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Con Report: CPAC 2013

It just occurred to me that I’ve been attending CPAC(Castle Point Anime Convention) since the inaugural con in 2008 . . . by pure chance! Let’s hear it for coming in on the ground floor! That con stays in my heart for two specific reasons: attending that con is how I came to be involved with Ani-Gamers, and punk band Peelander Z (one of my favorites) was the musical guest. Talk about making an impression! Five cons and as many years later, CPAC is as fun as ever, offering up a range of events with college con flavor.

CPAC has been growing steadily since it inception, when it attracted approximately 500 people. In the year of our con 2013, attendance reached another all-time high, 2,660, and I hope the attendance keeps growing. A couple years back, con staff had to fight to expand into the school’s larger gym to accommodate a growing dealer and artist presence. This year, there was talk of trying to expand the con itself from a single-day event to a full-on weekend extravaganza! *Sniff* The little cons grow up so fast these days. *Sniff*

Because CPAC is a smaller con located right across from NYC in Hoboken, NJ, attendees get the best of both worlds. Those who attend panels will find a goodly mix of newcomers as well as local, seasoned veterans offering up tried-and-true and new material. For its size and duration, CPAC also manages to celebrate a decent slice of otaku culture. This year saw, in addition to the usual video and gaming rooms, a maid café, a J-pop “concert,” karaoke, U.S. anime industry talent, several distinct cosplay-based events, and more.

The location for the con hasn’t changed since 2008, and the allotted space, which has grown since, seemed about the same as I remember from a couple years ago; I was unfortunately unable to attend last year. Despite a continually growing attendance, the six buildings throughout which the con’s events were distributed seemed more than enough to handle attendance. The same can be said for the combined Dealers Room/Artists Alley, which offered a little bit of almost everything concerning the usual fare but with an appreciated emphasis on crafts from Artists Alley.

Guests this year included accomplished VA Kyle Hebert and FUNimation’s own multi-talented and -tasked Mike McFarland, both of whom were in Q&A sessions and ended up sharing a panel on voice acting in video games. Aside from pimping her original work, Sacred, author and illustrator Lizbeth R. Jimenez gave a panel on publishing manga in the USA. Other talent included the likes of All Geeks Considered’s own Vinnie Averello, whose panels were basically responsible for opening and closing the con; aspiring J-pop singer/cover band leader Hitomi Himekawa, with Rainbow Bubbles; and nerd improv comedy group UProv Comedy, with founder Ian Rubin.

When I first started attending this con, cosplay was scarce. Its presence has been building since, and this year costumes seemed omnipresent . . .  and with some choice (according to my tastes of course) characters. The few that made me stop and run them down for a picture were Nana Osaki from Nana, Shana from Shakugan no Shana, and Lamia from Beelzebub. There was also a wonderful Vanellope von Schweetz from Wreck it Ralph, of whom I would’ve loved to have gotten a better photo but didn’t see outside of the Cosplay Dating Game panel. Proving cosplay is about heart and imagination, there were also cosplayers whose renditions of Dr. Wily from Mega Man and Aku from Samurai Jack just emanated love; the latter had a dedicated cape waver!!!

Unfortunately, there was no live musical guest this year. There was, however, a dance party soundtracked by the promising and formidable collection college radio allows. I’d love to say I stayed to enjoy the music, but having a 9-to-5, combined with con being on a Sunday, I forewent the dance to sample some fine cuisine with friends before heading home.

What makes CPAC stand out to me is its laid back, celebratory atmosphere; the opportunity to see a diverse range of panels from an equally diverse range of panelists; and its backyard accessibility. The latter probably accounts for why I initially started attending, but I keep coming back for what it offers: opportunity, heart, and love. It’s that simple. It’s also an absolute joy just to watch a con that celebrates the medium/culture you enjoy grow and mature.

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