Anime conventions are an anomaly in fandom. Since the anime crash of the late 90s and the rise of bit-torrent, the focus of these gatherings has shifted from a place to simply buy and watch anime, to a place to bathe in the camaraderie of your particular flavor of fandom. While the industry that spawned these cons is currently on life support and on the road to recovery, convention attendance has strangely continued to grow every year that goes by as the cons broaden their focus.
That said I remember when Zenkaikon was literally a few rooms and a hallway in King of Prussia. This past weekend 8 years later, I checked out their newest incarnation of the Con residing on four floors in the Lancaster County Convention Center in downtown Lancaster, PA. What I found was in a few short years since they moved to the space it looked like they were possibly due for another upgrade since the convention space was teaming with beaming anime fans and colorful cosplayers.
When I first heard about the move to downtown Lancaster I have to admit I was a bit apprehensive at first. But it looks like this move has only made the con more accessible, thanks to its central location and local businesses who are rallying behind it. The convention space itself is easily accessible to public transit with very reasonable parking prices as well thanks to a partnership with the local parking authority taking a full day’s of parking down to $6. The hotel/convention space itself was well kept even into the wee hours of the night on Saturday, with staff being both friendly and courteous.
Registration was quick and easy even for those who didn’t pre-register and throughout the day there was a good variety of panels on everything from Attack on Titan to Welcome to Night Vale. The focus has definitely branched out more into general geekdom, but that is definitely for the best. The dealer’s room was packed with vendors and artists alike, my only suggestions would be that some of the bigger anime companies are probably missing out by not having a presence here and need to get in on this great little con. The Con staff was very firm yet friendly in keeping the flow of foot traffic constantly moving even with the usual congestion of folks stopping to do a impromptu cosplay shoot.
The con also boasted a solid guest list Lauren Landa, Matthew Mercer, Trina Nishimura, Richard Horvitz and Rikki Simons which is what sold me on coming out. The combination of voice actors from both Japanese and American productions and various fandom celebs really assured that they would have someone for everyone. I’ll be running interviews with quite a few voice actors from Attack on Titan and Invader Zim in the coming weeks here on Geekadelphia, so keep an eye out for those.
Overall Zenkaikon is no longer the little con that could, it’s grown into a bigger con, but that still has that small con atmosphere. It’s definitely the sweet spot as far as cons go as far as I’m concerned and I will definitely be attending next year. Its a huge improvement from their stint in Oaks and definitely the most fun I’ve had at Zenkaikon. So if you’re looking for an anime con to dip your foot into the pool of fandom this is definitely the place to begin, the atmosphere is the kind that could win over even the most jaded fans.