Anime Central 2016 is almost upon us celebrating its 19th year running this May 20-22, 2016.
Anime Central, known by most of its attendees simply as ACen, is a 3-day anime convention held in Rosemont, IL at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center and surrounding hotels. Reaching over 31,000 attendees in 2015, it is currently the 2nd largest anime-centric convention within the United States, and 3rd for all of North America.
ACen focuses specifically on Japanese animation (anime) and pop culture, but openly welcomes fans and cosplayers of all interests, so you’ll see lots of Western games, comics, and cartoons as well. ACen is family friendly and there is programming for all ages. Any 18+ programming is marked as such and attendees are ID’d on their way into the event.
Online registration ends on May 5th. After that, you will need to purchase your badge at the convention.
So now you might be wondering, “What do you do at ACen?” Well there is a lot to do and almost all events are included with the purchase of your badge!
While the Chicago area is always growing with new conventions, one thing that separates ACen from the other anime cons in the Chicago area are its guests. While they offer the chance to meet many North American guests such as English-language voice actors, ACen is always sure to have a few Japanese guests, such as in recent years Nobuo Uematsu, Yuu Asakawa, and Masashi Hamauzu as well as at least one Japanese performer. Recent past performers have included Imeruat, Kalafina, angela, SCANDAL, and FLOW.
This year’s guests include (but are not limited to) voice actors such as Erika Lindbeck and Kyle McCarley, Japanese Industry guests Takahiro Baba and Na-Ga, and Japanese vocalist Eir Aoi. Check out ACen’s full list of guests on their website.
Programming & Main Events
Anime Central has a packed schedule of programming of all types.
Panels are hosted by knowledgeable attendees (and sometimes guests) on a wide range of topics ranging from cosplay, voice acting, culture, creating your own manga, mythology, specific series/characters, and so much more! Some panels are even run by their cosplaying hosts as in-character.
For those that love to party, ACen’s Synergy and Soap Bubble raves are the place for you. Synergy is held Friday night and the Soap Bubble is held Saturday night of the convention. The dances are open to all ages until Midnight and 18+ afterwards. For those looking for something a little more elegant, the Crystal Ball formal dance is a nice dress-up event. Please be aware you will need a separate ticket for this one.
Over the weekend there are tons of cosplay events for those interested. From photo meet-ups centralized around your favorite games and anime to the Masquerade and Hall Cosplay contests you’re sure to find something. Go and check out some great costume craftsmanship and some fun skits!
If you get a little tired and want to relax, ACen offers video programming and a manga library as well. Multiple rooms separated by demographic will be playing a wide variety of anime the entire weekend. The Carolina Manga Library provides a large collection of manga for attendees to browse.
ACen hosts so many events, so check out their website for the full schedule.
Exhibitors & Industry
ACen boasts a very large show floor.
You can check out booths from the top of the anime industry such as VIZ and Funimation (North American anime and manga publishers), Good Smile Company (anime and game figures), and Japanime Games (tabletop games).
The Dealer’s Hall is very large with over 120 vendors attending this year. You’ll have great luck finding whatever you’re looking for whether it be clothing, figures, plushies, trinkets, games, blu-ray/DVDs, manga, and so much more. Not all of it is strictly anime related either—you’ll be pleasantly surprised on what you might find!
The Artist Alley will have over 150 artists displaying their work from fanart, original art, original comics, crafts and more. This is the place to be if you’re looking for that rare series or if you want to commission an artist for a drawing just for you. The Artist Alley thsi year has been populated differently from years past, so we’re sure to see lots of new faces!
So if you’re looking for something to do that weekend or just for a day, ACen is a great place to stop whether you’re a fan or just want to experience something brand new! It’s definitely a different atmosphere from standard comic cons and you’re sure to have a good time.
Check back after ACen for our full post-con review!