When the carefree summer season starts to trail away, soon to be replaced with autumn leaves and pesky adult responsibilities, Ohio congoers gather in Columbus to celebrate all things anime before the first chilly breeze drifts in. Matsuricon is going strong in its 13th year, bringing in 18 special guests and over 6500 attendees for this event. We immersed ourselves in the con for all three days, so we’ve got details on everything you need to know about Matsuricon 2019. Let’s get started!
|When it Established||April 2006|
|Length of Event||August 16 – 18; three days, with pre-registration on Thursday night|
|Location||Hyatt Regency Columbus at the Columbus Convention Center, Columbus, Ohio, USA|
|Cost||A pass for the entire weekend costs $60 at the door, but pre-registration prices go as low as $36 and individual day passes are also available. There are also a limited amount of VIP packages (called “Plus” and “Plus Up”) 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, Hilton, Crowne Plaza, and Drury Inn & Suites are all connected to the convention center, allowing easy access to con facilities. Matsuricon offers a room block at the Hyatt, although it tends to sell out quickly. 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
Matsuricon is a mid-sized convention—not as big as Ohayocon (which takes place in January at the same venue) or any of the massive Comic-Cons, but substantial enough that you’ll never run out of things to do over the weekend. This makes it a great starter convention for anyone who’s new to the con life, and it’s more manageable for those of us who tend to get overwhelmed by crowds and noise. The convention center itself is well laid out, with high ceilings and labeled rooms that help you get your bearings. And this year, Matsuricon luckily didn’t coincide with any Republican state dinners, children’s cheerleading competitions, or anything else that could interfere with the intended experience.
The convention center itself has everything you could possibly need – a full food court with some healthy options, convenience shops, ATMs, and hotel bars, all within easy reach of con activity rooms. If you stay in one of the hotels that are connected to the building, you won’t have to step outside for the whole weekend if you don’t want to! There are also plenty of elevators and ramps for people with wheelchairs or strollers.
A few hiccups were bound to happen—autograph lines weren’t organized properly and the rave prohibited bags without providing any kind of bag check outside the room, but proceedings went smoothly for the most part. The convention center and hotel staff members were friendly as always, and the Matsuricon staff was well trained this year. We were impressed!
What to Bring
Small bills – Almost all dealers and artists can take credit/debit cards with Square these days, but carrying around some cash (particularly in small bills) is always a good idea. To be a polite hotel guest, you’ll want to tip the maids, bellmen, and anyone else who helps you with a few dollars each. And if you’re in the audience for the drag show, holding up a bill or two for your favorite performer is a great way to show your appreciation!
High-energy snacks – The food court tends to get slammed around peak lunch and dinner times, so plan around it and keep some high-energy snacks (like protein or granola bars) with you to tide you over until it’s less crowded. Cons also tend to be exhausting in general, so a little extra nutrition at an odd hour can keep you going strong throughout the day.
Ribbons – This year, Matsuricon started participating in the ribbon game, where you print your own small ribbons and trade them with people to form an increasingly long train that dangles from your con badge. FromCaliko, one of the artist’s alley vendors, gave out a ribbon featuring Old Joseph from JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure to attendees who completed their “Ora Ora Ora” challenge! Bring your own ribbons next year to trade and collect as many as you can!
What to Do
Oriana Perón’s Drag Show - Oriana Perón is a well-known drag queen among Midwestern congoers, but her fabulous drag show hasn’t made an appearance at Matsuricon until now. She performed to a full house along with her co-stars Ginger Perón, Eden Sitayu, Olivia Camacho-Roy, and newcomer Jemini Fisher (who placed highly in the drag race the day before). Oriana also hosted an open forum panel a few hours beforehand for queer people to share stories, which was positively heartwarming. Don’t miss these events at future cons!
24-Hour Arcade – For those of us night owls who prowl around the convention center during the wee hours of the morning, the 24-hour arcade is here to keep you hyped up at any time of day. It’s kitted out with a vast array of Japanese arcade machines, from Initial D racers to taiko drums and much more. Just be careful if you have sensory issues – it gets very loud in there!
Dealer’s Room and Artist’s Alley – This year, both the dealers and the artists shared the same room in the convention center. Fortunately, it was an absurdly spacious multipurpose room, so there weren’t many issues with crowding. Otaku Joe’s peddled high quality vintage goods, while Tasty Peach Studios showed off adorable plushies and wigs (including a specially designed fox plushie wearing a Sherlock Holmes outfit, which was made to complement Matsuricon 2019’s “mystery” theme). Even though there weren’t as many booths as you might find at larger cons, the dealer’s room was still a treasure trove of anime paraphernalia!
Carolina Manga Library – This traveling manga library is always a treat to see at anime conventions. Head librarian Laura Mahaffey stocks over 5000 graphic novels that you can read for free within the room. They had a smaller space this time, so there weren’t as many comfy areas to sit, but it’s still a calming place to while away some time and forget about the hustle and bustle of the con for a little bit. Mahaffey also hosted a hilarious and highly informative panel about some of the strangest manga she has in the library, which had attendees scrambling to write down her recommendations once it became clear that some of these manga (Bodacious Space Pirates, Silver Spoon, Library Wars, etc.) were actually really good.
North Market – Just a short walk from the convention center, you’ll find Columbus’ own North Market. It’s an indoor food market with stalls selling gourmet donuts, Vietnamese cuisine, and everything in between. Our favorite place was a ramen stand called Satori Ramen Bar, which had soup so scrumptious that we didn’t mind waiting in a long line for it. It would be best to come here in normal clothes, though—the narrow walking paths and crowds could easily damage a cosplay outfit.
Speaking of cosplay, Matsuricon was abuzz with amazing cosplayers from every nerdy show or game you could imagine. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure was very well represented, especially with characters from the Golden Wind anime that just finished. Western series like Good Omens and Critical Role were quite popular as well, and even retro anime like Urusei Yatsura got their time to shine. But the clear leader in terms of sheer numbers was everyone’s favorite shounen powerhouse My Hero Academia. It’s had a significant presence at cons for several years now, and the fact that several guests like Justin Briner (Izuku Midoriya) and Caitlin Glass (Mina Ashido) voice characters in the anime dub meant that HeroAca fever ran rampant among the congoers this year. It was fun to see so many creative variations of familiar characters running around!
An exciting new addition for 2019 was a variety of “photo booth” sets, which were made so that cosplayers could take pictures with interesting backgrounds. There was an Iron Throne, a sakura tree with a park bench, several opulent Victorian-style living rooms, a Roger Rabbit car, and Phoenix Wright speech bubbles (which were cleverly integrated with a painting that the convention center already had). The head of photography for Matsuricon has already announced that next year will have even more sets!
Matsuricon is a homey, not too stressful anime convention with plenty of activities to keep you entertained all weekend. Despite a few minor issues, the event was a rousing success and we enjoyed every minute of it. Make sure to pre-register for next year’s Matsuricon—you won’t want to miss it!
What did you think of our report? Did you attend Matsuricon 2019? What did you think of it? Let us know in the comments, and thanks so much for reading!