Con Report: Anime Weekend Atlanta 2018

This is my second year attending Anime Weekend Atlanta! Though I went solo this year, it was completely worth it for the amazing voice actor line-up! AWA is a four-day celebration of anime annually held in September in the Cobb Galleria Centre and Renaissance Waverly Hotel. It boasts some of the best Japanese and American voices in anime!

Saturday

During my past conventions I’ve primarily focused on cosplay and shopping, but this go-around my goal was hitting seven voice actors in two days: John Spacey, Kira Buckland, Steve Blum, Mary Elizabeth McGlynn, Grey Griffin (formally Delisle), Kanae Ito, and Lauren Landa. At AWA, the majority of the voice actors are only at their booths at certain times. These autographs can be viewed easily on the Anime Weekend Atlanta app. It also has the option to alert you before the sessions. This app helped me finagle my schedule so I could accomplish my lofty autograph goals. I highly recommend downloading it if you attend.

I’m a local Atlantan and normally the drive to the convention center is roughly twenty minutes, but because of roadwork, that time doubled. That made the round-trips much more time-consuming than usual. Because I arrived late on this first day I parked at the closest available area, which cost me $10. I later discovered there’s another nearby parking deck that charged $5.

Thankfully, registration even on a Saturday didn’t take long. I got through the line in about twenty minutes, so I had enough time to get lunch at one of the local food trucks parked just outside of the convention center. I tried the Bento Bus which serves healthy Asian cuisine. I got there early, but it opened at about 11:30 am and I ordered an Asian Steak Rice Bowl for about $14 and a ginger lemonade for $3.50.

I didn’t want to eat in the hot sun, but thankfully the Galleria Mall food court was nearby with a good deal of seating. The Asian Steak Rice Bowl was very tasty and filling. I loved the crunchy tenkasu (fried tempura scraps) on top and the ginger lemonade was absolutely delicious! Though this isn’t the most money-conscious option available at the convention (Subway and Chic-Fil-A are also available), it is a good stop to make if you’re in the mood for Japanese food at AWA.

One of my gripes about this convention last year was the disorganized autograph lines. This year AWA took a page out of DragonCon’s book and designated separate booths for each actor/artist so lines could form more easily as opposed to the confusing recycled booths of 2017. Each booth had a sign so I could easily find the actors I wanted to see. In fact, I got to see John Swasey as he was just sitting at his booth. His autograph was free so I got him to sign my print of Kumatetsu from The Boy and the Beast. He’s also known for Undertaker from Black Butler and Mansuke from Summer Wars. I didn’t speak with him long but he said that Kumatetsu was his favorite father-figure to voice.

I next got in line for Kira Buckland (known for NieR: Automata). Her line was longer than expected, even after getting in early, but in about an hour I got her autograph for Izumo from Blue Exorcist next to Christine Marie Cabanos for Shiemi whom I got last year at AWA!

Then it was time for Steve Blum, an actor I’ve been trying to get for years, and known for so many voices including Orochimaru from Naruto and Spike Spiegel from Cowboy Bebop. His line was certainly the longest at this convention, especially since he was late. But the two hours was worth it to talk to him and get his signature on my Wolf’s Rain poster for Lord Darcia. We also talked briefly about Wolf’s Rain which he actually hasn’t even seen, though he still has the VHS tapes and stated he enjoyed working on the show. We also spoke about the Nickelodeon tragedy that was Wolverine and the X-Men. Blum loved the show but he didn’t even get paid for it because of defunding from a foreign investor. Such a great show, but such a sad, untimely bureaucratic end.

Next to Blum’s line was Mary Elizabeth McGlynn (known for Lady Tsunade and Kurenai from Naruto and Cornelia li Brittania from Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion) so I sidestepped over there. The majority of her line had gone through at the time since hers and Blum’s lines started at the same time. I got her signature for Jagara from Wolf’s Rain (Lord Darcia’s love interest), which is coincidental since Blum and McGlynn are currently engaged! She was also very kind and we talked a minute or two about Jagara’s amazing costume.

The last voice actor I hit for the day was Grey Griffin, known for Azula from Avatar: The Last Airbender and Vicky from Fairly Odd Parents. She was the nicest person I met at the convention! She hugged me hello and goodbye. I got her autograph for Azula and she even did her voice for me! I told her about the moment I realized she did both Azula and Emily Elizabeth from Clifford the Big Red Dog and how jarring that was. She was so sweet!

Before I went home that day I hit some of the vendors and artists. The artist alley was a bit small and I was a little put-off by the amount of yuri, yaoi, and fanservice displayed. The vendors section was packed with all sorts of goodies from figures to K-Pop albums to kimonos straight from Japan. I mostly hit the Japanese-centered booths. Some of the kimonos were so beautiful I was tempted to buy one!

Sunday

Today I cosplayed as Lady Bishamon from Noragami! This time I parked at the $5 parking, which was actually very close to the exhibitor hall, so I headed to get in line for Kanae Ito. She is known for voices such as Amu Hinamori from Shugo Chara and Yui from Sword Art Online. She was very kind and didn’t speak much English, but that let me use some of the little Japanese I know from 500+ episodes of subbed anime. She’s just as adorable in person as the characters she voices. My last voice actor for the convention was Lauren Landa. She had a short line, but was also very kind and even commented on my cosplay.

For lunch, I again hit up the Bento Bus though I just got a ginger lemonade and shumai (Japanese pork dumplings) this time. I wasn’t too impressed with the shumai and didn’t think it was worth $6. Another thing I’d like to point out is the live DJ the convention had this year. Anime OP’s and ED’s were blasting throughout the convention for people to sing and dance. One of my favorite con moments was seeing a group of people dance to “Sugar Song and Bitter Step” from Kekkai Sensen.

The last thing I’ll note is AWA drew a significant Pokémon GO crowd! I participated in a Mewtwo raid with 19 players! If you want to nail some of those big Pokémon, don’t rule out conventions! It’s a great hub.

Conclusion

Overall, Anime Weekend Atlanta is still one of my favorite conventions. My only critique is I’d like a bit less fan-service on display. Anime is a lot more to offer, and it bothers me to see that as a draw when it should be the story and amazing characters. However, the voice actor line up was amazing, the spirit of anime abounded, and though I didn’t take too many pictures, the cosplay was spot on as well. This is definitely a convention to hit!

Have you ever been to an anime convention? Have you ever been to Anime Weekend Atlanta? Have you ever done a fan photoshoot? Tell us about your experiences in the comments!

Victoria Grace Howell

Victoria Grace Howell is an artist and aspiring speculative fiction writer. She received Teen Writer of the Year in 2014 at the Florida Christian Writers Conference , a conference she attended since 2010, and the Believers Trust Award in 2015. When she's not writing her books or articles, she enjoys drawing her characters, playing the piano and practicing Kung Fu.

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