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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

AM^2 Con 2011

AM^2 Con is what I fondly refer to as "the other Anime Expo." Only in their 2nd year, AM^2 (which stands for Animation, Manga, and Movies) is like Anime Expo only on a smaller, more basic scale. Oh, and it's FREE! Yup! Free admission, free concerts, free anime screenings... FREE!

I first heard about AM^2 from my brother, who told me the original coordinators of Anime Expo didn't like how AX was diverting its focus from anime/manga and focusing more towards making a profit. Supposedly, they broke away from AX and started their own convention - AM^2. Nearly everything at AM^2 is free, but if you want to be first in line for concerts or movie screenings, you can purchase a VIP pass. (You also have to buy a ticket to enter the AniMaid Cafe and there's a fee to play the games in the Summer Festival area.) Personally, I love this system so much more than Anime Expo's - no high cost of admission, no overcharging error, no endless badge pick-up line... it all sounded great to me!

After telling my friends about AM^2, we decided to go on Sunday - the day after I attended Anime Expo. (Read about my AX experience here.) Because of costs, several of my friends opted out of attending AX this year, but they couldn't argue with free!
AM^2 Sunday Program
The entire AM^2 Con took up only half a hall plus a few rooms upstairs for movies, anime screenings, contests, and the AniMaid Cafe. Unfortunately, they ran out of printed programs, but we just took a picture of the large display one at the info booth and used that as our guide.

In the main hall, one corner was dedicated to vendors who sold plushies, manga, anime, and other merchandise. Although I was not able to purchase my giant Pokeball plushie at Anime Expo, I did find a smaller version for $5 here.
Pokeball Plushie
Unlike Anime Expo, AM^2 had a Summer Festival where you could play festival games (like ring toss and bean bag throw) to win tickets and get prizes. I didn't play any festival games, but in front of the Summer Festival area was this man:
Shan the Candy Man
Shan the Candy Man, who was demo-ing how to make candy sculptures.
Pikachu Candy Sculpture
Check out the Pikachu candy sculpture he made! Not an exact replica, but pretty neat considering he molded it by hand!
Shan the Candy Man's candy sculptures
And here are the other candy sculptures he made! These were offered as one-of-a-kind prizes. Apparently, they were so popular, there was a waitlist for these prizes!

Behind the Summer Festival area, there was a stage, which showcased various bands, singers, and traditional Japanese dancers.
Traditional Japanese Dancers
Behind the stage and out the back door, there was a small group of food trucks serving tasty treats. My friend and I decided to try the Waffle de Liege truck.
Waffles de Liege truck
We ordered the original Liege waffle with Speculoo spread. For those who don't know, the Liege waffle is from Belgium, but differs greatly from the Belgian waffle we're usually familiar with. Unlike the lighter Belgian waffle, the Liege waffle is dense and doughy. It's leavened with yeast and has a more bread-like texture with chewy bits of caramelized sugar (from the Belgian pearl sugar). Speculoos are a type of crunchy spice cookie that's similar to gingerbread so the Speculoo spread essentially tasted like gingerbread but with a peanut butter-like consistency.
Liege Waffle with Speculoo Spread
I don't know how authentic this Liege waffle is because I have nothing to compare it to, but I thought it was a nice change of texture and flavor from our regular pancake house waffles.

After we ate, my friends went to play some video games in the video game corner across from the shopping area. These games were also free to play and had everything from some original Nintendo game I had never seen (with an actual old-school Nintendo console!) to Super Smash Bros. After the games, we caught the screening for Ouran High School Host Club and a little bit of the masquerade competition before we left.

Overall, I had a pleasant experience. It wasn't as grand as Anime Expo, but I see the potential AM^2 possesses. And for being a free event, I can't really complain.

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