I spent much of the past year looking forward to Anime Central, and did my best this time around to better prepare for it in advance. This time, we booked a room at the Hyatt and avoided an extra day’s worth of driving. This was probably one of the smarter decisions I’ve made in a while, an indulgence for sure, but a wise one as far as they go. No, we didn’t stay overnight in order to get the full convention “experience,” or at least that wasn’t my motivation as I made sure to request a quiet room as far removed from the glut of noisy congoers as possible. We didn’t attend the hardcore synergy dance on Friday or stay for the famous Soap Bubble rave on Saturday night. We didn’t cosplay, didn’t go out of our way to mingle with other attendees, didn’t meet up with online friends, didn’t do most of the things that probably draw at least half of the visitors every year. So why was it so important to us, or at least to myself to go?

To be honest, I guess it’s really one of the only times that I’m ever able to feel caught up in an experience that’s bigger than just myself, or at least bigger than anything I deal with in my everyday life. I’ve never been into “partying,” don’t make it out to many concerts anymore, aren’t involved in any clubs and feel nothing but awkwardness and doubt every time I find myself back at church. But just being around a mass of other people whom I feel I have something in common with — whatever their lack of self-awareness my be or how much younger they grow with each passing year —  is still an energizing experience, however much it gets dragged down by the 4chan/Internet lulz culture that continues to slowly consume it whole year after year. I’m sick to death of this tired, lazy, mindless bullshit and disappointed at how any of the self-appointed gadflies of this scene are more likely to revel in it and use it as a crutch than to ever call it out for being the social disease that it is.

But enough about that. We had a good time and that’s all that matters. The panels were hit and miss: the Fullmetal Alchemist fanpanel never got off the ground, as the hosts never showed up and visitors did their best to improvise a discussion on the spot. Time was better spent at the Satoshi Kon (“Anime as Artistic Film”) and the always-engaging Evangelion panels. “The Bad Anime Panel” was a riot. Anime Hell was fun. The Iron Editor contest was… not as fun as last year, a little slow and weighed down by its reliance on boring AMV community in-jokes that should have been retired last year. The fanfiction panel was pretty much what I expected, affirming in so far as it’s good to sit in a room full of geeks that are still somehow older than myself.

Once again, I brought my camera along this year, but only took one photo during the entire convention. I appreciate a well-made costume as much as the next guy, and finally understand that most people who cosplay at conventions do so because they want to be photographed. Still, it was difficult to bring myself to snap anyone’s picture, partly because I didn’t want to bother anyone who wasn’t already posing for photographers, and partly because I didn’t feel the slightest bit motivated if it wasn’t of a reasonably attractive girl and/or of a character I liked. Here’s a girl who put together a pretty awesome Haruko (aside from the mini-guitar, but who wants to carry a 10-12 lb bass with them all day?) and pretty much fit the bill. Whoever you are, thanks for humoring me. Maybe next year I’ll actually ask more than one person for a quick pose. Hey, it could happen.

Overall, this year’s visit didn’t leave many strong impressions on me. I still had a great time and hope to come back again in 2011. I spent over $100 on DVDs (here’s most of my haul) and got a pretty reasonable rate for the room. Will I have enough money left this month to go to DEMF Movement, buy an external hard drive, and pick up the new Flying Lotus album? Who knows?

Oh yeah, the Embassy Suites hotel caught fire on Saturday night. Here’s some video I took. Brace yourself: