This year I was invited to attend Anime USA, a small convention in Northern Virginia that’s hopped locations a few times between DC, Arlington, and the surrounding areas; but ultimately seems more at home in Arlington’s Hyatt Regency near Reagan National Airport. This is a smaller con but most importantly it knows Anime USA knows it’s a smaller con, the staff is friendly and attentive, they don’t overbook their location, and they go out of their way to feature local organizations and talent. So how does this year’s convention stack up?
Despite being a smaller convention, Anime USA manages to pack a surprising amount of talent among English VAs. This year, the con played host to Tiffany Grant (Asuka, Neon Genesis Evangelion), Emi Lo (Lucy, Cyberpunk: Edgerunners), Chris Patton (Oikawa, Haikyuu!!), and Sarah Williams (Sayaka, Puella Magi Madoka Magica); I’m not much into dubs myself but these are VAs who’ve done well-known roles. Con staff meanwhile, managed to handle the small crowds that showed up for them, I overheard con staff in the dealer’s room working with a vendor whose booth was next to a VA’s table to ensure their traffic wasn’t interrupted, while this might look like a hiccup, their prompt response speaks well to their organization.
The dealer’s room and artist’s alley are of course in my opinion, the main attraction of any convention. The dealer’s room featured vendors and importers from nearby states, and artist’s alley was much the same. One thing that bothered me was some booths were scattered about, a handful of vendors had been given table space on the bottom floor, outside of the artist’s alley and the dealer’s room. It’s unclear whether this was some sort of way to handle overbooked vendors, or if these were premium spaces (you had to pass them to get to the game room).
The Game Room is worth writing about on its own. Thanks to the reasonable crowd size at Anime USA, it was actually easy to get in and play a few rounds of rhythm games, Super Smash Bros, or whatever you wanted. The room even featured a big Rock Band set up in the corner, seemingly modded with dozens of anime songs. This is the kind of thing that smaller cons shine with, providing these communal resources to hang out and have fun and not just end up with a sweaty pit of people waiting in line.
Another thing smaller cons handle with, is featuring local talent and educators. Anime USA was host to Elizabeth Anne Cox, a traditional Japanese doll enthusiast. Mrs. Cox was given a space to display her doll collection and also host workshops throughout the weekend where congoers could make their own Hanafuda cards and rudimentary dolls in a traditional style. Mrs. Cox even took time to give me a small tour of her collection and taught me about the special coating authentic dolls have called “Gofun”, made with clamshell and animal glue which gives it a porcelain-like appearance. These kinds of experiences brought by actual enthusiasts can generally only be found at your local conventions. If dolls aren’t your thing, you can find a list of all the niche and interesting panels that were offered this past year here.
Maybe you don’t live near Washington D.C. and that’s fine. Ultimately Anime USA represents an enthusiastic return to local conventions in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, look around and see if you can find your own “Anime USA” in your area, or if you’re nearby come to the actual one. Maybe you’ll see me there next year.
Nicchiban was provided with a free Press Pass to attend Anime USA 2022. You can find additional information about Nicchiban’s review/ethics policy here.