In my never-ending quest for more conventions to attend this year, I discovered Anime Austin. This was the first time I had heard of this convention, which is focused on anime and Japanese pop culture. After coming across this exciting discovery, I hit up their website to find more info on the event and made plans to attend. Once again my crime fighting sidekick, (ok, my daughter), suited up (ok, buckled up) and traveled with me to Austin, it made for a great surprise Father’s Day gift, falling on the same weekend.
Initially, I had made plans to head to Austin early in the day to make the opening ceremony and catch all the early programming scheduled, but I wasn’t able to take off work early so I had to revise my schedule, but still got to see lots of Con-content. As soon as we were ready, we made our way out to Austin, en route to the Midtown Holiday Inn, where the Con was being held. Once we arrived, we drove around the hotel in search of parking, there weren’t many spots left. We were happy to see some cosplayers outside in the courtyard though, it’s always nice to know after a long drive you’ve arrived at the right place!
Unfortunately, we were greeted with a bad mildew-like smell once we entered the lobby of the hotel, later I saw a water leak so I strongly suspect that was the culprit. This is no fault of the convention and nothing they could control. While passing through the lobby, we spotted more cosplayers walking around and gathering, the enthusiasm was contagious! I was ready to check-in and start walking around to see everything that was here, right now! I was also especially looking forward to one specific panel later that night, all about airbrushing. After we finished reloading our utility belts, and prepping spare supplies (ok, taking our stuff to the room, and unpacking it), we were finally able to head back downstairs to check out the Con.
I walked around the convention areas checking out the cosplayers, vendors, and panel rooms… first impression was, it was smaller than I expected. I have been to several events in the past which were held inside hotels and conference rooms, but while this one was on the smaller side, there were several rooms with different activities and panels, so there was a decent amount of content. While walking around that evening, I noticed that the crowd was a good size too, so I was happy to see that the smaller size of the venue hadn’t dampened anyone’s enthusiasm. We stayed long enough to watch a few of the performances and to check out that airbrush panel, hosted by Rudy from RCC Creations. It’s been a few years since I did any airbrush art and was curious to see how it was being applied to makeup for cosplay these days. After that was over we headed back to our room to get some rest before hitting the floor for day two.
I usually have a problem sleeping in, I guess I am used to my work schedule and getting up early. This weekend was no different. I woke up early and decided to go ahead and get ready while I let my daughter sleep in. I did a quick browse of the internet and worked on a few lingering tasks before waking her up so she could get ready. I had plans to meet up with fellow photographer Mark Rigsby in the morning for a possible shoot with cosplayer Leon Chiro. We had decided to meet at Mark’s room so we headed upstairs to see what was going on. As we arrived, we discovered that Leon was undergoing upper-body airbrushing by Rudy for his “Greed” costume from “Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood”. We hung around during the body painting session while eating some breakfast tacos. During this session, Leon went live on Instagram for his fans to watch him undergo his transformation, it was pretty cool to watch the change in person. I was volunteered to read his replies and talk with his fans which I tried my best, hopefully I did well (any drop in Instagram followers shortly afterwards was clearly coincidental!). Once he was done, Mark took a few shots and then we made our way downstairs so Leon could partake in the pre-judging of the cosplay contest. So far the morning was off to an interesting and fun start.
With Leon busy, My daughter and I made our way around the different panel rooms again and waited for the vendor hall to open up. We ended up in the game room for a bit to help pass the time. After that, I made my way outside to snap an image of the Anime Austin banner where I found an itasha car parked up front. I had to snag a photo and while doing that, I noticed a sign saying there were more itasha cars in the back of the hotel. I made my way around to see them cleaning up their rides and getting ready for the day. There were a few of them, so I captured a few images before heading back into the Con. It was still early, so there weren’t many people checking out the rides, making it a little easier to get some decent shots. After that, we finally made our way back inside to check out the vendor room. After walking around a bit, my daughter stopped to get face-painted.
As more people started arriving I began my hunt around the venue to capture photos of some of the more interesting attendees. I found myself heading back outside and noticed some LARPing actually going on. I returned to the itasha display area and noticed that the car in the front had made its way to join with the rest of the itasha cars. I didn’t see many people outside looking at the cars, but it was a hot day, so that could definitely explain their reluctance to leave the air conditioned show floor, although I did overhear from a few people that they were actually upset with the itasha display because it took away a group of parking spaces, and parking was already pretty tight. I continued walking around snapping photos mixed in with a few breaks and food runs until it was time for the cosplay contest to begin. This was my first time actually watching a contest like this. Even though this Con was smaller than some others I have been to, the enthusiasm and love of these events was evident throughout everyone’s time on the stage, without exception, the excitement was obvious! There was such a positive vibe and I loved every moment of it. While the judges went off to finalize the contest scores, the latest “Spider-Man: Homecoming” trailers played on the screen, followed up with a performance by J-POP singer Chii Sakurabi. The judges returned to announce the winners and that wrapped up my day two, we then joined Mark, Leon, and a few other people I had met at the Con for a post-event day photo shoot. Once we were done, we returned to our hotel and recorded Leon’s removal of his Greed airbrushed costume. I hung out with them for awhile before retiring to my room to watch some TV with my daughter before ending the night.
Father’s day wrapped up the final day of the Con. The day started off with my daughter and I making our way to the pool early, before the Con started. It was a pretty cool Sunday morning and with the pool in the shade, the pool wasn’t exactly warm (by Texas standards). After swimming around for a while we went off for breakfast so we could hit the floor energized for the final day of the Con. Once we arrived, we went straight to the gaming room once again to play some video games until more people arrived. I then proceeded to wander around the hotel snapping photos of all the cosplayers I came across. Sunday’s attendance was lower than the day before, but still respectable. I found my way into the vendor room and came across Leon again… or should I say, Gaston, and he knows how to entertain. It was hilarious seeing him stay in character during his interactions with everyone. I had so much fun hanging out with him over the weekend and all of his fans enjoyed every minute of it. He is one cosplayer you need to follow!
After some time there I concluded my coverage and made the journey back to Houston. Even though the Anime con was much smaller than I initially expected, I enjoyed every bit of the convention and my visit to Austin. Hopefully, next year will be even bigger and better.