I guess I'm just an optimist.

I hope this is a new dawn, a new age of large conventions, one where everyone in sight isn't pissed off quite all the time. I really do.

And Fanime might be doing it. They've got good staff, good programming, they know the venue, and they're finding a niche — they're not AX, but they're not trying to be.

consider the staff.

Three guys dressed in black, with full face masks and headwear.

"You can't walk around the hotel dressed like that."

"We've been dressed like this all day, and no one's complained."

"Yes. You can be in the convention center. We rented the convention center. But you can't walk around the hotel lobby like that. The hotel management has to look out for the guests who aren't affiliated with the con."

"But. . ."

"I'm sorry. But you can't."

And they turned around with ill grace, and walked back into the convention center.

The point is that the staffer explained the rule. He reasoned with them, making the crucial point that there were spaces Fanime could control, and spaces they couldn't. It's a good trend, and one I've seen play out several times already.

Still though. Take another example. Fanime's always had a tough weapons policy, but they're also making a real effort to work with the cosplayers, give them some leeway. Take NeoDave, for example, a cosplayer I was photographing with a Jin-Roh outfit -- gun and all. The gun looked too realistic, so he couldn't carry it around. But the staff understood that the gun was an integral part of the costume, so they said, "If it's for a photoshoot, we can let you carry it for a short time." It wasn't an isolated incident. I heard similar stories from other cosplayers. This is an intelligent policy, implemented with the attendees in mind. (Of course, the staff never seems to be around when you need them, but it's a start. They've got a hard job and they do their best.)

It seems like there's more involvement at all levels, actually. Take for example the press department. I walked in, they had us on a list of approved press from last year, and they took us on a little tour of the facility. They ran their department with panache, with enthusiasm and style, giving us little anecdotes and making us, the benighted members of the press, feel like part of their group.

A cynic would say that they're just pandering to the press, trying to take advantage and sway public opinion, but I think it's more a sign of competence across the board.

the draw of fanime.

Fanime's always emphasized the video rooms. Starting last year, they've taken it to an extreme.

With the live-action offerings, for example, there's an entire separate asian film department, with its own schedules, its own rooms. Structurally, it's a completely separate organization within Fanime's video department.

Or Midnight Madness, a Fanime institution and a good show of how one obsessed fan can make otaku everywhere sit up and take notice of parody fandubs.

And that's just a small part of the midnight programming. Fanime is a true 24-hour con. Something's always running, and recently, a lot of things have been always running.

I mean, arcades and gaming, these have always run 24 hours. That's nothing new. Most cons will keep a video room running. Fanime runs all the video rooms, all the time, with special after-hours programming. Where else are you going to find an all-night yaoi room and all-night hentai room, battling it out in adjacent auditoriums? The swap meet went from 8pm to midnight. Panels run until 1 or 2 AM. The yaoi panel didn't even start until midnight.

Fanime's tagline is "by fans, for fans."

Of course, one criticism of Fanime is that it has a huge staff, far more than most other cons its size. But Fanime needs the staff to keep going at all hours.

Fanime redefines what we mean by "fan-run." Take Stage Zero, an officially-blessed makeshift stage set up in the concourse where fans can have their 15 minutes of fame.

The first day, we had a pretty liberal policy towards unofficial performances around the concourse. I liked it, but apparently there were some problems with crowd control, moving stuff around, whatever -- the policy seemed to tighten up quite a bit. I hope they'll allow people to perform next year -- I really enjoy walking around, listening to random people play the guitar, or pianica, or whatever. It's a tradition, after all. Ramen and Rice made the tradition, and Fanime's attendees have been carrying it along ever since.

—anonymous staffer

I'm surprised more cons don't pump anime music through the PA system. It's an easy thing to do, and it makes the convention more immersive, more of an experience, a unified thing that you can enjoy.

Then there's the Musicfest.

They've been doing that for three years, and it's been pretty uniformly successful. Every time, it's featured some unknown but good acts, and that's a pretty impressive feat.

When you put it that way, as a full-on experience rather than a collection of events, Fanime's relative lack of guests seems more palatable. They had some great bands, and it really was enough.

And, of course, Yamaga-san has been wonderful as always. Sometimes I think the best thing about the con is that they've managed to bring him back for ten years running.

—jeff