Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Convention Review: ConnectiCon 2013

This last weekend we attended ConnectiCon, a con I've personally been attending since '06, and on J has been attending for a couple more years. Since '06, I think I've managed to miss only 1 CTCon, even years we couldn't attend the full weekend, we usually would hit it up for at least one of the days to scope out the dealers room and whatever events we could cram into the day.

This year we did the "Do we go at all? For a day? Two days? For the full three?" dance that happens almost every year and decided at the last minute to go for the full weekend and stay with some friends who's roommates dropped out, and I definitely don't regret the decision.

This Years ConnectiCon In General

For myself, this was the first year at CTcon where I went from attendee to helping run a whopping 2 panels and a fashion show. I came on Friday with some illusion that I'd be able to get there, drop off my stuff for the fashion show, head to the panel room, prepare for the fashion show, do the fashion show, and be on my way. Haha, nope, especially not with a major traffic jam thanks to a couple of accidents that added almost an extra hour to a trip that typically only takes about an hour. Around 7pm, almost 2 hours after the show ended, I found myself sitting down for the first time chowing down a pastry that was pulled out of a giant bag of pastries that the models had left over. It goes without saying my Friday at the con was all work and no play. However, I did manage to get the energy to head to the dealers room about a half hour before it closed, just enough time to pick up the 2nd expansion for Tanto Cuore. The rest of Friday was spent hiding in the hotel room eating pizza while slipping in and out of consciousness while groggily playing the new expansion. Absolutely no regrets though!

Saturday only had 1 panel for me, and it was at noon and it was a total breeze. I had intended to wake up "early" and hit up some panels myself, but I was still recovering so I only hit up the afternoon panels, lucky for me, they were all really great panels, but more on CTcon's panel selection later!

Connecticon 2013 saturday panel schedule
Saturday's panel schedule. Click to enlarge

Sunday was a laid back day for us, we checked out the dealers room for a final sweep and I made a few purchases before heading to a panel we had our eye on.

All in all, ConnectiCon has always been a very laid back convention experience for me. Despite it being largely an anime con (although it is regarded as a general geekery and pop culture con, the emphasis is largely on anime) with a lot of the typical anime con crowd, there is a large portion of considerably older attendees and a lot less spontaneous hallway dancing and Marco-Poloing and meme shouting than there is at some larger cons I've attended in the general area (Anime Boston I'm looking at you!)

ConnectiCon Panels
Personally, I always prefer panels over events and CTcon usually has a fairly diverse selection of panels. Like any fan-run convention, years can be hit or miss and the panel selection is obviously swayed by what is popular that particular year. A prime example of this is there were a whopping 8 My Little Pony panels and 3 Homestuck panels. You can actually see all these X'd out in my schedule because I have zero interest in either. Lucky for all of us, there are 11 panel rooms and pretty much no blank spots in the schedule in any of them.

The panels I attended were: The Electronic Myth: The Evolution of the Creepy Pasta, Burlesque 105: Current Figures, When Gundam Goes Bad, Are You Scared? A Look at International Horror Films, Stepping Your Game Up: When Game Groups Go Wrong, and When Moe Goes Bad. These were all excellent panels run by intelligent people who knew what they were talking about and who were funny to boot. They were also a little bit of everything and were, to me, the quintessential CTcon panels: on the surface they sounded like something light, that may or may not actually have anything to do with anime, but were often a scholarly in-depth look into the topic.

The Creepy Pasta panel was a great example of this, as it was a very interesting comparison between classic legends and urban legends and the phenomenon of the Creepy Pasta. At any other con, I might be afraid a panel like this being a fan-girling over Slenderman but at CTcon you can pretty much count on it to be something with a little more in-depth. For the curious, it was run by Sarah the Anime Librarian, who apparently does a large amount of panels in the area on a variety of topics along the same vein.

Another great example of these types of panels that CTcon loves to feature were both the Gundam and Moe "Gone Bad" panels, both run by the guy behind Otaku In Review. The Moe panel was exceptionally good and what, again, at any other con, might just be a montage of ridiculous scenes from Moe anime, started off with a 15 minute lesson at what makes Moe anime so popular among otaku and an honest look into the genre as a whole and how it has changed the anime scene. Of course, the rest of the panel was indeed hilarious scenes from ridiculous Moe animes (I apologize for being one of the few people in the room who raised their hand when asked who had seen Chu-Bra), but I think it's the extra bit of knowledge from the panelist that really makes the panel. His When Gundom Goes Bad panel was every bit as good and is the second time I've seen it and honestly wouldn't mind hitting it up again for a 3rd time if he's doing it next year, it's just a fun panel.

The one thing that CTcon lacks in panels, and we realized this when a Mulder and Scully cosplayer sat down at our table in the cafe and I realized I had never seen an X-Files panel at CTcon, is more sci-fi geekery and general "Western" nerd culture. Despite the multi-genre label CTcon uses, there is a sad lack of attention paid to fandoms that are non-Japanese or non-flavor-of-the-week geekery (Sherlock, My Little Pony, Homestuck, Dr. Who, Adventure Time, that sort of thing). However, it is a fan run convention and because of this I'm seriously considering submitting a few non-Lolita related panels next year to do on my own, outside of my Lolita group. That being said, that doesn't mean these things are non-existent at CTcon, they are simply diluted quite a bit.

Generally, the panels at CTcon are largely anime/Japan and gaming (mostly tabletop) related, with a large amount of flavor-of-the-week geekery, a fair amount of workshops centered around things like creative writing and art, pop culture topics (this year had a couple on hiphop and parkour), and a sprinkling of the rest.

ConnectiCon Cosplay

Unfortunately I managed to leave my camera in the hotel room every day except for Sunday, so I hardly have any cosplay photos! However, as usual CTcon tends to draw a very large cosplay crowd from a variety of different fandoms.

Like most conventions, CTcon is a very cosplay friendly event and a majority of the main events are cosplay centric. From the Masquerade to the Cosplay Battleship, which I unfortunately missed but was apparently an interesting switch-up from the usual Cosplay Chess.

Honestly, there's not a ton to say about Cosplay at CTcon. Lots of people do it and do it well, so if you either like to join them or just take pictures of them, there's plenty of cosplay to go around.

ConnectiCon Shopping
Like many conventions, the dealers room is sort of the heart of CTcon, and it's almost always good shopping. There were a couple years in a row a few years back that had a pretty weak dealers room, but they've bounced back to normal. Personally, I enjoyed the dealers room this year, it had a large amount of board game sellers, as well as a number of manga and graphic novel sellers, plus the typical anime merch and con miscellanea.

The one down side to the CTcon dealers room is that it's sort of a bit disorganized. It's one big room divided into 3 sections: dealers room, web comic artist alley, and the regular artist alley. This is the second year they've had this setup and it's honestly a little weird to me. Previous years were typical of cons with a separate artist alley and dealers room, but since CTcon has a somewhat unusual habit of drawing very large amounts of web comic artists and independently published novelists and comic artist the artist alley had been probably about 75% book sellers for the past 2 or 3 years before the current set up. The current setup takes some getting used to, as every time I've gone I've ended up in the web comic artist alley thinking "Is this the artist alley? Why is this all books and empty tables?" before finally stumbling into the regular artist alley. I don't know what is up with all the empty tables, as I am pretty sure that CTcon artist alley sells out almost instantly, I think that a large portion of the tables in the web comic section are for special guests who are only attending for special events on individual days instead of the whole weekend, and I'm really only assuming this because they seemed to be sporadically filled and empty. The other thing with the web comic artist section is that it's a really awkward mix of typical dealers room stuff, books, and art. I really should ask what's up with the web comic section, but I guess I'll just speculate until I get around to that.

My Lisa Frank phone case, Yotsuba cell strap, and Baby the Stars Shine Bright dress!
My Yotsuba strap. That rainbow Lisa Frank monstrosity is my phone.
My own personal shopping in the dealers room was pretty light this year, despite the fact I usually go a bit overboard at CTcon. Besides Tanto Cuore, which is really for everyone not just me, the only thing I had picked up was a pack of mochi, and a Yotsuba cell phone strap. That is, until I was was lurking around a booth on Sunday was apparently all stuff that was in someone's shop storage for a few years and was all being sold at a major discount. It was digging through a box of $3 manga when I came across a box full of 14 volumes of Battle Royale (unfortunately all but the last volume!). The salesman at the booth cut me a deal on them and I got 12 volumes for $2 each (I bought the first two ages ago, also in a discount bin, which apparently is where all my manga comes from), plus a couple other random mangas I found in the discount pile.

ConnectiCon As A Panelist 
As I had mentioned, this year was a little different for me since I was sitting on a couple panels and helping host an event, which is something I've never done at CTcon before and really thoroughly enjoyed. I can't really say much about how the panels were organized, as my friend Christina did pretty much all the hard work. I just showed up, sat up in front and helped answer questions for the panels, and played mama duck to the models and lead them to where they needed to go and helped dress them. Over all, from my end, things ran relatively smoothly. There were a few hiccups that made things awkward (No chairs at the event!) but the con is relatively chill so despite the lack of chairs we still managed to fill up the room and keep it filled for the fashion show. Although the fact that the room was amazingly air conditioned on such a hot day may have had something to do with that.

Sitting up in the panelist seat and being a bit backstage at CTcon was a first for me, and I really enjoyed it, even though Christina did the brunt of panels. By even Saturday I was already considering applying to do a panel of my own for next year!

All in all, if you're in the Connecticut area, CTcon is definitely a convention to consider attending. It might not be worth more than a couple hours drive to some people, considering there are a few larger conventions in the area that tend to spoil some people. "Why go to CTcon when I can go to Anime Boston, which is a lot bigger?" is a complaint I've heard before and I honestly don't quite get it, they're both different conventions and their values can't really be compared based on which one gets more attendants. This is not to say that CTcon is some sort of tiny convention, as it gets about 10,000 attendees a year.

The one real draw back to CTcon is the price. The last tier of pricing ends up being $60 for the weekend, and living relatively close to the convention center, the decision on how long we want to go for is almost always more or less a last minute decision, so we pretty much never jump on the early registration price of $40 for the weekend.


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