I always look forward to Labor Day Weekend, it's like the last breath of summer before the fall starts along with school. Among the many comic/anime conventions around the Dallas area, one event has always been one of my favorites and that is Anime Fest Dallas! Held annually at the Hyatt Regency Dallas at Reunion Tower, Anime Fest is a non-profit organization for fans of Japanese Animation where many come from miles around to view new anime, buy & trade merchandise, "and just reveling in all that is anime." I've been a devoted fan and patron of Anime Fest since 1996 where it was held at a small Dallas Holiday Inn with only a small vendor room and one viewing room where we watched bootleg and fan(poorly)-dubbed anime on VHS! Since then it has grown into a huge annual event. Although it may not be as large as Dallas' A-Kon in June, it certainly brings a large number of fans with a huge vendor room, games, viewing, art show and costumes. (Oh, so many Cosplayers!)
Anime Fest is always a satisfying convention and usually not as overcrowded as A-Kon, however with every year it seems to grow and grow, which is fine except it will eventually grow out of the venue and move to a less convenient location. Those of us who live within the Dallas-Ft. Worth Metroplex know we don't have the biggest public transportation system in-between the cities and smaller suburbs but thankfully the TRE (Trinity Railway Express) is reliable and affordable enough and with the Anime Fest being located at Reunion Tower, the trains last stop comes to Union Station which drops you off right at the downstairs entrance to the hotel. This years Anime Fest, like always was a great hit and with special guests like director Kazuyoshi Katayama (Appleseed, Big O) and musical act Nirgilis, a Japanese Techno band, was definitely a success!
I must admit that in recent years I have not been able to endure all 4 days of the convention to the fullest and usually the best days to come is Saturday or Sunday. Unfortunately, I find myself getting older lately and having been an Anime Fest patron for the last 14 years I find that the majority of patrons usually range from within the 15 to 24 year old crowd and feel I have grown out of a lot of the more popular recent anime titles. As I am mostly an old-school type of anime (Gundam, Akira, Ghost in the Shell, Evangelion) fan I can still find enough merchandise and I always enjoy the various panels and vendors Anime Fest has to offer and I still love seeing all the costumes and cosplayers. Over the years I have observed the changing trends of anime fans and cosplayers with many popular titles whereas a few years ago it was a very heavy Inu Yasha crowd, whereas in recent years fans of other more recent titles such as Full Metal Alchemist, Bleach and Deathnote (or whatever Cartoon Network is showing currently!) gain more popularity. Many of the vendors mostly specialize in toys and other anime knick-knacks along with cosplay (costuming) vendors along with the various sub-cultures for punk, goth and steam-punk varieties. One bizarre fad this year seemed to be the popularity of these curious Japanese pajama-like hoodies called kigurumi, everybody was wearing them!
The best experience I had at this years Anime Fest was that I got to meet director Kazuyoshi Katayama and got his autograph and then later was able to view a very special screening of his new anime film King of Thorn, which was a real treat and many of he fans also seemed to like it. Well, I'm looking forward to next years Anime Fest and hope any fellow anime fans out there in the area will join me!