Animazement is an annual anime convention held in downtown Raleigh over the Memorial Day weekend. This year the convention saw a little over 11,000 people over the course of the three day event. It takes place in the Raleigh Convention Center with some events taking place in the Raleigh Marriott CIty Center which is connected to it. Animazement always focuses on everything anime and Japan and packs their schedule full of events dedicated to anime, video games, cosplay and more.
One of the biggest draws of the convention is a huge video game room. This year the room was moved from several small ones in the hotel to a main ballroom in the convention center. Not only were the newer game systems available for use, but also older systems and pin ball machines. Dancing games, fighting games, and more filled this enormous room which had more then enough space to accommodate anyone who wanted to come in and see what was available.
Every convention hosts panels, guests and autograph sessions but there was a few unique events that were being put on by fans throughout the weekend. Running through both Friday and Saturday was a fan created Pokemon league. Convention attendees with Nintendo DS would scour the convention center for Gym Leaders who were distinguished by sashes or badges. Once encountering them, the con goer had to engage them in a pokemon battle on their portable devices. If they won they were given a badge. If the member managed to succeed in winning 8 badges from the various gym leaders then they were entered into a raffle with prizes given away on Saturday night. Another event which was hosted by the group Last Minute Cosplay was called the “Jyuunishi Challenge”. Taking place on Saturday, the members of the group were dressed as characters from the anime “Fruits Basket”. If you found the members and hugged them then you were given a pin. Whomever found the most pins at the end of the day was given a prize. Three people were able to successfully find and hug all nine members of the group.
As if the convention going on wasn’t enough excitement for the weekend, a large inflatable movie screen was set up in the street on Friday. People filled the street with lawn chairs to watched the original “Ghostbusters” movie play on the big screen. It drew convention goers and Raleigh natives alike to the street to enjoy the show. It was conveniently located just outside the Marriott and in the middle of the various restaurants that line the streets, making it a nice treat for anyone who went out for dinner at that time.
One of the biggest draws of any convention is the Masquerade. Animazement always has a full house when this main event takes place. Hosted by cosplay guest Jez Roth, the event always runs smoothly and efficiently. This year roughly 30 entries strutted their stuff on stage, showing off their costumes and their acting and dancing skills. Primarily dancing skits took the stage with a wide variety of dancing talent being showcased. From a bollywod Toadstool comedy skit to large AKB dance troops. There was also comedy skits and dramatic mixed in. Top honors and Best in Show went to a pair that danced in Chocobo inspired swing attire. A halftime show consisted of a performance by the Jacabals. The Jacabals are a “Samurai Actor” unit that performs on stage, TV and dramas in Japan. Most of the crowd stayed to see the performance and wait to see what acts took home awards.
Animazement has grown quite a bit since its days in a tiny hotel. The Dealer’s room was almost continuously packed over the three day event, with vendors having barely a spare moment to catch their breath between waves. A convenient walkway was created between the dealers room and artist alley which both take up the lower floor of the convention center. Always a favorite convention for the locals, it also draws people to it from many of the surrounding states. Animazement was recently ranked 25th out of the top 100 anime conventions in the country. It wasn’t hard to see why as a registration line stretched around the outside of the building for three days straight. Several people lined up many hours early on Thursday just to get their badge and be ready to enjoy all the convention had in store for them. Dance parties raged outside throughout the day as well as large cosplayer gatherings on the tall steps outside the front doors.
Animazement will return to the convention center again next year on Memorial Day weekend. It will have to compete with the rapidly growing Momocon in Atlanta, Georgia as that convention will also be taking place the same weekend. For more information on Animazement, check out their website at: http://animazement.org