Last weekend, I attended Anime Banzai 2014 in Layton, Utah. For those unfamiliar with Anime Banzai, it is billed as “an educational convention focusing on Japanese anime, manga, and culture.” There are more than 5,000 attendees and three days full of panels, vendors, cosplay, and special guests. Among this year’s special guests were well-known anime voice actors like Chris Patton, Vic Mignogna, and Chuck Huber. Each of these men have voiced characters in dozens of anime series over the last ten years or so, so they were a popular draw for the convention.
The thing that really set Anime Banzai apart from other local conventions was the educational aspect. Nearly all the panels are instructional rather than discussion-based, especially when it comes to cosplay. For example, the photo above is from the Cosplay on a Budget class. Stephanie Wilkerson of Silver Fyre Studio had prepared a slideshow with tips on wigs, armor, shoes, colored contacts, good places to find cheap stuff, how to best use coupons and sales, etc… She had very easy, practical advice that would help anyone looking to get into cosplay. Other panels involved working with leather or making Japanese armor out of plastic and much more. Advice ranged from very simple basics to tips for pros who understand the materials and want to improve on what they already know.
Another interesting aspect of Anime Banzai was how interactive the con was. There are a lot of activities going on- from formal dances to pajama parties to scavenger hunt style games. I watched a “panel” that was a freestyle dance competition. It was all in good fun, and the audience really enjoyed each performance regardless of the dancer’s experience or skill. Outside of the con, in the warm fall weather, people would gather to play games like volleyball, ninja, or just lay out on the grass. It was a pretty relaxed environment where people just came to hang out. There were also a couple of screening rooms where you could just watch anime. It was a neat way to watch your favorites with new friends or be introduced to a series you weren’t familiar with.
I did have an issue or two with the con. Primarily, the space at the conference center is not ideal for Anime Banzai anymore. There was a pretty long line to get into the vendor and dealer areas (capacity was limited because of fire code restrictions) and the line went right down the main hallway. So there was little room to move from room to room because the line clogged half the hallway and walking traffic filled up the rest. That might work for some conventions, but not something like this. There’s cosplay everywhere! So naturally people want to stop and take photos. It’s nearly impossible to do without getting yelled at by security. I think that’s why so many people hung out outside. It was the best place to visit and hang out. It was too congested inside. Not everywhere, just in the critical spaces.
Check out our cosplay gallery below. (And watch Attack on Titan! There’s my plug for the day.)