Updated: Sep 13, 2018
As the first anime convention I had ever attended in 2006, NDK has been a part of my life. It is the convention I use as a barometer for other cons throughout the country. Likewise it has given me the opportunity to meet some amazing people that normally would have never happened.
All that said, NDK is very important to me and will always have a special place in my heart. No matter the good or bad experiences, with this con I would not have had them.
Starting in 2016, our YouTube channel was given the opportunity to see the con from two points of view, as press looking for the outside in and as fans immersed in the event. While a much heavier burden, it allowed me the chance to really see everything, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Today, as we have concluded our third year as press I want to offer a full accounting of not only my experiences at the con, but also those who attended as fans.
NDK 2018 started as it normally did with long lines to pick up pre-registration (“pre-reg ”) attendee badges. This is never out of the ordinary as all events have lines going on forever. In going to any event and having to wait in line, I always recommend having patience and something to read. As a fan, I will admit it is never fun to stand in line and I can only imagine how difficult it is to stand in line if you are uncomfortable with larger than normal groups. But it can also be tons of fun to connect with fellow fans who are also excited in their own way.
The only downside I saw with having pre-reg so far in advance of the event, is there not much for attendees to do until 5pm that Friday. If attendees pick up their badges at 11am, they are essentially sitting for 6 hours with nothing to do. In past years, panels or rooms would be open before the event officially starts to accommodate this problem. For instance in 2016 I hosted a panel at 2:30pm along with others that gave attendees something to do.
While the reasons behind the delays may have been outside of NDK’s control, many attendees I spoke with were lost on what to do. Although attendees could look at cosplays and chat with others, this is only limited to those who feel comfortable doing so. For individuals that are on the autism spectrum, uncomfortable with strangers, or severely introverted, this can be quite disconcerting.
Nevertheless, once the convention got underway with opening ceremonies, the fun started and those initial concerns were immediately lost. Attendees were able to shop, game, and sit in on panels to their heart's content. The diversity of panels is always a common complaint for attendees, not enough of one thing or too much of another. In my reporting that is still said here, but from what I could tell everyone was having fun...including myself. It is always great to see fans, guests, and scholars bring in their expertise for others to engage in. NDK has always shown a love for having interesting panel content and I hope they continue this forward in the future.
If there is a specific complaint in relation to the panels that was reported is the lack of extended 18+ content. Many of the panels focused on the family friendly aspect, even later in the evening preventing older audiences to have more diverse options. In years past, 18+ panels began in the 9pm to 10pm range and lasted until 12am or 1am. While the lack of panels with this content may have been due to a number of factors, it would have been nice to see more available.
One confusing item with the panels was the panel card system. While mentioned in the guide, it is easily missed by many who will not necessarily read that section. Admittedly many will assume, “Why read how panels work if I have been going to the con for years?” Not that I agree with this assessment or find fault with NDK, I think having more explanation about it could have helped. No matter the argument, the concept was smartly done as a work in progress and I look forward to see how it improves next year.
With the panel and autograph pass system, this is the biggest complaint from all attendees…. The rulebook states that no one is allowed to line up for passes more than 1 hour before any given time. However, that is not the case. For all autograph signings and guest panels, attendees were lining up more than 2 hours early.
This is a huge hardship for any attendees who are following the rules and are wanting to take advantage of multiple benefits of the convention. Not to discount the eagerness of those attendees wanting to get ahead of the pack and arriving early. However if a rule clearly states that no lines can form more than one hour early, why is the staff letting it happen. The responsibility of the staff is to enforce NDK policy but it does not happen. Many fans were turned away all because they follow the rules. Now I know that this is never going to be a perfect system, but there has to be a better way. Currently the system is saying if you want autographs, then forget about enjoying the rest of the con since you will be fighting for a spot continuously.
Moving away from the autographs, I have seen a lot of improvements from NDK on their signage. While there are still hiccups, such as no sign for the quiet room, the distribution of other signs have been great. Such as the signs on the elevators, at the escalators, and everywhere in the con. For someone who can get lost easily, the signs and maps are excellent. From me to you NDK, thank you for this!
The final area I would like report on is the staff, their energy and how things progressed. For this NDK, there seemed to be less staff and volunteers. Which may have lead to the difficulties to with the lines, staff confusion, and general frustrations. There were times that some staff came off as rude, uninformed, and unenthusiastic. While this could be due to dealing with tons of people, it can be disconcerting for those who simply need help.
For example, I notified a staff member at the prop check-in table about torn flooring because someone could have tripped and hurt themselves. They then in turn stated, "It was not their problem and to tell someone else." I felt that this was a clear disregard for the safety of attendees and disrepectful to someone trying to help. Although staff are responsible for a specific area, similar to a regular job, they should have the ability to either help out or offer advice in a helpful manner.
Those who need help should not be punished by those responsible for giving it. My recommendation for the future would be to ensure anyone helping with the event is either good with people or can fake it really well.
Overall NDK was a good event that is fun for all anime audiences. While it had its frustrations and negatives, that is only natural as nothing is perfect. If you are thinking of attending an anime convention and don't want to meet the guests or desire autographs, NDK can be a good time. I can promise there is a lot to do, including an engaging charity event that is always worth the price of admission.
Kaiju no Kami