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Review: Minamicon 20

I’ll never not attend Minamicon: For one it’s just down the road from me!  For another, I’m reminded time and time again just why I began attending Japanese culture/anime events: The friendly, relaxed atmosphere, and a whole lotta locomotion fun!

Small and cosy, the South’s longest-running anime convention kicked off at 13:00 at the Novotel in Southampton with Pinata building and the Gunpla Build panel.  Registering myself in at midday I picked up my con badge, my con bag, the adorable little pinbadge that comes alongside, and my schedule, before dropping off the ridiculous amount of paraphernalia I’d brought for the Bring’n’Buy.

First port of call was brunch, before ironing my cosplay ready for the Party, Opening Ceremony and gameshow.  This year the theme for Friday night was “Matsuri”, and the event hall was decked out in beautiful lanterns and other decorations reminiscent of a traditional Japanese Matsuri.  Many of the attendees had chosen to wear kimono or school uniforms to fit with the theme, as had the hosts of the Opening Ceremony Gunstarvixen and Kuromogrox.

As with previous years, the party contained games such as Limbo, Twister, Pin-The-Tail-On-The-Catgirl, and Pinata-bashing.  There was also a selection of food, and sweet treats in the form of candyfloss, popcorn, and – my personal favourite – shaved ice.

Minamicon Variety Show, starring Romanna.
Minamicon Variety Show, starring Romanna.

The Opening Ceremony consisted of a combination of announcements pertaining to the event itself and announcements regarding certain staff and/or attendees, then moved on to the traditional Minamicon Variety Show.  The Variety Show involves such games as Rock/Paper/Scissors/Tiger/Old Lady/Samurai (during which the losing team gets doused with a healthy dose of water from a high-pressure waterpistol) ; Iron Cosplay (during which long-suffering tech-guy P-chan is invariably harrassed and turned into something horrifying with the use of common household junk) and artistic Chinese Whispers (which often ends up just as horrifying as you might think).

Coming after the Variety Show there is a brief pause for set-up, before the disco-come-crazy-party kicks off in the main event room.  This year it was known as the “Amazing Asian Sensation Party”, with music themed to suit.  Alongside the party attendees could find out what the 10 things Tab hates about Yaoi, or join in the telling of ghost stories.  Various anime videos also showed in the video rooms.

Saturday, perhaps unsurprisingly, is the busiest day of the weekend. With panels, events, and video showings starting at 10:00, there is almost definitely something for everyone.  The Dealer’s Room opened its doors at 11:00, for those interested in purchasing anything from Gundams to Pocky.  Many popular stalls were there again this year, including convention favourites Genki Gear, Khaos Costumes, and Team Giblets, each selling quirky and unusual merchandise to steampunk-up, cute-up, or meme-up your wardrobe.

Iron Cosplay - the aftermath.
Iron Cosplay – the aftermath.

The day also includes the Iron Cosplay event, where – much like the Variety Show game –  teams of attendees turn one of their unfortunate number into a creation of Meng’s choosing using only household junk items such as empty bottles and binliners.  Only unlike the Variety Show game, P-chan is safe.  I was lucky enough to catch the aftermath of the insanity as those strapped into their inventive ‘costumes’ struggled out of them.

The main event on Saturday is, of course, the Minamicon Masquerade, during which attendees show off their cosplay skills alone or in groups, or entertain the judges with amusing skits.  There were many entries this year for the Masquerade, myself and my son HRH included, and though I was unable to see them all (due to said son) it was brilliantly hosted by That Man of Team Giblets, and the entrants I was able to see were fantastic as always.  After the masquerade is the much-anticipated Charity Auction, where attendees are given the chance to bid on and own some fabulous items to raise money for the convention charity – the British Heart Foundation.

That man hosting the Minamicon Masquerade. Image (c) ManyLemons.co.uk
That man hosting the Minamicon Masquerade.
Image (c) ManyLemons.co.uk used with permission.

Saturday night of Minamicon is home to the ever-popular Karaoke, where attendees get to show off their vocal prowess by singing along to anything from the Sailor Moon opening theme to Portal’s “Still Alive”.  In addition, anime videos still showed in the video rooms, and panels ran alongside.  Due to both having a small child and having wrecked my voice with combined heckling and laughter from the previous night, I opted for an early night, ready to start bright and fresh for Sunday.

Sunday began as early as Saturday, with the Dealer’s Room opening its doors at 10:00 and various other panels/events going on from the same time.  The Doll Meet was at 10:00, a wonderful opportunity to meet other collectors of various ball jointed dolls, and have a darned good natter about the whole thing.  A Minamicon staple, the Cosplay Cafe, kicked off at 12:00 for two hours, offering cakes and hot beverages served by volunteer attendees, often in adorable outfits.

Minamicon's closing ceremony.
Minamicon’s closing ceremony.

Panels run right up until 16:00 on a Sunday, with the closing ceremony happening at 17:00.  During this year’s closing ceremony, it was revealed that between the charity auction, and That Man bravely having both his hair and beard shaved off during said ceremony, £1809.12 was raised for the British Heart Foundation.  There was the usual unnecessary harassment of P-chan, announcements regarding lost property and idiots who’d forgotten to retrieve their Bring’n’Buy stuff (that would be me. Literally, just me).

Once upon a time, that would have been it for the Minamicon event, 18:00 Sunday night and it was over.  However, since many attendees travel from across the country to attend, and would therefore not be checking out of the various hotels until Monday morning, as of last year the committee have taken to hiring out the rooms until later Sunday night, offering the Kotatsu Lounge (where P-chan is banned from building the Kotatsu tables as his engineering ability is exceeded only by his tech ability) and this year also offering the Retro-oke, for all your retro karaoke needs.

All-in-all, it was another magnificent Minamicon, the Committee and Gophers worked super-hard to make it such a warm and fun place to be, and the event-running attendees made it informative and funny to be there.  A massive thank you for the hard work the committee and gophers always put in – it just wouldn’t be Minamicon without them!

Naturally I am pre-registered for next year, 6th-8th March 2015, my 7th Minamicon, and I would love to see you all there!  Attendees, do you have any favourite memories from this year? Drop me a comment below and share them!

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