NDK 2004 "Do not ask 'Can this suck more?' for verily, it shall." -me
Last year, I didn't write a review of NDK. I'd lost interest, for the most part, and it was always the same review. Had a good time, organization blew, hotel is a dump. This year I'm returning to con reviewing for NDK, because they exceeded all my expectations. In suckage.
10. Hotel is a dump. Never the nicest of hotels, and certainly poorly designed for any large gathering, in recent years the Holiday Inn has undergone a slow decline into outright dump-dom. Air handlers in the hallways are routinely off or not working, half the dealers room lacked much air conditioning, everything was dirty, bathrooms were repulsive. Hey, at least they managed to not be putting up wallpaper during the con this time. Given that the carpet is gross, and now does not match the walls, I half expected them to be ripping that out and replacing it during this year's con, but probably that would cost more than they want to spend, seeing as toilet paper is obviously a budget breaker.
9. Rude, stupid security team members. One specifically leaps to mind, the Stupid Scottish Twit who spent the weekend in a kilt. I got bumped into a lot at this con, it's crowded, but he's the only one who managed plow headlong into me and then depart without a word. Other years he's been rude and crass. Why the con com keeps hiring him I will never know. I didn't get his name, and I don't care.
8. No meaningful programming across from Cosplay. I don't dig cosplay, if I want to watch people acting out their sexual fetishes I'll rent porn, and there was practically nothing across from it. Folks, the entire con can't be seated in the cosplay or simulcast room, you need stuff across from it.
7. Stinky people. While someone posted the Something Positive posters about bathing, a remarkable number of congoers failed to read it, comprehend it, or realize it meant THEM. Most notable were the cosplayers who wore the same costume all three days without washing it. I think cosplay is silly anyway, but by the third day it was also putrid. This was aggravated by the hotel's lack of air conditioning, see #10.
6. Lack of Japanese guests. Except for the Jrock band there appear to be almost no Japanese on the guest list. Uhh... correct me if I'm wrong, this con is about Japanese animation, right?
5. Scheduling: Example. Japanese in an hour is one of the most popular panels at the con. The room they moved it to, however, had it back to back with some rehearsal or other, and as a result started late. Also much of the interesting programming at the con was at 7:00 in the morning.
4. Video room problems: From the sound problems in Video room 2, to scheduling once again (Many anime' I wanted to see were on early in the morning) to the heavy dose of raw (unsubbed/undubbed) anime', the video rooms - usually my favorite part of this con - were much less fun than they have been in years past. It also bears noting that the quality of music videos this year blew, although this was not the fault of the con, and I feel sorry for what Wynette had to sit through if the 32 we saw were the best.
3. Picture Takers: Cameras pointing at cosplayers are part of a con, but the guide this year specifically said not to take them in the hall or the dealer's room and that people would be stopped from doing so. Well, pictures were taken, and nothing was done. Enforcement was nonexistent - the only place I saw no pictures being taken was in the art auction.
2. The art gallery. This has been an ongoing thing with this con, and once again is less the fault of the con than of the artists, but much of the art there was embarrassingly bad, and pieces I would happily have bought did not have a buy it now price. The fault of the con lies in not having a consistent door policy. If bags are to be checked, they should be checked every time, not only on Saturdays, Tuesdays, and government holidays.
1. Registration. The com con has been aware of the registration problems we've had in the past - poor organization, slow and inefficient processing, way too few processing stations and so on. This year they did something about it. They made it worse. Preregistration, where the majority of people are, was as usual in line for hours - much longer than the 'buy at the door' line. We were served by a mighty *2* registration tables, the lookup for registration to pre-printed card matching took minutes per congoer, and just for that added Bataan death march feel they had us stand in a long line in the parking lot of the hotel where cars were driving. On the sunny side of the building, no less. In years past I have described reg as a complete clusterfuck, and it gets worse every year as the con continues to grow. This year was above and beyond, however. NDK could have easily gotten themselves sued had anyone been hit by a car, had heatstroke, etc etc at a con sanctioned and enforced line. This, above all, has got to be fixed. (Note: special thanks here to the con volunteers who passed out water to those of us standing in line. You guys were lifesavers, perhaps literally.) The registration experience is a big part of why the whole con sucked, it's hard to get enthusiastic after that.
In the con's defense there are some good things. The music videos, despite their lack of quality, were presented very professionally. Wynette and company did a good job putting the video reel together. Wynette's panel on going from fanfic to real fic was fun too, even if most of the others who attended it with me were scary people who need to get out more and/or bathe more. Also the concom went to great pains to announce that this is the last year in the Holiday Inn, which is good. So #10 might safely be dealt with. But as the rest of my list shows, much of the trouble with this con, much of why it sucked so badly (down with Anime Expo 2000, when the brain surgeons who run it thought having it at Disney Land would be a good idea) is attributable not to the venue but to the total lack of organization and professionalism with which the con is run. This con is now the size of Science Fiction World Con, the kind of organizational fuckups that have characterized it in years past simply aren't tolerable when magnified to a con of this scale. I strongly suggest that the com con attend a large con some time to see how the pros do it. They'll find, for example, that registration is entirely computerized, much thought has been given to crowd management and to keeping people at least reasonably entertained when the inevitable lines do occur. They'll find programming across from the major events, so not everyone has to try and get into Cosplay, etc etc. They'll find a variety of guests, from both the Japanese and the American end of the Anime business. They'll find that having company reps is *good*. The list goes on and on.
So did I have a good time? Not really. I had an adequate time. Will I go again? I don't know yet.