If you are willing to experience them, there are benefits to every size of convention. Castle Point Anime Convention is a small college con in New Jersey at the Stevens Institute of Technology. It was a Sunday only event from 10AM to 7PM with a MC Frontalot concert after. I was invited to participate in a panel by Evan from Ani-Gamers. It’s not that hard to get to from New York City so I was only too delighted to help out while having a Sunday activity at the same time.
I started my short trip with the NYC subway to the PATH Train. After that it was only a few blocks to the campus which was very convenient. There was a on and off drizzle the whole day so not having to brave the elements too long was greatly appreciated. The path I took to the college due to me remembering the map oddly threw me off a bit so it took me more time to find registration. I got my ticket then ran into Evan on my way to the Otaku History panel. Otaku History was run by Walter Amos and Rob Fenelon. It reminded me of what they said during their guest spot on Anime World Order but there is always something new to say. They went over how anime fandom started in America and how is has grown and changed. Most of the focus was on the earliest days since those are what most people don’t know about. They had some cool old American anime fanzines and I learned the origin of incredibly long and descriptive anime titles.
Next up was our panel about how to start your own blog and/or podcast. At first it was just me and Evan. Ink Adam aka DJ Ranma S from Anime Jam Session came a little later but made a big splash when he arrived. Ink was dressed at as the Evil Midnight Bomber What Bombs At Midnight from the Tick. There were not a lot of people and most of the people who showed were friends of one of the panelists. But it was Evan’s first panel so it was rather relaxed which is always nice. If anything we had a a little too much material so we did not do any Q&A. We hit all the most important points and I felt we were informative and entertaining. It was somewhat unpolished but that was my fault for not trying to organize a run through over Skype. Still Evan’s notes from the group Google Doc were well done so all we really had to do was expand. I rambled on a bit like I usually do whenever I am nervous. If any readers came, I would love to hear what could be improved on for next time.
Next was These Are a Few Of Our Favorite Scenes with Robert and Mike again. It was essentially I Can’t Believe You Haven’t Seen This! panel with clips. It was two hours long but they played fairly longs scenes to give you a good idea of the show they were selling you on. It was a good mix with new shows like X’amd and Heroic Age and old ones like CB Chara Nagai Go World and Space Battleship Yamato. There was distinct bias towards space opera but they did not try to hide it. They mentioned they made sure that all the titles were fairly easy to find. They used to play much more obscure stuff but then no one could find it. They also played some good non-anime titles, they seemed cool as well. Apparently the panel was originally going to be a panel about strong female princesses that had actual leadership roles titled Anime Princesses Rule, Disney Princesses Drool. However, they did not get a key DVD in time to make it. After the panel we all went into the hallway and had a grand ole roundtable. Got to hear some good stories and participate in some intelligent conversations.
As our conversation wound down Evan and I went to lunch. I twisted his arm into going to Five Guys Burgers mostly because I was interested in trying them after hearing about the chain from Dave and Joel. Just like they said it was satisfying but not spectacular. We talked about this and that. I might have talked his ear off a bit too much about Gundam but I am sort of on a kick. After that we went to the dealer’s room. It was a small affair but for a one day convention it was decently stocked. I picked up a very nice Ryogi Shiki I had had my eye on for a while at 10% off. I almost got a Caren Ortensia figure but I kept myself in check. Evan picked up the Metropolis manga and a random volume of Astro Boy for ten dollars so it was a good trip all in all.
I finished off the day by attending the Gundam panel. It was by the same crew that ran the panel at New York Anime Festival 2008. It was essentially the same. Apparently they had plans to update the panel but time constraints prevented them from doing so. Still they are an entertaining bunch so it was a good time. The trivia section made me realize one thing: Even after watching a good deal of Gundam I will never be the type of person to memorize serial numbers. I then started my trek home and picked up some ice cream on the way.
Overall, it was an enjoyable little con. The major advantage of a small con like this was you could talk to everyone at the con if you were motivated to do so. This would be impossible to do even at a mid-sized con. This tends to give smaller cons a sense of community and comradeship. There were also several panels I did not get to attend which is always nice as it proves there was a good selection of things to do. I wish I had seen the translation panel, the obscure manga panel, and the Gundam customization workshop. Hopefully they will be run again at another con I attend. The convention was well run as I never ran into any major problems. A convention like Castle Point will never get a big name Japanese guest but you don’t go to a convention like Castle Point for that. You come for a little gathering of friends around your mutual interest in anime and manga and hopefully to discover someone or something interesting as well. Castle Point successfully provided that environment.