Anime Central 2003
General Thoughts

Anime Central 2003 took place from May 16th to 18th, 2003 at the Hyatt Regency O'Hare and the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont Illinois just outside of Chicago. Only minutes from the busiest airport in the world, Acen is probably the easiest convention to travel to for people who don't have a decent local convention, and air-fare to Chicago is generally inexpensive. After Anime Expo, Otakon, and BAAF, ACen is the fourth largest convention in North America, but compared to the bigger events.

2003 was Anime Central's 6th year of operation, and thanks to burgeoning fandom, also made it one of the most densely packed in terms of sheer numbers of attendees per square foot. With lines running outside and around the hotel itself, Anime Central showed a significant growth in attendence from the previous year, yet this growth comes at the cost of requiring additional streamlining, better crowd control and enhanced registration procedures. Utilizing most of the hotel, the same one used last year, Anime Central did expand into the neighboring convention center for the Dealer's Room, which had plenty of space to maneuver about, except during the hourly give-away by certain vendors.

As can be expected of almost any mid-large size anime convention, the opening ceremonies got under was a bit late, but once started Carl Horn was a superb MC and as usual, the Japanese and American guests that take the time to travel to these conventions are superbly entertaining.

There is little to do in the immediate vicinity of the convention, it's a good mile walk to any cheap restaurants, and it isn't possible to get to downtown Chicago or any sort of outside Entertainment without a car or spending money on a taxi.

Fortunately, the convention itself, in form of official events during the day (and Anime screenigns at night) as well as the various parties, offers more than enough entertainment to keep everyone busy from Friday Morning through Sunday afternoon. But still, for those of us that travel from out of town to go to an Anime convention, it's often nice to take in some extra scenery. BAAF and AX are great for this, but Acen may as well have been in the middle of a desert.

The facilities themselves were excellent, easily seating all the attendees for most of the events.

The biggest single fault at the convention was probably the registration line. Even the staff were complaining that the registration process was seriously flawed. On Saturday and Sunday people were waiting as long as 3 hours and longer in line to register. Fortunately those that pre-registered had it better, they only had to wait 80-90 minutes. Fortunately, once out of the registration line, attendants would not have another line to complain about all weekend. Most events and panel had no lineups, and those that did were well managed and moved quite fast. Best of all, there was no line-up at anytime to get into the dealer's room.

Speaking of the massive dealers' room, it was superb, almost as large as the one at Anime Expo last year, but with one quarter the number of attendants. This made it much less packed and much easier to move around in. You could actually discuss with the vendors about what you wanted to purchase. The only problem with the dealer's room was its distance from the hotel where everything else was being held. If you took the faster, outdoor route, it was a good 5 minute walk. Through the indoor “habitrail” it took about 10 minutes. Not that bad, but annoying.

All in all Anime Central was a very enjoyable 3 days. While this was my first time at Anime Central, but I do believe that the convention will remain a part of my future convention plans. Not to mention, I absolutely have to get next year's Sailor Bubba Bobblehead.

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