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Con Report: Zenkaikon 2009 - Cramped But Competent

Zenkaikon 2009 November 7-8, 2009
Radisson Hotel Valley Forge
King of Prussia, PA, USA

A merger of two formerly separate and smaller cons (Kosaikon and Zentrankon), Zenkaikon 2009 is the fourth incarnation of a relatively small (but rapidly growing) Pennsylvania anime convention that serves up the standards: guest speakers, industry- and fan-run panels, video game rooms, and live performances.

There were only two very cramped gaming rooms (with an admirable amount of systems squeezed in) and as many video rooms, which were split between live action and anime. While some might consider this a horrible decision given both the size and purpose of the con, I thought it was a ballsy effort to offer something more despite the smaller space and projected number of attendees (they vastly underestimated). The highlight of the viewing I was able to see was the first three subbed episodes of Princess Tutu.

The attending bands, with the exception of J-pop singer Rina Mimura, were only moderately alluring as a taste of J-music. Eyeshine, geist, and Eden Star all had members of Asian descent and were all/mostly influenced by J-Punk/-Pop, but sounded too little like it to evoke an Asian feel. That’s not to say they weren’t good, however. I’ve seen Eden Star before, and the lead singer as well as the drummer exhibit very impressive energy and talent. It just seemed a little too tellingly inauthentic. Hell, even Castle Point Anime Convention got Peelander-Z.

The dealer’s room was about the size of a classroom, and did just about all it could with the space provided, but navigation was frustratingly tight and rewards far too few. Similarly, Artist’s Alley was a joke. Very few artists were actually displaying their work (the room was smaller than the dealer’s room), and what was there seemed lackluster.

Panels were many, but scheduling was, as usual for any con, poorly arranged (at least for my tastes). All the uninteresting panels seemed grouped together to form hours of free time, and all the interesting panels overlapped separate rooms. In addition to a wonderfully informative kendo demonstration, my particular interests were with “Anime in China,” “Moe Anthropomorphism-tan,” “Psychology of Anime,” and “Do Anime Conventions Have a Future?” Luckily, I was able to catch all but the last, and reviews/summations can be found on this site for those who could not attend these enlightening and well-handled panels.

So, if you were looking for a lily pad to serve as a fix between New York and Hoboken or wherever anime pops up next – a place to commune with your fellow lovers of anime, cosplay, and all other aspects of American otaku-dom – then Zenkaikon is a decent enough pit stop. There is vast room for improvement with regards to venue, organization, and space allocation, but that will hopefully come with time.

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