Anime USA 2019 Review!

AUSA “the tenacious underdog” 2019 Review

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TL;DR: There’s simply a lot of boxes that as a staffer, AUSA checks and manages really well, including getting the right people on staff and compensating staffers appropriately, offering a great venue with a courteous hotel team attached, and providing some of the best informational and culturally appropriate panels for a convention. However, part of the struggle that you’ll have immediately noticed this year as an attendee, involves how quickly costs add up, the shift towards a general younger audience, and how many of your friends and colleagues were probably not present. So if you’re not looking for further details, this con earns a solid 6.7/10 for me, based on an average of an 8.2 Staffing Score, and a 5.2 Convention Score. Read on for more details.

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I’ll begin by reminding the readers that while I was indeed staff for this event, any compensation that I earned was purely based on the work that I put in for the convention over the weekend. This review was purely optional, as all of my reviews are, and I was not paid to have either my positive or my negative viewpoints expressed here. So for starters, while I mentioned that AUSA checked a lot of really good boxes for an anime convention, here’s what I felt wasn’t so great.

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• Attendance: The big elephant in the room. With my prior reference point being two years ago, I had to say that personally, I didn’t even feel like I was at a convention until after precisely 1:00pm on Saturday. Since I arrived Thursday evening, that’s two complete nights and a morning where attendance was extremely small. So in addition to the lower amount of cosplayers here this year to work with, there was also a major shortage of photographers that are usually spending their weekend at AUSA


• Lighting: In keeping with a photography standpoint, the lighting is poor in the majority of the host hotel, aside from what’s known as the “photographer hallway” of AUSA. This means that unless you had portable lighting gear with you, should you find a cosplayer in the dealer’s room, walking the halls, or anywhere that was indoors, be prepared for additional post processing


• Registration Price / Parking Price: Both are extremely high. With Katsucon essentially setting the gold standard for most east coast conventions in the area, you have to wonder if you’re getting the best bang for your buck registering at a similarly priced event that is simultaneously taking place with over 5 other major cons on the same weekend. Add to that, if you’re lucky enough to park at the host hotel, you’re spending a minimum of $25 a night leaving your car in the garage (note, normally this is $48)


• No Lanyards / Maps: This is more of a mixed opinion, but you would think that at a $70 registration price providing attendees with a lanyard rather than a clip would be a no brainer, especially considering that they could be knocked off of attached items more easily. Also, there were no physical maps given out, leaving attendees stuck with trying to coordinate the guidebook app and the many different locations presented by the hotel’s signage


• Poor Dancing Options: The formal ball and the rave were both not enjoyable at this convention. With the former, outside of a few “pros” dancing, the atmosphere was tense and intimidating, and was not welcoming enough to prompt even those who had went to the ballroom dancing instruction to feel comfortable enough to hit the dance floor. The rave on the other hand, while in no fault to the DJs, had the wrong type of atmosphere as well. When there are children running around, and attendees standing in a large circle playing balloon volleyball, then you know you haven’t succeeded in a good rave, which is unfortunate, because many of the 18+ crowd in attendance was looking to utilize this time to cut loose


• Atmosphere: Piggybacking off the previous point, it is easy to see at AUSA that the general average age has decreased significantly over the years. With the idol showcases continuing to be among the main attractions of the event, it isn’t too hard to see how slowly but surely this is not remaining a convention where the older crowd feels surrounded by peers


• Unutilized Space in the Dealer’s Room: There were large sections of tables in the dealer’s hall that were completely unoccupied during the weekend, which made certain spots, especially on either end feel very empty


• 18+ / Party Availability / Alcohol: The Thursday con “party” was a flop, and the bar has ridiculously priced cocktails, but there’s an ABC store just down the street for you to spruce up your supply. However, outside of a very few small room events, there was nothing to be said about AUSA’s party scene this year. As far as 18+ panels go, you’d better make sure to show up half an hour beforehand, or the rooms would be filled to capacity


• Noise Complaint: As an isolated event, my friends and I received a noise complaint somehow, at noon, on Sunday, which was relayed to us by an extremely rude black suit hotel staff member. Despite general confusion about who still remained in their room at that time (Check out was at 11am, and check in for the hotel is at 3 or 4pm), we quieted down immediately afterward, and as if that wasn’t enough, the staff member had more commentary before leaving, where he felt that our silence, and my attitude were rude to him. Barring this event, I never had any problems with the hotel staff whatsoever

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So on to the positives for the event!

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• Hotel and its Staffing: Some of the nice things about the con were a smooth check in experience (I was asked if I wanted a complimentary water on the spot) no issues with valet workers as in previous years, a spotlessly clean room with smart TV inside, and consistently hot water through the entire Thursday to Sunday range. If you’ve been to other big conventions, then you know that having hot water all weekend long is a blessing in itself


• The Game Room: For me, this was a highlight of the convention. With arcade cabinets (gold star for having Primal Rage), consoles, plenty of Japanese imports, and a healthy selection of rhythm games (DDR, Pump it Up, Reflect Beat, Guitador and more), there wasn’t a lack of choices here. Late night Metal Slug and a Warioware like Japanese game show game were just as great as dual wielding pistols playing Gunslinger Stratos, and made for an epic time


• Dealer’s Room: I got my Eva fix for super cheap this convention, and that’s all I need to give the hall a good score. There were convention booths, clothing spots, fudge and gummis, and different stops for figures and weaponry / props that made for a varied selection


• Artist’s Alley: Seemingly as always, the Artist’s alley remains a big draw to this convention, sometimes outshining the dealer’s room in terms of quality merchandise and pure showcased talent. Whenever I would go through, it was packed full of people, and that’s always really great to see


• The Staffing Experience: This year there were no pointless meetings, no last-minute schedule changes, no waking from sleep at ungodly hours, none of that. There was a solid organized structure to the marketing department, where tasks were delegated and handled, with others nearby always ready to provide a helping hand. As mentioned in the beginning, I still believe that AUSA has one of the best staffing structures in terms of treatment and compensation around, and with this year’s bolstering of organization and consistent communication, there was no confusion or surprise that staffing for the con filled the gaps that may have been present if I was simply a general attendee


• Ballroom Instruction: Despite the actual formal ball being lackluster, the formal dance instruction was absolutely great. There was laughter, everyone was welcome, and the presenter was charismatic and fun. It made for a grand experience that I truly wish carried over to the main event that occurred just afterward to showcase the moves


• Powerful Educational Panels: AUSA has always been a power player when it comes to spreading the cultural, historic, and modern-day significance of Japan and the Japanese lifestyle. This year was no exception, with panels that branched from tea ceremonies and making dolls to rope tying. There was no lack of presented knowledge here


• Food Options: Most places nearby delivered via your favorite food delivery app, but there were a generous number of restaurants that you could get to walking for less than five minutes away from the convention hotel. Considering the prices of the in-house options for convenience, this was plenty preferred and appreciated throughout the weekend


• Medaterra: Bearing in mind food options, Medaterra continued its impressive streak of offering $3 spicy wings and $1 frozen margaritas all weekend long. If you’re looking for a fun place to bring your friends and get good food for cheap, Medaterra is somewhat a staple tradition for my AUSA visits and does not disappoint with its level of service


• My Cup of Tea / Club Ukiyo: I would be foolish not to mention the combined efforts of the fantastic maid café and host clubs respectively. With a team effort basically running all day long, it was pleasant to see not only happy faces and guests, but also an extremely long line of people waiting to get in as soon as possible to both. I’m pleased with the level of skill seen not only in the organizational efforts for both groups, but also the satisfaction on their guests’ faces whenever entering or leaving, and the hard work is definitely appreciated by staff and guests alike


• Signage: With huge flags letting you know which rooms were which, it was refreshing to see that AUSA really did want to make navigation as simple as possible for attendees. The information desk was always staffed with helpful smiling faces, but even without a map, once you knew where the key locations were, you wouldn’t forget where they were in the hotel’s layout


• Registration: Smooth, with the efforts of staff members making it extremely painless, working as hard as they could while still having fun. This was true for my staff registration / check in, as well as for attendees throughout the weekend


• Photo Shoots: AUSA makes a great convention for experimenting with lighting setups, as well as utilizing locations both immediately nearby the host hotel, and a little bit away if you are willing to walk to them. I’m happy to report that even though I didn’t extensively advertise shooting at this convention, that I had a pleasant time with all of my photo shoots, and that I’m extremely excited to showcase what I was able to get, both with studio and artificial lighting as well as my staple, natural lighting


• The Kickback: Put simply, if you have a friend group and you go to AUSA, it is a great low-pressure convention to chill at and to enjoy the space and the area. There’s no need to rush from place to place, no competitive atmosphere if you choose not to compete in the convention events, and a very laid-back flow to the general scheme of things. So what I found was that it was rather easy to meet up with friends, enjoy food outings, and relax when need be at the convention, which is a great bonus

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To wrap up, as I addressed before, the biggest detriment to AUSA 2019 was simply the choice of weekend to have the event on. As such, there was a significant drop in attendance, cosplay, and photographers to truly bring the anime con experience. Couple that with Halloween and a National’s parade, it’s easy to see why this event could have been overshadowed before even considering other conventions occurring at the same time. Yet, nonetheless, as a staffer, my experience was borderline excellent, and one of the best that I personally have had. If I were a general attendee however, some of the pain points of AUSA become that much more frustrating, but with the right friend group, and a better choice of weekend, I would give AUSA your consideration for the future. 6.7/10


Four friends posing at Anime USA
Fun to be had, just pick the right weekend!!

#DarkfoxPhotography #washingtondc #anime #convention #relaxation #AnimeUSA2019 #AUSA #Review #AUSA2019 #Fun

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