Mizucon 2013 Review! (SCI: Case 1)

Remyelle September 24, 2013 No Comments »
Mizucon 2013 Review! (SCI: Case 1)

Mizucon 2013
Miami, FL
Since 2008
1st time attending
June 14-16 (3 day)

Now this is an article all about how,
Two friends took a weekend out of town,
I’ll try to keep it short, so won’t you please read on
for this humble blogger’s take on this year’s Mizucon!

Alright, alright. So maybe I lack the funky fly stylings of the Fresh Prince, but you can’t blame a girl for trying, can you?

 

Mizucon 2013 marked the first stop on the Summer of 2013: Wrath of Con(ventions) schedule, and D’Kriss and I decided to kick things off the right way– with a roadtrip! Our destination? Our sunny southern neighbor, Florida. More specifically Miami’s Mizucon. Our expectations?

Well…Mixed, actually.

If your eye landed here, you want elaboration. I have extra, so I’ll share.
(Yes, I know I’m long winded, but look– pictures!! Also, a concise general rating of the convention is located at the bottom!)

First Impressions/Website/Booking:

You never get a second chance at first impressions, it’s true. Occassionally though, a lackluster first impression can be all but completely ignored due to extenuating circumstances.

“Oh really?” I hear you trying to skepti-call me out. “What kind of extenuating circumstances?”

Well…a little case of PEBUK, to be concise about it. That and package deals. Those and magical unending soda.
…Stop tilting your head like that; you’ll get a cramp.
Just keep reading.

So yeah, D’Kriss and I were in the process of narrowing down a substantial list of Southeastern conventions and happened to run across Mizucon’s listing.

Like any good research ferrets, cursory curiousity led to the internet in general and Mizucon.com in particular. Where the convention’s site was concerned…well, the kind word would be ‘neglected’. The simple design definitely had the potential to be super-cute, but as we explored further nearly every link we clicked yielded nothing more than a plain text “blank coming soon!”

Events?

“Events coming soon!”

Schedule?
“Schedule coming soon!”

Press?
“This information is in another castle!”

Can you imagine the looks we were exchanging at this point?

Honestly, I wasn’t aware either of our brows could lift so high. Persistant slugger-buggers that we are, we continued.

Guests?

I almost back-buttoned my way out of there from sheer habit, but realized that something was listed. Just one name and a blurb at the time…but that singular name was more than enough to sell me.

Lisa Ortiz, better known as Lina Inverse and half a dozen other iconic 90’s dubs. The English voice actress responsible for covering most of Megumi Hayashibara’s roles when they were exported! Maybe I could ask her to yell “Dragon Slave!” or some other inane thing that’s likely been over-requested. Maybe she’d get fed up enough that she’d reveal actual dark magic ability and nuke me into next week. Maybe we could just chat or do an interview. (In the course of which, I could potentially inhale air she’d previously had in her lungs and absorb a fragment of her awesome~! …Don’t you look at me like that. Life’s more fun to the easily excited!)

Well frenzied frolicking fangirls, Batman– I was officially beyond interested and more than a little motivated to persevere through the desert of a website. Fortunately “Location” and “Registration” were also among the working links, and a gratifying click later gave us the price check we needed. (D’Kriss is an amazingly good sport when it comes to my obsessions and, hell, we both needed a vacation.)

We braced ourselves for the possibility that it might be out of our financial clutches, and then wound up just staring at our options for a good while.

It was… better than expected! Not only did they offer several pricing options, but among them were multiple package deals comprised of varying levels of spiffiness. After double-double checking that the convention was legit, we decided to spring for the “Silver Package.”

It seemed to have everything we could need or want: two nights stay at the hosting hotel, two weekend passes, two official t-shirts, two Ramune, discount pass (didn’t realize we had this until re-researching for the article!), priority line privileges, and a super special sponsor badge. (See what I mean now? It’s like it came with a goody bag!)

Purchase was as easy as I’ve come to expect all online transactions to be.

A click here, a card number there, and voila!! Money to them; one super convenient ticket to me.

One ticket to cover everything for both Krissia and me for the entire weekend.

One ticket for the con, the extras, and the hotel stay… One ticket to rule them all, one ticket to find them…one ticket to bring them all and in the hotel and convention and registration and…wait… had we indicated what kind of room we wanted? Would it cost extra for another bed? What if we got in after convention registration ended? Would the hotel know what to make of this strange piece of paper?

There was a total of one call made to the hotel on our drive down, and they assured us that the mystical powers of the internet had guaranteed us a room along with our convenient omni-ticket. No fancy convention desk to hotel voucher swap over or anything of that sort. They always had someone at the check in no matter the hour, and we’d go from there.

Location:

2013 marked the convention’s first year at the Sheraton Miami Airport Hotel and Executive Meeting Center. That makes it super convenient!!

…Iiiiif you’re A) from Miami, B) from lower Florida, or C) possess the secrets of teleportation. (…If you happen to be Nightcrawler with a tan, it might actually be TOO convenient! You’re likely there now!)

If you’re anything like Krissia and me (which is to say, neither Nightcrawler nor tan), you’ll probably end up driving. If you also hail from the land of peaches, I recommend beginning your journey before 1pm on Friday. (It’s a good thing the front desk had confirmed being open at all hours!)

Over the course of a 10 hour or so journey southward, we sang some songs, read some books, laughed at crazy things, laughed at nothing, made some pit-stops, hugged some palm trees, took a midnight sprint through a convenience store, and ate some food.

Then, just to add that spicy kick of adrenaline pumping terror to our roadtrip strudel, we took a nice little tour of the sketchiest highway exit we could find at the most unthinkably late hour we could manage just before rolling into our intended destination.

 

Location-wise, this was hardly the most convenient part of Florida to reach. Next year, we’ll definitely be taking the private jet I plan to buy with the lottery money I plan to win with the luck I plan on squeezing out of the leprechaun that I…yeah, we’ll probably just give ourselves more time to make the drive.

Venue:

Despite it’s ridiculously long title, the Sheraton Miami Airport Hotel and Executive Meeting Center was one of the best parts of our trip…accommodation-wise.

As guests with a keycard.

I’m going to sing their praises in a few columns.

As a convention venue? …We don’t need to break out the sheet music just yet.

The convention officially took up the bulk of the second floor with sign-in/up conveniently located right at the heart of it. Most panels were held in the smaller meeting spaces, the dealer’s room occupied a larger meeting space, one large hall was available for some of the more movement oriented presentations, and the art showcase/dealers took up residence in the open hall space in front of it.

It was more than enough space with several rooms left unused and some of the larger areas rarely filled. Conventioneers had full access to the hotel though and their presence was definitely obvious in the lobby as well as outside by the pool and in the external sitting areas.

Everything was clean and neat. One of the elevators was devil possessed and liked to rumble and rattle on every ascent and descent, but lucky for us it had not yet gathered enough power to take lives directly. The hallway to the meeting rooms could sometimes get a tad congested and…that’s about it. Like I said: Sheraton Miami Airport Hotel and Executive Meeting Center is really good at being a hotel.

…I hear you asking where my point is.

Remember the top of the page where I mentioned that this was the first year that Mizucon used this location? I really didn’t need to Google diddly squat to figure that out.

Sheraton Miami Airport Hotel and Executive Meeting Center (from here on in I’m calling it SMAHEMC) is obviously designed and run with professional business people in mind.

Conventioneers, especially our sub-species of anime conventioneers, are kind of like the opposite of that.

As a member of this particular fantribe, it’s easy to forget that there are other types of “conventions” that don’t involve ninjas, costumes, and neko ears. It’s easy to forget that excited crowds can get tiring to those outside them…

Needless to say the Sheraton’s shell shock was obvious, and the mood of the staff seemed to steadily decrease the longer the convention ran. I had to wonder if these poor SMAHEMC people had even been warned, or if they’d expected another set of panels and presentations over stocks, losses and/or new inventory.

No one was never unprofessional or rude…but some came close for sure.

Most notable was the early shut-down Saturday night and the room rearranging the next day. I don’t think anything was canceled, but the dance party in the big hall was definitely brought to a premature close and a few gamers were definitely less than thrilled with the shut down of their track.

All guests NOT staying at the hotel were asked to clear out by a certain time.

There were a few other instances of head butting here and there between the hotel and the convention heads. A room over capacity needed a few people to take off and go elsewhere. They asked for volunteers. Fire codes exist for a reason; no hard feelings there. A panel that had alcohol present in the room demanded everyone exit and reenter after showing proper id. Again, the law is there for a reason. I understand. Please be nice about it.

I’m a big believer in “two sides to every story,” and understand that there were reasons behind the scheduling changes even in the instances I didn’t get the full scoop on. However, with a hotel as nice as SMAHEMC, I feel that some of these events could have been dealt with a bit more discreetly and/or professionally.

Attendance:

I’m terrible at estimating when it comes to crowds, but I’d be WAY surprised if the con broke 800 guests. It was a strange sensation for me…almost reminiscent of a school field trip or at least an outing sponsored by a school.

It was never empty or barren or even sparse– the space was perfect for the size. However, although there were always people around, they seemed to be the same people over and over. By the end of the day I was feeling compelled to give the greater percent of any given gathering a head nod of “our eyes have met before. I acknowledge that you exist” at the very least, over half I could wave two without awkward, and one or two warranted a verbal acknowledgement.

There were only a few noteable panels where extra chairs were brought in (only to later be removed) to avoid standing room only.

Age-wise, Mizucon seemed to have a large college-age crowd. There were certainly a smattering of younger attendees (especially earlier in the day), but they didn’t have a very large presence where the feel of the con was concerned.

Atmosphere:

Notably small, but pleasantly intimate. As I mentioned, it was way nostalgic for me, and encapsulated that sensation of situationally obligatory acquaintance making. …Or rather the “this is your 2nd grade class and it’s the only one you get until next year. Make nice and pick some friends,” simplicity of my early years.

The convention staff was obviously passionate and good spirited even in the midst of all the hustle and bustle running things entails, the guests seemed happy to be there, and just about everyone came off as super laid back.

Even when things didn’t go quite as planned Saturday evening, everyone spoke and acted as though we were in it together, and alternative fun-having-initiatives were launched.

Panels:

Despite it’s size, Mizucon filled up an entire hallway of meeting rooms with programming for a good portion of each day. Most of it consisted of spoken presentations by people who not only knew what they were talking about, but really cared about the subject matter. Some of these panels were definitely more entertaining than others, and none really offered anything mind-blowingly new, but props need to be given for the amount of real-time, in-the-flesh presenting that happened at Mizucon.

There were still the obligatory wacky video and anime viewing rooms shuffled in there too. (We love them!! Seriously, I can’t get enough of the Wacky Japan panels!) Photoshoots were set up, games were played both in the video game room and the middle of the hallway, dances and interactive panels were hosted, the guests each had their Q&A panels (I made it to one total, but that one was really fun), making for a surprisingly diverse and active convention.

…That being said, the entire convention really gained its own personality due to a single set of guests who, in this blogger’s opinion, really stole the show! (After attending my first of their panels, I reworked my schedule for maximum stalkage!) These guests represented a Floridian stunt combat team called the Urban Ronin and they rocked the face off of any presentation they did. (No really. The floor looked like a latex mask factory at the end of their shows. It was crazy weird. O.O)

I could go on about them forever…and I will!! But not in this article because it’s already super long and no one actually likes reading words any more. (Also, you guys are should go ahead and get stoked now because I got video and an audio interview!)

Gaming:

There was a dedicated video gaming track that was open whenever the convention was. Additional panels for card games such as “Cards Against Humanity” and Yu-Gi-Oh were also featured, and spontaneous card based games often seemed to break out in the various rest areas.

(Not, like, the bathrooms kind of ‘rest areas’, but near benches and at tables in the Maid Cafe.)

My only regret is not joining one of the open games, but alas… at the time I attended Mizucon, I had not yet been exposed to the sick, twisted fun (that needs a portmanteau..ficktwistun, maybe? Sicwistun? …I’ll work on it.) that is Cards Against Humanity. In my uninitiated ignorance, I regarded it with all the skepticism of a 13 year old faced with family board game night.

My heart now has a sadness that only comes from missed opportunities to shock and horrify relative strangers in a socially approved setting…

Guests:

Tia Ballard- Voice actress. Notable roles include “Happy the Cat” from Fairy Tail, “Mizore Shirayuki” from Rosario + Vampire, and “Xiao Mei” from Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood.

 

Leah Clarke- ADR director. Voice actress. Notable roles include “Nodoka Miyazaki” from Negima!, “Fuyuki” in Sgt. Frog, and “Blair” from Soul Eater.

 

Lauren Landa- Stage and voice actress. Notable roles include “LItchi Faye LIng” from BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger, “Kyoko Sakura” from Madoka Magika, and “Yan Leixia” from Soul Calibur V.

 

Joel McDonald- Director. Writer. Voice actor. Notable roles include “Brief” from Panty and Stocking, “Takumi” from Initial D, “Poland” from Hetalia, and “Captain Flynt” from Borderlands 2.

Joel was the only guest I had the opportunity to see during the con. I made some notes from his Q&A session which may or may not make it into an article at this point. Overall, he was really entertaining, and his stance that voice acting requires being an actor and an entertainer point was well demonstrated by his demeanor and improvisational skills.

Cosplay:

Catered to? Yes!

Seen in bulk? Not as much as I’d expect, but that might just be a numbers bias as I’ve grown accustomed to larger crowds.

There were definitely a number of panels dedicated to various aspects of cosplay, and probably an equal number of photoshoots. There was even a small booth in the artists’ alley dedicated to costume repairs!

However, even though there were certainly ‘cozzers’ in attendance (some really great ones in fact! Super detailed Al Elric, I’m looking at you!), there just wasn’t the percentage I feel like I usually see.

Shopping:

I wouldn’t call this a consumer con by any means, but the dealer’s room and artist’s alley were both a nice size, varied, and open nearly as long as the con was. A maid cafe also sold ramen, snacks, ramune and bubble tea during limited hours.

Dealer-wise, you had around 10 vendors to choose from. The booths included dvds, manga, jewelry, figurines, costume components (masks, collars, ears, tails, premade popular costumes), phone covers, wallets, and Japanese snacks. They managed to cover just about everything outside of representing custom made products like oils, leather works, and more detailed costuming needs.

The artists alley had the expected prints of original art and on the spot commissions. There were also plushies (Takoberry being one of my favorite discoveries here), clever ‘potions’, hand crafted jewelry, and the aforementioned cosplay repair station.

Basically: If you like spending money at cons, Mizucon has places to help you channel that for sure. If you’re a “there for the experience” kind of con-goer, the money in your pocket has a decent chance of making it home with you.

Food:

If you had a room at the hotel, food was not only tasty, but free*!

(*Provided that you were privy to the secret schedule and knew when the Brigadoon buffet appeared. I suspect we just missed the beginning of the quest line.)

Really!! In addition to giving us access to beds and a shower, our keycard also unlocked the ‘club’ room. That club room would, at random times, sprout meals. NO, this is not another one of my sleep deprived caffeine dreams. We could eat those meals free of charge.

Even if we missed meal time, the magic room also had a mini fridges containing cans of soda and

bottles of water. Also free. All the time. If you’re into coffee or tea, it had that too, but let’s back up…

Hotel keycard= free anytime soda.

EPIC.

Nothing can really top that though, so buckle up: it’s all downhill from here.

The hotel restaraunt is only open during “normal” eating hours (not to be confused with anything you might read on fliers or signs, mind you.) If you figure out the timing, you can then avoid guessing at a passcode by following inconspicuously behind anyone wearing a button-down shirt. A few well timed ninja rolls should be enough to land you at a table. Play your cards right, and you’ll probably even get a menu!

Although the cuisine isn’t pricey to the point of further facetiousness, the hotel restaraunt is not for the light on cash crowd ($8 appetizers, $12-$22 entrees, and we were only there for lunch!) or people in a rush. The gratuity is automatically added in as well. Not an uncommon practice, but I’d like to blame the guaranteed income for our server’s charming demeanor. That or D’Kriss may have kicked his puppy and not noticed. Or maybe we look like his arch nemesis. See? Too many possibilities otherwise, so I might as well blame the tip-thing or we’ll be here all night.

So what do you do if you don’t have access to the magic room, don’t want maid cafe ramen, and either refuse to pony up for the restaraunt or find that it’s closed?

Well…put on your walking shoes. The golf club next door was only offering bar food when we visited them, but their staff was super sweet. Even after we were pretty sure that we’d be moseying elsewhere, the club invited us to cool down and have some water.

If you happen to be the adventurous, “show us the hard way!” crowd like we are, you can traipse around and see what you can find beyond the golf course. Our journey took us down a decent stretch of road past a small water park, past some…residences? (strange city planning), and then into a more commercial area. It seemed like there were a good number of options where cheap, fast dining was concerned. There was a grocery store there as well, and likely a lot more options if you feel like driving.

Price:
3 Day Pre-Reg: $25
3 Day At Door: $40
Silver Package: $296.39 for two

Not only did they offer several pricing options, but something I really haven’t seen many conventions do: package deals comprised of varying levels of spiffiness. After double-double checking that the convention was legit, we decided to spring for the “Silver Package.” As previously mentioned, it seemed to have everything we could need or want: (want to see that list again? Here you go!) two nights stay at the hosting hotel, two weekend passes, two official t-shirts, two Ramune, discount pass for certain vendors (didn’t realize we had this!), priority line privileges, our name on the website, and a super special sponsor badge.

When we arrived, we were also invited to pick out a free cd, which officially meant that the bonus came with bonus!

I’ll extol the virtues of package deals at a later date, but here the question remains: was it worth it?

Tickets at $40 are on the high-end of small convention admission, even for door price, even for all three days. However, that’s not what we paid.
Let’s break down the package:
2 tickets @ $40 = $80
2 shirts @ $20= $40
That already puts the hotel near $90 per night without accounting for anything else.
I think I’ve mentioned that the hotel was super swank, right? If we’d taken advantage of the ‘club’ lounge, it would have basically been all-inclusive. I wouldn’t have thought twice about $130 per night…a price that would virtually make the tickets and everything else in the package free.

Overall, it’s really quite the deal.

Website:
http://www.mizucon.com/
Do NOT use this as your primary information primer where Mizucon is concerned. As previously stated, my biggest problems with the convention started here initially. The information is outdated, the updates are few and far between, and the links are mostly for show. (You may have noticed that I never DID get a chance to meet Lisa Ortiz. That’s because she was there the previous year. Not this year. I’m not mad though.)

However, this is not to say that they were wholly negligent where web-presence was concerned. I was just looking in the wrong place.

https://www.facebook.com/MizuconMiami
This seems to be where updates and information regarding the convention live. Although the “Official Fan Page” appellation is a little confusion, I think it’s as official (and likely more informative) than the previous site.

It runs in posted timeline style like most facebook pages, and will keep you updated in your news feed if you let it. I bet that next year I’ll be better informed.

TL;DR rankings-
Value: 4/5
Size: 1/5
Star Power: 1/5
Venue: 3/5
Overall: 3/5

Returning: Yes

Suggestions:
Come expecting a fun time and you will find one. Come expecting a giant con with a lot of star power and you will likely be underwhelmed.
The small size is enjoyable so long as you take it for what it is and enjoy Mizucon on it’s own merits. Take advantage of the package deals and plan on making your stay long enough to warrant whatever distance you might have to cover.

We drove back to Atlanta long past seven or eight
After bidding our goodbyes to the sunshine-y state
This year might be over, but the future’s yet to be seen:
What will Mizucon surprise us with in twenty fourteen? 🙂

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