「London Anime and Gaming Con 2021」
I want to preface this post by saying I have never attended a London Anime and Gaming Convention before. Or an AnimeLeague event for that matter. From what I’d gleaned through research, it would be a more casual, less formal convention. One by fans for the fans. And that is exactly what it turned out to be.
For those wondering about COVID, I would be shocked if I haven’t been exposed to the Delta Variant. Social distancing was completely out of the question with steady streams of people spiraling around. I guess I did expect healthy amounts of commotion, which is rather irresponsible on my part. Still, I made a conscious choice to attend, because I have been vaccinated and religiously wore my face mask around the event. Not saying it justifies my attendance, but I was also quite curious to see how conventions would be affected in the immediate aftermath of COVID-19. And this just happened to be the first one.
Disclaimer: I only attended the Saturday Session around 1:00pm-6:00pm, so all my thoughts and opinions specifically cover and reflect the experience for this particular time period.
The convention took place at Novotel West London. Upon arriving, I encountered an immediate roadblock, spending 10-20 minutes figuring out how to access the convention. There was also a vaccination center at the hotel, so many confused guests including myself approached the vaccination center staff – who all turned out to be just as confused as we were. Fortunately we were able to find our way in after randomly stumbling around to an elevator.
I think AnimeLeague could have done more to signpost navigation in the immediate vicinity of the convention. e.g. Have stewards or custom made directional placard placed in the venue lobby. The venue also had multiple entrances, and from the direction I entered from, it wasn’t clear how the reception could be accessed.
That said, the venue felt up-class compared to the usual London exhibition centres, since it was hosted in a hotel conference area. It wasn’t the largest of enclosed spaces. However, there was enough to accommodate two live stages, dozens of stalls, a video gaming section, as well as a downstairs section dedicated to particular demographic of enthusiasts. To surmise, I felt the layout was aesthetically pleasing, smartly arranged and space efficient.
The event itself was extremely lively. Full of heart and soul. Livelier than any other convention I’ve attended. When I say that, I do not mean there was more hubbub than bigger events. It was a smaller venue, so there was understandably lower levels of activity going on. But each stage event, each individual attendee, each stall seemed more spirited than I’ve ever seen – presumably because everyone has been hankering to attend a convention with the last London one being eighteen months ago as if they’d been saving up their energy for this day.
Credit goes to the event organisers themselves – it felt like an event by fans for the fans, which entailed hosting events centered on attendees. Other conventions feel more ‘professional’ where they will feature traditional culture pieces or invite important guests for stage events. To clarify, this convention did had Q&A panels with industry figures – and that’s not to say these sort of industry insights are bad in any way. However, there was a higher proportion of fan involvement – which made the events uniquely fun from my perspective as part of the audience. My personal highlight being the lightsaber tournament near the main gallery entrance – which attracted a huge crowd of spectators. There were also enthusiastic attendees dancing and singing in cosplay to popular anime and game songs on the main stage.
Artist Alley/Cosplay Zone/Anime Viewing Zone
The Artist’s Alley was quite small with few stalls – which made me feel sad, since I love seeing rows of artists exhibit their wonderful illustrations. That isn’t to say the artists in attendance were bad. I just would have loved to see more when it comes to different styles. If the organisers of the event happen to know certain high profile, UK-based artists, I reckon they should try reaching out to them to see if they are interested in attending the event. I think the Anime Viewing selection could have benefitted from selecting lesser known shows that are fantastic. If you asked me, I’d reckon that any event goer who is an anime fan would have seen 70-80% of the shows they had selected to put on.
In terms of improving how information could be provided, I think it would be helpful if the organisers could bring forwards more consistency in having stalls correctly allocated to the main market and artist areas. It can be pretty confusing if a person wanted to look for the artist’s alley, only to find that quite a few of the artists were flogging their wares in the main market area.
Events and Panels
I attended the Lip Sync Battle and Elsie Lovelock’s main stage events. The Lip Sync Battle was extremely fun and gathered a huge crowd. Elsie Lovelock’s panel attracted less people, since I believe she’s a voice actress for a series named Hazbin Hotel which seems to be off the radar of weebs. However, I thought her industry insider perspective was quite fascinating. Especially the way she highlighted that Western voice actors coming from the UK have a tougher hill to climb compared to their American counterparts, since the industry has less of a presence in the UK compared to over there.
I was quite curious about the Harajuku Fashion Show. But after waiting around for half an hour and not seeing anything materialise on the stage, I decided to wander elsewhere – a decision that proved correct because my sister informed me that she waited a full hour to no avail. That’s something the event organisers can work on here – ensuring that events stick to a tight schedule so that people who’ve paid their good money don’t end up sitting around doing nothing expecting an event to start soon.
Video Game Zone
So where did I wander off? To check out a Darth Vader Garrison on the second stage. That was a very fun spectacle. However, I was merely en route to the Video Gaming Section to check out their gaming tournaments. What follows is probably my biggest piece of criticism towards the event. Having missed the sign-up window, I was spectating the 1v1 League of Legends tournament. To my shock, one PC was very bad with very low FPS while the other one was a proper gaming PC with 200+ FPS. Moreover, the tournament organisers would schedule certain players to play all their games on the good PCs – which seemed very questionable in terms of competitive integrity to me.
I think either both players should play on a bad PC, or both players should play on a good PC to make the event fair. Inconsistent 30 fps vs 240fps is a ridiculously unbridgeable gap where the person on 240fps should win 100% of the time if they are decent/competent regardless of skill level. When there’s money at stake (£100 – roughly $70), people will begin to question whether bad faith is at play – e.g. staff at the tournament putting their friends or acquaintances onto the better PCs to guarantee wins. I certainly did. Though I can’t speak for the other tournaments outside of League of Legends. Nevertheless, I would like to know if there would be plans to have greater oversight to ensure proper fairness in future AnimeLeague gaming competitions.
Food and Drinks
None this year. Probably due to COVID-19 concerns. This one made me feel extremely sad. I’m one of those people who lives to eat and I was looking forwards to sampling some of the food for lunch. But I understand there’s policy consideration at play considering we’ve just come out of a third lockdown. Maybe this can be commented on in the future. Who knows. In future I would appreciate it if they’d mentioned this omission more clearly.
I think the organisers should feel happy for the most part. The event offered goers a great way of celebrating the end of England’s third lockdown and succeeded in feeling heartfelt as opposed to corporate. Apparently this was one of their biggest turnout in years, probably due to the fact they were first onto the market and were able to capitalise on 2 years of pent up convention going desires. Especially from school children in this country who’ve gone through two years of not being able to properly socialise with friends or go out and have fun. It’s easy to say that lockdown was for the greater good without considering the impact it has had on them. I personally can’t imagine how difficult it would have been if I was in that position myself of having to write off two pivotal summers of my teenage years into the abyss.
Although the government haven’t publicly admitted to basically implementing the policy, with herd immunity on the horizon, given the proportion of double vaccinated people in the UK, I expect that London Anime and Gaming Con offers a glimpse of how we can expect life to return back to normal when it comes to these sort of conventions. With a couple of other conventions on the horizon such as London Comicon, this is what I will say: Long have we waited, UK anime fans finally reactivated!
2021 Convention Info
Disclaimer: It was brought to my attention by a friend that there’s some serious controversy surrounding the event organizer. This post is purely an initiative seen through by myself (Zaiden) and does not reflect the values or opinions of Random Curiosity. My intention is to recount the convention so that people can come to a decision for themselves.