Despite it being a far drive to the city of Detroit for many visitors, Youmacon is notorious for being a party convention, oriented towards people who want to rock out as much as people who want to nerd out. From November 1st to the 4th of 2012 Michigan was briefly worth remembering the existence of, because it held one truly monstrous convention.
Read the report on last year’s Youmacon here.
While Youmacon is primarily an anime convention, it welcomes all kinds of media fans and thus has every kind of cosplayer imaginable. Two of almost every anime character and tons of outfits from shows all but forgotten by society were featured. Crossplay was welcomed with open arms. There were Hetalias, Ponies, and Pokemon in the hundreds. Once again, the number of Homestuck cosplayers grew to critical levels. And everybody exhibiting their temporary identities was willing to pose for photos and work at becoming somebody else’s convention crush.
These pictures and many more are in TdotComic’s Facebook gallery, so feel free to tag yourself and friends.
The venue for the event was once again the Detroit Renaissance Center, and like last year, it was still a three dimensional maze. It’s a Marriott hotel that sits on a convention centre wrapped in a mall, which sits under office buildings. A small food court and an automobile display room are tied into the building with infinite pathways hiding escalators. The maps distributed on site only barely helped, and finding the right cosplay shoot was a hassle for many Timelords and Sailor Scouts.
Credit goes to the organizers, though, for making sure the elevators didn’t stop on certain floors of the convention – it really did streamline their operation and consolidate the wait for escalators. It would have helped if convention materials referred to the rooms with the same names as the hotel’s materials.
This year the dealer’s room and artist alley and some of the larger events were held in a separate convention center, the COBO Center, across town. It’s half a mile of walking (Anime North’s Doubletree hotel to the Sheraton is a similar hike). This year, the combined dealer’s room and artist alley had more than enough room for a more diverse array of vendors and exhibitors. The popular sellers this year were electronic cat ears that reflect the wearer’s mood. The artist’s alley was nice because, being an American convention, it hosted several new artists (for me) instead of the same familiar faces I see frequently on the Canadian convention circuit.
(Transit between the two areas was provided by Detroit’s “People Mover”, which provides a scenic view of the rest of downtown Detroit and its fascinating abandoned buildings. Make sure to pay the 75 cents before riding it so that you don’t irritate the big brother watching you.)
With so much relocated to the Cobo Center, the space back at the Renaissance Center was used to make the gaming room from a place to kill time into place to make time for. There was a diverse selection of games I would never think to sample on my own, all free to just walk by and start playing. There was pinball, Japanese titles, rhythm games- competitive gaming against complete strangers to quickly make new friends and rivals.
Guests & Events
The artists alley included a few notable amateur comic artists who have some modicum of internet popularity. But the draw to attendees were special guests like the Japanese anime director Nabeshin, along with professional voice actors and self-made YouTube celebrities signing autographs. Scott McNeil could always be found in his trademark hat moving from event to event.
This year featured the style of Steam-Powered Girafee, performers who are a new discovery for me. Their humour grew out of busking, so it has a quality that appeals to passers-by and casuals and doesn’t need an extensive knowledge of running gags.
Among the concerts and signings, fan-operated events, photo shoots, and gaming tournaments padded out the rest of the calendar. The Megaman panel was a fun reminder of what the brand has to offer, but the Transformers panel was a bit of a work-in-progress. Anime speed dating wasn’t the actual device for establishing relationships it is at other conventions; instead it was cosplayers in-character playing something like The Dating Game in front of an audience.
Live Action Mario party (although having only a superficial resemblance to any Nintendo property) was a big event, kind of like an old Nickelodeon TV show with people running around. But the real excitement was the after-dark version, limited to people over 18 years of age for a very good reason. As the highly-attended spectacle went on, things became more hedonistic and indulgent and out of control. If it ended 30 minutes earlier I don’t think anybody would have been too disappointed.
Friday night and Sunday Night, leftover energy could be used in the dance parties. Friday’s dance was dark without being too dark, while Saturday’s rave was darker but illumination was provided by hundreds and hundreds of glow-sticks. Both dances had audio that filled the ears but thankfully didn’t make conversation with other dancers impossible.
Youmacon was a great experience, and on Sunday night it felt like it had been weeks since the convention started on Thursday. But with any adventure there are a few trials. The preregistration line for passes was much longer than the non-preregistration line, which should have been noticed and dealt with. The “Con ops” facility shut down during the night, which is a strange choice for an all-night convention. But I can forgive these issues by keeping in mind that having a good time at a convention with room for improvement only leaves more excitement for next year. Youmacon has hit the attendance level where they aren’t fighting to get attendees; they’re fighting to accommodate all the attendees they get. A fight that so far, they’re winning.
As a party con, it’s what many other conventions aspire to be. With three non-stop days of convention, it’s a bit intense and the effect it could have on an inexperienced convention-goer could distort a mind into thinking a “free hugs” sign is a good idea. But everybody comes to Youmacon to have a good time. While some conventions are populated by people who want to shop, collect signatures, and get photographed, the people at Youmacon knew how to have fun just hanging around and embracing the company. I’m ready for whatever is in store for next year.
-Michael Ryan November 7 2012
special thanks to best buds christina, andy, heather, greg and sarah
kathie and scott and sam
dan, asian dan, scott, mark, beth, david, nutmeg, bekki, noisetank
and a special shout-out to emi and barack obama