I have seen nothing but mixed reports about AUSA, and by mixed I mean negative. Allow me to be positive then! I had a great time at AUSA!
For a long time I have thought about giving up attending anime conventions in general because my fandoms and interests seemed to have outgrown anime but I left this convention refreshed and excited about watching new series for the first time in years! My boyfriend was almost appalled when I sat down in the living room after work one day and watched anime without being forced to. I blame my excellent weekend inn Washington D.C.
I arrived to the Marriot Wardman Park on Thursday evening after a long drive from North Carolina with Michael and Elizabeth, or the amazing Genevievfe d’Estelle a fellow D20 Girl. There we met with our roomies Maka Lee or Destiny Cosworks and Nathaniel or N3 Photography. My first impression of the new convention space was that it was spacious and beautiful. I never got to experience AUSA in it’s old convention location but I heard from many long time attendees the added space was a very welcome change.
As for hotel logistics I found the rooms small, and the parking over priced. My group decided to park our car at Michael’s brother’s home in Fairfax, VA to avoid the lavish charges. We then ran into the issue of many closures on the Metro line. A general logistical nightmare. Throughout the weekend I found myself very unimpressed with the level of customer service the hotel provided. Most hotels are accommodating and the staff polite if not kind, apparently the Marriot Wardman Park does not subscribe to the idea that the hotel guests are customers and many of the staff treated us con attendees very rudely. On Sunday, when trying to check out of the hotel we were told misinformation by several employees and were bounced around, and even hung up on several times while just trying to find out where, if possible, we could store our luggage while fetching our vehicle from Fairfax. Eventually we were able to find one kind soul in the bellhop department that took all of our luggage that we were previously told they would not hold. Needless to say we were so thankful we tipped them handsomely.
Another staff issue we found was the security staff at several points in the convention it seemed like the security staff was just bored and started creating mountains out of molehills. Mostly asking photographers I knew to move because they were “in a busy walkway” while they were in actuality taking photos in an abandoned hall. Now I understand that maybe the Marriott was not expecting the crowd that comes hand in hand with anime conventions but at some point being protective can easily turn into being, well, a dick.
At least the convention staff was great! I feel the convention was ran like a well-oiled machine. I have never in my life sat through a Masquerade where things started on time! Every single staff member I encountered seemed like they were happy to be there and knew exactly what to do an the answers to my questions. It was incredibly refreshing. Also a big kudos to the press room staff for being so incredible. Us D20 Girls attending as press felt very welcomed, they were so very accommodating. Thanks to the lovely press staff we were able to do a video interview with Richard Ian Cox, one of our girls’ favorite voice actor.
As many of you know, cosplay is my ultimate scene. I have never been much of a panel attendee but I love people watching, meeting new cosplayers, and trading techniques. Every cosplayer I spoke to was absolutely lovely. The attendees of AUSA were much nicer than many of the attendees of North Carolina conventions. I encountered absolutely no snotty or elitist attitudes that our cosplay community seems to be plagued with. I had the pleasure of speaking with two of my favorite cosplayers: Breathlessaire and Starlight Honey. Both were just as beautiful in person and very sweet. After I was judged for the Hall Cosplay competition I left feeling amazing, partially because there ladies were so kind. All of the Friday judges for the Hall competition were great as well, the overall experience of competing was so refreshing. I left the judging room feeling like I had already won in my book. I was happy, and felt satisfied with the work I’ve done. But luckily enough for me I also won an honorable mention in the Journeyman category. I felt pretty amazing because I so rarely enter competitions.
One of my favorite events of the weekend was the Burlesque, ran by the amazing folks of Cosplay Burlesque. I had the pleasure of attending the Friday night show and it was a hoot! Equal parts sexy, equal parts hilarious. I recommend attending one of their shows if you are ever given the opportunity.
My personal highlight of the weekend however was getting the opportunity to be in front of the amazing Anna Fischer’s camera. Not going to lie, I fan-girled hard. I have long followed Anna’s work and couldn’t believe I got this chance, not only with my Lenna costume but also my Relm costume. The maid cafe was adorable and the Host club was a great Saturday night treat. But my overall highlight of the weekend was spending time with my girls Liz, Mina and Maka. I truly do believe any convention is what you make it, and I think I made my time at AUSA incredible.