Publisher’s Best Pick: Anime Midwest

So you probably wonder why I picked this particular convention as my favorite in the Midwest. Actually, it’s pretty simple; it’s the most friendly, hospitable, charming, creative and fun anime convention that I have been
to so far in the Midwest. They go all out from the panels and special guests to the all you can eat for free ramen noodles, rice and sometimes even salad. They want to make sure that you enjoy yourself. There’s a lot of free things to do such as karaoke, games, watching anime and just being silly.

Everyone is so friendly. You cans stop people and ask to take their photo very easily. People love to pose for the camera and gladly do it all day. The attention to detail that the cosplayers put into their costumes is phenomenal. As for gender roles? This is cosplay and who needs them. If you want to be a guy dressed up as a Powerpuff Girl, then you can do it and no one bats an eye. This is part of why I love the cosplay community so much, they are very understanding and forgiving. No body shaming is allowed. You can be what you want to be and no one will stop you. You have so much more freedom at an anime convention than you will anywhere else in the world. Perhaps this is why anime conventions and cosplay
are starting to take over more and more of the world.

LadyBeard with fellow member of group LadyBaby

There’s a maid cafe that they take very seriously. They practice and rehearse before the convention opens to make sure that everything
is just right. The maid cafe isn’t free but it is one of the best features of the convention and the only anime convention that I have been to in the Midwest to actually pull off a real functioning maid cafe. There’s singing and dancing from the hosts and maids to games and taking photos at the end and of course let’s not forget the delicious cakes accompanied by tea. They try very hard to make the experience as close to being in Japan as possible. The health inspector has to come around and make sure that everything is up to code. It has to be inspected and approved just like a real cafe would because of serving food and drink, even though they don’t make the cakes on site.

Everyone is so friendly. You cans stop people and ask to take their photo very easily.

The first year of the Maid Cafe was 2013. In 2014, William Froelich became the department head for the Maid Cafe. He brought organization and guidelines to the project. At the time of this publication, the numbers for each year have increased steadily and the hours of operation have also been extended to accommodate more people into the Maid Cafe experience. They have now incorporated more table games that require interaction with the maids and hosts as they continue to not only get new business but a lot of repeat business as well.

You must be 18 to work at the Maid Cafe. Most people who work at the Maid Cafe are between the ages of 18 and 23. They must commit to the whole weekend for the convention or they cannot work there as they are required to set up on Thursday night and tear down on Sunday after the convention.

Members of the Anime Midwest Cafe.

All uniforms must be approved by the department head and only one uniform per worker. They are taught to present a good memory of the event using an instant camera photo decorated and then presented to the attendee. The whole Maid Cafe experience takes an hour and costs (as of this publication) $15. From our experience, it is well worth the money. You can also apply online to work for the Maid Cafe through the Anime Midwest website.

Another reason I love this convention so much is the free ramen. As far as my experience is concerned, this is the only convention I have ever been to that offers free food to its attendees. We found not only ramen, rice balls and salad were served in one room and in the other room there were all sorts of carbonated sodas, all for free, with all the condiments you would want for your food. Granted, it can be a bit of a mess but when we went there, the staff and the attendees were trying to keep the food mess to a minimum.

Near the free food area is free karaoke, but there is always a waiting line and you have to sign up early to get a spot. Still, it was great fun to watch and even sing along while we ate our ramen.

A couple of Steven Universe Cosplayers.

My favorite people are the cosplayers themselves. If it weren’t for their undying love and obsession with Manga, Anime and Comics in general, we would not have these conventions, these outlets for our souls to be free from constraint and our imaginations to run free. Whether you have an original character or one you have made up, there is no denying that you have an outlet here.

People painstakingly transform their ideal into a character or persona that they can enjoy and embrace for the day. It’s like Halloween but you don’t have to wait for one day in October to enjoy it, you can do it anytime at
any convention anywhere around the world. That’s a pretty exciting prospect and if anything a great opportunity to just people watch
as the attendees line up when the doors open for registration and the myriad of characters falls through the doors spilling onto the convention floor. Some characters you might recognize and some are more obscure and
you may not. At any rate, there is someone in the room who knows what the character is besides the person who is dressed as that character.

Karkat Vantas cosplayer, a Homestuck character.

The vendors are one of the reasons why a lot of people come to Anime Midwest. You can find a wide variety of artworks from various artists as well as collectors items. There’s everything you can imagine for sale such as t-shirts, original artworks, comic books, plushies, costumes, jewelry, imported items direct from Japan and more. One of the great things about going to Anime Midwest is that if you find an artist you like and you want a commission, you can get it there usually finished that same weekend, depending on the complexity of course. There’s so much to choose from that you can spend more time with the vendors than any place else.

There’s a game room that features Pachinko and DDR as well as other video games straight from Japan. Special guests are featured all weekend long and sometimes even special art exhibitions as well. There’s always a musical guest or two and after the concert there’s a rave with a live DJ and even a fancy dress fantasy cosplay ball. If you want to show off your costuming, there’s Masquerade, where you can compete against others to win best cosplay costume in front of professional judges.

What convention would be complete without a ton of panels with everything from voice actors to costumers. Every year the panels change but there is always a huge line for each so come early and expect to stay late.

Anime Midwest is held at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare and Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, Illinois and will be held July 5-7, 2019.