AnimeNEXT has always held a special place in my heart. After the initiation of our show, this was the first convention I went to. Heck, it was the first convention I went to outside of NYCC. The fact that it was so close to New York City but still felt like an out of town convention made it all the better. Road trip!
Having been here 3-4 years over, I knew exactly what to expect and received just that. It’s always been a perfect mix of hanging out, fun panels, large vendor and artist areas, cool events, and great performances on the main stage. Also, the fact that the convention crew themselves have always been so good to us and the community being so close knit just made it all the better. I rarely, if ever, have a complaint about ANext. (Sans the Heat, haha.) A lot of the content, although familiar, serves as a breath of fresh air when compared to other conventions that seem to be taking steps backwards in what they have to offer rather than expand. Lines ran smoothly, information booths made sure you knew where you were going, congoers acted properly, and the only thing that seemed off may have been some of the larger events starting later than scheduled.
Highlights of the weekend were definitely the FLOW concert, after Rave shenanigans, and Cosplay Burlesque skits. FLOW delivered a powerful performance full of old favorites and new covers that transported the crowd into their most beloved moments from shows that corresponded with all of the fantastic music. The people at conventions are one of my favorite things, because without them nothing would be possible. That being said, the energy during and after the Rave has always been sight to behold. The party itself speaks for itself but the positive atmosphere in the wee hours of the nights afterwards always makes everyone feel like family. The skit put on by the Cosplay Burlesque crew was nothing short of entertaining, geeky, and tantalizing. The Final Fantasy themed storyline made the performance all too familiar while allowing any additional character a performer wanted to portray to be immersed in the world. It’s always a blast to see what they’ve cooked up each year!
Around the end of the convention, a solemn air hit everyone still there. We all knew it would be AnimeNEXT’s final year at the Garden State Exhibit Center. The Atlantic City Convention Center would be the new home as of 2016. Lots of people had mixed feelings about it. Having come from ACBC (Atlantic City Boardwalk Con), which was held at this center, I had already seen first hand what was to come. An insanely larger venue, a city with a completely different atmosphere, a longer trip for some people, among other things. Some were happy this change may weed out younger congoers because of the adult nature of the city, but those younger fans made AnimeNEXT what it was in terms of enjoyment for people of all ages. Others were happy the convention is being steered towards a larger city, but to me that deviates from the smaller closer knit community ANEXT has been known for. The convention has never “sold out”, as far as I know, so I doubt a larger venue was sorely needed but maybe the staff felt they need the change in order to establish the convention as a serious contender in the line of Anime cons.
The best case scenario would be that the change in venue only emphasizes all of the positive aspects I’ve mentioned about the convention. It would be a shame to see such a drastic change take away from everything that has made ANEXT such a pleasure to frequent. Until then, I’d like to thank all of the staff and congoers for such an amazing few years. The memories I’ve made at this convention will be hard to surpass and I look forward to an even greater experience next year!