I confess Anime Central has me at a disadvantage.  It’s one of the biggest shows in the Midwest, but not only have I never had a table there before, I’ve never had a table at an anime convention period.  Aside from C2E2, the only shows I’ve done have been small press and indie shows.  I know you don’t have to draw anime or manga to showcase at an anime convention, but it certainly doesn’t hurt and my stuff is firmly in the black and white indie comic crowd.

Heck, most of the anime I do like is from five or ten years ago at least even.  My all-time favorite anime is “Azumanga Daioh”, and that’s because of its simple charm and character-based humor.  When it comes to the vast majority of anime series, which usually deal with giant robots or existentialism, I turn up my nose.  If there’s one thing I don’t understand about Japanese story-telling, it’s the abandonment of logic in favor of “coolness” and stretching out your story to ridiculous and pretentious levels.

That’s not to say there isn’t anime close to my heart.  Anything by Miyazaki comes to mind, with Satoshi Kon coming in at a close second (may he rest in peace).  If we’re talking movies and not TV, the works of Shinichiro Watanabe come to mind.  With “Cowboy Bebop” covering futuristic sci-fi and “Samurai Champloo” covering Japan’s feudal era, the man has come closest to perfecting anime in terms of style and characters.  And I still have a soft spot for classics like “Dragon Ball” and “Sailor Moon”.  It’s just most of the animation that’s come out of Japan lately has really annoyed me, with recent hits like “Haruhi Suzumiya” or “Lucky Star” seeming self-indulgent and pandering.  I just wish there had been a new series lately that had lit a fire under my ass and gotten me excited about it again.

But anyway!  Anime Central!

It was a small feat that I got approved for a table at all at this show.  The window for getting approved for a show on the level of Anime Central shuts pretty quickly.  Basically, last December, I received an e-mail from the powers that be saying that registration would start at 7PM on a Monday.  I remember sitting in front of my computer refreshing the page compulsively to see if registration had opened, like an eBay bidder watching a specific item like a hawk.  The registration finally opened, and I don’t think I’ve typed faster in my life.

Registration filled up in 12 minutes, a new record for the company apparently.  That’s Celine Dion concert fast.

I loaded my stuff into my car and drove to the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center, where once upon a time I had attended many a Wizard World show, but no longer.  As I walked across the parking lots and sky ways to the convention floor, I already saw people with pink hair and Pikachu jackets milling about.  When I made it to the main lobby, hundreds of fans were already there to pick up their passes early, some already dressed in costume to boot.

And I parked next to this. To the Otaku Mobile!

There was the usual stuff you expect from cosplayers: Link, Dante from “Devil May Cry”, etc.  But among the crowd I saw (and I confess I love being able to type this) a butch transvestite with a Hitler mustache.  Oh dear, what have I gotten myself into?

This guy offended all of my sensibilities before I even set foot on the convention floor. Well done sir!

I didn't ask this guy to pose. He just jumped in front of my camera.

Perhaps it was due to not seeing the huge ass Marvel booth right at the front like at Wizard World, but the floor of the Donald E. Stephens had never looked more open and huge.  Artist’s Alley at ACen likes to spread out and stretch its legs instead of being tucked in the back corner, and I was right in the middle of one of the main avenues.  I rather enjoyed the comfort, rarely even having the chance to have a whole table to myself.

Anime Central during Set-up Day, or Wizard World on Saturday next year? You decide!

That whole right side is gonna go to waste! I'm not gonna go over there at all!

I had barely finished unloading my stuff when I heard the doors open and the patrons lined up to get their passes.  The volunteer staff just laughed in bemusement at the people already cheering and in costume.  The show wasn’t even until tomorrow, but clearly the party had already started for the lot of them.

Hurry up! My cat ears and I are getting impatient!

Hi Nerds!

I took some time to walk around and check out the vendors before leaving.  I saw the usual smattering of wall scrolls, figurines, and DVD shelves.  I also saw at least half a dozen booths dedicated to selling Dakimakuras, or “Love Pillows”.  And if you don’t know what a Love Pillow is, it’s exactly what it sounds like.  And why yes, it IS super creepy.

God bless you Japan and your endless army of perverts.

My goofy looking sword can take YOUR goofy looking sword any day!

Ah, the Mesh Gardens look lovely this year.

Didn't I see this set-up in an a-Ha! video once?

They're gonna need more naked 12 year-olds in order to sell those.

Pink plastic LLLadies... 😉

I took my leave of the Donald E. Stephens and headed home for the night, knowing I had a long weekend ahead of me.  Early on I asked Dusty Jack what to expect from this show.  She said “However much of your stuff you were planning on bringing, bring three times that!”  Apparently Otaku come to buy.

Let’s hope.