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Dragon Con 2018’s Anime Track was a Large and Intimate Experience

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I have been attending Dragon Con in Atlanta, Georgia since 2013 both before and after I started writing for Operation Rainfall, and one of my favorite tracks to attend has always been the Anime Track. Ever since the start (at least since I’ve been going) where they were located in the small conference rooms at the very bottom of the Hyatt, the Anime Track has grown in the past few years into something quite amazing. It has gotten to the point that even though Dragon Con is not a anime-focused convention like Anime Weekend Atlanta or MomoCon, it is still an event easily worth attending for the offerings (and cosplay!) to be had.

The marque anime panel that Dragon Con offered this year was when Toonami hosted a panel in the Hyatt hotel to show the first dubbed episode of FLCL Alternative before it aired on television. In addition to showing the first episode, Michael Sinterniklaas moderated a question and answer panel with Jason DeMarco (Adult Swim SVP & Toonami co-creator), Gill Austin (Adult Swim Senior Creative Director), Maki Terashima-Furuta (President of Production I.G. America), and Stephanie Sheh (ADR Director and voice actress) in attendance. They fielded questions from everyone and anyone who approached them about the series.

Dragon Con | FLCL Alternative

Dragon Con | Panel
The FLCL Alternative Toonami panel was a room-packing event for the Anime Track, and was worth the price of attending Dragon Con this year alone.

Two hours later after that panel wrapped, Ashley Mitruck (Podcast of Ice and Fire) and Joseph Datko/Andew d’Adesky (StatsCheck Podcast) hosted a panel to talk not only about the Toonami Q&A session and the FLCL Alternative episode we just saw, but to discuss the FLCL universe as a whole in crazy detail. You could tell that the fan-panelists were all (along with the people in attendance) serious, hardcore fans of the series.

Dragon Con | FLCL Pan Panel

Dragon Con | FLCL Cosplay
The fan panel was (clearly intentionally by the Anime Track) scheduled for a couple hours after the Toonami FLCL panel, and there were plenty of FLCL cosplayers in attendance.

The Anime Track for Dragon Con 2018 was not just about FLCL, however. The Anime Track this year, as in every year, managed to score some seriously big voice actor/actresses to come in to talk. These panels are consistently amazing, and, for lack of a better word, intimate. My favorite voice actor panel that I attended was for Vic Mignogna on Sunday morning in the Hilton. Even though the room was halfway full (not bad for a Sunday morning), Mr. Mignogna walked up and down the aisles and took on any and all questions from anyone that wanted to ask him something. These questions ranged from his love for sharks (to which we were treated to a story about him finding and taking home a sand shark before returning it to the ocean when he was seventeen), to having no idea who Rooster Teeth were when he first met them at SupaCon in Australia and they introduced him to his then-future gig RWBY, to the fact that he has not recorded the role of Broly for the upcoming FUNimation film Dragon Ball Super: Broly (scheduled for a dub release in January 2019). It was a very welcoming and friendly environment, and we were encouraged to talk with him and with each other about these series that we love.

Dragon Con | Vic Mignogna
Vic Mignogna (a voice actor of RWBY, Dragon Ball, Full Metal Alchemist, and more fame) talks about his life and work during his panel at Dragon Con.

One of the last Anime Track panels I attended this year was on Monday (the very last day of Dragon Con) and it was titled “The Worst Anime You’ve Ever Seen (Salt Provided)”. During that panel, the panelist revealed that he had been collecting literal salt packets from the restaurants during the con, and had everyone take one. People were to then get up and talk about an anime they hate and explain why they hate it. If people thought that it wasn’t a truly bad anime, but the speaker was just being ‘salty’, other people could throw salt packets at them. This panel touched on anime and anime issues such as Inuyasha (the domestic violence between Inuyasha and Kagome), Guilty Crime (it is a worse version of Code Geass), Your Lie In April (how the series resolution was terrible), Neon Genesis Evangelion (Shinji is a terrible and whiny protagonist), and Fairy Tail (how it just stretches fights out). And of course, salt packets were literally thrown at people.

Dragon Con | Salty

Dragon Con | Salt Packets
This fan-run panel on the last day of Dragon Con involved literally throwing salt packets at people who were being ‘salty’ about various anime series.

All of these panels -in particular the Toonami FLCL panel and the subsequent fan-run panel- really underscores one of the big concepts of Dragon Con, in my opinion (at least). Dragon Con is a convention that can pull the big names in to show things like an anime series episode premiere or some of the biggest voice actors in the anime universe, but will still insist on every-day fans being able to make a panel about what they are passionate about to be able to talk about it with like-minded people. Furthermore, even the ‘big industry’ panels are not run like press release conferences you might see at San Diego Comic Con, but instead are deliberately geared to allow a very intimate (there’s that word again, but it’s true) interaction with these people that shape our interests and fandoms.

The latest numbers for Dragon Con indicate that approximately 80,000 people attended the convention as it ran from Thursday through Monday over Labor Day weekend. Yet, it honestly didn’t feel like it was that big when you can look at the people behind Season 3 of FLCL Alternative, ask them a question, get an honest response, and then subsequently break it down further in the following fan-run panel.

All of this, of course, doesn’t even touch on the amazing anime cosplay that was EVERYWHERE throughout the five host hotels and the anime merchandise that was for sale in the dealer’s room that covered four floors.

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To sum it up: If you haven’t been to Dragon Con yet, you should seriously go and check it out over Labor Day weekend next year, even on just a single day pass. I have loved it (especially the Anime Track) every year that I have attended, and I would still go even if I wasn’t writing for Operation Rainfall.

You can buy a 2019 Dragon Con Membership now (it takes place August 29 to September 2, 2019) for $85.00 USD until the price increases on September 21, 2018.

All photos were taken by the author.

Did you attend Dragon Con this year and go to any of the Anime Track panels? Who would you like to see make an appearance if possible?

Let us know in the comments below!


Quentin H.
I have been a journalist for oprainfall since 2015, and I have loved every moment of it.