Anime Next is a convention that takes place in New Jersey at the Meadowlands Convention center, a short bus ride from NYC, which makes it one of the most convenient conventions for me to attend. Anime Next draws a decent sized crowd with just under 10,000 attendees, and the people there tend to be wonderful. There is a lot of cosplay, and a lawn in front of the holiday inn provides a great place for cosplay gatherings. A lot of the people who go to this con are from the tri-state area, which makes it a great local con. You are likely to make friends with people who live close enough to you, to hold you to your promise of lending them some DVDs, should you have been foolish enough to give them your word in that regard.
Unfortunately past the people, the convention tends to have problems. Anime Next is held in what appears to be a giant warehouse, and sections taped off with plastic tubing and cloth were used to create rooms. This is how the dealer room, a screening room, the main events hall, the art exhibit and the autograph signing areas are created. Also in this area, is the food court and a cosplay photography stand. This tends to introduce problems, as there is no sound system strong enough to cover the entire main events hall, but there is also no sound isolation between areas, so you end up hearing the hum of the dealer room, or echoes from the screening room as you try to listen to the guest speakers.
In fact, during the masquerade it was nearly impossible to hear anything unless you were shouting distance (~20 feet) from the stage. The masquerade itself was badly organized and fraught with problems. It was originally scheduled to start at 7pm, but it was 7:45 before the line started moving inside. For what I understand are safety reasons, the actual line for the masquerade was kept outside in the parking lot. The non-air conditioned parking lot to be exact, and this did nothing to help the experience. Even after everyone was seated, it took the better part of an hour for the show to start. While the audience was patient, and most of the skits were well done, the problems did pile up. The best skits were ones where no one had to speak, since even when the contestants were given microphones, they werenít easily heard. Even music skits had some problems, since the sound didn't come through for a few of the acts. That said, there were some great skits put on by the fans, my favorite one being an Utena skit, which would have been my favorite, even if one of my friends wasnít participating in it. There was also a very enjoyable skit with Final Fantasy characters being turned into plushies.
Most of the video rooms, as well as the tabletop gaming room, the DDR room and the video game room were put on the second floor of the Holiday Inn, a short walk from the main convention area. Unfortunately that second floor area is very small, and is therefore very hard to get around in, especially considering the amount of scythes, giant swords, and various other oversized implements of doom that people tend to carry around with them at such a con. While last year the video games were in a double room on the ground floor of the Embassy Suites, the size and placing of it this year made it impossible for me to even enter the room during both of my attempts to do so. The dealer room, one of the staples of an anime convention, was small and cramped, but there was a decent selection of merchandise.
When I am at an anime convention, I am generally there for the cosplay, and the attendees at this convention were great, it was a very friendly con, and I had fun hanging around with the other con-goers. There were a lot of photogenic cosplayers as you can see at our Anime Next convention gallery for this year.
I donít know if I will come back next year, but it would be great if the convention organization staff caught up with the caliber of people attending and provided a much friendlier convention experience. Check this convention out if you are in the NY-NJ Tri-state area, but I am not sure if itíd be worth much travel time otherwise.