For the past four years, I have began the ‘con season’ with a quick plane trip and…not so quick coach journey to a city on the Western coast of Ireland called Galway and quite possibly one of the best cons I’ve ever been to. Not just in terms of things to do but in the people behind it and the memories.
Akumakon is ran by the Anime and Manga Society of NUIG in Galway and this year has seen its fourth iteration and the fourth time I’ve visited. I remember the first event in 2011 [see pictures below] and even though it was their first time hosting an event, I felt there was massive potential in the staff and attendees present. It had one hundred and fifty people through the doors; not bad for a first event. However that didn’t matter to me at all. The people made the con and the people were vocal, kind, talkative and awesome. Akumakon hosts a really good maid cafe, dealer’s room as well as novel and interesting plays and musical performances to go alongside the traditional anime fayre. Now in 2014, the con had over a thousand visitors and is seen as a jewel of western Ireland’s anime world.
This year was the same kind, warm and exciting atmosphere as had graced me before, but this year everything felt all the more professional and polished. The dealer’s room had doubled in size, the main panel room could now fit over two hundred people and the student bar had become a secondary haven for con goers, being open far more than it had been in previous years. The con space is relatively small than at other events, but the space is used well and in a manner well suited for anime cons. The dealer’s room is front and centre, the maid cafe and bar are nearby and everything else is self contained. Perfect if you’ve bought a lot of merch/swag!
The con starts on Friday and ends on Sunday, but myself, xthedarkone, Lady Nanaki [my friends and also guests] and my girlfriend arrived super late on the Friday and were in no condition to join festivities [a three hour coach drive does that to you!] so we resolved to start proceedings on the Saturday – fresh, bright-eyed and bushy tailed! Saturday was a busy day despite us all having our panels late at night. We had loads of pictures taken, signed lots of things for people, chatted to fans and followers about anime and other things – it was all a grand time. That is one of the main parts of conventions I enjoy; chatting to the fans and chilling out with them. It makes it all real – not just an internet whim. It’s rather touching and humbling.
One highlight was taking part in the convention’s own podcast, the AkumaKast. Using the university’s own radio studio [Flirt FM] myself, xthedarkone and Lady Nanaki were interviewed for twenty-five minutes about our experiences at the con, ourselves and the intense lightning round of questions at the end when we nearly ran out of time! It was fun to think off the top of my head. After that, we went to a two-hour panel with some of the Japanese guests that had come to show special videos and talk about their works. Michiko Suwa, Hirokatsu Kihara and Kaoru Wada had flown all the way from Japan to be there and had a translator at hand as well as prizes to be won in a special raffle. It was an interesting panel and I did win something – a really cool Roshi figurine!
Saturday night saw me, X, Lady Nanaki and Niall [the con director] take on the audience in a round of Cards Against Humanity which went down a storm and nearly filled the room despite it being an 18+ panel. We had four audience members come up in order to win the chance of being crowned king or queen of Akumakon. After two hours, we had a winner in Andrew who had marvellous luck and skill to win ten cards with Niamh coming a close second with seven. The ‘pros’ were resoundingly beaten but that was OK – we had some corking answers and the night was made. After that I stuck around on stage for the hentai panel…oh my. I had been on it last year and I remember it being both fun and traumatising. This year, the latter was more prevalent in the content shown at the panel…but what do you expect at a hentai panel?! Fionne and Adrian who were running it were great at hosting and relishing in the audience’s horror. Let’s just I can’t look at body pillows the same way again…or vacuum cleaners. I remember taking my girlfriend to it last year [that was her first convention experience by the way] and…it made an impression, let’s say.
Sunday began with my panel – Jazz and Jellybeans. The reason being that I usually hold livestreams with jazz music in the background in order to convey a relaxed and chilled out vibe to the room and the jelly beans come from an in-joke formed at Akumakon 2013. It was a very personal and unique format for a conventional type of panel. I had a small turnout [this being Sunday morning and Ireland – the previous night was taking its toll on most of the con-goers I’d imagine] but the people that were there were interested in what I had to say and took part with enthusiasm and jollity. That’s what matters at panels, audience participation. So I’d say my panel was a success! X then did his panel later on and that went down well too for his first appearance at the con which made me happy. Speaking of happy, we were filming a short music video during the con to the styles of Pharell Williams’ song ‘Happy’ using the con goers as extras as well as locales around Galway and the university, it was a lot of fun!
In all, I love Akumakon. I love the people, I love the staff and I love the place. Galway is a beautiful city and I don’t care about the long coach ride from Dublin airport – it’s totally worth it. I wouldn’t miss this con for the world. I’ve seen it grow and mature into Ireland’s third convention [Eirtakon and Nom-con being the largest in Ireland] and the country’s best convention according to The Arcade site. It’s been an honour and a pleasure to see this con grow and flourish and hope to be there for as long as they’ll have me! If you can make it to Ireland, I’d seriously consider going. It’s a great way to start off your year and the craic is to die for!
Major thanks to everyone who took care of me during the weekend especially Shane, Kira, Becky, Sharon, James, Chloe, Mikey, Fi and of course Niall. I love you guys!
To cap things off, I received an Irish flag signed by the attendees as well as a committee shirt to commemorate me becoming an honorary member of the Akumakon committee. It was such a touching gesture and I love the shirt and not only because it’s purple; but because of what it represents. Friendship, growth, prosperity, fun and strength. BearKon, Best Con.
[DVD Extras – the folks at the Geek Eire podcast drew this cool drawing of DBZ Abridged Goku with his trusty bacon and muffin]