the autograph line immediately, while panicking about being unsure if I'm even going to get an autograph. Fortunately for us, we had our autographed items on hand when this occured, but there were others in the ticket line who had to quickly run back to their hotel, which was about a 10 minute walk, grab their items, and then come back, all within a short time span to ensure they are able to get their autograph.
With all of those areas pointed out, the next questions that come to mind are, was Kumoricon fun and would I go again?
The answer to both is yes, but with hesitations. The convention was a lot of fun and I did have a great time. Especially because it was a two for one deal for me, got to see a new town that I had never been to and get involved in a brand new culture. Portland’s anime scene is so very different than any of the other cities I have been to. All of the attendees where more inclusive, friendly, loyal, and passionate in their love for such an awesome medium. My hesitations are that of what to expect next year really from Kumoricon and what my hopes are for the future with the convention. I only want to see the best for the convention. With that said, I have faith that the Kumoricon team, staff, and everyone else will continue to put on an excellent show and strive for new opportunities.
Well my friends, this was the last convention for me in 2019! Look forward to sharing my reports on all of the events I attend in 2020. Thanks for reading and have a wonderful rest of 2019!
See you on the flipside,