by Ray Flook
Fans of anime and manga made the pilgrimage to the Jersey Shore this past weekend as Universal Animation hosted Anime NEXT 2016 at the Atlantic City Convention Center. Though in existence since 2002, the increased popularity of Anime NEXT convinced the organizers to move the event to a larger facility that would allow them to both handle the increased crowds as well as increase/diversify their programming schedule. Featuring creators of anime and manga (like Rei Hiroe and Akitaro Daichi); voice actors from a number of anime series (like Todd Haberkorn and Erica Mendez); and Japanese musical acts and artists (like Descent and 50% Dangerous), Anime NEXT 2016 was also able to take advantage of the larger event space to increase the number of vendors, exhibitors, panels/workshops, and gaming venues offered…with the focus squarely on building a greater appreciation for Japanese popular culture.
One thing that differentiated Anime NEXT from other conventions is the level to which they wear their heart on their sleeves for cosplay and cosplayers. The cosplay community definitely held-up their end of the bargain…at times, it felt like it would be easier to count the number of attendees who hadn’t dressed-up. For their part, Anime NEXT 2016 rewarded those who made that extra effort by offering them a strong selection of cosplay-themed events, panels and workshops; including: cosplay human chess; cosplay dating game; Hall Cosplay Contest; the U.S preliminary round of the World Cosplay Summit; and The Magic of Cosplay display and exhibit.
A personal highlight from the weekend? The Masquerade, a popular event held on Saturday night for cosplayers to come together to showcase their love of cosplay through friendly performance competition. Hosted by “Geek MC” Karl “Uncle Yo” Custer, The Masquerade gave enthusiastic novices the chance to share the stage with highly-experienced masters before an audience of fans and peers who appreciate the time and effort they put into creating and showcasing their costumes.
So here’s just a small sample of the quality cosplay on display…
The Masquerade featured twenty groups/individuals who took to the stage for crafted skits…hope you enjoy!
As if the performances from the night weren’t enough, the Hall Cosplay Walk-On showed-off even more of the talent in attendance that weekend…
Ray Flook has been a contributing writer/photographer for Bleeding Cool since 2013. You can follow him on Twitter at @oldmangeek88, on Instagram at @oldmangeek; on the web at www.oldmangeek88.com and co-hosting Big Bad Geek, a geek culture podcast starting Summer 2016