If Christmas is in July then Halloween is defiantly in June, at least in Dallas that is. Project A-Kon kicked off its 24th year last weekend at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas. Fan boys and girls dressed up as their favorite obscure references and spent obscene amounts of money on anime and its related paraphernalia.
A-Kon has been a Dallas staple since 1990. Starting with 380 people and swelling to over 20,000 in recent years. It’s one of the biggest and longest running anime conventions in North America and is synonymous with anime in the Dallas scene.
I have worked at A-Kon for the past five years helping out at a friend’s booth, but this year was the first at the Anatole. In fact this was the first anime convention at the Anatole ever. Anyone who’s ever walked the absurdly ugly carpet at the Sheraton Dallas hotel (where A-kon had been hosted since ‘04) and visited the Anatole will know that this is a big step up. Somehow the post-modern flare of the Hilton made the lights seemed brighter, and the LARPers fight harder.
From the perspective of an employee there were a few hiccups setting up, but once the fans swarmed the dealers’ room things fell into the comfortable synergy of passion and consumerism that A-Kon usually brings. From teenagers spending their lunch money on adorable stuffed alpacas to middle aged businessmen searching for that out-of-print dvd box set, were present. Spontaneous dancing and singing was a common sight, and one quickly learns to ignore the random crowds of people bursting in applause.
To the new comer the event can be a little overwhelming, but there is no better place to dip toes in the scene. You can’t swing a Sebastian body pillow without hitting someone willing to talk, in great detail, about the inner workings of all their favorite anime.
Ultimately the charm of the event comes from the uninhibited obsession of its patrons. Whether they are spending hundreds of dollars on styled wigs or screaming Japanese pop songs in the bathroom, nothing comes close to their level of enthusiasm. On more than one occasion I witnessed grown men and women empty the contents of their lungs at the sight of that one thing they thought they wouldn’t find.
A-kon is more than your average nerd swap meet. It’s an annual three day nation that takes over a hotel and creates an environment devoid of shame or judgment. If this appeals to you, or if you just want to join the spectacle keep up with their website and check it out next year.