Small cons are like small parties. You lose a good deal of grandeur but you potentially gain much more intimacy. But if you are at a big party if the people you are talking to are dull you have dozens of options. At a small party your options are limited. Castle Point Anime Convention is distinctly a small party. It is a one day convention on the campus of the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey. It is very definition of a local con. Castle Point is not a total relaxacon as it has American voice acting guests Michele Knotz, Bill Rogers, and Mike Pollock and a fair amount of panel, activities, and game rooms. It will probably not be Anime Next sized any time soon but it is a pleasant little getaway if you live in the Tri-State area.
Panels are the focus of any convention I go to so when the panels are lack luster my enjoyment is diminished. Right out of the gate the Otaku on a Budget panel was canceled. Thankfully a staffer was quickly in the room to tell us the panel was canceled. I adjusted my schedule went to the Lost in Adaptation panel. It was an examination of movie adaptations of games and what the panelist feels they did wrong with the adaptation. The panel wanted to be funny but I was not laughing. I think I would have been a little more forgiving if he had used anime examples as there are some perfect live action abominations to use for such a panel. The last straw for me was when he said that Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within was the first instance of the space marine. I half expected an undead Robert Heinlein to smash through the window and attack the man. Halfway thorough I fled to the Business of Webcomics panel. The speaker there was knowledgeable the subject but the problem was he ran a hub site for several webcomics. This was great if you wanted to know how to monetize a group of webcomic artists but there was less advice for the more common scenario of a single artist trying to make money off their comic which I think is far more common. I also stopped in for a bit at the Hetalia History panel. It was the same well run panel that Walter Amos usually does and it is a local con staple for a reason. The last of the morning panels I went to was Otaku Culture 101. It was mostly a look at the two big non-anime related trends in Japanese anime fandom which are Touhou and Vocaloid. He also talked about 2channel, Nico Nico Douga, and Comic Market. He did not go in-depth on anything but as a small con that is probably for the best. My only question is why is it whenever anyone tells you about Touhou they insist on playing a level in front of you as if it were required by a draconian law.
The last two panels I was in the evening were long panels that ran over an hour. Out of Time Productions ran The List: The Panel, Part 2/1. The panelists would present a topic like worst anime to marathon or character you love to hate. Each of the panelist would give two suggestions to the topic and then a participant from the audience would also give a suggestion. They would then present a case for their choices. The audience was also encouraged to their own suggestions but with only quick explanation for their picks. I did notice some odd little quirks of the audience. People have a good deal of resentment for Evangelion. People hate Shinji which is understandable but I think they don’t understand how is character is supposed to work in the series so they hate him for all the wrong reasons. You can’t expect him to be Koji Kabuto in Evangelion. Watch Shin Mazinger Shougeki! Z Hen if you want a character like that. Also someone said Xellos was the worst villain ever which clearly show they don’t understand him either. I wish I had gotten to mention the entire cast of Legend of The Galactic Heroes in the gayest straight characters category for all the epic space bromance that show has. Also if anyone watches the video of the panel the mahjong anime I was trying to think of was Idol Fight Suchie Pai. I finished the night with Jawdropping Moments in Anime. It was basically a two-hour clip show or funny or shocking anime scenes. I can’t say there was anything too obscure in the clips but they were all pretty good. He had some I wish he did not play the ENTIRE Naruto sports festival and one or two of the clips could have been shorter but overall it entertained and was a nice note to end the convention on.
I had a bit of time between panels to look at the other attractions at the con. The dealer’s room was small but fairly well attended. They had your normal selection of swords, DVDs, manga, figures, and novelty shirts. Having no money on me I only glanced around but it seemed solid for a one day con. I did notice one table was selling premade Gundam models (that you would normally have to assemble yourself) which I had never seen before. The video game room was small but cram packed with people. I noticed there were sadly no import games and almost no games that were even slightly video game related. (For the record Halo Legends does not make Halo anime related.) The tabletop room was nicely stocked. They had the Throne of Swords board game which is out of print. If Narutaki was there I might have been tempted to try to play it. I peeked back in the room when they were running the Magic: The Gathering tournament and it was hopping with over 20 participants. I also visited the Karaoke room several times. The wait was always pretty long and they had a decent setup and choice of anime and j-pop songs. They also had a bizarre little concert by the Promise Sisters who are three young girls that apparently perform at various anime conventions. It was so odd.
Overall I had a pleasant if somewhat unexciting experience as Castle Point Anime Convention. Everything ran smoothly and the staff seemed on the ball. When panels and rooms were changed there was good signage on the area effected and at the info desk. I will say that I enjoyed the overall experience of Castle Point 2009 much more because the panels were just better that year. This year I actually watched videos in the video room which is always my choice of desperation. I think what really saved the con was talking to Greg aka The Digital Bug and Ink from Ani-Gamers. They really made the overall experience quite enjoyable. I had some great conversation over some tasty donburi at the Robongi restaurant which might have been the highlight of my experience. I guess the only solution is to go back next year and bring my own panels if I was not satisfied with the level of the panels this year. Maybe I will finally get to whip out the Type-Moon panel I keep threatening to use.