Cardiff may be the capital city of Wales, but it doesn’t get anywhere near the same attention of notoriety that London enjoys. It’s a busy city, no doubt about that, but it definitely has much more a calm vibe to it compared the the larger English cities. I love Cardiff because its just has a pleasant atmosphere surrounding it. Last weekend I spent a few nights in Cardiff to enjoy the Anime League Cardiff Anime & Gaming Convention (herby shortens to CACC). Just like the City gives of a calm vibe when compared to the busy English towns, CACC is a much more relaxed and free flowing kind of con, when compared to the big hitters like MCM’s comicon. Yeah, its not the be all and end all of conventions in the United Kingdom, but it isn’t trying to be. This has a much cosier and intimate scale which is great for Cardiff locals to get engaged in and have some fun.
So you’re a Otaku/ Gamer living in Cardiff, roaming around the streets looking to get into some trouble this weekend. You see this con is coming up and you pay the very reasonable entry charge of £9.00 per day or £16.00 for the both, what do you get for spending your hard earned Zenni? Well my gentle weeb, you get a significant amount of bang for your buck, because the guys at Anime League (the organisation behind this con) made sure that you’re never wanting for something to do. The event was spread across four floors of the Mecure Hotel and each floor had its own flavour, so let me walk you through the event so you get an idea of how it all went down. As you walk into the main reception you’ll be greeted by a select few stalls from some of the conventions prime guests; for example the Lightsabre combat academy, Ludosport.
Directly to your left will be the main dealers room. Which for me (as is so often the case) this was my con highlight. Yeah I know giving away the good early, but the fact of the matter it I saw it first and I love me a good dealers room. There was a good selection of merchandising stores on display and this was the single biggest room in the entire hotel by the looks of it so there were plenty of stands crammed in for your browsing pleasure. I managed to pick myself up a rather lovely print of Alphonse Elric from Full Metal Alchemist. Now this was a new experience for me, real life body pillows! I was all set to buy Yoko of Gurren Lagann fame, but I felt like my girlfriends might have been intimidated if I brought another women into our bed. Also you know, she was with me at the time and I couldn’t think of a good way to smuggle out a four foot tall pillow right in front of her. I was also extremely tempted by a scale model of Gypsy Danger from Pacific Rim, but I came to my senses when I saw the price tag. Thankfully though, the room wasn’t all absorbantly priced figurines and my companion made away with a few cheap and cheary thing-a-ma-bobs like a 4 star dragonball and a little Piplup key chain. This being the first con I went to with an Anime focus over gaming, I was pretty surprised to see how little gaming was represented, I mean yeah there were some prints and figurines knocking around the place, but he focus in this chamber of commerce was definitely shifted more towards the Japanimation (one of my personal favourite portmanteaus). That being said there was one stall I found with a selection of new and old games on display, modest though it was. I had my attention torn between original copies of Dino Crisis and Metal Gear Solid, so obvious I was geared up to buy both. But in the end my much more sensible companion managed to convince me to buy only one, so MGS it was. But funnily enough my main haul didn’t come from Video Games or Anime, it was all the Japanese snacks that seem to rest on every other store.
So after you’ve emptied your bank account of body pillows and pocky, you can move up to the first floor where the main stage sits. This is where they will have a lot of their guest hosting panels and Q&As as well as lots of audience participation type events. The main stage is handily situated next to the hotel bar, so you can refresh yourself with absorbinately price hotel drinks (assuming you have any money left after the dealers room). Though I will recommend you do make a trip to the bar because the sheer amount of people in attendance makes for a very sweaty main stage. At the very least this was the case on the first day, when numbers seems to be higher, or at he very least more concentrated to particular locations. This made for a really fun and energetic atmosphere that just permeated the entire hotel. Though I image seeing fifteen Deku cosplayers getting into one lift would be pretty confusing for the regular guests how had to go through the con just a little bit to get to and from their rooms. There was a lot of effort to make sure that there was always something happening in the main room, which makes sense you know, because its the main room. This is where they had all the big guests perform, such as local celebrities The Whovians and a live display by the Lightsabre academy LudoSport. For my money though, the main draw here are the audience interaction events, which definitely made up the bulk of the schedule. Obviously they hold a cosplay masquerade for you to ogle at he expertly put together costuming (Unfortunately, when I stopped in on the masquerade one of the participants accidentally fell from the stage, but to the staffs credit they very quickly dealt with this to make sure that she was safe and that there was a little disruption as possible). They also help a quiz, (in which I came 3rd), Karaoke, (Which I missed) and some more silly things like Dub That Anime (I’m just abusing brackets for fun now). The Highlight for me here was probably Anime Blind date, which takes on the same format from the famous Cilla Black show. Its just the kind of silly fun that brings everyone out of their shell a little and gets people interacting, which is great. The best participant I saw was the Tenth Doctor, who refused to break character.
Go up another floor and you can enjoy the smaller panel room which puts on more intimate chats and how-tos. I’m going to have to admit that I didn’t spend all that much time in the smaller room, mostly due to the fact that I wanted to check out the main stage when given the choice. That being said I did get a chance to stop in on a few of the chats. From what I saw these were a lot more laid back and more focused on actually having a conversation with the people in the room. Unfortunately, due to the nature of scheduling a big event like this, things have to overlap and you’re not going to see it all, much like myself. The important thing is that this smaller room is there as an option so you’re rarely left wanting for something to do.
Now things get a little less formalised and a lot of chill. Then the remaining rooms are all dedicated to specific aspects of nerddom such as gaming (both tabletop and video) and two generalised anime chillout zones. The Anime screening room is exactly what you’d think it is, a room that shows all the most popular anime, all allotted to different time slots. It’s a really nice space, but probably the least busy room in the whole con. If you’re feeling a little flush or tired this is the place to come and recharge your batteries. You can do much of the same in cosplay zone, which again is exactly what you’d expect. Its a room dedicated to settling down, fixing up your costume, having a chat about cosplay and maybe getting your picture taken for the official site. I wasn’t in cosplay so I didn’t have much call to go in here, when I did pop my head in I felt almost like an intruder. But maybe that’s because the room was filled with teenage girls when I took a look, and I’m about as far from a teenage girl as you can get. Just down the corridor is the table top gaming room, which comes pre-populated with the good stuff like Secret Werewolves and Arkham Horror. Or if you’re really looking to get into the HARD stuff, you can always start up a game of Monopoly. Not much else to just a great little pocket of a room with plenty to do. Then we go up a floor and we hit the good stuff, the gaming floor. Both retro and contemporary consoles fill this entire floor, as well as gaming PC’s and a friendly Dance Dance Revolution set up. Obviously, this is the floor that really grabbed my attention at the start of things, so I cracked my knuckles and got prepared to play nothing at all because its so damn busy. The organisers put on a lot to play with, but there’s only so much you can do when all of Cardiff is queuing up to play Super Smash Bros. Okay I’m being a little flippant, but this floor was very popular so be prepared to wait a little if there is a specific game you want to play. I did manage to get some quality time in with Call of Duty 4, which was a blast from the past. And me and my guest managed to create some stupid sculptures in Minecraft for other adventurers to find.
You’ve probably noticed a theme in my writing. The guys at Anime League have made sure there is an embarrassing amount of things for you to do while you’re at their convention. In terms of value, this might just be the best con you can go to in South Wales. Its a really busy and social weekend you’re buying into, which is great because so often Anime and Gaming can be quite solitary. Now I’m not going to start being a negative nancy here and start nitpicking for the fun of it, but there are a few things I’d say to watch out for if you’re thinking of going to the next con. The Main Stage is popular, but ridiculously hot and sweaty. The fact the matter is, you get a lot of people in an enclosed space, the humidity will be rising. So do yourself a favour and bring a water bottle or if you’re over 18 feel free to treat yourself to the Mecure Hotel’s bar. Another slight annoyance came from the layout of the hotel itself, for what ever reason you have to use an elevator to get between the 1st and 2nd floors, which is probably fine for the most part, but remember this con had significant footfall, so you might be waiting a while for a free lift. Its worth coming both days, but if you can only pick one it might be advisable to wait for Sunday which had a lower attendance so it was easier to move around. But if you want that jam packed atmosphere, then Saturday is your day.
“Okay stop Adam, I’ll buy a ticket”, I hear you cry gentle reader! “But what comes next for Anime League?”. Well they’re back in Cardiff on 10-11 February 2018, if you can’t wait until then, or you don’t live in Cardiff they do hold other events all over the country in the mean time. Feel free to check them out at: http://www.animeleague.net/forum/content.php, where you can learn all about their various conventions and other events throughout the year.