When summer starts to wind down and kids are gearing up to go back to school, Midwestern anime fans know that there’s one last summer tradition to check off their list – have some geeky fun at Matsuricon! This family-friendly convention, despite its modest size of about 6000 paying attendees, has definitely earned its place in the Ohio anime scene. Its three-day schedule is chock-full of industry guest panels, samurai lessons, concerts, and even a charity auction attended (and occasionally conducted) by the visiting voice actors.
We here at Honey’s Anime explored everything that Matsuricon had to offer in 2018. From classic standbys like vendors and cosplay to unusual treats like escape rooms, we’ve got the deets on the best of the best. Let’s check out Matsuricon!
|When it Established||April 2006|
|Length of Event||Three days: August 24th – 26th.|
|Place/Location||Hyatt Regency Columbus at the Columbus Convention Center – Columbus, OH|
|Cost||A pass for the entire weekend costs $60 at the door, with lower rates for individual days or pre-registration. There are also a limited amount of VIP packages that grant access to a mixer and special autograph session with the guests. Children under 10 are allowed in free with the purchase of an adult badge.|
|Hotels||The Hyatt Regency and the Drury Inn & Suites are connected to the convention center and allow easy access to all facilities. There are also several other hotels within a five-minute walking distance.|
|Event Message for Attendees||Matsuricon’s goal is to promote the cultural awareness of Japanese pop culture through related events, special guest speakers and cultural presentations.|
What to Expect
The newly renovated Columbus Convention Center is the perfect setting for Matsuricon. Its spacious hallways and large central staircase make for easy navigation and lines that never extend outside the building, the wall-to-wall windows offer plenty of natural light, and the hotel and convention center staff are well-adjusted to the needs of con attendees. It also has a convenience store, a comic shop, several ATMs, and a decently sized food court with options for any diet. And best of all for cosplayers, the attached park has a beautiful waterfall fountain that’s big enough for group photoshoots.
Parking can be a bit difficult, since the building is right in the middle of downtown Columbus (which is always jam-packed with traffic no matter what). However, the hotel garages will allow public parking in certain areas and you can find street parking if you really put your mind to it. But when attending Matsuricon, it’s usually better to spring for a hotel closer to the convention center rather than try to drive in every day.
Despite being largely made up of volunteers, the Matsuricon staff tend to be professional and easy to deal with. Security manages lines in a friendly and orderly manner (especially autograph lines), registration is simple and easy, and all of the convention’s events take place in areas that are relatively close together and away from non-con-goers.
But the most impressive thing was that, this year, the upper management really came through regarding the Republican party’s fundraising dinner that was happening in the convention center on Friday night. Only about a week before Matsuricon, everyone found out that the president would be briefly visiting this dinner – which raised much concern about safety and whether certain areas of the building would be closed off. To their credit, the Matsuricon staff quickly sorted everything out with the convention center and the Secret Service, posting a detailed update on their website and Facebook page only a few days later. In the end, very few changes were made and attendees barely noticed or interacted with anyone from the dinner. That was a relief!
What to Bring
Cash: There are a few ATMs in the area, but it’s always smart to carry cash with you for any dealers or artists who don’t take credit cards. You don’t want to miss out on that rare phone strap because you forgot to bring physical money with you. Also, you’ll want to have small bills on hand to tip the maids and valets in your hotel. Set a good example for your fellow con-goers!
Anything you want to get signed: Autographs are limited to specific signings at this convention, but the experience isn’t anywhere near the hassle that larger conventions put you through. Todd Haberkorn even extended his session so he could get to every single person waiting in line! So bring your favorite poster or DVD and get it decked out with your hero’s signature.
Family members: Matsuricon markets itself as family-friendly, meaning that almost all of its events are PG-13 or below. This would be a great opportunity to bring younger children, especially since those under 10 get in free. And for our non-nerdy family members, there’s a lounge within the con where they can relax, as well as many restaurants and activities in the surrounding downtown area.
Costumes with pockets and comfortable shoes: We will never stop harping on this. Even though there’s no bag check at this convention, pockets are still invaluable to keep your hands free and your mind less stressed. Unless you’re flaunting your beloved itabag or a purse that’s part of your costume, save yourself the shoulder space and add some pockets to your cosplay. And, on a similar note, try to wear comfortable shoes if possible and throw on a pair of shorts under any skirt. Your feet and thighs will thank you after a long day of walking.
What to Do
Escape Rooms – One of the most unique features of Matsuricon is its set of escape rooms, which were introduced last year after testing out the concept at other conventions on the West Coast. Enclosed meeting rooms are decked out with thematically appropriate décor and puzzles – one is designed to look like an evil wizard’s crypt and the other is themed around rescuing a princess. You and a small group must work together to decipher runes, look for keys, and solve riddles before time is up. It’s actually tons of fun, even if you don’t know anyone else in your group beforehand! Just make sure that you sign up either before the convention or early on Friday because spots fill up fast.
Dealer’s Room and Artist’s Alley – Owing to the con’s relatively small size, the dealer’s room and artist’s alley aren’t as gigantic as the likes of Anime Boston or any Comic-Con. But even still, there’s a wide variety of quality merch to be found. Our favorites were the lovely kimonos and accessories at Ohio Kimono, the cute wigs and unique plushies at Tasty Peach Studio’s boutique stall, and the two vintage vendors selling old-school figures and art books from anime like Cyborg 009 and Urusei Yatsura.
Carolina Manga Library – If you ever need a moment of solitude from the craziness of the convention, the Carolina Manga Library has you covered. Their cozy space has hundreds of manga volumes to read and friendly staff to help you out if you need anything. Nestle in a bean-bag chair with a tankoban from a series you’ve been meaning to catch up with and chill out.
Charity Auction – Last year, the Matsuricon charity auction raised over $10,000 for Ohio State University’s James Comprehensive Cancer Center. They’ve been holding these auctions since 2009 and they’ve only gotten better as the years go by. All of the auctioned items (which are often posters or DVDs) are signed by industry guests at various conventions throughout the year and then sold at the big event on Sunday afternoon. Sometimes, the guests even conduct the auction themselves!
Just as you’d expect from an anime convention, a vast majority of attendees to Matsuricon dress up in costumes from their favorite shows. This year, the clear winner for “Most Represented Series” went to the smash hit anime My Hero Academia. Heroes and villains alike paraded around en masse in school uniforms, gym jumpsuits, combat costumes, and even fantasy outfits. We particularly loved a skinny All Might that we saw, but rumor has it that a Toru Hagakure cosplayer was sneaking around in a camo morphsuit underneath a U.A. uniform.
Other highlights included Satan from Devilman Crybaby with massive wings, several Land of the Lustrous cosplayers in alternate outfits from doujinshi, and multiple Pokémon groups. There was also a person with a fully functional arcade cabinet cosplay! And, potentially inspired by the surprise presidential visit, we saw plenty of LGBT-related shirts and flags everywhere we went. All in all, it was a very strong weekend for cosplay!
Even though it’s the smaller of the two Columbus anime conventions (the other one being Ohayocon in January), Matsuricon is well worth your time and money to attend. It has all the hallmarks of a classic anime convention, plus surprises like the escape rooms and the charity auction. And even when unexpected guests come to crash the party, this con just keeps on going.
What did you think of our overview? Did you attend Matsuricon this year? Do you think you’ll go next year? What are your favorite things about this convention? Let us know in the comments and thanks so much for reading!